Friday, 30 December 2011

Eishken Windfarm expanded

An additional 6 turbines have been approved for the windfarm for the Eishken Estate. It would appear that construction could start next year (2012 at time of writing), to coincide with the construction of the interconnector.

I have been out of the loop a bit in the past few weeks as I am blogging off island. However, I was not aware that the interconnector had been approved. The same applies to the Beauly to Dundonnell powerlink. I think Mr Oppenheimer is jumping the gun a bit when he makes such a sweeping announcement.

When I first came to Lewis, in November 2004, I spent some months in the wilds of South Lochs for some peace and quiet. Wondering the moors with nothing to bother the eyes but the low hillocks and tranquil lochans between Habost and Gravir.
If that infernal windfarm, together with the one in Pairc, gets built, there will be nothing wilderness about the southeast of Lewis. It will be a money-spinning factory for Oppenheimer, who so very generously has left us with some beads and mirrors, in the shape of the 6 turbines and their output + revenue.

With thanks to commenter Lady Gargar for drawing my attention to this.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Hogmanay in Stornoway

This year, the Hogmanay celebrations in Stornoway will be held in the town centre, with a massive street party. About 5,000 people are expected to flock to this big shindig - which will end at 11 pm on December 31st, 2011. The thing is that New Year’s Day 2012 is on a Sunday, and any partying extending beyond midnight would infringe the Sabbath. So, it was ordained that Hogmanay in Stornoway will end an hour before “the bells”.
I have previously stated on this blog that I have the deepest respects for people’s religious convictions. I do not extend that to imposing said convictions on other people’s lives. If anyone feels that they should observe the Sabbath in a certain fashion, then they are at perfect liberty to do so. However, that should not mean that others should be forced to do the same.

There is another aspect to this question, which annuls the argument, put forward by the relevant authorities against extended the permit for the Stornoway Hogmanay do. Are the pubs closing at 11pm on December 31st? The answer to that is an emphatic no. You can get sozzled as much as you like well beyond midnight on Hogmanay. Again, a personal choice, with which I am fine as long as it does not impinge on other people. Unfortunately, we are all familiar with the results of over-indulgence in alcohol, whether it be anti-social behaviour or road traffic accidents, resulting in damage, injury or even death.
I find this discrepancy a case of breathtaking hypocrisy and double standards, and would call for an extension of the street party beyond midnight - or else have the pubs shut at 11pm.

No, I’m not holding my breath in expectation of that all to happen.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


HS2 is the postcode for the outlying areas of Lewis, and the announcement that an HS2 tunnel is being considered for construction has been broadly welcomed outside Stornoway. We have seen in recent days that severe weather is common in this part of the world in November and December, and being able to walk, cycle and drive in the dry, out of the reach of the ravages of show, wind and rain is a welcome prospect. As plans currently stand, there will be a tunnel from Brenish to Port of Ness, with branches from Miavaig to Kinlochroag as well as one from Carloway to Achmore, terminating at the harbour in the latter village.

I hope Calumannabel will be able to fill us in on the details for the tunnel, which is hoped could be completed in time for the Dating Extravaganza at the Dell Fank on April 1st.

I am endebted to local Twitter user balfae for localising the Government plans for an HS2 tunnel in England.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Found murdered in Stornoway

Liam Aitchison, aged 16, went missing on 22nd November after visiting the Co-op supermarket on Macaulay Road in Stornoway. He was last seen on Anderson Road, in the north of the town. Liam came to the island a few months ago after leaving the Uists. He was due to stay with a friend of the family on the 22nd, but never turned up.

On 29th November, a member of the public reported that a body had been found in a derelict building in the village of Steinish, a mile or two northeast of Stornoway. As the days went by, it was confirmed that the body was that of 16-year old Liam, and yesterday, that the death was no longer treated as unexplained but as murder. This due to the scene encountered by detectives.

Police are appealing for any information on Liam’s whereabouts during the time between November 22nd and 29th, and any suspicious movements or activity near the building in Steinish. It stands on the eastern end of the village, and was originally the control centre for Stornoway Airport, which it overlooks.

