View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday 31 July

July is closing as un-summerlike as you can think of. The Scots call it dreich, with drizzle although not much wind.

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

140 degrees longitude

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.

Thursday 30 July

Sunshine and showers punctuate this morning, and it's quite breezy as well. The reverberations of Tuesday night's tornado continue, in the shape of daft reports in the press. The obvious take of divine retribution is gratefully taken up by the trashy side of the UK press, although I have to credit the Independent for its objective reporting. If the car, flipped over by the wind, had been flung into the fuel depot across the road (or if the twister had touched down in there), the consequences do not bear thinking about. The talk of relocating the fuel depot (cost about £23m) has resurfaced, but whether that will be followed up with action is another matter. I can't but think back to December 2005, when the Buncefield depot in Hertfordshire (England) exploded. That was far from any major conurbations; our depot is located right in the centre of the town. Don't think we'll have much town left should this depot ignite.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Wednesday 29 July

Mother Nature certainly threw a tantrum last night with that tornado. Damage is greater than I initially thought this lunchtime - regional news shows cars caved in by falling roof tiles, garden sheds blown to bits, trampolines migrated across gardens, trees down and shredded of leaves. A campervan was nearly blown over, but was parked next to a tractor which prevented a disaster. But, I must stress, nobody got hurt.

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.


Last night at around 9pm, the weather started to deteriorate markedly. Dark showerclouds moved up from the west, the wind (which had already been at force 5 all day) picked up further. The Eoropie private weather station recorded gusts of wind of 57 mph at one point. And just after 10pm, a tornado dropped in for a passing visit. It came ashore near the ferry terminal, overturned a car outside the Sea Angling Club, jumped to James Street to rip gates off a private driveway, then on to Garden Road where the lead flashings came loose on a house - presumably because the rooftiles were being lifted off. Trees had limbs taken off and shredded. Next on to Matheson Road, where two small trees were downed just off Smith Avenue. And Jamieson Drive, a little way further on, also incurred some damage. The twister disappeared in the darkness off Sand Street, 2 miles north of the original point of landfall.

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.

Path of tornado across Stornoway

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ill tempered

Mother Nature is throwing a tantrum here in the Hebrides this evening. A severe squall is passing over, with winds of 60 mph being reported in the north of the island. Thunder is heard here in Stornoway and 10 miles away in Lochs. The rainfall radar shows very bright echoes out west, meaning more is to come.

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.

Tuesday 28 July

A bright, sunny but windy day - haven't seen a force 5 for some time.

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

Monday 27 July

Breezy day with varying amounts of cloud and the odd downpour. Not cold, the mercury currently at 18C / 64F. Continuing my transcription of the local Roll of Honour for the First World War, bringing the total (at time of posting) to 4,675. I manage up to 700 a day before I turn square-eyed, something that is a normal state of affairs this end. The final total is probably around 6,700, so with a bit of luck it should be done by the end of this week. The Roll of Honour takes you round the Isle of Lewis counter-clockwise, which has left me on Great Bernera. I'll continue into Uig, then across to Lochs, where the listing ends. I intend to post this on the internet, but am running into the daft situation that the conversion from 2 MB Excel file results in a 40 MB HTML file. Ridiculous.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Sunday 26 July

After a grey and dreich start, the sun came through some two hours ago, making it fairly bright this afternoon. The mercury has jumped to 18C, making it a mild day.

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

Pictures 15 July

Your average road in North Uist

Near Baleshare

Scolpaig Tower

Church at Balranald

Berneray to Leverburgh ferry, MV Loch Portain

Northton, Harris

Beach at Scarista, Harris

Harry Patch RIP

Thanks to Jeannette for flagging this up.

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.

Saturday 25 July

The day dawned bright and cloudless, but cumulus humulis have appeared and are obscuring the sun. The wind has also started to put in an appearance in the last half hour or so. A shower is possible, according to the forecast, but it should also be fairly warm (by our standards), with a max of 20C / 68F.

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

Photo Video - Uists

This video is a compilation of photos which I took last week on my journey through the Uists, whilst looking for wargraves. The war graves feature on the Scottish War Graves Project website; the other pictures appear on - and on here.


As you may know, I keep an eye on hurricanes around the world, but my information is a wee bit curtailed due to a failure in the air conditioning systems at the NRL Monterey Marine Meteorology Division. They have been waiting for the past 10 hours for repairmen to arrive. Haven't we all been there?

