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…