Coming from not just a family, but a whole community of fisherfolk, I can testify that fishermen have a rather practical and prosaic outlook on life. Fishermen tend not to mention the magic of dawn rising over the Minch or the proud surge of their vessel as the nets are shot. Their talk is usually of prices and diesels and the rank stupidity of governments. Any magic there may be comes from the place names that crop up casually in conversation. Oh yes… such-and-such is to starboard as you sail into Lochinver. So-and-so is on the port beam heading south down the Sound of Sleat. It was overhearing such conversations that I first heard of the Summer Isles, and the name made my eight-year-old ears stand up. The Summer Isles! Where are they? What are they? My imagination was fired by those islands of perpetual summer, and I longed to visit them.
Adult truth is always more practical and prosaic than childhood dreams, and the Summer Isles are small and uninhabited. I never have landed on them but I have passed them many times.
The ferry from Stornoway sails by them as it makes landfall on the mainland. They are at the mouth of Loch Broom on the run-in to the opposite ferry port of Ullapool, and they are a welcome sign that the three hour crossing is almost over. The largest of them are called Tannara Mhòr and Tannara Bheag. The winter rain and wind hits them just as hard as everywhere else in the Highlands, and, alas, there is no magical isle of endless summer.
But dreams and fancies are free, and for me the Summer Isles have not lost the childhood connotations that they once held. High summer in Lewis, when it never gets really dark, is my favourite season. The light on land and water brings out different shades from the other times of year. I wanted our Hebridean range to include breezy, clear colours that evoke childhood memories of summer days, and Summer Isle seems the perfect name for them.
The colours in the Summer Isle range are Whin, Poppy, Red Rattle, Clover, Wild Orchid, Witchflower, Strabhann, Summertide and Machair.