Monday, 28 July 2008


On Friday afternoon, I took the bus to Ness (fares had gone up, tut) to photograph more wargraves in the St Peters and Habost cemeteries. The machair was flowering beautifully, but the flies were horrendous. The presence of several dead rabbits in the old (St Peters) cemetery did not help matters. The same cemetery contains the final resting place of 400 old bibles, interred there in 2006 after being found to be too delapidated to be used again.

After locating a total of 16 gravestones, I headed up the machair for Eoropie Beach. It was more like Blackpool than the Hebrides, and those present were having great fun. I then proceeded further north, along the coastline towards the Butt of Lewis lighthouse, before rejoining the bus back to town.

Machair flowers
Bible grave
Ruined chapel in St Peters cemetery
Habost Cemetery
Eoropie Beach
Blackpool or Eoropie?
Cunndal inlet
Coastline west of the Butt of Lewis
Port Stodh
St Moluag's Chapel and Knockaird


Our freight ferry found herself grounded on a reef at Stornoway harbour on Friday morning. MV Muirneag, which carries cargo vehicles back and forth between Lewis and Ullapool, was coming in at 8 am on Friday, when an apparent electrical failure left the vessel drifting. She eventually ran aground and was stuck there for a brief while, until the incoming tide and the ship's engines combined to refloat her. Nobody was injured, and the lifeboat, which was standing by throughout the incident, did not need to take any crew off. It would appear that an innocent jogger, out for an early morning run, nearly collided with the ship's bow as she ground to a halt just below the shoreline path between Cuddy Point and the Creed.

The ship docked alongside her usual berth at no 1 pier a little later and an underwater inspection revealed some damage. Muirneag left for Aberdeen on Saturday and went into dry dock there on Sunday evening. It is understood a new plate will be welded on to the ship to replace one damaged in the grounding.

A formal investigation into the incident is on-going.
On Wednesday afternoon, Muirneag was spotted on AIS Aberdeen, heading north past Rattray Head on its way to Ullapool to pick up a load of lorries on Thursday evening.

Imagery is available on this page hosted by the Stornoway Gazette. It should be pointed out that the information contained therein has been superseded by events

Friday, 25 July 2008

Eishken - I

The first windfarm for the Western Isles has been approved by Western Isles Council. It consists of 13 turbines, to be built on the Eishken estate, some 10 miles southeast of Balallan.

A deal has also been struck between Eishken's owner and Western Isles Council to the effect that 1.5% of the revenue generated from the windfarm will go towards the local community. This amounts to some £14m.

Construction of the turbines, each standing some 500 ft tall, is dependent on the building of the so-called interconnector, which should transport the electricity generated away to the National Grid.

This project is a subset of a larger windfarm, 53 turbines, which is subject to a public inquiry. This was held in Stornoway in May, but will not come to a decision much before the end of the year.

I have consistently voiced my opposition to this scheme, arguing it is a backdoor approach to wheedle in the larger windfarm. Bearing in mind the rubber-stamp attitude, displayed by Western Isles Council over the past few years towards windfarms, the approval of this scheme was a foregone conclusion. Saying this carries huge community benefits is not exactly accurate. Yes, it will generate £14 million for the community. But in order to share in these boons, villagers have to cough up £6 million first. It also destroys the visual amenity of the Lochs area, and all along Loch Seaforth, which circles the Eishken estate to the north, west and south. Visual amenity (the views) as well as unspoiled natural habitats are hugely attractive to present-day visitors. Allowing the habitats to be destroyed makes WIC's commitment towards stewardship of their natural environment a complete mockery.

It would appear that the chiefs of the natives have been appeased with beads and mirrors, to give away the family silver.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


I don't know if I may mention company names on here, but since yesterday, Stornoway is now officially a Tesco town. The first day was total mayhem, with tout Stornoway in there all at the same time. A return visit today left me faintly disappointed, as I had one heck of a job finding stuff. Although, isn't that always the case in a supermarket? At any rate, it took me about half an hour to travel from the mags to the inks yesterday.

After being away for a few months, I did not find major changes in the town, except for the completion of the paving job in Cromwell Street and adjoining precincts.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Blogger returns

By the time this post gets published, this blogger will be on his way back to Lewis after an absence of two and a half months for family reasons.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

South Lochs

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Gravir, South Lochs"]Gravir, South Lochs[/caption]

In response to a question from reader Godfrey Brigg, I'll give a little rundown on the current state of affairs (to my knowledge) of the situation in South Lochs. Mr Brigg enquired about the state of play, are the crofters buying the place, will the place be covered in turbines. Well, the answer is about as clear as a 1950s pea-souper. Let me explain.

In November 2004, the residents of South Lochs voted to commence proceedings to buy the land of the Pairc Estate from its non-resident owner. Under the terms of the Land Reform Act (Scotland), communities can force their landowner to sell to them against his will. The Pairc Community Trust was set up to coordinate efforts to this effect. Once in their hands, the Trust was aiming to use wind turbines (a couple of dozen, each 500 ft high) to generate revenue.

The estate owner has responded to this move by leasing the land to a subsidiary company of his - a so-called interposed lease. There is also the massive problem of land description. There is no definitive map of the area; plots of land are described as "stretching for 400 yards in a southwesterly direction from the Stornoway road". Some plots are estate land, others are crofts, others again have been sold, let, sublet &c to a degree that nobody knows what's what.

The issue is currently in front of the Scottish Land Court, who are yet to issue a judgment.

It should be clear that the Pairc windfarm lies at the bottom of this legal wrangle, as the sitting estate owner would probably not object to this source of income himself.

It has been a while since I looked into the issue, and any updates or indeed corrections are highly welcome.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


Last week, it was reported that Western Isles Health Board could be linked to Highland Health Board (in Inverness) for issues like senior management. This has led to apprehension in the isles, by all accounts, as it is feared that WIHB might eventually be abolished.

Two years ago, the Scottish Executive (as was) flew in a management team to take over from the discredited leadership of the then top managers. A new team was subsequently instituted.

These plans are not restricted to the Western Isles; Orkney and Shetland under similar ideas could be linked to Aberdeen.

Writing from some distance, I cannot help thinking that the Health Board in Stornoway is doomed for some or other reason. First, a set of managers is appointed who manage to earn the distrust and total lack of confidence of its staff. Little is done about it for too long, and when something is done, the Board is left with three chief executives. Not all on its payroll, but it does go to say something.

With the appointment of a new management team, staff were probably hoping that things would settle down. Not so, it would seem. Uncertainty continues to haunt the NHS in the Isles, and the question surfaces: What next, and when?