View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sunday 31 October

The clocks went back an hour overnight, and we now have sunrise just after half past seven, and the sun setting around a quarter to five. Yep, winter is not far away now. Hallowe'en today, but as I indicated last night, I'm not feeling like it. I would like to wish everybody else a happy Hallowe'en though.

Today was a bright and sunny day, with not much wind. The ferry did its customary single crossing back-and-forth this afternoon and evening, returning on schedule at 9pm. November looks like making a similar start, but then is going to give us a nice present in the shape of a late afternoon gale. However, if it doesn't get worse than a force 8, I won't be complaining. It's that time of the year after all.

Later this week, on Friday 5 November, we'll have Guy Fawkes night. Fawkes was intent on blowing up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, but his plot failed and he was hung, drawn and quartered for all his bother on 31 January 1606. Four hundred and five years later, they are still burning effigies of Fawkes and letting off fireworks on 5 November. As is customary, the media are full of gruesome pictures of burned and torn limbs belonging to people who didn't observe the normal precautions in letting off fireworks.

Hurricane update - 31 October

Hurricane Tomas is moving west into the Caribbean, having wreaked destruction in the Windward and Leeward Islands. The storm, currently a category 2 hurricane, will strengthen a bit more before settling at around 95 knots whilst making headway across the Caribbean towards Jamaica.

Tropical cyclone Anggrek is located south of Indonesia, a few hundred miles north of the Cocos Islands near 9S 95E. The storm has an Indonesian name as it first formed north of latitude 10S. The system will move south to pass close to Cocos Island with winds up to 75 knots near the centre. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology are issuing warnings for the islands.

Hallowe'en 2010

Hallowe'en is not a tradition I grew up with, and I've only grown more familiar with it since I came to the UK, 13 years ago this month. It is a relatively inoccuous event, although I resent, like the gentleman in the pic above, the abuse of black cats just because they have black fur.

I'll just stick to the black cat as depicted in this graphic. My family had a black tomcat for 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was the friendliest creature you could care to find. Other cats, around at the time, would agree or disagree with that vehemently; other toms would get a sound thrashing out of him, whilst the females of the species got all they ever wanted out of him and more.

Donna provided me with this graphic 3 years ago, and I'm glad to see she's slowly getting back in the habit. She was also behind this graphic
which had us trick-or-treating through J-land, meaning this image is at least 3 years old. I had two Hallowe'ens in J-land (2006 and 2007); J-land was closed on Hallowe'en 2008. I was sitting in an airport lounge at Aberdeen when news came through that our blogs had gone. I've never understood why they had to be deleted, rather than being kept in an archived status. It caused a lot of upset, and I've not forgiven AOL for it.

Hallowe'en has a serious side to it. Its full name is All Hallows' Eve, the day before All Hallows, when we remember those that have passed away. 1 November will be the day, 2½ years ago, that my mother passed away, and I'll bear that in mind on Monday. Others who have recently lost loved ones or friends will be kept in mind on that day. November is also the month that I post the links to journals whose bloggers have gone before, and I'm closing this admittedly sombre post with that.

In remembering those that went before us, we will gain strength from their memory and the fortitude they showed in adversity.

Lahoma's Laments - Lahoma, RIP 25 December 2007
The Diatom Project - Walt, RIP 27 April 2007
My Reason for Reasoning - Barbara, RIP 20 November 2007
Dribble by Chuck Ferris - Chuck, RIP 1 July 2008
There are no Sundays - Jim, RIP April 2007
I shaved my legs for this??? - Kim, RIP 26 December 2007
One Girl's Head Noise (UK) - Pam, RIP 16 April 2006
Pennie's Pieces of Ohio - Penny, RIP 1 October 2007

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Summer time / Winter time

Summer left us long months ago, but tonight at 2 am, the clocks will be turned back one hour to revert the UK back to Greenwich Mean Time. There is once more talk of bringing the country into line with the rest of Europe, meaning that British Summer Time would become British Standard Time.

Image courtesy
Here in northern Scotland we are not in favour of that. Daylight hours are at a premium in winter, with sunrise at 9.15 am on 21 December and sunset at 3.35 pm. It doesn't require a mathematical genius to work out that this leaves us with a paltry 6 hours and 20 minutes of potential solar visibility. So, if the clocks go forward 1 hour and stay like that all year, we'll have sunrise at 10.15, leaving the kids to go to school in total darkness, and sunset at 4.35pm. A trial of 'double summertime' was conducted in 1968, but was abandoned. I just see it as sheer laziness from people who, when dealing with continental Europe, cannot be bothered to add an hour to calculate the time at their European counterpart's office.

Saturday 30 October

Another windy day with occasional showers. The ferry is sailing, but the captain is reported as advising passengers to secure personal belongings as well as themselves. I am looking forward to seeing the boat coming in, wreathed in a green cloud.

For what it's worth, my blogposts indicate that last night's broadband outage has been resolved. Apparently, a fault in a telephone exchange in Edinburgh caused the failure, which affected large parts of the United Kingdom. My emergency dial-up service had ceased to operate, meaning I was reduced to mobile phone messages to Facebook and Twitter. Oh, what would we do without the Internet?

Well, it gave me the opportunity to make good progress with this year's Armistice Tribute. It will be a significantly pared down version of Faces from the Lewis War Memorial.

