You are going to read an article about an island off the west coast of Scotland. Choose the answer (A, B C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.

The Isle of Muck

Jim Richardson visits the Scottish island of Muck


Lawrence MacEwen crouches down on his Scottish island, the Isle of Much. And so do I. An Atlantic gale threatens to lift and blow us both out like October leaves, over the steep cliff at our feet and across the bay 120m below, dropping us in the surrounding ocean. Then MacEwen’s sheepdog, Tie, creeps up and his blond, bearded owner strokes him with gentle hands. The howling wind, rage as it might, can’t make this man uncomfortable here, on his island, where he looks – and is – perfectly at home.


MacEwen is giving me a visual tour of his neighbourhood. Nodding to the north, he yells, ‘That island is Eigg. The one to the west of it is the Isle of Rum. It gets twice as much rain as we do.’ I watch heavy clouds dump rain on its huge mountains. ‘Just beyond Rum is the island of Soay.’ ‘I have sheep to move,’ MacEwen abruptly announces when rain drifts towards us. We start down the slopes. As we stride along, he brings me up to speed on island details: Volcanic Muck is 3 km long and half as wide; its geese eat vast amounts of grass; and the MacEwens have been living here for 3,000 years.


Herding the sheep interrupts the flow of information. Tie, the sheepdog, is circling a flock of sheep – and not doing it well. ‘Away to me, Tie. Away to me’, meaning the dog should circle to the right. He doesn’t; he goes straight up the middle of the flock, creating confusion. ‘Tie.’ MacEwen’s voice drips disappointment. ‘That will never do.’ The dog looks ashamed.


The Isle of Muck is largely a MacEwen enterprise. Lawrance runs the fam with his wife, Jenny; son Colin, newly married, manages the island cottages; and daughter Mary runs the island hotel, Port Mor, with her husband, Toby. Mary and Toby love the fact that their two boys can wander the island on their own and sail dinghies on summer days. ‘They go out of the door and come back only when they’re hungry.’ But island life has its compromises. For one, electricity is only available part if the time. My first evening, I wait anxiously for the lights to turn on. The next morning I find Mary setting out breakfast by torchlight. But I cope with it – along with no mobile phone service. ‘There is mobile reception on the hill,’ Mary tells me. ‘Most visitors try for a couple of days, then just put the phone in the drawer,’ So do I too.


Everything on Muck seems delightfully improbable. The boat today brings over the post – and three musicians, who hop off carrying instruments. Their concert in the island’s tearoom proves a smash hit, with the islanders present tapping their boots in time to the music. That night, sitting by a glowing fire as it rains outside, Lawrence MacEwen tells me how he met his wife, Jenny. ‘Her father saw a small farm on the isle of Soay advertised in the newspaper, and bought it without even looking at it. He’d never been to Scotland. Jenny was sent to manage it.’ Did Jenny know anything about running a farm? She had good typing skills.’


I go to bed with rain and awake to more rain. But I eat well, virtually every bit of food coming from the tiny island. Mary sends me down to fisherman Sandy Mathers for fresh fish. I carry it back through the village and deliver it to Mary at the kitchen door. By 7 pm, our fish is on the table, delicious beyond reckoning. Also beyond reckoning: my ferry ride the following morning to my next island. Over the preceding two months, many of the scheduled ferries had been cancelled because of high seas. If my ferry didn’t come, I’d be stuck on Muck for two more days. (line 75) Which, now, phone or no phone, was what I secretly longed for.