Help Wanted: An Idyllic Scottish Island Is Looking for a Sheep Dike Repairman

If you love sheep, idyllic islands, Scottish accents, and mending walls, there may be a job in Scotland with your name on it. If you have excellent people skills, a penchant for dike work, and a lack of any serious life commitments for the next three years, the Sheep Dyke Warden position in North Ronaldsay could be yours.

Scotland’s North Ronaldsay Island takes its native sheep population very seriously. The rare breed of seaweed-eating sheep is an essential part of the island’s economy with much of their wool and mutton being exported around the world. The future of the herd depends on ensuring it remains on the island’s foreshore. A 13-mile dike is all that corrals them there. Thanks to abnormally high tides and storm surges, however, the barrier has crumbled beyond critical levels. This leaves the herd open to cross-breeding which could threaten its gene pool. They also cannot feed on terrestrial plants from local farms as they’re hyper-sensitive to copper-poisoning when feeding on anything but seaweed. All of which is why the North Ronaldsay Trust put out the call for one hardworking, self-motivated Sheep Dyke Warden.

North Ronaldsay Orkney sheep
North Ronaldsay sheep (also known as Orkney sheep) is a unique breed that almost entirely lives off of seaweed. Ben Queenborough/Getty Images

On paper, the 35-hour-a-week job sounds like a ticket to early retirement with paid benefits to boot. In reality, the trust is clear that it promises to be both physically and mentally demanding. Daily responsibilities revolve around rebuilding and repairing the damaged dike. It’s sure to be taxing, tedious work that’s not for everyone. Much like Liam Neeson, candidates must possess a unique skill set. The job demands solid project management, communication skills, and a willingness to lead and foster local volunteer tourism. Dry stone dyking experience and the ability to work with and take constructive criticism from the local community are also essential. They’ll need to be in excellent physical shape as well.

On paper, the 35-hour-a-week job sounds like a ticket to early retirement with paid benefits to boot. In reality, the trust is clear that it promises to be both physically and mentally demanding.

In the last few decades, many of the world’s most rural and not-so-rural destinations have faced economically devastating depopulation. Young people are seeking the hustle and easy conveniences of urban living, and fewer and fewer people overall are content to work blue collar jobs. Many small towns, villages, and islands have taken to the Internet to woo potential residents to their corner of the world. Last month, for example, Arranmore Island announced that it’s part of an initiative by the Irish government to become the country’s first offshore digital hub.

The North Ronaldsay Trust is accepting applications until Friday, August 9, 2019, and expects to interview qualified candidates beginning at the end of August. By the pay scale of any mid-sized U.S. city, the salary is a mere pittance at just £21,840 (approximately USD $27,000). It does, however, include four weeks of paid vacation time. Plus, the life experience of spending three years as a Scottish shepherd will make for one hell of a chapter in your forthcoming autobiography.

If you’re looking for an idyllic, off-the-beaten-path island to slow down for a while — but can’t hack the shepherd and stone-dike-building lifestyle — Scotland’s Stronsay island is still looking for a few good expats.

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