Hurricane update - 30 October

Tropical storm Tomas is headed for the Windward and southern Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean, strengthening rapidly. The system will pick up more strength as it ploughs through the Caribbean, approaching Jamaica after the weekend with winds of 100 knots (125 mph) if not higher.It is worth monitoring this storm closely, particularly after the weekend, when its future track (which is expected to be towards Cuba) becomes clearer.

A tropical disturbance has formed in the southern hemisphere, which is making ominous noises towards the Cocos or Keeling Islands. 92L is expected to develop into tropical cyclone Tasha, with winds of 85 knots by the time it reaches the Cocos Islands. This is equivalent to a category II hurricane in the Atlantic.

Friday 29 October

Friday ended with a broadband outage across Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, which affected me as well, hence this post on Saturday morning.

Friday began with galeforce winds, which prompted the cancellation of the first sailing of the ferry to Ullapool. The 1.50pm sailing did go ahead, but I cannot imagine that it would have been a pleasurable experience. Although the wind abated, the weather remained cold and grey.

The parents of Lewis aid worker Linda Norgrove, who was killed in Afghanistan 3 weeks ago, have spoken on TV about their experiences with regards to the kidnap and death of their daughter. Although they tried to dissuade her from going back to Afghanistan, Mr and Mrs Norgrove acknowledged that it was not right to deter her from persuing what she wanted to do. A charitable fund has been set up in Linda's name, which aims continue her work in Afghanistan.

When I went out to the shop, I came across a flock of waxwings, small berry-eating birds, which were feasting on the contoneaster bushes outside Tesco. They flew off to nearby TV aerials and rooftops, but there were about a hundred of the birds there. I could not get a good photograph of them, as the light conditions were poor.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Thursday 28 October

One of those non-descript autumn days. It was cold and increasingly wet. The wind is also picking up as I write this (11.10pm). It has already caused the cancellation of the overnight freight ferry to the mainland, and MV Muirneag was moved from its customary berth along pier no 1 to pier no 3, as the latter is undergoing maintenance work at present. The ferry is docked alongside pier no 1, meaning that passengers have to shuttle courtesy taxis paid for by Calmac.

On the hurricane front, typhoon Chaba is beginning to weaken south of Japan, and will not affect that country as a tropical system. In the Atlantic, there are three disturbances which could develop into a tropical depression or storm, but will have to wait for the morning to see further developments.

Watched a recorded episode of a Poirot mystery, which I taped last night. Two hours of Hallowe'en horror. Aaaagh! Will I sleep...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Picture post - late October 2010

Cromwell Street, Stornoway, after the shower (27 October)

Cloudscapes (26 October)

Broken water mains elsewhere in the town leaves us with this water (25 October)

Dusk (23 October)

Perceval Square, Stornoway (23 October)

Wednesday 27 October

A day of changeable fortunes in terms of weather: plenty of showers and a breeze about. Not really cold, but 10C cannot really be described as tropical either, can it now?

I spent just under an hour in the library, copying tributes from the Stornoway Gazette of 1917. The hard copy of that year's edition is now in such poor shape, that it has been transferred to microfiche. Some of the tributes I print out (for a small fee), others I copy by hand. I then add them to the Faces from the Lewis War Memorial website.

An earthquake, measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale, struck the Mentawai islands off Sumatra, Indonesia, on Monday. The quake triggered a tsunami, which was 3 metres (10 feet) tall. It wiped villages off said islands, and the death toll currently stands at more than 270.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tuesday 26 October

11.30pm, and the wind is howling outside. A southerly wind, force 7, and the mercury at 13C. Yes, nearly midnight and it's still very mild. Today, the funeral of Lewis aid worker Linda Norgrove was held. It was all over the BBC and STV/ITV channels, so I just want to commend the broadcasters for a dignified and sensitive approach to this occasion. It showed Timsgarry and Ardroil as I have come to know it many a time: under the cover of mist and cloud. An appropriate setting.

An echo from the time of Saddam Hussein came through today, with the verdict on his former foreigh minister, Tariq Aziz: death by hanging. It is nearly four years ago that Saddam himself was hanged, and much has changed in Iraq. I do not know if it is for the better; it certainly could not get any worse, but I'm not getting the impression of vast and lasting improvements there.

This morning, I looked up further details for several more Lewis casualties from WW1 on whom I do not have very much information. My list of queries still stands at 100 (out of 1300), and most of them I will not be able to resolve, using the resources currently at my disposal. With Remembrance Sunday (November 14th) approaching rapidly, I'll try to clear up as many queries as I can.

I'll have a picture post tomorrow in addition to the normal entry.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Monday 25 October

A cold day, and as the afternoon progressed, cloud has moved in to deprive us of the sun's warmth as well. A southerly breeze is blowing the leaves around, and the rainfall radar shows the rain only a few dozen miles away. It will last until tomorrow.

