View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Remembering Today

31 December
On this day in the First World War (or its immediate aftermath), these two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 3 Tolsta Chaolais
Regiment or division: Royal Navy, HMS Eaglet
Service number: 14469/DA
Date of death: December, 31st, 1919 at the age of 20
Died of illness
Interred: Dalmore Cemetery, Lewis
Local memorial: Tolsta Chaolais

Last address in Lewis: 42 Upper Bayble,
Son of Donald and Isabella McLeod, of 42, Upper Bayble, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS President III
Service number: 6994/A
Date of death: 31 December 1918 at the age of 21
Died of pneumonia in hospital in Ireland
Interred: Eye / Aignish Cemetery
Memorial reference: B. 2. 94

scheduled post
Currently blogging on the Shell Gallery

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

End of year

It's 12.30 am in Holland, and it's the start of the end of the year. In 12 hours time, 2009 will start its inexorable march into our lives on the far side of the globe. In the past few years, I would join my pal Petar Vodogaz from Sydney as he heralded the New Year, whilst the clock in Stornoway was only on 1pm. Eleven hours later, he would come on to wish me happy New Year.

This year, things are different. Tomorrow afternoon, I'm on a family visit, after which it'll be a quiet evening in. I'll be toasting 2009 with my father, remembering those who are no longer with us, who left us during the year. I'll be thinking of others who suffered losses, like the friend who lost both parents at the end of the summer - losing me as a friend in the process. Those in the J-land community who lost loved ones this year and before.

I have changed the picture on the heading of Atlantic Lines. It is a bright image of a beach at Port of Ness in Lewis, taken in March of this year. I hope it will be indicative of the new year to come, for all who read this.

Happy New Year.

See you on the Shell Gallery tomorrow.

Journals Chat

I've decided to revive the Journals Chat, that used to go with our AOL Journals. You can find the room here. It is there for everyone, at any time.

Remembering Today

30 December
On this day in the First World War, these two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 3 Lower Barvas,
Son of Angus and Peggie Mackay Graham, of Barvas, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Pembroke
Service number: 1815/C
Date of death: 30 December 1918 at the age of 50
Died of influenza in Chatham
Interred: Barvas (St Mary) Old Churchyard

Last address in Lewis: 3 Lower Shader
Son of Angus and Peggie Mackay Graham, of Barvas, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: Royal Navy, HMS Pembroke
Service number: 1815/C
Date of death: December, 30th, 1918 at the age of 50
Died of illness
Interred: Barvas Old Churchyard

30 December

Yes, it's 1 am and I'm still awake. I've just gone through a lot of journals, leaving New Year's wishes. I'm not actively monitoring blogs at present, but didn't want to leave 2008 without going to the bother of calling round. I'm double-posting this on both Atlantic Lines and the Shell Gallery; Atlantic Lines is my main blog after all. The Shell Gallery takes over when I'm in Holland, like at present.

I'm very sad to note that Jeannette has suspended her journal Outside Looking In after what she has described as a particularly miserable Christmas. Other factors contributed to her decision as well. It is a decision I'm facing for the New Year myself. The year 2008 is one I'd prefer to forget, but can't. You all know why.

This journal will now only carry two more posts this year, the "Remembering Today" entries, which are scheduled for later today and tomorrow (31 December). If there is news of the missing sailor in Uist, I'll put it up as well.

Please be careful if you let off fireworks for New Year, wrap up well if it's cold out and have a good 2009 if we don't cross paths again before hand.


Monday, 29 December 2008


No further sign or sound has been heard of 21-year old Simon Macmillan from Ardmore in South Uist, who went missing in the early hours of Christmas morning. He alighted from a minibus in a village 3 miles from home at 3.30 am, and has not been seen since. People in South Uist are organising a prayer ring for his safe return. Coastguards from the Western Isles and Skye spent all day yesterday scouring the island's shores, lochs and adjacent sea areas for him without result. At first light, at 8 am this morning, the search was due to resume.

Memories have resurfaced of the five family members who perished in the South Ford, between Benbecula and South Uist, on 11 January 2005, when their car was swept off the causeway in hurricane force winds. Will post further updates on here, if and when I get them.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Keeping an eye

Although currently blogging from Holland, I could not help glance through the Western Isles news website just now. A young man of 21 from South Uist went missing in the early hours of Christmas morning, after alighting from a minibus at Iochdar. This village was the scene of a tragedy 4 years ago, when 5 members of the same family were washed away during the hurricane of January 2005. Conditions in South Uist were described as cold but calm at the time. Hundreds of islanders have scoured the shores of the island, as well as its northern neighbour Benbecula, offshore sandbanks and nearby lochs for the Merchant Navy seaman. His disappearance is a total mistery.

Woolworths in Stornoway closed its doors this afternoon, one of the first of the chain's shops in the UK to close down. Its employees have been made redundant. Although Woolies was described as the shop where you could get everything somewhere else, this did not apply to Stornoway. It's only a small town, population about 7,500, and not all that many shops. What other shops there be are usually a good deal dearer, and I'll be very sad to see it shut upon my return in the New Year.

The Arnish Fabrication Yard is once more changing hands. Its operator, Altissimo, has done the exact reverse that its name implies, and gone down rather than up. Now yet another crowd, Bi Fab, will take over operations there. I'm getting very, very tired of this sorry saga of empty promises and money being poured down bottomless pits.

