Title picture: Stornoway from Gallows Hill, 30 March 2014

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Iolaire Memorial

So the First Minister of Scotland has laid a wreath at the Iolaire Memorial this afternoon.

I wonder if Mr Salmond will be pressing for the early release of Royal Navy papers related to the Iolaire Disaster, which has its centenary on 1 January 2019, several weeks after the fuss over the centenary of the Armistice War will have passed. I wonder if the people of this island will ever be told the truth, if the truth is known in the first place. Maybe the truth went down with the ship, with the crew members who perished. The Admiralty awarded the families of the crew members lost in the sinking of the ship a sum of money. The families of the 180 naval personnel, or more accurately, FORMERLY naval personnel, lost in the tragedy, were awarded precisely nothing. They had been demobbed and were strictly speaking civilians, so the Admiralty were no longer interested.

I wonder if Mr Salmond will press the Ministry of Defense in London to get the Admiralty to acknowledge that they had some degree of responsibility or even involvement for this tragedy, as it was on His Majesty's Yacht Iolaire that these men were being transported home. The cause of the grounding and sinking of the Iolaire has never been satisfactorily cleared up, and may never be, even if Royal Navy papers are put in the public domain. I do not think that the people of Lewis will be pressing for mass compensation, nearly a hundred years on. Even if it was all down to the poor weather at the time, an unavoidable accident, possibly resulting from insufficient navigational aids at the entrance to Stornoway Harbour.

Since 2006, I have adopted the Iolaire and her story. I am not from these parts - my home soil lies two seas and six hundred miles away. The tragedy has affected me, and I can feel (from a distance) the pain it has caused, and still causes, in the island. I would like to think Mr Salmond also perceived this.

Maybe he could be prevailed upon to answer my questions. Not for me, but for the Dead of the Iolaire. The bodies of sixty of whom were never recovered from the sea, 95 years ago.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saturday 12 April

Westerly gale this morning, but with good sunny spells and showers. Typical Hebridean day, just feeling sorry for the poor lambs coming into the world on a day like today. It's not very warm (8C / 46F), and that strong wind could easily chill them.

SNP leader Alex Salmond has said that the independence referendum is not about the SNP. It IS about the SNP. It is the SNP that have initiated the process, on their terms and using their methods. IMHO they are fighting on a negative premise, against the English, against the Conservatives. They have failed to answer questions on many substantive issues that would face any independent country, and that is how the debate should be conducted.

Right, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, this is the sort of situation that highlights why we need an Emergency Towing Vessel around the Outer Hebrides. Not stationed 200 miles away in Orkney.

Friday 11 April

Overcast morning has now turned into rain. Wind is picking up, and we should have galeforce winds tomorrow. However, that's nothing compared to the 95 mph gusts experienced in North Queensland, Australia today, as cyclone Ita slams into Cape Flattery.

We can't redeem the fuel saving discount in the islands, so Tesco deign to grant us double Club Card points. Until 19th April. We bow to thee, oh supermarket ;-)

Went to watch a performance of Dogstar Theatre's "Factor 9" at An Lanntair. I refer to the below event from a few days ago, when the same play was performed at Strathpeffer.

It was an intense hour and a half, attended by only two dozen people or so. It highlighted the scandal of contaminated bloodproducts for haemophiliacs, compounded by the callous use of the victims for "medical research". Medical research that falls in the same category of wholly unethical behaviour as displayed by Joseph Mengele in the death camps of Nazi Germany.

Thursday 10 April

Afternoon all, it's April showers on the menu here. In spite of that, it doesn't feel cold on account of the warm sun.

On Twitter, the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic is being commemorated on @TitanicRealTime.

Wednesday 9 April

Afternoon all from a very wet Stornoway. Although it isn't really that cold, the rain is fairly tipping down. Not an outside day, therefore I shall do more digging. I keep finding additions and corrections for my WW1 listings, so that will be on my menu this afternoon.

If you bear in mind the population of this island, I think we have a very good and cheap bus service. The only exception is the route to Uig, where the first bus out of Stornoway leaves at midday, and you have to be careful about your return trip in the afternoon - not all days of the week. However, if you wish to travel to Leverburgh for the day (55 miles from Stornoway), it's only about £10 return. A single ticket for the Ullapool to Inverness bus (similar distance) costs £12. Frequencies to the more populated rural areas (Point, Back and Ness) are quite acceptable (every 1-3 hours). What is the population of Lewis? About 20,000, just under half of which live in Stornoway.

Tuesday 8 April

Bright and sunny today - in between the April showers. The brisk west wind does nothing to augment the temps, 12C at best.

Excuse me. A man living at number 6 is bailed to stay at number 5 and ordered not to go near his usual address. I don't know how close no 5 is to no 6, but this looks faintly ridiculous.

Went to see the plans for the new ferry terminal at Stornoway, works just starting I think. Should be interesting to see the finished product, by the end of the summer.

Wasn't that eerie? The lady from the guest house in Stornoway who said that you could see eagles in Lewis. She couldn't think of anything else to be seen in the island. Now, I have very, very little Gaelic, but I do know that the Gaelic for eagle is Iolaire. All people from Lewis (and those that have been in touch with me over the years) know about the tragic story surrounding HMY Iolaire, which sank outside Stornoway harbour on 1 January 1919 with the loss of 205 lives. The news item about tourism in the Outer Hebrides only elicited feelings of scorn with me. Sorry. But I'm sure that the eagles were mentioned for a reason - and not for the reason that the lady had in mind. It has inspired me to write a new short story, my 14th.

