Yesterday a group of us gathered at the second boat to say goodbye to two residents leaving the island. It’s been a fairly lengthy goodbye with a meal with them last weekend, a bigger gathering of folk helping to move their stuff from the top floor of the castle down to the ground floor ready for the removal van, Ady helped load said removal van (I was being Mrs TeaShop), we gathered again at the shop for their last night and then finally at the pier yesterday in the sunshine to wave them off on the ferry.
When we returned home to the croft we sat and counted on our fingers all the people we have seen leave Rum during our time here. We reached 25. People who left due to relationships breaking down, the end of work contracts, because they had found love, were going ‘home’, had found a new job, had grown to hate it here on Rum. People have left to retire, from ill health, one left with the funeral director… some left with a waving crowd, some with a group looking sad to see them depart, some happy to see them off, some with no fanfare or audience at all. Some crept away so quietly it was only after they had gone that we realised they had really left at all.
In the same way that every new person arriving here on Rum leaves their mark, shapes the future, writes their own little piece of the Rum history book so every single person leaving takes something away. A particular energy force, a way of thinking, a voice at the meetings, an idea or opinion or notion. We’re a strange group of folk here, diverse, not always coherent or united. Yet fiercely loyal, bound together, tightly knit. In the last couple of weeks I said a phrase and someone’s daughter said ‘ah that’s where my Mum got that from – she’s said it a few times and I wondered who she’d heard it from’, while just tonight I pronounced a word in a certain way and was told I sounded like someone else. We share colloquialisms, turns of phrase, in jokes and lingo. Relationships and alliances, friendships and clans are formed in the unlikeliest of places with people whom you would never usually even cross paths with in life.
When someone new arrives on Rum there is curiosity, a sense of possibility, ripples of hope run through the community. When someone leaves there is a yearning look toward them as the ferry takes them away – part envy in some ways that they are escaping the island, off to adventures new, back to the mainland and the mainstream, away from the challenges unique to Rum. Then people get back into their cars, walk away, ride off on their bikes and those names become part of the long list of people who ‘used to live here on Rum’. Part of cast of characters from the past and a chapter of the story you have already read.