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The History of Finsbay Lodge, Harris

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Reviewed by Paul Sharman

I love the Scottish highlands and islands. It goes way back to childhood holidays up in Wester Ross which were always the highlight of the year for me. In fact I am long overdue a return visit now but this explains my desire to investigate this book when I heard of the title.

The History of Finsbay LodgeAuthor Michael Gardner has obviously left no stone unturned in piecing together the history of what we are told in its time was one of the largest ever fly fishing concerns with 75 shareholders plus many guests enjoying its hospitality. Subtitled "Life and Fishing on a Hebridean Isle" the book is chock full of maps, detailed accounts and letters sent between the various parties involved with the rise and fall of the Finsbay Lodge and some wonderfully evocative photographs both past and present, representing what would have drawn wealthy fly fishers to this remote corner of the country back at the turn of the 20th Century, and still does the same now. A very well chronicled history is presented throughout and this will appeal to those who either know the area well themselves or have some other association or affinity with the principles or interest in fly fishing history in particular.

I found myself dipping into the book rather than reading it at length which perhaps reflects the style mentioned above. There are some great quotes and passages to be found showing life at the time. One of the members, a Sir James Irvine recounted in his memoirs one visit to the Lodge in 1914 .....

"I knew the story of two Englishmen visiting the lodge for the weekend who wanted to find on Sunday. No ghillie would go with them in the boat, nor carry their catch when they returned. The cook would not allow it in her kitchen, so it could not be cooked, and when in despair the the fishermen tied their sea-trout up in rushes and baskets, the postman on Monday morning refused to carry it to the post office. "Na, na" he said, "they were caught on the Sabbath, Ah'll no' handle them."

The book is full of fascinating insights such as this and the aforementioned photographs of the island and the lochs certainly inspire me to go visit sometime. Overall a very interesting addition to anyones fishing library I would say and a great book to have resting by the fireside armchair for those long winter nights when you can share a dram or two with the members of the Hebridean Sporting Association of old and their shortlived headquarters at Finsbay Lodge.

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