Monday 7 April

First cruiseliner of the season is here, the good ole Marco Polo. She has been on the go for nearly 50 years. Tragedy struck in February, when a huge wave in the English Channel smashed windows, causing the death of a passenger. We remember him, whilst wishing her godspeed.

April showers this morning, with rain, hail, snow and the kitchen-sink. Only 9C / 48F on a brisk southerly breeze.

I don't want to be insensitive or disrespectful with regards to the death of Peaches Geldof. Any death is the cause of profound sorrow and sadness for the family involved, particularly for such a young person.

Having said that, I find it a gross exaggeration to devote five whole minutes at the start of the main evening news bulletin to the death of this celebrity. There are more important things happening today. The crocodile tears of Oscar Pistorius do not rank among them. Neither, sorry folks, does the first overseas visit of Prince George.

Pistorius. Oh, I am so tempted to write down my theories on that case. But it is a live trial, and this blog is visible to all. So, die Gedanken sind frei.

Think Queensland could get a very nasty surprise this weekend. It's called tropical cyclone Ita, and it will graze the length of the eastern coast from Cape Melville a long way down towards Brisbane. That is my guess at any rate, it's still 4-5 days until the first landfall occurs.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Ukraine and Russia - continuing downhill

Now Putin is fomenting trouble in eastern Ukraine, and we're going to be treated to another sham referendum, one that will lead to war between Ukraine and Russia after its inevitable outcome on May 11th. Similar sham referenda can be anticipated in some of the Baltic states, which have large Russian minorities. And that will lead to war with NATO. God help us.

Obama, you're a blabbermouth. All talk and no action.When the first sign of Russian infiltration in Crimea occurred, back in March, he should have sent the fleet into the Black Sea, just outside Ukrainean territorial waters, all weapons loaded and ready to pull the trigger.

Sunday 6 April

Afternoon all, it's a wet and breezy day in the Western Isles. Not tempted to go outside, so continuing with more searches re WW1 casualties. Am about half-way down my list of 447 names on Ancestry, and keep finding minor and major errors going back to when I started this out-of-control project 7 years ago.

This is SO frustrating. Searching for a Donald Macleod from (the parish of) Barvas in this island, who was killed in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 9 April 1917. His service number was 3/7088, but can I find any info on him? No, blazes.

The rain has moved away, but has been replaced by a force 6 from the southwest and some bright spells. The moon passed close to the planet Jupiter after nightfall, quite a spectacular conjunction.

Saturday 5 April

Afternoon all from a decidedly dreich Stornoway, it's grey wet and breezy. Late last night (about 1 am), there was dense fog here. Intermittent spells of drizzle, borne along on this southerly breeze. No it's not warm at all, barely into double figures. One thing about the Hebridean climate, we don't get huge jumps in temps. It has been a pretty consistent 10-12C (50-54F) over the past week, but down south has seen anything between 10 and 20C (50-68F).

Friday 4 April

Overcast and very misty this morning, visibility little better than a mile here. Should be brighter tomorrow.

Thursday 3 April

After a dreich morning, the rain has moved away north. However, the sun has taken a leave of absence for a day or two. Time to catch up with more research.

Wednesday 2 April

Stunning day today, not a cloud in the sky (to speak of). Just wisps of high level cirrus. No pollution here to speak of. Went on a 5 mile walk round Laxdale, Newvalley and Bennadrove, back through the Castle Grounds. Saw the first (live) lambs of the season, heard plenty more in the fields at Newvalley.

A major moor blaze has flared up from east of Achmore, being propelled all the way towards Garynahine. Firecrews are out tackling it, but another blaze was being reported near Direcleit, Harris.

Tuesday 1 April

Can you get me a bucket of steam please? April Fool!

Afternoon all from a bright but not fully sunny Stornoway. The musical ferries continue, with MV Isle of Arran currently bravely plying the Minch whilst the MV Isle of Lewis is out on sea trials following repairs. Military exercises, involving jamming of GPS, send the AIS trails for the Isle of Arran into the Baltic, heading north at 102 knots. Chance would be a fine thing...

One of my Russian contacts had this summary on president Putin: Not [...] amused by the various bright sparks ascribing Der Zwerg's deranged territorial ambitions to the hapless passport holders.
For those who do not speak German (!), Der Zwerg means The Dwarf.

Monday 31 March

Our ferry is cancelled today, due to technical problems. There is a 4pm sailing out of Tarbert to Uig, Skye. We therefore now have not had a ferry service out of Stornoway for two days running. The MV Isle of Arran is going to cover on the Stornoway to Ullapool route, amidst a huge uproar over the arrant (sic!) nonsense surrounding this ferry service.

Fairly bright and sunny, but a thin layer of mid-level cloud keeps the sky milky white rather than blue. Putin wants Finland back for Russia? I suppose he wants another bloody nose like he got in 1940.

Sunday 30 March

Clocks went forward an hour in the night, and even this minor change in timekeeping throws your bodyclock out of sync. The ferry developed a serious fault, and did not go out for its customary Sunday afternoon run to Ullapool. MV Isle of Lewis now stands for Motionless Vessel Isle of Lewis. She has taken up the soubriquet of the Olympic Flame, latterly bestowed on the MV Muirneag until she went out for good on October 3rd. She remains anchored off Istanbul. Tomorrow, she won't be going out either.

A tropical cyclone in the Mozambique Channel, west of Madagascar, blew up to the highest category (five) whilst bearing down on Madagascar. Local newsmedia there did not mention the storm at all, which is a bit frightening.

Had a nice amble around the Castle Grounds, past the Castle and up Gallows Hill. The derhodondendroning has opened up some fantastic vistas from Gallows Hill, and you can now see the river in the valley below. It wasn't cold (13C / 55F), and quite a few people out stretching their legs.