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.

Monday, 22 February 2010


Today, I took advantage of some gloriously sunny but cold weather to pay a visit to the RSPB reserve at Loch na Muilne, just north of Arnol. There were no birds at the loch, as it was frozen. The only living things moving at the village were starlings, geese, sheep, cats, farm fowl and kids. Arnol is famous for its restored blackhouse, but there are literally dozens of abandoned and ruined blackhouses dotted along the village street. Anyone missing a red safe?

Thursday, 18 February 2010


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Stornoway Town Hall before the changes"]Stornoway Town Hall before the changes[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Stornoway Town Hall after the changes"]Stornoway Town Hall after the changes[/caption]

It was announced last night that the proposed changes to the Town Hall interior, with certain modifications, were recommended for approval by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. This ratification is likely to happen tonight, Thursday 18th February. A campaign has been active on Facebook and on the island against these changes, with protesters vowing to take the fight all the way to the Scottish Government (who have the final say on alterations to a listed building) if not the European Courts.

I have previously stated that I am not opposed to the plans for changing the interior of the Town Hall, which are in fact unavoidable due to legislation pertaining to disabled access. However, everybody is entitled to their opinion.

What has stuck in my craw is the lack of opposition to two far more visible changes to the Stornoway townscape in recent years. The Maritime Building on Pier no 1 was pulled down in 2007, without anybody uttering a squeak. The old Shoeshop on Cromwell Street, the oldest house in Stornoway, was demolished in 2009. Again, without so much as a beep from anyone.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stands accused of mismanaging the consultation process regarding the Town Hall plans, and I am just wondering why nobody was voicing any opposition to the demolition of the two aforementioned buildings. No, they were not the bonniest in town, and the Maritime Building had been empty for a while. However, since the 1930s, people have left the island, many never to return, through the Maritime Building. Where were all the expat Lewismen and -women who are now writing whining letters to Hebrides News, from afar as northern England, imploring the Council not to vandalise the Town Hall? Why were they not sharpening their quills to oppose these very visible changes to the townscape of Stornoway?

Because, let's face it, the interior changes to the Town Hall are INVISIBLE from the outside. And there are far more people seeing the exterior of the Town Hall, pier number 1 and Cromwell Street, than there will be people seeing the inside of the Town Hall.

A pointless rant? No. I hope the Council take this opportunity to review their consultation procedures, to make planning applications like this more visible to the general public.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The hurricane - of 1882

A storm swept over Stornoway and the Island of Lewis on the evening of Sunday [1 October 1882], and between eight and nine o'clock at night a perfect hurricane raged from the south-west. It was soon observed that the force of the gale told upon the ships in the harbour, the whole of which speedily began to drive, and some of them threw up signals of distress, but no assistance could be rendered to them. About half-past eight o'clock the barque JOHANNES KOSTER, of Stralsund, with timber, from Demerara for the harbour, drove ashore. The barque ELLEN, of Chester, which put in during the afternoon for shelter, and laden with timber, from Norway, followed soon after, and drove ashore within a few feet of the German barque. While driving the crew of the ELLEN cut the mainmast, and it went by the board, carrying with it, the mizenmast and foretopmast. In the afternoon the brig LADY HEAD, of Aberdeen, bound from Archangel to Glasgow with tar and pitch, put in for shelter and anchored outside Goat Island. She was exposed to the full force of the gale, and she drove on the rocks southward of Goat Island. A boat put off from Newton and rescued the crew: the ship has since become a total wreck. The barque ROWENA, of Aberdeen, from Sundswall for Greenock, with timber, also drove a considerable distance, and touched the end of Goat Island, but apparently without doing any damage. The mail steamer LOCHIEL attempted to tow her off yesterday morning without success. The steamer RIVER LAGAN, of Glasgow, which put in at Stornoway with her propeller blades gone, also drove right across the harbour, and struck the schooner BESSIE, of Arbroath, and broke one of her stanchions. The yacht, SUNBEAM, belonging to Mr. Hodge, supervisor, drove opposite the Imperial Hotel, and is seriously damaged. Two large herring fishing boats, and a large number of pleasure and small fishing boats have been sunk, driven ashore, or broken to pieces. The breast wall alond the south beach has been broken down by the sea in several places, and the whole of South Beach Street was covered with boats, wrecks of boats, pieces of timber, and other debris: and a number of houses were flooded. At the fishing stations of Portnaguran, 13 miles from Stornoway, three large herring fishing boats, which arrived late on Saturday night from Loch Hourin, laden with cargoes of herring, and were left at anchor, have totally disappeared: it is supposed they were driven to sea. At Bayble five herring fishing boats are ling fishing boats there are completely destroyed.