Remembering Today

27 December
On this day in the First World War, these three men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 46 Benside,
Son of John and Barbara Stewart, of 46, New Market, Laxdale, Stornoway, Lewis.
Regiment or division: 1st Gordon Highlanders
Service number: 3/5990
Date of death: 27 December 1915 at the age of 19
Killed in action in France
Interred: La Clytte Military Cemetery
Memorial reference: I. C. 20
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial


Last address in Lewis: 41 Callanish,
Regiment or division: Army
Date of death: 27 December 1916 at the age of 29
Lewis Memorial: East Loch Roag, Callanish

Next posting in this series will be on December 30th
This is a scheduled post
Am currently blogging on the Shell Gallery

Friday, 26 December 2008

Remembering Today

26 December
On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 32 Lower Shader,
Son of Donald and Mary Smith, of 32, Lower Shader, Barvas, Isle of Lewis.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Kent
Service number: 2380D
Date of death: December, 26th, 1915 at the age of 46
Died in Bellavista, Peru
Interred: Bellavista Old British cemetery
Memorial reference: II. L. 20

scheduled post
Currently blogging on the Shell Gallery

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Remembering Today

25 December
On this day in the First World War, these three men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 13 Benside,
Regiment or division: Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 25 December 1914 at the age of 19
Killed in action in France
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

Last address in Lewis: 34 Breasclete,
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMT Resono
Date of death: 25 December 1915 at the age of 47
Drowned in sinking of minesweeper in the North Sea
Left 5 orphans
Lewis Memorial: East Loch Roag, Callanish


Last address in Lewis: 3 Sheshader,
Son of Murdo and Chirsty MacAulay, of 3, Sheshader, Stornoway; husband of Catherine MacAulay.
Regiment or division: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Edinburgh Castle
Service number: 1652/C
Date of death: 25 December 1914 at the age of 61
Washed overboard from HMS Edinburgh Castle in a storm and drowned
Memorial: Chatham Naval
Memorial reference: 8
Lewis Memorial: Point (Garrabost)

scheduled post
Currently blogging on the Shell Gallery

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Remembering Today

24 December
On this day in the First World War, these two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 4 Arivruaich,
Son of John and Rebecca Morrison
Regiment or division: Highland Light Infantry
Date of death: 24 December 1914
Lewis War Memorial: Lochs, panel 1
Served in India for 10 years, after joining the army in 1902
Local memorial: Kinloch, Laxay

Last address in Lewis: 13 South Beach Street, Stornoway
Also quoted at Seaforth Head, Balallan.
Son of Farquhar and Annabel MacRae, of 13, South Beach, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 7th Northampton Regiment, attached 129th Field Coy, Royal Engineers
Date of death: 24 December 1917 at the age of 30
Killed in action in France
Was wounded while a Sergeant in the Borders Regiment
Interred: Roisel Communal Cemetery extension
Memorial reference: III. C. 2
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

scheduled post
Currently blogging on the Shell Gallery

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Remembering Today

23 December
On this day in the First World War, this man from the Isle of Lewis lost his life in the service of King & Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: Stag Road, Stornoway
Regiment or division: Royal Navy, HMS Surprise
Service number: 196893
Date of death: 23 December 1917
Drowned off Holland
Memorial: Chatham Naval
Memorial reference: 21
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial

Monday, 22 December 2008

Remembering Today

22 December
On this day during the First World War, these eleven men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King and Country.


Last address in Lewis: 2 Achmore,
Son of Norman and Catherine Mackay
Regiment or division: 1st Cameron Highlanders
Service no: 3/5432
Date of death: 22 December 1914
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: Crossbost


Last address in Lewis: 5 Achmore,
Regiment or division: 1st Cameron Highlanders
Service number: 3/5330
Date of death: 22 December 1914
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Plaque 41 / 42
Local memorial: Crossbost

Last address in Lewis: 7 Ballantrushal,
Son of John MacDonald, of 7, Ballantrushal, Barvas, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/5366
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 18
Killed in action
Memorial: Le Touret Memorial
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve

Last address in Lewis: 6 Brue,
Son of Kenneth Finlayson, of 6, Brue Barvas, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Gordon Highlanders
Service number: 3/5265
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 19
Killed in action in France
Joined army before age 16
Interred at Le Touret Memorial
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42

Last address in Lewis: 8 Lemreway,
Son of Angus Chisholm, of 8, Lemveway, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Cameron Highlanders
Service number: 3/5442
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 20
Killed in action in France
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader

Last address in Lewis: 23 Lower Shader,
Son of Malcolm and Ann Macaskill, of 23, Lower Shader, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Cameron Highlanders
Service number: 3/5066
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 23
Killed in action in France
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve

Last address in Lewis: 29 Lower Shader,
Regiment or division: 1st Gordon Highlanders
Service number: 3/5271
Date of death: 22 December 1914
Killed in action in France
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve


Last address in Lewis: 13 New Shawbost,
Son of Murdo and Peggy Macdonald, of 12, New Shawbost, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Cameron Highlanders
Service number: 4765
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 40
Killed in action in La Bassee
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Last address in Lewis: 13 New Shawbost,
Son of Murdo and Mary Macleod, of 13, New Shawbost, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/7152
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 18
Killed in action in La Bassee
Memorial: Ploegsteert
Memorial reference: Panel 9
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar


Last address in Lewis: 13 Ranish,
Regiment or division: Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/7120
Medal: Mons Star
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 19
Killed in action in France
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 38 and 39
Mentioned on family gravestone at Crossbost
Local memorial: North Lochs, Crossbost

Last address in Lewis: 23 Upper Shader,
Son of Colin and Chirsty Macleay, of 23, Upper Shades, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Cameron Highlanders
Service number: 3/5550
Date of death: 22 December 1914 at the age of 17
Killed in action in France
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 41 and 42
Local memorial: North Lewis, Borve

scheduled posting

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Solstice Notes

I'm wondering how many people turned up at Stonehenge this morning, to witness the Winter Solstice. I believe it was cloudy down south. Up here, turning up at the Callanish Stones on this midwinter day is a waste of time. Callanish is a lunar monument, not a solar one.

