I’m happy to announce another new page on the Southern Hebrides website. This new page is about the most north-westerly island in the Southern Hebrides, the Isle of Coll. The islands neighbours to the east are Mull and Ardnamurchan Point, and Gunna and Tiree to the south-west are Coll’s closest neighbours. Coll is a relatively flat island compared to Mull and some of the other islands but has plenty of beautiful sandy bays and an interesting coastlines ready to be discovered. The new page is available from the following url: www.southernhebrides.com/isle-of-coll.html.
Another reason for this blog post has something to do with the population on Coll, which is currently around 200 people. There is an interesting story to tell about the decline and growth of the islands population. The following article appeared in the Oban Times titled Isle Of Coll Population Explosion and was written by Moira Kerr:
The Scottish island of Coll is enjoying a population explosion with the number of residents now at its highest for 30 years, up 70 per cent compared to the 1981 census. And one couple, whose four children have all moved back to Coll to raise their own sons and daughters, have received the community’s “Oscar” for best breeder, as their family of 21 now make up almost ten per cent of the island’s population. There were 131 people living on Coll in 1961, when the island, which lies in the Inner Hebrides, had no electricity and relied on gas heating and lighting. But today the numbers have soared to 228, with the island bucking national trends to boast a bumper population of children, with 56 under-16s, including 22 at high school, 20 at primary school, eight of pre-school age and 12 under-threes.
Island nurse Esther MacRae, who has lived on Coll for 35 years, said: “I remember, at one time, in the 1970s, the population went down to 104, although that wasn’t at the time of a census. Improved transport links and the coming of electricity has changed it.” Julie Oliphant, who has been running Coll Hotel with her husband Kevin for the last 25 years, said the island’s population was really booming at the moment. She said: “When we came here the population was 150 but now it’s going up and there are babies everywhere. “There are lots of young families here now. They have decided that this is the perfect place to bring up their children.”
One family in particular is contributing to the island’s vibrant population more than most. For all four of Brian and Moira MacIntyre’s children have now come back to Coll to raise their own families. The couple’s immediate family on the island number 21 and Mr MacIntyre, 61, said: “We are told that we now make up around ten per cent of the population. I think the population was 123 and there were five children at the local primary school when we moved here 23 years ago, but now there are 20 pupils at the primary school and it will go up to 25 next year.” He added: “We moved here from mainland Argyll and our four children all grew up here and then went away travelling around the world, or away to work. Now they are all back, with our eleven grandchildren. Mr MacIntyre, who is a farmer, said: “There was a charity fund raising ceremony on the island a couple of weeks ago and we got the Oscar for best ‘breeder’ on the island! Just because you are divided by a bit of water, some people think we are isolated here, but I don’t think we are.”
Seonaid Maclean-Bristol and her husband Alex moved here from London five years ago, back to the island where he grew up. The couple now have three children. Mrs Maclean-Bristol said they made a conscious decision to give up better paid jobs in the city to reap the rewards of a better lifestyle on the island. An improved ferry service and a new air link to Oban are helping to make the island more attractive to young families. However, the island’s population has a long way to go to reach past heights. In the late 1700s there were about 1,000 people living on Coll with the main industries farming and fishing.