My first sporting memory is watching a team in green and white winning the Scottish Cup against a team in orange. I loved football and wanted to follow the team that won. They were Celtic and that was about the only thing they won in the next fifteen years as their rivals, Rangers, dominated Scottish football until 2000. I didn’t know it at the time but chosing Celtic in the Western Isles was like ordering a steak in a vegan restaurant. Everyone on the island supported Rangers because the Isle of Lewis is to protestants what the Vatican is to Catholics.
Lewis is a very religious island. Sunday or the Sabbath is a holy day and no shops would open, the swings in playparks would be tied up and even clothes lines would be cut if anyone dared to hang their underwear out on the Lord’s day.
It’s was tediously DULL!
Imagine a day when nothing happened. Slowly. And not just a day because the Stornoway Sabbath started when the minister went to bed on a Saturday night and it didn’t end until he got up on a Monday morning.
And nothing could happen because, unless you were going to church, everything else was banned. Even watching TV was banned, though not in our house as while Sunday School was compulsory, our Dad still wanted to watch Scotsport on a Sunday teatime.
It was only in recent years that the airport and ferry opened to allow people to leave the island on an Sunday. We inadvertently ended up on the first Sunday sailing. We were in Stornoway, saw there was a Sunday sailing and booked it not knowing it was the first. At the ferry terminal there were 20 people in black suits and heavy tweed coats silently protesting – because, naturally, on Sunday, shouting was banned. Beside them there were a hundred people clapping to show their support for the new service. On board we hid below deck, while we supported the new service we didn’t want to be in the photo they’d use in the local paper under the headline “Heathens Leave Island. Destination: Hell!”.
When I came back to Stornoway from university, I always loved the Stornoway sabbath. It provides a day each week when you know you don’t need to do anything. However, the Stornoway version was too extreme. If it was sunny outside you couldn’t play football, you still can’t play golf. Today, I’ll go for a run but twenty years ago even that would have been frowned on. Even if you didn’t go to church yourself, you still cared what your neighbours thought and respected their beliefs.
In many ways growing up in Stornoway was a glimpse not just into the past but into an older past too. While the mainland moved with the times and Sunday became the weekend rather than a special day itself, Stornoway remembered when the Sabbath meant something. It was a reminder that you should spend one day a week doing something different, whether it be resting, praying or tying up children’s swings (lest Satan tempt them to swing on the Sabbath).
There’s a lesson here for triathletes. The need for a rest day or days. A reminder that it’s just as important to stop as it is to start. And pushing to do something every day is not always progress.