Friday, 31 December 2010


Best wishes to all for a prosperous and healthy 2011, which I hope will bring everything you are wanting and has you freed from everything you don't want. Be careful with any fireworks (enjoy the display in Stornoway after midnight tonight), if you drink please do so sensibly - you don't want to cause harm to yourself let alone anybody else.

I shall be back on post next week.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Coast not guarded?

The UK government is proposing to axe a number of coastguard stations along the coast of Scotland in order to save money. Under current thinking (if there has been any thinking involved with this plan at all), only the station at Aberdeen would operate 24/7, with either Lerwick or Stornoway kept as a part-time (daylight only) cover. The other stations, at Clyde and Forth, would be shut permanently.

I'll go so far as to describe that as sheer lunacy. This is typical bureaucratic pen pushing, a scheme dreamt up by someone in an office in central London, who does not have an inkling what goes on north of the proverbial Watford Gap.

Two fifth of the UK coastline covered by only ONE station? The very stretch of coastline that can experience the severest weather in the country? Today has already seen the Coastguard in action off Harris, with the helicopter (also potentially up for sale) dropping off pumps on board a leaking fishing vessel, and the RNLI lifeboat escorting it into Stornoway. Without Coastguard facilities present, things might have been coordinated from Aberdeen, but with all respect to the Coastguards there, they are unfamiliar with the vagaries of the Outer Hebrides coastline. And without a helicopter, the crew of the fishing boat would have been in dire straits, if not in danger of their life.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A Scarp tragedy

The Stornoway Gazette writes on 27 December 1918:

A deep gloom was cast over the island of Scarp when the sad intelligence was received of the sudden death of Pte Donald Maclennan, Royal Engineers, on the 18th ult. Pte Maclennan had been ill for some time prior to enlistment and had only been five weeks in the Royal Engineers, stationed at Kingston-on-Thames. Great sympathy is extended throughout the whole township to his sisters in their sore bereavement. Deceased was of a very cheerful and obliging disposition, and was a great favourite among his wide circle of friends. He was the friend of everyone and everyone was his friend. Deceased was 43 years of age and was unmarried.

Pioneer D Maclennan
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Finlay Maclennan, of Scarp, Harris.
Regiment: Royal Engineers, Inland Waterways and Docks
Service number: WR/339099
Date of death: 15 November 1918 at the age of 44
Cemetery: Scarp Burial Ground
An image of his gravestone can be seen on this link, courtesy War Graves Photography Project.

Looking into Donald's family history, the 1901 Census sheds some light. The following individuals were found to reside at No 2 Scarp.

Finlay Maclennan, aged 56, crofter
Donald Maclennan, aged 25, fisherman
Euphennia Maclennan, aged 22, crofter's daur
Christina Maclennan, aged 19, crofter's daur
Mary Maclennan, aged 14, crofter's daur
George Maclennan, aged 12, scholar

The name Euphennia is probably mistranscribed from Euphemia; daur means daughter.

In the 1891 census, Finlay's wife, Catherine Maclennan, is mentioned with this family. There is also a son, Donald J Maclennan, two years younger than Donald, who is not present in 1901. The mother, Catherine, died in the early hours of the morning 14 November 1896, aged 51. She appears to have suffered a very serious accident; no doctor was present to certify her death which resulted from a fractured skull. The problems with access to Scarp led to the abandonment of the island by its last permanent inhabitants in 1971.

Monday, 6 December 2010

NHS Western Isles

It was reported last week that 19 top officials in the Western Isles Health Board earned more than £100,000 per annum. One or more apparently get a salary higher than that of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The top person earns more than their counterpart in NHS Greater Glasgow. Bearing in mind the budget shortfall that NHS WI is trying to reduce, it is quite unbelievable.

I have a suggestion to make. How about the said 19 obese felines decline to accept their salaries for the next 12 months, instead agreeing to allocate those funds to help wiping out the budget deficit.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


As some may be aware, two llamas have been around in the Ness area of Lewis for several months. They would go on walking treks on the beach at Eoropie and along the roads in the district.

Unfortunately, one of them was killed in a road traffic accident today. A motorcyclist collided with the animal, thereby sustaining broken bones and concussion himself. I am informed that the owner is understandably upset, and I am very sad that the unusual sight of Nico and Sam has now been removed from the roads of Ness. The blog about their activities has been cleared of content. I would also like to express my best wishes towards the speedy recovery of the rider, who required hospital treatment for his injuries.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Llamas at Skigersta, 19 July 2010"]Llamas at Skigersta, 19 July 2010[/caption]

In from the cold

Private Finlay Mclean was one of many soldiers who left the Isle of Lewis to serve in the British Army on the Western Front during the First World War. He was wounded in action and transferred to hospital in Glasgow for treatment, but he died on 5 May 1918, aged 27. Finlay had served with the 10th battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), and had latterly lived at 48 Milton Street, Partick, Glasgow with his wife Catherine, nee Ball.

Finlay was the second WW1 soldier from Lewis that was not on the registers of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Norman Morrison's case is still under consideration by the Ministry of Defense, but Finlay has come in from the cold. His name will be inscribed on a memorial for soldiers with no known burial place, at Brookwood, but I am searching for his grave - either in Glasgow or in Lewis. If I manage to locate it, a proper CWGC gravestone will be erected at Finlay's grave. [Any info about this welcome]

In memory of Pte Finlay Mclean, 16895 Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), died of wounds 5/5/1918.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


In recent months, I have been transcribing parts of the reports from the Napier Commission, whose findings were instrumental in bringing about major changes in land management and land ownership in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Having covered the Western and Northern Isles, I am now working my way through the reports for Sutherland, and this afternoon, I reached the evidence for Helmsdale. And, contained in the answer to question 38252 is vindication for my negative stance towards a statue, entitled "Exiles", which was erected near Helmsdale in July 2007.
38252. [Lord Napier, Chairman] Then you stated that the expatriated people, some of them, found their way to America, where they experienced a worse fate. What ground have you for believing that the emigrants generally experienced a worse fate ?

[Angus Sutherland, witness] The fate of my great-grandfather's family. My great-grandfather's family, except himself, all went out in Lord Selkirk's expedition to the Red River. My grandfather was married before he went out, and I have seen in my grandfather's house and my father's house a pile of correspondence describing the vicissitudes they underwent. They were left exposed on the north coast, and they had to find their way from Hudson's Bay to the Red River settlement; and they were exposed to the rigours of a lengthened winter, and, to crown all, the Indians came in and killed some of them, and the rest fled over the winter's snow to Canada. Only seven or eight managed to survive and settle in Canada afterwards.

I copy part of a post I made in July 2007, on the subject of the statue:
The statue [...] shows a family, leaving their homes for a new life overseas. Helmsdale lies at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan, one of many valleys in Sutherland cleared of their residents in the 19th century. The full background story can be read here.

Whilst I applaud the efforts of Mr Macleod (who initiated the project) to keep the memory of the Clearances alive, I somehow find the positive gloss being cast on this appalling episode in Scotland’s history very, very difficult to stomach.

It would appear, reading Angus Sutherland's words from 127 years ago, that those leaving Strath Kildonan met a far worse fate than remaining in northern Scotland would have brought. And it makes a complete mockery of the reasoning behind the erection of the statue.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Bàthadh Chunndail

This is an event in the history of Ness which occurred in 1885. Twelve fishermen were lost as they were setting out from the bay at Cunndal, west of Eoropie. Angus Morrison, 36 Eoropie, was the skipper and his remains were the last to be recovered from the sea. He was buried on the machair nearby, just above Eoropie Beach (Traigh Shanndaigh). A memorial cairn has been placed there.

Today, a ceremony was held at the Comunn Eachdraidh in Habost (Ness) to commemorate the loss, and to dedicate a new memorial cairn to remember all those lost, 125 years ago. The event was to have taken place at Traigh Shanndaigh, but due to the inclement weather it was relocated indoors.

I apologise for the scant information available, which is based on a reference in the report of the 2006 Ness Archeological Landscape Survey. Apparently, more info is held at the CE Nis office; if I learn more, I shall add it to this post.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Missing from the Lewis War Memorial

This story starts on 13th December 1866, when Kenneth Maciver, a fisherman from Coll, Isle of Lewis, wed his bride, Mary Munro, a domestic servant, living in the same village. Kenneth was the son of crofter Colin Maciver and Margaret Matheson. Mary was the daughter of grieve Alexander Munro and Janet Macdairmid.

Nearly fifteen years after their marriage, the enumerators for the 1881 census found Kenneth and Mary with their children Alexander (aged 13), James (11), Murdo (9), Donald (3) and Margaret (1). The child called Donald was born on 4 February 1878, and he is the subject of this article. Kenneth and Mary had twelve children in all, but by the beginning of 1917, only five were left alive.

On 14 April 1889, Kenneth and his family embarked the emigrant ship “Scandinavian” for Canada at Glasgow. They were among about 300 Scottish and Irish emigrants who were seeking a new life in the colonies. Upon arrival in Halifax, they proceeded inland and settled at the Lothian colony, 60 miles southeast of present-day Saskatoon.

