North Ronaldsay is the last of the Orkneys, the northernmost island before Shetland and Fair Isle. Around 50 people live here full time, plus another 20 or so second-homers. Nearly all the full-timers are well into retirement age, which means that Muir and a handful of others do all the jobs because there’s nobody else – and because he loves this place with the whole of himself.Most residents are past retirement age and most do multiple jobs and sometimes the wind is so strong it can knock a man flat. Currently there is one student in the school.
Maureen appreciates the size of the island and the opportunity for more family time. Plus, she says, “I like not having loads of supermarkets and shopping centres around me, because the kids grow up not thinking that they need to have something. It’s not that my kids don’t have junk, but they don’t get it in a constant stream. Other kids seem to need it like they need air. I wanted them to know the difference between needing it and just wanting it. And also to open their minds up to something different. If they’re living in a place where there aren’t loads of kids, whatever they decide they’re interested in, they don’t have to clear it with their peer group. It shows them it’s OK to be different. You can’t help but be different as the only child at the school – but it means that being different in other areas of their life isn’t such a big leap.”
|Billy Muir, 77, a man with at least 20 jobs.|