Friday, 30 January 2009

Energy study

Although I'm still nowhere near Lewis (for another 3 days or so), I can't let the publication of the study by the Scottish Energy Minister go by without comment.

So land-based windturbines are the Valhalla to aim for, is it? Those views are superannuated, going back to the days that the LWP windfarm was first mooted, back in 2004 or thereabouts. And to say that a major windfarm could be sited north of Stornoway, in the exact location where that LWP project was to have been built is daft. The reason for the sinking of the LWP project was the presence of EU directives prohibiting major industrial developments. It does not appear that Mr Mather has updated his study with the findings of previous planning applications.

Windfarms west of Stornoway have been bogged down for years, on account of aviation safety concerns. Windfarms south of Stornoway - are we talking Eishken here?

I think this study is a sweetener to keep our Council happy, who are obsessed with the notion that a windfarm is the be-all and end-all. I wish we saw the end-all of the entire major windfarm notion, it is getting beyond a joke. Pursuing that notion is a waste of time and money.

The nightmare of all ferry passengers

This caught my eye on the Northern Ireland news: a lorry that broke through a stern door of the ferry plying between Stranraer and Larne. Apparently, the artic had broken loose and rammed through the ferry's stern doors. The hole was 30 feet above the waterline, and the ship was quickly made secure. Two hours into its voyage to Northern Ireland, the Stena Voyager returned to Scotland. However, because of the presence of the lorry, docking was impossible. Passengers remained on board overnight, until they were safely removed by emergency services, who then went about the busines of removing the offending lorry.

I do not want to think what would happen if this happens on the MV Isle of Lewis. Its loading ramp is rather lower down above the waterline, and bearing in mind the average conditions in the Minch - no, don't think about it.

Monday, 26 January 2009

In absentia

Your blogger has left the light on at the Lighthouse, but is away from the island for a week. Back next Tuesday. Looking at Hebrides News, I notice that MV Isle of Lewis is away for a refit in Denmark, to be fitted with sulphur-belching engines which are better for the environment. Can't quite see the logic behind that, but then I'm only a simple observer, not a mechanic, not Calmac, and overendowed with a propensity towards lateral thinking. Just as well I'm flying back to Stornoway, and not sailing in a cloud of SO2, CO2 and the like. Oh, a plane pollutes as well, doesn't it?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Wave power

The wee bay at Shader and Ballantrushal on the West Side of Lewis will very soon play host to a tidal barrage, where electricity for 1,800 homes will be generated. Forty generators will be placed in a dam, stretching across the bay. It will not be a visually intrusive structure, apparently.

I am very happy that this structure has been given the green light by Scottish ministers. Although its generating capacity of 4 megawatts is minute, it is in my mind indicative of the way forward for small scale electricity generation. The Isle of Eigg was switched on to its own generating scheme last February, and they have never looked back. Small windfarms (of up to half a dozen turbines) are being designed across Lewis, to be installed in places like Point, Shawbost and Borve. I support those. Not the multi-dozen turbine windfarms that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is still trying to smuggle in through the backdoor.

The 7th day

I shall open this post by expressing my utmost and deepest respect for anybody's religious convictions. I shall also add immediately that I am familiar with the Scriptural reference to the seventh day being a day of rest. In fact, since arriving in Lewis just over 4 years ago, I have come to appreciate that one quiet day in the week.


In previous posts on the BBC IB site, I have repeatedly mentioned the contradictions that exist in these islands regarding the observation of the Sabbath. Whilst (most) shops are closed, pubs are open. Whilst the ferry does not sail, planes do fly out of the airport at Stornoway. Whilst there is no ferry to the island of Lewis, MV Hebrides happily plies between Lochmaddy (in North Uist) and Uig (Skye) on a Sunday.

And now, the golf course at Scarista is losing out on a £75,000 subsidy because it isn't open on Sunday. The controversy involving the body Sportscotland, which will not award the money, is well publicised locally. They state that sports facilities should be available at all reasonable times - and being closed on Sunday means that Scarista is not. Our MP has huffed and puffed over this, crying wolf over the alleged discrimination against local custom in the northern Hebrides.

I don't think local custom is being discriminated against. It is a case of baking your cake and eating it.

I gather the shortfall has already been made up, incidentally.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Seems my initial assessment of the aftermath of Saturday's storm was a bit too positive.

South Beach Street in Stornoway was closed off for a period, after the scaffolding on the Town Hall was found to be destabilised by the 100 mph gusts. The fact that seaweed was found up there bears testimony to the ferocity of the winds.

Arnol Motors lost about a dozen nearly new cars, which were parked behind a wall that collapsed on top of them. Damage is estimated to be a 6-figure sum.

Quite a few people report the loss of gardensheds and outbuildings to the gales.

It is a relief though that there were no fatalities, unlike the 2005 hurricane.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The day after the night before

That was some storm last night - the Eoropie weather station recorded winds up to 103 mph. The noise was very loud, had to turn up the sound on the TV to hear it. But there appears to have been little damage in Stornoway. On an amble round town at lunchtime, all I saw was a collection of dustbins gathered round the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop in Francis Street, a roan pipe that appears to have fallen on someone's car in Inaclete Road (smashed numberplate was the only evidence left, car had gone). Preparations for a possible power failure were not required after all.

