Sporting Deal | Sports News | Olympic torch route, day 24: sport is woven into the Isle of Lewis’s fabric

skip to content

All NewsLatest News: Froch: Bellew can KO Usyk

All Betting TipsLatest Betting Tips: AJAX V MAN UTD

All NewsLatest News: WATCH: Thorpe’s demo on playing spin

All ReviewsTop Bookmakers: Betfred are rated 10/10 and offer a £0 sign up bonus

All Welcome BonusesWelcome Bonuses: Bet Victor -  Bet £5 Get £30

Latest NewsArchive

Olympic torch route, day 24: sport is woven into the Isle of Lewis’s fabric

11th June 2012

Michael Donald: Assuming the flame can withstand one of the UK’s windiest locations, it will cross an island steeped in sport

The Olympic flame has reached the remote Scottish archipelago of the Outer Hebrides. It’s here that I make a living, running a small croft and weaving Harris Tweed from an entirely non-electric, pedal-powered contraption. With more than eight hours a day spent in the loom saddle, we weavers could give Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish a run for his money.

In fact, the Olympic torch contingent travelled to these shores overnight (by air rather than sea), thus arriving on a Sunday – or the Sabbath as it is known round these parts. Not so long ago, this would not only have been frowned upon by our once church-going majority, it would simply not have been possible as planes and boats were similarly pious on the seventh day.

The torch’s first port of call on the Isle of Lewis will be the ancient standing stones of Callanish and their surrounding satellites, their circles pre-dating the Olympic rings by nearly 5,000 years. It is here at sunrise that the torch will stand monolithic in the most beautiful of vistas, the island’s early morning light – beloved of filmmakers and photographers – bringing the golden grasses of moor and croft to life, with no traffic jams ahead to hinder the coming journey save the odd flock of ambivalently errant sheep.

The flame’s fortitude may well be put to the test, this being one of the windiest locations in Britain – something one infamous island exile, Donald Trump (his mother Mary was born here) – found to his chagrin on a homecoming jaunt last year when the adhesion of his candy-floss hairpiece was sorely tested by a gentle force 9.

Should torch technology struggle with our weather vagaries we can perhaps offer a more traditional fuel to light the way, a piece of fragrant peat cut from the moor, or a wick lit by fish oil procured from herring livers as was once the fashion. Given the current fuel prices here, some of the highest in the land, either of these may pose a more prudent option in these most recessionary of times. 

The flame, wind notwithstanding, will then make its way to the main harbour town of Stornoway where it will pass through the grounds of the Lews Castle, built by Lord Matheson in 1857 on the proceeds of his lucrative trade in opium – not quite the performance enhancing drug of choice these days – and onwards to the Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais, our multimillion-pound sporting facility (closed on Sundays), just one of the many island facilities dedicated to sport. 

We are a sporting island. Every district boasts its own football team and ground, and such is our love of competition that we even have our own biennial event, the Island Games, held alongside a multitude of similarly sporting sea-bound friends. 

So as the torch leaves us, we don’t feel remote or distanced from the events in London in any way, and all Hebridean cliches aside, we’ll be just as likely be sitting on IKEA sofas, watching on widescreen TVs and perhaps imbibing an imported beer or two as the rest of civilisation. 

Me? Well, I’ll be pedalling away as usual, bringing more Harris Tweed into the world with one ear to the digital radio commentaries in my weaving shed, all the while thinking that if only we had built a world-class Velopark in the village I could have been a contender too.

Michael Donald blogs for the Harris Tweed Authority © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Read more at The Guardian
© Guardian News & Media Limited

Please Log In / Register to Leave a Comment

Please log in or register to leave a comment about this article.

Newsletter Signup

Register here so we can keep you up-to-date with Sporting Deal news...