Pictures 14 July

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

Friday 24 July

Late posting on a reasonable Friday, as far as the weather was concerned. Within half an hour of sunset, and we only had the odd shower. Very busy on the ferry, judging by the long queue at the ferry terminal at 5.30pm, 90 minutes before departure time. Spent the day transcribing more names from the local Roll of Honour, just over 700. This has seen me progressing down the coast from Ness to Ballantrushal, and I'll resume at Barvas tomorrow. The counter now stands at 3,550, well past the halfway mark. I think the final total will be between 6,000 and 6,700. I am beginning to think of a way of putting this information on the Net, but haven't decided yet.

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

Maps on picture entries

I have found this very useful site, which provides tailor-made Google Maps. I am including them on my picture entries for my trip last week, as I don't expect most of my readers to be as intimately familiar with the geography of Scotland as my entries may suggest you be.

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.

Pictures 13 July

Old School, Lasgair, Lochboisdale


Polochar Inn

Beach at Ardmichael, Stoneybridge, South Uist

Howmore Youth Hostel, South Uist


Following my complaint to the Independent (on Sunday) about the daft article on Sunday ferries out of Stornoway, I have received the following response:

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.

Best wishes

Jimmy Leach
Editorial Director for Digital
2 Derry Street
W8 5HF

020 7005 3553
07710 613961

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Pictures - 12 July


McCaig's Tower

St Columba's Cathedral

Oban seafront

Crossing to the Outer Hebrides

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

Lismore Lighthouse

Castlebay, Isle of Barra

Pictures 11 July

Connel Bridge near Oban

The Green Welly Stop, Tyndrum

Dochart Falls, Killin

Loch Earn, St Fillans

Forth Rail Bridge from the Forth Road Bridge (near Edinburgh)

Wednesday 22 July

After a reasonably bright morning, the afternoon has turned incredibly wet. Heavy downpours are deluging my area, and as a result the drains aren't coping. A flood is seen up the road (few inches of water) and in other areas of Stornoway.

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

11 July 2009 - Edinburgh

Looking south from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Looking north from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Tuesday 21 July

The day started quite sunny, but cloud has slowly moved up from the south, obscuring the sun from about 2.30pm onwards. Warmer than yesterday, with the mercury a notch above 18C this afternoon. It is breezy, but in the sun and out of the wind it is a nice day nonetheless.

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

Fishingboat capsizes - three die

Three of the four crew on board a fishing vessel have lost their lives after their boat capsized. This happened just north of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the Scottish west coast this afternoon. The emergency services, including an RAF helicopter, a lifeboat and a shore-based Coastguard team rushed to the scene as the upturned hull of the vessel was seen drifting in choppy seas near the isle of Eigg. A man was recovered alive from the water, but three bodies were also found. The survivor was taken to hospital in Broadford, Skye.

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.

Monday 20 July

Forty years ago today, Man first set foot on the moon. The moonlandings continued for another three years, but nobody has been back for 37 years. I do not remember the night of the moonlandings (I was barely 5), but as I grew older I could not but marvel at the achievement.

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

Sunday 19 July

This video captures the moment that our ferry, the MV Isle of Lewis, pulls away from the quayside at Stornoway this afternoon. It is Sunday, incidentally, and it's the first scheduled sailing to mainland Scotland in history. The cheer at the start of the video lasts for a full minute, and is held by some to be in relief of the lifting of an oppression. Spirits were not dampened by the persistent rain. In contrast, a group of a dozen church-goers held up a placard, saying "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy". They also sang psalm 46.

The first Sunday ferry sets sail

Lines of traffic waiting to board

Church protest

Some of the crowd outside the ferry terminal

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Ferry woes

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 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.

