The Reade Family
By Chris Reade
Jeff and I, along with our growing family of four boys, were first generation farmers in Somerset. We worked hard milking a small herd of cows, but life at that time was a real struggle; a 'milk lake' in Europe meant milk supply was out weighing demand and so we realized the milk we were producing was not really needed. In 1979 we took our first holiday to Jeff's beloved Scotland, to Mull, where he had tried to get a job as a student. We bought a few acres of land here in our desperation as an escape route. Whilst here, we discovered that the milk supply was very erratic, mostly coming as freight and subject to all the difficulties of that.
One day, Jeff and I walked up the Glengorm Road and found the ruin that was Sgriob-Ruadh. It was a magical place, and we thought, 'Oh, if only!'
We returned to Somerset to continue our work, only to see an advert 3 months later - Sgriob-Ruadh was for sale! We planned and thought that maybe we could have a more worthwhile life on Mull.
Our whole move was made over two years, driving our small red lorry up and down the motorway. Of course the trips were accompanied by many near disasters and we have lots of crazy stories about moving one farm to another over so many miles. Thankfully our sons, aged 11, 16, 17 and 18, were a fantastic support.
Brendan, the eldest, was the main driver, doing many trips alone. As he was also helping runt he farm in Somerset he was a great source of support during the time. Garth and Matthew, aged 16 and 17, were the advance party. We roofed the old byre (Cheese cottage) and old dairy (Milk cottage), and put a caravan in front of the shell of a house. Garth milked 10 cows to start and Matthew organized a milk round in Tobermory. Though the townspeople gave us nothing but kindness in every respect, i know now that the whole town thought we were quite mad. In fact, we were advised to get a good spade to bury our animals when they died. They survived, though, and we continued to deliver milk round the island using cheese to balance supply until 2000. It was then that we gave up our milk round, built the big dairy building and concentrated on making cheese. During this whole period, the farm grew from 10 cows to the 130 we milk now.
We have had, and continue to have, a hard working and very happy and satisfying life at Sgriob-Ruadh, Jeff dreamed of a sustainable farm. doing things better as the years go on, and to create a life that will continue into the future. We can see it already happening, with some of our 10 grandchildren actively continuing the tradition of farming life at Sgriob-Ruadh.
The farm is now owned and run by our eldest son Brendan, his wife Shelagh (who had originally come to Mull to milk our cows), and our third son Garth. You may meet Garth's wife Shona if you were to visit the doctor's surgery in Tobermory as she is a nurse there. Shona is also the granddaughter of the McMillan family who lived here many years before us.
Matthew also married a local girl, Julia. Their place is Calgary Arts, which is by the beach at Calgary, offering lovely self catering, a gallery and tea room. Matthew is also an artist making carvings inspired by the sea and woods.
Joe, the youngest, returned to the island after university, and now, with his wife Dawn, has developed a biscuit company - Island Bakery - that you can see from the Garden Barn. The factory uses farm-generated green electricity, and the biscuit ovens are powered by sustainable local woodchip.
I am very fortunate to say that this wonderful island is my home, and most of all, to have my family all around.
Jeff, Chris and three of the four boys, Joe, back left, Brendan, and Garth on the right
The Family, from back left.
Tom, Garth, Rory, Dawn, Joe, Findlay, Brendan, Shelagh, Matthew, Julia, Jeff, Molly, Chris, Chloe, Louise, Lily, Charlie