On an island in the Scottish Hebrides with a population of fewer than 20 permanent residents, honesty is a way of life. It’s all the more upsetting, then, to hear that the little town of Canna has experienced its first major crime in half a century: as-yet-unidentified thieves absconding in the night with shelves’ worth of “sweets, chocolate bars, coffee, biscuits, toiletries, batteries and more” from the community’s one—and only—retail store. No money was taken, but the stolen goods amounted to roughly £200, or upwards of $300. Even more upsettingly, the presumed outsiders nabbed no fewer than six of store manager Julie McCabe’s hand-knit woolly hats, each of them unique.
There’s no security footage of the thieves, nor is there any physical evidence of breaking and entering to examine for clues—because for the past four years, the Isle of Canna Community Shop has left its doors unlocked at all hours of the day and night to accommodate any fishermen from the nearby pier in need of a cup of tea or access to the store’s Wi-Fi. Even their sales operate on an “honesty box” basis, with residents marking their purchases in a ledger and leaving the appropriate sum of money behind. With fewer citizens than it would take to fill a school bus, Canna’s community has always done just fine with its quaint, trusting system. As Julie McCabe told Aberdeen’s Press and Journal, “When you live on a small island like this you have to trust your neighbor and everybody round about.”
Anecdotal reports indicate that prior to this recent upsetting event, Canna had not seen a theft since the 1960s, when a carved wooden plate was removed from one of the island’s three churches. Scottish police cannot officially confirm the crime, because their computerized records don’t go back that far. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Local councilor Bill Clark, whose ward includes Canna, is adamant that “it must have been visitors” responsible for the community shop caper: “You just don’t hear about these things happening in the inner isles...I’m sure the people who live on Canna don’t even lock their doors.” Unfortunately, that might start changing if the thieves don’t step forward—but Canna will soldier on. Here’s hoping that the culprits realize that, no matter how unique, those hats aren’t worth an entire island’s sense of security and faith in their fellow man.