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In July 1935, Robert Atkinson and John Ainslie set out on an ornithological search for the rare Leach's Fork-tailed Petrel. Their search was to last for twelve years and to take them from their Oxford base to many of the remote and often deserted islands off the North West coast of Scotland (including North Uist, the Monarch Isles and St Kilda), to an almost inaccessible North Rona and, their search rewarded, beyond. Robert Atkinson's account of his twelve year adventure provides a detailed and emotive description of the wildlife and landscape of the Hebridean outlanders. He recounts with clarity his first sighting of a puffin, 'So brand new was this unique first insight of puffins ... they might have been of fresh creation: bright fantastic dolls but alive!', and explains in detail the effort entailed in reaching the most inaccessible of islands. But more than that he records with compassion the primitive lifestyles of the islanders, their living conditions, traditions and histories and notes too the changes they witnessed as the war years came and went. His writing has inspired many of the later accounts of Hebridean travel. Atkinson's account of his travels has established itself as one of the greatest of all memoirs of sailing in the Hebrides.
Robert Atkinson was raised in southern England, but developed a passion for the islands, and just before the middle of the 20th century, unleashed a brand new style of island writing. Filled with energy and vigor, along with fantastic photography, Island Going remains his greatest legacy.
Hamish Haswell-Smith is a retired architect and keen yachtmaster. An accomplished artist, his sketches and paintings have been exhibited in many British and European galleries. He lives in Edinburgh and continues to explore the Scottish Islands.