At the end of September, two weeks before Sweeney’s Bothy was due to go on a lorry and be delivered to the
Isle of Eigg, I visited Bobby at his workshop in Fife – dubbed Bothy Project HQ – and asked him to show me
around. Bobby explained some of the thinking behind the design and build of the bothy, which are
recorded in the images and interviews below.
To begin with, over some soup, Bobby explained the process of converting the abstract, on-screen design of
the bothy into a physical structure with walls, and bed, and a roof.
Luke Allan, October 2013.
////we began our design
////looking at the thorn
////considering the trees’ form
////in the thicket
////– Alec Finlay
At the time of my visit Bobby had only constructed the basic floor of the bothy. Stepping carefully across the
thick joists, avoiding the weak plywood paneling, he took me on a walk-through of the floorplan, entering at
the backdoor, past the kitchen and under the thorn-elevated bed, towards the large South-facing window
with its view to the Isle of Rùm.
////the thorn marks
////which inspires us
////////////////& challenges us
The cladding that wraps around the outside of the bothy has taken on many guises over the past 6 months of
design. Evenings spent at Alec’s flat in Edinburgh, or here in Fife, the four of us passing round sketches, neg-
otiating the different perspectives – the artist, the builder, the architect, each bringing its own requirements and acclivities. All the while, though, there was the thorn – the emblem of exiled Sweeney’s years in the wilderness,
which would be allowed to inform aspects of the bothy’s structure and appearance.
////sketch a spicule///its sharpness
////will give severe offense
////to health & safety regulations
Disappearing into the side-room of his main workshop, Bobby emerged again holding a thick blanket of grey,
matted fibres. ‘Insulation’, he says. His choice of sheep’s wool is a natural and highly effective alternative to
the fiberglass used in most modern buildings.
There’s a multitude of tiny, ingenious details that go into refining a bothy of the quality that Bobby and Iain are interested in pioneering. Stepping out of the workshop again, Bobby points to a nail in the wall and explains
how its design will prevent the bright sea light from glaring on the bothy’s surface.
In choosing the timber for Sweeney’s Bothy Ian and Bobby had to take into account many factors unique to the
build, not least that it’s being transported and constructed all the way on Eigg. Unlike the spruce-sheltered bothy
at Inshriach, Sweeney’s Bothy will be exposed to high winds and driving rain. The weight of the timber, its structural integrity, and its weathering properties all took on much greater significance.
////only when revisions are precise
////may the bothy stand
////square and plumb
////sharing the bothy///creatively
////heals this sense///of isolation
Before I let Bobby get on with his work (he had four walls and a roof to complete in two weeks) I had a mooch
in his CD collection, curious as to what the soundtrack to this build might be. Among Bonnie Prince Billy, Bob
Dylan, and Tom Waits, ‘The Fabulous Johnny Cash’, already out of its case on the machine, stood out as the
most appropriate to bothy-building, and the most resonant with Sweeney’s very particular combination of
disillusionment, asceticism, and romantic solitude.