Sunday, 27 December 2009

End of year

I am posting this off island, until my return in the New Year. Keeping abreast with developments from afar by virtue of this medium, the Internet.

I was concerned to read of the larger than normal number of chimney fires in the Hebrides. The advice was to sweep the chimney at least twice a year if you're burning coal, and more frequently if you use peats or wood. The latter cause a lot of soot to accumulate in the chimney, which in turn can catch fire if you decide to fire up well.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have posted a video which shows what the refurbished Town Hall will look like if the proposed work goes ahead. You need the Quick Time program to view it, which can be downloaded free from the linked webpage.

You may remember the 14-year old army cadet who drowned in Loch Carnan, South Uist, in August 2007. Kaylee Macintosh was pinned under an overturned craft by her buoyancy aid. Her parents are planning to sue the Ministry of Defence for £525,000 compensation.

Finally, the news that the Pairc Windfarm has hit yet another stumbling block. Scottish and Southern Energy, the developers of the project, have moved £25 million to another project, putting back the construction of the South Lochs windfarm back a number of years. If it gets planning permission in the first place.

To all readers, in the Hebrides or elsewhere, best wishes for a good, healthy and prosperous 2010.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Friday blogpost

A very good Friday to you all as we enter the final week in the annual Christmas Countdown, which started - at the end of the last Christmas. The weather has turned suitably Christmassy a week early, and I fully anticipate a miserable, grey, wet and mild Christmas morning this time next week. When I venture into town later today and/or tomorrow, the shops will be heaving and the people overburdened with overexpensive Christmas gifts. Where have the days gone that you could get someone a prezzy for five quid and they'd be overjoyed? Here in Stornoway, and indeed elsewhere in the Hebrides, we can all shop in safety. It has just been revealed that citizens of the Western Isles of Scotland are watched over by the largest number of CCTV cameras per head of population: 8.4 per 1000. Our august capital city Edinburgh has to get by with fewer than 1 per 1000. There are other benefits associated with living in northern Scotland, you know. Up here, people know how to deal with 6 inches of snow. OK, I grant you, there are many more people in southern England than in Highland Scotland, which is home to 220,000. And snow is more of a rarety down there than up here, but still: 6 inches of snow and the entire shebang grinds to a halt. Here in the Western Isles, with its grossly overstated reputation for bad weather, we're having a quiet day with light, variable winds and the odd light shower. Granted, when the weather does get bad (statistically speaking once every 7 days), it can get really nasty. But people are prepared for it, used to it happening, and all the more grateful for the return of the sun. Even if, in December, she only appears for 6½ hours in the day. Another aspect of life in the Hebrides is that news tends to be relatively benign. Spats over the Town Hall refurbishment and the location for a centre about St Kilda assume high levels of importance, not to mention the fact that our local radiostation (Isles FM) may finally get a decent home. At present it is located in a former boatshed on the seafront at Newton Street. When there is a hailstorm (common in winter), the presenter can get drowned out by the noise. In summer, when the door is open, you can hear the binlorries going by, planes flying overhead, and people having a natter outside. In the middle of the newsbulletin. Which tends to miss all the local news that really is of importance (with the odd exception), and instead focuses on the deeds of our elected representatives to the Scottish and British parliament. Oh, they actually do something?? Must listen out. Isles FM can be heard on-line, using the link above. Well, must go for lunch.

St Kilda Centre in Mangersta

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have decided this evening to site the proposed St Kilda Centre in Mangurstadh, in the Uig district of Lewis.

Apparently, there was a lively debate (read: the feathers fairly flew) where those in favour of Uig said there was nothing wrong with the way the decision was reached, and those against (mainly North Uist and Harris representatives) said there actually was something wrong. The final vote afterwards showed 17 votes against and 14 votes in favour of running the entire selection process again - so Mangersta it is.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Stornoway Town Hall - II

On Saturday (12th), about 100 people demonstrated outside Stornoway Town Hall against the proposed changes to the building's interior. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who I have freely criticised on other issues in the past, has finally spoken out to clarify what the refurbishments plans will and will not entail.

  • A removable stage, to be deployed when needed for performances

  • Sales of work and craft fairs can still be held, benefiting from (in fact) an increased floor space area

  • The community functionality will continue

  • Office space is already present in the building, the Council Service Point (off Point Street), which was very much in demand at the time of its opening

The overall aim is to increase usage of the building.

An on-line facility is to be provided to allow people virtual access and a walk through facility, to see what the proposals would actually look like.

More information on Hebrides News.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Community buy-outs

After the historic news of the Pairc ballot, as reported in previous "breaking news" post, the movement of community buy-outs in Scotland is moving into new territory. Previous buy-outs in Scotland were always reached in amicable agreement with the sitting landlords, starting with the Assynt buy-out in 1992, followed by the Eigg buy-out in 1997 (which succeeded as the sitting landlord forfeited his estate through absence of funds) and the Galson and South Uist buy-outs in the Western Isles. I am aware I am omitting a number of other estates where buy-outs were successful. The Pairc Trust has announced it will now launch a hostile buy-out bid.

The Scottish Government has recently been accused of allowing the community buy-out movement to lose impetus. It is to be hoped that Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham will adopt an attitude, more supportive towards us in the Outer Hebrides. Her ill-advised comments on Harris Tweed (which she described as a garment for the landed gentry of the Victorian era) and perceived lack of enthusiasm for issues pertaining to this part of the world only lead me to hope that there is change on the horizon on the part of Holyrood.

Returning to the issue in hand, I want to point out that it is five years ago since the Pairc residents voted to mount a community buy-out for their estate. Since then, the Galson and South Uist estates have successfully moved into community ownership, whilst Pairc languished in the doldrums of legalistic minefields, laid by the estate owner. The issue of a potential windfarm most likely prompted this course of action, as the prospect of a windfarm greatly increases the value of the land.

I would like to congratulate the Pairc Trust on this great result, and the people of South Lochs on their wisdom in voting for this historic move.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Pairc buy-out ballot: In favour

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Garyvard, as seen from Caversta"][/caption]

This evening, the votes were counted in the ballot on the hostile community buy-out bid for the Pairc Estate. I have informally been told that 52% of voters were in favour, and 48% were opposed. A close result by any standards, and certainly in the context of South Lochs, which only has a few hundred people as residents. Those 4% equate to about 10 to 15 people.

This means that a hostile buy-out bid will now be pursued - if the current talks with landowner Barry Lomas do not achieve the results, desired by the Pairc Trust. The stakes are higher than may appear on the surface: should the planning application for a windfarm on the Pairc Estate receive approval from the Scottish Government, then the value of the land will skyrocket.

Once I have formal confirmation of the results, I'll post that in the comments section of this entry.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Town Hall plans

I've had a good look at the refurbishment plans for Stornoway Town Hall, and have taken note of the opposition to the plans. I can understand that people don't like change - it's not always for the best. However, I have to say that I find the opposition to the refurbishment plans, with all due respect, ill informed. As I understand it, the current stage will be replaced by an exhibition area. Access to the groundfloor of the Town Hall is to be given from the square to the west of the Town Hall (if anyone can remind me of the name of that square, which has a fountain in a rock in it, I'd be much obliged). Obviously, the entrance from Cromwell Street will be kept. The floorspace will be retained. Upstairs, the seating is to be removed, but the balustrade will be retained and turned into a functional area. Disabled access lifts are to be installed (high time). Upstairs, offices will actually be merged into more functional areas.

Personally, I am not opposed to the refurbishment plans. I understand and respect the wish of people to retain the stage in the Town Hall, which has been the focal point for many of the island's key historic moments. However, its current functionality is reduced from what it was 5 years ago. The An Lanntair cultural centre has taken over as the main venue for cultural events, and the Town Hall is being used on only a handful of occasions each year. I cannot remember whether a retractable stage is on the cards to take the place of the current fixed one (maybe wishful thinking).

I realise that, with 1200 people signed up to the Facebook group, opposing the refurbishment, including well-known names like Phil Cunningham, I'm going to be in the firing line. But I'm allowed my opinion, and have not shied away from controversy before.

Anyone wishing to register their opinion (for or against) can do so on the Council's website. There is no timelimit on objections.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Refurbishment plans for Stornoway Town Hall

This post is to raise awareness of a planning application for a refurbishment of Stornoway Town Hall. They can be accessed on the planning website of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and it is possible to leave feedback before 13 January 2010. Initial reactions on local blogs and websites is scathing, and a Facebook group has already been set up in protest.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

BBC Alba and Freeview

The BBC's Gaelic language channel, BBC Alba, has been on air for a year now. Unfortunately, it is only available on satellite and some cable providers. There has been a sustained campaign to get the channel on Freeview. The BBC Trust has responded with a consultation, in which everybody can participate.

