View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tuesday 31 August

It is 13 years ago today that Princess Diana died as a result of injuries, sustained in a car crash in Paris. Just after midnight on 31 August 1997, the Princess was rushed from the Paris Ritz Hotel in order to evade waiting celebrity journalists, paparazzi. Her driver, Henri Paul, was called up at the last moment, although he had been drinking that evening. The third person in the car was Diana's lover, Dodi al-Fayed, son of Mohamed al-Fayed, the Egyptian businessman who was the owner of the Harrods store in London. Just before 1 am, the Princess' car entered an underpass along the Seine River at high speed, and careered out of control into a pillar. The vehicle deflected off the pillar and came to a halt in the middle of the underpass. Dodi al-Fayed and Henri Paul were killed on the spot, but Princess Diana was still alive. She was transferred to hospital in Paris, but died at 5 am.

I have never seen such an outpouring of public grief, including by radio and television presenters. Ordinary people congregated outside Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace and left banks of flowers. The Royal Family nearly tripped up over the issue, with Queen Elizabeth II taking days to properly assess the situation and make a public statement. Princess Diana was a royal who appealed to average British people.

Fast forward to the year 2010. As I type this, the month of August is quietly coming to a close. I've spent the day compiling a tribute to a Lewis sailor who drowned off the Irish coast in 1918 after his ship was torpedoed. The U-boat involved was sunk a few weeks later, with 9 of its crew left to drown in the sea; 31 others went down with the sub. Only one crewmen was saved by HMS Jessamine. An understandable action - U-boat crews were responsible for some pretty atrocious acts after torpedoing ships in the First World War.The tribute will be published on this blog in the next few days.

Hurricane update - 31 August

Five tropical cyclones to watch today. Danielle is no longer a tropical cyclone, just a very deep area of low pressure southeast of Newfoundland.

Hurricane Earl is a category IV hurricane, now moving away from Puerto Rico. This system will approach the American East Coast, anywhere north from Cape Hatteras to Nova Scotia. The inherent uncertainty surrounding hurricanes is very visible, as Earl has the potential to directly affect any part of the aforementioned coastline. The hurricane is now carrying maximum sustained winds of 135 mph.

Tropical storm Fiona is approaching the Leeward Islands, which will have to suspend mopping up after Earl. This is a relatively weak affair, with winds at galeforce (force 8 to 9 on the Beaufort scale).

In the Pacific, Lionrock, Kompasu and Namtheun are doing a menage-a-trois, but the first two should be watched. Kompasu will make landfall near Seoul with winds of 90 knots, that's a trifling 105 mph near the centre. Lionrock will make landfall in eastern China at tropical storm strength, bringing deluges of rain.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday 30 August

A nice day, quite a decent temperature (for this neck of the woods), 16C. No coat required for walk to shop this afternoon. The pretty yacht that was in on Sunday has disappeared; AIS tells me it left after 10pm last night, destination "Home".

This is the Eleonora E, which is a replica of the 1910-built schooner Windward.

Here in Lewis, the battle for the Pairc Estate has hotted up and the gloves are off. Under Scottish law, the community can purchase the estate they reside on, whether the landlord wants to cooperate or not. Barry Lomas, owner of the Pairc Estate, most definitely does not want to part with his land - even less so now that a windfarm could be built on it, meaning its value would skyrocket. According to the Pairc Trust, which are spearheading the community buy-out bid since 2004, his family have ratcheted up an 85-year record of neglect.

Gravir, Pairc

Hurricane update - 30 August

No fewer than five tropical cyclones to watch at present, with one possibly about to form, and another about to cease being a tropical cyclone.

Danielle is turning into a non-tropical storm depression south of Newfoundland, and will head towards Greenland.

Earl is a category III hurricane, which is presently giving the northern Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico hurricane-force winds. Its future path should give concern to the US east coast, although it is more likely that Nova Scotia gets a category II hurricane knocking on its door later this week.

Lionrock is a tropical storm in the western Pacific, bound into an unholy threesome with nearby storms Kompasu and Namtheun, in the vicinity of Taiwan. Kompasu is a 75 knots typhoon, Namtheun is a minor tropical storm, which will be gobbled up by Lionrock as that storm strengthens into a typhoon.

