Title picture: Cloudscapes, Stornoway, 1 February 2017

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Wednesday 31 August

The last day of the meteorological summer, and apart from the odd afternoon shower, it wasn't a bad day. Neither was it a particularly brilliant day, as we had to do without the sun.

We have a large gas storage tank which would flatten large areas of the town if it decided to explode. So, if there is ever any real trouble, they set off an alarm. Yesterday, they tried it out. We knew it would be trialled between 10 and 11 in the morning. Did I hear it? Nope. Had to open the window to make sure I could hear it. Oh well, if ever I suddenly have a clear view of the ruins of Stornoway, I know what has happened.

I spent the afternoon completing the transcriptions of WW2 tributes from 1941, sticking them on the Tribute blog and linking everything together. Next stop: 1942.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tuesday 30 August

An overcast day, but no rain or high winds. Summer is slowly drawing to a close here. I got myself more stamps for the Postcrossing project today, and 6 cards are winging their way to various parts of the globe.

I also visited the library to revisit the Stornoway Gazette of 1941. I take pictures of articles that I then transcribe; but the resulting pics are not always in focus. Some of the articles are quite interesting, although always very sad - bearing in mind it is tributes to the dead of the Second World War that I am interested in. One man died when his tugboat was blown up by a bomb. That happened a lot, but this occurred in a dock in Glasgow. During the Clydeside blitz of 1941, a bomb had plunged into a dock, but not exploded. It decided to detonate just when a tugboat was over it. This was literally blown out of the water. One man saved himself by shinning up the mast as quickly as the boat went down, and he was saved the moment he reached the top of the mast. Instrumental in the rescue of many crewmen were "coloured seamen" from a nearby merchant ship.

I think that the name Irene will be withdrawn by the WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) from the lists of Atlantic tropical cyclones. Although Irene did not carry extreme winds, she did carry extreme amounts of rain. After being downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm, the water that had powered the cyclone came down to earth with a vengeance. The imagery from New England is breathtaking - in the negative sense of the word.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Monday 29 August

Although the day started fairly bright, we were plagued by showers through the afternoon. And we have lost our "summer warmth": only 13C today. The ferry had to cancel its return crossing from Ullapool yesterday, and did not return until lunchtime today. There was a large amount of traffic to catch up on, and this evening it was an hour late coming back to Stornoway.

I have recorded all 26 episodes of The World at War, but I can only watch one episode at a time - too depressing. However, it is the best documentary on the Second World War, a topic I take an active interest in. Today, I transcribed more of the tributes from the Stornoway Gazette from 1941 to islanders who fell in that conflict.

St Kilda

It is 81 years ago today that the last inhabitants of St Kilda were evacuated from their isle, situated 40 miles west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Life had become untenable, when supplies could only be landed during the summer months. The islanders were also susceptible to illnesses, brought ashore by visitors. Until the late 19th century, there was a very high infant mortality rate, attributed to poor hygiene practices around newborns.

On 29 August 1930, the islanders of Hiort were taken to Lochaline, in the Morvern peninsula, and then on to Glasgow. Some stayed on at Lochaline, to work in forestry - an irony, coming as they did from a treeless island. The island has remained without permanent habitation. Some of the houses were left with a pile of grain on the table and the family Bible open at the book of Exodus.

I have only seen St Kilda from North Uist, on a clear day in summer. It is supposed to be visible from Mangersta, but the distance is 60 miles. The culture of the island was taken away by its people in 1930, and has been recorded assiduously. This may now be congregated at the St Kilda Centre, pencilled for a location between Mangersta and Islivig. It has been argued that a more sympathetic approach from central government in the early 20th century could have saved St Kilda for habitation. Maybe so. But it would have destroyed the unique culture, which came about through its sheer isolation.

Today, my thoughts lie 90 miles to the westsouthwest of Stornoway. The Hiorteachs have gone - their island remains.


Image courtesy Flickr-user iancowe

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Libya and Lockerbie

Libya's ousted dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, has indicated to the rebels that he wants to talk about forming a new government. I don't think he's quite grasping the state of affairs in his country. He is out, and will never be able to come back in any capacity. This evening's film footage of charred corpses at various locations across Tripoli would be enough reason in itself. Not to mention the 50,000 prisoners that are unaccounted for. These were people that were arrested following the start of the uprising on 17 February this year.

