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Castaway 2000 (BBC)

The purpose of the Castaway 2000 project was to conduct a serious study on a group of 36 people (28 adults and 8 children) removed from every day life to live on a remote island in the Hebrides for a period slightly exceeding 12 months. The group consisted of families, couples and single people from all walks of life and from all parts of the United Kingdom.

Panorama on Taransay

The selection for the program was by way of interviews, psychometric tests, team building exercises and learning fundamental survival techniques. How applicants coped at each stage was assessed by a panel of experts and in September 1999 those who had been selected were advised.

The pods - our living accomodation Having been selected for the project, I resigned my job and landed on Taransay on 6th December 1999 as one of 12 Castaways forming an advance party. We assisted the professional builders in constructing the accommodation and preparing the island for it's new inhabitants that would soon arrive. Most of the advance party returned to their families for the Christmas of 1999, but myself and Trevor Kearon stayed on Taransay. The project itself started in earnest on 1 January 2000.

The year itself provided many challenges; a the chance to learn new skills, to discover a life which many people will never get to experience, and also to make new friends. The effects of the year on Taransay have stayed with many of the Castaways, not just in memories but in relationships, a wedding and a couple of babies.

Taransay is a truly beautiful island with a staggering amount of scenery for it's comparatively small size. Beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear water and heather covered hills compete with cliffs constantly battered by thrashing waves.

The island has, in the past, been home to fairly large communities. Evidence of these people's homes is strewn across the island and not hard to find. There is also a standing stone and the remains of ancient churches and a graveyard which is being slowly eroded by the sea. If you know where to look some of the bodies are exposed and slowly being taken by the waves.

Late sky on Taransay Various places on the island were given nick names; Blackpipe Beach, Buoy Creek and Pig Beach. These names, like ourselves were only temporary and left when we did. The memories which the year on Taransay gave us all are anything but temporary.

My memories of the year are fond although it certainly was tough for me at times too. The good always outweighed the bad and fun times were frequent. During the year I helped to teach a couple of the children, was part of a team who put up the deer fence and installed a water pipe from the loch, and helped out in the slaughter house. We all took turns with cooking and other day to day tasks. There were plenty of other jobs that I was not involved with but which took great dedication such as getting up to milk the cows or feed the sheep on cold rainy days. There was always something to do even if it was drinking home-brew and playing cards!

Castaway 2000 by Mark McCrum Sadly, seven people left the project at various stages during the year for personal reasons. The rest of us came off together on 1st January 2001. It was an awesome year.

A book was published covering the project, to which I contributed many diaries and insights into my personal times on the island. It is available at most good bookshops and online retailers such as www.amazon.co.uk.

Click here to view the Castaway 2000 photo gallery!

(C) Mike Laird 2024