The port is brimming with three ferries tied up at the moment. The MV Lord of the Isles arrived this afternoon to take over from our usual boat, the MV Isle of Lewis which is due to go for its annual refit. The MV Pentalina B (referred to by everybody as the Iona) continues to cover for the freight ferry Muirneag, still away on its refit to the Tyne. The Muirneag was involved in a grounding earlier this year, when she lost steering and ran onto rocks at the Castle Grounds here in Stornoway, nearly knocking out an early morning jogger in the process.

This will be my final post on here for this year, with the exception of the Remembering Today postings, which will be put up automatically, courtesy Blogger, until January 5th. As I indicated yesterday, I shall be thinking about my future on-line during the holiday period. Early tomorrow morning, I am leaving for Holland, from where I will blog on The Shell Gallery. I intend to continue working on Atlantic Light, my photoblog, over the next 2 weeks.

I shall leave you on here with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - back on January 6th.

Hurricane update - 21 December

Tropical cyclone Billy is currently over the far north of Western Australia, and will reemerge over the warm waters of the Indian Ocean during Monday. The system will strengthen to a fully fledge cyclone, with winds up to 65 knots (hurricane force) by the middle of the week. The coast of WA is under warning / watch for this storm, all the way from Kalumburu in the north to Wallal further south.

I shall continue to update my Tropical Cyclones blog over the Christmas and New Year period, with the exception of tomorrow.

Sunday 21 December

Last Sunday before Christmas, and after a benign start, the weather has once more turned nasty. It is blowing hard and it's raining. We can expect gales later today - hope they subside by tomorrow, as I'm due to cross to the mainland first thing Monday morning.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which more than 200 were killed. A bomb exploded on board the Boeing 747, bringing it down on the town of Lockerbie and killing several people on the ground. Two men were brought to trial in later years, one of whom is currently in jail, serving a sentence for the attack.

Today is also the shortest day of the year. The sun rose at 9.15 am, and will set at 3.35 pm. Stornoway lies just north of the 58th parallel; the sun will not rise today in any place located north of the 66th parallel.

Remembering Today

21 December
On this day in the First World War, these two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.

Last address in Lewis: 43 South Shawbost,
Son of John and Mary MacLennan Murray, of 43, South Shawbost, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/8201
Date of death: 21 December 1915 at the age of 40
Interred: Bragar Cemetery
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Last address in Lewis: 10 Tong,
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 12
Date of death: 21 December 1914
Killed in action
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 38 and 39
Lewis Memorial: Back

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Looking ahead

Early on Monday, I shall depart for Holland to spend Christmas and New Year with my father. As I've indicated before, it will be the first time he will spend either holiday alone following the death of my mother 8 months ago. I shall return to Stornoway on Monday 5 January 2009.

In the period I'm away from Lewis, this blog will feature a daily entry entitled "Remembering Today", which I shall set up tomorrow. You can schedule entries on Blogger to be published on a date in the future, so don't be surprised to see posts from me on Atlantic Lines from December 22nd until January 1st, a black date in Lewis history.

I am currently thinking about my activities, and that includes the Internet. At the moment, I spend too much time on the computer, much as though I enjoy that. Since we switched to Blogger, I have taken up with Facebook, which is an activity I may end up abandoning after the New Year. I am also not certain that I shall continue blogging on this blog. I set up Atlantic Lines following AOL's closure of our journals, which, like many of you, I found a traumatic experience. This blog covers a period marked by relationship problems, both on-line and in real life, underpinned by the continuing grieving for my mother - quite an unhappy episode to be truthful. The front picture, Dalbeg beach under looming clouds, is strangely evocative in that respect.

From next Tuesday, I shall make updates on my Dutch blog The Shell Gallery, until I return to Stornoway. I will not be calling round journals in that period, except for those mentioned in Call for Support. On 6 January 2009, I will make a final post on here, announcing my further intentions. You may want to prepare yourselves for my withdrawal from blogging for a protracted period of time.

Remembering Today

20 December
On this day in the First World War, these four men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives in the service of King & Country. RIP.


Last address in Lewis: 17 Fivepenny
Regiment / service: Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 20 December 1914 at the age of 19
Killed in action in France
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

Last address in Lewis: 26 South Dell
Regiment / service: 1st, Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 20 December 1914 at the age of 24
Killed in action in France
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

Last address in Lewis: 9 Fivepenny
Son of Angus and Catherine Macleod, of 9, Fivepenny, Port of Ness, Stornoway.
Regiment / service: 1st, Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/7206
Date of death: 20 December 1914 at the age of 19
Killed in action in France
Memorial / cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Panel 9
Local memorial: North Lewis, Cross

Last address in Lewis: 18A Gravir,
Son of John and Mary Campbell, of 18, Gravir, Stornoway.
Regiment or division: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 3/7159
Date of death: 20 December 1914 at the age of 20
Killed in action
Memorial: Le Touret
Memorial reference: Panel 38 and 39
Local memorial: Pairc, Kershader


AOL Video Uncut was shut down on Thursday, and their site now redirects to, another video upload site. The email that AOL sent me about that suggests that they would transfer the videos that used to be on Uncut to Motionbox. There is nothing on the website that suggests that this is actually possible, being done.

I copy the relevant paragraph:

Our records show that you had uploaded videos to the site. While the AOL Video Uploads site is no longer available, we have made your videos available to be transferred to for a limited time. Learn more at Motionbox.

No, that's not the case at all. Motionbox offer former Uncut users a premium membership at a reduced rate for 30 days. No videos have been transferred at all. I copied mine to YouTube the moment the closure of Uncut was announced.


