On call on Colonsay

Life is changing for all of us. That much we know about the world we live in as the conseqienses the coronavisrus pandemic become more apparent. The future has never looked more uncertain and we can only guess and speculate what is in front of us now.

A year ago, Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson visited the small inner Hebridean island of Colonsay to shoot a short story about two of its residents for whom life was about to change. Or so they hoped at the time. One year one, due to the global pandemic, that change has been put on hold.

Colonsay’s medical services are run and co-ordinated by husband-and-wide doctors David Binnie and Jan Brooks. In May 2019, they were nearing retirement after eight years overseeing the GP practice there. Colonsay’s approach to health is a bit old school: it relies on involving as many members of the community as necessary to deliver services by pooling and sharing knowledge and resources. It is not uncommon for the islanders to be called upon to use their skills as firefighters, ambulance crew, flight controllers or administrators to help keep the island’s 135 permananet residents and thousands of annual visitors safe and well.

Whilst he was there, Colin was given privileged access to all facets of the service, from attending consultations at the surgery which overlooks the main settlement and ferry terminal at Scalasaig, to accompnaying Dr Binnie on home visits. It gave him a chance to see how this beautiful island worked and what it looked like.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, the doctors’ retirement plans have been put on hold. Although at the time of writing there have been no cases on the island, Colonsay effectively remains closed to the outside world, with a lifeline ferry service delivering food and essentials the only contact with the mainland, a two-and-a-half hour sailing from Oban. Once the outbreak subsides and life starts to return to normal, the doctors will try to get their retirement plans back on track and renew the process of recruiting a replacement GP.

As well as photographing the doctors’ work and capturing aspects of life on Colonsay, Colin also shot a short film which has been used in the advertising campaign to find David and Jan’s replacement.

It was Colin’s first visit to the island in over thirty years. Like so many Hebridean islands, so much has changed, yet stayed the same. It will be fascinating to see how it changes as a result of the conronavisrus outbreak.

Island of Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
The ferry arriving, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
A patient receives treatment, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Burial ground, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Dr David Binnie during a home visit, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Dr Jan Brooks, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Card in doctor’s practice, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
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North by North West

Ferryman, Easdale island, 1989. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Ferryman, Easdale island, 1989. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

 

Document Scotland are hitting the road next month.

We are heading to the Highlands and Argyll to host the first of a series of four salon events across the country which will present the work we will be showing at our forthcoming exhibition at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow. There will be presentations in person by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Colin McPherson. In addition, we’ll be looking at Scotland’s historical legacy by highlighting the work of one of our partner organisations, the University of St. Andrews Library’s photography collection. We’ll also be showcasing work by contemporary photographers making work about Scotland and discussing the current state of photography.

The first event will be staged at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (scroll down page for details) on Thursday, 14th August. The event runs from 7-9pm and we are looking forward to presenting work for the first time in the Highland capital. Due to the size of the venue, booking is essential: To reserve you place, please telephone the museum on 01463 237114 or email kirsten.body@highlifehighland.com

Two days later, on Saturday 16th August, the Document Scotland tour takes to the ocean waves, with a three-minute ferry crossing to the small car-free Hebridean island of Easdale, just south of Oban. We are being hosted by Eilean Eisdeal at the Easdale Island Community Hall, a popular and lively venue for all types of arts activities. Our event begins at 7.45pm to accommodate people who may wish to cross over on the ferry from the mainland at 7.30pm. There will be ferries back at the conclusion of the evening’s entertainment.

Both events will as usual be informal, informative and interesting – and free to attend. We hope you can join us in either Inverness or Easdale, please spread the word or get in touch for further information.

There will be two further salon evening to be staged in St. Andrews and Edinburgh in the autumn. Details to follow.

 

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Document Scotland’s 2014 programme of salon events are supported by Creative Scotland.

 

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