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.