Here in Stornoway, there has been a burst water mains, which briefly led to a loss of pressure and continuing brown discolouration of the water. Although the burst occurred on the other side of town, here by the water's edge, we're still not back to normal, an hour and a half after the initial problem. I'm keeping tabs on the website of Scottish Water for updates. #fail

Not that that was rated as anything remotely important to local radio station, Isles FM, which blithely reported on the break-in at Aladdin's Cave (a small shop) over the weekend, the controversy surrounding the proposed withdrawal of tug cover for the Minch &c. #fail

Facebook allows you to download everything you have ever put on the site. In order to verify your identity, you have to recognise pictures of any of your friends. Well, I failed dismally (sorry folks), and can now not access my details. Another big round #fail, this time for Facebook.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday 24 October

A quiet Sunday, with some sunshine, although not feeling very warm. It is supposed to get really cold overnight - on the mainland. An overnight low of -6C is forecast for southwestern Scotland. Being on an island carries certain benefits, although it does not mean we don't get frosts. We had very hard frosts last winter.

I have been referring extensively on this blog to the death of Linda Norgrove, who will be buried at Ardroil on Tuesday. The circumstances of her death have led me into two quite ferocious discussions. The first was on the subject of 'what was she doing in Afghanistan', and whether a woman should have been active in a patriarchal society. I believe that her activity, steering local farmers away from opium poppy production, was a valid aim which has an impact far beyond the confines of Afghanistan. I never met Linda, but accounts in the press describe her as having a unique gift to relate to people. It would appear that she commanded a degree of respect, to the extent that village elders were appealing to the Coalition forces in Afghanistan not to intervene, but to leave it to them to get Linda free.

This neatly leads me on to the second discussion, which was by Internet with another blogger. I can start by saying we no longer read each other's blogs. When the news of Ms Norgrove's death was announced, I relayed it on this blog, because she had lived and grown up in the Isle of Lewis; and because the news media were promptly swarming all over the place. A comment cropped up, which roundly condemned American foreign and military policy, a criticism that I partly concurred with. Someone else reacted to the initial comment, and a reply comment came back from the first respondent - which I disallowed. It is something I rarely do, but on this occasion I did not feel it appropriate to permit a discussion to develop on a blogpost that was partly a tribute to a dead person. I was quickly condemned for censorship and not permitting the truth to be aired, and only allowing lies to be printed, etc. etc. Nothing I said in reply (by email) could serve to placate the commenter and (to omit an increasingly acrimonious exchange) the person concerned decided to stop reading my blog. No big deal to me - I'm writing this blog because I enjoy doing it and do not seek to gain from it in any sense.

As I said, I am critical of American foreign and defence policy, and I'm not afraid to air that. I do take exception to people who see fit to abuse individual citizens of the USA over the blunders committed by their government. Yes, a majority voted for the likes of Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton and their predecessors. It does not mean they necessarily agree with policies adopted by said officials.

To conclude my paragraphs on Linda Norgrove, I feel it deplorable that her death could be attributable to a blunder by American special forces who had come to rescue her. I am deeply saddened by the likelihood that she was targeted for kidnap because she worked for an American aid organisation.

At the end of the day though, we should all remember that the blame for Linda's death lies squarely at the door of the insurgents who kidnapped her last month. RIP.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Saturday 23 October

Not a bad day at all, although there were a few showers mid-afternoon. Went to the shops at around 3pm, among them the garden centre. Where they also have various pets for sale, varying from birds, kittens and rabbits to a very vocal cockateel. It could "talk", saying things like "Hello!" and "Look at that", in other words imitating everything that it overheard people say around it.

I am a stickler to grammatical rules, so I was not please to see a teddy bear in a shop with a notice on it saying Aunt's make life bearable. There are no apostrophes in plurals, ok?

People have been getting their breath back after yesterday's submarine farce off Kyle. The most sophisticated sub in the Royal Navy, but its crew were not able to navigate a couple of red and green buckets in the Kyle of Lochalsh. Meanwhile, plans have been unveiled that laden supertankers will no longer require a tug escort when making their way up and down the Minch. Because said tug will not be on station any more after September 2011. Fortunately, yesterday's problem with HMS Astute has underlined the need for the tug to be here. Stornoway is only 75 miles from Kyle, so a couple of hours' sail had the Anglian Sovereign on the scene. If it had had to come from Glasgow, this would have taken nearly a day.

The family of Lewis woman Linda Norgrove have set up a charity in her memory, which will go live next week; probably around the time of her funeral on Tuesday. The charity will aim to continue her work in Afghanistan, of getting farmers to grow crops other than opium poppies.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Ferry collision

This image from Google Earth shows the small ferry that was run over by a German cargo vessel near Amsterdam early this morning. Dutch broadcaster NOS reports that a body has been recovered from the water. As it is half-term holiday in Holland, there would have been fewer people around to use it. Police are appealing for the one prospective customer who had been waiting on the other side, to come forward.

Hurricane update - 22 October

Tropical cyclone Giri in the Bay of Bengal is approaching landfall in Myanmar. This storm has undergone a stunning round of strengthening, 85 knots in 24 hours. Yesterday at this time, Giri was at tropical storm strength (50 knots); the latest warning from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center quotes it at a staggering 135 knots, which is equivalent to a category V hurricane in the Atlantic. Giri will make landfall in the Hunters Bay and Combermere Bay areas of Myanmar - these are apparently low-lying marshes.

Friday 22 October

Two maritime incidents dominating the news this morning. A small ferry has collided with a German cargoship in the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal south of Amsterdam. The craft would ferry pedestrians and cyclists across the canal, which links the port of Amsterdam to the river Rhine, which in turn links the port of Rotterdam to the industrial heartland of Germany. The ferry involved was shown to be lying upside down in the water, and at this moment, only the skipper is thought to be missing.