Christmas - 2007

Christmas last year was tainted with sadness in J-land, as was, with the loss of two of its writers on both days. On Christmas Day, Lahoma (who used the AOL screenname of mzgoochi) passed away after a struggle with cancer. On Boxing Day, Kim (demandnlilchit) followed in her footsteps, also succumbing to cancer. I hope Christmas this year will be a merrier affair, although the community doesn't seem to be the same after our expulsion from AOL.

Saturday 20 December

Phew, a bright, sunny day with very little wind. The storm died down late last night, moving east to batter Orkney and Shetland. It's not very warm, only 5C / 41F. Yesterday's heavy rain and wind has led to flooding problems across Scotland. I was sorry to hear that the winterstorm across the northeastern USA continues to wreak havoc, likewise in Washington State.

There are currently problems with internet traffic due to severed subsea cables south of Sicily. This is thought to have happened as a result of seismic activity - Sicily hosts an active volcano, Mt Etna.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Remembering Today

19 December

On this day during the First World War, the following two men from the Isle of Lewis lost their lives:

Lieutenant Colonel DAVID MACLEOD
Son of the late W. MacLeod, of Arnol, Isle of Lewis; husband of Helen MacLeod, of 15, Marina Court, Bexhill-on-Sea.
Last address in Lewis: 12 Arnol
Service, unit: 8th Battallion Gordon Highlanders
Date of death: 19 December 1917 at the age of 47
Died of pneumonia in France
Interred: Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, V. D. 49.
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Medal: DSO for gallantry at the taking of the Hohenzollern Redoubt in September 1915. He was the Commanding Officer of the 8th Battallion.
Other medals: DCM Egypt 1878 and 1915 Star

Son of Donald and Christina Matheson, of 36, Lower Barvas, Stornoway, Lewis.
Last address in Lewis: 36 Lower Barvas
Service, unit: Seaforth Highlanders, 2nd
Service number: 3/6708
Date of death: 19 December 1914 at the age of 32
Killed in action
Interred: Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Guinchy, grave V. A. 4.

Windy nook

Wind continues to blow a full gale, 45 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. Went out to the Coastguard Station (5 minutes' walk away), but timed it perfectly to coincide with a lull in proceedings, whilst the wind veered from south to west. If anyone is interested, you can take a look at live weather readings from Eoropie (pronounce: Yoropee), near the Butt of Lewis, 25 miles north of Stornoway. Extremely exposed, it has already gone through a 96mph gust. Outpost North Rona, 45 miles northeast of the Butt, reported force 10 winds (52 knots), with gusts at hurricane force (71 knots).

Still on matters meteorological, Australia is having its first tropical cyclone. Billy is currently in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, southwest of Darwin, at tropical storm force - with winds similar to what we're experiencing in the Hebrides today.

Yesterday, I ordered the first copy of my own private listing of all those from the Isle of Lewis who were lost in the First World War: Faces from the Lewis War Memorial. I produced it through an on-demand publisher for a grand total of just over £8. I am not intending to place it on the open market, as I'm absolutely not certain that it is faultless. There may also be issues surrounding copyright here and there. Nonetheless, I'm quietly proud of this achievement.

Friday 19 December

Downright filthy day out here in the Hebrides, with winds already touching force 9 on the Beaufort scale, and forecast to go right up to force 11. Rain lashing down; it's binday, so the emptied bins were at one time blocking the road. No ferry today, it is tied up in Ullapool until 10.30 tomorrow morning when, weather permitting, it will return to Stornoway. Quite a few ferry services disrupted in western Scotland - have a look here.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Relocated entry

I originally posted this on Call for Support, but concluded it was not appropriate.
So, here it is again, on my own blog.

Some may remember Cathy (chatzeekay), who had to stop blogging on-line after AOL journals shut down last October. She has severe health problems, stemming from domestic abuse. Painkillers no longer help, and Cathy is supporting a bill in US Congress to legalise the use of cannabis for the relief of chronic pain.

Personally, I have grave misgivings against the use of cannabis, which is based on the serious side-effects of the drug. These include precipitation of psychosis in susceptible individuals and impairment of cognitive functioning. Cannabis, in its purified form of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, could be beneficial for the relief of pain. However, there is currently no firm scientific basis to underpin this.

I will be the last person to deny any pain sufferer relief, however tenuous the scientific base of the use of the compound in question - cannabis. I cannot support the bill, as I'm not a US resident. Even if I was, I would still not do so for the reasons quoted above.

Any US residents reading this: visit the link, visit your conscience, and support the bill. Or not.

Thursday 18 December

Late posting for today, and probably the only one. Not feeling too great today, with a stinging headache. Not a good idea to spend too much time at the PC, so I hope tomorrow will be better. It won't be in terms of weather, as stormforce winds (force 10 on the Beaufort scale) are forecast for my neck of the woods late on Friday. Pity it will peak after nightfall (3.30pm and later).

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Afternoon notes

This morning's gale is abating and the sun is trying to come out. The ferry will return from Ullapool at its usual time, after being tied up there since arriving this morning. The cargoship Red Duchess, which has been discharging a cargo of road salt, departed first thing in the morning and was last spotted on AIS headed down the Little Minch, east of Skye.

Three years ago, a huge fire destroyed a fuel depot at Buncefield in Hertfordshire, north of London. As a result, a critical eye was cast over the fuel depot (pictured above) on Shell Street, in the heart of Stornoway. Several alternatives have been considered, but the current economic climate has delayed any action on relocation.

One could be Glumag Harbour, across the bay from my position, where the Arnish Fabrication Yard stands.

The other would be the unused fuel tanks at Stornoway Airport, left over from NATO times during the Cold War. A jetty (shown above) is already in place there for a tanker to dock.

