The Times they are a Changing: "The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast, the slow one now will later be fast, as the present now will later be past". Most of us will remember these historical lyrics from Bob Dylan about the changing times. Everyone feels to a certain extent that times are changing, for some faster than others, for some welcomed and by others feared. The pace of these changes is going up which makes it even more important to record as much as possible of the days and scenes gone by. As a non-Ileach I always envy the Isle of Islay and its people for its most enjoyable and relaxed pace of life. I always get the impression that these changing times don’t apply to this lovely island. Where I am based, the Netherlands, changes are so much more visible and have an almost suffocating pace compared to Islay.
Mark Unsworth from Islay Studios at Bruichladdich has published his first book of Islay, comparing century old views from all over the island with the present ones. The title is “Islay Past and Present, a century of change.” The hard-cover book is printed on high quality paper with more than hundred staggering and razor sharp quality pictures inside. The introduction explains how Mark managed to retrieve the century old pictures, mostly taken by Archibald Cameron in the beginning of the 1900s, using the original glass plate negatives now carefully stored at the Museum of Islay Life.
This book pairs the old black and white photographs with the new ones, also black and white, taken from the identical spot where possible. Browsing through this book I found this to be a fascinating and nostalgic journey back in time and discovered that my initial feelings about the changes on Islay were not entirely right. Things have changed, perhaps more than you think, although not so dramatic, and a lot of buildings pictured in this book are now serving another purpose but still look more or less the same. That’s the advantage of keeping the old instead of tearing buildings down to build new ones in their place. One small point of criticism though, the captions below the pictures are rather short, never more than one line, and give an accurate description of the changes. More than once however the caption is written as a question to which I would love to hear the answer, which unfortunately cannot be found in the book.
Islay managed to keep most of its authenticity in the last century and Mark captured the perfect atmosphere for a most enjoyable trip to memory lane. If you have a hunger for facts and answers you might be better off with a regular history book, but if you have an appetite for nostalgia, and lets be honest who doesn’t, this unique book is an absolute must have for both locals and visitors alike! Mark’s book will be officially released on wed 14 November and will be publicly launched at C&E Roy in Bowmore on Saturday 17 November at a cost of fifteen pounds. For enquiries contact Islay Studios Bruichladdich through his website: www.islaystudios.co.uk or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This book is now for sale in the Islay Shop.
This book review will also be published in the Ileach, issue 35-01 November 10