I have used the river ferries in Holland, and they are tiny craft, some 40 feet in length, if not less. You walk, ride or drive on; pay the ferryman, who then puts you across in a matter of minutes, and you get off on the other side. You do not register yourself as a passenger, hence the apparent confusion about the number of people missing. The accident happened at 7 am local time, and all canal traffic has been halted.

In Scotland, a nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Astute, has run aground in the Kyle of Lochalsh off the Isle of Skye. Eye-witnesses report that the submarine took a short-cut inside a warning buoy and promptly got stuck fast. Upon high tide, at 6 am, it could not refloat, so it is now awaiting the next high tide at 6pm. The Ministry of Defence has said there is no nuclear leak, nor is the submarine's hull breached, or is any crewman injured. The gibes are flying thick and fast on the local Twitter feeds: Isle of Skye -2, Royal Navy Nuclear Fleet - 0; Got to feel sorry for the Navy: it's those rocks under the sea - they do keep moving around (over millions of years and in mm).......

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Hurricane update - 21 October (II)

In the Bay of Bengal, tropical cyclone Giri has strengthened explosively to 70 knots (that's well into hurricane strength), and will pick up even more strength before it comes ashore in Myanmar. I am unable to access the website for Department for Meteorology and Hydrology in Myanmar - I hope they are aware of what's headed their way.

Thursday 21 October

A grey, wet and cold day. The sun popped its head round the corner for a minute, but that was about it.
It is reported that Linda Norgrove, who was killed in a failed rescue attempt in Afghanistan on 8 October, is to be buried at Ardroil, Lewis, next week. An inquest into her death has been opened and adjourned.

The BBC World Service could be forced to cut some of its foreign language services when plans are implemented for it to be funded from the BBC License Fee. Anyone in the UK who owns a television or radio receiver is required to pay £145.50 per annum for the privilege. Until now, the World Service was funded through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I have been a strong supporter of the BBC World Service for nearly 30 years, as it is held to be an impartial disseminator of news to areas of conflict; particularly where independently verified news can be hard to come by. Strangulating the funding of such an important service is not doing anyone any favours; I do realise that budget cuts have to be made somewhere, but this is the second example of one cut I thoroughly dislike.

The second cut involves our Coastguard tug. The Anglian Sovereign (and four of its brethren) patrol the waters around the United Kingdom, and the tug positioned at Stornoway is there to keep shipping safe. It was put there following the Braer disaster (a supertanker which broke up on the coastline of Shetland in 1993), precisely to prevent a repetition of such a calamity. At least one such accident has been avoided in my 6 years here in Lewis, and I think it is a very, very bad move indeed. Local MPs are thinking so too.

Again, cuts have to be made - but saying that ship's owners are responsible for the salvage of their wrecked boats is the same as saying that they are responsible for the saving of their crews' lives - and cut down on RAF crews doing rescues by helicopter.

Hurricane update - 21 October

A new tropical depression has formed in the northwestern Caribbean. This is expected to intensify to tropical storm Richard, which will move northwest towards if not past the Yucatan Peninsula. Worth keeping an eye on.

Typhoon Megi continues to churn its way north towards China, with winds slowly decreasing, currently at 95 knots (110 mph). The storm will make landfall in the early hours of Saturday to the east of Hong Kong.

The Bay of Bengal is also hosting a tropical phenomenon, here it is termed a tropical cyclone. 04B is headed east and will make landfall in Burma (now known as Myanmar). This system will reach 60 knots as maximum sustained windspeed (that's equivalent to force 11 on the Beaufort scale), but I think rain will be a bigger problem.

To add to the fun, there are two tropical disturbances out in the Pacific which have a good chance (50% or more) of becoming fully fledged tropical cyclones. One is located northwest of Guam, the other west of Wake Island.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


October is the month that I started blogging, back in 2004.

My first blogpost told the story of my day's activities in the Isle of Skye, 70 miles south of Stornoway. Although you can see posts, dated before 8 October 2004, these were added a year later and backdated. Kyleakin is the name of the place where I started this.

October is the month we were kicked out of J-land, back in 2008.
October, therefore, is the month I had to set up this new blog, back in 2008.

In other words, I've been blogging for a smidgen over six years this month.
I nicked this tag from Jeannette's blog, hope she doesn't mind.


I have altered the layout of this blog, for the first time in two years. No change to contents, just to colours and backgrounds. Hope you like it!

Wednesday 20 October

Winter has made its first impact of the season, with heavy snow causing havoc on the rural roads of Aberdeenshire, northeast Scotland. Several roads are blocked or only passable with care. I remember this day six years ago, when the first fall of snow also happened on October 20th. It was a perishing cold morning in the Isle of Skye (where I was at the time), and I went for a walk in the Cuillin Mountains. More accurately, through the Cuillin Mountains, not over them. The Cuillins (pronounce Coolins) stand 3,300 feet tall from sealevel up and are a very challenging and jagged lot. This picture shows the mountains on 20 October 2004.

The news in the UK is dominated by the so-called spending review, meaning that government spending is being subjected to savage cuts. When I switch to the French news (in English): what do I see but more spending cuts - and demonstrations, blockades of oil refineries and queues at petrol pumps, which have run dry. Well, I am not going to make any partizan statements on this blog, but I just hope that it is all worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Clearances: Strathnaver

I'm currently transcribing the Napier Report for Sutherland (the far north of Scotland), which carries some harrowing evidence. Angus Mackay, a 22-year old student of divinity, is being interrogated.