97L is a tropical disturbance which is trying to catch up with Earl - this gives the forecasters a headache as it introduces all sorts of uncertainties.

In summary: watch Earl if you're in the Caribbean or the US East Coast / Canadian Maritimes.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


The cruiseliner Clipper Adventurer (shown above during a visit to Stornoway in September 2007) has run aground on an uncharted rock in the Northwest Passage in the Arctic, southwest of Victoria Island. This according to MSNBC. Attempts to get free from the obstacle have failed, which have left the liner aground and listing slightly. The icebreaker Amundsen has been despatched to take the passengers to safety. Nobody is reported hurt.

Post Katrina

Found in an abandoned house in New Orleans after Katrina, books stuck together - suspended as shown in picture. Image posted under Creative Commons License, courtesy Incognita Nom de Plume. Please click on picture for more information in the comments section.

Today 80 years ago

Sixty miles southwest of Lewis, the villagers of St Kilda were packing up their belongings, before leaving the island of their birth forever. Some left a bowl of grain on the table, with the Bible open at the chapter of Exodus. A community, a culture, a way of life was coming to a close after thousands of years. Life on their outpost in the Atlantic had become untenable, to their minds, and the Hiorteachs had requested their own removal. The steamer Harebell took them to the village of Lochaline, on the mainland and on to Glasgow.

A lot has been written about St Kilda, with insights changing as the years and researches progress.  Someone has recently mooted the idea to repopulate the islands with permanent inhabitants - an idea that is as fanciful as it is unrealistic. Even today, with modern, powerful boats, it is not always possible to cross the sea to the islands. In the past, there would be no communication with St Kilda for 8 months of the year, due to the severity of the weather and the ocean. That has not changed.

Work is in progress to establish a St Kilda Centre at Mangersta in Lewis, where culture and history of St Kilda will be remembered. For it is no longer alive.

Image courtesy

Today 5 years ago

The hurricane in focus on 29 August 2005 was of course Katrina, one of the most devastating tropical cyclones to affect the US mainland in modern times. Although it had weakened prior to landfall in New Orleans, its impact was devastating. I blogged about it a few days ago, so will just dedicate the entry to the memory of those lost in that disaster, in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.



Hurricane update - 29 August

Tropical storm Earl is approaching the Lesser Antilles, and I relay hurricane warnings and watches:

Hurricane warning
Hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours, all preparations to safeguard life and property should be rushed to completion

Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla
Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
St Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba

Hurricane watch
Hurricane conditions expected within 36 hours
US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques

Full updates will be issued by the National Hurricane Center every 3 hours, next update at 1200 GMT (0800 AST). 

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Saturday 28 August

Overcast but fairly bright today. The odd shower this evening, and not very warm.
Spent the afternoon watching two rock climbers ascending the rockface of Sron Uladail in Harris.

Picture courtesy
As you can see, the rock overhangs by no less than 30 metres / 100 feet, and stands 180 metres / 600 feet tall. The climb took more than 6 hours and involved some incredible stances, use of fingers, feet and balance, not to mention miles and miles of rope. The entire event was televised live from the foot of the rock, which is a good few miles off any road.

Hurricane update - 28 August

Hurricane Danielle is expected to pass to the east of Bermuda, spreading tropical stormforce (galeforce and higher) winds over the island. Beyond that, the cyclone will weaken and transform into a normal depression, which is not anticipated to affect western Europe - it will head north towards Greenland.

Tropical storm Earl is headed for the Leeward Islands, and people in the islands of Saba, St Eustatius, Saint Martin / St Maarten, Saint Barthelemy, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla. This means that tropical storm conditions could affect these islands within the next 48 hours. By the end of that period, Earl is expected to be a category 2 hurricane, passing just north of the island chain.

Please relay.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday 27 August

Earlier this evening, the last summer sailing left Stornoway, bound for Ullapool. Each year, on Wednesdays and Fridays in July and August, the ferry has three sailings a day. It departs at 6.15, 12.40 and 19.00, to return at 12.15, 18.25 and 00.45. Not once has this schedule been kept. Even this evening, it wasn't until 8pm that the Isle of Lewis left port. As a result, it will not be back much before 2 am tonight. For all intents and purposes, summer is now over. Erm, did we have a summer at all? Reading back through my blogposts, there have only been odd days that it was dry, sunny or warm since the end of June. The last spell of more than one summer's day in a row was during the first week in June.

