Lillian Beckwith – an English woman writes about Scotland

I was browsing my shelves, desperate to find something that could be discarded. We have too many books! We part with them very reluctantly… 

This week I am taking care of cats and house for vacationing neighbors, who have even more books than we do. I looked at their shelves and wondered – what if I moved some of my books into their house? would they notice? Probably not… A silly idea!

So maybe I will buy another bookshelf.

I found three books to consider for disposal, paperbacks from Lillian Beckwith’s seven book “Skye” series. These are almost fictional memoirs from the author’s time in the West of Scotland, where she went for rest after an illness. She was so taken by the quiet life of a croft village  that she moved in and did some farming. Her accounts of the people, agriculture and landscape are vivid and often amusing. These books have been in and out of print and I don’t think Kindle editions are available.

If in a quibblesome frame of mind, one might feel that Beckwith took advantage of her (generous and eccentric) neighbors by writing about them. However, these memoirs were written two generations ago, and I think we can assume they were innocently written and published.

These memoirs are notable because they describe “croft” farming, a land use system found only in Scotland. Crofters raise some “private” crops but pasture cattle on commonly owned land. A primary landowner (laird) carries some responsibility for the community. This is a way to use land that is too steep, too rocky and too poor for conventional farming. In the past, crofting provided a meager living. The system has evolved and is still practiced in Scotland.

Beckwith also wrote an equal number of novels, some children’s books and a cookbook. I hope to read the novels at some point. I encountered a review describing her work as a “comfort read”. Yes! Now, does anyone want these three books?

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