You say you are used and abused by the officials of the estate. Will you be good enough to mention instances of abuse?
I will give you a few specimens. The first case is one of Angus Gordon, tenant, Aird. In 1879 a road was made through Angus Gordon's croft while a large piece was taken from him at the lower end and a lime storing-house built upon it. The tenant was promised surface damages as his corn was partly destroyed, and a reduction of rent, but on making his demands when paying his rent he was only laughed at, and told that they would get plenty men to take his croft if he was not pleased with it. As he had roused the ire of the officials they gave permission to the vessels carrying lime into the river, to use for ballast the stones of the dyke fencing in Gordon's lot at the lower end. The dyke was pulled down accordingly, and now his croft is exposed to damage from his neighbours' cattle; and next year his rent was raised eighteen shillings—that was when the general rise was made on the rent —but he went to the Duke and the rent was reduced again.

Another instance is the case of one Christina Mackay, Beathag. She was an old woman and permitted James Thomson, her brother-in-law, to live in an end of her house, but, as the factor was at enmity with this man, he evicted Christina before the term, and sent the ground officer round the district forbidding the people upon pain of eviction to give her shelter in their houses. The public broke open the door of her house and she went in again and stayed till the term, when she was formally to be evicted upon a warrant. The thing preyed upon her mind so much that when the day of final eviction came she died about twelve o'clock, broken hearted, the ground officer and sheriff officer being then within half a mile of her house on their way to evict her.

Tuesday 19 October

A very cold day today. The mercury just about managed to scrape to 7C, but as I type (9.10pm), it is already on its way down again past the 3C mark. There were some beefy showers about, some carrying hail and sleet, by all accounts.

The UK Government has announced that the RAF Kinloss is to be closed, with great uncertainty remaining around the other RAF base in Morayshire, RAF Lossiemouth. Kinloss is currently home to the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft, which will not be replaced. The Nimrods are more than 40 years old, and nearing the end of their technical lifespan. If Lossiemouth closes as well, this will mean the loss of 15% of employment (4000 to 6000 jobs) in the county of Morayshire - a rural district which can ill afford such losses.

Contrast that to the antics of 24-year old star footballer Wayne Rooney who has said he is moving away from Manchester United, possibly to join United's rivals Manchester City. Rooney hasn't been doing to well this year, so I presume he wants a change of scenery. Spoiled brat. I have zero time for vastly overpaid football players who prance around a football pitch for a few hours each week - to be paid astronomical sums of money.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Napier Commission in Sutherland

It is late July 1883, and the Napier Commission has arrived on the distant north coast of Scotland. Sitting in the hamlet of Bettyhill, a village 30 miles west of Thurso, the Commission has just spoken at length to 23-year old Adam Gunn, on the problems, facing the people in his district. His interrogation comes to a grinding conclusion with this exchange:

25560. Have you always been engaged in agricultural labour, or have you had any other occupation?
—I am a student as well.

25561. In the university?

25562. Which university?
—St Andrews.

25563. For the purpose of entering one of the professions?
—I am not sure.

Hurricane update - 18 October

Typhoon Megi made landfall on the east coast of Luzon, Philippines, at 03.30 GMT this morning. The storm packed winds of 165 mph and is bringing very heavy rains to the island. The system has traversed the Sierra Madre range of mountains (which peak at about 5,900 feet), which has caused weakening to an estimated 95 knots or 115 mph. Once over open water, all the conditions are in place to allow the typhoon to reintensify at a rapid pace. Megi is expected to make a graceful curve across the South China Sea and make landfall in southern China, somewhere between Hong Kong and Hainan Island, with winds of just over 100 knots.

This Manila based newspaper is carrying updates on the typhoon's impact.

Monday 18 October

A nice bright morning - with some showers about. Feeling quite cold, with the mercury only just at 10C / 50F. Autumn is here, quickly headed for winter.

I could not believe my ears when I heard a report of an American woman, who is going round offering sterilisation to drug addicts. Barbara Harris says she gets very angry at the plight of children of drug addicts. Some describe her £200 pay-out after the procedures as a bribe. I think it completely misses the point. I am fully aware of the disastrous effects that drug addictions have on people and their families, not to mention the babies born to addicted women - who go "cold turkey" straight after birth. Rather than helping addicts "kick" their cravings, this Project Prevention charity destroys something else in their lives. If addicts take up this offer, and subsequently manage to get rid of their addiction, they will rue their decision for the rest of their lives. I would not be too sorry to see the back of Mrs Harris and her Project Prevention.

I shall have another post later today.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Hurricane update - 17 October

Supertyphoon Megi (also known as Juan) is headed for the Philippines with sustained windspeeds of 155 knots (175 mph or 280 km/h), gusting to 190 knots (215 mph or 345 km/h). This storm will impact the north of Luzon Island in the Philippines within 12 to 24 hours. Apart from the high winds, there will also be extremely heavy rains, which usually cause the worst in damage and casualties in the Philippines. After passing over Luzon, the storm will have weakened somewhat, but will restrengthen in the South China Sea, before veering northwest and making probable landfall in southern China, near Hong Kong by the end of the coming week.

