View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Sunday 18 July

More of the same weatherwise: rain in the morning, clearing to sunny spells and windy conditions. Temperature rather better than of late, with the mercury rising to 18C / 64F in the sun. The force 5 winds made it not attractive to sit outside.

With regards to yesterday's concert, the general tenure of reactions is that people were less than impressed for the same reasons that I quoted. It is a shame, because the band is one of my favourites, and the Heb Celt Fest is a great occasion. Today's two ferry sailings were packed with revellers returning to the Scottish mainland.

My position overlooks the Newton Basin in Stornoway, and the causeway which links Goat Island to the rest of the town. The causeway was built in the late 1940s, but was already being discussed in the 1880s, according to this evidence from Donald Smith, a 49-year old fish-curer who spoke at the hearings of the Napier Commission at Stornoway on 11 June 1883. The island he refers to is Goat Island; curing stations are the locations where the herring girls would gut and pack herring at the rate of 60 per minute.

I believe we would need [...] to remove the curing stations on the south beach, which should not be there, and [...] connect the island with the street that runs along the shore. If that was connected, the curing stations on the south beach could be removed there. If the Harbour Commissioners of Stornoway could get from £6000 to £10,000 at a cheap rate of interest, it would be a great boon to the town, and would give great facilities to boats in landing their fish. At present there are only a few boats that come to our wharves to land fish. They are obliged to come to anchor in the harbour, and employ small boats at a cost to the fishermen of £600 or £700. They have to pay £ 2 or £ 3 each boat per season for landing their fish, whereas if we had this additional breakwater, that would extend from the island to Newtown, all the fishermen could land their fish there, and save a good deal of money, as well as remove these from the south beach. We had no less than three serious accidents to children, who were run over during the last fortnight, from the want of accommodation for the traffic, and we do not see any way to get rid of it unless we can secure some place for the stations.

Saturday 17 July

Another rather autumnal day, weatherwise, with temperatures only at 13C / 55F, and frequent spells of rain or drizzle. The main event of the day was a concert by folk-rock band Runrig, which was the star attraction for the Hebridean Celtic Festival. There appear to have been 5,000 people in the big blue tent (this picture from 2007)

What was not very well organised was the provision of refreshments. Runrig last played in Stornoway in 2005, and at the time, the concert lasted until 1 am. Bearing that in mind, I purchased a token for a beverage  in advance, and joined the queue upon arriving at the tent. It took 90 minutes for me to reach the bar. I am kicking myself for the stupidity of waiting, because I missed half the concert as a result. However, it should not take all that time to serve drinks at a concert like this, and it was poorly organised. The band Runrig played only for two hours, running off an easy run of old ditties, and only three Gaelic songs (Stornoway is the centre of Gaelic culture). It left me very disappointed and disgruntled.

What has not affected me directly, but is another major gripe, is the lack of accommodation. The whole of the HCF, which ran from Wednesday until last night, has probably attracted 20,000 people. The problem of beds becomes apparent if I tell you that the total population of Greater Stornoway is 7,500, and that of the whole island of Lewis 20,000. A lot of people ended up camping, but, as my blogposts have intimated, the weather has been singularly inclement this week. Camping isn't really enjoyable - and in addition, the terrain around the big tent was quite muddy. One acquaintance of mine was injured in a fall, resulting from the bogginess.

I'm beginning to reach the conclusion that it is fantastic to have an event like HCF here in Lewis, but the number of people it attracts is too big for this island and this town to cope with.