I can't say that I am impressed with the BBC's offer to remove BBC radiostations from Freeview to make way for BBC Alba. Looking at Freeview, there are quite a number of stations on there that will not really be missed. I am not prepared to state my opinion on any individual broadcaster on an open Internet blog. Rather than that, I feel that the BBC should choose to remove one TV channel from Freeview, if only during the hours that BBC Alba transmits (17.30 to 23.30 each evening).

I leave it to each individual reader to participate (or not) and make their own views known.

Monday, 23 November 2009

23 November 1939

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="362" caption="HMS Rawalpindi"]HMS Rawalpindi[/caption]

Today is the day in 1939 that HMS Rawalpindi was sunk by Nazi German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The brief battle has gone down in naval history as an incredible display of bravery on the part of the Rawalpindi's crew. After trying to hide themselves from the Germans in the North Atlantic fog south of Iceland, they were ordered to surrender by the Scharnhorst. In response, the captain of the Rawalpindi said: never. And he fired a shell at the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau to underline his point. Bear in mind that the Rawalpindi was a converted passenger liner, kitted out with a gun and some armour plating. The Scharnhorst had to reply in kind, and sank the Rawalpindi. The bravery was noted by the German admiralty (sic!). All but 37 of the Rawalpindi's crew were lost in the sinking. Their sacrifice was not in vain; before battle commenced, the Rawalpindi had been able to signal the position of the German battlecruisers to back to base on the Clyde, and an armada of British warships was heading north to intercept. More on this story here.

[Line below edited in response to comment #5]
Of those lost on the Rawalpindi 8 men were from Lewis, namely:

Seaman COLIN MACKAY, 31 South Bragar, aged 29
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Leading Seaman MURDO MACKAY, 53 Back, aged 33
Mac Choinnich Dhomhnuill Alais 'c Dhonnachaidh
Son of Kenneth and Henrietta MacKay, of Back, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Local memorial: Back

Seaman DONALD SMITH JNR, 52 North Tolsta, aged 19
Domhnall a'Bhard
Son of Angus and Margaret Smith, of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Local memorial: North Tolsta

Seaman DONALD MACARTHUR, 10 Cromore, aged 20
Dollan Mhurchaidh Alasdair
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Seaman JOHN MACKENZIE, 21 Swordale, aged 26
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald MacKenzie, of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Local memorial: Point, Garrabost

Seaman NORMAN MACLEOD, 25 Swordale, aged 31
Son of Donald and Mary Macleod, of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Local memorial: Point, Garrabost

Seaman JOHN MURDO NICOLSON, 39 Lower Bayble (and 3 Marybank, Stornoway), aged 36
Son of John and Christina Nicholson, of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis; husband of Williamina Nicolson, of Stornoway.
Local memorial: Point, Garrabost

Petty Officer WILLIAM MACLEOD, 14 Sheshader (and Marybank, Stornoway)
Local memorial: Point, Garrabost

These names are mentioned on the Plymouth Naval Memorial (panel 35); a picture can be viewed on this link. They are all cited in the third column.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Fish and centres

Two pillars of the local economy came into focus today. Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Hebrides News reports, has approved a 25-year lease for the site of the proposed salmon processing plant at Arnish. This could generate 100 jobs, a veritable bonanza of employment by Western Isles standards. When putting the link through a URL shortener, it made me smile because the title came out as:
Arnish Lighthouse caledonia lease

What has been annoying me over the last couple of weeks is the unseemly squabble over the site of the St Kilda centre. There are three contenders: Mangurstadh (Lewis), Leverburgh (Harris) and Cleitreabhal (North Uist). A consultancy firm has conducted a survey of the three bids, and Mangurstadh came out on top, as I reported a few days ago. The Harris and North Uist bidders are now calling on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to reject that advice when its tourism committee meets in the next couple of days.Yes, let's carry on fighting like ferrets in a sack. At the end of the day, there are quite a few places inside AND outside the Western Isles where the St Kilda Centre could be located. I recently read a piece by a man from Ness, who argued that his area in North Lewis had the strongest cultural link to the St Kildans of old: they still go hunting for birds, to name but one argument. How about Glasgow, from where the steamer used to depart? How about Lochaline in Morvern, where the St Kildans landed after they were evacuated in 1930?

However, each of the three bidders has a lot to lose by not getting the Centre, so this fight will carry on to the bitter end.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Pairc community buy-out

The Pairc Trust have announced that they will hold a ballot among residents of the Pairc Estate (in the South Lochs area of Lewis) in December to gauge levels of support for a hostile community buy-out. For the past five years, the Trust have been trying to reach an amicable agreement with landowner Barry Lomas, but these negotiations have run into the ground due to alleged delaying tactics on the part of Mr Lomas. It stands to reason that he wishes to reap the rewards of a possible windfarm, proposed to be built on estate land.

The Pairc Trust will be entering new territory, as this hostile buy-out bid (if it goes ahead) would be the first in Scotland. Previous community buy-outs have always gone ahead with the cooperation of the outgoing landlord.

Please note that at time of posting, the relevant link to Hebrides News only yielded part of the article.

Monday, 16 November 2009

St Kilda Centre - controversy

Over the past couple of weeks, a controversy has been raging in these islands over the recommendation for the St Kilda Centre to be sited at Mangurstadh, in Uig, Lewis. Two other locations in the Western Isles, Leverburgh (Harris) and Cleitreabhal (North Uist) are also in the running. Upon learning of the recommendation, those backing the bids by Leverburgh and Cleitreabhal suggested that the scoring criteria had been altered after the bids had been submitted. The consultants, hired to research and formulate the recommendation, have now recalculated their scorings on the three bids according to the first set of standards, which still show Mangurstadh to be the most suitable location.

I can only hope that this is the end of the controversy, but with so much at stake for the winning location, that hope could well be a vain one.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

War History

Posting links to sites related to the First and Second World Wars and the islands of the Outer Hebrides. Emphasis is on Lewis, part of it my own research, with help from island historical societies.
Faces from the Lewis War Memorial, lists the Fallen from the Isle of Lewis for the First World War; includes portrait photographs.
The Iolaire Disaster of 1 January 1919. Lists the names of those that lost their lives in that shipwreck, includes portrait photographs and pictures of gravestones in island graveyards.
HMS Timbertown, the story of the internment camp at Groningen, Holland, where more than 100 island sailors were interned for the duration of WW1.
Lists the Fallen from the Isle of Lewis for the Second World War
The 1914-1919 Roll of Honour for the Isle of Lewis
Lists the Fallen from the Isle of Harris for the 1st and 2nd World War
Roll of Honour for the First World War for Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra
Roll of Honour for the Second World War for Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra
Western Isles War Memorials: pictures and listings of the war memorials in the Outer Hebrides
Western Isles War Graves: pictures and information of those lost in the 1st and 2nd World War who are buried in the Outer Hebrides, or referred to on family gravestones in island graveyards

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Towards the end of the year

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Gearrannan, 11 November 2009"]Gearrannan, 11 November 2009[/caption]

Yes, you read that correctly. It is November 12th, and to me, the year is slowly heading towards its conclusion. Long gone are the light nights and bright days of summer. Only yesterday did I look out to the southwest at ten past four in the afternoon, and did I see the sun? No, it had set a couple of minutes before. The tourists have all headed home, with the exception of the odd customary winter visitor, here to experience the ferocity of the Atlantic winter storms. It has been dark for nearly four hours by the time the ferry comes in, at 8.20pm. If I see it coming in, as the curtains are drawn after nightfall. In summer, it comes in at 12.45 am, and it isn't even fully dark. Not now. When it leaves at 7 am, it is still dark. I walked past the slaughterhouse earlier this week, and caught the smell of beasts, newly discharged into its interior - to emerge onto our dinnerplates at some stage. The lambs that were gambolling on the machairlands in April and May, perhaps? Not a thought worth entertaining for too long. The verdant green, to use that dreadful duplication, has been taken off the moorlands and replaced by the dull browns, yellows and black of winter. Autumn, now firmly in charge, has been thoroughly wet, and any thought of venturing into the moors have to be dispelled. Snow, although not in the forecast, is a growing possibility. As is hail. During my first winter here, five years ago, I grew accustomed to the sound of the wind buffeting the house and hail (or rain) clattering against the windows. So much so, that in fact I could not sleep if there was no wind or hail. But I had a very restful winter in 2004/5. My abiding image of my first winter is that of a flock of sheep, crossing a snow-covered road late at night, seen in the yellow glow of the streetlights - when I was staying in an outlying area. Another memory is that of the hurricane in January 2005 which battered these islands with winds of up to 134 mph, taking five lives with it.

It is now November 2009, and in a few day's time, on the 16th, I will be at the 5th anniversary of my stay in Lewis. Much has changed for me in that time, some of it for better, some of it for worse. In 7 weeks time, the first decade of this century will be over, as we head into 2010. The pace of change in these islands is slower than elsewhere, but change does happen.


Some good news on the employment front this week - provided HIE gets its finger out. Lighthouse Caledonia is planning a £5 million fish processing factgory at Arnish, which could provide 100 jobs. A year ago, LC closed down a similar plant at Marybank, but say it is not economical to reopen those premises.

