Lewis the most northerly and by far the largest of the Outer Hebrides, is also the most prosperous, partly through having Stornoway, the only real town in the Western lsles, a major port and now their capital under the new Authority. Since May 1975 the Isles administration has been centred at Stornoway and, as the need for new buildings, housing for ‘incomers‘ and other facilities has coincided with an involvement in the oil business, great changes have been taking place in the economy and life of Lewis.
It may be that the indigenous Lewis people, the crofters and ﬁshermen, the spinners and weavers, will resist this ‘progress’ but it may be trusted that, in spite of this thrusting into the modern age, they will preserve their characteristic Gaelic culture.
- Isle of Lewis Geolocation Latitude 58.19233° N Longitude -6.597875° E
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Particularly in its northern half, the island (as it must be described. although it is ﬁrmly anchored to Harris) is almost entirely ﬂat, desolate moorland, the highest of the few small hills being little over 800 ft. The main occupations had for generations been crofting, ﬁshing and the various processes in the production of Harris tweed, this last had been of increasing importance, but in more recent years suffered a recession in competition with man made ﬁbres, necessitating the introduction of new machinery and methods. lt may be that the new demands for produce (and ever-rising charges for goods imported from the mainland), and the reseeding and reclamation schemes pioneered at Barvas so long ago may be developed with modern techniques to let agriculture play a greater part in the economy.
Apart from the population concentrated in Stornoway, the population is scattered in small villages and communities round the coast, and traditionally in the old days they ‘kept themselves to themselves’, but with much improved roads and transport systems, not to mention ‘the media” they too are caught up in the new developments, and it may only be hoped that some of their peaceful and contented way of life will be preserved.
Architecturally, the island has little of note. Some of the ancient ‘black houses’, which appear squalid to the city dweller, have been converted, and others have been made into museums.
In the northern parts the Norse in ﬂuence is reﬂected in brightly painted exteriors.
Lewis had, of course, once before survived an incursion into big business and industrialization when, just after the First World War, Lord Leverhulme, one of the greatest ‘tycoons’ of his era, bought the island and endeavoured to improve its economy by developing a vast ﬁshing industry and by somewhat grandiose schemes for marketing their other products.
He did this because he had fallen in love with the island and liked and admired the people, he was a generous, warm hearted man, and there is no doubt that he only wished to help Lewis; but things went wrong.
It is variously contended that the crofters opposed his schemes, not fancying regimentation, and that Government departments on the mainland obstructed and ﬁnally frustrated his grand design.