Any information should be forwarded to Stornoway police on 01851-702222 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

My sympathies go out to the family and friends of the victim of this crime.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Duke of Sutherland

Image courtesy Flickr-user foxypar4
Image courtesy Flickr-user foxypar4

The Duke of Sutherland is a figure of revulsion in the northern Highlands, as thousands of people were turfed off their land at his whim. A statue in his memory stands on a hilltop above Golspie, Sutherland. Today, it was announced that efforts have once again been made to topple the statue.

Having transcribed the Napier Commission’s report on Sutherland, I can see that it was not just the Duke himself who was to blame. His minions were as much at fault. Whether or not the Duke knew what went on is irrelevant. It happened under his responsibility. I have passed Golspie several times on my way to the far north, and have often looked up at the statue - and then turned to the other side of the train or bus to see Dunrobin Castle. That is as much a cause for revulsion as the statue, being as it was, a scene of offensive opulence, harshly offset by the grinding poverty of the tenants, crofters and cottars on the estate.
Whilst I totally understand the horrors, wreaked on the people of Sutherland by their landowner, I do not feel that it serves any constructive purpose to destroy the statue. I agree with the speaker on Radio Scotland’s Highland News this morning, who said that the statue serves as a reminder of the atrocities, perpetrated by and on behalf of the Duke.
I will go so far as to say that the statue in memory of Sir James Matheson, which overlooks Stornoway Harbour, can be held in equal revulsion. Many of his tenants were forcibly displaced across the island of Lewis or “encouraged” to emigrate, which happened in 1851, to name but an example. His trade in opium caused no end of misery in China.
Matheson Memorial
Matheson Memorial

Monday, 28 November 2011

Storm in November

Last Thursday, November 24th, winds gusted up to 82 mph at the Butt of Lewis as high winds strafed the north and west of Scotland. The storm had been forecast in advance and prompted extensive cancellations of ferry services.

By about 4pm, just as it started to get dark, a motorist on the A859 Tarbert to Leverburgh road in Harris, noticed a car partly submerged in the waters of Loch nan Uidhean, beside the road. The emergency services were called and they rushed to the scene. The driver of the car, a 26-year old speech therapist from Coulregrein, Stornoway, was extracted from her vehicle and taken to the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, but tragically died. An investigation is on-going into the cause of the accident, but this occurred at the height of the storm.

Severe weather is part and parcel of life in these islands, and people tend to take it in their stride. But a fatal accident, in which the weather is thought have had some part to play, still comes as a blow. Memories go back nearly seven years, when five members, three generations, of one family were lost in South Uist at the time of a severe storm.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Future of the Coastguard

I copy an email I received today regarding the future of HM Coastguard in the United Kingdom.

I am writing to let you know that following the independent review of the reponses of the second period of consultation on our proposals to modernise Her Majesty’s Coastguard the Secretary of State for Transport has today announced the Government’s decision. This can be found at
This means that we have now begun the process of moving to a national networked Coastguard operation with a Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) at its heart. We’re also able to announce today that the MOC will be located near Fareham in Hampshire at a purpose built emergency services control centre that was originally designated as a fire control centre.
In addition to this centre there will also be Coastguard centres. at Dover, Aberdeen, Shetland, Stornoway, Belfast, Holyhead, Milford Haven, Falmouth and Humber all operating 24/7. The London coordination centre will continue to be co-located with the Port of London Authority.
We are also improving the leadership of the volunteer Coastguard Rescue Service by strengthening the numbers of existing regular Coastguard officers based in these coastal communities and I’m also pleased to be able to announce that the Coastguard Rescue Service will be strengthened by an increase of 50% to the number of full time officers available to the volunteers for operational attendance, leadership and advice.
This will allow much more flexibility in the management and training of our volunteers and help to remove the current uneven distribution of Coastguard Rescue Teams between their management.
It will also give a greater presence of Coastguard officers in coastal communities and provide increased opportunity for interaction with other emergency services and coastal leisure and commercial bodies.
These officers will operate in teams with a focal point or operational hub. It is intended that these will be based in;
Existing Centres
Additional locations
Moray Firth
Northeast England,
North Devon,
Cardigan Bay,
Oban/Fort William
This structural change is about the way the regular Coastguard service coordinates search and rescue operations. It is not about the UK’s rescue capability. Although we are reducing staff numbers our new structure will give the UK a nationally networked Coastguard service that is resilient, effective and efficient.
I know that you like me will be acutely aware that whilst this announcement is the beginning of a new era for HM Coastguard it will a time of massive change for colleagues currently based in Yarmouth, Thames, Solent, Portland, Brixham, Swansea, Liverpool, Forth and Clyde whose stations will be closing before 31 March 2015.
This structural change is about the way the regular Coastguard service coordinates search and rescue operations. It is not about the UK’s rescue capability. Although we are reducing staff numbers, our new structure will give the UK a nationally networked Coastguard service that is resilient, effective and efficient. We will continue to provide a quality safety service to the mariner and coastal user and I’d like to thank you for your continued support as we move forward.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Arnistice Day