The Philippines weather agency PAGASA has raised the following  Public Storm Warning Signals (updated every 6 hours) for provinces:
#1 - Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Polillo Island
#2 - Ilocos Norte & Sur, Abra, La Union, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Rest of Aurora
#3 - Batanes, Calayan, Babuyan Group of Islands, Apayao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Quirino, Northern Aurora
#4 - Cagayan, Isabela

Earlier today, this satellite image was obtained of the storm, nearing its current peak intensity.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Remembered - Donald Angus is Donald Mackenzie

As I continue to fill in details on more of the WW1 casualties from Lewis, I was posed quite a riddle last night.  And it was very sad indeed, when I found out exactly what had been going on.

The story starts on 9 October 1874, when, at 2 am, Jessie Mackenzie and her husband John (a ploughman) were delighted with the birth of their first born, a daughter, Marion. They had only been married since the previous December. Jessie and John went on to have another four children, Roderick, Donald, Mary A. and Hector. They were 1, 5, 6 and 11 years younger than Marion, according to the Census of 1891. By then, their father was marked as a crofter and fish-curer.

Marion grew up to be a fish worker in Stornoway, a common occupation for island women in the latter years of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century - and not just in Stornoway. They would go to many other Scottish fishing ports to gut herring at the phenomenal speed of 60 a minute.

Two months before her 21st birthday, on 19 August 1895, Marion gave birth to a baby boy, who was to be known as Donald. She did not register the birth until September 27th that year; and the birth register coldly refers to the baby as illegitimate, quoting no father's name.

Six years later, there is another Census (in 1901). Donald's age is quoted incorrectly as 4 (he will in fact be 6 that year). He is mentioned as a grandchild; his uncle Hector is now aged 16 and an apprentice baker. Grandfather John is working in a guano factory - which is not necessarily processing bird excrement, but is also thought to have been fish offal. Marion Mackenzie is not mentioned on the census return for 29 Lower Sandwick - but we catch up with her shortly.

The Great War starts in 1914. Donald is a lance-corporal serving with the 3rd battalion of the Gordon Highlanders when he is transferred to hospital in Aberdeen. He died on 21st July 1915, aged 19, of pulmonary tuberculosis. By then, his mother has moved to the city of Aberdeen and is quoted as living at 2, Gilcomston Terrace; she is married to a stonecutter (dry process) by the name of Alexander Miller.

Two years after the end of the war, the Stornoway Gazette published a Roll of Honour, entitled "Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918", in which there is a casualty at 27 Lower Sandwick. He is named as Donald Angus, and for more than three years I have run into a wall trying to find out more details on this man. Angus is not commonly used as a surname, and nobody by that name is recorded as having been born in Scotland before 1900. The Roll of Honour quoted a string of Mackenzies at 27 Lower Sandwick, and by searching for a Donald Mackenzie, dying on 21 July 1915, having served with the Gordons in WW1, I tracked down the correct casualty. The birth- and death-records of Scotland's People filled in the gaps and I'm confident that Donald Angus is Donald Mackenzie.

The erroneous entry for this man started in 1916 with the first Roll of Honour, and was copied into the second (and final) volume, published in 1921. I cannot speculate whether this mistake was linked to Donald's illegitimate status at birth.

Postscript: Marion Miller succumbed to miliary tuberculosis (widespread throughout the body) on 10 July 1932, almost exactly 17 years after her son died. Her age is quoted as 55 on the death record, but she is actually 57. She died at Aberdeen, survived by her husband.

With thanks to blogger Direcleit for kindly supplying the census returns and the info on the guano factory.

Saturday 16 October

A bright but cold start to the day; after a low of just 2C at 6 a.m., the mercury is slowly making its way towards double figures, showing 7C at the moment. As I said yesterday, we're headed for a cold spell next week, and this is but the beginning.

Today, the Royal National Mod is drawing to a close up in Thurso. This is an unusual location for the showcase of Gaelic culture, as Caithness (Land of the Cats) is more closely associated with the Norse culture. However, it appears to have been a great success, and the Duke of Rothesay (better known as Prince Charles) give his ringing endorsement to the Gaelic culture, saying it is belongs to all of Scotland. I'm sure people forgave him his rambling Gaelic (look who's talking) on account of that. The locations for the National Mod will be Stornoway in 2011, Dunoon in 2012, Paisley in 2013 and Inverness in 2014.

I have reached a conclusion with the man named as Donald Angus in the Roll of Honour for World War I. In fact he is Donald Mackenzie of 27 Lower Sandwick, son of Marion Mackenzie (father not known). She was a fish worker. Donald died of TB at the City Hospital, Aberdeen in July 1915 at the age of nearly 20, having served in the 3rd battalion Gordon Highlanders.


I'll have another post later today.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Friday 15 October

Well, it would appear that summer is over and winter is rapidly approaching. Next week will see an icy blast approaching from the Arctic, and snow could fall over the mountains of mainland Scotland. The Cairngorms already had a dusting of snow last month; more to follow.

General Petreaus, in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has updated the father of Linda Norgrove, killed in a failed rescue attempt a week ago, on the state of affairs regarding the investigation into her death. It would appear likely that someone made a bad mistake by tossing something into the compound where Linda had just run away from her captors - something that exploded, and killed Linda. Once the post-mortem on her body is complete, it will be taken to Lewis for interment at Ardroil Cemetery, a few miles from her home in the village of Mangersta.

