Harris Cravadale 1984.


Leader:- Steve Paynter

Assistant Loaders:- Alan Tytler, Frank Farnham, Mike Young, Jo Walker, Greg Cotton, Janet Shakespeare, Douglas Warburton, Dave Lock

Members:- Stephen Ashman, Sharon Baldwin, Duncan Ball, Tiffany Bannier, Maria Borg, Philip Bush, Richard Butterworth, Theresa Hill,

Toby Cameron, Alana Lennon, Graham Jackson, Alex Haigh, Cathy Middleton, David Worsdall, Neil Mason, and Cheryl Watson.


This was only the second S.H.S Expedition to visit the north west coast of Harris, the first being led by John Abbott in 1965. That Expedition was also the first full size expedition that the Society mounted to the Outer Hebrides, and our arrival on the same shores in 1984 gave us a unique opportunity to compare the Society as it is today with the Society of 19 years ago.

The site at the head of Loch Cravadale was as ideal for us as it was for John and his crew in 1965. Flat, well-drained machair, lying just above a beautiful stretch of sandy beach and surrounded on three sides by steep ground rising up to over 1000 feet.


The 1984 Harris Cravadale group (23 in photo, 25 on the expedition)

My thanks to  Joanna Burgess (Née Walker) for the photos.

The Harris 84 Cravadale Group.

  1)Alan Tyler

  2)Mike Young

  3)Dougie Warburton

  4)Neil Mason


  6)Steve Paynter

  7)Richard Butterworth

  8)Dave Lock

  9)Duncan Ball




13)Janet Shakespeare

14)Cathy Middleton


15)Greg Cotton

16)Cheryl Watson

17)Philip Bush


19)Frank Farnham

20)Theresa (Terri) Hill

21)Tiffany Bannier

22)Maria Borg

23)Alana Lennon




Thanks to Tiffany and Jo Burgess for the names so far.


Our equipment arrived on the beach by an unusual yet ideal mode of transport - a landing craft. This had to be the ultimate in expedition on-island transportation and was a fitting climax to a very smooth logistical plan which brought the one-two tons of food and equipment up from England. All that remained was 20 yards of firm, level sand to negotiate on foot between the water 's edge and the site - a mere nothing compared with most S.H.S Expeditions.

The beach continued to be of tremendous value to the Expedition. Launching the P4 and Yamaha from it for the first time was, for me, rather like early man discovering the wheel - shear ecstasy. I seriously felt like beaching it and relaunching, just for the simple pleasure which could be derived from this operation in comparison with the normal struggle over seaweed-strewn rocks. Canoeing was safer and easier from the beach, and also made surf-canoeing an added luxury. The Society's Topper dinghy received almost constant use in the bay with many members experiencing their first taste of sailing under Janet's experienced hand. A wide variety of birds were seen along the bay and seals, trout, salmon and even some porpoises were seen from our privileged position on its shores.

Almost everyone tried their nerve at rock climbing at some point in the Expedition and for the more enthusiastic, Stronalladale and a rather gruesome short overhang, probably graded at extreme, provided ample challenge and difficulty for the duration of the Expedition.

Two main bivvies ran towards the end of the Expedition. The first walked many miles to visit the famous Standing Stones at Callanish while the second took a shorter route and climbed Clisham. A magnificent summit, reached at about 8 pm one evening, and giving views over the length and breadth of the Outer Hebrides, to a steadily reddening western sky.

The ornithological highlight of the Expedition occurred when a young merlin was brought into camp with a broken wing. Alan did an excellent job, cleaning and bandaging, and was later successful in coaxing the bird to food. This exquisite bird of prey has now gone to a breeding project in the south of England since its wing could not be saved.

We received quite a number of visitors during our time at Cravadale and we soon got to know local shepherds and river watchers from the surrounding estates. The task of the river watchers is to try to catch the large number of highly organised poachers who move in on the salmon rivers at this time of year. We learnt quite a lot about the area from them and enjoyed a number of fresh lobsters which they kindly gave to the Expedition.


Above: Canoes on Mealista Island, approximately 7 or 8km from Cravadale - not a beach in the Med as you might imagine














Mhealasta beach on Eilean Mhealasta (the Gaelic name that appears on maps now)

Photo: © Copyright Tony Page 5th June 2008

Time passes quickly on expeditions and soon we found ourselves preparing to leave. A beach Olympics, orienteering marathon and grand last meal only added to the already continuous hilarity and amusement. Walking out from Cravadale amidst a fresh breeze on an absolutely stunning day was accompanied by a strange mixture of high spirits, tinged with sadness. It was already easy to see what an enormous amount of enjoyment we had all derived from the Expedition and this in itself was quite enough to make the Expedition both worthwhile and successful. But in addition to this a whole variety of other "experience" was gained, too important and profound to list but which became the spirit of Cravadale "84.

In this respect the Expedition was, I suspect, little different from John Abbott's in 1965. Our equipment was more plentiful and more advanced and our organisation probably a little smoother. Our emphasis lay in outdoor activities while John's Expedition seemed to be strongly geared to the scientific investigation of the surrounding environment. We enjoyed the company of some delightful young ladies, but in 1965 of course it was boys only. However, in the last analysis, it would seem true to say that the basic essence and character of the Society has changed relatively little over the intervening years.

The success of Cravadale 1984 was certainly assured and I would like to thank everybody, both in the Society and on the Isle of Harris, who made the Expedition possible.

It was all summed up for me on the return journey, with the sight of almost the entire Expedition lying fast asleep (literally on top of each other) along the corridor of a British Rail luggage carriage, happy, content and exhausted.

Steve Paynter

Waiting for the landing craft! Tiffany Bannier spotted herself on the left

Steve Paynter, thanks to Steve for supplying several S.H.S reports for scanning

Thanks to Tiffany Bannier for sending the following photos.

On the 'bread run' and going the wrong way!

Drying out after a soggy night!

Duncan and his sandcastle

?? and Maria Borg

Greg Cotton & Mike Young

Neil, Alana, Cheryl, Philip, Terri, Maria, ?? Duncan

Digging the loo pit!

 The gang waiting for a feed.

More to follow.