The transitional government of Libya (TNC), which has now taken over from Gaddafi, has refused point-blank to even consider extraditing Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. He is the sole man ever convicted over the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. Al-Megrahi was jailed in Scotland, but released on compassionate grounds two years ago. He was suffering from terminal cancer, and given only three months to live. To the embarrassment of the Scottish Government, Al-Megrahi is still alive - although looking very gaunt. This weekend, the TNC announced that it would never extradite the Lockerbie bomber to either the UK or USA. And why should they? Al-Megrahi has been tried, found guilty and sentenced. He has been released on license, sent home to die. By law, you cannot be tried twice for the same offence, unless new evidence comes to light. The Americans agreed to have Al-Megrahi put to trial the way he was, a decade ago. So I agree with the TNC that Al-Megrahi can stay in Libya. To die.

Sunday 28 August

A cold, grey and initially wet day. We did not get above 11C / 52F all day, with a cold and strong northwesterly wind blowing. The ferry sailed to Ullapool this afternoon, but is not coming back tonight, meaning that the 7 am sailing from Stornoway is off as well.

Tropical cyclone Irene passed over Times Square in New York at 9 am (local time) this morning, turning the barometer down to 966 mbar. It was below hurricane strength, although it was still packing some nasty winds on its eastern flank. Storm surge flooding did occur in the centre of the city, but all in all, Irene's impact appears to have been not as severe as initially feared. As I type (just after midday EDT), the circulation around the cyclone shows up quite nicely on the windmapper site. The highest winds, on Mount Washington, are "only" 53 mph - that's still a force 10 in my book. Elsewhere, the storm appears to be spinning down at severe gale force. Irene will be turning into an extra-tropical depression as it scoots away northeast over Labrador and out towards Greenland and Iceland.

Saturday 27 August

A fairly bright day, but the wind rose steadily through the day. Sitting outside was therefore no longer an option. We are on warning for high winds tomorrow, but the worst of it appears to be making for the mainland and the Northern Isles.


We once more have a cruiseliner in port, the Ocean Countess. Her passengers flock ashore, but wise to the extortionate coachtours they head for the service bus. However, local people and other tourists also want to go to Callanish, so it's handbags at lunchtime for a place on W2.

I'm monitoring the progression of Hurricane Irene up the East Coast of the US, and the main problem appears to be rain. The NHC is forecasting up to 20 inches, which is not an amount anyone wants to have within 24 hours. Another two tropical systems: typhoon Nanmadol is battering the north of the Philippines, and tropical storm Talas is creeping north - with Japan in its crosshairs.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Friday 26 August

A very nice day, with plenty of sunshine in the afternoon. It was quite warm in the sun, and lunch was had outside. The birds too took full advantage of the sunny weather, for you never know how long it is going to last round here. Fortunately, we have had quite a reasonable spell of weather here this month, and I'm not one to complain about temperatures in the upper teens (celsius) in the islands.



This week, we shall see three different cruiseliners in port. The Saga Ruby was in yesterday, today it is the Athena. Tomorrow, we'll have the Ocean Countess. It's all good business, and I hope the Visitor Centre at Callanish will have its water supply on - in recent times, they have had frequent outages on their water supply, and as the manager said on local news: "It's impossible to serve coffee and tea without water". Yep, I'd second that.


Athena

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Irene


Thursday 25 August

Libya: when will people stop selling the hide before the bear has been shot? Gaddafi is still at large, and until he is apprehended or killed, this mayhem will continue.

It's been a nice sunny day here in Stornoway, but it started rather cold: 6C at sunrise. We quickly made it up to 17C by lunchtime, which has been the norm this week. Over the weekend, we are on warning for a four-letter word. You know: a gale. Autumn is only just around the corner.

Got two more postcards from Postcrossing users, this time from Germany and Holland. Can thoroughly recommend it, doesn't need to cost you an arm and a leg.

Hurricane update - 25 August

Hurricane Irene is presently moving through the northwestern Bahamas, en route for the Carolinas. Beyond that, the storm will parallel the east coast of the USA towards New York and New England. Although it is expected to be weakening at that point, Irene's impacts will be felt over a wide area. At the moment, winds of 40 mph or higher occur within 290 miles of the centre of the hurricane.