Source: Shipping Intelligence, LL, No. 21,352, London, Thursday October 5 1882.
NMRS, MS/829/69 (no. 3309).

(through RCAHMS/Canmore)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


That is, in a word, how Comhairle nan Eilean Siar must be feeling right now. Plans to upgrade Stornoway Town Hall running into mounting opposition, including from within its own authority (see two posts back). And a few days ago, its plans to fill in part of the Inner Harbour at Stornoway were rejected by Stornoway Port Authority on grounds that did not seem unreasonable to me. The rejection was not taken lying down; on the contrary, the reaction from councillors was one of unmitigated fury.

I am reasonably familiar with the problems posed by water getting too close for comfort. As such, it would appear to me that filling in the upper reaches of the Inner Harbour would have been asking for trouble. Anyone who knows our town in winter, will be familiar with the problems posed by flooding at times of high tide and / or high winds. North Beach, Cromwell Street and Bayhead properties can be seen lined with sandbags at such time, and still people end up with wet feet. If you take space away from the water to go to, it will go somewhere else. Like onto the streets of Stornoway.

Perhaps the Town Fathers should go to the oil barons to ask for a contribution towards cleaning up the mess left behind at the Maclennan's Oilyard on North Beach. This is due to be converted to a carpark (and that's what this whole saga is about, carparking space).

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Images of February

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Sunset 9 February"]Sunset 9 February[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="MV Isle of Lewis back on the run after its refit"]MV Isle of Lewis back on the run after its refit[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Anyone for some cake?"]Anyone for some cake?[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Stornoway Sunday"]Stornoway Sunday[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Stornoway Sunday"]Stornoway Sunday[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Lifeboat and Compton House"]Lifeboat and Compton House[/caption]

Town Hall refurbishments

A very strange development in the continuing saga of the proposed Town Hall refurbishments. Now the Council's own planning department have spoken out against the proposals, something that I find incredibly strange - and I use the word incredibly deliberately. I am not that familiar with planning procedures, but it would appear that one department within the Comhairle is not talking to another. If such a major project is put forward, you'd imagine that all departments would have talked it through with each other before it was submitted for scrutiny by the public.

Yes, I am in favour of the Town Hall refurbishment scheme. If only because it would have brought the building into line with legal requirements for disabled access, and taken it into more extensive use. I do not fault people for wishing to oppose as I believe they do so for genuine reasons.

But for the Comhairle's own planning department to voice its opposition so late in the day, and in wordings that are quite frankly redolent of the opponents' line of argument reduces the whole planning process to a farce and the Comhairle to the level of a banana republic.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Bus tickets

New ticket machines are being installed on the main bus routes in Lewis (see this article on Hebrides News). I am pleased that more advanced technology is being installed on our buses, as outlined. I am just wondering whether this will allow cross-operator ticketing. That is a mouthful which simply means: can I buy one ticket which will pay for my journey from (e.g.) Point to Carloway? At the moment, you have to pay Bus na Comhairle for the section to Stornoway, and Maclennan's Buses for the onward portion to Carloway. If this is not the case, perhaps this possibility should be at least considered and at best implemented.

Friday, 5 February 2010

BBC Island Blogging: closed for business

As of next Friday, 12 February, postings nor comments will be accepted anymore on any of the blogs on the BBC Island Blogging site. Carol, who has looked after the site since it formally closed in December 2008, has secured another year's funding for this Island Blogging site (well done and thanks, Carol). I would like to echo Les's call to nip round to IBHQ on the old IB site before 12 February, and leave a word of thanks as well.

Island Blogging has been in existence since late 2003, initially just for the Argyll Islands, later including the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland as well. This blogger has been part of the IB community since December 2005, and it has been great fun. It is a pity that the BBC could not be bothered to devise a better blogging service for us, but it is good that Les has taken us under his wing up to a point to continue on this platform.

St Kilda Centre

The unseemly squabble over the St Kilda Centre continues, with the supporters of the Cleitreabhal site in North Uist threatening to open their own centre. Meanwhile, the Ionad Hiort working group in Uig has started work towards making the centre at Mangurstadh a reality. A website is to be set up shortly, and I refer to the Comunn Eachdraidh Uige for further updates and details.

Meanwhile, I would also like to recommend for contemplation this letter by a South Uist resident. I agree with each and every point raised.