Blunder book

Book review: An Enormous Reckless Blunder

An Enormous Reckless Blunder tells the little-known story of the Lewis Chemical Works.

In 1844, James Matheson purchased the Isle of Lewis with the fortune had had made from trading in the far east.

He hoped to exploit peat deposits, which led to him creating the Lewis Chemical Works, to produce lighting oil and paraffin from peat.

It’s a story filled with hope, and drama, and it sheds light on the lives of the gentry of the time, but also by academics, scoundrels and the people of Lewis.

It is a tale of hard work and harder lives, of triumph and disaster, of the challenge of enterprise, but, above all of a man’s quest to improve himself and the society in which he chose to live.

Written by Ali Whiteford, £9.99, published by the Islands Book Trust.
Scottish Field rating: ****