Tuesday 14 July

After a nice breakfast, I drove off in a northerly direction to go round the cemeteries in North Uist and Berneray. The single-track roads require your full attention, both in terms of on-coming and following vehicles. A police-van was behind me from the Balivanich turn-off until I had to turn off myself at Carinish. Had a job finding the graveyard, but finally located it in the middle of a large ruin - the Trinity Temple. I met a council employee who had been spraying nettles there. The two gravestones were difficult to read. Next stop: Balranald. The morning began to clear up by then, and the views opened out as far as St Kilda, 40 miles to the west. Balranald is famous for a RSPB bird reserve, but I went into the large Kilmuir cemetery. I spent quite a lot of time there, and found many war-related gravestones. The road after that veered east along the north coast of the island, with the tidal island of Vallay to the north. I parked at the Sollas Co-op and got myself something for lunch, the time being midday. I then walked down the track into the machair, only to be eaten alive by flies. The cemetery at Dunskellor was fiendishly difficult to find, and it was only due to a large memorial that I could see it. After taking the photographs I needed, I walked across the machair to the sea to have my lunch. Fortunately, there were no flies by the dunes. About 10 miles further along, I found Clachan Sands cemetery, once more in the dunes, but this one is properly signposted. Berneray, only a couple of miles further along, was endowed with two graveyards. I went to the wrong one first, of course. This involved driving down a track into the machair, get yourself eaten by the **** flies and find that none of the gravestones is older than the mid-1960s. So, off to the other side of the island. You can't do more than 20 mph on Berneray. I got out at Sandhill Farm and was met by the most horrendous stench. Rotting seaweed on the foreshore below. I walked into the machair and passed through thick nettles - from which emanated a very deep, ominous buzzing noise. Millions of flies... Spoke to a chap who was having a break from his walk by the graveyard, who thanked me for doing what I was here to do. Afterwards, I drove south into North Uist and visited people at the Langass Lodge. The A867 between Lochmaddy and Clachan allowed me to do 60 mph in 5th gear, wow. Dinner was venison.

Monday 13 July

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.

Sunday 12 July

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.

Saturday 11 July

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.

Saturday 18 July

The morning has been quite wet, although there is not much wind today. Our replacement ferry, MV Isle of Arran, has just chugged out of the bay, on the first of its two crossings to Ullapool for the day. It will finally return tonight at 3 am. What will happen on Sunday is as yet not clear - there is talk of two sailings instead of the billed one. People are advised to relocated to Tarbert in Harris to take the ferry from there to Skye, but it is rumoured that this boat is fully booked.

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

Friday 17 July

Quite a nice if slightly cool day, with sunshine and some clouds about. Went over to Borve to try out the revamped Borve House Hotel, formerly the Borve Tavern. The building has been extensively refurbished, and makes a very smart impression. Food and service excellent as well. After a brief visit to Ness returned to Stornoway at half past five - to find our ferry service in a state of collapse.

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

Thursday 16 July

Returned to Lewis yesterday afternoon, bearing several hundred photographs and notes of the activities of the last few days. Quite appropriately, the weather has deteriorated somewhat from the wall-to-wall sunshine of the first half of the week to showers. And sunshine. Will post further once I've organised matters further; sixty emails take a bit of time.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Greetings from South Uist

I am typing this from a B&B in South Uist, about 80 miles south of Stornoway. I have spent the past two days trawling graveyards in Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist for wargraves or gravestones referring to people who died as a result of the two world wars. Pictures from the Barra cemeteries were very kindly taken for me, which completes the lot. All I need to do now is research the names on the gravestones and put them on the Net. I also have pictures, taken by someone else, of the war memorials in the Southern Isles, which enables me to compile an on-line tribute to the men from the aforementioned islands.

Tomorrow, I return to Lewis. Once there, I'll write the blogposts of this week.

Sunday sailings

Atlantic Lines reopens with the announcement that local ferry operator Calmac will start running a regular ferry on Sundays between Stornoway and Ullapool on the Scottish mainland. Unlike during the week, there will be only one crossing each way, leaving Lewis at 2.30pm, Ullapool at 6.15pm and returning to the island at 9pm.

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 July 2005

Today 4 years ago, suicide bombers struck the London Underground system and a London Transport bus. They took 52 innocent people with them to their deaths, and left 700 injured. Today in 2009, a memorial for those lost will be unveiled in Hyde Park, London.

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.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Jolly Crossing

Just want to share this hilarious video - the imagery isn't that funny (crossing the Firth of Forth by train on a very dreich day), but the soundtrack is. Imagine half a dozen ladies heading for a hen-night in Edinburgh, it's 4pm and they're already hitting the Magners. Which they're sharing with half the train. A recipe for fun.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


I have returned from being away, but am currently posting on the Shell Gallery until next Saturday.