I proffer just a short profile of one of my favourite islands of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. I include just a few photographs taken on my visit there a few years ago.
Jura is an isolated, dramatic, historic island. It is a close neighbour of the larger and more populated Isle of Islay, which provides the main means of access to Jura, via ferry across the short Straits of Islay.
The road, which starts when alighting at the ferry terminal on Jura, extends northwards for about 8 miles. It then peters out into a track leading to Barnhill, at the most northern end of the island. This cottage is where George Orwell chose to spend a good deal of the last few years of his life, working on his book, ‘1984’, a classic of modern literature.
On Jura’s one main east coast road is Craighouse, the only village on the island, which includes the island’s only church, shop and whisky distillery. The majority of the island’s approximately 200 residents live in this south-eastern part.
George Orwell and the Corryvreckan Whirlpool
The publication of Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ in 1949 might not have happened had an incident off the north coast of Jura not turned out differently.
Orwell’s house on Jura looks northwards over the stretch of water towards the island of Scurba. This stretch of water is known as the Strait of Corryvreckan, and it contains the world’s third largest whirlpool.
One day, whilst in a boat here, without any life-saving equipment, and very close to the whirlpool, Orwell and his three-year old son were thrown out of their vessel. They were able to cling to the up-turned boat until, eventually, they were rescued by lobster fishermen.
In later life, Orwell’s son, in re-telling the story, wrote that . . .
“. . . the family – including Orwell’s sister Avril, nephew Henry Dakin and niece Lucy Dakin – had been out on a small motor boat as part of a camping trip. “Father got the tide table wrong,” he said. “We got wrecked. We lost the outboard and got caught in the tide.” None of the party had been wearing life jackets, said Mr Blair. “My father and I ended up upside down underneath the boat,” he remembered. “He pulled me out and dragged me ashore. It was a pretty stupid thing to happen. In the twinkling of an eye that could have gone totally wrong and we could have been swept away and drowned. And of course that would have been the end of my father because he was still really in the middle of writing Nineteen Eighty-Four – so that wouldn’t have happened.”