The loss of Lawrence MacEwen, a resident of Muck, a Muck island, a tiny Hebridean island Muck creates a gap that is as wide as crevasse. Muck has been part of the MacEwen family from 1896. In the last forty years Lawrence and the wife Jenny and their families have managed to keep the island’s fertile soil, along with its flourishing livestock farm and the ethos of self-sufficiency. This has meant that Muck is seen as an instance of a functioning rural community that is forward-thinking and creative. “I believe in evolution, not revolution” Lawrence stated. His unique style of paternal benevolence was a the proof of his success.
Lawrence’s first visit to this island went, as Lawrence described the words “unceremonious”. His mother returned home with her second infant on the Loch Mhor from Mallaig. The skipper captain “Squeaky” Robertson peered into the Moses basket, he said that the slumbering baby appeared to “chust like a lobster that had been cooked”.
Along with his siblings, Alasdair, Catriona and Ewen, Lawrence roamed the island and often went barefoot. In contrast to the restrictions on Health and Safety laws, the children were ruled by the wilds that swept across the Atlantic Ocean. Free by the winds the children built their own refuges, slept beneath the stars, learned how to catch fish, clip sheep or make hay, and then grow tatties. They distinguished a good beast from a bad one and were experts in stock. The family was born to work. Lawrence’s elder brother Alasdair declared on the 29th of September, 1969 that he no more would like to work at Muck, Lawrence was both anxious and exuberant. Lawrence never saw his role being “the laird” but rather a farmer gravedigger, Coastguard Special Constable (there was just one minor theft) forester, fireman with enormous duties. He would make sure that when he was in charge the island and the community will not only be able to survive but also thrive. He would make sure there were kids in the school, and ensure that any new residents were scrutinized for their appropriateness. Islanders have voted on this. Muck should move to keep up with times and embrace alternative energy sources and build and promote development.
As the most strong man on the Small Isles, Lawrence could transport the Highland horse or a tough bull right into his boat Wave with shoulders as large as the animals that he breed. However, he was just as likely to look after his grandchildren who were in prams as they worked in the garden as well as eating an ice cream, and playing games at tea celebrations. Ice cream created Lawrence seem like a child.
He was so committed to not destroying the stunning panorama of Rum’s sea-girt mountains with the much-needed pier that was built located on Muck’s side of the island that he decided to build it near Port Mor. In the end, winter sailings of the CalMac vessel would be severely restricted, to the disadvantage of islanders.
Bearded with a swath of red-blonde hair and dazzling blue eyes. He looked like an eminent Viking. It was a far cry from the tweed-clad savage of feudal times with his impressively, big hands that were encased in those lines from a lifetime’s hair graft yellow oil rig-style shoes (and socks!). According to BBC anchor Mark Stephen wrote, “If anyone ever handed Lawrence the book “How to Be a Landowner”, I’m going to think that he utilized it to capture oil droplets from his beloved antique tractor. He certainly didn’t had the time to read the manual.”
He was an elegant gentleman with impeccable conduct, who loved Open Day on Muck. The mode of transportation he used was a battered motorcycle and his ferret, which rattled through Muck’s miles-long highway an overflowing transport box that contained livestock feed, sheep and provisions, guests pets or grandchildren.
Lawrence’s diary chronicles the days filled with coal-puffers flit boat and livestock being lifted in slings from Caledonian MacBrayne steamers as well as numerous earth-shattering tragedies loss at sea, suicide labor and endless stories about weather.
As a livestock hauler former livestock hauler Ewen Bowman said, “I never went to conduct a single task with Lawrence without asking myself what could possibly occur this time around?” I thought, this man is fighting everyday with the elements. He is forced to be paid twice to have his animals moved and everything is at his disposal and yet I have did not hear him discuss it. He was warned about a Luing bull. The flaming wee bugger went straight through one door, and out the other after we attempted to place it in the horsebox for crane onto the boat. It ran wild all over Mallaig through the shantytown of herring in a riot before charging into the rails. Lawrence eventually resisted it with steam escaping from its nostrils. It was so exhausted upon the way to Muck that it was laying across the street. was unable to move a miles to get there!”
An accidental meeting with notorious Tex Geddes in a bar in Mallaig brought younger Lawrence along with his younger brother away. While in an alcohol-induced haze and booze, Lawrence agreed to assist Geddes move livestock from and to Soay. As a business associate with Gavin Maxwell in a shark fishing venture, Geddes had befriended a newcomer on Soay and, when Lawrence came to land, he became immediately “dazzled” by Jenny Davies, whose father had purchased an island-based croft.
Lawrence stated that, after his mother’s death around 1977, the family was in need of to find a wife with the capacity to “feed pets lambs and master the use of the fork for hay”. Unfazed by the three and a quarter hour journey from Muck through turbulent seas and a rocky coastline, Lawrence used excuses to explain that Geddes required help. His insecurities resulted in a long courtship , and many obstacles despite the frequent lovelorn journeys. In 1979, he and Jenny got married, with the wedding was postponed by a day because of the weather. On the day of the wedding, the coal puffer was due to be loaded into Muck. The men were required to stay in Muck to load it, they missed the opulent occasion. There was a rumour that the laird eligible of Muck was getting married and the depleted nuptial party were stunned by the sight of a group of press helicopters appeared from dark skies.
Later, just like the trees on the island, Lawrence became wind-sculpted as being bent by the current wind gusts. However, despite the aches and pains of age and a swollen back, he was still pushing heavy wheelbarrows, and milking his beloved house cows into old age. He was featured on a variety of shows on television and also a documentary film that was moving, Prince of Muck.
Lawrence passed away at home, with his family. A sea of mourners gathered in boats to mark the life of a man admired and admired. The red Fergie tractor took the final man through the yellow flag iris to a hilltop burial in Port Mor amid laments on the pipes as the heavens opened up spectacularly. His burial was so that the cows could look at his burial, cuddling in peace beside him, or scratching their heads on gravestones that were covered with lichen. The way he always would have.