Whilst still in his teens, Donald, now known as Dan, along with Malcolm Docherty (...) journeyed to Winnipeg and joined the Canadian Dragoons. On 19 October 1899, again at Winnipeg, he joined the Canadian Special Service Forces for the war in South Africa. Fourteen months and twenty-three campaigns later, he was discharged on Christmas Day 1900, bearing the Queen's Medal with four clasps (Paardeberg, Driefontein, Cape Colony and Transvaal).

Fourteen years later, the spectre of war once more descended over Europe and Daniel responded quickly. Six weeks after the outbreak of war, he enlisted at the Valcartier barracks in Quebec on 17 September 1914. On his attestation paper he was quoted as a Real-Estate Agent, with his father Kenneth Mcivor (sic) living in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan, although elsewhere Maciver senior is listed at Barvas, Saskatchewan. This hamlet is located a dozen miles north of Saltcoats. On enlistment, Daniel is described as 5 ft 10 (1.77 m) tall, of fair complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. A mole was seen at the centre of his back. He professes to be of the Presbyterian faith.

Daniel, an accomplished soldier by all accounts, does well on the fields of battle, and is promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major in the 5th battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment), the Fighting Fifth. He is Mentioned in Despatches twice, a distinction in itself. References to a Distinguished Conduct Medal being awarded to Daniel Maciver are, unfortunately, incorrect. He is offered to opportunity to return to Canada for further promotion, but he declines, wishing to remain “with the game”, to quote a contemporary newspaper cutting.

On 28th April 1917, the battle for Vimy Ridge is nearly over when Company Sergeant Major Daniel Maciver is killed in action. He was aged 41. The news took a few weeks to filter through to his father in Canada. It took another few weeks for the news to make it to the columns of the Stornoway Gazette. This is a transcript of that article, dated June 1917.

From the "Yorkton Enterpise" (Sask, Canada) to hand we cull the following:-
"Word was received by Mr Maciver, Saltcoats, on 19th May, that his son, Sergt Major Dan Maciver, D.C.M. of the Fighting Fifth battalion, had been killed in action. Dan, who was well known and a prime favourite throughout the district, was born at Coll, Lewis, Scotland, and came to Canada with his parents in 1889, settling in the Lothian Colony. Whilst still in his teens, Dan, along with Malcolm Docherty (now Major Docherty, DSO) journeyed to Winnipeg and joined the Canadian Dragoons. When the South African War broke out, he was one of the first to volunteer for active service, taking part in no less than twenty-three campaigns. At the outbreak of the present conflict Dan again showed his military spirit by enlisting and went overseas with the first contingent. After reaching France, he gave a splendid account of himself, and was promoted on the field to the rank of Sergt.-Major, being also frequently mentioned in despatches for bravery and coolness in action. Some time he was offered the chance to return to Canada for promotion, but preferred to stay with the game. His death is the fourth that has occurred in the family within the last five years, and he is survived by his parents and two brothers and two sisters out of a family of twelve."

A year last Christmas, Sergt.-Major Maciver paid a visit to the haunts of his youth at Coll, and needless to say had a very cordial welcome.[end of article]

Daniel Maciver was named Donald by his parents, but seems to have adopted Dan or Daniel as a first name in Canada. His surname appears to have modified a little as well; his service record in the Canadian Army is under the name of Mcivor. Taking all the historical documentation into account, there can be little doubt that this is the story of Daniel Maciver, a Lewis-born soldier who served with distinction, and made the supreme sacrifice for King and country.

It is therefore puzzling that his name was omitted from the war memorials at Stornoway and Back. Neither is he included in Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918. However, even the Lewis War Memorial does not list all the names of those lost in the Great War, and neither is the Roll of Honour comprehensive, complete and correct. However, it has transpired that he is also not listed in the first volume of the regimental history of The Royal Canadian Regiment (by Fetherstonaugh, covering 1883-1933).

Daniel Maciver is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and through an inscription on the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France.

Friday, 12 November 2010

To be remembered

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has put the details of Evander Macleod, who drowned in the torpedoing of HMS Otway in July 1917, neatly on its website. Following the heavy loss of Lewis sailors in that sinking, the Stornoway Gazette also made mention of their names. Evander has since slipped under the radar. The Roll of Honour, published in 1921, does not refer to his death; the Lewis War Memorial does not mention him, and neither does the Point War Memorial at Garrabost, only a few miles from his former home at 34 Lower Bayble.

The loss of life during WW1 was, proportionately, heavy in the Isle of Lewis, and it is only to be expected that a few unfortunates will be missed in transcription. I trust that in time for Remembrance Sunday, Evander will be given the proper place amongst the ranks of island men who made the supreme sacrifice during the Great War.

Last address in Lewis: 34 Lower Bayble
Son of Angus and Maggie MacLeod, of 34, Lower Bayble, Stornoway.
Service unit: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Otway
Service number: 4028B
Date of death: 22 July 1917 at the age of 34
Drowned in torpedoing of ship
Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 26

Thursday, 11 November 2010


Scottish and Southern Energy have announced that a decision on the interconnector, the subsea electricity cable, has been deferred. This means that the construction of various renewables projects in Lewis will be delayed as well. These vary from the Eishken and Pairc Windfarms to the Shader Barrage and community windfarms. Indirectly, it also affects the Pairc buy-out, which is inextricably linked to the proposed Pairc Windfarm.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has reacted angrily to the news, saying it will cost the island economy £2.5 million per annum.

I will only go so far as to say that an expression of regret would be sheer hypocrisy on my part. I only regret a delay to the Shader Barrage.

An MEP has commented, saying he intends to raise the profile of the interconnector at European level, in order that funding can be directed that way. He claims it is in the national interest.

Edited to include links and reference to MEP's comment

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Putting his age on

Many a youngster would tell a white lie when trying to enlist in the armed forces, early in the 20th century. It is referred to as "putting your age on", in other words, saying you're older than you are.

I found a good example in a Lewis soldier, James Macleod, who was born in Callanish as an illegitimate child. In February 1912, he enlisted with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, and told the recruiting officer he was 17 years and 2 months. As James was born on 24 January 1897, he was in fact not much older than 15 years and 2 weeks. His height was 5 feet 3½ inches and only weighed 120 lbs, 54 kg.

Six years after joining the Argylls, James was killed in action near Ypres on 8 May 1918. His body was never recovered, but his name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot memorial at Zonnebeke, 6 miles northeast of Ypres. A few days ago, I saw aerial footage from 1919 of the battlefields around Ypres, and of the village of Passchendaele, which was all but obliterated. After the Germans were pushed back from Ypres in 1917, they tried to regain their lost territory in 1918, but finally failed in September of that year.

This week, the website is offering free access to British army service records, which is how I managed to fill the gaps for James Macleod. His mother, Isabella, had moved to Stornoway by the time of the death of her son. When she gave birth, her occupation was marked as Domestic Servant. A few months after James had fallen, she wrote to the (Army) Records Office in Perth. I reproduce the text of the letter. Part of it is illegible due to a hole in the paper, as shown in the scan.

"Mrs Bella McLeod
8 Mackenzie Street

To Records Officer, Office Perth

Dear Sir,

Would you [...] me (his mother) of the late (killed in action (L/Cpl James Mcleod) 2 Bn Arg + Suth Hghns [Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders] Regt No S/43023 has any of his belongings come to hand. As far as I know, he had a wrist watch, Signet Ring, Pocket Folding mirror, Pocket Book or Wallet containing photos etc also a pocket knive [sic]. It would greatly oblige me if you could let me know at the earliest & how to  claim same.

I remain

Yours V. Truly

Mrs B. Mcleod"

The records do not relate whether the items, if any, were returned to Bella. She received a claims form, which was sent back to Perth, but that is were the records for James Macleod end.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Maritime safety (II)

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Red Duchess at Stornoway on 11 Nov. 2009, discharging coal"]Red Duchess at Stornoway on 11 Nov. 2009, discharging coal[/caption]

The merchant vessel Red Duchess lost engine power off the Isle of Rum this morning, but retains electrical power. It is currently southwest of the island, drifting towards Harris Bay. It is capable of lowering an anchor into 20 metres (70 feet) of water if necessary. The emergency tug Anglian Prince is on its way, but will take another five hours to reach the site of the emergency. A coastguard helicopter is on stand-by to airlift crew off the vessel if required.

The Red Duchess was on its way to Stornoway with a cargo of coal (hope nobody is desperate for coal just now).

This incident once more highlights the complete lunacy of withdrawing the cover provided by the MCA tugs.

Pairc buy-out

The longest running buy-out saga in the Western Isles, that of the Pairc Estate, continues to be a messy affair. Last Friday, the deadline passed for any submissions regarding this process, but the estate owner, Mr Lomas, continues to contrive obstructions for the buy-out bid to proceed. For instance, he is seeking to get more than £760,000 from the Pairc Trust for legal expenses in opposing their buy-out bid.

Today, EcoHeb, the association of community-owned renewable energy companies in the Western Isles, has urged the Scottish Government not to delay a decision on the Pairc buy-out any further.

