22 JULY 1927, Page 12

A LETTER FROM THE WESTERN ISLES. [To the Editor of

the SPECTATOR.]

Sia,—After being " dry " for six years, Stornoway voted " wet," and the public-houses opened on May 30th with a guarantee of three years without any further ballot. Alter- ations and extensions of premises, new furniture and equipment and a general all-round improvement of the licensed houses have been the immediate result, but what has been more pleasing to the visitor and the ordinary observer is the cessation of the " open-air " drinking.

During the " dry " period there were licensed dealers author- ized to sell beer in quantities of not less than 41 gallons at a time (" to be consumed elsewhere than on the premises "), and the thirsty ones contrived to obtain 41 gallon cans and consume the beer on the harbour premises. The Excise authorities considered this to be a matter primarily for the police and took no action, whereas the police could only take action by separately interdicting each man, since the harbour is private property. As the cost of interdicting would be approximately £12 per head, nothing was done. The number of drunken men seen on any day in the streets has been no greater since May 30th than on any day before that date.

For some time now it has been possible without artificial light to see the time by a watch during any hour of the twenty-four. Already we play tennis at midnight. The birds in Lady Lever Park (the only wooded portion of the island) seem to sing night and day, no doubt because it doesn't become dark enough to warrant their stopping, while the gulls meet the incoming drifters with their mournful and often raucous cries during the small hours.

The fishing season opened early in May, but the herring were so small that the drifters, after two days' fishing, remained in harbour for a week or more. Even now the fish are not as big as usual, though the catches are numerically up to the average.

Lord Leverhuime's castle still stands empty and forlorn, though the private gardens are tended carefully and are a charm to one whose eyes are tired of the drab monotony of the interminable miles of heather-covered moor and peat bog. It has been suggested that the castle would suit admirably its the home of the proposed Gaelic University, but so far it is a suggestion only. The castle could be put to no better purpose.

-.—I am, Sir, &c., Ycirun SToasoWAY CORRESPONDENT;