Still on subjects meteorological, there are presently four tropical cyclones around.
is a category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic, which may bring strong winds to Bermuda. It will bring high surf to that island, and to the US east coast. I have this feeling that although Danielle will not impact the North American mainland, we in Western Europe are likely to see Danielle as a deep area of low pressure during next week.  
is a tropical storm, presently in the middle of the Atlantic, but with the potential to affect the Lesser Antilles. The French government has put the islands of St Martin and St Barthelemy on tropical storm watch. After passing the Leeward Islands, Earl will make its way west northwest.
Frank is a tropical storm, recently downgraded from hurricane status in the Eastern Pacific. This system peaked with winds of 80 knots (90 mph), but apart from heavy rains, has not affected any land. It will dissipate before reaching Baja California.
07W is a newly formed tropical depression in the South China Sea, 400 miles south of Hong Kong. It will slowly strengthen to a tropical storm before making landfall in southern China.

I should add that another tropical cyclone could form in the Atlantic. Its precursor presently lies south of the Cape Verde Islands.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Thursday 26 August

Thursday is Stornoway Gazette day, but our weekly paper did not have anything earth shattering to report this week. One little controversy centres around our ferry, which has been emitting thick, noxious fumes. Last year, its engines were refurbished to process a heavier fuel oil, and since then the boat has looked more like SS Isle of Lewis rather than MV Isle of Lewis.

The day started with wall-to-wall blue skies and benign sunshine, but cloud bubbled up to give us some slow-moving downpours. These have subsided after 6pm, and the moon is now rising into a once-more clear sky. I may nip out later to check for the Northern Lights.

On Saturday, a team of climbers will tackle the overhanging rockface of Sron Uladail in Harris, one of the largest overhanging cliffs in the country. It is situated in a remote part of Harris, but can be seen from a distance of about 10 miles from the B8011 road to Uig in Lewis. The climb will be televised, not just on terrestrial TV but also on satellite. This image of the mountain in question was taken in May 2005, when I was on a walk to nearby Kinloch Resort on the Lewis / Harris border. The overhang can be discerned directly above the white house in the centre of the picture.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Cat in bin

A woman was walking along a street this week and found a cat walking along a wall. She stroked it, then picked it by the scruff of the neck and dumped it in a wheeliebin. The cat's owner heard her cries from the bin some 15 hours later and rescued Lola. The CCTV at the house had caught the act on camera, and the culprit was identified. The RSPCA spoke to her about the treatment of the cat, which was none the worse for the experience.

The police has now spoken to her about her personal safety. The tape was put on YouTube, which elicited a furious response. A Facebook page was removed today, which called for the woman's death. She has now said what she did was stupid (and cruel).

It certainly was that, and I roundly condemn anyone for treating any animal like that. Not everybody likes cats, but there is no excuse for cruelty such as that. However, as the cat was unharmed, neither is there any call for threats to the culprit. Methinks the lesson has been learned, reinforced by all the publicity.

Wednesday 25 August

Reasonably bright today, with only patchy light rain. Not very warm, 14C this afternoon.

On Sunday, it will be five years ago since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The resulting storm surge overwhelmed the flood defences around the city, flooding large areas and killing 1,500. Other fatalities occurred to the east of the point of landfall, where the coastline was razed by the surge. When Katrina made landfall, she was only a category 3 hurricane (still very powerful), but its attendant phenomena were still of a scale, associated with the category 5 strength the system had been only a day or so previous.

On September 11th, it will be 9 years ago since four terrorist attacks on the US mainland left more than 3,000 people dead. Once more, Project 2996 will endeavour to have tributes to all victims published by bloggers around the world. I shall publish my tribute to Norberto Hernandez at 1.46pm that day, the exact time the first plane hit the WTC in New York. If I'm able, I'll adopt another victim, whose tribute has not been published so far.