Also, a new fishfarm will be opened in Broadbay (the expanse of water between Point and Back), with two other sites being revived to keep the new factory operational all year. It is now up to Highlands & Islands Enterprise to come up with the money to make this enterprise a reality. I wonder if they'll put up a bus service to Arnish to take people back and forth from town.

Sunday Sport

An island girl aged 10 has applied for legal aid to take Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to court over its policy to keep the sports centres in Stornoway and Tarbert closed on the Sabbath. Similar centres in Benbecula and Barra are open for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. Pending the court case, a solicitor has already called on the council to review its 'irrational' policy. The girl and her mother are planning to invoke equality laws to fight the Comhairle on this issue. Caledonian Macbrayne used the same legislation to start a ferry service on Sundays, which has proved highly successful. The single Sunday afternoon crossing is one of the busiest in the week.

I have the deepest respect for people's religious beliefs, and hold the genuine faithful in high regard. I have no time for those who see fit to impose a way of life on a whole community, many of whom do not adhere to the same tenets of faith. It is an unholy way to exercise power over others, and in my opinion wholly contradictory to the spirit and the letter of Christian teachings.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Armistice Day 2009

Tomorrow is Armistice Day. On that occasion, I have published two volumes, listing the casualties originating from the Isle of Lewis. The books can only be bought from, i.e. through the Internet. They are NOT available in bookshops. The on-line tributes will of course remain, and contain links to the relevant pages on

Faces from the Lewis War Memorial (First World War)
World War II casualties from Lewis (the book does not contain photographs)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


The £300 million sub-sea electricity cable, linking Lewis to the mainland electricity grid, is to be left out of a billion pound green energy investment scheme, Hebrides News reports. It is beyond my scope to assess whether this means the interconnector will not be built, but it does not look too good. The scheme was to augment Britain's move towards the use of renewable energy. In my view, this announcement removes the Western Isles from the list of powerhouses for green energy.

Monday, 2 November 2009


Arnish Lighthouse would like to extend sympathies to the family of a 5-year old girl on the island of Muck, who died a few days ago of a mystery illness. Only a few hours after playing at her older brother's birthday, Izzy Fichtner-Irvine died. She was the granddaughter of the island's owner, Lawrence Macewen. Her funeral took place last week. It was attended by 150 people, who were taken to the island by Calmac ferry and the local tourist boat, the Shearwater. They came from the mainland and from neighbouring islands.

Muck is a tiny, closely knit community of 38 souls, located some 15 miles southwest of Mallaig. It is served by ferry from that port, but inclement weather frequently disrupts sailings, particularly as the slipway is situated in a precarious location in the southeast facing Port Mor.

The windfarm and the eagle - II

Second to my previous post on the South Lochs windfarms (Eishken and Pairc), my attention was drawn to another aspect of this case - the Gravir substation and interconnector. The substation, if realised, will industrialise the South Lochs moorlands and the village of Gravir. However, neither will be required in my opinion if the Pairc and Eishken windfarms are denied planning approval on account of the Basses Corbières ruling. The case for the interconnector was always based on the construction of the two windfarms.

The Pentland Road scheme, which I reported on last week, also has a question mark hanging over it on account of a population of golden eagles near the Achmore turn-off, and (in my layman's perspective) is in equal jeopardy. If the BC ruling is held to be applicable in all three cases, then there will be NO renewable energy project in the Western Isles, and no case at all for the interconnector.

I am aware of the community windfarms which are in blueprint for North Tolsta, Horshader and  Ballantrushal. I am aware of the possible Pelamis project off Bernera. But none of these projects are in the planning process (as far as I am aware).

The Shader tidal energy barrage? This will only generate power for 1,500 homes, i.e. a good chunk of the electricity demand of Lewis. Local renewable energy schemes, in my opinion, are the way forward.

The windfarm and the eagle

Hebrides News is reporting this morning that the windfarm applications in Eishken and Pairc are in jeopardy due to European legislation on protecting golden eagles. A windfarm in Argyll was refused planning application recently, because it could threaten golden eagles. Research shows that the threat to eagles from the turbines in Lochs could be up to 10 times higher than it is in Argyll. The crux of the case lies in a ruling from Europe (referred to as the Basses Corbières ruling) that even if an area is not a so-called species protected area, the presence of eagles means that it should be treated as such.

Lawyers are currently perusing the fine print of this issue, but things are not looking good for the South Lochs windfarms.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Faux pas

According to the Press and Journal newspaper, Scotland Office minister Ann Mckechin went flying on the proverbial banana-skin on Tuesday. She spoke in Parliament in Westminster, criticising the rejection by the Scottish Government of the Lewis Windpower Plan for North Lewis. You'll remember, 180 turbines, each 450 feet tall, stretching the 45 miles from Port of Ness via Bragar to Stornoway. The planning application was turned down as the windfarm violated an area, subject to a European Habitat Directive, which, would have subjected the UK government to very large fines indeed. The Scottish Government was therefore correct in rejecting the application.

It is a pity that our MP did not quote these reasons when replying to the Minister, instead saying that you can't foist something on people if they don't want it.

Ms Mckechin stated that the windfarm would have made a large contribution towards the renewable energy targets, set by the UK government. I am fed up to the back teeth with "targets". The same argument has been bandied about in relation to the Beauly to Denny powerline upgrade, and it appears to be a justification for not following proper procedures in the planning process. The RSPB suspects this also to be the case with regards to the Pentland Road scheme.

I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to windfarms perse - I just prefer to see them offshore rather than onshore.

St Kilda Centre

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Cliffs at Mangurstadh"]Cliffs at Mangurstadh[/caption]

BBC Highlands & Islands announced this afternoon that the St Kilda Centre is to be sited at Mangurstadh, Uig in the west of Lewis. There were two other sites, Cleitreval (North Uist) and Leverburgh (Harris). There is also to be a St Kilda trail throughout the Outer Hebrides. The remoteness of St Kilda itself, 45 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, makes the siting of the centre in that island unpracticable.

All sites were commended by the working group for putting forward a strong case for themselves, as all 3 sites had great development potential. I am pleased that Mangurstadh, one of the remotest townships in Lewis (40 miles from Stornoway), will be the site of this centre. It will also boost tourism and visitor numbers to the district of Uig.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Windfarms and pylons - II

An update on the two stories I mentioned in my previous two posts.

The approval for the Pentland Road windfarm, 6 turbines near the Achmore junction, has elicited expressions of deep concern from the RSPB. They suggest that the siting of the turbines will adversely affect the golden eagles that live in the area. An environmental impact study, which accompanied the planning application, was described as shoddy, as not conducted in accordance with standards laid down for that type of investigation. The RSPB will now closely scrutinise proceedings and decide on a course of action. As I said last week, a poor exercise in accountability and now, it would appear, an even poorer exercise in planning.

The Beauly to Denny upgrade story from Monday appears to have been a leak, and has blown up into a bit of a storm. One person has alleged that approval for the upgrade was already decided on before the public inquiry was held. I am not at all surprised, bearing in mind the UK government's policies on renewable energy targets. What surprised me was the assertion that all of Scotland's energy needs could be met from renewables, without recourse to nuclear (which I don't much like either) or other technologies, such as clean coal.

What these two items have in common is an arrogant administration, whether it be Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, or the Scottish Government, thinking they are so powerful that they can ride rough-shod over the due planning process, and just making the right noises at the right time, without taking any account whatsoever of public opinion, scientific evidence or legislation.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Windfarms and pylons

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="Beauly to Denny powerline (image courtesy BBC)"]Beauly to Denny powerline (image courtesy BBC)[/caption]

The BBC is reporting that the planned upgrade to the power-line between Beauly (near Inverness) and Denny (near Stirling) is recommended for approval by MSPs. The current line carries 132 kV, which will be increased to 400 kV. The pylons are expected to be 200 feet / 60 metres tall each, and there will be 600 of them along the length of the current powerline. The planning application for this upgrade has been the subject of a public inquiry, the report of which was submitted to Scottish Ministers 8 months ago. The application attracted 18,000 objections.

The upgraded powerline is important for renewable energy projects across the Highlands and Islands, as it will convey electricity, generated by these projects, to users in the Scottish Central Belt and into the UK National Grid.

Objectors have stated that this will irrevocably harm the iconic landscape of the Scottish Highlands, and adversely affect tourism. They also think that alternative options have not been sufficiently explored.

This issue is controversial, and involves high stakes, politically and economically. The Beauly to Denny powerline is part of a policy to cover Scotland's [sic] energy needs, without recourse to new nuclear powerstations.

The relevance to Lewis is high. As previously reported on this blog, a number of renewable energy projects are in the pipeline for this island, including a 39-turbine windfarm at Eishken, and a smaller 6-turbine project some 5 miles outside Stornoway. Similar schemes have been mooted for North Tolsta, Ballantrushal and the West Side between Shawbost and Dalbeg. Other schemes include a tidal barrage at Shader (although is probably only going to generate electricity for local consumption) and a wave-energy project off Great Bernera. In order to get this power to mainland consumers, a powerline will also have to be constructed between Little Loch Broom (Dundonnell) and Beauly, as well as a subsea cable (referred to as an interconnector).

