Friday, 31 July 2009
I have completed the transcription of the Lewis Roll of Honour for the First World War. There are 6,029 names from the over 100 villages and townships across the island. Some are just listed with their name and unit, others have decorations. Nearly 200 perished in the sinking of HMY Iolaire on their return home on New Year's Day 1919. Another 1,100 or so lost their life in the course of the war, or during the years afterwards. Once I have cleaned up the data, I'll give a further breakdown. I now have to contemplate how to plonk it all on the web. I'll probably do it by village.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Nearly halfway round the globe, and this so-called African tropical wave has spawned a tropical cyclone. African waves are pulses of moist air, which move off the African continent in the summer months, into the Atlantic Ocean. They are the focal point for hurricanes to form in the Atlantic. However, the one that gave rise to tropical depression 6E travelled nearly halfway around the world. Within the hour, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, will issue the second advisory, and it is likely to be for a tropical storm. Satellite images suggest that the system will continue to strengthen for a day or so. It will not directly affect Hawaii, passing 5 degrees of latitude to the south of the Aloha state.
The image shows 6E in the bottom right corner; Hawaii sits in the centre.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Local rumour has it that some wisecrack is blaming the tornado on divine retribution following the institution of a ferry on the Sabbath. My reply to that is: god sent us a tornado, God prevented anyone getting hurt.
On the Fujita scale, which measures the strength of a tornado, judging by the damage it leaves behind, this one was an F1 tornado. Overturning a car puts it at F1, as does roof damage. The Coastguard reported a sudden increase and decrease of windspeed as the phenomenon passed. The Met Office rainfall radar last night showed a small burst of intense rainfall, moving at high speed from the west coast of Uig to Stornoway between 9pm and 9.30pm.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
And what did I spy just before the rain started to lash down? The three-masted schooner Oosterschelde leaving port. I wish them a safe passage, but hope they made the right decision in setting forth with this weather heading our way.
Up here in the Hebrides, there are concerns over a population decline in some of the more remote areas. The island of Scalpay, off Harris, has a population of about 200, but none of them are aged below 7. Following the closure of a fish processing factory there a few years ago, there are no prospects of new employment - and thereby new families arriving. A similar problem caused a terminal decline in population on St Kilda, which was evacuated 79 years ago, in August 1930. Read more here.
The dates have been announced for the switch-over to digital television in Scotland. The Western Isles will transition in July 2010.
Monday, 27 July 2009
Sunday, 26 July 2009
It's a quiet Sunday as well, with more in the news following the death of WW1 veteran Harry Patch yesterday. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is talking of organising a commemorative service for all those who died as a result of the Great War.
Across in America, a cruiseship made an unusual entry into port, when it was discovered to have a 70 foot whale stuck on its bow. The marine mammal was dead, and it required two tugboats to prise it off the cruise liner.
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Harry Patch, the last remaining British veteran of the First World War has passed away at the age of 111, a week after the death of Henry Allingham at 113. A chapter is closed, and only indirect accounts and photographs remain to remind us of the horrors of the trenches and the senseless slaughter of thousands. It is a strange coincidence that I am currently digitising the Roll of Honour of the Isle of Lewis, now two-thirds done. At least Harry Patch and his mates are all back together again, swapping yarns up there.
Salute to them all.
This year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's bard, Robert Burns. In celebration, a Homecoming event has been organised for Scots abroad to gather in Edinburgh today. It will include a gathering of clans and Highland games. If I'm brutally honest, this sort of thing sets my teeth on edge. The history of the Scottish clans is far from memorable, and the demise of their power in 1746 was a disaster waiting to happen. Moreover, having lived in an outpost of Scotland for nearly five years, I have found the entire notion of clans barely relevant nowadays. Although there are plenty of surnames starting with Mac in this part of the world, they are rarely associated with the clan they designate. Usually, the name was adopted by those living on their land.
The history of the Highland Clearances is one that tends to be conveniently forgotten, or glossed over to hail the achievements of Scots in the diaspora. Absolutely correct, great things were wrought by those kicked off their home patch. But why weren't they allowed to build their lives and make great works in places like Skye, Rum, the east coast of South Uist or Sutherland? It is as a result of the Clearances that this whole Homecoming lark has come about. And as it was done under the noses of some of the Clan chiefs, it is hardly something to be proud of.
