View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 9 October 2009

From the archives: Saturday 9 October 2004

A perfect autumn day. Crisp, cool, practically windless. Skye looked perfect in the morning sun, as I took the bus down to Broadford, and then on to Armadale. I just could not get enough of the magnificent landscapes along the 27 miles to the ferry terminal. Coruisk came in on time at 11.40 and left 5 minutes later. It's been called all sorts of unfriendly names, like an 'inverted flowerpot'. On one of its first journeys, it lost a propellor on rocks in Mallaig harbour, in August 2003. But it chugged across the Sound of Sleat in 23 minutes, and offered the familiar view up to Isle Ornsay, Sandaig Islands to the north and Eigg and Rum to the southwest. After two hours of dawdling through Mallaig, Lochnevis entered the harbour and embarkation began. The couple that I met yesterday at Strathaird was on board, following my glowing endorsement of the 7 hour round trip. I talked them through the first 75 minutes to Eigg. On arrival, at 3.20, my host, Marie, was waiting on the pier, also to collect her daughter on half-term hols. The ferry waited 20 minutes, doing nothing, until formal departure time came. I sat in the jeep to be driven the 100-200 yards to An Laimhrig, the Anchorage. This is the teashop/craftshop/general store building at the end of the new pier. Check out the Isle of Eigg website for further details. Having bought a can of coke, I speedmarched off up Pier Hill towards the Lodge and Galmisdale. The low autumn sun lit everything up in a way I had never seen in the 15 years of coming to the island. It was, again, a perfect afternoon. I continued up the hill, to Galmisdale, with its glaringly red roof. Then further along to Grulin, where I went as far as the Bothy, 1 1/2 miles in. I sat in the sun, looking out over the water to the Isles of Muck, Coll, Mull and the Dutchman's Cap and Staffa. At 5.15, I decided to head back. Temperatures started to drop, and I was glad to reach Kildonan, where I was going to stay for the next few days.


Lodge gardens, Isle of Eigg

Grulin, Isle of Eigg; An Sgurr in the centre

Eigg and chips

That is the title of an excellent article on the BBC News website about the island of Eigg, situated about 90 miles south of Stornoway, 15 miles southwest of Mallaig off the coast of western Scotland. The islanders have gone from strength to strength since they gained ownership of Eigg in June 1997. Before that, they had suffered 30 years of maverick landlords who were only interested in the place as a playground or tax dodge. Said lairds were not prepared to make substantial improvements to the island. So, since June 1997, the islanders have done it themselves. In February 2008, they went live with a 24/7 electricity grid, after having to rely on capricious diesel generators for decades. Three windturbines, a handful of hydro-electric schemes, photo-voltaic cells - you name it they have it. And now the Eiggeachs want us all to join in. I can just about see them winning this Big Green Challenge for which they are shortlisted.

I have supported the islanders of Eigg for over a decade. And continue to do so. Go for it, guys!

Lost at sea

Over the past years, I have been relaying a long list of incidents at sea, sometimes with a tragic outcome. The latter is likely in the latest accident. This morning, at around 4.30, a crewmember fell overboard from a creelboat, the Kirkwall registered Noronya some 15 miles northwest of mainland Orkney. The man did not wear a lifevest or survival suit. A coastguard spokesman said the expected time of survival in seas of 10°C was a few hours. We are now nearly 12 hours down the line, and still no word. A search continues, with lifeboats, the naval vessel HMS Bangor and other fishing vessels.

Friday 9 October

An overcast day, with occasional rain since midday, accompanied by strong winds. These could strengthen to galeforce, according to the forecast.

Between 11 and 12 this morning, I was watching the service in St Paul's Cathedral, London, to commemorate the 179 British service personnel who died in the war in Iraq. The service marked the end of the British involvement in that conflict. Although I missed part of the address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, I'll go so far as to say that I probably agree with what he had to say on the matter.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is always easy to say what went wrong and how it could have been handled better. The war was commenced on the orders of politicians, and executed to the best of their abilities by the armed forces. The most positive outcome was the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, within a few weeks. The subsequent mayhem did show up the Achilles heel of going in guns blazing without a thought for the future. This was very much a Bush war, with George W. finishing off the job his daddy never finished in 1991. It is a commendation for the soldiers who were ordered in to do this dirty work that they did so professionally. It is a good thing that the home front rallied round to support. The war in Iraq was based on a faulty premise, namely the presence of weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a weapon of mass delusion. But this is all hindsight. The deed was done, a regime change was effected. When will we see a similar ceremony for the boys, home from Afghanistan, or more to the point, not coming home? I don't want to think about that. It might not be in the lifetime of the current British monarch.

I have a lot more time for George W. Bush's successor, Barack H. Obama. But I did not believe my ears this morning when I learned that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. What for?? What substantive achievement has Obama chalked up, other than going round talking to people and talking to people and talking to people. For goodness sakes, there won't be a donkey left with its hind legs on where that man has been and gone. I think it is too early - and I'm not the only one with that opinion.