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Calum's Road [Paperback]

Roger Hutchinson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
Price: £5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

2 Jun 2008
Calum MacLeod had lived on the northern point of Raasay since his birth in 1911. He tended the Rona lighthouse at the very tip of his little archipelago, until semi-automation in 1967 reduced his responsibilities. 'So what he decided to do', says his last neighbour, Donald MacLeod, 'was to build a road out of Arnish in his months off. With a road he hoped new generations of people would return to Arnish and all the north end of Raasay'. And so, at the age of 56, Calum MacLeod, the last man left in northern Raasay, set about single-handedly constructing the 'impossible' road. It would become a romantic, quixotic venture, a kind of sculpture; an obsessive work of art so perfect in every gradient, culvert and supporting wall that its creation occupied almost twenty years of his life. In "Calum's Road", Roger Hutchinson recounts the extraordinary story of this remarkable man's devotion to his visionary project.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn Ltd (2 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841586773
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841586779
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


An incredible testament to one mans determination not to fold against a far-off bureaucracy. --Sunday Herald

Compelling. --Sunday Times

An uplifting and life-enhancing book. --The Guardian

About the Author

Roger Hutchinson is an award-winning author and journalist. After working as an editor in London, in 1977 he joined the West Highland Free Press in Skye. Since then he has published thirteen books, including Polly: the True Story Behind Whisky Galore. He is still attached to the WHFP as editorialist and columnist, and has written for BBC Radio, The Scotsman, The Guardian, The Herald and The Literary Review. His book The Soap Man (Birlinn 2003) was shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year (2004).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Calum's Road - a fascinating true story . . . 7 Nov 2007
By Hallaig
This is one of my very favourite books and one of my most treasured possessions. It is one of those books that you pick up and cannot put down. . . . . I return to it time and time again. On the face of it, it is, simply, the story of a man who, single handedly, built a two mile stretch of road, over difficult terrain, in a wild and remote place. . but it is much more than that. . . and the many layers of it reveal themselves to the reader in much the way that a really good poem reveals itself. . . Calum MacLeod was a passionate man who, believed that Arnish, where he lived, at the depopulated north end of the island, could provide everything that was needed to sustain life . . . and that if he built a road linking the north to the rest of the island the people would return . . . He was a fascinating man . . the story is a fascinating story (far more fascinating than my wee description) . . the book is written beautifully, it is not sentimental and the story and the island are not romanticised . . . a truly, inspirational, magical book.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man and a wheelbarrow 12 Jan 2008
When I began reading about Calum's road project, some of the evocative writing of Lewis Grassic Gibbon and man's battle with unforgiving nature came to mind. Set on the island of Raasay, this is an account of one man's dramatic response to decades of local authority indifference, in this instance the continual prevarication over replacing the track that serves the rough northern part of this island with a motorable road. Calum gives up the lobbying in despair and takes on the task himself, reading up on how it should be approached and labouring on the task with shovel and wheelbarrow in between his various other duties such as running a croft and tending the lighthouse on North Rona.
However, `Calum's Road' is not just about a one-man construction project. It is the story of demographic change on Raasay across two centuries. Using sources such as testimony from the 1884 Napier Commission, it narrates how, during the nineteenth century, the island's population was evicted from the fertile south to make way for sheep and deer and how they were contained in the rocky north by Raasay's own `Berlin Wall', Rainy's Wall. When the effects of the Wall are eventually breached, it is then the north of Raasay that loses its population. It is this reverse migration that Calum MacLeod tries to stall by the construction of his road. He gains particular satisfaction by making a physical breach of Rainy's Wall during the course of his one-man mission.
This is not just the story of a road and the man who built it, but is the story of a Hebridean community which reflects dynamics that have a familiar ring throughout much of rural Scotland. The author presents a moving human narrative in his telling of this story.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 5 Feb 2007
This is a fantastic story about a fantastic man. It is funny and informative and really, really moving. I cried at the end, although it's actually a very positive story about hope and accomplishment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars King of the road 23 Mar 2008
This is a great read, part history, part politics and part single mindedness all combine to give a view of the problems Raasay residents in particular, but also of wider Scottish society have faced. Passion and the harsh reality of life for the islanders are always present in the text. Calum should be an inspiration to all in the way he lived.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of determination! 7 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'd been meaning to read this book for years, as I found the basic story fascinating, and was interested to hear the detail and the background to it. Roger Hutchinson paints a clear picture of how the situation that Calumn found himself in arose, which is interesting in itself. But the stoicism and determination of the man himself make Calum an extraordinary character - I just wish there were more like him on the planet, as it would be a far better place! A wonderful tale of how persistence pays - especially if you don't depend on others and are prepared to get your hands dirty - quite literally! It's a real story of our times, well researched and written, and a joy to read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading? 19 Feb 2011
Lets face it, this isn't the most readable book, and I found myself wanting to hurry through parts of it. For that reason you might expect a lower rating and indeed, but for the subject matter, it would have been lower. The story that this book tells transcends the writing style. It tells a story of the heartless treatment of the crofting inhabitants of Scotland from the time of the Clearances all the way through till the 1980's. I have lived in Scotland for nearly 50 years, have heard all about the Clearances, but knew nothing of the almost systematic depopulation of the crofting community by successive governments through the 1960's and 70's and the appalling and heartless way that these small communities were treated by officialdom at that time. It also tells the story of a wonderful man who would not give up although his community was reduced from over a 100 to 2, because he knew that that he was doing the right thing. We talk today of people who are 'grounded' - here is the definitive person. This is a book filled with tragedy, which will leave a tear in your eye, yet is at the same time a triumph - wonderful, everyone should read it, these things should never happen again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a struggle
Hard read but struggled through to the end as I had just returned from this area of Scotland and saw mention of book on my travel. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I have read this before and bought this for my daughter's collection. I'm thrilled!! Many thanks Gwen
Published 10 days ago by Gwen Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming book.
A truely charming book of courage, love and determination. A reminder of real values. Well written and takes you through the landscape, the routine of the inhabitants, and that if... Read more
Published 10 days ago by grania davy
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book and really fast delivery from
Fascinating story, excellent book and really fast delivery from vendor
Published 13 days ago by Mrs. Sarah E. Macdonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
enjoyed all books
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting background & history of this inspired little bit of Civil Engineering.
Published 1 month ago by Billywhizz3
1.0 out of 5 stars calums road is rocky
I never give up on a book but this one beat me. I was bored to death it, it was such hard going. Cant recommend this book unless you suffer from insomnia.
Published 3 months ago by bambi
5.0 out of 5 stars How to build a road
If all else fails and the authorities write off your dying commumity when all it needs is a road, what does one do? Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul Comerford
5.0 out of 5 stars Spunky Scot
This is an inspirational man refusing to let anything stop him getting the necessary road for himself and the community !
Published 8 months ago by Ferry Maid
3.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Tale of Determination
I bought this book after listening to a Radio 4 play based on the story of Calum MacLeod and the road he built because nobody else would. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sean Miller
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