The Old Priest Stone at Persabus

The Happy Farmer has been busy planting up troughs and pots around the farmhouse, cottages and pottery. Armed with a wheelbarrow full of mixed varieties of colourful flowers every corner of the farm has been getting a makeover. The Happy Farmer has had company in his labours. Ruby, my lovely flat coated retriever, has become ‘affectionately’ known as ‘Dumbo ears’ by the Happy Farmer. She has taken to lending a helping paw, a wagging tail and the odd flick of her soft dangly ears. Each time he turns around to admire the results of his labours, ‘old Dumbo ears’ appears, stepping clumsily through the floral displays, knocking the heads off flowers. When the Happy Farmer’s back is turned, she and Bramble have found the soft soil of the troughs are simply perfect for burying the odd bone. The newly planted troughs also make the softest, comfiest bed to snooze on when enjoying a spot of sunbathing in the garden.

The display of cut flowers in the farmhouse kitchen has been growing beautifully then, and dog and farmer are very close to falling out. The beauty of Ruby is that she doesn’t care. She ambles away, turning a deaf ear to the Happy Farmer as she happily continues to plod through the flowers wagging her tail and shaking her head, oblivious to the flower heads she is knocking off on her travels.

The entrance to the farmhouse has become a vibrant froth of whites, blues, pinks and purples. We sat among the flowers enjoying a morning coffee in the gorgeous sunshine on Sunday. The old clay troughs came to the farm originally to hold water and feed for the animals. At the corner of the gable end of the farmhouse sits a huge heavy stone trough. The Happy Farmer’s father rescued the old stone trough when the main road was being built years ago. This large trough originally sat at the end of the front field, fed by a natural spring, it provided fresh drinking water for the passing horses before the island’s roads were upgraded from cart tracks.

A few ‘metal lasts’ lie at the base of the trough, once used by the farmers to pop their boots onto as they hammered tacks into their soles, as tackety boots were the order of the day.

Stone querns once used for grinding the corn now sit among the floral displays. New earthenware pots sit beside the old milk churns of yesteryear. The treacle churn, used to keep the treacle for the animal feed in, and our lovely old ‘pickling jar’, a huge ceramic barrel, once used to pickle and preserve meat for the larder, now upside down, it is the perfect stand for pots and drinks at the Happy Farmer’s barbeques.

Outside the pottery stands the old priest stone. Once used for baptisms and blessings it was also rescued by my late father in law in the 1970s. A company from the mainland were on the island building a new main road, the spoil and rubble was being tipped on Persabus. The Happy Farmer’s father had heard from his forefathers of an old priest stone that had long gone missing and was thought to be buried in the land being dug out by the contractors. My father in law went raking through the tonnes of rubble. Against the odds, in among hundreds of tonnes of waste, he found a large stone and with his pocketknife clearing the mud, he discovered the ‘cup’ of the stone. He had found the priest stone. He always maintained this special stone saved itself and that he was led to it. Without heavy lifting gear the stone had to be dragged from the rubble heap by rope all the way from Caol ila to Persabus. The white mark lay engraved in the road for many years and the priest stone was saved for generations to come.

It is fitting that ‘the old boy’ as he is affectionately remembered found the priest stone. Persabus gets its name from the Norse invasions, Persa meaning priest and bus meaning abode. Persabus translates to home of the priest and now has its priest’s stone back.

Persabus is a celebration of years of farming tradition on Islay, as we marry the old with the new, pieces have been lovingly gathered and handed down through the generations and here we are, with the Happy Farmer’s beautiful flowers, at the forefront of upcycling and recycling.

Until next time…