I could not agree more.

The reason for Mr Lomas's procrastination is that a planning application for a windfarm on the Pairc Estate is also outstanding from the Scottish Government. An approval of that application would skyrocket the price of the estate, placing it beyond the financial means of the Pairc Estate.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

93 years ago

I've been scouring the Stornoway Gazette's archives for tributes to men from the island who had made the supreme sacrifice during the First World War. Apart from the sad litany of names, there are also unrelated articles about local news from the day.

From May 1917, I have a truncated article about a drowning at Lemreway. 9½ year old Norman Matheson had slipped in the waters of the harbour when he and some of his friends were playing with paper boats. It is thought he had climbed on an old hulk, and must have slipped. He was apparently not missed until nightfall - which is quite late in the evening in May. Bearing in mind the history of movement of people to and from that village, I wonder if the story of Norman's drowning is still around in Lemreway.

Messages in bottles have become somewhat rare, but in 1917 one washed up on the island of Coll, west of the isle of Mull. I copy the message: "Whoever the finder of this bottle may be, please notify Mrs Mackinnon, 42 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, that her nephew Alex. Mackinnon, with two shipmates, were wrecked on an island in one of the Canaries. He belonged to the four-masted sailing-ship 'Hague' from Rotterdam to Rio de Janeiro. He and his two shipmates are still on the island - 3rd Nov. 1916. May the blessing of the Lord be with us. A Mackinnon, D. Maclennan, E. Smith". The Gazette says: "The letter is somewhat perplexing as Mrs Mackinnon has no nephew residing away from Lewis, but has a brother, Alex, last heard of in Toronto. Inquiries are being made through the Custom Authorities".

I shall probably not come across the outcome of that tantalising tidbit from all those years ago. Fancy being stranded on Tenerife and only being able to communicate by message-in-a-bottle - just can't do it, can you?

Maritime safety

The Coastguard and Maritime Agency has announced that the tug Anglian Sovereign, which has been patrolling  the Minch in recent years, will be withdrawn from that duty next year. The tug was stationed in the waters between the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland for safety purposes. The Minch is often used as a passage by large vessels (e.g. oil tankers and bulk carriers) at times of adverse weather conditions, and the tug was posted in the Minch to be able to render immediate assistance if any of these ships got into difficulties. I recall at least one such vessel being kept off the rocks by the Coastguard tug in recent years, and I dread to think what might happen now.

This service cut is part of the Government spending review, announced today.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Anglian Sovereign leaving Stornoway on 4 June 2009"]Anglian Sovereign leaving Stornoway on 4 June 2009[/caption]

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


In the compilation of "Faces from the Lewis War Memorial" (which remembers the Fallen from the Isle of Lewis in World War I), there are quite a few names with very little information. It sometimes takes a little bit of effort to disentangle the web and let the light from the past shine more clearly. An example.

The Roll of Honour mentions an Iver Maciver from 9 North Shawbost, who, serving with the Canadians, died of wounds in 1916 at the age of 21. I just couldn't cross reference him - not with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, not with the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, and not with the CEF records on Libraries and Archives Canada either.

Until this evening. Looking at the page for North Shawbost again, it occurred to me that Kenneth Maciver, also quoted at 9 North Shawbost, might be the brother of "Iver". Kenneth Maciver is reported to have been born at Lochcarron, so I did a search on ScotlandsPeople for Macivers in Lochcarron around 1895 - and who came out but Evander Maciver. Born to the same parents as Kenneth.

Using the sources quoted above, I now search for Evander Maciver, dying in 1916 - and this was the result:

Last address in Lewis: 9 North Shawbost,
Son of John and Isabella Maciver, of Carnan House, Shawbost, Stornoway. Born at Lochcarron, Ross-shire.
Service unit: 52nd Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Service number: 440086
Date of death: 9 July 1916 at the age of 21
Died of wounds
Interred: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, grave VIII. C. 6
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Evander was born at Lochcarron, northeast of Kyle, on 9 August 1894
When he enlisted for service, in the Manitoba town of Sewell in Canada, he stood 5 ft 5 in tall.
He is described as of fair complexion and fair-haired with light blue eyes.
Evander was a Presbyterian, and a carpenter by trade.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Local loss

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Lewis resident Linda Norgrove, who was killed in Afghanistan today. Linda, aged 36, grew up in Mangersta, in the Uig district of Lewis. When I called into the shop at Timsgarry (Uig) this afternoon, I was told of the news, which had not reached me until then. The newsmedia were buzzing around the place, which must have made a painful loss that little bit more hard to come to terms with. The identity of the captive had not previously been released, although local news media in this island did intimate that she was from Lewis.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Fallen from aloft

I am presently trawling the archives of the Stornoway Gazette, looking for tributes to men who fell in the service of King and country during the First World War. The Gazette was not published until January 1917, meaning that the first half of the Great War was not covered. The tributes are incorporated into my WW1 tribute site "Faces from the Lewis War Memorial" (link leads to page with links to tributes).

Apart from that, I have also come across a tragic accident, in which a sailor was killed on board his ship. The Gazette reported on 4 May 1917 that the Norwegian barque Yuba had been brought in for inspection. The captain reported that he had found one of his seaman lying dead on the deck. He had gone up the rigging in the dark, and had evidently fallen from aloft. The remains were buried at Sandwick Cemetery.

I intend to visit Sandwick Cemetery to find that sailor's grave, and have also found out that the Yuba did not outlive its unfortunate crewmember for very long. German U boat U-50 torpedoed the sailing ship some five weeks later, on 7 June 1917, 110 miles north of Stornoway. The ship was reported to have been en route from Savannah (Georgia, USA) to Aarhus (Denmark). No lives were lost in the attack. The U-boat was destroyed by a mine off the Dutch island of Terschelling on 31 August 1917, with the loss of all hands.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Mangersta buy-out bid

The people of Mangersta in Uig (Lewis), pop. 29, has mounted a bid to take the village and its common grazings (more than 9,000 acres) into commounity ownership. At the moment, the area is owned by Uig & Hamnaway Estates. Urras Mhangurstadh (The Mangersta Trust) was formed and incorporated as a company limited by guarantee. This enabled the body to lodge a formal bid with the Scottish Government under the terms of the Land Reform Act (2003).

The Mangersta Trust has said that it aims to halt the population decline suffered by Uig by creating employment and supporting crofting. The Trust hopes to come to a fruitful cooperation with the sitting landlords, leading to a benefit for both community trust and estate. They have taken soundings in the island of Gigha, which was taken over into community ownership in the 1990s.

It is worth noting that the St Kilda Centre is to be built at Mangersta, on a location south of the village near Islivig.

As a long-standing supporter of the community buy-out movement in Scotland I naturally welcome this news, and bearing in mind the Uig & Hamnaway Estates' cooperation with the people of Uig (with regards to the shop), I have every hope that this venture can be established in an amicable and mutually beneficial way.

More information on this on Hebrides Today.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


The overwhelming and recurring theme of my nearly five years as Arnish Lighthouse has been: windfarms. And once again, not to be defeated (or not to be seen to be defeated), a large windfarm development has been launched. Its environmental impact has been published at any rate. A 50-turbine development on land, which has been cleared for such a development, namely in the Bermuda triangle, otherwise known as the tract of pristine Lewis moor, bordered by the Lochs Road in the east, the Pentland Road to the north and west, and the Cleascro Road to the south. A community coordinator is to be appointed by Stornoway Trust, the landowners. All very noble endeavours, I'm sure, for an enterprise that nobody really wants. For such was one of the outcomes of the AMEC windfarm in North Lewis, which foundered on an EU habitat designation a few years ago.

I just cannot get over the blinkered approach adopted by those in local government in Lewis who do not seem to get the message that on-shore windfarms are (to quote an internet contact) "so yesterday" and so not wanted. Worse than that, over the past couple of years, novel sources of renewable energy have risen above the horizon of technical feasibility. How about that tidal barrage at Shader (Barvas)? How about the tidal generator that was lowered into the Pentland Firth off Caithness recently? And since that episode in March this year, when the output of all of Scotland's windfarms was enough to boil 1,000 kettles, I have comprehensively gone off the idea of adopting windfarms as a credible source for our energy requirements.

By all means, Stornoway Trust, adopt a policy of encouraging renewable energy. But please, don't be so narrow in your scope. You won't be the one whose pockets will be lined through this windfarm. You'll be left with the mirrors and beads - whilst the fat cats in the energy industry will grow even fatter.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Napier Commission Report

Over the past few months, I have been transcribing the findings of the Napier Commission into the conditions of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. So far I have covered the Western Isles and Skye; I am now going through the evidence for Shetland. Maybe of interest to Island Bloggers out there?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


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

For hundreds of years, the seaweed growing on the shorelines of these islands have provided a source for various materials.

Economically, the kelp became a major contributor towards the economy of the Scottish islands in the 19th century. Napoleon's navy was blockading the United Kingdom 200 years ago, and there was no way that the source material for gunpowder, dried bird droppings, scraped from rocks off the coast of South America (guano), could reach the UK. So, kelp was required and used in huge quantities. Dried and processed in kilns, it reduced to potassium nitrate (potash), which is a base material for gunpowder.

