BOOK Launch

A Hebridean Journey

This diary documents the travels of the first organiser of the Highland Home Industries.

Release date: November 2020 RRP £20


“Anyone who holds on to stereotypes of the pre-FirstWorld-War spinster lady traveller will have them quickly subverted by Isabell Burton MacKenzie. MacKenzie’s diary is a vivid, well-informed account of what life was like in the Hebrides back then – far distant from the modern world, hard and materially deprived, and yet a stronger and more cohesive community than most of us can now imagine. The diary is firmly grounded in economic realities – the facts and figures expose the realities of the tweed industry, the Truck system, the pitiful wages paid to the women. At the same time there are touching stories about individuals – the young girl going to school in an unknown world among strangers, Ann MacDougall living alone in her dark cave on North Uist, supporting herself with her knitting, the length of the agents’ thumbs when they come to measure the tweed… such vignettes are well-supported by the fascinating photographs of a lost world.”
Professor Margaret Elphinstone

In 1912, the Highland Home Industries sent Isabell Burton MacKenzie on a mission to the Western Isles of Scotland, as their first organiser.

She left her home, Kilcoy castle, travelling to live in the remote Hebridean islands whose communities, bound by close ties of kindred, hardship, religion and shared dangers, were rarely penetrated by strangers. At a time when the world was changing irrevocably she captured everyday island life with her Vest Pocket Kodak Camera, her exquisite pen and ink drawings and her pertinent, if quirky, observations, all made possible by her command of Gaelic. The brutal Highland Clearances are within living memory and the horsemen from the Hebrides are soon to serve in the First World War… at a time of social and political turbulence, her diary reveals a vanishing world.

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For a BBC Alba news piece go to

Click here to download A Hebridean Journey Flyer

For More information Go to the Hebridean Project Page.

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