‘We earned huge salaries as doctors, but life as crofters is sheer paradise’

Allan and Morna Piper outside their home with daughter Helen
Allan and Morna Piper outside their home with daughter Helen
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Two doctors have given up their high-salaried jobs in the city to answer a call for new crofters on the isle of Colonsay.

Allan Piper, 34, who worked as a psychiatrist at the Young People’s Unit in Edinburgh, is supplementing his crofters’ income with a part-time job as janitor at Kilchattan Primary School.

He, wife Morna and daughters, Helen, two and Sally, six months, are among the first of 12 newcomers who will push Colonsay’s fragile population of 120 up by 10 per cent this year, as they take up the life-changing challenge.

Mrs Piper, who was a pathologist working for Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary and Western General hospitals, has found work teaching online, while she and her husband share the role of bringing up their children.

Mr Piper said: “I grew up in Edinburgh. We were looking at the way we were living, we were earning a huge amount of money, but to what ends?

“With the salaries came a cost, we were living in a flat in town, it was noisy and we never saw each other during the daytime. Now we have lunch together, we talk about what’s happening and we both help out with looking after the kids, we are enjoying it, we have never been happier.”

He added: “We have some sheep and some chickens and we are hoping to get a few pigs, but crofting is difficult to do without some other types of work so now I do my janitor bit at the school, I have got some gardening work – a bit of landscaping – and I am a volunteer in the fire service.

“I drove a digger the other day, it was the best fun thing ever, I would never have been able to do that in Edinburgh, it’s dreamy stuff.

“The things that I value, like space and a view, I could have worked all my life in Edinburgh and not been able to buy a house with a view of the sea.”

Mrs Piper grew up on Colonsay but left at 11 when her mother and father moved to the mainland.

They returned to the island years ago – while Morna forged a career in the city.

She said: “My husband has always really loved Colonsay and has always really enjoyed coming here for holidays. We heard about the crofting scheme and thought, we can’t afford to do that, then we thought, we are in our thirties, we want a better life for our children.

“I like being able to see the sea, it’s just really beautiful here. I like the sense of community here and I like the way you don’t need to lock your doors.

“The only thing I miss is the vegetable aisle in Tesco’s, but we are hoping to do some market gardening, so we will grow our own.”

Accommodation is scarce on Colonsay but the bareland crofts all come with consent for new homes to be built on the sites. Mrs Piper said: “There is not much budget accommodation here, so we would like to open a camp site.”

Yorkshire couple Phil Jones and his partner Carrie Seymour have just moved to Colonsay to take over another of the new crofts, where they are to build their own eco-house.

A couple, who are expecting a baby, are set to move to another croft, while Jim Bosomworth, 47, wife Catherine, 33 and their children Rona, 7 and Sam, 3, are preparing to move from Gloucershire, where he currently makes bicycles.

Mr Bosomworth, who was brought up on a farm, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity. The life experience for the children, that’s what really attracted us. There are 400 children in my daughter’s school now, so it will be quite a difference for her to go to one where there are seven pupils.

“We have bought a big American camper van which will be our base on Colonsay for the next couple of years while we build our house.

“We will be crofting but we are looking at a few alternatives for a business.

“We are thinking of having a veg box scheme and doing dairy, where we will provide milk and cheese.”