Although based on true events, the story of Calum’s Road is so unique that it comes with a strong sense of some greater story being told, one of mythical proportions. This isn’t just a tale of one man’s determined labour to keep his family, community and culture together, but also the universal stories of leaving and returning, of the power of memory and the past to still affect the present. It even touches on the uncaring blindness of distant authorities that, for example, decide to build a road only so far and then stop nearly two miles from a community which, at the time, consisted of around 100 adults and children and, just half a century later, had crashed to just two—Calum and his school-teacher wife.
It’s fitting, therefore, that David Harrower’s script (based on the book by Roger Hutchinson) instills its characters with certain iconic personas; the hard working crofter turned road-builder, the fiercely independent daughter, the returned exile, and so on. And, given its Hebridean location, the story flows and turns between past and present like the tide, building a narrative force through the reiterations of family sayings, and the rhythmic retelling of particular scenes and aspects that echo the old Gaelic work songs. The staging by director Gerry Mulgrew, however, is sharp and clear, even as an excellent cast of six switch between the main characters’ childhoods and parents.
That one man successfully carved almost two miles of road out of the rocks and trees of north Raasay is remarkable, almost unbelievable to urban eyes, but while this production touches on the familiar touchstones of Highland and Island culture—depopulation, injustice, and decline—what comes through most strongly in this production is a sense of hope. Calum Macleod—crofter, fisherman, postman, lighthouse keeper, knitter and road-builder—might appear to be some Don Quixote railing against the inevitable, but even though his work (which the local council belatedly resurfaced and sign-posted) is now chiefly a visitor attraction, the audience is left with a sense of that with people like him, such island communities can still have a future.