Should final approval be granted by Scottish ministers (very likely), then we are likely to see the construction of the Eishken Windfarm go ahead at pretty short notice, and the same will apply to the Pentland Road scheme.

This blog has consistently voiced an opinion opposed to large scale windfarms, and in disagreement with the arguments mooted in favour. I do not believe that windfarms will bring long-term, sustained employment to the Isle of Lewis. There will be short-term work in the construction of the windturbines and electricity infrastructure. Once the turbines are in place, only a handful of people will be needed to monitor and operate the windfarm. The community benefits of the Eishken windfarm are spurious, in my opinion, as they require a massive cash injection from said community - and Lochs is not exactly the most affluent area in this part of the world.

The environmental impact will also be substantial, and I would like to take this opportunity to oppose the opinion, voiced in comments on the previous post, that windfarms do not harm eagles. They do. In California, dozens of the raptors are being killed by a massive windfarm in the desert there. I am also restating my assertion that although nobody is entitled to a view, views is what attracts tourism. That being a mainstay of the island makes a shore-based windfarm a good example of a shot in the foot.

Although the final decision rests with Scottish Ministers, I cannot imagine that approval for the powerline upgrade through the Highlands will be taken lying down by its opponents.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Pentland Road windfarm

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Pentland Road"]Pentland Road[/caption]

Not often mentioned on this blog, although very much on the radar for the past couple of years. And I use the word 'radar' advisedly. Four times, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have debated this windfarm, consisting of 6 windturbines off the Pentland Road, some 5 miles west of Stornoway. The Scottish Government had previously called in the planning application, as there were objections from air traffic control bodies. It now appears these difficulties have been overcome, with the advent of improved technology. The other minor difficulty, namely that this area of the island, just south of the Barvas Hills, is a habitat where golden eagles live, appears to have been conveniently overlooked.

Scottish Ministers have indicated the plan no longer requires their final approval, and a one-page sheet of paper, advising approval, has been circulated to councillors. This proposal predates the last Council elections in 2005, and quite a few of the councillors currently in office were not at the time the Pentland Road scheme was first launched. Neither are they, therefore, fully conversant with all the pros and cons of the scheme. None of this material is included on the single A4. Hardly surprising - each time I'm in Stornoway library, I need stilts to step over the mountain of paperwork that is the Eishken planning application, and this one (about 1/6th the size of the Eishken project) can't be much less.

I don't think it's an exemplary exercise in democratic accountability. I do think it is a blatant demonstration of this Council's rubberstamping policy where shorebased windfarms in the Western Isles are concerned.

Source: Hebrides News

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

800 years ago

According to Hebrides News, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is aiming to have new school premises ready at Tarbert, Stornoway and Balivanich by 1212. If you spot the mistake, all I can say is well done. Hardly anybody spotted it by the look of it. Certainly not the journalists at the Press and Journal newspaper, who do a regular copy and paste job on newsitems from Hebrides News, without rechecking facts themselves. You can see that for yourself.

I rarely have cause to complain about our local and regional news media, but this is a bit of an editorial failure.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Queen Mary II

This cruiseliner, the largest passenger vessel afloat, came blasting down the Minch on Sunday afternoon at 20 knots. It is on a round-Britain cruise, in celebration of the 5th anniversary of its launch. The first time I encountered it was in June 2005, when its waves disturbed the placid waters of the Sound of Shiant in thick fog. This time round, it was visible, but at a distance of 12 miles from Stornoway. As I type, the QM2 is docked at Greenock, and will depart for Liverpool later this evening.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Queen Mary II passing down the Minch, as seen from Stornoway"]Queen Mary II passing down the Minch[/caption]

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Extended summer service

Our MP has asked for the ferry summer timetable to be extended into November. Its current validity runs out next Saturday, October 24th. He states that the slashing of ferry fares, due to RET, has promoted ferry traffic last summer. Mr Macneil appears to be unaware though that the tourist season tends to end at the close of the midterm break, i.e. by the penultimate weekend in October. Five years ago, when I was travelling western Scotland, I could not help but notice that everything ground to a stop by October 24th or thereabouts, and that was not related to the ferry services. Being in the Isle of Skye at the time, which can be reached by bridge, it was very noticeable. Also, the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry service is the same right through the year. Other services in the Western Isles do see a reduction in service though.

However, if the summer service is extended in November and leads to an increase in tourist traffic to the islands, I'll be the last to complain.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Eigg and chips

That is the title of an excellent article on the BBC News website about the island of Eigg, situated about 90 miles south of Stornoway, 15 miles southwest of Mallaig off the coast of western Scotland. The islanders have gone from strength to strength since they gained ownership of Eigg in June 1997. Before that, they had suffered 30 years of maverick landlords who were only interested in the place as a playground or tax dodge. Said lairds were not prepared to make substantial improvements to the island. So, since June 1997, the islanders have done it themselves. In February 2008, they went live with a 24/7 electricity grid, after having to rely on capricious diesel generators for decades. Three windturbines, a handful of hydro-electric schemes, photo-voltaic cells - you name it they have it. And now the Eiggeachs want us all to join in. I can just about see them winning this Big Green Challenge for which they are shortlisted.

I have supported the islanders of Eigg for over a decade. And continue to do so. Go for it, guys!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Fly me to school

After following a link from Fletcher Saga (Stronsay) about inter-island flights in Orkney, my jaw dropped. S1/S2 pupils from Eday are flown to school on Mondays on a dedicated flight. Similarly, itinerant teachers are flown round the islands on dedicated flights as well. Oh well, go to Orkney for unusual air movements...


It was announced a few days ago that a major producer of farmed salmon in Scotland was planning to establish large fishfarms in the open seas of the Minch. Up till now, fishfarms have been sited in sealochs around the West Coast of Scotland. The fishfarms would be double the size of the present fishfarms and carry accommodation for its workers. Such units apparently already exist in Norway and Canada.

Whether this is a good idea or not is difficult for me to judge. Salmon farming on an industrial scale carries environmental risks, such as those posed by the toxicity of substances used to treat infestations and infections in the fish; the amount of effluent generated by the fish and the problems of dead and escaped fish. The abovementioned proposals quote a shorebase at Barra, but I cannot imagine that this would generate much employment for these islands. The processing plants, such as existed in Scalpay and Stornoway, have been either closed, mothballed or downgraded - for the simple reason that they are not on the mainland.

I am posting this entry very much as a discussion piece, and welcome considered comments.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Who is who?

Reposting this entry due to technical problems - apologies

Researching the two Rolls of Honour for the Isle of Lewis yielded a strange piece of confusion. Although I have requested assistance from the Historical Societies for Uig and East Loch Roag, I do not expect this to be cleared up anytime soon.

The two servicemen pictured below are both described as John Macleod from 1 Enaclete and Finlay Maclean from 36 Breasclete.

[caption id="attachment_1079" align="alignnone" width="269" caption="Finlay Maclean, Breasclete - Roll of Honour 1916"]Finlay Maclean, Breasclete, Roll of Honour 1916[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1076" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Finlay Maclean, 36 Breasclete - Roll of Honour 1921"]Finlay Maclean, 36 Breasclete - Roll of Honour 1921[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1078" align="alignnone" width="262" caption="John Macleod, Enaclete - Roll of Honour 1916"]John Macleod, Enaclete - Roll of Honour 1916[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1080" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="John Macleod, Enaclete - Roll of Honour 1921"]John Macleod, Enaclete - Roll of Honour 1921[/caption]

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Scottish Islands Federation

About 8 years ago, I got involved with the Scottish Islands Network, which sought to bring all the Scottish islands together - the Hebrides from Islay to Lewis, as well as Orkney and Shetland. The aim was to pool knowledge and resources to combat the challenges faced by all islands, irrespective of their location. A funding crisis brought this laudable initiative to its knees, as only Argyll & Bute council were providing finance, with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar issuing rebuff after rebuff, and Orkney and Shetland equally disinterested.

SIN was reborn as the Scottish Islands Federation in 2006, and although they appear to be static I have been reassured they are not. So, I have been asked to relay a request for people in ALL Scottish Islands, not just Lewis, to get in touch. SIF is looking for new members, individuals as well as community groups. There is an application form on the website.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Western Isles residents wanted for study

A PhD student from Lancaster is looking for residents of the Western Isles who are willing to give an hour or so of their time to talk about the use of language. Α project is being run across the UK and Ireland about the difference between how older and younger people speak and how they feel about it.

If you are interested to participate, or know people who want to take part, please leave a brief note in comments. I'll relay the email address (which will show up in the comment notification) to the academic concerned, and you can then make arrangements direct. Confidentiality will be upheld by this blogger, and for anyone participating in the study.

