Literally, Hebridean describes the 500 islands off the West of Scotland – the Hebrides, just as “Antipodean” describes the Australian / New Zealand region – the Antipodes. The etymology is Norse – meaning “Isles on the edge of the sea”, (Antipodean is from the Greek “other footed”, implying opposite side of the world). They are both geographical adjectives that can also be applied to the people that live there.
The people who live there. There aren’t that many in relation to the size of the land. In the islands of the “Outer Hebrides”, north and west of here, the latest census showed 9 occupants per square kilometre; on Islay, it works out at 6 per square kilometre. This makes self-reliance important, but also co-operation – Winter in, Winter out, neighbours, communities, have to be able to get along and call on one another in an emergency, whatever their differences.
The native language of the Hebrides is not English, which has essentially Latin roots, spreading with the Romans as they conquered new lands, but Gaelic, a language that has its origins in the ancient Phoenician traders of the fertile crescent, spreading by sea.
Culturally, it is a bit “other”. Imposed authority does not do well here. Myths are created and debunked by someone’s well-turned phrase. Longevity is valued over speed or other symbols of status. Barter thrives,for favours and goods; collective memory and common ownership are still strong threads running through island society. Compared to the strident individualism of the English-speaking capitalist way of life, the tone is somehow gentler, and yet more defiant. We are proudly non-conformist, as has always been the way in these Western Isles – Oirthir Gaidheal – the coast of the Gaels, the land of the outsider.
Find out more about what it really means to us here: https://www.bruichladdich.com/hebridean/real-place-real-people