In 2012, it will be 100 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic. The last survivor died a few years ago, aged 97. It is through reading up on local history that I have learned that the sinking of the Titanic need not have been as catastrophic in terms of loss of life as it turned out to be. Eight years before the Titanic sank, the emigrant ship SS Norge struck Hazelwood Rock, just east of Rockall in the Atlantic. The Norge went down in 20 minutes, taking 700 to the bottom with her.

Not all eight of the lifeboats launched from the Norge stayed afloat; some sank at the moment of launch, but a handful were spotted by fishermen and taken to the United Kingdom. One lot of survivors was put ashore at Stornoway, and treated at the local hospital. Nine succumbed to their ordeal and lie buried at Sandwick Cemetery, a 15-minute walk from my position. One boat is thought to have drifted northeast to and beyond the Arctic Circle; but there is no confirmation of her fate.

Nobody has heard of the Norge. No rich and famous on board that ship. Just dirt poor emigrants from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Russia. In particular the Russian emigrants were the undesirables of that country. Jews, who had been packed away onto the western fringes of the Tsarist realm, and generally hated and detested in many circles of the Russia of 1904. The board of inquiry into the sinking of the Norge found that there were insufficient lifeboats for the number of people on board. A recommendation was issued that laws should be introduced, requiring ships to carry sufficient lifeboats, -rafts and other craft to accommodate all on board in the event of abandon-ship. This was not followed through.

This negligence was catastrophic for the passengers on board RMS Titanic on 14/15 April 1912.

Tuesday 24 August

Another day that did not qualify for the adjective "summerlike". Not that it was particularly cold, wet or windy, it just did not feel like summer. It certainly wasn't summerlike in Amsterdam on Monday, when a tree outside the Anne Frank House was toppled over by strong winds. The tree had already been marked as unsafe a few years ago, but as it was mentioned in Anne Frank's diaries as a tree of hope, it had been sured up to prevent it being a hazard. The horse chestnut tree, now 150 years old, went down in a summer storm.

I have never visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam - I do not particularly like this sort of venue becoming a tourist trap. Anne Frank, who was killed at Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany in 1945, epitomised the 110,000 Jews in Holland who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis in World War II. Whilst I fully endorse the fact that the memory of all those folks should be kept alive, and their suffering remembered, I don't fancy the idea of hordes of people trooping through the premises who perhaps do not appreciate the severity of what happened. Yes, that's what the House is there for, to educate. Still, I'm not too happy about it. . Apart from that, I have also made a decision that I would not visit Auschwitz either - for the second reason (apart from the above) I would not visit Anne Frank House. Way, way too evocative. I do not think I'd be able to handle the experience, if I'm brutally honest. Visiting a place where more than 1,000,000 people were killed? In a process that had been industrialised? Oh heavens, no.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Monday 23 August

Local radio alerted me to the presence of a cruiseliner: the Ocean Countess, built in 1976, was at anchor off the Arnish Lighthouse, so I went down the road to take pictures.

Rally Hebrides went off quite well on Saturday, in spite of the late arrival of about a dozen cars. One spun out on the go-kart track, but nobody was hurt.

At the moment, the Sun is throwing a stream of particles our way, which means that if the northern sky is clear, you may be able to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis - if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, this will be called the Aurora Australis. I am hoping for a clear night tonight. I have placed a monitor on this blog, below the Stornoway forecast gadget, which shows solar activity.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sunday 22 August

One of those quiet Sundays for which this island is famous. No weather worthy of any description (for a change), no traffic, and only one ferry quietly going and coming. I spent the day completing a website for somebody - I'm not linking to it, as it is part of a commercial enterprise.

The northern hemisphere tropical cyclone season has suddenly come to life, which I found out when I did the 9 am (GMT) hurricane update this morning. Four systems on the go, but only one named. One was already on the way out, and dissipated by 3pm. However, we now have Danielle in the Atlantic (only the Bermudans have to worry about this), Frank in the Eastern Pacific (beware if you're in Acapulco) and a meagre depression (06W) in the Pacific, which will spoil the holidays of the Chinese in Hainan Island. The NHC and JTWC will keep you informed of developments.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Saturday 21 August

Today was punctuated by an abnormal ferry schedule. After yesterday's cancellation of services, the boat had to play a large amount of catch-up, meaning it was running 2-3 hours behind schedule - a schedule that (extraordinarily) commenced out of Ullapool. When I was at the ferry terminal at 9.30 am, I noticed a fleet of rally cars coming off, which were going to take place in local races.

