View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Saturday 10 April

A beautiful spring day, which saw the temperatures reach the dizzying heights of 60F or 15C. The highest this year so far. The garden table and chairs were put outside and mould removed from same. The birds are busy building their nests and the doves cooing lovingly around the backyard.

A plane crash near Smolensk in western Russia has claimed the lives of all on board, which included the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and senior members of his government. Poland has declared a week of mourning, and I join in the worldwide expressions of condolences to the country on its sad loss. Mr Kaczynski was headed for a commemoration of the massacre at Katyn, then in Poland, where Soviet forces murdered 20,000 Polish intellectuals at the start of the Second World War. It is now 70 years since that dreadful event and today's tragedy cast an even blacker pall over the Katyn event.

It is suggested that the crash was caused by fog. The air traffic controllers at Smolensk had suggested the plane divert to Minsk in Byelo-Russia (to the west), but this was refused by the pilots. Visibility was down to 500 metres at Smolensk, and the plane made several attempts to land before its wings clipped treetops and crashed, killing all 96 on board.

I hardly ever play the geegees, but today I stuck some money on the Grand National. Chance had it that my horse won!

Two interesting findings in the course of my local history research (see map above, click on markers to see locations). First was an interesting census record of the village of Crola. This is no longer inhabited. It stands at Kinlochresort, the head of Loch Resort, in the remote west of Lewis. In 1891, a shepherd's family resided there. Catherine Macdonald, aged 63, is quoted as a shepherd's widow, living there with her two fishermen sons John (41), Malcolm (26) and daughter Annie (22). There is also a granddaughter Ann, aged 13, presumably (but not certain) the child of John. Catherine's home is marked as having two rooms with windows. The noteworthy thing is that her offspring is marked as living in Lewis, whereas she and her granddaughter Ann, aged 13, are marked as being born in Harris. This is significant, because Lewis used to be part of Ross and Cromarty, and Harris was part of Inverness-shire.The confusion arises on account of the fact that the county boundary ran at Kinlochresort. On the Harris side of the river lies Luachair, also uninhabited today (white house in image to the right). Would you believe that there was once a school at Crola, which was a so-called side school to the main village school at Loch Croistean, a mere ten miles away. More stories on the local historical society website.

One of the nearly 1300 local casualties was Angus Macdonald, who served with New Zealand forces in France. He died of wounds on the Western Front on 4 December 1917. A naturalised American national, Angus must have crossed the Pacific after emigrating to the States. He was born in the hamlet of Islivig in the district of Uig, 40 miles west of Stornoway.