This morning, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, thousands of people in the United Kingdom and beyond fell silent. 93 years ago the guns had fallen silent, heralding the start of the Armistice, and eventually the end of the First World War. After the end of the Second World War, November 11th was maintained as a day of remembrance. I am not going to say much else in this post, but will display a number of images, showing the war memorials here in Lewis. The fact that it takes 15 war memorials to remember the war dead of an island, home to 30,000 people in 1914 says enough. 1,350 did not return from the 1914-19 war, 530 were lost in the 1939-45 war.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Mod 2011

Contrary to 2005, I only attended one competition in this year’s Royal National Mod, which took place in Stornoway this week. After I post this entry, there will only be the final concert at the Sports Centre tonight, and the massed choirs in Perceval Square on Saturday morning - if the weather is bad, it’ll be in the Nicolson Institute. Glancing at the forecast, I’d suggest to head for the Nicolson.

The one competition I attended was competition A302 (Area Choirs), which took place at Stornoway Town Hall earlier today. Five choirs took part, singing one prescribed piece (Tir nam Beann Ard) as well as a piece of their own choice. Click on one of the links below to hear a recording.

The winner was Nairn Gaelic Choir in the competition overall, as well as being awarded highest marks in music. Dundee Gaelic Musical Association was awarded highest marks in Gaelic.

Dundee Gaelic Musical Association

Largs Gaelic Choir

Nairn Gaelic Choir

Ar n’Oran (Ottawa)

Portree Area Gaelic Choir

Stornoway Town Hall

Following the controversy over the refurbishment of the interior of Stornoway Town Hall, I would like to share the images I took inside the Hall today, whilst attending a competition of the Royal National Mod (see previous post).
Ceiling and rooflights
Ceiling and rooflights
Windows at rear of hall - now visible
Windows at rear of hall - now visible
The Hall from the back
The Hall from the back

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sunday ferry

It is reported that Calmac will start operating ferries with fare-paying passengers on board out of Tarbert, Harris, as of 23 October next. At the moment, the MV Hebrides leaves Tarbert empty on Sunday morning to sail to Lochmaddy for the two runs to Uig, Skye; returning empty in the evening. The company has applied for permission, likely to be granted without difficulty, to carry passengers on the Tarbert - Lochmaddy (and vice versa) run on Sundays. The crossing to Skye would be conducted from Lochmaddy. The return trip, in the evening, would also be done through Lochmaddy.

As the ferry is already running at any rate, it only makes sense to let passengers on as well - that’s what the boat is there for in the first place.

Whilst respectful towards those who genuineful feel that Sunday should be a day of rest, I am pleased that there will now be a 7-day ferry service out of Tarbert. To quote Calumannabel from a few years ago: “Is that the sort of thing you were after?” Answer: yes.
It is probably too much to ask for a bus on Sundays.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Well, that was a hair raising Monday and no mistakes. The Met Office had put out an amber alert for us all, to be on our guard for 70 to 80 mph winds and lashing rains.

