View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 2 October 2009

Looking down history

In recent years, I have assisted someone to trace their ancestors, using census returns. In Scotland, censes are taken every 10 years, starting in 1841. They are publicly available up until 1901; the 1911 census will become available in 2 years from now. A census provides an eerie look back down the year, showing a very narrow insight what was going on in the land on a specific evening. A babe in arms in 1891, for instance, living in a town in northeastern Scotland turns up visiting his aunts in Stornoway as a lad of 10 in 1901. The inaccuracies can provoke furious conjecture, particularly as the census takers in the Western Isles may not have been familiar with the Gaelic names and their spelling.

A different, more poignant insight, was created by an interim Roll of Honour here in the Isle of Lewis. There are actually two Rolls of Honour, one published in 1916 and the final one (for the First World War) in 1921. The 1916 Roll, which I finished transcribing this week, lists 4360 names, as opposed to 6030 in the 1921 list. Not all the names in the 1916 list are present on the 1921 list, and the total number of these discrepancies could run in the hundreds. The poignancy lies in seeing names of men, still alive in early 1916, who would die in later years of the war. The Battle of the Somme, which commenced on 1 July 1916, would claim many, as would the Iolaire Disaster on 1 January 1919. Quite a few other names are not on the 1916 list, as they had not yet joined up. I remember the case where one brother signed up for military service after his brother had been killed on the Western Front. Both never returned.

Image courtesy Daily Mail

Friday 2 October

Overcast and wet this morning. Tonight will see the advent of severe gales from the west, which will persist into tomorrow. Winds will gust up to 70 mph and I can see as plain as day that we are NOT going to have a ferry service tomorrow, neither a freight ferry. The Met Office has NOT issued a gale warning for our area. Yet.

Adverse weather conditions are certainly an understatement for conditions likely to affect the northeast of the Philippines. Typhoon Parma is headed for Aurora province in Luzon Island, with winds of 120 knots, that's 135 mph. Meanwhile, further east, Typhoon Melor is grinding west towards the Northern Marianas, with places like Guam and Saipan under threat of its 130 knots of wind, 145 mph. What comes next? Not really clear. Melor could head north towards Japan; the projected strength of wind in 5 days time, as it approaches Kyushu is still 140 knots. The forecast for Parma has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese, so I would not like to be the forecaster in charge of that system.

Laxford Bridge in northwest Sutherland, which was closed yesterday after an army transporter fell off it, is to be reopened to light traffic later today. Lorries are still being diverted east and north. Good news for local residents though, who were concerned about emergency cover.