Friday, 24 July 2009
Trinity Temple, Carinish, North Uist
House at Balranald, North Uist
Dunskellor Cemetery, Sollas, North Uist
Beach at Sollas, North Uist
Abandoned slippers, Berneray
Berneray Youth Hostel
Beinn Mhor, South Uist from Lionacuidhe
Note: The maps / satellite images show the location from where the picture was taken, not necessarily the object as described
Yesterday, a pod of dolphins were rescued from the coast of the island of Grimsay, between North Uist and Benbecula, some 75 miles south of here. They had got themselves into shallow waters, but volunteers managed to coax them back to the deep waters of the Atlantic. Two years ago, two dolphins got themselves stuck in Sandwick Bay, just down the coast from my position, and had to be put down.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
In the latest entry, you can actually zoom in and out on the map, in order that you see where everything is on a larger scale. Hope this makes things clearer. Also hope you enjoy the pictures.
Many thanks for your email regarding the Associated Press story carried by the website about the ferry service between Ullapool and Stornaway.
Firstly, apologies for the tardy response, I’ve been away this week and the emails were just passed to me.
The piece came from an AP journalist, not from the Independent or Independent on Sunday and there do seem to be some stereotypes rather enthusiastically embraced by the journalist in question. I will raise the issue with AP and take the story off the site immediately.
Editorial Director for Digital
2 Derry Street
020 7005 3553
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Last night (European time), a solar eclipse occurred, with the sun being obscured for more than 6 minutes in some areas. The next time such a long eclipse of the sun will happen is in 2132. Right, I'll pencil that in my diary for that year, will I.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
One of the three men who died in the capsizing of the scallop dredger Aquila off Ardnamurchan yesterday has been named. The vessel was based at Maryport in Cumbria, northern England, and frequented the waters off Western Scotland and Northern Ireland. Lifejackets were not worn by any of the four, and the MCA notes with regret that these might have helped to save lives. It adds that it is imperative, when putting to sea, to also carry a means of communication - mobile phone, VHF band radio and /or emergency flares. This call comes in the wake of another missing fisherman who was found safe and well near Arisaig last night.
Pictures. I still owe you lot pictures from my trip last week. Bear with me, I'll sort that out.
Monday, 20 July 2009
My sympathies go out towards the next-of-kin of the deceased.
More details on Hebrides News.
The above award was passed on to me by Barbara (Caneyhead).
For the first time since sometime last month, I went round the blogs I have on Google Reader. It felt like coming home after a long absence. A common theme seems to be developing, namely that people spend less and less time on their blogs, and more on Facebook and Twitter. I no longer believe this is solely due to the abolition of AOL Journals in September 2008. I spend a lot of time myself on my own Twitter account. Nonetheless, I do not think you can properly blog on Twitter, with the restriction of 140 characters. You can't include pictures or other material, and certainly not describe a train of thought.
I'll carry on blogging as I have done since October 2004, and endeavour to write at least a post a day. If you can, please do so yourself. I'll see you around.
Following the start of Sunday ferry sailings, a minor row has blown up after the Associated Press put out an article, which you can read in full here (there are 755 other websites carrying the same crap).
The majority of the 18,000 islanders strictly adhere to the books of Genesis and Exodus from the Old Testament, in which God declared the seventh day reserved for rest and worship. So after church services, they don't use electricity, play games, shop or even hang out laundry to dry.
Let me tell you that I have sent three stiff complaints: to AP, to the Independent on Sunday and to the journalist himself. The vast majority of people use their electricity. Most people keep a quiet Sunday, if only not to offend those who genuinely feel that the Sabbath should be observed as they think the Lord decreed. But misrepresenting life in Lewis is something we can do without.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
The first Sunday ferry sets sail
Lines of traffic waiting to board
Some of the crowd outside the ferry terminal
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Well, that is a mad 36 hours we've just had here in Lewis.
Yesterday, Friday, the MV Isle of Lewis, limped into port two hours late after developing a fault in her engine. She had only managed to complete one of her scheduled three return crossings to Ullapool. Whilst the engineers went to work to fix her exhaust system, passengers piled up at the ferry terminal only to be told there would be no ferry services at all on Friday. This was nothing short of a disaster. We're currently hosting the Hebridean Celtic Festival (with about 8,000 visitors in Stornoway & environs), and many of them will have been on their way here, or on their way back to the mainland. Some people managed to divert to Tarbert, Harris, to cross to Skye. Compounding the situation was the fact that the Isle of Lewis had carried 200 passengers on a daytrip to Stornoway, who had intended to return to the mainland on the scheduled 7pm crossing. They now had to be put up in Stornoway, whilst there was not a spare bed left due to the Hebridean Celtic Festival. Some unfortunates were reduced to sleeping in the ferry terminal, or in sleeping bags outside. Just as well it's summer, and not desperately cold at night.
Whilst this mayhem was going on, Calmac organised a relief vessel (in the shape of the Isle of Arran) to take over on the Stornoway to Ullapool run. On Friday evening, it was still doing the Kennacraig to Islay run; by 11 o'clock on Saturday morning, she was up here. Also on Friday evening, the Hebrides (which normally plies from Uig in Skye to Tarbert or Lochmaddy) sailed to Ullapool to help clear a backlog of vehicles which had built up on the mainland.
