‘San Fhuil/It’s in the blood

A 3 x 1 hour documentary series about a rare species of human: the Uist crofter.

9pm on 28 November, 5 December, 12 December

Made from rock as old as the moon, Uist has been shaped by winds, tides and the people who have continuously worked this landscape for 5000 years. The traditional crofting methods enable rare species of birds and flowers to thrive that are extinct elsewhere in the British Isles.

The bardic hills are steeped in stories of survival and this series captures a sense of this. Filmed over a number of years by Beatrix A Wood in the township where her family croft, it is a personal portrait of a people and a place. Through the calendar of crofting activities, a brother and sister pass on their skills and knowledge to a young brother and sister who moved to the township from Cornwall.

As sheep and cattle are tended, seaweed is gathered as a fertiliser to cultivate the Uist corn seed – one of Europe’s oldest indigenous seed varieties – on the machair to produce feed for the cattle. The series explores how the greatest challenge today is not from the longest test rocket missile firing range in Europe next door but from the growing number of Greylag geese who feast on that corn.

Over the last 30 years, the resident population of Greylags has increased from less than 1000 to more than 9000 birds. With little to check the breeding Greylag, the geese are destroying the cultivation of Uist corn. How the crofters meet these and other challenges with wits, humour and determination is a core driver of the action.

The contemporary action is interwoven with archive film and photographs, offering a unique insight and fresh style that evolves like the layers of memory and life stories that the main characters share. The narration is by South Uist piper and Gaelic singer Chloe Steele.

The series portrays the instincts and wisdom that have always called people to live in close harmony with the land and how they use wits and determination to overcome threats and adapt. “It’s in the blood”, as they say.