View from Ardroil Cemetery

I am making efforts to clear up a very obscure riddle, related to the World War I casualties from Lewis. A transcription error, propagated through two versions of the local Roll of Honour, is leading me in the general direction of an illegitimate child - who, 20 years later, succumbed to tuberculosis whilst enrolled in the service of His Majesty's Armed Forces. I am awaiting confirmation, and will post when this is received.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Hurricane update - 14 October

Former hurricane Paula has weakened to tropical storm status, and is headed east along the north coast of Cuba. The island state's capital Havana will see 3 to 6 inches of rain tomorrow, as well as tropical storm force winds (up to force 11 on the Beaufort scale). Paula is forecast to be pulled apart by hostile winds within 48 hours; its remnant will continue to move east, south of the Florida Keys.

Thursday 14 October

A quiet day on the weatherfront, although some high cloud is moving across now - getting on for 6pm.
I was up until 2 am this morning, watching the last of the 33 trapped miners being released from their stone prison in the Atacama desert. I was quite impressed by the efforts from the Chilean authorities to get these men out; else it would have been another footnote in the annals of mining fatalities across the year. A reaction from the Ukraine on the BBC News website stated that 3,600 miners had died in that country over 10 years; ten a day, if that information is reliable.

General Petreaus has visited UK prime minister David Cameron in London to discuss the death of aid worker Linda Norgrove. It appears that a dreadful mistake was made by one member of the American rescue team. The general had a furtive eye and uncomfortable demeanour as he walked up Downing Street. Linda's body is to be repatriated and a post-mortem will be conducted in the UK. Funeral arrangements will be made once that process is complete.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wednesday 13 October

As I'm typing this, the 18th miner is on his way up from the collapsed mine in Chile, 30 miles from the town of Copiapo, about 400 miles north of the country's capital, Santiago. Esteban Rojas follows the route, up an incredibly narrow shaft, taken by 17 of his shiftmates over the preceding 15 hours. It is hoped to have all 33 out in the early hours of Thursday morning, local time (GMT -3 hours). It is not often that a mining accident of this scale leads to a happy outcome, and I really hope that the rescue will be completed successfully. Chile's mines do not have a good safety record, and it is expected that regulations will be tightened. I have watched this operation on live television over the past 8 hours, and it has been very moving.

Further information has come forth regarding the unsuccessful operation to rescue Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan last week. It would appear that an American marine tossed a fragmentation grenade into the compound where Linda was cowering, exploding next to her - wounding her mortally.

Wednesday started dull and overcast, but the sun put in an appearance after lunchtime. Not very warm, only 11C / 52F. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


In the compilation of “Faces from the Lewis War Memorial” (which remembers the Fallen from the Isle of Lewis in World War I), there are quite a few names with very little information. It sometimes takes a little bit of effort to disentangle the web and let the light from the past shine more clearly. An example.
The Roll of Honour mentions an Iver Maciver from 9 North Shawbost, who, serving with the Canadians, died of wounds in 1916 at the age of 21. I just couldn’t cross reference him - not with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, not with the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, and not with the CEF records on Libraries and Archives Canada either.

Until this evening. Looking at the page for North Shawbost again, it occurred to me that Kenneth Maciver, also quoted at 9 North Shawbost, might be the brother of “Iver”. Kenneth Maciver is reported to have been born at Lochcarron, so I did a search on ScotlandsPeople for Macivers in Lochcarron around 1895 - and who came out but Evander Maciver. Born to the same parents as Kenneth.

Using the sources quoted above, I now search for Evander Maciver, dying in 1916 - and this was the result:

Last address in Lewis: 9 North Shawbost,
Son of John and Isabella Maciver, of Carnan House, Shawbost, Stornoway. Born at Lochcarron, Ross-shire.
Service unit: 52nd Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Service number: 440086
Date of death: 9 July 1916 at the age of 21
Died of wounds
Interred: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, grave VIII. C. 6
Local memorial: West Side, Bragar

Evander was born at Lochcarron, northeast of Kyle, on 9 August 1894
When he enlisted for service, in the Manitoba town of Sewell in Canada, he stood 5 ft 5 in tall.
He is described as of fair complexion and fair-haired with light blue eyes.
Evander was a Presbyterian, and a carpenter by trade.

Rest in peace.

Hurricane update - 12 October

Hurricane Paula, which was not even a recognised tropical cyclone 24 hours ago, has intensified to category II status on the Saffir Simpson hurricane wind scale. This means that the storm carries maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. The system is located east of the Yucatan Peninsula and will move north along the peninsula's coastline, then curve away east and weaken. The National Hurricane Center issued an intermediate advisory at 1745 GMT (1345 EDT) to reflect an unexpected round of strengthening.