Loaded to the gunwhales, the Isle of Arran bravely sailed to Ullapool shortly before midday. Passengers were reported sitting on the ground, as there was no seating left for some. Checking shipais.com a minute ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Isle of Lewis steaming into the Minch, headed for Ullapool. It is due back at 4.30 this morning, preceded at 3.00 am by the Isle of Arran.
The Sunday sailings are certainly getting off with a bang, with no fewer than two ferries coming in first thing on a Sunday - the first scheduled Sunday service will depart as billed at 2.30pm tomorrow afternoon.
The day dawned bright and sunny, with some low cloud over the hills that quickly burned away. I went on the 9 o’clock bus to Balivanich to collect my hirecar. Well, that was the start of some adventure. I haven’t driven for a while, and am a bit rusty. At any rate, I won’t go into the relearning curve, suffice to say that I covered 70 miles today. After calling into Nunton cemetery in Benbecula, I headed south along the A865 towards Eriskay. Took me an hour and it was quite warm in the car. When I called into the Am Politician bar for a lunch at 1.15, I was perspiring. Had a coke, a bowl of soup and a tuna mayo sandwich. I left the chips. The cemetery was almost next door, so I walked there and took the pictures I needed to take, as well as some of Eriskay’s fantastic colours and landscapes. Nipped round to the Polochar (stress last syllable) Inn to leave a message for the familiar faces I saw last night, and resumed my search for graveyards. The first one, at North Boisdale, found me up a rough track, but I got the result I was looking for. Ardmichael, near Stoneybridge, was located between two stunning, sandy beaches. Howmore, a mile or so up the road, is next to the Youth Hostel, and I briefly chatted to a couple who were camping nearby. The cemetery at Lionacuidhe [Linique] proved elusive – I went up this sandy track, but found nothing. I think I went up the wrong sandy track. I duly returned to Ardmhor and checked into the Anglers Retreat, situated next to the A865 spinal route. Marion showed me to my room, where I crashed for an hour with a cup or two of tea. Bill was wrestling with a midge-eating machine which wouldn’t work. Dinner is at 7pm.
Today dawned grey and wet. A steady drizzle was coming down. Breakfast was between 8 and 10, so I showed up around 9 am. The staff were friendly, the breakfast good. As I was getting my tea and toast, the lady was a bit too sharp off the mark clearing my cutlery, but she apologised and replaced said items. After breakfast, I lugged my case down and left it in the dining room, as previously arranged. Then I went into town. The drizzle was heavier than I thought, so I quickly put on my waterproof trousers. Walked along the seafront as far as Dunollie Castle, past Columba’s Cathedral (which began ringing its bells as I passed) and the War Memorial. I then turned back in order not to miss the parade of yachts. A very large private vessel steamed out of port at a rate of knots, and a plethora of smaller ones followed in its wake. The old Oosterschelde remained stately at anchor. She later relocated to an anchorage further south. As the morning progressed, the drizzle slowly eased off. I went for a cuppa in a restaurant on North Pier, then went up to McCaig’s Tower. This is a folly; Mr McCaig wanted to give local stonemasons some work at a time of unemployment around 1900. Returning to town, I had lunch at the Regent Hotel, then went back to the Kelvin to collect my luggage and go to the ferry terminal.
After a longish wait, we were allowed on board the Clansman at 3.20, twenty minutes before departure. It is full of kids, youngsters and holidaymakers. We leave exactly on time, and quickly steam out of Oban Bay, into the Sound of Mull. The weather remains grey; to my horror, the battery on my camera is nearly depleted, so I have to cut back on the number of pics I take. Duart Castle at Craignure, Lismore Lighthouse and Ardnamurchan. A few others sneak in as well. I have a Calmac curry before we hit the swells off Ardnamurchan, by which time the sun has come out. Eigg and Rum are barely visible, just over 10 miles to the north, hidden under a blanket of cloud. Muck is slightly clearer. Coll bathes in sunlight to the south. All are left well behind as the Clansman starts the long crossing to Barra, across the Sea of the Hebrides. Finally, after 8pm, we see the shapes of Barra and the Bishops Isles looming up, as well as that of South Uist. We dock at Castlebay at 8.30, and I espy familiar faces on the quayside. The crossing to Barra was characterised by a lot of swell, and not everybody was coping to well. A few green faces appeared on deck to get some fresh air. The continuation to Lochboisdale was swell-free. Arrived there at 10.20, and Mr Murray collected me by car to take me to his wife’s B&B.
