tales from barra as told by the coddy (birlinn ltd, 2013). © the estate of john macpherson 1992. reproduced with permission of the licensor through plsclear.

Location: Barra, Mingulay and St Kilda
gaelic language and placenames, gaelic culture

The Coddie

John MacPherson of Northbay in Barra was known as The Coddie (sometimes the Coddy - a childhood nickname that stuck) and wrote a book called 'Tales of Barra As Told by the Coddy'. A renowed storyteller and raconteur on the island, it was said that if the mood took him he could hold an audience captive with the charming way he shared his tales.

The Coddie had a cameo appearance in the film Whisky Galore, based on Compton Mackenzie’s novel of the same name, founded upon what followed when, in 1944, the SS Politician, a British merchantman of some 12,000 tons on her way to America with a cargo of the Best Scotch went ashore on Calvay, an islet in the Sound of Eriskay, but a few sea-miles from the Coddie’s threshold. He can be seen dispensing some ill-gained whisky from a jar during the rèiteach or engagement scene. The Coddie was given the role of honorary adviser to the film-makers and acted as a mediator between the production team and the locals.

Sir Compton Mackenzie, author of Whisky Galore (1947) said of The Coddie: "One of the innumerable pleasures of the years I lived in Barra was visiting with the Coddy the small isles about it that were no longer inhabited: because he was able to conjure up from the past those who within his own memory had been the life of them, Fuday, Fiaray, Hellisay, Sandray, Pabbay, Mingulay, Berneray ... every name like the gnomon of a sun-dial records for me only the sunny hours, and on every one of them it is always a blue summer sky with the machair in fullest flower and reminiscence from the Coddy flowing like the tide."

More information on visiting the area can be found here.