Title picture: Down the Minch - 27 February 2016

Sunday, 1 May 2016

May Day 2016

We leave our cold April behind and head into our cold month of May. As I type this, on a quiet Sunday evening, it's overcast, breezy and wet. The first day of May has been a difficult day for me since 2008, when my mother passed away. I think I have come to terms with that fact, and will continue to (endeavour to) move forward. Over the years I have spent in Stornoway, I have made a major contribution towards the remembrance of the Fallen of the Great War, quite important in this island. Of the 6,200 men who set off for war, some 1,300 did not survive. I have also digitised the Napier Commission's Report into the conditions of Crofters and Cottars, which was compiled in 1883 and 1884. It continues to be of relevance, but I fear that politicians are failing to keep up with developments in landownership and land usage. The obsession with independence, as displayed by the nationalist Scottish Governments since 2007, is standing in the way of addressing other issues that are of far greater importance. There are elections to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 5 May, and the nationalists are expected to be returned to power. Seven weeks later, on Thursday 23 June, voters in the UK will go to the polls to decide whether to stay in the European Union or not. Another fraught subject. If the Brits decide to leave, this could precipitate another independence referendum in Scotland (I thought that the 2014 No vote was to be the answer for a generation, but the pipedream never dies), with even more uncertainty.

Uncertainty is also the watchword for your blogger, who is shifting from one area of focus to another, one that is vastly different to the one of the last decade or so. Preparatory work is underway, and steps to implementation will follow later in the year.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Visit Scotland

Scotland is a scenic place and we should all encourage people to come and visit. I do agree with our esteemed Member of Parliament, Mr Angus Brendan Macneil, on that. During a speech in the Commons on the occasion on the Queen's 90th birthday, he invited everybody to come and visit his constituency (Na h-Eileanan an Iar). He should have added a call for people to come and WORK here, set up businesses and create sustainable employment.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Thursday 28 April

I have not been making regular postings on this blog in recent weeks, and I am not foreseeing that happening again any time soon. Over the past week or so, I have been down with a nasty cold, which is only just beginning to shift. Today has been singularly cold, something I don't really mind. The day opened with snow and a very hard frost for late April, -4C. I have completed the upload of war grave pictures on findagrave.com, 813 memorials and 1,836 photographs. The pics aren't just of gravestones, they also include portrait photographs. This is supplementary to the information on the Scottish War Graves forum.

My blogging has shifted to Facebook, which does not lend itself to lengthier postings. In a way, a shame. But times change. In the past, this early morning photograph might have featured the MV Isle of Lewis. That is now the MV Loch Seaforth.

Ten years ago this month, I had some fun on the Arnish Lighthouse blog with the dating extravaganza at the Dell Fank. This (doctored) picture was to have been the conveyance for amourous couples to the Fank on 1st April 2006. Ahem.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Echo from the past

In a Dutch graveyard on-line, I discovered a reference to a name of infamy in WW2 history. The woman dubbed "the Black Widow" has her gravestone inscribed with the words "Waarheid maakt vrij". Dutch is closely related to the German language, and the German version of the above line is "Wahrheit macht frei", not far off that chilling line at Auschwitz: "Arbeit macht frei". What does it all mean? The line on the gravestone means "Truth liberates" and the Auschwitz line means "Labour liberates". However, the Black Widow, who died 9 years ago, was the wife of collaborator Rost van Tonningen, who headed up the Dutch Central Bank during WW2, assisting the occupying Nazi forces whichever way he could. After liberation, he was incarcerated in Scheveningen jail at The Hague, and jumped (his widow always maintained that he was pushed) over the parapet of a balcony, from which he fell to his death some 17 feet below. The truth that she refers to is slightly different from the commonly held view. Common parlance is not to speak ill of the dead. On the subject of the Black Widow, I shall therefore be silent henceforth.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The fish is dearly bought

104 years ago this week the Titanic sank
119 years ago next month, the whole male population of Pabbay, near Mingulay, was wiped out in a fishing tragedy

104 years ago this year Mingulay was abandoned
This week, three fishermen died off Mingulay
The funeral took place this afternoon of fisherman Christopher Morrison of Leverburgh, Harris. He died a week ago when his fishing boat, the Louisa (SY 30), sank for reasons as yet unknown. Two other crewmen also perished, Martin Johnston of Caithness and the skipper, Paul Alliston, who is still missing. In the small community of the Western Isles, this has struck a hammerblow. The residents of Uist and Barra are scouring the coastlines of their islands to look for the missing man. It could so easily have been one of them, their son, father, uncle or nephew. It could so easily have been they themselves.
In Dutch literature, there is a famous quote by Herman Heijermans, from his play "The Good Hope" [Op Hoop van Zegen]

The fish is dearly bought

* For those in peril on the seas *

Friday, 15 April 2016

Anne Frank

71 years ago yesterday, Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Rather than being frog-marched through her former home in Amsterdam.

Rather, even, than reading her words from all those years ago, knowing now what she could not.

I'll just sit quietly and look out into the April showers of 2016, remembering the innocent who had to meet their premature end at the sharp end of a diseased ideology seven decades ago.


Saturday, 9 April 2016

MFV Louisa

The fishing vessel Louisa was lost off Mingulay in the early hours of today, 9 April 2016. Her emergency positioning beacon was activated when she went down, and Coastguard sped to the scene. Two crew have been found deceased, one was airlifted to hospital in Stornoway with non-life-threatening injuries and one remains missing. We remember the deceased and keep their family and friends in thoughts at this sad time.

Louisa was launched exactly 7 years ago for a family from Marvig, South Lochs under the registration of SY30. She fished for crab around the Western Isles. In February 2014, she was on the Goat Island slipway for repairs, which is when I took this image.