Well, to be true, we had a fair bit of rain in the morning. But otherwise, it was a beautiful early autumn day, with warm sunshine and winds never getting above force 3 in Stornoway. The only indication that something was not quite right was the barometer: 974 mbar is very low. The thermometer pulled a long nose at the forecasters by rising to 17C, which is very pleasant at this time of year. It even tempted me outside - except that the midges were also having a field day.

It’s nice not being the windiest place in the country - just for once.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Of cars, brollies - and buses

Today, another scheme from our elected representatives in Sandwick Road, Stornoway to save the planet. All employees of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) will be encouraged to give up their cars, and as a reward they will be issued with umbrellas. That way, council employees will be able to walk to work dry.

I have found an umbrella an unfortunately useless accoutrement in our climate. Yes, it frequently rains here. But it also blows hard quite a lot. I once came across a gentleman who tried to put up an umbrella in a force 8 gale. He nearly flew to his destination.
So, people should use public transport, if they’re coming in from out of town. Well, that means taking the bus. I am the last person in this island to knock the bus services, but really, there have been reductions in the buses in recent years. The town circular is now more a triangular short hop, and some buses don’t come even though they’re timetabled to do so.

Quite a few hare-brained ideas on public transport are thought out by people who graciously plonk their posteriors in luxuriously heated plush carseats, that they will not give up for any umbrella. So why should anybody else?

Monday, 29 August 2011

St Kilda

It is 81 years ago today that the last inhabitants of St Kilda were evacuated from their isle, situated 40 miles west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Life had become untenable, when supplies could only be landed during the summer months. The islanders were also susceptible to illnesses, brought ashore by visitors. Until the late 19th century, there was a very high infant mortality rate, attributed to poor hygiene practices around newborns.
On 29 August 1930, the islanders of Hiort were taken to Lochaline, in the Morvern peninsula, and then on to Glasgow. Some stayed on at Lochaline, to work in forestry - an irony, coming as they did from a treeless island. The island has remained without permanent habitation. Some of the houses were left with a pile of grain on the table and the family Bible open at the book of Exodus.
I have only seen St Kilda from North Uist, on a clear day in summer. It is supposed to be visible from Mangersta, but the distance is 60 miles. The culture of the island was taken away by its people in 1930, and has been recorded assiduously. This may now be congregated at the St Kilda Centre, pencilled for a location between Mangersta and Islivig. It has been argued that a more sympathetic approach from central government in the early 20th century could have saved St Kilda for habitation. Maybe so. But it would have destroyed the unique culture, which came about through its sheer isolation.
Today, my thoughts lie 90 miles to the westsouthwest of Stornoway. The Hiorteachs have gone - their island remains.

Image courtesy Flickr-user iancowe

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Isles FM

One of the presenters on our radio station Isles FM passed away last Thursday. Peggy Macneil died of cancer at Bethesda Hospice. Regular listeners are familiar with her Moonlight Shadow programme, as well as her collaboration with Kenny There-you-go and Janet Ramsay. Although I personally do not regularly listen to the station, I was familiar with Peggy and am sad to hear of her passing. I wish her family, friends and colleagues at the station strength in coming to terms with her loss. Peggy’s funeral will take place at 2.30pm on Monday 22 August from Martin’s Memorial Church in Stornoway, to Sandwick Cemetery.

Two years ago, Joyce Murray, another Isles FM presenter, died at home on the West Side of Lewis at the age of 61. Over the nearly seven years that I’ve been in the island, there have been quite a few changes on 103 FM’s team. However, the station continues to go strong and plays a vital part in the community at times of emergency, such as severe weather.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Alcatraz UK

December 2011.

Slowly, the ferry edges towards the quayside. Heavy rain is blown along horizontally on a southwesterly gale. Grey, non-descript buildings line the harbour front, which is only just discernible through the downpour, which is laced with sleet and snow. It is 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but the streetlights are on already. A line of old, decrepit coaches await the convicts, to take them to their place of habitation for the next five years. Only a few weeks ago, they were in the leafy suburbs of London - taking the opportunity to pick up a few unpaid bargains from smashed up stores as the police stood by and buildings were torched.
The families line the railings of the ferry, as they are only allowed to disembark under police escort. Their few possessions sit on trailers, which will be towed to their new dwellings. A small line of cars drives off the ferry ramp, and disappears into the gathering gloom. Resident islanders can be seen walking down the gangway, and are whisked away by waiting cars.

