Skye crofter 'last' to swim his cattle between grazings


The last crofter in Scotland to swim his cattle between winter grazings has completed his herd's crossing of the sea to Skye.

Swimming livestock between islands was once a familiar scene in the Highlands.

But Iain MacDonald, who grazes his cattle on a small island off Skye, is believed to be the last person to still move his animals this way.

The 79-year-old crofter times the short crossings at low tides and has not lost an animal in 61 years of doing it.

Mr MacDonald, who is originally from Glasgow, took part in his first "ferrying" expedition when he was 18.

image captionIain MacDonald completed his first ferrying when he was 18

Recalling that first crossing, he told BBC Alba: "They were two-year-old bullocks.

"Some of the men were scared and then they had one or two drams and they were as brave as lions."

When he was younger Mr MacDonald, who lives in Staffin, on Skye, swam with the livestock but he now uses a boat.

He moves his cattle to Stenscholl island in October and they graze on the isle before being moved back to Skye.

Mr MacDonald said he would continue ferrying for as long as he was fit, adding: "I'm now 79 and have been doing it for 61 years. I'll do it for another 20 years."

The crofter is among a handful who continue traditional farming methods in the 21st Century.

On the Western Isles, sea shepherds tend flocks of sheep on pastures of the Shiant Islands off the coast of Lewis and Pabbay off Harris.

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