When the Napoleonic wars were over, the shipping lanes opened up and guano quickly supplanted kelp as a source for potash. It was overall a lot cheaper than the labour intensive harvested kelp. The latter was therefore no longer needed, and the price plummeted. It meant severe economic hardship for many islanders, and when the potato famine occurred in the 1840s, it prompted a mass exodus to foreign parts. Kelp continued to be used as a fertiliser on the lazybeds, used by many islanders for growing their crops. In fact to this day, seaweed is being used for that purpose.

A few years ago, a factory opened within the precinct of the Arnish Fabrication Yard, which processes seaweed for various uses, varying from agriculture to the food industry.

Local news website Hebrides Today has announced that seaweed will now also be processed at the Creed Park recycling plant on the Lochs Road (the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road), 2 miles south of Stornoway. The endproduct will be natural gas (methane), which will power vehicles.

From explosives to fuel - seaweed is making a come-back.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Nicolson Institute

Just sharing a few images of the area around the Nicolson Institute on Springfield Road in Stornoway. The Pink School, Springfield South, has been knocked down - this is one of the necessities for the building of a new Nic. As the pictures show, this permits some novel views. For a while, at any rate.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="500" caption="Springfield North, Nicolson Institute"]Springfield North, Nicolson Institute[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The demolished Pink School with the Comhairle offices behind"]The demolished Pink School with the Comhairle offices behind[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Springfield North seen over the remains of Springfield South"]Springfield North seen over the remains of Springfield South[/caption]

Monday, 30 August 2010

Pairc buy-out

More developments on the Eastern Front, also known as the Pairc community buy-out bid. I am linking to the article on Hebrides News, but do draw the conclusion that the landlord, Barry Lomas, is actively working to thwart the buy-out bid by every means possible. Apart from that, he is also working to divide the community amongst itself by manipulating those who are ill at ease with the Pairc Community Trust to put out inaccurate information.

According to the latest information, Mr Lomas is seeking a judicial review of the buy-out bid, compensation totalling £760,000 should the bid be thrown out and tried to separate the renewable energy rights from the lands.

This is the first instance that the Land Reform Act has been used in anger, in that a community will force an unwilling landowner to sell his estate. As a long-standing supporter of the community buy-out movement in Scotland I fully endorse the Pairc Trust in its efforts to wrench control of the Pairc Estate from its current owner. I also hope that a decision on the Pairc Windfarm will be delayed by Scottish ministers until this dispute is resolved, as approval of said windfarm would place the estate beyond the financial reach of the Pairc Trust.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


On Saturday (August 27th), Dave Macleod and Tim Emmett climbed Sron Uladail in North Harris. It took them six hours to climb this 600 feet high outcrop, an event televised live on BBC 2 Scotland. Apart from the climbing, which was hair-raising to watch, there was also a nice bit of information about the culture and natural environment of Harris. Although it was "only" televised in Scotland and BBC HD, it was satisfying to see a bit of promotion for the southern part of the Long Island.

Picture copyright Robert Reglinski, used with permission from copyright holder

St Kilda - 80 years on

the villagers of St Kilda were packing up their belongings, before leaving the island of their birth forever. Some left a bowl of grain on the table, with the Bible open at the chapter of Exodus. A community, a culture, a way of life was coming to a close after thousands of years. Life on their outpost in the Atlantic had become untenable, to their minds, and the Hiorteachs had requested their own removal. The steamer Harebell took them to Oban, thence on to Lochaline or on to Glasgow.

A lot has been written about St Kilda, with insights changing as the years and researches progress.  Someone has recently mooted the idea to repopulate the islands with permanent inhabitants - an idea that is as fanciful as it is unrealistic. Even today, with modern, powerful boats, it is not always possible to cross the sea to the islands. In the past, there would be no communication with St Kilda for 8 months of the year, due to the severity of the weather and the ocean. That has not changed.

Work is in progress to establish a St Kilda Centre at Mangersta in Lewis, where culture and history of St Kilda will be remembered. For it is no longer alive.

Image courtesy

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="MV Isle of Lewis, 13 December 2009"]MV Isle of Lewis, 13 December 2009[/caption]

Calmac, our ferry operator, could face prosecution under pollution laws over the exhaust fumes of the Isle of Lewis ferry. Since this boat was converted to burning heavy fuel oil last year, it has been belching out thick fumes every day, prior to departure. Those who are ever in Stornoway town centre at ferry departure time, when there's a southerly wind, will be familiar with the sight and smell of the ferry's exhaust fumes. The picture from December 2009 shows it all. Calmac has declined to comment.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


The Arnish Lighthouse is pleased to note that it has won critical acclaim in the most recent posting on The (Made Up) History of Stornoway journal. In a run-down of SY rhyming slang, the Arnish Light is equated to a Load of Sh*te, so talking Arnish is talking a - you know what I'm saying.

Conversely, saying someone is an Arnish Welder actually means that he is a Church Elder. Well, that would make a bonny one. An Arnish Welder talking Arnish. Right.


The Arnish Fabrication Yard has received an order for a tidal energy generator device, which will be trialled in the sea narrows between the islands of Islay and Jura. This is good news, as they are presently completing their last order on the books. Over the past few weeks, two barges with attendant tugs have been moored at the quayside in Glumag Harbour, presumably being loaded with products from the yard. The below photo shows the arrival of the first barge, towed by the Pegasus.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Tug Pegasus and barge, 28 July 2010"]Tug Pegasus and barge, 28 July 2010[/caption]

A major news item in the Outer Hebrides generally has been the breakdown of the ferry MV Clansman during July. It suffered a failure in its engine, which required the thing to be taken apart and put back in again. It took them so long - and I'm being cheeky here - because upon reassembly of the engine, they had a screw left over. It was not funny for the people in Barra and Uist, who suffered a 30% downturn in tourism trade. The Uisteachs are now clamouring for the link between Lochboisdale and Mallaig to be implemented. It would nearly halve their seaborne travel times, and even the longer road journey (145 miles from Mallaig to Glasgow, as opposed to 95 from Oban) would still leave them with a shorter journeytime overall.

It was brought to my attention that the occupant of the Keeper's Cottage at the Arnish Lighthouse recently died. Who will take over is as yet not clear. I am indebted to the person concerned for giving me a little of the history of the peninsula, including an image of the old Kildun Cottage, which stood on a hill where now the main building of the Fabrication Yard sits. Should it be possible to restore the cottage to its former location, you'd find it floating up in the air. The cottage was burned in the 1970s, prior to the construction of the yard.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Kildun House, pre-1970s"]Kildun House, pre-1970s[/caption]

I have spent the past two weeks on several forays around Lewis and Harris, in spite of the weather. Summer here has been virtually non-existent, apart from the fact that the temperatures were in the mid 60s (upper teens C) most of the time. I'll post pics of those trips in separate posts. Other activities have included the completion of the transcriptions of the minutes of the Napier Commission, sitting in the Outer Hebrides in the spring of 1883. I am presently compiling an index of the whole report, a mammoth task by any standard. The first instalment can be viewed on this link.

My activities on war history have continued as well, with the compilation of a website, which lists the names of men from Lewis, known to have served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War. Trawling through the attestation papers throws up some intriguing gems. Why was one man (from Lewis) deemed to be 'undesirable'? What happened to the little man from Lewis (4 ft 11) who tried to join up twice, in two different towns 20 miles apart? What was the story behind the trapper from the Northwest Territories who died in hospital in Edmonton, after being apprehended for not answering the compulsory call-up for war service in 1917?

I would like to close this post by congratulating our Man at the Helm (Les) on his successful transfer from deepest Staffordshire to the wilds of Newmarket, Stornoway. By all accounts, he is enjoying himself. Hope all goes well with the new place in Suardail, Les.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Lady Matheson's Memorial

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Lady Matheson's Memorial"]Lady Mathesons Memorial[/caption]

This small memorial stands prominently above Cuddy Point in Stornoway. It is a memorial to Sir James Matheson, proprietor of Lewis from 1844 until his death in 1878, erected by his wife. The memorial was recently restored and a ceremony was held to celebrate the event.

Sir James was a controversial figure in history, both on the international (opium) and national stages. In recent times, I have transcribed the findings of the Napier Commission into the conditions of crofters in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, which took place in 1883. His chamberlain, William Mackay, waxes lyrical about Sir James' achievements, listing all the improvements he has made in his 34 years in the Lews in reply to question 16833 on the link here. Be warned: it is a lengthy statement.

By the time of the Napier Commission's visit to Lewis in June 1883, Sir James Matheson had been dead for five years. His wife, Lady Mary Jane Matheson, showed herself to be a less than sympathetic landowner. Another blogger from Lewis ("Croft") has written a good summary why that description is apt.

It is beyond me why the memorial to the Mathesons was restored and their memory lauded in recent years. It is my personal opinion that Sir James and Lady Matheson have been a disaster for Lewis, and a disaster for Great Britain.

I'm closing with some correspondence, quoted at the Napier Commission's hearing at Keose on 12 June 1883. It is worth pointing out that 14 months passed between the first letter and Lady Matheson's inexecrable reply.