Finally, the call comes and our convicts walk off the ferry, leaving behind the smells of diesel, frying fat and vomit. The last three hours were hellish, tossed about on the waves as the wind howled outside. A line of police conducts the group towards a coach, and the two dozen sit down while they are driven through the town - did anyone catch any recognisable name on the road signs? The roadnumbers were in the 800s at any rate. A few Christmas lights sway in the streets, but very soon, the last houses of the town are left behind and the coaches are swallowed up by the dark, featureless landscape, in which water glistens cold and grey every few inches. A line of four high hilltops towers up to the left, and further away, a twin-topped hill looms. Who would want to live in a place like that?
August 2011

The Stornoway Gazette reports that someone (whose name I will not repeat here) has submitted an e-petition to the British government to the effect that all those who were convicted for rioting last week should be banished to the Outer Hebrides for five years. And the paragraphs that started this post was the image that the petitioner probably has of the islands. It is ridiculous to even suggest that living in our islands is punishment. It is a challenge, no doubt. But the community spirit you find here is something that is sadly lacking in many other parts of the country. I think whoever posted that petition should come and have a look here for himself.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Carloway Show

On Wednesday, I attended the centenary Carloway Show. It was a great success, helped by some sunny and warm summer weather and a good turn-out. Just sharing a handful of pics.

Tossing the caber





Waulking the tweed

Where did we leave the car?

Friday, 29 July 2011

Lewis Heroes of the Rawalpindi

Stornoway Gazette, 8 December 1939
In the House of Commons last week the Prime Minister paid tribute to the naval reservists and pensioners of HM auxiliary cruiser “Rawalpindi” whose heroic fight against two German pocket battleships has aroused the admiration of the whole world.
“These men might have known as soon as they sighted the enemy that there was no chance”, said Mr Chamberlain. “But they had no thought of surrender. They fired their guns until they could be fired no more, and many of them went to their deaths thereby carrying on the great tradition of the Royal Navy. Their example will be an inspiration to those who come after them.”
Twelve at least of these gallant men were fellow islanders of ours, and the whole community shares the sorrow of their relatives at home, a sorrow which may be lightened at times by the flickering hope that they are still alive, although prisoners in the hands of the enemy, but which which is more likely to be tormented by fears and doubts that are more poignant than certainty.

There may be those in the crowded cities, lying under the terror of air raids, who turn wistful eyes towards the peaceful islands of the west, out of the danger zone, a sanctuary in the midst of the storm. But while these islands may be relatively safe from direct attack, and there is no need to carry gas masks to one’s daily work, or dig air raid shelters in the streets, they are contributing more towards the defence of the Empire than most other communities of the same size.

In the “Courageous”, the “Royal Oak”, the “Northern Rover” and in other losses the details of which are not known, men from these islands have already forfeited their lives, and in many of the disasters which have overtaken our merchant fleet. Lewis and Harris lads have conducted themselves with tenacity and courage. There were three in the “Athenia”, ten in the “Lochavon” out of a total deck complement of sixteen and one in the “Arlington Court”, a modest youth from Calbost  who is now at home recuperating at home from the effects of six days’ exposure in an open boat.

No one would claim for these men least of themselves, that they are struck from a finer die than the rest of humanity or moulded of a nobler clay, but one can without any sense of boastfulness that when the nation is at war, the small crofting and fishing communities of the northern Scottish seaboard have a contribution to make to the fighting forces which is out of all proportion to their population or their wealth.

The name of “Rawalpindi” is in our minds today. In the past it was known as that of the largest garrison town in the whole of India, “the key to the British system of defence in the North-West Frontier”, but now the name has other associations for us and for the world. Let those who today feel pride in the gallant heroes of the “Rawalpindi” remember, when the strife is over and the wounds have healed, that many of those who died in that desperate encounter were men from another North-West frontier, which is seldom mentioned in the history books, but whose sons have done more than most to man the garrisons of the Empire”.

