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Wednesday, 04/Mar/2009

Islay, Bracken, and Kenya

Picture of a walker finding his way through shoulder high bracken

One of the reasons the WalkIslay Islay walking week is taking place in April again is the bracken you will find during the summer in many many places on Islay. Finding your way through them often isn't much fun, you also run a fairly high risk of picking up ticks while walking through them. So what does this have to with Kenya, as the title of this entry suggests? Well, there is no bracken in Kenya (I assume), which makes someone quite happy despite seemingly missing Scotland (and possibly Islay) otherwise:

In a recent story in The Herald titled Last Cautionary African Tale As Road To Buchan Beckons I came across a paragraph which made me curious. It mentioned Islay, and bracken:

[..] We have just finished a jolly lunch on the terrace of our club despite our nonagenarian friend, Bill Dickie, being almost beside himself with gratitude that he didn't have to go back to being a farm boy in Islay. Through the second half of the meal we couldn't stop him singing an amazing Gaelic dirge. His attempt to spell what he was singing was "Thami skeih smillomi pumyaronach" repeated as often as your friends can stand it. It means, "I'm tired of pulling bracken, pulling bracken. I'm tired of pulling bracken"

"And by God we had bracken in Islay."

I wondered if there was anything more I could find out about Bill Dickie, who seemed to be a colourful figure. Turns out I could, I wonder if some of the older people on Islay (or mainland Scotland) might remember him:

An entry Bill Dickie - 1936 2nd XV captain at the Keil School Old Boys Club blog told me quite a lot about his Islay connection: He wasn't born on Islay, but grew up at Lagavulin Distillery Farm and went to school in Port Ellen. He then went to Keil School in Dumbarton and stayed on the mainland for the early stages of his career. At some point he returned to Lagavulin to take over the farm from his parents, but left Islay in 1946 and emigrated to Kenya in 1952. Which is the reason for the Kenya connection of this entry.

Kenya obviously had difficult times recently, something he will have experienced closely. Some of this is described in The Kenyan Sun Still Shines But The Wounds Run Deep, also in The Herald. Bill Dickie is now 90 years old but still seems to be active, on this page is a picture of him celebrating his 88th birthday.

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