Mr Cameron and Mr Fraser-Mackintosh are members of the Napier Commission; Mr Mackay is chamberlain to the Lews Estate.

[Question 17454]
22nd Nov. 1881.
—Unto Lady Matheson, liferent proprietrix of the island of Lewis, residing at Lewis Castle.
—We, the undersigned fishermen, labourers, and royal naval reserve men residing in the villages of Gravir, Calbost, and Marvic, in the parish of Lochs, Lewis, understanding that the present lease of the farm of Park, Lochs, expires at Whitsunday 1883, would take the liberty of approaching your Ladyship on the subject. At present we are either squatters, or hold small patches of land from other crofters in these villages, all of which are quite inadequate for the support of ourselves and families; and unless some means are devised to extend our holdings, to enable us to support our families, we must either have to emigrate or become a burden to the estate; and that, in the opinion of the undersigned, were a portion of the land of Park farm, which comprises the low land adjacent to the sea, let to crofters and fishermen, the doing so would not militate against or depreciate the farm for shooting, sporting, and other purposes. The undersigned would therefore most respectfully solicit that the portions of the land of Park farm, known as Orinsay and Steamerra, on the north side of Lochshell, which were at one time let to tenants, be set aside in order to be let to the undersigned in such lots or parts, and at such reasonable rents, as may be arranged under the management of your chamberlain or other officers. Should the prayer of the petitioners be granted, they will bind themselves to conform to and obey all the rules and regulations of the estate, and submit to any new rules that may be considered necessary; and further, so far as they themselves are concerned, they bind themselves to do all they can to protect the interests of the proprietrix and the sporting tenant or tenants occupying the farm of Park and adjacent lands. Copy petition signed by thirty-two fishermen.'

—Calbost, Lochs, by Stornoway, 23rd December 1882.
—Lady Matheson of the Lews, Honoured Lady, On behalf of a number of fishermen residing at Calbost, &c. Lochs, I beg leave most respectfully to send you herewith copy of a petition addressed by us to your Ladyship through Mr Mackay, chamberlain of Lewis last January, and to which we had no reply. May I take the liberty of asking that you be so good as let the petitioners know your own views regarding the matters contained in the petition. I have the honour to be, your Ladyship's obedient servant, KENNETH NICOLSON

Park, Parish of Lochs, 5th December 1882.
—William M'Kay, Esq., chamberlain of Lewis, Sir, Understanding last year that Mr P. Sellars' lease of the Park farm was on the eve of expiring, we addressed to you a petition, signed by thirty-two inhabitants of this part of the parish, with reference to that subject. We have patiently waited for the last twelve months for your reply, having called for the same at your office repeatedly to no purpose. We most respectfully request a reply in writing, so that we may consider what steps should be taken so as to secure our object. We expect that the prayer of said petition has been favourably received by Lady Matheson and all concerned, and that our very distressing condition, which is becoming more and more serious, may induce you to give us an opportunity of earning an honest livelihood in our native island, specially when such a suitable opening occurs. Waiting your reply, in name and on behalf of said petitioners, we respectfully remain your obedient servants, KENNETH NICOLSON, KENNETH M' KAY, KENNETH M'LEOD, JOHN M'LEOD, RODERICK M'KENZIE, ANGUS MORRISON, DONALD M'KENZIE, DONALD KENNEDY, ANGUS M' PHAIL , &c.

To certain of the fishermen, labourers, and royal naval reserve men residing in the villages of Gravir, Calbost, and Maravich, in the parish of Lochs, Lews.—Lady Matheson regrets that the above named respectable class of Lewis men should have been led to address her on a subject of such importance as that contained in their petition by adding to it a letter which causes her to set aside their request, as Lady Matheson is too devoted to her Queen and the laws of which Her Gracious Majesty is the representative, to listen for one moment to a petition accompanied by a threat from them to infringe the laws by which all are governed, and by the support of which, as individuals, the well-being of the land and its communities at large can alone be promoted.—13 Cleveland Row, St James's, London, 3rd January 1883.']

17455. Mr Cameron.
—Where is the letter containing the threat referred to by Lady Matheson ?
—So far as I understand, all the papers are there, and you yourselves can judge whether there is a threatening letter among them. I myself am of belief the people have not threatened. I am convinced they uttered no threats ; but it may be put in this way, that if they did not get their request they might persist in asking it.

17456. Mr Fraser-Mackintosh [to Mr Mackay.
—Have you a copy of the letter that was sent with the original reply ?
Mr Mackay.
—No, I never saw the reply from Lady Matheson.

17457. But the paper says the original petition was sent to you?
—I got more than one petition, and I sent them to Lady Matheson.

17458. Do you recollect ever seeing any letter or paper in the form of a threat?
—No. There was a petition presented to me at one time which I sent to Lady Matheson—a second petition—and I remarked to the people that Lady Matheson had refused it already, and it was in vain to apply, but that I would send the petition. They remarked that they would have it, should they lose their blood.

17459. Was that by the word of mouth ?
—By word of mouth.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Switched off

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

Fifty minutes ago, just after midnight, the signals for the remaining analogue channels from the Eitsal transmitter at Achmore were switched off. Their frequencies will now be allocated to more digital channels for the benefit for Freeview users across Lewis and parts of mainland Scotland. It brings to an end 38 years of analogue broadcasting from Eitsal, which had brought colour television to Lewis in 1972.

From 1959 until 1972, a mast above the Marybank Quarry, just west of Stornoway, had received the signal from a mainland transmitter. This was then piped across town, courtesy Messrs Donnie Maciver and Fred Dart. Their shop in Francis Street closed down in 2007. Although TV and radio signals continue to emanate from Eitsal, I feel that an era has come to an end in the island.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Hebridean Celtic Festival

Last night, Saturday night, I attended a concert by folk-rock band Runrig, which was the star attraction for the Hebridean Celtic Festival this year There appear to have been 5,000 people in the big blue tent (this picture from 2007)

What was not very well organised was the provision of refreshments. Runrig last played in Stornoway in 2005, and at the time, the concert lasted until 1 am. Bearing that in mind, I purchased a token for a beverage  in advance, and joined the queue upon arriving at the venue. It took 90 minutes for me to reach the bar. I am kicking myself for the stupidity of waiting, because I missed half the concert as a result. However, it should not take all that time to serve drinks at a concert like this, and it was poorly organised. Runrig played only for two hours, running off an easy run of old ditties, and only three Gaelic songs. The whole experience left me very disappointed and disgruntled.

What has not affected me directly, but is another major gripe, is the lack of accommodation. The whole of the HCF, which ran from Wednesday until last night, has probably attracted 20,000 people. The problem of beds becomes apparent if you bear in mind that the total population of Stornoway is about 9,000, and that of the whole island of Lewis 20,000. A lot of people ended up camping, but, as my blogposts have intimated, the weather has been singularly inclement this week. Camping isn't really enjoyable - and in addition, the terrain around the big tent was quite muddy. One acquaintance of mine was injured in a fall, resulting from the bogginess.

I'm beginning to reach the conclusion that it is fantastic to have an event like HCF here in Lewis, but the number of people it attracts is too big for this island and this town to cope with.

Friday, 9 July 2010


I have used the title of this post advisedly, and I hope nobody in Point will take this too personally. The Norwegian energy company Statoil has proposed to build two windfarms in the Minch, off Bayble and between Ness and Cape Wrath. The structures, towering 100 metres above the water and an equal length below, would be build in clusters. Each turbine is anchored to the seabed. The people in Point have voiced their opposition, as it would spoil the view. Hmm. Isn't it the community enterprise Point and Sandwick Power that is proposing to build a windfarm off the Pentland Road - and that is NOT going to spoil the view?

Anyway, the Bayble windfarm will be linked to the Gravir interconnector (do I detect another attempt to justify the construction of the interconnector?) to the mainland.

The Stornoway Gazette, in its edition of 8 July, published the results of an unofficial poll, which revealed that 82% of respondents were opposed to the construction of a(nother) large windfarm in Lewis. I think the same applies to offshore. I appreciate that there would be a large element of NIMBY'ism about, but I see no benefit to the island for the Minch windfarms. And the recent problems with no wind just served to underline the folly in overreliance on wind-energy.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Eishken East

Eishken Estate owner Nick Oppenheim has unveiled plans to build 6 turbines in addition to the recently approved Muaitheabhal windfarm, consisting of 33 turbines. 1% of revenue from this windfarm, entitled Eishken East, will be placed into a community fund by Mr Oppenheim.

Although I do not (yet) know the geographical location of this community windfarm, it would appear to be resulting from the cheese slicer policy adopted by Mr O. Initially, he had wanted to build more than 100 turbines on his estate, but eventually pared it down to 33. Building subsequent, much smaller windfarms (under the banner of community benefit) makes it easier to go through the planning processes. And knowing the preferences of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, this will certainly be rubberstamped.