Please relay.
Thank you.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Pairc buy-out

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Habost, South Lochs, as seen from Keose"]Habost, South Lochs, as seen from Keose[/caption]

When I arrived in this island in November 2004, I started off in South Lochs. At the time, there was a buzz of excitement in the air, with a vote on the 29th of that month on whether the community would bid to gain ownership of their land. The vote was in favour. The few hundred 'lochies' tried to set the wheels in motion to get the Pairc estate under their belt.

I am sad to report that this has so far proved unsuccessful. In my tenure of the Arnish Lighthouse blog, I have been very critical of local and indeed at times national (Scottish) politicians. I am not going to change that stance. I was pleased, in a way, to note that our MSP has finally woken up to the realisation that there was such a thing as a community buy-out bid in Pairc, and finally realised that there was an incredible amount of thwarting going on. Whilst I am very pleased that the Galson estate buy-out was successful, it was overlooked that theirs was NOT the oldest or the first buy-out in Lewis. Theirs was the first one to be successful.

The Pairc buy-out is mired in the deepest South Lochs bog for a couple of reasons. The main one, it would appear, is the way estate owner Barry Lomas is displaying his reluctance to part with his property. I can understand why - there are plans afoot to build a windfarm in South Lochs, which would generate a lot of £££. Mr Lomas is reported to be using the instrument of the interposed lease - leasing the land to another company (which he owns as well). Other reasons for the lack of success in Lochs is the difficulties in describing what the estate actually consists of. There is no definitive map. Instead, we have pinpoint accuracy in descriptions like: "stretching for 400 yards in a southwesterly direction from the Stornoway road". Furthermore, patches of land may be sublet, sub-sublet, and no trace of who is the main lessee. It is enough to make a stone weep.

Our MSP has finally remembered that the legislation which applies to community buy-outs does not just cater to the benign situation that the landowner willingly parts with his land. It also includes a clause for a hostile buy-out bid. I am still not holding my breath. I'll have to go through my files, if I can find the Pairc ones under that thick layer of dust and cobwebs, because I faintly remember something about a Land Court hearing that would take many moons to come to a ruling - back in July 2008.

The people in the Pairc Trust will hopefully have a more accurate and up to date status available, and hope that this will be forthcoming in local newsmedia in the very near future.

I have just conducted a search on postings on this blog using the search term Pairc. Found at least 3 similar postings to the one I have written above, made in 2008, 2007 and 2006. Just goes to show how stuck this issue is. Let's hope the Environment Minister at Holyrood, who is responsible for buy-outs, will move things forward before the year is out.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

War and peace

I'm sure our Norwegian friends will forgive me for this title, which was inspired by this scene on Saturday morning.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Submarine S300 and cruiseliner tender from "Marco Polo""]Submarine S300 and cruiseliner tender from Marco Polo[/caption]

The Marco Polo left just after lunchtime, but the submarine appears to be attracting a lot of attention from the Saturday shoppers. Firmly tongue-in-cheek, it could be suggested that the sub is there to take people to the mainland on Sunday who do not want to be seen going on the ferry...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Lewis & Harris in the 90s

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Stornoway from no 1 pier, 25 July 1994"]Stornoway from no 1 pier, 25 July 1994[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="View from the Ravenspoint Centre, Kershader, on 30 July 1996"]View from the Ravenspoint Centre, Kershader, on 30 July 1996[/caption]

It is worth noting that the above view no longer exists. The (former) Storlann, Post Office and Croileagan presently stand in the centre / right of the picture, blocking the view down Loch Erisort.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Scaladale, 29 July 1996"]Scaladale, 29 July 1996[/caption]

Ardvourlie Castle is still a ruin, and the Scaladale Centre does not yet exist.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Departing Stornoway, 31 July 1996"]Departing Stornoway, 31 July 1996[/caption]

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Busted buses

Scottish Citylink have advised their passengers to pre-book their seats, or run the risk of not being conveyed on their chosen service. This applies (of course) to the Ullapool to Inverness (and vice versa) service. Please note the date of this post: 24 September 2009.

On Friday 3 October 2008, I journeyed from Stornoway to Kirkwall, and this included the 55 miles bus trip from Ullapool to Inverness. On alighting from the MV Isle of Lewis at Ullapool in the morning, the busdriver was shouting at the top of his voice that only passengers with tickets would be allowed on board. Anyone without tickets had to wait until 5pm (7 hours later).This summer, the demand for travel to the Western Isles has been some 30% above that seen last year. Frought scenes have been played out at Inverness Bus Station, with people being left behind - with or without pre-booked tickets. Those with tickets were later conveyed to their destination by taxi, paid for by Citylink.

I am very displeased that it has taken Scottish Citylink TWELVE months to finally publicise their advice to the public in the Northwest Highlands.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Harris Tweed - my take

Tonight, the final programme in the series on Harris Tweed was aired on BBC4. The outlook remained at best a questionmark, and not much short of gloomy. Rather than get hot under the collar, I'll restrict myself to putting down the way I think the industry should move forward - a purely personal take, not unduly burdened by excess knowledge.

Harris Tweed is a product, unique to the Outer Hebrides, and therefore unique to Scotland. Its production, as laid down by the trademark description, has to take place in the Outer Hebrides - exclusively. This is such a narrow remit, that it merits intervention at Government level (Scottish Government) to take the industry in hand.

Brian Haggas's ownership of the Kenneth Mackenzie Mill in Stornoway should be bought out. He has a stock of men's jackets, which he is pandering off through newspaper competitions, saucy photoshoots and what not. At the rate he is going, it'll take nearly a decade to shift the 70,000 jackets that clog up his warehouse. The KM Mill's production capacity is needed, in conjunction with that of Shawbost and Carloway's mills, to make the volume, necessary to reinvigorate Harris Tweed. Rather than being in competition with each other, Stornoway, Shawbost and Carloway should work under an overseeing body which directs the work of the mills.

The BBC4 programme showed that there is demand for Harris Tweed. This should be channeled to be produced in the Outer Hebrides, using the abovementioned overseeing body. Who should this overseeing body consist of? Weavers as well as mills, combined with the Harris Tweed Authority. A cooperative? Well, I don't know enough about that sort of thing.

I'll repeat what I said at the end of my previous post on this subject. The Kenneth Mackenzie Mill in Stornoway is the keystone to Harris Tweed. Without this, the cloth will be relegated to handbags and seatcovers. And Brian Haggas's jackets.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Harris War Memorial

The Harris War Memorial on-line, which was first published in August last year, has been extensively revised and updated with more information on many of the casualties. This contains listings for both World Wars, ordered by village. Any further information is more than welcome, in fact, desperately needed.

A Roll of Honour was never published for Harris for the First World War, leaving only the War Memorial at Tarbert for reference. Finding further information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (the primary source) can be very tricky and time-consuming in some instances.

All the main islands in the Western Isles now have their WW1 and WW2 casualties listed on line.

I would like to close this post by dedicating it to the memory of all the approximately 2,500 men from these islands who laid down their lives for King and Country during World Wars I and II.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Up and down

Contrary to my suspicions on Monday, the Uist rocket range was reprieved from closure. This means that 125 people in the Southern Isles will keep their jobs, and the threat to the upkeep of the St Kilda national reserve is removed. I fully back Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond in his praise of the efforts of the Taskforce and others, thanks to whom the range will now remain open. Losing 125 jobs in a community of 5,000 would equate to losing 125,000 jobs across London - at a stroke.

BBC4 has been running a three-part documentary on the present plight of Harris Tweed. The 3rd instalment will be aired next Tuesday, 22 September, at 9pm. BBC4 is not available on terrestrial television; the episodes can be seen on BBC iPlayer - if you're in the UK. Apologies for the plugging of BBC services.

More to the point, it showed the fate of the Kenneth Mackenzie Harris Tweed Mill here in Stornoway, which was mothballed earlier this year, shedding all of its attendant jobs. Owner Brian Haggas had sought to convert it to a production unit for men's jackets made out of Harris Tweed, with 4 patterns. He utterly failed to grasp the idea behind Harris Tweed. And as a result, he as good as had to admit failure of his Stornoway enterprise.

Harris Tweed is still in demand, as the programme shows. However, with production capacity of tweed and yarn reduced drastically, it would require the re-opening of the KM mill in Stornoway. For that, it would probably be advisable for Mr Haggas to sell the plant, in order to cut his losses. If not, Harris Tweed is doomed to be reduced to handbags and seatcovers.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Uist & Barra War Memorials

The information from the War Memorials for the islands of Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra has been transferred to the Internet. Apart from the actual war memorials, pictured courtesy Scottish War Memorials Project, the cemeteries in the islands as well as the invaluable Commonwealth War Graves Commission website were all sources for further information. There are gaps, like there are in the information on Lewis casualties.

