A 90-year old resident of the Home Farm nursing home in Skye, who recently contracted coronavirus, was “absolutely delighted” after his hankering for fish resulted in a delivery of 30 mackerel fillets from friends at his local pub.
Norman Stewart, who is originally from Valtos in north-east Skye, became a resident of Home Farm nursing home in March, after a short period in a care home in Strontian.
Mr Stewart was a much-loved regular at Portree’s Pier Hotel, as his friend and fellow patron Sandy Gray told the Free Press.
He said: “He is the oldest regular in the pub. He’s down there six nights of the week, has his half a dozen drams and gets a taxi home. He’s loved by regulars and visitors alike.
“Everyone takes him under their wing – he’s a lovely man.
“He took a turn after the new year and lost his confidence and ended up in a nursing home in Strontian. He then came back to Skye and went to Home Farm.
“I contact him every Saturday to have a blether with him, but then Coronavirus struck.
“However, I phoned and his nurse and carer said he was doing well. I then spoke to Norman and was chatting about this that and the other and said ‘you’ll be missing your mackerel and herring’, and he said ‘I’d rather mackerel’.”
Norman’s request quickly sent his peers from the Pier into action and what would soon become known as ‘Operation Mackerel’ was up and running.
“I put a blog up on the Pier Hotel Facebook page where I update people about how Norman’s doing,” said Sandy.
“I mentioned that he was missing a bit of mackerel and the next thing I know I had several offers of mackerel from the village here all the way up to Uig.
“I contacted Home Farm to see if they would accept some mackerel coming into the home for Norman and they said it would be no problem at all.
“I expected two or three mackerel but Gordon McCririck gave me 30 fillets courtesy of Just Hooked fishmongers to take up to the home.”
Sandy added: “Lo and behold I came home to see a photo of Norman tucking into his two mackerel and potatoes on Facebook.
“It delighted a great number of people from the Pier Hotel to see Norman looking so well and sitting having what he asked for – and all thanks to the generosity of Gordon McCririck and Just Hooked.”
Speaking to the Free Press, Norman’s niece Christina MacTaggart said: “The old man was absolutely delighted.
“The nurse that has been looking after him has been fantastic, she took a fantastic photo of him and I had to share it with the ones from the Pier Hotel.
“We had his 90th birthday party down at the Pier last year. I came up from Oban and when I walked in the place was absolutely bouncing.
“It just showed how well thought of he is.
“The staff and the customers there are like his family, they all look after him – I get up to Skye as much as I possibly can but they are fantastic with him.”
Commenting on the love and care her uncle has received, she said: “He always wanted to come back to Portree.
“He’s as happy as Larry there. The staff that have been looking after him have been absolutely amazing – because I am in Oban they have been an absolute god-send to me.
“They keep me well informed, let me Facetime him so we can speak.
“The girl looking after him – Claire is her name – she has gone beyond the call of duty and been brilliant.
“He is in the home, and although all this has happened, it hasn’t changed our mind in any way or made us want him to be anywhere else.
“The staff have been risking their own lives and in a small community, it just makes it so much harder.”
While Norman’s love of fish is well known, according to his great-niece, there is perhaps another key ingredient to his longevity.
Christina explained: “My 13-year-old daughter was asked to talk at school about someone who inspired her and she told the class ‘my uncle from Skye, he has reached 90. I have never known anyone as old as uncle – what’s kept him alive is fish and rum!'”