This is third blog in our Scotland's Universities Welcome the World series. The blogs are all written by current students at Scottish higher education institutions, and will profile the different ways in which they are part of Scotland's international welcome. Find out more about Scotland's Universities Welcome the World here or from the video at the bottom of this page.
In the spring trimester this year I took a third year level film module named advanced documentary practice. All the students had to pitch documentary ideas to be produced throughout the winter months. I joined a team of two other girls to make a documentary about the lives of village fishermen on the Isle of Lewis, a remote island off the north west coast of Scotland. I had never been the Isle of Lewis, although I always wanted to explore it. The island itself looks like it’s from a fairy tale. People from the islands also seem to be from fairy tales because of how superstitious they are. Folklore plays a big part on the islands and especially among fishermen. The culture on the islands is different to the one I experienced down in Edinburgh. When I first visited the Isle of Lewis I was immediately surprised by the difference in culture, particularly among the fishermen.
The fishermen we met and interviewed for our documentary were all very happy to be fishermen. They all boasted about how great life was on the small island and how strong the sense of community was. They explained that fishing to them was a way of life. Down in Edinburgh, I’ve noticed that most people my age are students. On the islands, most of the young people have left to go to the mainland for university. The fishermen we spoke to told us that that was not the case a few years ago. They explained that fishing was considered a family job. To add to that, fishing was a man’s job. Even though all the men we interviewed loved fishing and were happy to do so, you must remember that fishing is still one of the most dangerous jobs in Britain. Nothing, it seemed, would discourage these men though.
A few of them spoke about superstitions as well. One of the highlights of the trip for me was when we filmed a boat ride. The three of us crammed onto a small boat as one of the fishermen collected his lobster cages from the bay. He rode slowly with us on the boat. This was a good thing too, because I had a camera hoisted on my shoulder the entire time. He made a joke as soon as we got on board, “Yous aren’t bringing me any luck”. To fishermen, women and priests are bad luck to have on board, apparently. None the less, he sailed out of the docks with us in the back of the boat looking around in awe at our surroundings and the seals swimming around us. The footage I got was amazing, but then again, it’s easy to collect beautiful footage on such a beautiful island.
The week we spent went quickly. We gathered over 100 gigs of footage (which is a lot for 4 days of filming). I was sad to take the almost 8-hour journey back to Edinburgh. I felt like I had left the kind civilization I know for a while on the Isle of Lewis. There were little to no cars on the island, nothing but free roaming sheep and highland cows. The pace was also slower with sunsets (which occurred nearly at 5 in the afternoon up there) more appreciated.
My team was one of the only groups to go outside of Edinburgh for our documentary. I would do it all again too, to escape the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh. Despite being American, I never once felt like an outsider in Lewis. There were drastic differences to the life up there but I found that fishermen everywhere are sort of the same. It doesn’t matter what nationality you are really. After my week on Lewis I can recommend seeing the islands of Scotland to folks of all backgrounds.