To reiterate: these are lists of the Fallen from both world wars. For the sake of clarity, there are separate pages for the First World War and for the Second World War.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Graveyard in Eriskay "]Graveyard in Eriskay [/caption]


The operators of the Uist rocket range, QinetiQ, have posted a job-advert for a project manager to downsize said rocket range. This implies that a decision has already been taken for the range to be downgraded, even though the Ministry of Defense in London deny that.

QinetiQ call the recruitment drive prudent business practice. I call it something else. You do not advertise a job vacancy if it later turns out the job isn't going to be done. That could land you, as an employer, in seriously hot water. Although I find the efforts from our MSP to save the situation laudable, it is not the MSP that should be jumping up and down. Our MP, the man who represents us in Westminster, should be making a lot of noise over of this. For Defense is NOT a devolved issue, i.e. not something that the Scottish Government has any say over, and neither has the Scottish Parliament.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Renewable energy - II

So could renewable energy be the salvation of the Western Isles economy? The islands' economy is in a fragile state, and there is indeed the potential to make the Arnish Fabrication Yard a hub for production of wind turbine towers, Pelamis sea-snake units as well as possibly machinery for harnessing tidal energy. An effort is being made to keep the AFY open, but it is a stop-start affair.

It was interesting to see the gentle shift from shore-based to off-shore windfarms over the past five years. As indicated, shore-based windfarms are attracting ever more opposition due to the impact on scenery and quality of life for those living nearby. I maintain that although nobody is legally entitled to a view, it does constitute an amenity which serves to bring visitors to the Western Isles.

I realise it could be construed as a serious case of NIMBY'ism, but nobody wants a windfarm outside their backdoor, do they? So why not stick the things out at sea and it won't bother anybody. Ah, but that means that the community ashore misses out on the big pay-outs. Well, I keep having my severe doubts whether that really would happen (I mistrust big money, full stop, see what happened a year ago).

My vision would be for an off-shore windfarm, wave-energy generator and a tidal energy generator ashore.

The Pairc Trust, just nextdoor to Uncle Nick's turbine garden, also want to erect a number of turbines, on the moorland between Habost and Gravir. The turbines will also be 450 feet tall. I am a long-standing supporter to community ownership of land - I was a supporter of the Eigg buy-out in 1997. The efforts of the Pairc community are the oldest buy-out in the Isle of Lewis, but also the least successful. The Pairc laird, Barry Lomas, has frustrated their efforts by using the instrument of an interposed lease, letting land to another company. Oh, a company he himself owns. It is pretty obvious why he is going to these lengths: Mr Lomas wants the windfarm revenues all to himself. For the record, I have the same objections to the Pairc Windfarm that I have to the Eishken Windfarm.

Friday, 11 September 2009


Mingulay, one of the Barra Isles or Bishop's Isles, is currently unoccupied. The last permanent inhabitants left in 1912, leaving the island as a haven for wildlife and a place for grazing sheep. The reason I am flagging this up in passing came about through researching the First and Second World War roll of honour for Barra. One of the sons of Mingulay appears in the listings for WW1:

Seaman Roderick Gillies
Son of John and Flora Gillies, of Mingulay, Barra
Husband of Mary Macdougall Gillies, of Caolis, Vatersay, Barra, Inverness-shire.
Military unit: RNR, HMT Robert Smith
Service number: 3560B
Date of death: 20 July 1917, at the age of 35
Memorial: Portsmouth Naval Memorial, panel 27
Local memorial: Barra & Vatersay, Nask, Barra

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450" caption="Mingulay's former settlement, image courtesy"]Mingulays former settlement, image courtesy[/caption]

Renewable energy

My post on the Eishken Windfarm elicited a discussion on the merits of wind energy, particularly large-scale windfarms in Lewis. The outcome was a complete disagreement.

I think it won't do any harm to post my take on the deployment of sources of renewable energy in the Western Isles. Purely personal, not asking anyone to agree or disagree.

Last night, I watched an episode of the Coast programme, as broadcast on BBC in 2006. At the time, the North Lewis Windfarm was still in the planning stages. It served however as a timely reminder of what could have been between Port of Ness and Stornoway (via Bragar). And what could yet be on the Eishken hills. In this case, 33 turbines, each standing 450 feet tall. With associated road and electricity infrastructure. It should also be born in mind that Eishken once was the home of more than 30 villages and hamlets, strung along the shores of Loch Seaforth and west round to Loch Shell and Lemreway. These were cleared in the 1820s to make way for sheep, and there is no permanent habitation now. Rather than opening up the area for limited redevelopment, it is now going to be turned into an industrial wasteland.

The argument of the impact on the landscape is one that is being wielded right across Scotland. Homes built in the proximity of some windfarms, e.g. Ayrshire, have seen their value plummet. The noise impact is higher than some people would have us believe.

Wind energy also carries the disadvantage of being inconsistent. The Isle of Lewis has an average windspeed of 16 knots, 18 mph (force 5 on the Beaufort scale). We have a gale every week (again, on average), and flat calm on a regular basis as well. In other words, the output from a wind turbine is always variable. It cannot be wholly relied on, as the turbines may need to be stopped for high wind and do not operate without wind. Point I am making is that you need other sources of energy to supplement the output from wind turbines.

On a national scale, this has led to the suggestion we build more nuclear powerstations. However, as long as the issue of nuclear waste has not been resolved, I (personally) do not think it is wise to build new nuclear powerstations. At this time.

So what else have we got? Wind energy does have a role to play, but the large scale projects have too large an environmental impact - on-shore. Off-shore windfarms have far less of an impact (that I am aware of).

Wavepower, the Pelamis seasnake, has been developed, trialled and even built in Scotland - for use in Portugal. So why not deploy it off the coast of Scotland? The ocean is never still, swells will always come to our western shores. The Portuguese are certainly benefiting by it, and proposal were recently mooted for a similar project off Great Bernera.

Tidal power will be put to use at Shader over the next few years, and has been supplying Islay with power for nearly two decades now.

Solar power? Yes, even Scotland has daylight, and the sun shines more often than you would perhaps give it credit for. On a small scale, solar power is already being used in streetlamps in the Lochs area of Lewis. A hundred miles south of here, in the Isle of Eigg, solar power also contributes to the energy requirements of its 86-strong population.

The above three sources all have as an advantage over large-scale windfarms that their environmental impact is a lot less. I do realise that the above mentioned sources of renewable energy may not suffice to meet the energy requirements for the whole of Scotland. However, for the small scale needs of the Western Isles, they most certainly can. If the political will is there, a profusion of schemes across Scotland could certainly make an impact nationwide.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

North Lochs

The eastern part of the island of Lewis, south of Stornoway, is referred to as Lochs. For obvious reasons. Driving down the minor sideroad to Grimshader, Ranish and Crossbost, you encounter nothing but lochs (Scots for lakes). The sea is never far away either, with several sealochs (obviously connected to the sea, in this case the Minch) penetrating deep inland. Loch Erisort, 10 miles south of Stornoway, reaches 15 miles from the sea to the village of Balallan. These are the site for several fish and musselfarms. Setting the scene for a scenic drive this afternoon, with the sun out.

Coming down the B897 (which branches off the main road south from Stornoway to Tarbert), first popped into Ranish, which overlooks Grimshader on the far side of the loch. Incidentally, the sideroad within Ranish takes you to the Loch Erisort side of the peninsula. It is fronted by a 360 foot high hill, which I once traversed in pouring rain, in my footloose days back in 2005. Beinn Mhor - to the Gaelic speakers among you, this name will not come as a surprise. The big hill. Doubling back into Crossbost, the road plunges down to the little bay at the end of the road. The churchyard, at the Leurbost side of the village, has seen me several times for war graves business.

Then continued through Leurbost to the junction at Cameron Terrace, then on to Achmore. The Pentland Road branch cuts the distance to town from 12 to 9 miles, although it is by no means faster. It rises to 500 feet above sealevel at Beinn a'Bhuinne, past shieling huts and peat banks. Pity that my camera battery gave out at that point, after sustaining me through about 250 pictures. Here are some of the 50 I took today.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Loch Roisgeil, between Grimshader and Ranish"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Fidigarry, Loch Grimshader, at Ranish"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Shack above Loch Grimshader, Ranish"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Ranish"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Loch Erisort at Crossbost"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Leurbost"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Lochs at Achmore"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Achmore"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Shieling hut at Beinn a'Bhuinne, north of Achmore"]Shieling hut at Beinn aBhuinne, north of Achmore[/caption]

Monday, 7 September 2009

East coast foray

This afternoon, I went on an expedition for the eastern reaches of Lewis (and Harris) by car. First port of call was the tiny village of Keose, tucked away 2 miles off the main road between Stornoway and Tarbert.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Keose Harbour"][/caption]

After freeing a small bird, that had managed to get itself locked into a creel, we had a look round and returned to the main road. Lunch was taken at the Loch Erisort Inn, in the shape of fish and chips. This used to be operated as the Claitair Hotel (still on the beer sign), but was refurbished a few years ago. The Loch Erisort Inn stands in the district of South Lochs, which I know very well after staying there through the winter of 2004/5. Nothing has changed round there.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Kinloch Seaforth"][/caption]

