When Comhairle nan Eilean Siar decided to close Bragar Primary School, there was a general feeling of dismay in the community. The school closure followed shortly after the closure of the village Post Office and the local shop. The Bragar Day Care Centre and the Nursery had both closed previous to this. With the exception of the Church Meeting Houses, all the public facilities where people were accustomed to meet and interact, had been shut.
Leading to Opportunities
In January 2012 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar advertised that they wished to dispose of the Bragar School building and asked if there was any interest in acquiring the building for community use. A packed public meeting in the school canteen the following month proved that there was a general will to fight against the reversals suffered by the area and turn the school closure into the catalyst for fresh opportunities.
At that meeting many ideas came forward for facilities which would be of value to the area. Suggestions from the floor covered service provision for young and old, cultural interpretation and creative enterprises, education and training, and commercial opportunities which could be exploited through the school building.
It was also clear that the community felt great affection for, and ownership of, Bragar School, the biggest and most prominent building in the two villages and also a handsome building of architectural merit. Since it opened in 1878 virtually everyone belonging to the area had been educated within it and there was a very strong feeling that the building must be retained as a community asset and used to add value to the local area.
Establishment of Community Trust
The meeting concluded by agreeing that a group be established to try and further some of the ideas put forward for the benefit of the community.
Various people were nominated to go on to the community group, and after a number of meetings facilitated by local councillor Kenneth Murray, the Bragar and Arnol Community Trust was formally inaugurated on 9 July 2012.
The Trust was set up to serve the villages of Bragar and Arnol, an area of about 150 households and 400 people, approximately 70 percent of whom speak Gaelic . According to the 2001 census, 20 percent of the population is under 15 years of age (Scottish average 19 percent), and 28 percent is over 60 (Scottish average 21 percent).