Title picture: Stornoway from Gallows Hill, 30 March 2014

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Schism alert

I have the deepest respects for religious beliefs and convictions, if anyone professes to holding such. I am a Protestant, albeit barely active (read: I'm only in church at Christmas). I have nothing against Roman Catholics, in fact, some of my best friends over the years were devout RC. I could, in all fairness, not contemplate joining the RC church, for reasons of principle. I will not accept major parts of church dogma, for a start. However, I don't like certain aspects of the Protestant church either. This news item, about a schism or split in one of the Church of Scotland congregations in Stornoway, highlights one of them. My complaint is not about homosexuality; I have nothing against gay people, as long as they don't put it on display right in my face. My complaint is about ordinary people deciding how the Holy Scriptures should be interpreted, and that any other interpretation is false, and (worse) condemning people who believe that the alternate interpretation is the right one. Who is to know how the Scriptures should be interpreted? Only God knows - and He is leaving it to us to figure it out. For us to find out that we're all fallible, and should live in forgiveness for errors of others, real or perceived ones - in order that we can repay the favour. How often did I say I was in church? Hmm.

Sunday 20 April

Easter Sunday and not a single cloud in the sky. The southerly breeze takes the edge of the temperature, but in a sheltered position it is positively warm. Went for a 4 mile walk in the Castle Grounds, from the Castle to the College, across the Golf Course to the Waterwheel and back through town. Lots of folk out, walking dogs and kids. Mercury reached 14C / 57F, very good for this time of year.

Saturday 19 April


It's drying up and brightening up after a rather wet start to the day. The mercury has barely moved in the last 24 hours, varying between 8 and 10C / 46 to 50F. Prefer that to the wild and wonderful swings I'm seeing reported by some of my US contacts!

Friday 18 April


Aye, it's Good Friday, and not a bad day weatherwise. Breezy this morning but quite bright with some intermittent sunshine and about 11C / 52F. It is customary in some parts of the world to attend a performance of JS Bach's St Matthew's Passion today, and it is one of the few pieces of classical music where the audience does NOT applaud at the end. You file out in silence. The Passion ends with the death of Christ being mourned with the words: "In tears we are sitting here". Never a dry eye in the house...  

One of those glary days. Sun is not openly out in the sky, but the thin high- and mid-level cloud makes the light very bright indeed. It doesn't always agree with me, unfortunately. Where's me paracetamol?

Thursday 17 April

This morning, I was greeted at the front door by a playful young, black cat with amber eyes. Like another feline before it, 6 years ago virtually to the day, it wanted to rub itself all over me, jump at the strap on my camera and needed to be gently removed from the porch, lest it get locked in. No, it isn't mine, although I'm very fond of cats.

Today, I took delivery of a copy of The English Camp at Groningen 1914-1918 (in Dutch). The subject of this internment camp propelled me into the subject of local history, particularly First World War.

Wednesday 16 April

Morning all from a very wet Stornoway. And the Scottish Government is in Stornoway today (is that the reason it's pissing down with rain?). Mr Salmond will do something to do with the harbour development (watch that rock!) and Ms Sturgeon will dig the first sod at a new housing development at Melbost Farm, outside Sandwick.

At 8.40pm, the electricity went out. All the way from Fort William to Lerwick. The reason appears to have been a 'transient fault' between Inverness and Elgin, which spread right across the north of Scotland. Here in Stornoway, it lasted for 50 minutes, after which the local power station kicked in. It's nice to have the candles etc out, but electrical light is preferable.

Tuesday 15 April

There is a lunar eclipse tomorrow morning (British time). Its commencement (moon moving into the prenumbra) will just about be visible in the UK before moonset, but North America will have a grandstand view.

Talk of poor timetable design. In order to establish the exact route of a certain bus, I have to go to one table, but emulate Sherlock Holmes to deduce from a secondary table that it does take that route. I'm talking about CnES and its W6 and W7 town services in Stornoway.

Looks as if I've had my last search for shellfish at springtide by the ferry terminal. Works have started to reclaim that bit between the current terminal area and the outflow of the Newton Basin. This will end up burying that stretch of tidal mudflat forever.

Such strange weather tonight. Suddenly blowing a hoolie between 9 and 10, and now it's calmed right down again. Odd.

Monday 14 April

Beautiful Monday morning here, with broad sunshine and little wind. Temps already in double figures. Went out for a walk through the Golf Course to the War Memorial. Returned across the Golf Course, but this time in the general direction of the Castle. In sheltered areas, it felt quite warm in the sun, although the wind pegged temps at 12C / 54F. Gorse is in full bloom, and the dandelions are also beginning to put in an appearance. Lots of people out playing golf, noticed at least three golf balls along the path.

After a ship got into difficulties south of Barra Head, calls are being made for an Emergency Towing Vessel to be positioned in the Minch again. I'd like to think that my Facebook comments were picked up by a local journalist, and by the MSP.

Sunday 13 April

Afternoon all, it's brightened up here after a dull and rainy start. Sun is making haphazard appearances, and the wind remains strong. It's April!

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.