It is plain to see that we're going to be landed with the mirrors and beads, whilst the natural resources of this island are being laid waste. Although we're having a gale today, there is no guarantee that the windturbines will always be able to operate. Events in the Isle of Eigg, nearly totally relying on renewable energy, this week showed the reliability of wind energy. There was no wind, and there was no rain for weeks either, leaving the Eiggeach to switch on their much maligned diesel generators.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Stornoway Windfarm

Two years ago, the Scottish Government refused planning permission for a 181-turbine windfarm stretching from Port of Ness in the north of Lewis through Bragar south to Stornoway. The developers, AMEC, have now announced they are considering a smaller development of some 30 turbines, stretching from the Pentland Road in the north to Achmore and Loch Leurbost in the south and points east of this line across the Arnish Moor to the coast. Hebrides News, which is the source of this story, points out the environmental impact this development is likely to have - and that the same arguments for rejection will apply that were used in 2008 against AMEC's larger developments further north.

AMEC have also not booked 'space' on the Gravir to Dundonnell interconnector, as they were originally going to put in a cable linking the former development to Hunterston, 250 miles away in Ayrshire.

I gather that the Stornoway Trust would be quite happy to have this development in its territory - and I dig up the phrases I used in the years 2005-2008 when voicing my opposition to the big windfarm on this blog. Blinded by money, with hopefully good intentions of furthering the island's economy in mind - but likely to be taken to the cleaners by AMEC.

I wonder when people are going to learn from their mistakes. Are we going to be in for another number of years of wasted money on developments that are going to be turned down at any rate? It was clear that the 181-turbine plan was going to be turned down from the moment the planning application was lodged - as the Comhairle should have known. I'm sure they are going to rubberstamp this fantastic development as they have done with the Eishken windfarm - and they are once more going to come out with egg on their faces at the end of the process.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Town Hall refurbishment

There has been a silence of several months surrounding the controversial refurbishment of Stornoway Town Hall. Hebrides News is now reporting that the Scottish Government has passed the plans, as submitted and later amended by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. The group of people who are opposed are incensed and have lodged complaints with the Standards Commission against the Comhairle. Individual officials and councillors are also being investigated for possible censure over their handling of the plans.

I won't go over old ground again, save to restate my non-opposition to the refurbishment plans.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Tidebell installed

Following a flutter of comments on a post on the proposed Time and Tide Bell at Bosta, dated 18 January this year, I thought I'd better bring matters up to date. Today's Stornoway Gazette reports on the inauguration of the Bell last Saturday, and by all accounts (including those in the comments section on my January post), it was a great and well attended event.

I want to make it clear that my initial posting was my view on the proposal for the Bell. Now that the installation is in place, it only remains for me to express my wish that it will draw more people to Bernera to see the beauty of Bosta, apparently none the worse for the bell on the beach.

I want to make an observation on the matter of formal objections to the planning application for the Bell. It was suggested that only "English" people, not long resident in Bernera (or Lewis for that matter) had lodged formal objections. I'm conversant with the phenomenon of the white settler (not meaning the Island Blogger of that name), who wishes to stifle change in order to maintain the quaint atmosphere of cosy decay. Some private landowners in the northwest of Scotland are / were good at that. Many people come to stay in the Outer Hebrides as a last vestige of pure wildness, nature untamed &c, and would not like to see that image tainted. I suppose my own objection to the Time & Tide Bell fell into that category.

However, I do not feel it is quite in order to single out individuals for being "English", "Scottish" or whatever. Those who live in Lewis do so by choice, or by virtue of birth. Their provenance is irrelevant. Whether your cradle stood in Breacleit, Braemar or Bromsgrove - if you live in Lewis, you're an islander.

Oh for goodness sakes, AL, get real. People will pidgeonhole :-)

Friday, 4 June 2010

Pairc buy-out

The community buy-out in Pairc, now running into its 6th year, is twisting into the strangest contortions. After attempting to allegedly spread misinformation amongst those in the community who are not very happy with the Pairc Trust (the body conducting the buy-out process), the landlord is now presenting a bill for a trifling three-quarter of a million pound to the Trust. Failing that, to the Scottish Government.

I tend to agree with the Pairc Trust that the estate owner is now finally revealing his true colours, if they had not already been patently clear beforehand. The community buy-out in Pairc (South Lochs) is taking an inordinate amount of time, with many attempts at thwarting and frustrating the process.

I hope the Scottish Government will finally put its money where its mouth is and bankroll the Pairc Trust rather than the outgoing landlord.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Napier Commission's visit to St Kilda

On August 29th this year, it will be 80 years ago since the people of St Kilda left their native isle, never to return (to live there). They had requested to be removed as life there had become untenable. It is perhaps noteworthy to read the submissions to the Napier Commission, which visited St Kilda in June 1883. The replies by the three people who were called to give evidence have been transcribed into separate postings on the blog. Read the entries first, then return here, I ask.

In order to get an idea of the attitude of the "have's" versus the "have-nots" of the day, I copy a few lines from a submission from the factor for St Kilda, in effect the landowner's manager of the islands. John T. Mackenzie was not a bad man, as he did not pressurise any people if they could not pay the rent. Others in his position  would have their tenants evicted in case of default.
[...] the " land question" to a great extent is in the hands of educated people, who know the danger of breaking the law, and who are responsible for their own actions. The crofter grievance is the " land question " in another form, but in the hands of a class who, fancying they have some hardships, know not what to do, but who are under the guidance and advice of irresponsible and, I am afraid in many cases, of thoughtless leaders, eager to gain notoriety through the simplicity and credulity of their followers

If you feel anger when seeing condescension and arrogance at such a breathtaking degree, stop for a minute and reflect upon the era we're talking about. In the Great Britain of 1883, there was a gaping divide between classes in society. St Kilda people were regarded as "noble savages", who could not look after themselves, and needed the benevolent hand of an educated and munificent landowner to guide their ignorant ways. Looking at this from a 21st century perspective, it is in fact the landowners who contributed in no mean proportion to the plight of their tenants - as the Napier Commission was finding out in 1883. Not all lairds were bad and evil, and neither were all their agents.

I can tell you that I have found the attitude, stated in the blockquote from John T. Mackenzie above, echoed to this day in certain quarters of those studying the social history of the Highlands and Islands. I am still angry at the Scottish First Minister who hailed the achievements of the emigrant Highlanders overseas, without making reference to the fact that many of them were kicked out under the most excruciating circumstances. Achievements that certainly deserve to be acknowledged - but why were they not allowed to make them at home.

I'll get off my high horse now.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sunday drinking

The Stornoway Golf Club is applying for a license to serve alcohol on and off the premises on Sundays. Hebrides News reports that four objections have been lodged, mainly on religious and social grounds. I actually agree with these arguments, which center on the assertion that providing carry-outs contribute towards anti-social behaviour. The low point of the week in my radio listening is Isles FM on Monday morning, listing all the misdeeds of the weekends, perpetrated mainly under the influence of alcohol between Friday and Sunday.

I wish to make it clear that I am not opposed to the consumption of alcohol as such - I am not averse to a glass of beer, wine or spirits at times myself. However, I feel a degree of double-standards in the issue of the Golf Club license creeping in, hence this post.

Either there is Sunday opening in all licensed premises in Stornoway - or all licensed premises are shut on Sunday. If the Golf Club is denied its license, then all licenses for the serving of alcoholic drink on Sunday should be revoked from all the licensed premises in the town.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Canadian connection

Out of the 1300 Lewismen who lost their lives in the First World War, one in ten served in a Canadian regiment. This proportion applies in fact to the entire contingent of 6,200 Lewismen who served in WW1. I have extracted their names from the Faces from the Lewis War Memorial website and transcribed whatever further information I could glean from Library & Archives Canada. The result is a new tribute site, entitled Lewismen in Canadian service.

A note on the above poster, which is so pertinent in this context. The names given on the Union Jack are in fact battlefields on the Western Front, which claimed many lives. The inference at the time was of course which other famous battlefields would be a source for glory for the Canadians. Ninety-five years on, it reads more like "which other fields of slaughter will be added to the list, how many thousands more will die?" I can understand that the number of volunteers dropped off after 1915 / 1916, and that the military draft was introduced in 1917. Neither am I surprised that I found at least two men who absconded and were subsequently arrested. One disappeared altogether and was written off the strength of the force.

Monday, 3 May 2010

From Brunigil to Stiomrabhagh

I spent the afternoon mapping the villages of Pairc, which were cleared in 1821. Using an old map and modern satellite imagery, I could locate Brunigil, Stromos, Airigh Dhomhnuill Chaim, Rias, Scaladale Beag and Mor, Gilvicphaic, Ceannmore, Bagh Ciarach and Bagh Reimsabhaigh, Bunchorcabhig, Glenclaidh, Smosivig, Caolas an Eilean, Valamus and Valamus Beag, Ceann Chrionaig, Brollum, Hamascro, Mol Truisg, Molhagearraidh, Ailtenish, Buhanish, Gearraidh Righsaidh, Ceann Tigh Shealag, Gearraidh Reastail and Stiomrabhagh.

