Some from Scotland may know this story, but having been inspired on the storytelling front, I wonder how many messages you can derive from this true account?
The Island of Gigha (pronounced Geeya) is approximately half as long and half as wide as the Gaza strip – and is home to a mere 170 people.
Up until a few years ago, a neglectful landlord ruled over the inhabitants. He had allowed the housing stock to fall into disrepair, so that it had become the worst in Europe. The Islanders complained and begged him for help. He refused to pay. These people then challenged him to do better, and when he again refused, they fund-raised to buy the island from him.
They got together and bought Gigha (www.gigha.org.uk) and, through ownership, have certainly solved many of their problems. They make their own rules. There is no policeman on the island – nor has one been needed.
Peer pressure reigns.
It is not possible to buy a house there unless you can provide a Business Plan that is passed by the Island Council, and would create employment. This island can afford no passengers. Some people have presented such plans four times – and still been refused. I believe it is a fairly nerve racking experience.
Thus immigration is under their control.
Those who succeed in demonstrating their potential are invited in, and are allowed to buy a property.
The hotel is the only one on the Island, and all the islanders work together to run it at a profit. It is a Community Project which helps to support the island.
Ethics and integrity shine through. Everywhere they have made an effort to save money.Their wind-turbines- named Faith, Hope and Charity – were bought second hand .
They have now repaired the housing stock and are self- sufficient in electricity. The excess they sell to the mainland. They are justifiably proud of their achievements, this little band. They have fought a major battle, and won.
They are empowered.
They have control over what they own, and they value it. Every inhabitant beams with pride. Little things began to have importance.
When my husband and I cycled the length of the island on New Year’s Day, 2008, he suddenly stopped and said: “Can you hear that?”
I stopped and listened – and, I must admit, it is the first and only time I have heard audible silence. I now know what “The Sound of Silence” means.
In the beautiful gardens, there were signs which said: “You are here for your enjoyment – please walk on the grass” or “Please smell the flowers.” It was liberating. To be told what you can do, as opposed to what you can’t.
When we so frequently see neglect and waste – is there a better way?
Could people do much more for themselves? At the moment they have not been asked.
Is it a question we should consider?
Would there be less complaining if not only Local Authorities, but Health Boards and Education, were in the hands of citizens with vision? A Citizens Army?
If Government took a step back, would there be greater fiscal prudence?
©Linda Jane McLean