I’m sharing a conversation with islander Barney McLachlan, not just the island baker but also my husband! When I first arrived on the islands in January 2009, it was with the view to working here for six months. I then planned to continue with my global travels before deciding what career direction to head in with the law degree I had graduated with the previous year. Barney is THE reason that I am still here 15 years later! So, I thought you may enjoy finding out more about his love for the islands and his journey to making a home here. 

Barney, you grew up in a small village near Wolverhampton. What was your connection to the Isles of Scilly?

In the 1950s my grandfather holidayed to the islands in search of birds and wildlife, and he dragged his family with him. Looking back, he really did venture off the beaten track coming here at that time! He and the whole family was captivated by the islands, and they spoke to the Duchy of Cornwall and decided to buy a holiday house on St. Martins. Family legend says the Duchy tried to persuade them not to get a place on St. Martins as the locals were  argumentative and maybe they’d prefer a property on the larger island of St Mary’s! Anyway, they bought Bleak House in Highertown.

My mother is part of a big family and every summer we used to head over with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for our Scilly holiday. In 1976 I first came to St. Martins when I was three months old. In fact, my family still enjoy retelling the time my mum went to catch a boat and realised when she was at the quay, she’d left me in the pram in the garden.

Those summers were filled with many great times and adventures with my cousins and various friends, exploring the island, examining rock pools, walking at night to see the different lighthouses, wading to the Eastern Isles at low tide, playing on beaches and enjoying being welcomed by islanders and embraced into the community.

Bleak House was sold in the late 1980s, but the Scilly memories had already got under my skin. When I got the chance to come back, I leapt at the opportunity.

In 2000 you decided to work a summer season on Scilly. The following year you trained as a baker and never left. For the first few years we were together I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay permanently on the islands, but you felt confident that we could build a life here. What is it that you love so much about island life?

The childhood memories have always made me feel very connected to the islands. When I came back as an adult, I began to make even more connections. I joined the St Martin’s Cricket Club and got to meet and socialise with islanders from all the different islands. I learnt how to row the pilot gigs and competed in the local racing through the summer and the World Championships held annually over here in early May. In short, I became a member of the St Martin’s community.

On the islands we all try to be fairly self-sufficient, but we all know our neighbours are always willing to lend a hand. Knowledge and expertise are shared. We’re always looking out for each other. Over the years I’ve been allowed to become part of the fabric of St. Martin’s and now my own little family are proud islanders. We live in an amazingly beautiful place, full of nature and tranquillity, but it’s the sense of community that make me proud to call the Isles of Scilly home.

2011 was a big year for us as we moved into our house and got married. The following year you took over the running of The Island Bakery. On paper it sounds straight forward, but what do you think the biggest challenges to becoming a permanent island resident are?

The biggest challenge is the lack of affordable housing. Most of the housing on the islands is leased by the Duchy of Cornwall. Unless you are in the position to buy one of the very few freehold properties, you join the waiting list for a rented property to become available. You can spend years in staff accommodation, which can be sometimes not be the best. I’ve lived in various sheds around the island and I’m not unusual in that.

When a house becomes available to rent, you apply to the Duchy knowing that all the other people going for it are your friends and are as deserving of a house as you are. People’s dedication and commitment to securing a home on the islands brings us all together whether we were born here or not. It does make for a very special community.

Bringing up our two children on the islands has deepened my love for this special place. There have of course been challenges, particularly when we had two children under two at the start of the bakery season! What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of having a family here?

The islands are a fantastic place, especially for kids, they have space and time to grow into being themselves. Over the years I’ve been lucky to watch many island children grow into young adults. Some of them have worked for the bakery and I’ve been blown away by their common-sense, confidence and general likeability. For my own two I can’t think of a better, safer place. There’s the saying that it takes a village to raise a child and that is the case here. For example, the fourteen school children put on a nativity play and most of the island came to watch!

One of the main advantages I think we both agree on is the amount of time we get to spend as a family. Without daily commutes and with the flexibility of running our own businesses, we always sit down together for an evening meal. During the summer, the bakery is very busy, but I still get to spend time with the kids after I finish work, I don’t think that would be the same with a mainland life. It’s also such a joy to watch the kids grow up with a deep connection to the natural world, as well as learning the importance of community. With that comes a learning of tolerance and acceptance that I think is missing for some people these days.

There are some challenges to bringing up a family here. We are away from our close family and would love to share more of our lives with them. It’s hard being so far when there has been a family emergency on the mainland. When the kids were smaller it was a juggle without childcare (there isn’t a nursery on St. Martins) but overall, I think that’s made us a strong little team!

Although I help with the admin and paperwork side of The Island Bakery, it has always been very much your business and skill set. You’ve been so supportive of Phoenix & Providence. When I first started thinking about growing my own skincare business it required time and financial input while I studied for my diploma on Organic Skincare Formulation. What was it that made you feel it was a good business venture?

It’s always brilliant to hear anyone talk about something they’re passionate about. When that person can channel that passion into an idea for a business that’s fantastic. If that person happens to be someone you love and you’ve spent months listening to the various plans and ideas, then you don’t have any doubts that it would a be a huge success.

And do you have a favourite product?!

Well for those that know me, I’m quite folically challenged. So, I love the Nurture Face Oil that I use on my head and post shaving.

Finally, what is your favourite way to spend a day off on the islands?

I love to get up and enjoy a walk along the beach with family and the dog before breakfast. After we get back a nice coffee and a read of the newspaper. Then maybe a boardgame with the kids. If I’m lucky there’s a game of cricket in the afternoon followed by a long analysis in the pub afterwards over a pint. Hopefully followed by a good movie curled up on the sofa with my gorgeous wife after the children have gone to bed. 

Thank you so much for your time Barney, do you fancy putting the kettle on?...


Nurture Face Oil




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