Wednesday 17 December

The day started with a fierce lightning storm just after midnight. The path of the storm was easily mapped, when the lightning began to strike the electricity pylons which run into the Arnish Substation from the south. Some of the discharges were within half a mile of my position (as it took less than 3 seconds between lightning and thunder). The final bolt was accompanied by half-inch hailstones. Winter is the most likely time we're likely to see thunder; it occurs when the temperature in the cloudtops is 40 degrees C lower than down at groundlevel. At the moment, there is heavy rain and strong winds (force 7). The ferry is not sailing; at present it is tied up at Ullapool. The 5.15 sailing out of Ullapool is under review. Judging by the forecast (winds up to force 9), it will probably be cancelled as well.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


On 30 November last, the body of an unidentified man was recovered from rocks near Eoropie Beach in northern Lewis. Police have conducted extensive inquiries across the island, speaking to operators of B&Bs, busdrivers and members of the public generally. After the man's identity was established, a family member had to travel north to formally identify the body. He was a man of 48 from Kelso in the Scottish Borders, who had been on a walking trip in Lewis. There are not thought to be suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, and, as per procedure in Scotland, a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

RIP Charles Coyle

From the bottom of a shoe

The Iraqi journalist, who allegedly threw a pair of shoes at US president Bush, has been beaten in custody, according to his brother. The man is now in a US military hospital for treatment. Throwing shoes is a sign of supreme contempt in the Arab world, and George W. Bush is most impopular in the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and American support for Israel (to mention but a few) lie at the bottom of that. The reporter is likely to be prosecuted under Iraqi law, possibly for insulting a foreign leader and/or the country's president. News bulletins yesterday showed a number of demonstrations across Iraq supporting the shoe-thrower.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was in my mind unnecessary, however unpalatable Saddam Hussein was. He was already hamstrung, unable to move militarily, and patently not in possession of weapons of mass-destruction. It would have been a matter of time before he was removed from power anyway. The American leadership acted in the usual manner, barging in without thought for the consequences or the broader picture. In my opinion, George W. Bush sought to complete the job that his daddy had left unfinished in 1991 after the first Gulf War. There was no plan for what happens next.

Invading an Arab nation was bound to inflame regional tensions and act as a focal point for terrorist groups like Al Qa'eda. It says much for the Iraqi people that they themselves have now started to rise up against foreign insurgents, leading to a gradual improvement in the security situation in the country.

Tuesday 16 December

Nice sunny day today, but with a fresh southwesterly breeze. A major improvement on yesterday's rain and wind. Although the mercury rose to 11C / 52F yesterday, I think I prefer it to be a little colder rather than wet.

If you are using the Internet Explorer browser (any version), you are advised to take precautions. A major security flaw has been uncovered, which renders the computer vulnerable to attack. Other browsers (Firefox, Opera, Safari) are not affected. It is thought possible that through the attack, passwords could be illegally retrieved from the machine. More info on the BBC website, I'll summarise the security advice from Microsoft.
  • Change IE security settings to high (Look under Tools/Internet Options)
  • Switch to a Windows user account with limited rights to change a PC's settings
  • With IE7 or 8 on Vista turn on Protected Mode
  • Ensure your PC is updated
  • Keep anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date

Monday, 15 December 2008

Darkness has fallen

The sun set at half past three this afternoon, but invisible to us here in Stornoway. It has been blowing a near-gale all day, and the ferry had a hell of a time crossing from Ullapool. MV Isle of Lewis has stayed in port here, and is not setting forth again until the morning - weather permitting.

Helen's news struck a chord with me, hence the terseness of my note on Call for Support. My mother, as you know, passed away on 1 May last; her mother died last Friday. This coming Christmas and New Year aren't going to be easy on anyone who has suffered a bereavement this year - or any year. Those newly widowed will feel the emptyness and loneliness keenly, as will their children.

Monday 15 December

Guess what? It's blowing another hoolie out here, and it's lashing down with rain.
Guess what? Local radio said the day would start bright and sunny. Think they had yesterday's forecast in front of them.
Guess what? Some people had too much to drink over the weekend, so the courthouse will be full today.
Guess what? I'll write some more later.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


A case of human rabies looks likely to be confirmed in Northern Ireland. A man was admitted to hospital in Belfast, and tests have proved positive for the disease. This is commonly transferred through a bite, and this victim is thought to have sustained an infected bite on an overseas visit.

Rabies is a notifiable disease in the United Kingdom, almost always fatal. The last case in Ulster was in 1938, and the last time the disease was transmitted by dog-bite in the UK was in 1902. As any overseas visitor knows, stringent measures are in place to prevent importation of the disease into the country. Even on the quaysides here in Stornoway, you will find notices prohibiting the import of mammals.

It reminds me of an episode 3 years ago, when a polar navigator docked at Stornoway after sustaining damage in Atlantic gales. His two dogs jumped ashore, in spite of having been warned to keep them tethered, and led police on a brief merry chase around town.

Sunday 14 December

Christmas just 11 days away, and I notice people going shopping on a Sunday and at all sorts of hours of the day and night. Not here - shops (with one exception) are closed until tomorrow morning.

The northeast of the US has been visited by a severe ice-storm, from New York state eastwards. This has downed large portions of the electricity grid - so don't be surprised if some journalers don't make an appearance. Several people have died through carbon monoxide poisoning, by using oil-powered generators in an unventilated space. The weather here is fairly bright and calm.

Down in New Zealand, a climber has died on Mt Cook, after he fell 500 metres / 1,600 feet. His companion was left in the open for 2 days, until a helicopter found a weather window to rescue him off the mountain. Summer is nigh down there, but you cannot underestimate the hazards of mountaineering.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Wood sculptures

Author Elizabeth M Parsons (one of my internet contacts) is writing about wood sculptures on her blog. In reply, I'm posting pictures of wood sculptures in the Castle Grounds, the local country park around Lews Castle on the outskirts of Stornoway.