Otherwise, I had to sort out someone's computer, which was grinding to a halt, due to incompatibilities surrounding a firewall program. Removing that restored some semblance of normality. It's a bit galling if you're paying a subscription, so I'll look into it further.

Hurricane update - 21 August

A new tropical cyclone has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, which will strengthen into a hurricane by Monday. Danielle is expected to veer from a westerly to a more westnorthwesterly course, attaining a peak intensity of 95 knots by the middle of next week. At present, this system is not forecast to affect any landmasses.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Force 9

The first gale of the summer / autumn has arrived. It was quite sunny this afternoon, but the wind has risen to more than 40 mph, gusting to 70 mph up at the Butt of Lewis. The ferry is off until tomorrow morning, and remains tied up in Ullapool, on the mainland. Tomorrow, there was to have been a car rally in the island, but the vehicles concerned are stuck on the mainland as well, and will probably turn up tomorrow morning at 8.30, when the ferry returns. It means that lots of people who had planned on travelling to the mainland will be stuck, unless they had the wits to use the Tarbert to Uig crossing, which is more sheltered. I've taken some pictures earlier on, in sunny conditions for a change. Usually, my stormy pics are overcast or in the half dark of the winter's day. This being August, it was sunny and quite warm - up to 18C / 64F this afternoon. The high winds will not subside until tomorrow morning.


This is an excerpt from the Napier Commission's hearings in the Isle of Skye in 1883. Sitting in Uig, now well-known as a ferry port for sailings to North Uist and Harris, the Commission heard the verbatim account of an eviction, and the rather harsh treatment of a man who declined to pay an additional £1. Donald Nicolson is 78 in May 1883, but in 1878 he was kicked off his croft in Totescore, a few miles north of Uig. His account is translated from his native Gaelic.

Lord Napier starts off the examination after the preliminaries:

What have you to state to us?
—My rent was doubled, and I would not get it even then unless I would promise to pay an additional £1. My rent was £7, 10s., and it was doubled at once, and another pound added. I did not refuse to pay the double rent, but I declined to pay the extra £1. I then got warning. When the summer came, the officer came and ejected me. He put everything I had out of the house, and I was only wanting payment for my houses, and I would go. The doors were locked on me. The tacksman of Monkstadt sent word round to the rest of the crofters that any one who would open door for me would be treated the same way as I was next year—and they are here to-day—and not one of them would let me into his house, they were so afraid. I could not cut a peat. My son's wife was in with her two young children, and we were that night in the cart-shed, and our neighbours were afraid to let us in, and crying over us. The peats were locked up. They still had the mark upon us. We had not a fire to prepare a cake. There was plenty of meal outside, but we had not a fire to prepare it. I was then staying in the stable during the summer. I could only make one bed in it. My daughter and my son's wife and the two children were sleeping in that bed, and I myself was sleeping on the stones. The Presbytery of the Established Church, during a vacancy, allowed me to enter the glebe. The factor then shut up my outhouses, and I would not be permitted to enter one of them. I was afterwards staying in the house of a poor woman who was taking care of a sick friend, and the factor challenged Mr Stewart, the tacksman of Duntulm, for permitting me to have shelter in this house, for it was on his ground that this poor woman was; and it is Mr Grant, the minister of the parish, who is supporting me to-day,

Sheriff Nicolson: When did all this happen ?
—Five years ago. There was due to me £ 6 for the making of drains on the lot, and my neighbours got this, but none was allowed to me. The factor would not pay me a penny, and it is still due to me.

Did you get anything for the house?
—The sum due by me was £35, but I got credit for the value of the house, which was £7 ; I did not get value for the other houses. They were valued at £17, 10s. and I did not get the value for them.

Lord Napier: Who was the factor?
—Mr Alexander Macdonald, the present factor. He was law agent as well in the matter.

