The Shepherds of Berneray

Jack Shea
53 minutes


Berneray is a small island in the Hebrides. It's the home of a bit more than a hundred inhabitants, who live by lobster fishing, sheep breeding and agriculture.

It is situated in the middle of the archipelago, and it takes 15 minutes from North Uist in the South and one hour from Harris in the North to get there. The two towns on Berneray, Borve and Ruisgarry, have between them a little more than 100 inhabitants. They make their living from sheep, agriculture and lobster fishing, of which the latter is the more important. The owners of the land live elsewhere.

Life is rough on the island. The traditional work is gradually becoming less and less profitable, and today, most of the income comes from governmental support. The migration away from the islands has for many years been substantial. The film follows the shepherds and lobster fishermen through the four seasons and shows how the climate and the nature influence their lives. Even if their culture today seems threatened there are also forces in existence for its preservation.

Since the film was made in 1978-9 the population has increased. More children have been born and a few people have also returned. Soon there will be a ferry that will make it possible to travel by car to the island. This, however, will be quite expensive and will probably mostly benefit the tourists. There are also plans for an airstrip. The reduced fishery has led to the formation of a cooperative, and there are plans for the construction of a seafood plant.

Producer / Production company: 
Granada Television