Saturday 13 December

A better day, even if it's overcast and grey. No wind to speak of, which makes a difference to yesterday's force 8 gale. It kept the ferry in Ullapool through the day, and many other ferry services along the west and north of Scotland were disrupted or cancelled.

I just nearly fell off my chair at the latest verbal diarrhoea from Robert Mugabe. He referred to the current cholera outbreak in his country as "a calculated, racist, terrorist attack on Zimbabwe", using biological weapons. The perceived reason was the overthrow of aforementioned Mugabe. It just gets worse and worse by the day. If ever there was a case for forcible regime-change, it's that country.

A regime that was overthrown 63 years ago, that of Adolf Hitler, still leaves it legacy in Germany. Not in the way I usually speak about these matters. The town of Rügen, on the Baltic coast, sports a holiday resort 1930s/1940s style, constructed for the Nazi elite of the day. Since 1990, it has lain empty as a concrete shell near the sandy beaches. Now the German authorities are contemplating turning the buildings into a holiday resort noughties style. Don't see it taking off somehow.

Friday, 12 December 2008


82 words

Typing Test

Diets, vitamins and homeopathy

I have a thing against dieting. Look, I could do with losing a few pounds myself. But there are ways of doing that without resorting to all sorts of unhealthy alterations to your diet. I also appreciate that there are people who genuinely do have a problem getting rid of excess weight. Some people suffer severe psychological distress because of their obesity. Or their perceived obesity. I remember meeting a woman who was in floods of tears as she mentioned her excess weight (for which she had been prescribed medication by a doctor). I would not have described her as fat. Young girls, in a quest for identity, sometimes think that less is best, and anorexia nervosa is a recognised eating disorder.

Nonetheless, I was horrified to read this morning that a woman had died after drinking a gallon of water in 2 hours. It is called water poisoning (anything taken in excess is bad and can kill you), and it had brought on swelling of the brain. This lady, from West Yorkshire, had been on a diet regimen that spans 12 weeks, and involves an intake of 500 kilocalories per day (normal for a woman is 2,000), backed up by regular fluid intake, soups and bars. The company that supplies the regimen states that it gives clear guidance on the amount of water to consume.

Whilst I'm on my high horse, I'll also take a swipe against multi-vitamin preparations. They're a rip-off, let me tell you. If you keep a normal, balanced diet, you don't need vitamin supplements. Should you run short, you can buy, or ask for a prescription for, the requisite single vitamin. Some years ago I had a look at the contents of multivits, and the amount of some vitamins can only be called homeopathic. Oh, that's another high horse.

I don't believe in homeopathy. Mind you, if you find it benefits you, don't stop just because I don't believe in it. The reason I don't believe in it is plain and simple laws of nature. Take kitchen salt. Good ole sodium chloride (NaCl). 48 grams of the stuff, that's an ounce and a half, contains 6 * 1023 molecules of NaCl. Now go to homeopathy. They say that if you dilute something by 1 part of substance into 10 parts of 70% alcohol, and continue to do that, it will increase in potency. By the time you have diluted 23 times, you are left with 6 molecules of NaCl in your little bottle of alcohol. By the time you've done it 100 times, you'll be lucky to find 6 molecules in any of 1077 bottles. Bearing in mind the pharmacological rule that a substance has more effect if there is more of it there, I think we're basically looking at a load of balderdash.

Friday 12 December

Horrible day, lashing rain, strong winds, mediocre temperatures. December at its worst. I'm not an early riser by habit, but today is one day that's best spent tucked away under the duvet.

Those that have followed me from AOL days may be familiar with my Australian buddy Petar Vodogaz, who sends his regards - if he didn't do so directly to you himself. We share an interest in tropical cyclones (hurricanes), and in the coming months, we'll be keeping an eye on developments south of the equator.

Will post more later today, if the muse finds me.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Thursday 11 December

Gradually increasing cloud cover, which leads to some phenomenal cloudscapes. It's been a good week in that respect. Today, a nationwide sale starts in Woolworths, a British department store. The sale is the pre-amble to a shutdown of the chain, which is currently in administration. Buyers are being sought, but things are looking bleaker by the day. In most British towns and cities, Woolies would not really be missed. It will be badly missed in Stornoway. We don't have that many shops selling a variety of household and other items, and what else we do have is mostly (a lot) dearer. No I'm not plugging Woolies. I'm just bemoaning the imminent loss of a useful shop.

Robert Mugabe, 9-digit inflation man, may well become an ostrich in his next life. He is already going round with his head firmly stuck in the sand over the cholera outbreak in his country. Mugabe has declared that there is no cholera in Zimbabwe, which is in stark contrast to the fact that 800 people have already died of the disease and it is spreading across his country's borders. Naturally, everybody else gets the blame. Read and weep.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas Lights


A widely publicised programme is currently being aired on a satellite TV channel, showing a man as he is assisted to die. Leaving to one side the question whether it is in good taste or decency to show someone's death on television, it does highlight the problems surrounding euthanasia in the UK.

In Holland, euthanasia has been regulated since the late 1970s, following a test-case. When someone expresses the desire to have their life terminated, a second medical opinion is sought. All options are discussed with the patient, and when both doctors are satisfied that there is no prospect of improvement of the condition, and that quality of life will only deteriorate, euthanasia can be arranged. Following the death of the patient, the doctor will fill out a death certificate and notify the judicial authorities of an unnatural death. If the public prosecutor is satisfied that the euthanasia has met all the required critera, no prosecutions will follow.