The Interpreter made the following statement:
—He was evicted twice, but when put out he had a shed to enter into, and he entered the shed and entered the stable, and then he was evicted out of these, and an interdict was issued against him forbidding him any more to enter the house or the lands. Under stress of circumstances, he entered a barn, the key of which was given to him for the purpose of securing the crop, but was had up for breach of interdict, and for this breach of interdict he was fined 10s. with the alternative of five days' imprisonment. The expense of the interdict was something like £8. In the £35 there was a whole year's rent due. He was charged, besides, violent profits, being the legal penalty for remaining in possession after the term.

Friday 20 August

A bright start to the day, but we're on warning for a force 9 gale tonight. The first spots of the rain swirled on the wind an hour ago, but for the moment it's reasonably calm, with only a moderate breeze blowing. Disruption is likely to regional ferry services. Will update later.

It is now a year ago to the day since the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released from prison at Greenock and flown home to Libya - to a hero's welcome. The controversial release, on compassionate grounds, has stoked up a row between the Scottish Government and the American administration. Scottish ministers have declined an invitation to answer for their decision in front of American senators, who (in turn) will now come to Scotland to speak to Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill and First Minister Alex Salmond. Megrahi has terminal prostate cancer, but is still alive. In context, the train robber Ronny Biggs was also released for similar reasons, and is still alive, after an even longer stretch at liberty.

The two casualties of Wednesday's road traffic accident at the Doune Braes hotel near Carloway, here in Lewis, have not sustained lifethreatening injuries, and continue to receive treatment in hospital. Northern Constabulary are continuing their investigations into the circumstances of the crash.

More later.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


William Scambler was a 30-year old trimmer / cook on board His Majesty's Trawler "THOMAS STRATTEN", when this ship hit a mine off the Butt of Lewis on 20 October 1917. William's remains were buried at Sandwick Cemetery near Stornoway. Today, I managed to track down records of his birth and his death, which paints the following picture.

William Scambler
Birth record
Date of birth: July 23rd, 1887, 5h AM
Place of birth: Glorat, Campsie, Stirlingshire
Name of father: James Scambler, assistant gamekeeper (present at registry office)
Name of mother: Elizabeth Harriet Scambler, nee Dryden
Place and date of their marriage: Edinburgh, 14 October 1886.

Death record
Name: SCAMBLER, William
Rating: Trimmer / Cook
Official no and port division: 712.T.C. (Po)
Branch of service: R.N.R.
Ship or unit: H.M. Trawler "THOMAS STRATTEN"
Date and place of birth: 23.7.1887, Lennoxtown, Stirling
Date of death: 20.10.1917
Name and address of cemetery: Civil Cemetery, Sandwick, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, grave O. 1321.
Relatives notified and their address: Wife, Alice; Branxton, Innerwick, Berwick, Scotland

Among William's shipmates, none of whom were recovered were (further details courtesy CWGC)

BOWSER, Walter, Trimmer, RNR, TS 6310 (aged 18), Son of Thomas Frederick and Lilian Bowser, of 42, Beecroft St., St. George's Rd., Hull. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 27

BROWN, Charles John, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 5540 (aged 24). Son of Alice Mary Brown, of Clare Cottage, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, and the late Charles John Brown. Remembered on Chatham
Naval Memorial panel 26.

COLLINSON, James, Deck Hand, RNR, SD 3895 (aged 21). Son of George Collinson, of 158, High St., East End, Sunderland, and the late Catherine Collinson; husband of Catherine Millar (formerly Collinson), of 58, Loudoun Square, Cardiff. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 26.

PARRISH, Charles, Ordinary Telegraphist, RNVR, Tyneside Z 10209 (aged 20). Son of Willie and Amanda Matilda Parrish, of 75, Carr House Rd., Shelf, Halifax. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 27

PIRIE, James, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 3948. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial panel 28

PLAYFORD, John, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 10703 (aged 26). Son of Sarah Ann Playford, of Pockthorpe, Raveningham, Norwich. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 26.

POLLARD, Thomas Edward, Deck Hand, RNR, DA 12923. Son of Fanny Pollard, of Gorran Haven, Gorran, Cornwall. Remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial, panel 24.