Wednesday 24 August

Spent today monitoring hurricane Irene, which is passing through the Bahamas with winds of 110 mph, and the situation in Libya. Gadaffi has been kicked out of his compound, but fighting continues in Tripoli and elsewhere. Next Thursday, 1 September, would have been the 42nd anniversary of his coup, back in 1969. Let's hope he takes it as a cue to formally relinquish power. Sigh, was that me dodging a flying pig?

I have also added more information on a tribute blog that I have set up for one casualty of the First World War, who perished in the sinking of the SS Kenmare off Holyhead in March 1918. His body was washed up north of Dublin, Ireland, a few days later. I am working with a man from the area to find out as much as possible about this incident, and the results will go on this blog. John Macaulay hailed from the village of Islivig, 40 miles west of Stornoway. This image, taken two years ago, shows the village road.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Tuesday 23 August

An unremarkable day weatherwise, with some sunshine and no rain, temperatures reasonable (18C). Sat outside for half an hour to read more of the Count of Monte Christo. A delicious tale of revenge best served cold.

Events in Libya are moving fast, with the news this evening that Gadaffi's compound in the centre of Tripoli has been overrun, with the great Brother himself now in a spot of bother. He is thought to have bolted down a tunnel and possibly spirited away to his hometown of Sirte, east of his capital. His son made an appearance overnight, in spite of claims from the rebels that he had been captured. War is all about mis-information, don't forget.

The US East Coast was rattled by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake, which caused some alarm and damaged the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington DC. The jokes are already bouncing round the internet: "5.9? That's what the Californians stir their coffee with".

Hurricane Irene is moving away from Hispaniola as I type this, and will ratchet up to major hurricane strength overnight, with winds (well) in excess of 110 mph. Its further trajectory points at the US East Coast, which will get a comprehensive side-swipe from the storm over the weekend. This means heavy rain and high winds at the very least. Concerned? Monitor the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane update - 23 August


Hurricane Irene is starting to move away from the Dominican Republic towards the Bahamas. The storm is currently a category II hurricane, but will intensify to category III over the next 24 hours. The Turks & Caicos Islands as well as the Bahamas will feel the full fury of Irene, but at present, the islands have most to fear from the storm surge. This will come in at 9 to 13 feet (3 to 4 metres) above normal tidal levels. The Bahamas are relatively low lying, so the effects of the storm surge are potentially catastrophic. Maximum sustained windspeeds at present stand just below 100 mph, but will increase to 120 mph into tomorrow.

The current forecast states that Irene will plough through the Bahamas over the next few days, and will proceed to make landfall in the Carolinas by the weekend, as a major hurricane (meaning sustained windspeeds are 115 mph or higher).  The exact location of landfall is at present impossible to predict.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Picture post - 22 August


Sunset


Mombretia in bloom


Cloudscape this afternoon


Cloudscape 18 August


Tug & barge passing the lighthouse on 17 August

Monday 22 August

Quite a nice day, with good sunny spells, not marred by those rogue showers passing through. The sun went down, an hour ago, with some spectacular colours. As you can expect in weather conditions like those.

The news is dominated by events in Libya, which have suddenly jumped out to surprise us. The rebels have now taken over 80-95% of the capital, Tripoli; four of Gaddafi's sons are either captured or dead and the national TV station is off air. Heavy fighting continues around the compound where Gaddafi is thought to be holed up, and the situation remains fluid.

I have added another 30-odd pictures to the ShipSpotting website, to which I have been contributing since 2007. There are now 158 images of ships, boats and vessels of varying descriptions on my account. Quite a few of them are cruiseliners.

Hurricane update - 22 August

Hurricane Irene passed Puerto Rico in the early hours of the morning local time with winds of 75 mph at ground level. In the island's mountains, winds blew in excess of 110 mph. At present, the hurricane is moving away westnorthwest and has intensified to 80 mph, a trend likely to continue.

The next island in its cross-hairs is Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic at risk of not just high winds but also heavy rainfall. The NHC talks of 5 to 10 inches, with up to 20 inches in the mountains. The deforestation that occurred in Hispaniola in the 20th century will create a severe hazard of flashfloods and mudslides.