Euthanasia is naturally a subject of high emotion and potential for pitfalls and abuse. Whether the Dutch model would work in the UK is open for debate. There are those in favour and opposed to the practice. At present, anyone in Great Britain wishing to end their life will have to attend a clinic in Switzerland. Should euthanasia be carried out in the UK, prosecution will follow for those assisting the patient in ending their life.

Wednesday 10 December

Another great day for cloudscapes, even if the temperatures are not all that great: 5C / 41F. No prospects of that getting any higher soon, if anything, there is an advance warning of heavy snow fall in the north and east of the UK on Saturday.

Cathy (Dare to Think) had an interesting entry yesterday on the issue of the space-time continuum. Some 15,000,000,000 years ago, the Big Bang occurred, creating space and time. Echoes of that event still reverberate around the universe, which led Cathy to believe that you could get flashbacks from times past. She imagined that in December 2088, her home would be a park, and anyone passing through the park could come across a ghostly lady sipping cappucino tapping away at a computer keyboard, the way it was in December 2008.

I do not agree with that notion. In my opinion, there is only one constant in the Universe, and that is time. It marches forward at a set pace, which cannot be altered, stopped or reversed. It is the 4th dimension. Anything that has happened in the past cannot be changed, because it would have repercussions on the here and now. I'll give an example from my perspective here in Lewis.

In 1919, a troopship (HMY Iolaire) sank outside the harbour at Stornoway, drowning more than 200. As a result, a young man in one of the villages was forbidden from ever going to sea. He eventually emigrated to Canada, married and had children and grandchildren. Reading about the tragedy, one of the grandchildren contacted me, saying that without the tragedy she would never have been born. Point I'm making is that should someone (be able to) return to 1919 and alter the course of the Iolaire, this would have profound and immediate implications here and now. The lady I'm speaking about would cease to exist, e.g..

As for events leaving an imprint for posterity, well, I'm afraid I do not buy that either. Noise leaves an echo, correct. Events have consequences, and we see those consequences on a daily basis. But, in contradiction to Cathy's theory, atoms and molecules behave in a random fashion (called entropy), and only congregate as a result of random interactions, which, as a result of the laws of physics, lead to events. What went before is lost. A water molecule does not remember that it has fallen out of a cloud of other H2O molecules, into a huge basin of more H2O, imbibed by a bag of bones and flesh called a human being, and passed out again by said human being.

An attempt at philosophy. Feel free to take pot shots.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Facebook warning

A so-called internet worm, Koobface, is on the loose on Facebook. It has only affected a small percentage of users. More info on this page on the BBC News website.

Tuesday 9 December

The sun set two hours ago, but I'm only just getting round to doing an entry. Was fairly bright through the day, but I did catch a shower on the way into town. Going into town means a walk of less than 10 minutes, but don't underrate the Stornoway pavements. I didn't realise how bad they were until I tried pushing a shopping trolley along my street. It was brand new, but was forever trying to argue with parked cars. The roads themselves are OK, just the pavements (sidewalks for folks across the pond) are atrocious.

What did I go into town for? Christmas cards and stamps. They have all been written, addressed, adorned with postage and stuffed into the letterbox. Folks in the UK should have it tomorrow, folks in Europe by the end of the week and those in the US between 1 and 2 weeks from today. Total of cards sent: 19. Anyone else that would like a card can just email me with details, and I'll endeavour to oblige.

Morton (Caring n sharing), I am pleased to announce, left hospital this afternoon to tell those of us on Facebook that he had returned home. It was too close for comfort, he said.

Monday, 8 December 2008


A new ferry ship, the Pentalina, is currently heading north up the Minch, as shown in this AIS [Automatic Ship Identification] screenshot from 5.38pm this evening.

The catamaran is capable of carrying 350 passengers and 32 to 58 cars as well as 9 lorries. She is yet to be fitted out completely. The ship was built in the Philippines and has safely negotiated the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden on Friday. She is expected to arrive in Orkney waters tomorrow.

Pentalina will take up the run between Gills Bay on the northern coast of mainland Scotland and St Margaret's Hope in Orkney, a crossing that will take her 45 minutes.

Christmas Tags

With thanks to Sugar

Caught short

At least I can embed the Onion on here.

Monday 8 December

Quite a bright morning, with the odd shower. Sun is low in the southern sky, only 8 degrees (a hand's width) above the horizon. This evening, after sunset, have a look to the southwest. You'll see two bright stars fairly close together. The brightest is the planet Venus, the other is Jupiter. They are nearly 1 billion miles apart, and were in conjunction (in apparent closest proximity in the sky) last week. I missed that event due to cloudy skies. Later in the evening, look south for the constellation of Orion. The Dog Star (Sirius) is located to the left of Orion, lower in the sky. Readers in the southern hemisphere will see Sirius higher than Orion.

Discard any pork from (Northern) Ireland purchased after last September. Dioxins (extremely poisonous compounds) have been found in pig feed, used in at least 9 Ulster farms, leading to levels of dioxin 200 times above the limit of acceptability. There is low risk to health if you have eaten Irish pork in recent weeks.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Christmas Tags

I'm displaying each Xmas tag in an individual entry, as well as in a block at the top of my sidebar. Many thanks, so far, to Connie and Sugar. I've got more archived tags from the last couple of years, mainly courtesy Donna, which I'll put up in the next few days and two and a bit weeks.

18 days to go

With thanks to Sugar

Atlantic Lines in winter

With thanks to Connie

7 December 1941

Today is the 67th anniversary of the attack by Imperial Japanese forces on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack propelled the USA into the Second World War, eventually helping to vanquish Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Lest we forget.

Image courtesy University of Maine, showing USS Arizona on fire and sinking after the attacks.

Sunday 7 December

Overcast day with some rain and strong winds. As I write this, the sun will be setting in the next quarter of an hour. Unseen by me at groundlevel. All points south and east beware: this is coming your way.