These foreign sounding names once meant home to small groups of people, scattered on the periphery of an area of mountainous moorland, whose highest peak, Beinn Mor, crests 1,700 feet. You can access the map on this link to find out which village each marker represents. Looking at the linked map, you can switch over to satellite view and zoom right into the marker. It will show a ruined house, homestead or even farmhouse. Kinloch Shell (Ceann Tigh Shealag) used to host an inn where the men from the district would come to drink. The ribbed appearance of the land is an indication of the runrig (or lazybed) system of agriculture. A lazybed is a ridge of ground generally used for growing potatoes and sometimes also for raising corn, the seed being laid on the surface and covered with earth dug out of trenches along both sides.

It is nearly 190 years ago since those villages were cleared, and its occupants packed off elsewhere. Not necessarily overseas, but certainly to elsewhere. To date, the evidence of their toil remains visible, even from as far away as outer space. The Eishken Estate, on which these tiny hamlets lie, is now the domain of the toffs, the shooting and fishing fraternity. In a few years, the hills will be desecrated by 33 wind turbines, each standing a third of the height of Beinn Mor, with attendant electricity transmission infrastructure.

Trying to read up on the history of the district pre-1821 yields practically nothing. It is heavily focused on the trials and tribulations of the Clan Mackenzie and the Earl of Seaforth. Nothing on the people who lived off the land. In a way, a distant echo came back from those days in the year 2005. The fifty folk living on the shores of Loch Seaforth objected to the Eishken Windfarm. But they were drowned out by the roar of big business.

I close with an image by BBC Islandblogger Molinginish showing Reimsabhagh.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Community buy-outs

Over the past 15 years or so, I have supported various community buy-outs, most noteable the Isle of Eigg, but also South Uist and other places. The Pairc buy-out is mired down in legalistics, non-cooperation and acrimony.

Yesterday, the Times published an article in which the Assynt crofters bemoan the fact that they cannot make the land pay. That is a fact of crofting life, and I'm seriously disappointed in the forerunners of the community buy-out movement. Back in 1992, the Assynt Trust were the first to take over their land. Judging by the article in the Times, they have taken to squabbling amongst themselves rather than getting on with the job.

Any crofter, and anyone who knows about crofting will be aware that you have to diversify in order to make the land pay. it won't pay itself by sitting on committees and riding hobby horses through the meeting room. It takes hard graft and inventiveness to make a croft pay.

A good example of a successful community buy-out is the Isle of Eigg. In the 13 years since they bought their island, the Eiggach have worked extremely hard to pay their way. Having the land is only the start. It gives you the opportunity to do what you want and when. But you have to do it yourself, and you have to do it together.

Stop talking and start working, folks.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

NHS Western Isles

There are moves afoot to close an island nursery, Little Teddies, a facility provided by NHS Western Isles for its staff, but also utilised by other workers with young children.

Yesterday (Thursday) a meeting was held to discuss this issue with all interested parties, including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, parents and NHS Western Isles. In a move strangely reminiscent of a previous crisis, no formal representative of the Health Board attended.

NHS Western Isles was left £3m in the red after a forced change in management in 2006/7. Although new managers were appointed, the Isles NHS is still £3m in the red, meaning cuts are having to be made. It is deplorable that the NHS here is reverting to old tactics in dodging discussion and burying its head in the sand. I sincerely hope we are not going back to the bad old days of Manson & co.

Secondly, it appears that the cuts may be applied to frontline staff (nurses, doctors &c). I personally feel that if cuts have to be made they'd better be made by reducing overheads.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Porkies in Pairc

Allegations have surfaced this weekend that Pairc Estate owner Barry Lomas has sought to disseminate misinformation about the Pairc Trust. I have clapped eyes on said allegations, and caught myself wondering whether I was staring down a particularly black South Lochs peatbog. There are three conclusions I can draw.

1. Pairc Estate is telling the truth, meaning that the Pairc Trust is asymptotically close to being unfit for purpose.

2. Pairc Trust is telling the truth, meaning that Pairc Estate is doing everything it can to thwart the community buy-out.

3. Neither are entirely right, neither are entirely wrong and we're looking at a complete breakdown in relations between parties concerned.

I am not prepared to become a conduit for the war of words that currently rages between Loch Erisort and Loch Shell, but as I have posted on this issue before, I feel I have to relay what is going on. Please do not ask for details.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Qualified qualification

It was with very mixed feelings that I read on Hebrides News that as of 2011 all Harris Tweed weavers will require a formal qualification before they are issued with tweeds by the Harris Tweed mills. Whilst it is a good thing that people's skills are recognised, I am just wondering whether this is not one more nail in the coffin of the Harris Tweed industry.

In the past, weavers learned their skills informally and did not have to gain a formal qualification for the Harris Tweed mills to send them materials to turn into tweeds. They would have been only too happy for any weavers to do work for them, as their order books were bulging and could hardly keep up with demand. And I do not recall that there were major problems with the quality of the work.

I am fully aware that in this day and age, you can only do most jobs if you hold the requisite paperwork (diploma, certificate, whatever) issued by a recognised college. I do not fault anyone for going down this path in the case of Harris Tweed weavers - but only for the reasons given in this paragraph alone.

The Harris Tweed industry has been decimated, with dozens of weavers giving up their looms for lack of work. The closure of the Stornoway mill due to the (lack of) activities on the part of its owner, Brian Haggas of Keighley, exacerbated the situation further. To place a further impediment in the way for people to rejoin the industry is not very wise at all. It shows in a painful manner how skills are being lost that used to be passed down the generations, and commend those in charge of the course for endeavouring to keep them alive.

In my opinion, it would have been much better to have built up a substantial workforce first, and maintain it in later stages using the system of qualifications.

However, there is a final point which is NOT being addressed - the lack of industrial capacity. The mills at Shawbost and Carloway have nowhere near the capacity that used to exist in this island and I am very cynical indeed when I read of all the promotional activity that is going on for Harris Tweed. What is the point of doing all that, including training people to be weavers, if you don't have the capacity to process the tweeds in the volumes that you need to make it a viable industry that will make a substantial contribution towards the economy of these islands.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The 19th Hole

The Golf Club is applying for a license to serve alcohol on Sundays. The Club says this is separate from the vexed issue of playing golf on the Sabbath. Actually, it runs a nice parallel to the current controversy over opening the Stornoway Sports Centre on Sundays. At the moment, it is closed - but you can drink yourself legless in any of the town's hostelries. So, we can look forward to having a fantastic booze-up at the Nineteenth Hole at the Golf Club after lunch on Sundays, without having to tire ourselves out chopping our way around the 18 holes first.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Keeper's Cottage

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Keeper's Cottage, Arnish Lighthouse"]Keepers Cottage, Arnish Lighthouse[/caption]

Blogger "Direcleit" has recently been trawling the census records of these islands in search of the demographics of the 19th century. In one of his blogposts, he lists the Keepers of the Arnish Lighthouse from 1861 to 1901. The other entries are also very interesting.


And now I'm really in an impossible position. The Pairc Trust, which seeks to launch a hostile buy-out bid to oust sitting landlord Barry Lomas, is hoping to fund said buy-out bid by getting the community benefit from the giant windfarm, proposed for the Pairc Estate (see this article on Heb News).

I have supported the Scottish community buy-out movement for 14 years, starting with the Isle of Eigg and continuing with Pairc.

I have also voiced my strong opposition to the 500 ft turbines proposed for the Pairc Estate as environmental vandalism.

So, Arnish Lighthouse is now caught between Scylla and Charibdes.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Castlebay School row

The row between parents and students on the one side, and the management of Castlebay School and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on the other, continues to escalate. Today, about 20 pupils walked out in protest against the failing education standards. They only went back into class after a schooltrip to Barcelona, due to take place later this year, was threatened to be cancelled.

Last week, the parents passed a vote of no confidence in CnES as an education authority, following talks with the head of schools of said authority. The island's councillor has declared his own council to be unfit for purpose. Parents have called on the Scottish education minister, Mike Russell, to step in and sort out the mess. Reading the reports on Hebrides News, it appears that the Chair of the Education Committee and the Parent Council of Castlebay School reside on different planets.

I sincerely do hope that all parties concerned, rather than rolling about the streets of Castlebay in an unseemly brawl, stick their heads together to sort out this mess. It is the pupils' future that is at stake, which should supersede all other considerations.


The company responsible for maintaining the electricity transmission infrastructure in Scotland, SHETL, has unveiled its plans for linking the so-called interconnector to the island grid. This will involve a high-voltage (132 kilovolt) powerline from the Creed River substation to the Arnish Fabrication Yard, thence by subsea cable to a large electricity substation, to be built at Gravir in South Lochs. That is the point where electricity, generated by landbased renewable energy projects in Lewis (e.g. the Eishken Windfarm, the Shader Tidal Barrage and various community windfarms) will be transmitted to the mainland using the interconnector. This subsea cable will link from Little Loch Broom to Beauly (near Inverness), and onwards to Denny in Stirlingshire using the upgraded high-voltage link across the Highlands.

This is all subject to approval by the Scottish Government of the Interconnector and the Arnish to Gravir subsea cable. The project is cited as necessary to pipe all the power, generated by renewable projects, away to the mainland.

