Hebridean Project

A Hebridean Journey

The Travel Diary of Isabell Burton MacKenzie is now available to order – Click Here

I’m delighted to see this book published, and it will be of all the greater ethnographic value because MacKenzie had the Gaelic. It is rare to see accounts of women’s history being recovered and written. ” Alastair McIntosh, Scottish writer, academic and activist.


“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 as their first ‘Organiser’, on a mission to the Western Isles of Scotland.

With her insight and pioneering spirit, she gives us a unique glimpse into the ways of the people, their dwellings, customs and beliefs, at a time when the World was turning and changing irrevocably.

The Highland Clearances are within Living memory, the shadow of World War 1 is looming and her diary reveals a vanishing world.

IBM portrait

In 1912 the first organiser of the Highland Home Industries, Isabell Burton MacKenzie, visited the Outer Hebrides. In the second half of the 20th Century , Miss Winifred Shand, the last organiser toured the Isles for 27 years on her bicycle. The Vanishing Scotland Archive holds the primary  source material, which tells the story  through the diaries , scrapbooks, pictures and recordings of these 2 remarkable pioneering women.

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Miss Shand with a home knitter in the Hebrides
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Scottish Home Industries Sock Sample. c.1950