That was a very early start, 5.30 am. Taxi took dad and myself to Arnhem for me to catch the 6.46 fast service to Schiphol Airport. It was reasonably busy, particularly at Utrecht (Holland’s 4th largest city and its main rail hub). At the airport, a large queue awaited me for check-in at Easyjet, but this went reasonably fast so at 8.30, I was in the lounge awaiting a call to board the aircraft. That duly came by 9.45 and half an hour later we were airborne. A swift passage across the North Sea saw us over East Anglia, then north over Lincolnshire and the Humber. By coincidence, I spotted the strange shape of the Stang Forest, which lies about 8 miles north of Reeth, and I could just about make out the Dales around that area, as well as the landscape to the north, into County Durham. Edinburgh came not long after, and we were on the ground as scheduled at 10.35 local time. Several other flights had also landed and disgorged their passengers, leading to a long Q at passport control. After that, it was a case of pick up your case and go for the bus. And thus it was that I found myself in Edinburgh city centre at 11.45.
I went for a walk round Princess Street Gardens, back to Waverley Bridge then up Calton Hill, which is a nice viewpoint. When walking round, you get a 360 degree view of the city. Had to return to Waverley to pick up my case and locate the bus station. Couldn’t find it on St Andrews Square. Well, it’s got this large sign – going vertically up the building and not very prominent in the street. By that time, I got so hot and bothered that I got on the wrong bus to Perth – the fast one, which does NOT go into the bus station. It drops you off at a park-and-ride outside the city, and you have to grab a shuttle service to get into Perth proper. Once there, I had about 50 minutes before the Oban bus came. On the way to Perth, we passed the T in the Park concert venue, which was marked by a sea of tents and caravans – near Kinross.
So, at 4.50, we headed off west, all the way along the A85 to Oban, 95 miles. Fifty to Crianlarich, 45 on to Oban. It was a nice sunny day, and it’s a beautiful ride. If a long one. You get a p break in Tyndrum, but that’s all. Oban was reached three hours later, as per schedule. Am typing this in the Kelvin Hotel, a simple hotel (bit too simple for my liking) and you just about get the Wifi signal from the Calmac terminal. As I type this on Saturday evening, I don’t get a signal. Went into Oban to get some fish & chips and to admire the “Oosterschelde” (a Dutch threemasted schooner) and some dolphins jumping in the bay. Beautiful sunset.
The oldest veteran from the First World War, still alive in the UK, has died at the age of 113. Henry Allingham, who saw six monarchs in his lifetime, was the oldest man in the world. He was the sole survivor of the beginnings of the RAF, and he had seen action at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, as well as in the trenches on the Western Front. Henry had spent the last years of his life educating people about the Great War. Only Harry Patch now remains as the last of the Great War veterans. Henry Allingham, well done. You can rest in peace now with your mates.
Friday, 17 July 2009
The regular vessel, MV Isle of Lewis, had a break-down this morning, and limped into port some two hours late. It was unable to complete the remaining two crossings of the day, leaving hundreds of people stranded on either side of the Minch. Worse than that, it also had 200 people on board who were on a non-landing cruise. They are now having to be put up in Stornoway, where there is not a spare bed to be had due to the Hebridean Celtic Festival which is underway at the moment. The replacement boat, MV Isle of Arran, is steaming north but will not reach here until tomorrow morning as it has to come all the way from Kennacraig in Kintyre. It will then carry out three crossings, which will finish at 3 am on Sunday morning. Due to the backlog of traffic, the first Sunday sailing will probably turn into two sailings this Sunday. Talk of devine retribution was firmly swept under the carpet.
The Hebridean Celtic Festival is an annual music and culture festival in Stornoway, centered around the Big Blue Tent in the Castle Grounds. Several headline acts take place in there, with fringe events elsewhere in the town. I last attended it in 2005, as the performers in subsequent years did not appeal to me. This year, Capercaillie's Karen Matheson was billed, but tickets for her show were sold out before you could catch your breath.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Tomorrow, I return to Lewis. Once there, I'll write the blogposts of this week.
Sunday sailings were opposed for many years by people wishing to retain the unique Lewis way of life, and/or for reasons of Sabbath observance. Personally, whilst deeply respecting the sincerely held religious convictions of those people, the inconsistencies had become so glaring that it was only a matter of time before the MV Isle of Lewis would show itself beyond the Arnish Lighthouse on Sundays. I mean, within the island chain covered by Western Isles Council, ferries were already running on Sundays, planes were flying on Sundays (out of the Stornoway airport) - and the pubs are open on a Sunday.
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
7/7 ranks alongside 9/11 in the list of dates of infamy that will not be forgotten. Neither will those that were lost in either atrocity.