The streetlights on the Goat Island Causeway went out early in the evening, so I was denied a good view of the masses of seaspray that came flying in from the Minch. The storm peaked between 11 and 12, but at the moment, there is only a force 4 to 5 going with snowshowers.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Hold on to your hats

This is the formal severe weather warning out for the Western Isles for Saturday night. Looks like a near-repeat of the hurricane we endured four years ago, almost to the day. Please take care if you're in the islands.

  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Northern Constabulary are monitoring weather conditions in the Outer Hebrides as high winds are expected tomorrow night through to Sunday morning.

  • Drivers are urged to exercise caution.

  • Mainly Southerly winds of up to 80-90mph are predicted during the overnight period and particularly around midnight.

  • High tide will also occur around midnight.

  • If the weather becomes severe, people are advised to stay indoors and not travel. Loose objects lying around in gardens etc. should be put away or secured.

  • Neighbours and friends may wish to check that elderly people are okay.

  • Bus services could be subject to alterations on Saturday night.

  • The Comhairle and the Police will continue to monitor the situation and further information will be issued as appropriate through the media.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A Rum deal - update

Islanders on Rum have voted 15-2 in favour of taking over their island's assets.

I wish them good luck in their further endeavours.

A Rum deal

I am continuing my habit of mentioning events in the Small Isles as and when appropriate, like I did when we were still on BBC Island Blogging.

In the Isle of Rum, 100 miles south of here, residents are voting to take over management of certain amenities. Rum is an island, measuring 8 by 8 miles, showing a diamond shape on the map. It has some stunning scenery, with mountains rearing up to 2,800 feet about sealevel. It has been owned by government agency Scottish Natural Heritage (and its predecessors) since 1957, and was a study area for red deer for many years. The 17 adults who are eligible to vote are expected to agree to the takeover. Their plans include the establishment of 5 new crofts and the building of new housing, which would take the number of residents from 30 to 80. Following the clearance of Rum in the 1820s, it would certainly be a welcome boost of population.

Bullough Mausoleum, Harris, Isle of Rum

Dining Room, Kinloch Castle

Rum's main road

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Delivery charges

As anyone living in a Scottish island will have experienced, delivery companies see fit to charge us more for delivering goods - purely because we live in an island (or in a remote area of the Highlands). Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have repeatedly asked residents to report such practices, but no firm action has so far been taken.

An e-petition has been set up on the website for No 10 Downing Street, to petition the Prime Minister to investigate surcharges on deliveries to remote areas of Northern Scotland. If you're interested, you can go to the petition's webpage to sign it. Further background on this page from the Press & Journal newspaper on-line.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Wanderer returns

Those who were on the ferry to Stornoway last night (Monday 5 January) will be familiar with the sounds of children enjoying themselves - and with the sound of the crewmember asking their parents to stop them running around the ship and taking control of them please. Oops.

Your blogger has returned from a fortnight's spell away for Christmas and New Year, first time in 5 years I was not in Lewis for the festive season. Last November was the 4th anniversary of my stint in Lewis, and am still enjoying it. This week may see me around some of the island's cemeteries once more - carrying a film camera. Digital one is undergoing repairs after dying over Christmas. I would never have made the number of pictures I took with the digital camera (18,000 to date) with a film camera. That would have cost £5,000, not to mention the hours in the library scanning them all in.

Once more, best wishes for 2009.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Ferry news

Am returning to the island tomorrow, and will feel the effects of the new ferry timetable at first hand. According to Western Isles News, the ferry Isle of Lewis is switched to a new fuel, which will be delivered to Ullapool by road tanker. Time is required for this refuelling, meaning a later departure time for the afternoon sailing to Stornoway - the ferry will now depart Ullapool at 5.35pm, arriving in Stornoway at 8.20pm.

On Saturdays, the late ferry will leave Ullapool even later, at 6.15pm.

MV Muirneag returned for freight duties over Christmas. Over the last days in the week before the holiday, MV Lord of the Isles was covering instead of MV Pentalina B (ex-Iona).

Oh one other thing. No up-to-date pictures for the time being, as my camera is out of order. Am reverting to film, which means a huge delay in getting pics on the Net.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

In Remembrance: Iolaire

At 1.55 am on 1 January 1919, HMY Iolaire sank at the Beasts of Holm. More than 200 sailors, the vast majority from Lewis, drowned. About 75 were rescued. The remains of 60 were never recovered. Rather than their loved ones, many island homes received a visit from a church elder, bringing the worst possible news. Followed, not many days later, by the burials of those who had been found on the shores of Stornoway Harbour, the Braighe and Lochs. The circumstances of the sinking have never been satisfactorily cleared up.

A service of remembrance will be held on the shore overlooking the site where Iolaire went down, 90 years ago today. Although I'm not there myself, my thoughts will most definitely be on those lost in the Iolaire, their families left bereaved. I hope that by the 100th anniversary in 2019, the Royal Navy records on this case will be published to finally bring closure on a sad saga.

Those who wish to know more can visit my own webpage or that of the Stornoway Historical Society. A list of casualties and survivors has been collated on this site.