Tuesday 12 October

Further details continue to emerge about the death of Lewis-based aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a press-conference yesterday, saying that she may have died after US forces threw a fragmentation grenade into the compound where she was being held. Either that, or her captors detonated a bomb vest. Ms Norgrove's parents are understandably very upset, even more so after that revelation. They have not issued any statement to the media, as investigations into the exact circumstances of their daughter's death have to run their due course. Today, some of Linda's friends visited her parents in Mangersta, a remote community, some 40 miles west of Stornoway. I'll only go so far as to say that "friendly fire" is one of those horrible statements emanating from any "theatre of war", much like "collateral damage". In the heat of combat, mistakes and errors of judgment are unavoidable. Some people are asking what she was doing in such a dangerous part of the world - well, she was involved with a programme, steering farmers away from growing opium poppies. I'll close this post by stating that in a small community like Lewis, and even more so a thinly populated district such as Uig, or a tiny township like Mangersta - population 28.

Today was overcast and cool after a cold night, with the overnight low at +3C; daytime max was 11C / 52F. Autumn has now arrived.

10:10:10 on 10.10.10

Monday 11 October

Another sunny and cloudless day, but a tad cooler than the weekend. Went into town for an amble around shops at 1pm. Passed the ferry terminal where a couple of cattle trucks were awaiting boarding - the cows on board were lowing loudly. I wouldn't relish the prospect of sitting on a cattle truck for 3 hours either. The refurbishment of Perceval Square is nearing completion.

Out of sight of the above image the toiletblock is still undergoing renovation, which requires 30 million pennies to be spent. That's a lot of - yes, I know.

After nightfall, I had a message saying the Northern Lights were out, so I went to a dark part of Stornoway, where light pollution was low and with a clear view of the north: Mossend. The streetlights were out along that road, so I managed this 4-second exposure (digitally enhanced) of the Aurora.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sunday 10 October

At 10.10.10 on 10.10.10 I took a picture of the clock, which I shall relay on here later today. It was another bright and sunny day, although a tad cooler than yesterday. Had lunch outside again (who would have thought of that, sitting out in October), then spent the afternoon working on the transcription of the Napier Commission's report on Orkney. I only have to do the appendices to that section to complete the work. Next in line: Sutherland, mainland Scotland.


British Prime Minister David Cameron has just held a press conference, in which he has given the latest information on the death of the British aid worker Linda Norgrove. She was killed when US forces were trying to rescue her from the hands of extremists in the east of Afghanistan. Initially, it was suggested that the captors had detonated a suicide bombvest near her. However, Mr Cameron has now said that Linda may have been killed by a grenade used by the US forces. This information was relayed to the PM by the General Portraeus who is in overall command of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Ms Norgrove's parents has been informed of the latest insight by Mr Cameron.

I can only offer my sympathies to the Norgrove family and the community in Uig and further afield across Lewis on their sad loss, and wish them every strength in coming to terms with the death of Linda.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Picture post - 9 October

The Oldest Swinger in town, Carishader

Lewis Chessman, Ardroil

Uig Sands, Ardroil

Island in mourning

The Isle of Lewis, and in particular the tiny community of Mangersta in the district of Uig, is mourning the death of local resident Linda Norgrove, who was killed in Afghanistan today. I did not learn of this loss until I called into the Uig shop at Timsgarry this afternoon, which explained the presence of the news media in the district. Mangersta, population now 28, is perched on the edge of the west of Lewis, and can ill afford the loss of one its number, particular at such a young age. I am sure the readers of Atlantic Lines will join me in extending their heartfelt sympathies to Linda's family and friends, in Uig, Lewis and further afield.

Saturday 9 October

A stunningly beautiful autumn morning, with blue skies, hardly a cloud to be seen and only a gentle breeze. The birds were out early, looking for worms and other foodstuffs. We're promised a daytime maximum temperature of about 16C / 60F, which is quite decent for this time of year. Tomorrow should see more of the same.

I've been working with the emailed updates from a selected number of blogs, and it's working very well. I've got hundreds of feeds and blogs on Google Reader, and it was getting impossible to keep up. Now, about a dozen updates each morning is quite easy to go through.

I'll have another post later today - I may go out and about this afternoon, which usually results in dozens of pictures.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday 8 October

A brilliantly sunny and warm day, with the mercury at the dizzying heights of 18C / 64F at 4pm. Some high-level cloud is drifting over, but otherwise it was warm enough to sit outside for lunch. I had already put the garden chairs away, but I was more than happy to put them back again. 

Spent the afternoon transcribing more evidence from the Napier Commission in Orkney, and it contains some pretty harrowing stuff - unexpected perhaps. The island of Rousay, northwest of the archipelago's capital Kirkwall, was owned by a General Burroughs. He exercised his law-enshrined powers as landowners to such an extent that his tenants referred to his conduct as "wanton and inconsiderate inhumanity", only marginally diluted to "[being treated in an] utterly inconsiderate and unrighteous manner". The island's minister, Archibald Maccallum, spoke on behalf of most of the island's crofters, followed by an interrogation of others. James Leonard requested an assurance from the landowner that none of the evidence given by him or others would lead to 'consequences' - an assurance that General Burroughs refused to give point blank. In fact, he rebutted the request by saying that if anyone was not happy, they should just go away. The case, presented by Georgina Inkster, was a good demonstration of the general's high-handed attitude. Another exampled was quoted by James Leonard:

A woman [lived] in our island whom the proprietor visited, when she was on her death-bed. She had a small croft, and he would have to leave it, because he was going to give it to another person—a stranger. She said she would never leave it until she was put to a house from which no man could remove her. He said—What house is that?—and she said—' Where I will be buried;' and he struck his stick on the ground and said, ' Would you like to be buried here on this floor?'