View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

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.