On up another side road, to Eishken. If only to see it whilst there are no wind turbines on the hills. It is a wild and desolate area, with a savage natural beauty. Its native inhabitants were removed to make way for sheep. I think the year 1820 is still referred to as the Year of the Sheep. Eishken Lodge is the base for shooters and fishers who go round the empty peninsula, which once hosted 36 villages. Back on the main road, I found a new memorial to that disaster of Scottish history called Bonnie Prince Charlie.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Monument for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Arivruaich"][/caption]

He had landed at Arivruaich (according to the memorial, although my info says it was on an island near Lemreway, 20 miles to the east) and sneaked over to Kildun Cottage at Arnish (just across the water from my current position) to request sanctuary in Stornoway. The burghers declined this hot potato but didn't shop BPC either.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Low clouds on the Clisham Pass"][/caption]

Crossed the border into Harris and promptly drove into the clouds (at 500 feet above sealevel) on our way to Rhenigidale. This village didn't have a road until 1987 - everything had to be brought in by boat or on foot. The main village in Harris, Tarbert, is 4 miles away, but that involves an ascent of 1,000 feet along a 1 in 2 incline. Upon return to Stornoway, I found I had taken 192 pictures today.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Maaruig from the Rhenigidale road"]Maaruig from the Rhenigidale road[/caption]

Friday, 4 September 2009

Eishken Windfarm

The Eishken Windfarm has been approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, without debate and by rubberstamp. What is really shocking is the so-called community element in the proposals, which have been swallowed by our local authority without question.

The few hundred souls in the Lochs area are expected to cough up some twenty-five million pounds in order to benefit from the turbines, allocated to them. It was not a free gift, it will require that mind-boggling sum. How on earth an economically fragile area like Lochs is going to generate that amount of capital defies even my rich imagination.

It is one thing that the developer has wreathed this aspect in mist until quite recently. It is a dereliction of duty on the part of our elected representatives for not questioning or properly scrutinise the proposals on at least that aspect. As I feared, the planning application was passed on the nod, as the Comhairle has this fixation with shore-based windfarms, dating back to 2004. They will have their windfarm, even if it means financial ruin for their own constituents. At this time of economic recession, any promise of jobs, however meagre, will act as a lure for the unsuspecting local authority. It is breathtaking that the Comhairle has fallen for it. They have even gone so far as to request an upgrade to the interconnector (the subsea electricity cable) to the mainland. The way our local authority has handled the planning process should be the object of censure. The developer kept changing and changing the proposals, reacting to objections. No fewer than four versions of the planning application were rubberstamped by the local authority. It should have scuttled the entire project before now.

There are a few points left at which this whole project could be jettisoned. The Scottish Government is to give final approval. The windfarm can only be built if the Beauly to Denny electricity transmission link is upgraded, which is far from certain due to fierce opposition in the Highlands. The same applies to the link between Dundonnell and Beauly.

Not since the resolution of the crisis in the Western Isles Health Board in 2007 has the Arnish Lighthouse blog expressed its dismay at a local issue in such strong terms. But should the Eishken Windfarm ever come to be built, it can safely be said that the Comhairle has sold us down the river.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Today is the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Poland, a military campaign that sparked off the Second World War. In the 6 years following, many thousands would lay down their lives in the defense of freedom. The Western Isles, once more, stood in the breach and supplied dozens of its young men to the services between 1939 and 1945. The death toll makes for sobering reading - having just transcribed the war memorials for all of the islands in the Western Isles (courtesy the Scottish War Memorials Project).

Lewis - 448
Harris - 58
North Uist & Berneray - 36
Benbecula - 6
South Uist & Eriskay - 51
Barra - 54
Total: 653

Lest we forget.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Eishken Windfarm

The John Muir Trust, who objects to the current planning application for the Eishken Windfarm, has commissioned a report into the economic benefits of said windfarm. The developers state that more than 100 jobs will be created, but the JMT report puts that number at about 30. The visual impact of the Eishken and Pairc windfarms will be great, and it appears that according to the JMT report, little economic benefit will be had from a project that will impact the islands adversely in other ways.

However, it looks very likely that the planning application, currently before the Comhairle, will be rubberstamped for approval.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

29 August 1930

It was 79 years ago since the last few dozen people were evacuated from the archipelago of St Kilda (Hiort), 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. The move, requested by the people themselves, came in the wake of a decline in population and the increasing problems posed by their remoteness. St Kilda has remained without permanent habitation since, with only Ministry of Defense personnel monitoring the rocket range on Uist and National Trust for Scotland staff looking after the remains of the houses there. Upon departing their shores, the St Kildans left a handful of grain on their tables, alongside the family bible, opened at the chapter Exodus.

A few houses have been restored, and cruiseliners regularly call in the summer. Reaching the islands is still difficult, due to the weather and sea conditions found in the North Atlantic. Efforts have been made to retain the history and culture of the islands, and quite a few books have been written. Yesterday was the first-ever St Kilda day. It is a good thing to celebrate culture. Celebrating an extinct culture in 21st century fashion is something that doesn't sit very easy with me.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Inter Island Ferries

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Sound of Harris ferry MV Loch Portain at Leverburgh"]Sound of Harris ferry MV Loch Portain at Leverburgh[/caption]

Ferry traffic across the Minch has boomed this summer. The customary three-sailings-a-day routine between Ullapool and Stornoway on Wednesdays and Fridays is coming to an end on the 28th, this coming Friday, and on not one day has the service run to timetable on those days, this summer. Reasons for this are the RET-scheme, which has seen fares slashed by half on some routes, and a favourable exchange rate for visitors from the Eurozone. Which in turn made it less attractive for British holidaymakers to go to Europe - so all flocked to the Western Isles.

RET does not apply to the ferry routes between islands in the Western Isles; more specifically, the Leverburgh to Berneray ferry (which links Harris and Uist), and Eriskay to Ardmhor (Barra). It was reported on Hebrides News tonight that fares, already much higher than on the cross-Minch routes, could be increased by another 40%, as a local subsidy scheme comes to a close on August 31st.

It appears that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had put forward £75k, on the understanding that Highlands and Islands Enterprise would also pay out £75k. HIE have now announced that they will not honour that apparent promise, saying it is no longer part of its remit. The Scottish Government appear to have been less than helpful on their part.

Local businesses have complained that the increased transportation costs between islands could drive them to the wall. It is from my viewpoint rather unfair to have different fare-structures on different routes of the Calmac network. Yes, I know the RET is a pilot-scheme to see how it goes (roaring success), but I am also looking a bit further afield, to the Northern Isles. Orkney and Shetland are excluded from RET, and are complaining bitterly, justifiably so.

In my opinion, the Scottish Government should close the pilot for RET and implement it forthwith on all ferry routes in Scotland, if only for the sake of common fairness and equality to all islanders, irrespective of their location.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Roll of Honour

The Roll of Honour 1914-1919 for the Isle of Lewis has been published on-line on this link. It is a straight transcription, with some paraphrasing here and there to condense wordy descriptions. Otherwise, no information has been added that was not in the copy, residing in Stornoway Library.

More extensive information on men that died as a result of the war has been collected in the Faces from the War Memorial site.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

AIS gone wrong

AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a system which logs the location, course, destination and speed of most ships over 300 tons. I am an avid user of its reflection on the Internet,, particularly to find out about ships in my area. Stornoway is not a busy port, so any unknown vessel has my attention. This afternoon, nothing is coming or going (apart from the ferry), but AIS shows the following - the boat I'm on about is highlighted in yellow.

It looks like this:

My attention was on the large yacht, the Gundamain, which you can see against the backdrop of the hills. Its description as a 2,159 gross tonnage oil products tanker is patently wrong.

The IMO number refers to the tanker Janet C, pictures of which now feature on AIS in connection with this yacht.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Cruiseliner Delphin

The weather here in Stornoway is pretty dismal this Saturday, with frequent heavy squalls, carrying rain and gusts up to 40 mph. Monitoring the output for Stornoway, I nearly needed that site to identify the Northern Lighthouse Board's Pharos, as it was barely visible from a few hundred yards away as it left port. ShipAIS also showed the cruiseliner Delphin approaching from the south, closely hugging the Lochs coast. About half an hour ago, it hove into view from my position but then it made a graceful turn from a northwesterly to a northeasterly course and went on its way again.

ShipAIS shows a vessel's destination, which was marked as Stornoway until about 12.30pm; now, with the Delphin moving away into the Minch again, it is due into Invergordon at 6 am tomorrow morning.

I can understand why the ship chose to abandon its date with Stornoway. The southerly wind, blowing at a steady force 6 with higher gusts, has already whipped up the sea to choppy state, making transfer by tender a hazardous undertaking. The Delphin has a draught of 6.3 metres (21 feet), which is only 1 metre / 3 feet below the maximum draught that Stornoway harbour can take.