I am having to move a blog I keep on the BBC Scotland website. The BBC will no longer allow updates as of next month or so, but they will NOT delete the old blog. I have set up a new blog on a separate site. I operate that blog, which casts a critical if slightly off-the-ball eye on events in the Isle of Lewis, where I reside. As I do so under a pseudonym, I cannot link to it direct. Check out my page.

Oh apologies for the two entries that should have gone to my Tropical Cyclones blog. Nothing to report at any rate.

Christmas Cards

If anyone would like a Christmas card from me, please email me direct with address details. I shall reply with my own. All personal details will be held in confidence, and will only be used for sending a Christmas card this year. I assume the same will apply your end regarding my details.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Reading journals

I've decided that I'll try to keep up to date with journals through Google Reader once a day. It is also a good way of distracting myself from my current pre-occupations.

I hope everybody is getting themselves ready for Christmas with the usual mixture of joy and trepidation.

I was sorry to note that Donna (of Dsdesigns) is having one health problem on top of another, as if a heart attack isn't already enough to cope with.

Another blogger with heart problems, Morton (Caring n sharing) is due to have further tests next week, to determine which procedures he requires in the wake of his heart attack. According to a relayed message from Jeannette, he is in great spirits although p'd off at the fact that his mobile phone battery has now gone flat.

Finally, I have put the entries that I managed to salvage from Sylvia's blog in a separate journal.


Man sits in pub and talks to his mates.

I'm a hypochondriac.
Don't believe me?
Talk to my gynaecologist!

Not at the helm

6 November 2008
A fishing boat went down off Bayble, some 5 miles east of Stornoway. Fortunately, all crew were saved uninjured. An inquiry has revealed that the skipper had left the wheelhouse of the Faithful Friend II a few minutes beforehand to make a cup of coffee, leaving the boat to proceed on auto-pilot. She struck a rock, which was well charted, and sank fairly quickly. A quick Mayday call, nearby vessels and a rapid response from the Coastguard prevented loss of life. The owner of the Faithful Friend II has been forcefully reminded of the necessity of watch-keeping on his boats at all times.

1 June 2006
Fishing boat Brothers leaves the harbour of Gairloch in Wester Ross (southeast of Stornoway) and proceeds to head west across the Minch. It never returned to port, and sound nor sight was seen of it again. A massive search was launched in the Minch, but the wreck of the Brothers was finally located beneath 40 feet / 12 metres of water off an island just north of Skye. The bodies of the two men on board were not in the wreck. One of them turned up in Gruinard Bay, 35 miles to the northeast 3 weeks later. The other was never found. It is thought they left port after a few drinks the evening before and dropped off to sleep. When the boat ran aground, it must have sunk quickly, leaving them no chance to save themselves.

19 December 2004
Fishing boat Audacious leaves Stornoway harbour in the early hours of the morning. The crew leave the boat on auto-pilot, which appears to malfunction. The boat runs aground just south of the lighthouse at Arnish. The skipper drowned, but two other crew were rescued.
A memorial to the skipper was later erected near the lighthouse.

Saturday 6 December

Bright day, but with a steady procession of showers. We had a mild overnight frost, -1C. Mercury currently at 6C, which sparks off the showers. Tomorrow should be a little milder still.

Yesterday saw the 50th anniversary of the introduction of motorways in England, with the opening of the Preston by-pass in what is currently the M6 motorway. That road is now part of an all-motorway link between London and Glasgow, using the M1, M6 and M74. Don't have fond memories of the northern section, after travelling down it in 1981 in atrocious weather conditions and encountering smash after smash between Lockerbie and Carlisle. The trans-Pennine A66 (Penrith to Scotch Corner) is also blackmarked in my book, when (on the same journey) that road was littered with accidents as well. I never seen so many smashed caravans as on that 500 mile journey from Glasgow to London, 27 years ago.

In 1958, there were no speedlimits. Nowadays, there are (70 mph), but in my experience, the unwritten speedlimit seems to be 80 mph. If you do do 70, you're holding up the traffic!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Sunset images

As I said in previous post, we had a beautiful sunset this afternoon. Just sharing a few images here.

A few cloudscape pictures from yesterday

And some more from Wednesday

Friday 5 December

Beautiful winter's day, with broad sunshine and reasonable temperatures. We reached a maximum of 8C / 46F. The sunset, just after 3.30pm, was colourful and stunning.

I'd like to restate my thanks to all who are supporting me at this not so easy time. I'll get over it and sort it out in due course. As they say in this part of the world, moran taing - many thanks.

Today is the festival of Saint Nicholas, referred to as Sinterklaas in the Dutch speaking parts of the world. Several people have referred to it over the last few days, and I'll add my few pennies' worth.

Saint Nicholas was bishop of Myra, present-day Smyrna in Turkey. After his death, his remains were spirited across the Mediterranean to Spain. He is the patron-saint of children and travellers. Today, Sinterklaas arrives in a port in Holland aboard a steamship, surrounded by an entourage of Black Peters (Zwarte Pieten). They are black-skinned (long life shoe polish), a reference to the fact that Spain was occupied by Moors from North Africa, who were of a swarthy disposition.

Sinterklaas comes bearing gifts for all children in Holland, provided they have been good. Bad children will be picked up by Zwarte Piet and taken back to Spain in the big sack, which held the presents. On the evening of 5 December, Sinterklaas will take to his white charger to ride across the rooftops of Holland. He will drop presents down the chimneys, and collect a carrot for the horse, left by the children in their shoes by the fireplace. Bad children will get a faggot instead of a present, provided they're not taken away. In order to actually get a present, children will have to sing a Sinterklaas song into the fireplace.