The Western Isles – Or There and Back Again XIII

By Bernie Bell

Mostly Lews Museum

Saturday – heading home, leave Bernera and on to the new museum at Lews Castle.

When we entered the museum, I noticed a small, clay copy of a Neolithic carved stone ball on the desk, and Barry-On-The-Desk told us that children visiting the museum had been getting involved – making copies of the museum exhibits.  The little clay ball, turned out to be a copy of one of the two originals in the museum.

stone balls in Lews Castle Museum

photo by B Bell courtesy of Lews Castle Museum

The carved stone ball labelled Number 9, was found at Lacasdal, near Stornoway, and is  part of the Lewis Museum Trust collection.    Number 10, was found at Bail Ailean, about 14 miles from Stornoway, and is on loan to Museum nan Eilean courtesy of the Trustees of National Museums Scotland.

The new museum is excellent, and provides a good introduction to local history and life for folk going either from the Isles into mainland Scotland, or vice-versa.

It’s also very ‘human’, something which gets lost a bit in museums, sometimes.  Mike particularly liked  all the Western Isles faces and voices in the first part of the main room.

Colin the guide expressed an interest in current Orkney archaeology, so I gave him  links to Orkneyjar, and The Orkney News website, and said that these would lead him to much info and more links to further info.  Colin is the right kind of person to have as a museum guide – it’s  not just a job to him, he has a genuine interest in what’s there in the museum, and in what is happening in the world, generally, and sees the connections between them.

Lews Castle Museum Face in Wall B BellWe had lunch in the café at the museum, and I noticed this ‘face’ in the newly plastered wall.

Folk saw me taking  the picture, and came to see why.  One lady said it reminded her of the Turin Shroud, a young lad said it was “spooky”. Another suggestion was that it was someone who was had been walled up in there!  I said it might be Old Matheson, in a grump because the peasantry are now able to wander around his grounds at will!  That’s what I reckon it is – Old Matheson, in a grump. I’m not a fan of Old Matheson.

Last time this particular peasant was at Lews Castle, she availed herself of the opportunity to wander in the grounds Our Trip to the Isle of Lewis: 2 and they are very much worth a visit – peasant or not!

One man commented that life is endlessly interesting, if you are interested in life.

Amen to that.

I wonder if Lews Castle Archive will take the work which Margaret Curtis and her husbands have amassed about the Calanais stones?  A section in the museum would be ideal, but there  isn’t enough room as the museum is laid out now – the archive is a possibility.  I hope that Margaret bequeaths her work to the archive, and that all that information and insight will be properly curated and made available to the public, in perpetuity. Our Trip to the Isle of Lewis: 3 – Calanais


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