Laird Lawrence MacEwen, also known as the Prince of Muck, died this spring at the age of 81. He now lies buried in an open field where his cows still graze. In his last years, he was often heard carrying on conversations with his beloved bovines. He chose his burial spot to keep up with the gossip.
This Muck is not something that you scrape off your shoe, but one of the islands of the inner Hebrides. About two miles in length and about a mile wide, it has about 1400 acres of good agricultural land., Life can be tough on Muck. It was only only connected to the Scottish power grid in 2013. Windy? A saying – “one day the wind stopped and half the islanders fell over”.
But island residents – all 27 of them – work hard. Other island communities hold Muck’s population in awe for its work ethic and as an example of what can be achieved in the Hebrides.
Also known as the “barefoot laird” , Lawrence MacEwen was a tall man with the presence of a viking. As soon as spring arrived, he would discard his shoes and climb the craggy Muck cliffs or spend hours standing in the cold ocean waters of the Hebrides. Typical dress – a boiler suit smelling sweetly of his beloved bovines.
He attended Gordonstoun School , one of the few remaining UK schools that offers full board. Famous alumni include Prince Philip, Prince Charles, David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, and Sean Connery’s son, Jason. Rugged outdoor activities make up a part of Gordonstoun’s notoriety – and the future laird went barefoot on the most rugged of school expeditions.
At 27, Laird Lawrence took over the running of the island that his elder brother passed on to him when he escaped to Australia. Lawrence, however, could not imagine leaving his island home. He believed in its future. He worked with Muck’s tiny population to instil community spirit and an attitude of self-sufficiency. They planted trees, tended neglected gardens, set up poly tunnels, and expanded the dairy herd.
Lawrence gave up the reins to his son, Colin in about 2014. Muck now boasts a fish farm, wind turbines, a luxury hotel with holiday lets, and WiFi. The Prince of Muck grudgingly and gradually accepted Colin’s changes. And, he comforted himself by tending his beloved cows that he milked by hand until the end.
She neither smiled nor kissed him / Because she knew not how / For he was only a farmer’s lad / And she was a Luing CowPoem from Laird Lawrence’s childhood – Anonymous
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