A few weeks ago, it was reported that a weather pattern was in place one day which created flat calm conditions across Scotland. All the windfarms in the country, from the Borders to the Northern Isles, only managed to generate enough power that day to boil 1,000 kettles. That would have left an awful lot of folk with cold cups of tea. And we're supposed to rely on that for all our power? Just as well a new tranche of renewable energy project was released this week, related to tidal and wave power in the Pentland Firth, between Orkney and Caithness.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Red coat memorial

With reference to the Battle at Culloden, April 1746, a military historian has called for a memorial to be erected in memory of the soldiers who fought on the side of the Duke of Cumberland, in opposition to the Jacobite forces, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. Not much is being made of the Red Coats, as all the attention is focused on BPC. I have previously made clear that I feel that the Jacobite prince was a royal fool and incompetent to a catastrophic degree. Whilst the clan system was already on the way out in the mid 18th century, Charlie's actions served to give the Hannoverian forces the pretext they needed to go on the rampage in the Highlands and Islands.

Culloden is often marked as the occasion which marked the end of the Scotland of old. Well, in 1707, Scotland had already ceased to be an independent nation, by virtue of the merger of the Scottish Parliament into the Westminster one in London. The rebellions by the Old Pretender in 1715 and his son, the Young Pretender, in 1746, served no purpose. To this day, the people in the Highlands and Islands can be claimed to feel the effects of the disaster that was Culloden, without a doubt.

Comparing Scotland to Norway, as some politicians like to do, throws up some unpleasant home truths. The remote areas in Norway are supported, if necessary subsidised, by the government in Oslo. The remote areas of Scotland are not supported to any degree like that of the Norwegians. The fish farming industry is a case in point, where plants and companies have been taken over by foreign parties - to be closed down and asset stripped. The Norwegians would never allow that to happen in e.g. the Lofoten Islands. So, why does the Scottish Government or indeed the British Government permit it?

No, I'm not a Scottish nationalist. Far from it. This post is merely highlighting one of my pet hates, the elevation of Prince Charles Edward to the status of near-sainthood in Scottish history. The man was an unmitigated disaster for Scotland.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Castlebay School

A ferocious row is going on in the Isle of Barra, 120 miles south of Stornoway. The school in the main town, Castlebay, has been receiving less than favourable reports from Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education, now for 3 years in a row. Parents are concerned and so are the pupils. A local internet blog highlighting the issue received 100 comments, whereas commonly the number of comments on its entries is around a dozen or so. More remarkable is that the Council blocked access to the blog from computers at the school in Castlebay.

In spite of a visitation by a senior education official, parents' and students' fears are by no means allayed, and a move could be afoot to wrench control of the school from the council to the community. This would require the consent of the Scottish Government.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Eishken Windfarm

With reference to Victor Meldrew's (of One Foot in the Grave fame) favourite exclamation in mind, I clapped eyes on this article on Hebrides News. I find this unbelieveable. But it's coming from a reasonable reliable source, so I assume it to be true.

Eishken Estate owner Nicholas Oppenheim proposes to sell the sites for the Muaitheabhal windfarm to a company which will construct the windfarm. Whether Mr Oppenheim will retain part ownership is not clear. I cannot make head nor tail of this saga.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Visit to Ness

Went to Ness on Tuesday afternoon, with the dual purpose of visiting the Heritage Centre in Habost (where the Comunn Eachdraidh has its base) and checking the cemetery, which is about a mile down the road towards the sea.

The Heritage Centre is open for only a few hours a day in winter, so was lucky to have timed for an afternoon call. Started off by asking for information from the Comunn Eachdraidh, who were happy to help where possible. As is the case with all the historical societies in Lewis, they are run by volunteers and therefore have hardly time and/or resources to work through queries - I came with a list of about 30. I encountered the same problems in Shawbost, with the West Side CE in a lovely new building by the bridge, but nobody to man it for any length of time. CE Uig is by far the most active, with a volunteer doing a great one-person job on the website and social networking presences. However, upon request, all the historical societies in the island have been more than pleased to help.

The exhibition in the Ness Heritage Centre is worthy of a visit, with an interesting section on the now defunct Decca Station near Eoropie. There were some lovely items on display, but I dread to think what the environmental conditions in the exhibition space must do to the exhibits. A hygrometer was stuck firmly at 90%, and a thermometer would have struggled to reach much above 7C - the same temperature as could be found outside. Better go there on a sunny spring or summer's day.

I cannot show pictures of the exhibition, as there was a notice asking not to take photographs.

I had visited the Habost Cemetery before, but needed to revisit in order to register the private, family gravestones that refer to casualties of war. I found about 25. I'll close my report with a few outside pics. It was perishing cold on Tuesday.

Eoropie from the Habost Machair

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The mainland hills, seen from the Habost machair"]The mainland hills, seen from the Habost machair[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Looking south, down the coast towards Dell"]Looking south, down the coast towards Dell[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Don't think these are very welcome"]Dont think these are very welcome[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Habost village"]Habost village[/caption]

Friday, 5 March 2010

St Kilda Centre

Spoke to someone from the St Kilda Centre Development Group earlier this week. The website for the centre has gone live, which (as Lewis based blogger) I would like to highlight. The centre is to be constructed on cliffs overlooking Mangurstadh, on the road just north of Islibhig.

It has also come to my attention that the locations that lost out in the bidding process are still not accepting defeat. Whilst recognising that the link with St Kilda is not as strong from Mangurstadh as it was in relation to Leverburgh; and that the view of the archipelago is most prominent from North Uist, I would like to appeal for some common sense in this saga. The Western Isles are an archipelago of only 25,000 people, and continuing the unseemly squabble over the St Kilda Centre will benefit nobody. In fact, it will only serve to put the island group as a whole in a bad light.

Rather than rolling in the streets like fighting tomcats in March, isn't it an idea to work together to make this a success story that all of the islands involved could benefit from? How about a satellite centre in Leverburgh and one at Cleitreabhal (North Uist), referred to from Uig. I'm probably naive...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Lewis Chessmen

I attended a meeting at the Uig Community Centre in Erista this afternoon. Two academics from Edinburgh were explaining their new theories on an alternative location for the initial find of the Lewis Chessmen, Mealista. There was also information on the 93 pieces that currently reside in the British Museum in London. A number of them will come to Scotland in 2010 and to Lewis in 2011. Whether they will actually come back to Ardroil or nearby Erista (site of the Uig Museum) is not at all certain.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Lewis chessman replica at Ardroil"]Lewis chessman replica at Ardroil[/caption]

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Information wanted

Domhnull Angie Iain Choinnich

Last address in Lewis: Lochganvich
Son of Angus Lewis MacIver and Marion MacIver, of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Service: Royal Naval Reserve
Service number: LT/JX400546
Date of death: 5 July 1944 at the age of 20
Lost off Harwich when HMT Ganilly was sunk by U-390
Memorial: Lowestoft Naval, panel 14, column 2
Mentioned on family gravestone in Crossbost Cemetery, Lewis
Local memorial: North Lochs, Crossbost

Alison MacRae from Canada had the following question on the World War II Tribute for Lewis:

On doing research on the family's homestead in Lochganvich I was very surprised to see this of my relation Donald Murdo Maciver. Was trying to find out more, it said drowned of Harwich, but he was on a Normandy convoy. Looked up the Lowestoft Naval Panel and found his name listed. Are they are any relations still up in the Isle of Lewis. My grandfather was Donald (Daniel) Maciver married to Ann Macintosh, my mother's name was Rachell. Mum married a Samuel Rennie in Glasgow and then we moved to Canada.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Faith and confidence

Over the past few weeks, a number of issues have crossed the public agenda which have failed to endear Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to its populace. In general terms, when people are elected to serve in public office, they sometimes have to take decisions that may not be popular. It is however the responsibility of a councillor, a member of parliament, a minister of government to take the bigger picture into account. Us simple citizens do not always have access to the bigger picture, and we should be able to trust our elected representatives to take the big decisions.

The issue of the Stornoway Town Hall refurbishment, which in itself I support, has thrown up a number of questionmarks over the way the consultation process was run. Opponents allege that CnES have been cutting corners - I am not in a position to ascertain whether that is true or not.

The issue of the windfarms, which I have opposed, underlines the point that I hope that councillors have made the right balance of judgement - something that I don't believe they have - in weighing up pros (monetary gain) and cons (environmental impact).

A round of proposed school closures was announced in recent times, slashing the number of schools in the Western Isles as whole by half. A consultation exercise is supposed to be in full swing. However, if private reports from North Uist are anything to go by, councillors cannot even be bothered to make it to a previously announced community meeting to discuss the closure of the school in Lochmaddy. I don't know if a vote of no confidence is sufficient to unseat a councillor, but this is absolutely atrocious.

The final point that blotted the CnES copybook from my perspective is the Stornoway Harbour Authority row. The Comhairle is moving to take over Stornoway Port Authority, because SPA was opposed to a plan to fill in part of the Inner Harbour for some very good reasons. I do not trust CnES to make the correct judgement in matters that the SPA currently hold sway over - they could do actual harm.