I am so fed up with the antics of TNT Post. Here I was, writing a letter of complaint to their offices in the UK and Holland, to advise them that it was taking a ridiculous amount of time for a letter to travel the 600 miles from Holland to Stornoway - if no priority rated stamps were affixed. Priority franked mail takes 2-3 days. Non-priority mail? Well, give it a week or 2-3. The UK office for TNT Post replied to me with some whacky story about the distribution of international mail, the Dutch office came back with a bog-standard reply "we'll do everything we can to maintain an acceptable standard of service". And this month alone, two letters, without priority stamps, have reached me from Holland - after two weeks in the system. I'm NOT pleased.

J-land's anniversary

On 21 August 2003, AOL opened a facility called "AOL Journals". Over the following months and years, several hundreds if not thousands of AOL subscribers around the world opened a blog and started writing in it. What about? Their daily lives, their personal opinions, their creations - anything. Soon, people discovered each other's blogs and started leaving comments. It quickly developed into a community, one that was eventually called J-land. Journals-land. The majority were based in the USA, but quite a few others in the United Kingdom as well - myself among the latter.

Over the following five years, the community spirit blossomed, with all its attending highs and lows. The rows, the drama - the support, the laughter. Sharing each other's highs and lows as well. And accompanying several of our community members on their final days, hopefully making them more bearable.

I joined the community proper at Easter 2006, with the death of Pamela Hilger (his1desire). I'd like to think I was among friends during the following 2½ years, and still am. It was a cruel blow when AOL closed down their journals service. I wouldn't like to dwell on that - I'd rather, with Donna, stick with the positive. Saturday 21 August 2010 would have been the 7th anniversary of J-land. On October 8th, it will be 6 years since I started blogging (as a diary). Things have changed since we moved to Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and whatever - many J-landers no longer keep a blog, or are socially active on the Internet. But here is to what we had.

With thanks to Donna (and all the other tag artists) for many of the tags.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Wednesday 18 August

One of those non-descript days. Some sun, some rain, some mosquitoes. Zillions of them, as there is no wind.
Our freight ferry, the Muirneag, sprung a leak on its overnight crossing to the mainland. An investigation found the leak after many hours, and we'll be treated to the spectacle of the old tub sailing away at 11.30 pm tonight.

Above image was taken at 11.54pm on 17 February 2006. The triangle of lights is the Muirneag.

This evening the coastguard helicopter was directed to the Doune Braes hotel near Carloway, to attend the victims of a serious road-traffic accident. Two cars were involved, and two occupants were airlifted to Stornoway. One other followed by road ambulance. The A858 Westside road is closed, leading to a lengthy tailback at nearby Carloway.

Doune Braes Hotel from the A858

Tuesday 17 August

As it is a bit brighter today, I wind my way towards the Eye Cemetery at Aignish, 4 miles east of Stornoway, to retake some gravestone pictures and look for new ones. The total harvest is 50, of which 17 are new ones that I did not discover on previous visits. The Eye Cemetery is a large burial ground, and on previous occasions I may have been clockwatching. This time round I had left myself plenty of time (between 2.45 and 4.15) to criss-cross the graveyard. I should also mention that across the way from the Eye (more correctly: Aoidh) Cemetery lies the ancient church of Aoidh, which is now a roofless ruin. It has its own graveyard, which is in rather a sad state of maintenance. I questioned it with a local man, in charge of the Eye Church Trust, but he advised me that strimming the grass could damage the gravestones, and presently securing and restoring the church building has a higher priority than keeping the grass down. It was a bit of a contrast with the Eye Cemetery, where a man with a mower was busy keeping the place in order.

Old Cemetery, Aoidh Church (Aignish)

View from the cemetery east to Knock and Swordale

Left of the gravestone: man with a mower


Muirneag and the villages of Broadbay

Monday, 16 August 2010

Monday 16 August

An overcast morning has given way to a wet afternoon. Nuff said - this is summer.

The North Atlantic hurricane season is not as active as previously forecast, but we're yet to reach the peak. The customary tropical waves are moving across the Atlantic, and certainly are having an impact. One of these surges of moisture is east of Nicaragua, and its associated thunderstorms are thought to have contributed to the crash of a Colombian airliner on a Caribbean island last night. A Boeing 737 crashed on the island of San Andres at 0649 GMT (0149 local time) after being struck by lightning. The latest NHC report mentions a tropical wave, with thunderstorm activity between Colombia and western Caribbean waters. San Andres, off the coast of Nicaragua, is directly under said wave. Nobody was killed, although 114 passengers were hurt.

