View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

St Kilda

This year, it will be 80 years ago since the islanders of St Kilda (Hiort) were evacuated to the Scottish mainland at their own request. It was on 29th August 1930 that the culture of St Kilda died with the passing to other shores of its inhabitants. This evening, Monty Halls in his Hebridean Hideaway visited the islands. The scenery was absolutely stunning. But otherwise, there was nothing there. There are no permanent residents left, the houses are ruinous, with a few exceptions, and the storage huts (cleits) stand empty and derelict. In other words, St Kilda is dead.

Monty Halls, who stayed in North Uist for six months from July 2009 onwards, got involved with the controversy surrounding the location of the St Kilda Centre. It will be a point where the culture and people of St Kilda will be celebrated and kept alive. The strife was bitter, and already reflected in Monty's programme. The other contestants were Mangersta (Lewis) and Leverburgh (Harris). Cleitraval (North Uist) is a hilltop location near Sollas, where a plaque sits on the hill, pointing out where St Kilda can be seen, 41 miles (70 km) away to the west.

In the end, the St Kilda Centre was allocated to Lewis, and will be erected off the road between Mangersta and Islivig, overlooking the cliffs of Mangersta to be reminiscent of the St Kilda clifftops. (This link will take you to the location courtesy Google Streetview). The people of Harris and North Uist are deeply upset over losing out over the centre. It will obviously bring tourists to the location involved, and Uig (in which Mangersta lies) can very well do with the revenue.

Some people in these islands have voiced misgivings over having a St Kilda Centre in the first place. I can have some sympathy with those who say it is not right to make money off people who were cruelly neglected by the Government of the day - and neglected they were. Conversely though, nothing will bring them back, and it is a way of keeping their memory and the memory of their culture alive.

Wednesday 28 April

Another day of rain with rather more wind than yesterday. Whilst the south of the UK basks in temperatures of nearly 22C, we're having to make do with 11C this afternoon. By the end of the week, all of the UK will have to do with 11C. It's only April (nearly May), and anything could still happen.

The Southern Hemisphere hurricane season is simpering to a conclusion on Friday, with nothing happening at present. The Northern Hemisphere season is slowly cranking up, with one tropical disturbance bringing rain to the south of the Philippines. The North Atlantic is still in winter mode, as is the Eastern Pacific. The seasons there will commence on June 1st and May 15th respectively.

My local rag, the Press and Journal, reported on events in the "Showboat" area of Lewis. Having a spell checker on your wordprocessor can be useful, but be careful not to allow it to automatically correct everything it perceives to be wrong. Shawbost is a lively community, and some would argue that the moniker "showboat" would not go amiss there.

Next week, it will be three years since Madeleine McCann disappeared whilst on holiday with her parents in Portugal. No reliable sightings of the girl, who would be nearly 7 now if she is still alive, have been made. Parents Gerry and Kate continue to search, and now accuse the British police of giving up on her. I can fully understand that the McCanns will never quit searching for Madeleine, but it is cringeworthy to note the flurry of fake sightings in the British gutter press. Employing the media is like wielding a two-edged sword: it can help you, but you will be chewed up and abused by the hacks to their own ends.

Finally, the Scottish National Party has failed in their bid to be allowed a representative on the final election debate on BBC TV on Thursday. They had argued that as the party in government in Scotland, they should be permitted someone alongside Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown. This argument has been rejected by the court, which found that the BBC had not breached its impartiality in refusing the SNP request to participate. The comments from other political parties, at the bottom of this BBC article, speak for themselves.