In those difficult times the majority of people in the Highlands and Islands could not afford to import materials and, consequently, they were limited to that which was available at no cost in the vicinity of the croft. Many corfters were able to buld their own house and the work could take from a few weeks to a year or more. In most communities in the past, neighbours helped one another in their seasonal work and it is said that when a house was being built neighbours joined in, often to the extent of forming a human chain passing stones from hand to hand. They thus put into practice the time-honoured adage – ‘many hands make light work’.
When a house was being planned the first requisite was the finding of a suitable stance and, needless to say, a spot near a well was preferred since all water fro household use had to be carried by hand in buckets. The availabilty of stones was also a major consideration, and if enough stone could not be found near at hand the siting of the house could suffer. On a treeless island such as Skye, the finding of suitable timber for the roof could also present a problem. Driftwood cast up on the shore was often all that could be found. Before the era of lighthouse development and in the days of wooden ships, shipwrecks were quite a common occurence – and this often proved a Godsend, as timber in abundance was cast up upon the shores.
The type of cottage to be found on Skye was built with walls of up to three feet in width and beating a hip-ended roof with over-hanging eaves of thatch which formed a fringe around the wall top. The roof is constructed on the couple and purlin system with rafters of rough round timber. Light branches laid neatly over the purlins carry the ‘divots’or turf squares which are neatly tiled to form a bed for the thatch. The thatch used in Skye was common rush or locally-grown reeds. Thatching is a dying art and it is now becoming very difficult to obtain the services of an experienced thatcher.