The Arnish Folk

1 10 2009

There used to be a little known religious sect which thrived on Lewis for several decades. The sect grew up around a small farm on the headland that embraces the southern side of Stornoway Harbour.

The sect was a Christian religious denomination known for its adherent’s simple living, plain dress and avoidance of modern technology. They were known as the Arnish People.

This small community grew up around the farm on Arnish Point (where the present day Lewis Offshore Oil Fabrication Yard now stands) and was made up of the farm labourers, fishermen and sheep rustlers that made a living from the Arnish Moor.

There are a number of schools of thought as to how the Arnish People came to be. One makes reference to a 1768 schism within the Free Presbyterian Church over the use of ‘modern’ Bibles in book form versus the traditional papyrus scrolls. Another line of argument points to the 1817 row over FP Ministers wearing new fangled cotton jackets, when the hardliners in the Church felt that scratchy tweed was more appropriate.

However, the most plausible reason is that the folk from Arnish couldn’t be bothered walking across the Arnish Moor to church on wet Sunday and so decided to set up their own Sect much closer to home. In fact, in the barn at Arnish Farm.

The Arnish Peoples did not mix very much with ‘outside’ folk and so were only occasionally spotted in Stornoway. On these occasions they could be seen driving along the Lochs Road in pony and traps, the men-folk in their black frugal clothing and the women-folk in their homespun dresses. They would only stop at Hughie Matheson’s bakery to buy rolls and Murdo Macleans to buy dreary coloured cloth for their ‘Sunday best’.

Occasionally a young person from the Sect would hanker after a taste of the ‘modern’ world and would leave the community. The young folk would move to a house on Springfield Rd and experience underage drinking of Trawler Rum, going to the Galaxy and fighting at ‘Johhny Oaks’ bridge. This was known to the Arnish People as ‘Rumspringfield Road’ which was by coincidence similar to the Amish Peoples (no relation) of America’s ‘rumspringa’ phenomena.

The Sect eventually dwindled away in 1910 when the good folk of Arnish Point discovered that electricity existed. It turned out that the whole town of Stornoway was involved in playing a massive practical joke on the Arnish People, by turning off all gas and electric lights whenever one of the Arnish folk went past, so that they were literally kept in the dark as to its existence for nearly 30 years.

The Arnish People had the last laugh however. It was them who discovered the scientific formula for ‘Arnish Boots’ and went on to become the founders of a multi national conglomerate of industrial footwear for the oil industry, as sold by Smiths Shoe Shop.

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