Aye, Laddie, No Man Is An Island, but Jack-of-All-Trades Seumas McSporran Comes Close

updated 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Nothing much happens on the isle of Gigha, three miles off the west coast of Scotland in the storm-tossed Atlantic. But when something does happen on Gigha (it rhymes with yee-ha), you can bet your bottom pound that Seumas McSporran is somehow involved.

McSporran, 51, is Gigha's postmaster.

He is Gigha's mailman.

He is the piermaster, the registrar of births, marriages and deaths, and the rent collector.

He is the special constable and the fireman.

He is the only shopkeeper and the gasoline-pump attendant.

He drives the ambulance and the hearse and the school bus.

He'll handle your life insurance needs.

And he and Mrs. McSporran run a bed-and-breakfast, where Seumas helps cook the morning and evening meals, puts together lunches for tourists and runs a bicycle-rental operation.

In all, McSporran has 14 jobs on the little island of about 140 people, most of whom are farmers and fishermen. (Gigha, incidentally, is on the market for $4 million. Cheers star Kirstie Alley has expressed an interest in it "just to have it.") McSporran won't say what he earns from his many endeavors, which keep him going from 7 in the morning until after 9 at night. "Anyway," he says, "it is not a question of how much, but how little."

McSporran's one-man service empire began with the store-post office, which he has been running for almost a quarter of a century, and spread from there. When he took over in 1965, he says, "Phones weren't prevalent on the island, so the post office owner really became the center of communications with the mainland."

As ambulance driver, for instance, McSporran's task is to coordinate with the island's nurse (no, Seumas is not the nurse). He uses the ambulance—in reality, his station wagon—to take the ailing islander to the ferry, for shipment to a mainland hospital. If the patient doesn't make it—no problem! McSporran's blue station wagon functions as a hearse of a different color. "Two or three people die on the island every year," Seumas reckons, so this is not an arduous undertaking. As has been the case with many of McSporran's lines of work, training was of the on-the-job variety. "I just learned it by going around with someone who had done it before," he says.

If many of McSporran's tasks are part-time, some are more part-time than others. His fire-fighting services, for instance, are seldom needed. In the event of a chimney fire or a blaze out on the heath, "I have hoses and pumps and a ladder, and I just pile them into the back of the car or the van, and off we go to the scene." Any locals hanging around watching the fire become de facto auxiliary firemen.

McSporran's job as special constable is another one that carries little stress. In fact, in the 24 years he has had that job, he has never actually been called out. Not even once. "Gigha is a very quiet, peaceful, law-abiding island," he says, "just the way I like it." McSporran doesn't even arrest drunks, on the ground that "No one can get too drunk."

Although these duties take up very little of McSporran's time, other jobs keep him busy all day long. He's up at 7 A.M. to make breakfast for the overnight guests. At 8:30 he drives the schoolchildren who need transportation—all four of them—to class. By 9, he's back—opening up the store, which sells everything from color TVs to postcards to meat and potatoes. If needed, he also works the post office window, in the rear of the store. At 10, he's down at the ferry collecting incoming mail and handing over the outgoing—"very much a two-handed job," he says. Then he mounts his bike and spends the next three hours pedaling around the 12-square-mile island, delivering the mail. By the time he has dropped off the schoolchildren, helped prepare dinner and worked in the store some more, it's 9 P.M.

That's when things get really quiet. Unfortunately, since Seumas McSporran doesn't sing or dance or do stand-up comedy, there isn't much nightlife on Gigha.

—Michael Neill, Jonathan Cooper on Gigha

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