I hope the passengers on the Delphin have a comfortable crossing to Invergordon today, and that they will one day return on a better day to see what the Isle of Lewis has to offer.


I was very pleased to read that a so-called "wave farm" has been proposed for installation off Great Bernera, west of Lewis. A wave farm (terrible description) consists of several units of Pelamis, which convert the energy of wave action into electricity. How this works in practice, off Portugal, can be read here.

A tidal generator is to be built off Shader (Barvas), and should this new installation become reality, it would place the Western Isles at the forefront of renewable energy usage. Pelamis was designed in Scotland, trialed off Orkney and initially produced in the Arnish Fabrication Yard. I sincerely hope that any orders for Pelamis will be placed at Arnish, bearing in mind it is only some 30 miles from Great Bernera (by road). Whilst the Fabrication Yard has proven to be temperamental in terms of its viability, I support any projects that would put some sustainability in that plant's future. Should the Great Bernera project prove a success (and I think it will be), other wavepower projects may ensue elsewhere in Scotland or indeed the UK. From there on, the sea is the limit.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Lewis Carnival 2009

Today saw the Lewis Carnival procession wind its way through the town. There were five floats, two on large lorry trailers, and three on smaller vehicles. The Lewis Pipe Band did them proud, marching on ahead. Just a few pics to give you a taster of the atmosphere near the Coop roundabout.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Sunday ferries --- erm --- fairies"]Sunday ferries --- erm --- fairies[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Lewis Peatcutters"]Lewis Peatcutters[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Pampered pooches"]Pampered pooches[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Homecoming"]Homecoming[/caption]

Click: Footage of the Pipeband

Friday, 7 August 2009

Eishken Public Inquiry reports

The Reporter to the public inquiry into the Eishken Windfarm has published the report - a year after it was written. Hebrides News is giving two conflicting slants to the report. The first states that a maximum of 53 turbines can be built. Unfortunately, Eishken estate owner Nick Oppenheim has resubmitted a new plan with fewer if taller turbines, which stand outside the National Scenic area.

The John Muir Trust, according to another report on Heb News, is claiming victory, saying it creates a legal precedent against windfarm developments in similar surroundings. The problem is, as I stated a line or two back, that another plan has been drawn up for a windfarm in Eishken, making the findings of the public enquiry irrelevant to the current situation.

I have said before that this development will always be rubberstamped by the planning authority, being the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Only the torpedoing of the Beauly to Denny powerline upgrade is likely to scupper the project. And that public inquiry is similarly overdue.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Exodus from the Outer Hebrides to Canada

Lucille H. Campey spoke at Stornoway Town Hall last night on the above subject. She took a novel angle on what is a central theme in the history of the Highlands and Islands, namely with a focus on Canada rather than Scotland. It is not easy to summarise a 60 minute discourse within the confines of a blog, but will go so far as to describe Ms Campey's stance as controversial.

The exodus to Canada from the Outer Hebrides as well as other parts of Scotland is well documented. Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island in the far east of Canada are littered with pointers to the settlement of people from western Scotland, in placenames, culture and traditions. The mechanism of this migration is the underlying issue, and focuses on the landlords and his tenants.

I'll focus on the town of Helmsdale in Sutherland to make my point. Two years ago, a statue was erected there to celebrate the achievements of the Highlanders in Canada. I'll be the last to deny that the Scottish diaspora has achieved great things in their new homelands, whether they be Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand - or wherever. Why weren't the people of the Highlands and Islands not put into a position where great things could be done at home?

Reference was made to the 1886 crofting reforms, prompted by overcrowding and poor soil (according to last night's speaker). Having read some of Lord Napier's reports, there was good soil to be had in the Highlands and Islands, access to which was denied to the tenants of the local lairds. Ms Campey denied that coercion played a major part in the drive to emigration, something that I do not believe will go down well with those that are intimately familiar with the history of this region - I do not claim to be. There are some who will say that government, rather than assist in the emigration, should have assisted people to remain. That was not the spirit of the time. If people were unable to afford their rent, set arbitrarily by lairds or his agents, they could be evicted. Conditions at the time, particularly after the potato famine of 1846, were undeniably dire for both tenants and landlords. But a landlord, committed to his tenants, would have worked with them - as was asserted as early as the 1880s, see the Napier report.

The focus in last night's discourse was on the opportunities afforded in Canada to those who emigrated there. A more egalitarian society, as opposed to the class society to be had in Great Britain. Start a new life in a wilderness, away from materialism and an unjust society. Many people did very well indeed, achieving a wealth that would not have been possible in Scotland. Others did not do very well at all. Some could not afford the crossing, and ended up owing the fare to the ship's captain. And when he came to claim his debt, the emigrants would once again be left with nothing.

I'll be the first to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Scots overseas. But I'll also be the first to assert that a lot of emigration, even bearing in mind society in the 19th century, would not have been necessary.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Roll of Honour - II

Some sobering statistics were extracted from the transcript of the Roll of Honour.

Out of the 6,030 names, more than 500 were recorded as serving in the Canadian forces.

Each year of the war, from 1915 until 1919, saw the loss of 200 island men. The year 1914 is an exception, as the war did not start until August; 1919 is also an exception, because the war was over. The sinking of HMY Iolaire brought about that year's total.

The majority of the 1,150 fatalities mentioned in the Roll of Honour are quoted as "killed in action". This includes battles at sea as well as on land. They were mainly men under the age of 30, with the largest number in the age group under 25.

Naval forces accounted for half the Lewis contingent, with the land army in the other half. The RAF (and its predecessor Royal Flying Corps) had 28 Lewismen serving in it.

Outside Stornoway, the villages of Habost (Ness), Coll, Back, Knock (Point), Leurbost, Ranish and North Tolsta contributed each more than 100 men. The largest loss was suffered by North Tolsta, to where 50 did not return, out of 216 who enlisted. Men (and nearly 30 women) enlisted from virtually every village in the island, including the distant hamlet of Hamnaway in Uig - nowadays 8 miles from the nearest road, in those days 30 miles from any decent road.

Finally, the most common family names were Graham, Macaulay, Campbell, Smith, Murray, Maclean, Mackay, Morrison, Maciver, Mackenzie, Macdonald and Macleod - the latter surname contributing more than 1,270.

Roll of Honour - I

Currently in the process of transcribing and publishing the Roll of Honour for the First World War for the Isle of Lewis. The transcription is actually complete (a 6030-row Excel file is the result), and the current task is to transform it into a decent HMTL-file, suitable for uploading to the web. A trial-page, for the village of Aird in Point, can be viewed here. Feedback welcome.

This is the intended preface:

In 1921, the Stornoway Gazette published this listing of all men from the island of Lewis who were known to have joined the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom or its overseas dependencies in the battles of the First World War.
This book, now nearly 90 years old, contains mostly very summary information on the approximately 6,000 men and women who joined up. At times, only a name is given. Mostly, a service, regiment or division is also given. When a man did not survive, the date, month or year of death is usually given, sometimes with his age and circumstances how he met his death. Any medals awarded, where applicable with a quotation from the commendation, are also mentioned.

Quite unique is the collection of portrait photographs contained in the Roll of Honour. It brings the drab listings to life – and elicits great poignancy. Some 400 portraits show the faces of the Fallen. Young men, hardly out of boyhood in some instances. Hardened veterans of the mud and horrors of the Western Front, of the searing heat of the deserts of Mesopotamia. Experienced sailors, lost in the cold waters of the North Sea in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. As it includes many of those lost when H.M.Y. Iolaire ran aground and sank a mile or two outside Stornoway. The death toll of that tragedy on New Year’s Day 1919 now stands at 205. The Roll of Honour lists 172. All were returning home after the war had effectively ended in November 1918. Sixty of those lost were never recovered.

The loss of life is greater than shown in the Roll of Honour. Personal research has pushed the total up to nearly 1,300, meaning that 150 names of the Fallen are not recorded in the Roll of Honour. In the aftermath of the slaughter of the Great War, it is a miracle that so many names were retrieved within those two years. Another source of uncertainty lies in the huge diaspora that already existed in the years before 1914. Nearly a dozen men are recorded in the Roll of Honour as coming back to the “Old Country” at their own expense to do their bit. From places as far apart as Alaska, Patagonia and Malaya. How many of the more than a million who died at the Western Front had ancestors from Lewis, or were even born there? If there was no family left in the island, and no record of such was ever made, the link is irretrievably lost.

These days, there is a heightened interest in the history of the Great War. Its centenary is approaching (2014), and in January 2009, the 90th anniversary of the sinking of the Iolaire was commemorated in Stornoway. Many people around the world are researching their ancestry, and in view of the continual migration from the island over the decades, the Internet is proving to be an invaluable tool.

Copies from the Lewis Roll of Honour from 1921 are in very short supply. One lies in the library at Stornoway, but not everybody is able to make the journey to the Hebrides. It is for this reason that the listings from the Roll of Honour were copied and will be uploaded to the Internet soon.