Historical note
The battle preceding the loss of the Rawalpindi has gone down in naval history as an incredible display of bravery on the part of its crew. After trying to hide themselves from the Germans in the North Atlantic fog south of Iceland, they were ordered to surrender by the Scharnhorst. In response, the captain of the Rawalpindi said: never. And he fired a shell at the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau to underline his point. Bear in mind that the Rawalpindi was a converted passenger liner, kitted out with a gun and some armour plating. The Scharnhorst had to reply in kind, and sank the Rawalpindi. The bravery was noted by the German admiralty (sic!). All but 37 of the Rawalpindi’s crew were lost in the sinking. Their sacrifice was not in vain; before battle commenced, the Rawalpindi had been able to signal the position of the German battlecruisers to back to base on the Clyde, and an armada of British warships was heading north to intercept. More on this story here.
The casualties from the Isle of Lewis were:

Seaman DONALD MACARTHUR (Dollan Mhurchaidh Alasdair), 10 Cromore
Seaman COLIN MACKAY, 31 South Bragar
Leading Seaman MURDO MACKAY (Mac Choinnich Dhomhnuill Alais ‘c Dhonnachaidh), 53 Back
Seaman JOHN MACKENZIE, 21 Swordale
Seaman NORMAN MACLEOD, 25 Swordale
Able Seaman WILLIAM MACLEOD, Marybank, Stornoway
Leading Seaman JOHN MURDO NICOLSON, 3 Marybank, Stornoway
Seaman DONALD SMITH junior (Domhnall a’Bhard), 52 North Tolsta

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hostel closed

I visited the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village today, but was sad to see the notice in the window, advising all that the hostel there has closed permanently. The proprietors, the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust have posted the following message on their website, which I copy below. If you are asked about hostel accommodation in Lewis, please do NOT refer anyone to Gearrannan.

The Isle of Lewis has, to my knowledge, four hostels, namely at:
Stornoway (Heb Hostel and Fairhaven)
Kershader (Ravenspoint)
Galson (Galson Farm, South Galson)
Please use a search engine to find further details - I do not (as a rule) promote commercial enterprises.

It is with regret that the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust announces that the hostel at Garenin is permanently closed.  It will not reopen.

We apologise for any inconvenience and disappointment this will cause.
Our lease on the building expires on 31 March 2012 and we have to vacate the building on that date, leaving the building as it was when first leased to us.  This closure will allow us to fulfil our lease obligations.

If you should hear from any other source that the building is open, please inform us immediately so that all sources may be made aware of the correct position.
Please note that the SYHA hostel handbook for 2011, which states that Garenin hostel is opening from 1 April 2011, is not the current information in respect of the hostel.  (The SYHA handbook was printed before the heating issues arose.)  The SYHA is aware that the hostel is closed.

Please also note that Garenin village continues to operate normally.  Details are to be found at the Gearrannan website.

This notice was issued on Monday 23 May 2011.

Please note that the Gearrannan Hostel reopened in 2012, as part of the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. 

Friday, 15 July 2011


I am pleased that the decision was taken not to close Stornoway Coastguard Station as a 24/7 operation, similarly Shetland. It is deplorable that the Forth and Clyde stations are going to be axed. Only goes to show what a bit of pester power can achieve.
Stornoway Coastguard Station, December 2007
Stornoway Coastguard Station, December 2007

Tall ships


Dar Mlodziezy

The Swan (R) and Alba Endeavour (L)

Pelican of London

Lord Nelson
On board the Mir

Monday, 11 July 2011

Delivery and charges

Two and a half years ago, an e-petition to the Prime Minister was launched to complain about delivery charges to the Highlands and Islands. This was ignored by the then PM, Tony Blair, quoting the introduction of free market competition. I have no confidence that the current government will be any more sympathetic to our plight, but nonetheless I would like to invite anyone who reads this and who is resident in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to write to both their MP and their MSP.

