A very unremarkable occasion on any island, but a hugely momentous occasion this afternoon in Stornoway. It is Sunday 19 July 2009, the time 2.31pm. A crowd of several hundred have gathered outside the Calmac terminal, six lines of traffic have just driven on board the MV Isle of Lewis for the journey to Ullapool, as per timetable. The ropes are cast off, and as the vessel backs away from the pier, cheering, whistling, waving and shouting erupts. It persists for a full minute. After five minutes, the Isle of Lewis halts, then assumes a forward motion to head for sea. Another protracted cheer erupts spontaneously.
Hebrides News refers to a noisy crowd being present at the terminal. It was only noisy when the ferry cast off. Otherwise, it was a well-behaved, large group, quietly talking among each other. A group of church-goers sang Psalm 46 (God is our refuge and our strength) as passengers boarded the ferry, according to Hebrides News. By 2.30pm, they had disappeared.
It was a momentous and moving occasion, showing the relief felt by many that an oppression had been lifted. We can now travel if we want, and should that be on Sunday, there is the option of the ferry now. If anyone doesn't want to travel on Sunday, they don't have to. The choice is there.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Vehicles waiting to board the first Sunday ferry"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Placard held aloft by island church-goers"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Crowd of onlookers at the ferry terminal"][/caption]
This video shows the MV Isle of Lewis pulling away from the quayside amidst a prolongued cheer from the assembled crowd.