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.