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Christmas Presents

A spiritual journey

Thomas Baldwin meets author and activist Alastair McIntosh, a Quaker rooted in Presbyterianism.
Alastair McIntosh on the Harris Hills by Verene Nicolas

IN conversation, Alastair McIntosh approaches every sentence carefully, choosing his words with forensic precision.

Perhaps it’s partly because he takes the same perfectionist approach to writing that it took him seven years to complete a book about a two-week Hebridean pilgrimage.

Although he now describes Poacher’s Pilgrimage (published in June last year) as his most important book, to begin with Alastair wasn’t even sure his walk through his childhood haunts, from the southernmost point of Harris to the northern tip of Lewis, would make it in to print. “I thought it was possible,” he says, “But it wasn’t a plan because I had no idea what kind of book could emerge from it.

“I was going to spend 12 days walking across the moors and through the villages of Harris and Lewis but, being from there, all of that was so familiar anyway that I didn’t think anything exceptional would come out of it.

“When I got back from the walk and my wife said ‘are you going to write a book out of it?’, I said ‘I don’t think I’ve got the material for that’. It was literally over the course of seven years of writing and rewriting that layers and layers of depth fell into place from things that I had experienced on the way, including having a number of major dreams while I was writing, that helped to reveal that depth and altered the course of what I was writing.”

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About Life and Work

Life and Work is the 138-year-old magazine of the Church of Scotland providing news and opinion on every aspect of church and religion within Scotland and further afield.
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