Saturday, 27 December 2008

Keeping an eye open

Although currently off island, I could not help glance through the Western Isles news website just now. A young man of 21 from South Uist went missing in the early hours of Christmas morning, after alighting from a minibus at Iochdar. This village was the scene of a tragedy 4 years ago, when 5 members of the same family were washed away during the hurricane of January 2005. Conditions in South Uist were described as cold but calm at the time. Hundreds of islanders have scoured the shores of the island, as well as its northern neighbour Benbecula, offshore sandbanks and nearby lochs for the Merchant Navy seaman. His disappearance is a total mistery.

Woolworths in Stornoway closed its doors this afternoon, one of the first of the chain's shops in the UK to close down. Its employees have been made redundant. Although Woolies was described as the shop where you could get everything somewhere else, this did not apply to Stornoway. It's only a small town, population about 7,500, and not all that many shops. What other shops there be are usually a good deal dearer, and I'll be very sad to see it shut upon my return in the New Year.

The Arnish Fabrication Yard is once more changing hands. Its operator, Altissimo, has done the exact reverse that its name implies, and gone down rather than up. Now yet another crowd, Bi Fab, will take over operations there. I'm getting very, very tired of this sorry saga of empty promises and money being poured down bottomless pits.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Although currently off island, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers, in Lewis and beyond, a very Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year.

Blogging on this site will resume after January 5th, 2009.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Buses on the go

In the near future, the island's bus services will see a deterioration in levels of service. It is reported on the Hebrides News website that the buses, currently serving the town of Stornoway and environs, will be latched onto existing out-of-town buses. The article also discusses issues surrounding tendering (or not, as the case may be), but the upshot does appear to be that nobody will be any the better for the imminent changes.

Buses to Back will divert through the Cearns
Buses to Ranish will take in Newvalley
Buses to Point will go via Melbost

This will mean longer journeys for those in outlying areas, whose bus is diverted to take in another village.

Reading the article, it would seem the town circular route, running through Newton, past the Springfield Road Health Centre, up Perceval Road to the Hospital and, after a loop through the Cearns, back into town along Macaulay Road, will disappear. Although not a terribly busy route, people will be inconvenienced.

I have always had a lot of regard for the level of bus service in this island, bearing in mind that it has a population of only 20,000 or so. It is a pity that about half of them stand to lose out if this restructuring goes ahead.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Christmas Decorations

Last week, the Christmas Decorations were illuminated in Stornoway. I went out this evening to take pictures of them, and it struck me that there were fewer Christmas lights than in previous years. This year, only Point Street (from Bank Street to Cromwell Street), Cromwell Street and Perceval Square had lights. In 2005, the decorations stretched up Francis Street past the Gallery, down Kenneth Street, over the Ferry Terminal and Maritime Building (now demolished). In 2004, the lights even stretched into the Castle Grounds. The hurricane of January 2005 smashed those.

Cromwell Street

Point Street

North Beach Street

Perceval Square


The body of a man, found on Eoropie Beach on November 30th, has been identified as that of a Kelso resident. The 48-year old had been on a walking holiday in the island. A relative has had to travel north to make an identification, hence the delay. Police spoke to a large number of people, like bus drivers and B&B proprietors to establish the identity. There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Don Quixote continues

In the week that the Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is given an award for his services to the cause of renewable energy, we also see the imminent release of a report stating that windfarms may yet appear in the Lewis Moor, from the Pentland Road north to the Ness shielings. The summary on Hebrides News makes depressing reading - if, like me, you're opposed to any major windfarm development.

A cluster of windturbines could be built along the Pentland Road between Marybank and the junction to Achmore. Problem there is the proximity to golden eagle nesting sites and the fact that Stornoway Airport is close by as well. Rotating turbine blades apparently interfere with the airport radar, stationed at Plasterfield.

Going north, turbines could also be planted a mile off the A857 at Borve, and either side of the same road between Barvas and Stornoway.

Another lot would turn up at Cuidhsiadar, 4 miles south of Skigersta in Ness, with powerlines running over the moor to North Tolsta. I'll just put in a few pictures of that area, which I took nearly 4 years ago.

Yes I know it's empty moorland. It's one of my favourite spots in the island, precisely because there's nothing and nobody there.

One consoling factor. It is a scaled-down version of the original Lewis Wind Power plans, and the same EU environment directives that thwarted the LWP plans stand in the way of this new plan. Wonder what the point of this whole exercise is.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Final post

Arnish Lighthouse has reached its third anniversary on BBC Island Blogging, and that's where it will end - that is to say, on the BBC website.

I think Island Blogging was a wonderful idea, linking people from all the Scottish islands together, and I've had a whale of a time. Apparently, I'm the most prodigious of bloggers in the Western Isles (510 posts), which bears out my enthusiasm. Looking back, I enjoyed putting up my many pictures (current collection has grown to nearly 18,000).

