A fundraising campaign to help rescue and redevelop the historic Eriskay school has smashed its target weeks ahead of schedule.
The Buy a Slate project has so far raised more than £2,800 in just over a week and is now aiming for £5,000 – double its original goal.
The school, which opened in the 1800s, closed its doors in 2013 when the few remaining primary children moved to Daliburgh in South Uist.
Former island school to become a community hub
It has since languished for nearly a decade and is deteriorating quickly.
Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh, The Eriskay Historical Society, is determined to save the landmark due to its historical significance and as a future community hub.
It obtained funding to demolish some parts of the building that were beyond repair.
The slates will be put on as part of efforts to make the structure wind and water tight by winter while interior work can now also go ahead.
The fundraiser is encouraging members of the island community to contribute to the project by paying as little as £10 for a slate.
Donors can have a message inscribed and put in a special sponsors’ book that will become a permanent feature in a new archive room.
Companies can also sponsor slates and it is possible to pay for a row or even a whole section.
The society said: “We are amazed by the support from everyone, especially in such a short period.
‘Another stage closer to the dream’
“With continued pledges, we will keep the momentum going with the redevelopment and start on the strip out works inside the school building, getting us another stage closer to our dream.”
It is planned to eventually redevelop the school as a high-quality visitor information point, socialising hub with museum and gallery space to showcase Eriskay’s heritage and culture.
It will include office accommodation, a ‘men’s shed’ area, gym/sauna; archive with researching facilities, library, outdoor play area and tea room.
Exhibitions are likely to feature Eriskay’s Jacobite connections as the place where Charles Edward Stuart landed to launch the 1745 Rebellion.
The island was also where the SS Politician grounded in 1941, leading to the ‘liberation’ of some of the 260,000 bottle of whisky on board, inspiring Compton Mackenzie’s book ‘Whisky Galore’.
More recently, the Eriskay causeway opened in 2001, joining the island to South Uist.
The new centre will also provide a base for Comann Each nan Eilean, The Eriskay Pony Society, which is marking its 50th anniversary of safeguarding the endangered Scottish native breed.
School building is part of island history
Project worker Sandra MacInnes said the society is finalising its business plan for the development.
She said: “We are very encouraged by the response to the fundraiser.
“People are maybe seeing what’s happening already and want to support what we’re doing.
“For locals and people visiting the island it will be nice to have something on our doorstep they can visit and find out about the island and its history.
“The building is part of our history and it’s important that it’s kept as a focal point of the island.”