Prince of Muck

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. 

The Isle of Muck

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. 

Isle of Muck – not mucky at all.

Prince of Muck

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. 

Muck Today

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. 

Red Luing – A Scots heritage breed

She neither smiled nor kissed him / Because she knew not how / For he was only a farmer’s lad / And she was a Luing Cow

Poem from Laird Lawrence’s childhood – Anonymous

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor  in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]

Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]

Vienna on Top Again

June 25, 2023

Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]

Large interior courtyards

From Hot Bedding to Superblocks

June 20, 2023

Many Viennese went from hot bedding to superblocks overnight. Could they even imagine  an apartment complex 1000 metres long built along two streets with even more massive landscaped courtyards? Could they conceive of 1400 apartment units built to house 5000 people on 56,000 square metres or 38 acres of land.  Or a vertical build-out that […]

Vienna – the World’s Most Livable City

June 16, 2023

Vienna had been a poor city even before the First World War. “Normal” housing arrangements  meant six to eight people sharing one room and a kitchen. Then, in early 1919, just after the Armistice,  the cost of living tripled in two months. Bed lodgers could no longer afford their 8-hours a day in a shared […]