I seem to have become drawn into to controversial subjects like the proposed windfarms, the health board and the fabrication yard behind my alter ego, the lighthouse at Arnish. Things did get a wee bit nasty at times, when I believe I rattled a few cages that those inside did not appreciate. Nonetheless, I hope I made a contribution of sorts. Even if some of my comments were a bit off the wall. And of course I should not forget the fun at the Dell Fank.

As the rain clatters down on a dark December night, I'm drawing the curtains over Arnish Lighthouse, BBC style. Arnish Lighthouse will continue on an external site, as do quite a few other blogs. Come and have a look.

To all my readers and commenters since December 2005, many thanks. ]]>

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


I have entered and categorised all island blogs on this site known upto 7pm on Wednesday 10 December 2008. If and when further blogs appear, they will be entered in one of the categories, these being:

- Outer Hebrides

- Skye & Small Isles

- Argyll Islands (includes Firth of Clyde)

- Orkney

- Shetland

- Non Island

Those blogs where I could not determine where they were from, are assigned to Blog Roll.
Sunny is assigned as Non Island, as are the main Island Blogging and Help Me journals.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Community post

Deckhand has posted to report the death of one of the family cats. In my mind, that is about as sad as losing a member of the family. Please pay a visit, to offer some consolation. As I mentioned in my comment, some believe that pets pass over a Rainbow Bridge after they die, to await us when our time comes.


A new ferry ship, the Pentalina, is currently heading north up the Minch, as shown in this AIS [Automatic Ship Identification] screenshot from 5.38pm this evening.
The catamaran is capable of carrying 350 passengers and 32 to 58 cars as well as 9 lorries. She is yet to be fitted out completely. The ship was built in the Philippines and has safely negotiated the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden on Friday. She is expected to arrive in Orkney waters tomorrow. Pentalina will take up the run between Gills Bay on the northern coast of mainland Scotland and St Margaret's Hope in Orkney, a crossing that will take her 45 minutes.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Not at the helm

In the four years I have spent in the Isle of Lewis, the hazards of life at sea have been amply illustrated in a number of tragedies and accidents. A common theme ran through three of these, which I'm highlighting below. This entry is dedicated to the memory of those lost at sea.

6 November 2008
A fishing boat went down off Bayble, some 5 miles east of Stornoway. Fortunately, all crew were saved uninjured. An inquiry has revealed that the skipper had left the wheelhouse of the Faithful Friend II a few minutes beforehand to make a cup of coffee, leaving the boat to proceed on auto-pilot. She struck a rock, which was well charted, and sank fairly quickly. A quick Mayday call, nearby vessels and a rapid response from the Coastguard prevented loss of life. The owner of the Faithful Friend II has been forcefully reminded of the necessity of watch-keeping on his boats at all times.

1 June 2006
Fishing boat Brothers leaves the harbour of Gairloch in Wester Ross (southeast of Stornoway) and proceeds to head west across the Minch. It never returned to port, and sound nor sight was seen of it again. A massive search was launched in the Minch, but the wreck of the Brothers was finally located beneath 40 feet / 12 metres of water off an island just north of Skye. The bodies of the two men on board were not in the wreck. One of them turned up in Gruinard Bay, 35 miles to the northeast 3 weeks later. The other was never found. It is thought they left port after a few drinks the evening before and dropped off to sleep. When the boat ran aground, it must have sunk quickly, leaving them no chance to save themselves.

19 December 2004
Fishing boat Audacious leaves Stornoway harbour in the early hours of the morning. The crew leave the boat on auto-pilot, which appears to malfunction. At 6.30 a.m., the boat runs aground just south of the lighthouse at Arnish. The skipper drowned, but two other crew were rescued.
A memorial to the skipper was later erected near the lighthouse.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Yet again

Yet again, I find myself kicked off a blogging platform. In October, I found myself scrabbling to move my journal from AOL to Blogger. And now it's Island Blogging going off the BBC. What can I say? Nothing.

I've just customised the header of this new blog, and am still trying to get myself familiar with the set-up of this blog under Wordpress.

Anything for Arnish Lighthouse to comment upon? The fish processing plant at Marybank is closing down, with 130 losing their jobs. The Arnish Fabrication Yard has once more run out of things to do, and I am awaiting the announcement that it will be mothballed again. Treat last sentence as a severe bout of sarcasm, it is not based on fact. Just a total lack of confidence in the future of the Yard, which is most deplorable.

So, more employment is wanted in Lewis. And the Council have once more buried their head in large scale wind farms, thinking that's the be all and end all of all the island's economic woes. A large windfarm will certainly be the end of tourism as we know it in Lewis.

First post on new site

This is the first post of Arnish Lighthouse on Wordpress. Hope all Island Bloggers come to join us here.