If you are using Mcafee for your internet security, please think again. One of my relatives mistakenly clicked on a pop-up, upon which Mcafee did not alert to the fact that malware was being downloaded. A few minutes later, the Mcafee programme (firewall, antivirus, anti-malware) had been deleted from their computer, common behaviour for malware. Having complained to the company, 3 weeks ago, they are yet to receive a response. Zero out of ten to Mcafee.

Finally, I would like to highlight this fascinating article on Wikipedia on the star Vega. Vega is one of the brightest stars in northern skies, currently high up as the main star in the constellation Lyra. It is one of the three stars (the others being Deneb (Cygnus the Swan) and Altair (Aquila the Eagle)) which make up the Summer Triangle. This swings through the southern skies in summer, finally dipping behind the horizon in November.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

VJ Day

It is 65 years today that the Empire of Japan surrendered to American forces, bringing an end to the Second World War. Japan had been brought to its knees by the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; without those devices, the war could have dragged on for months to follow, with hundreds of thousands more casualties.

Although the fighting was over, the controversy was not. Emperor Hirohito only acceded to surrender if he was not to be held to account over the actions of his forces. This is something that those who suffered at the hands of the Japanese during WW2 have never found easy to swallow. A formal apology, like the one proferred by Germany in past decades, has never been given by the Japanese government or imperial family.

As I stated in the first line of my post, it is now 65 years ago since the events that brought the war to a close. Japan has worked its way up in the world as a respectable member of the family of nations, being one of the economic powerhouses. Those that died in WW2 will continue to be remembered into the future, as their sacrifice cannot be held to be in vain.

One of the lessons learned from WW1 and WW2 is that it is eminently destructive to humiliate the vanquished, as demonstrated in the case of Germany in 1919. Whilst Germany as a single country was not wholly responsible for the outbreak of WW1, it was apportioned with all the blame. Post war reparations were exacted, which caused an economic meltdown, at one point leaving the Deutschmark at an exchange rate of 4,200,000,000,000 to the dollar. So, when Adolf Hitler came along to salvage the wreckage a decade later, his ideas were embraced, practically without question.

VJ Day follows VE Day (Victory in Europe) by 3 months and 7 days. It heralded a whole new world order, which the cataclysm of WW2 had forged. A non-violent cataclysm, which occurred in 1989 with the fall of communism in Europe, brought another wave of change. We should learn from history, as it has forged our today, and will assist us to mould our tomorrow. At our peril - to our advantage.

Sunday 15 August

A strange day, weatherwise. It started quite bright, but as we set forth on a foray by car, a heavy shower developed over Harris and drifted north. Giving us a rather wet passage through Dalmore and Dalbeg. The sun returned at 6pm, and a second trip by car in Point was conducted in bright sunshine. It even felt warm.

Still with me? Good, come with me on the journey :-)

In reverse chronological order.

Lower Bayble

Tiumpan Head Lighthouse

Cottage at Portnaguran

Dalbeg Beach

Dalmore Beach

Happy campers in the rain at Dalmore

Dalmore in the rain

Carloway Broch

Carloway Broch

Loch an Duin, Dun Carloway

Callanish Stones


Beinn a'Bhuinne

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Saturday 14 August

Today fell into two segments: first of all a visit to an art gallery in Barvas, 13 miles from Stornoway, and secondly a visit to Luskentyre and West Harris in the afternoon / early evening. The weather was grey, and later drizzly. It was not really cold. The contrast to my previous visit to Luskentyre, exactly a week ago, could not be greater. Whereas on the 7th, my father and I lounged in the dunes, my companions and I were today chased off the beach by a fine drizzle - and the presence of a dead, drowned rabbit in a nearby river. The beachscapes on the Westside of Harris remain as spectacular as ever.

In reverse chronological order


At the Luskentyre road-end

Between Seilebost and Horgabost


Luskentyre Beach (looking north)

Luskentyre Beach, looking southwest to Taransay


Above Maraig


Morven (Barvas): Prince

Inside Morven Gallery, Barvas