Today, I spent a frustrating couple of hours on the Internet, ordering a pack of 100 index cards, measuring 3″ by 5″. As soon as I had entered my postcode, HS1, the company involved would decline the order, saying they did not deliver to that address. Or would treble the delivery charge.

Although the Arnish Lighthouse stands at the end of a rough track, mail is known to get delivered there. Including items up to 20 kg in weight, and with length and girth adding up to not more than 3 metres (just under 10 feet), this according to the Royal Mail website. This will get you delivery at standardised rates right across the United Kingdom, excluding the Channel Islands.

I am angry at the discrimination against residents of our region, just on account of our geographical location. Any item within the constraints of the Royal Mail rates should compulsorily be delivered at those rates or less, irrespective of location

Sunday, 3 July 2011

South Lochs

Your blogger was off island for most of June, so I am restricting myself to some observations regarding the developments regarding the Pairc buy-out. There is now going to be a delay of two or three years before the buy-out can progress further, due to more legal manoeuvering by the sitting landlord, Mr Lomas of Warwickshire. He is claiming that his human rights are being infringed by the right-to-buy legislation, under which the people of Pairc are moving to buy parts of their estate.

I don’t think it is the legislation that Mr Lomas is finding fault with. He has a problem with the Pairc Trust, the body that is working on the buy-out, and specifically some if not all of its directors. A few days ago, he announced that he was prepared to engage in an amicable buy-out with the people of Pairc, as long as it doesn’t have to go through the Pairc Trust.
Over the past couple of years, there has been acrimony between the Trust and Mr Lomas, which is most unfortunate. If Mr Lomas is prepared to allow the amicable buy-out of parts of his estate, which apparently has been in his family for 87 years, I would like to suggest the Pairc Trust and himself put their differences aside and work towards the common good.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


It is reported on local news website Hebrides News that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is considering whether the Sunday closure of the Sports Centre in Stornoway does not constitute religious discrimination. At the moment, all Council facilities in Lewis and Harris are closed on Sunday, out of deference to the presbyterian tradition in those islands. The only problem is that so many other facilities and services, not Council operated, are open and working on the Sunday. Planes have been flying in and out of Stornoway airport since 2002, the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry runs on Sunday since July 2009, and so does the ferry between Harris and Berneray.

I don’t think it is necessary to resort to the discrimination aspect. The policy has become inconsistent across the islands. It is not fair to apply one rule in one part of the island chain and another somewhere else. For reference, the Sunday crossing to and from Ullapool is the busiest crossing of the week.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pester power

Over the past 5 months, a vociferous and concerted campaign has been waged by people up and down the UK, not least in Stornoway, against government plans to reduce the number of coastguard stations and staff. Two demonstrations were held in Stornoway, on 31 January and 19 March. Today, the Transport Committee from the House of Commons came to Lewis to hear views of interested parties on the plans for the MCA. On the same day, the UK Transport Secretary announced that the plans were to be downgraded.

I believe that MCA staff would be supportive of changes in their organisation, if they were shown not to degrade the service offered - or better, improve it. However, making cuts purely for financial reasons is sheer lunacy, and there is an awful lot of people who agree with that. It is pleasing to see that after a lot of noise, those who make the decisions do listen and are thinking again.

Well done, MCA staff.
Well done, all who supported them in their struggle.

So far.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Changed townscape

Anyone who has ever driven off the Isle of Lewis ferry at Stornoway will be familiar with the sight and smells of the shellfish processing plant, which fronts onto the corner of James Street / Shell Street, opposite the fuel depot office and the Health Board offices. Over the past few weeks and months, this brick red building has been demolished, changing the townscape of Stornoway. With the below images, I chronicle the disappearance of the building.
23 November 2007
23 November 2007
24 March 2011
24 March 2011
4 April 2011
4 April 2011
From the ferry terminal - 20 April 2011
20 April 2011
View from Shell Street - 12 May 2011
View from Shell Street - 12 May 2011
View from the ferry terminal - 13 May 2011
View from the ferry terminal - 13 May 2011