Ferries on The Sabbath

As a frequent cycle tourist in the Outer Hebrides, a news item on the BBC News website (Sunday ferry makes first sailing) caught my eye.  The lack of Ferries operating on Sundays between the Island of Lewis and Harris and the mainland can be a major hassle for the cycle tourist – in the past this has occasioned  a mad dash by loaded tandem to the ferry to get off the island before Sunday, as not only are their no ferries on a Sunday, but pretty much everything else is apparently closed for the day.

The news is that Caledonian MacBrayne (popularly known as CalMac – see one of their ferries leaving Uig on Skye, below), the ferry company that services the Hebrides (and in fact is pretty much the economic lifeline to the islands) has begun operating Sunday sailings between Stornoway on Lewis and Ullapool on the mainland.

CalMac ferry leaving Uig, on the Isle of Skye
CalMac ferry leaving Uig, on the Isle of Skye

It’s not clear to me from reading the article whether this ferry sailing is part of a regular sailing, or merely an additional sailing to transport passengers stranded by mechanical problems with their scheduled ferry. In any event, there was a peaceful protest from some of the locals.

I’m in two minds about all this.  On the one hand as an atheist, the enforced observance of the sabbath grates, particularly when partnered with the rather dour Free Church of Scotland, which seems to be the predominat sect up there.  But on the other hand this is part of Hebridean culture, and it’s one of the things that makes the Isles different, and worth visiting.  Reading between the lines, and of course over-interpreting, I wonder whether the pro-sabbath-sailing camp are incomers, versus the anti-sabbath-sailing locals.  And of course, there’s this dreadful tendency for cultural homogenisation I see around us, where I visit places that are less and less different to the place I live.  I want diversity in the world, and if that includes a ban on Sunday sailings, well that’s OK by me.  Perhaps they will go for a popular vote on it…

5 thoughts on “Ferries on The Sabbath

  1. What indeed! This is one of those cases where religious belief is something of a cultural legacy…my opinion would be very different were they to try and enforce this elsewhere in the UK.
    Pleased Wonderful Life still appears to function correctly after I shifted it and it's main site to a new hosting company on Friday…

  2. I agree with all you say. Normally, the Lord`s Day Observance Society are a pain in the arse – though I must say I didn`t actually realize that they were still in existence – but this move is driven by pure commercialism, I`m sure! Is it really imperative for anyone to get to or from the island on a Sunday, I wonder? However, concerning the increasing homogeneity of society, the following may interest you, if I have not mentioned it here before! When I was at Grammar School in the early Sixties we had a wonderful English teacher – also deputy head – who did try to push me towards the Arts, where my real talent lay (to no avail). This was, of course, the Wilson era – "white heat of technology", etc – and it was "scientists" that the country was going to need, so anyone with any ability did the Sciences, and the duffers took the Arts!! Prescott (for that was his name) said many things that stayed with me and my mate, right up to his premature death from leukaemia in 1997, and I often think of them now. One was this: "In the future, wherever you go in the world, all cities will be the same." (Cont.)

  3. I think he may have got the idea from an essayist like J. B. Priestley, but nevertheless, it was a very prescient remark, and almost revolutionary at the time (as can be guaged by the impression it made on us!) My mate did in fact travel the world as a soils engineer and geologist, and saw the evidence first hand. What we should have done, of course, was to have taken a "gap year" like today`s students, so that we could have seen as much of the world as possible before globalization took hold!

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