In the longer term, Irene will go through the Bahamas and veer north, paralleling the eastern coastline of Florida at 95 knots by Saturday. There is considerable uncertainty, but the indication is there.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday 21 August

I'm pleased to see so many people remembering the old J-land community, which lives on in a different shape on some people's blogs and Facebook accounts. There are some folk who do not believe in on-line communities, or "life on-line" in general. But there is genuine empathy in J-land as it exists today, so I'm happy to continue as is.

I have kept a quiet day today, watching an outrageous rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance on satellite TV and monitoring tropical storms Harvey and Irene in the Atlantic Ocean.

I'm pleased that Gaddafi appears to be on the way out, although I'm not prepared to sell that particular bear's hide until he's been taken out of the way. I do not condone killing people, even an evil b*****d like him. That would be the easy way out, and let him get away without giving account of his actions over the past six months.

St Maarten / Saint Martin


This small island lies in the far east of the Caribbean, and is currently being lashed by tropical storm Irene. What strikes me is that in the 2100 GMT advisory on the National Hurricane Center's website, the northern half of the island is subject to a tropical storm warning, but the southern half is not. The northern half is French, the southern half belongs to the Netherlands Antilles, government based in the island of Curacao.

Saturday 20 August

Today saw me busy with hurricane updates, and up to 8 systems to monitor. Only two fully fledged tropical cyclones, the rest embryonic ones. I have also been occupied with tomorrow's 8th anniversary of J-land, the community of bloggers that I was part of between 2005 and its demise in 2008. Its remnant now continues on Facebook and partly on Blogger.

The weather was decidedly autumnal, with heavy showers and strong winds. Here in the Western Isles, summer is definitely over. Two things standing out in the news here: the controversy surrounding the guga hunt, with our MP sailing with the group of hunters to Sula Sgeir (but going straight back to mainland Lewis after they set foot on the island); and the implementation of a marine area of conservation east of Mingulay. The fishermen of Barra are very unhappy about that, as it will curtail their activities. The SAC has been put in place to protect an area of cold-water coral south of Barra (and east of Mingulay), which the creel fishermen say would not be damaged by creels - for reference, creels are used for catching crabs and lobsters.

Hurricane update - 21 August

Tropical storm Irene has formed and is currently moving through the Lesser Antilles, in the far east of the Caribbean. The system will intensify to a hurricane before moving over the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. After passage over Cuba, Irene will blow up to at least a category I hurricane before coming ashore in the extreme south of mainland Florida. This is likely to occur on Thursday of the coming week.

If you are in the storm's path, please follow the NHC output on Irene, which has updates every 3 hours.

Anniversary entry

Today, 21 August, it is 8 years ago since AOL opened its blogging service AOL Journals. They closed it down a little over 5 years later, on 31 October 2008. I have been blogging away here on Atlantic Lines since early October 2008, and find I have decreased my output quite a lot. My activities on Twitter and Facebook are largely to blame for that, and I can see that our community has broadly moved to Facebook. Some of us still keep a blog, but I was quite amazed this morning to find people who had mislaid the URL to their blog - in other words, had not updated it for a while. OK, we all have life off-line to get on with, I do grant you.

I started keeping a journal on 8 October 2004, when I was on my travels round western Scotland. The youth hostel at Kyleakin has long since closed down, and it was a little over a month later that I came to Lewis, crossing from Berneray and North Uist on the little ferry to Leverburgh. In February 2005, I settled in Stornoway and after a while became involved with J-land. Initially through the VIVI-awards (courtesy Vivian Sullivan Nwankpah, who I recently found on Facebook), latterly through the trials and tribulations of J-land members. At which point I should immediately add that it was moral support from your good selves that helped me in no mean fashion in May '08 and after, following the death of my mother.

The transfer from AOL to Blogger in the autumn of 2008 lost us a good few bloggers, but Facebook has helped to pull many of us back together again.

J-land as we knew it is no more, but it has morphed into something new courtesy of Facebook. Let's hope we stick together, and continue to be here for each other in years to come.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Postcrossing

The postcards I was talking about in a post yesterday are part of the Postcrossing project.

You can sign up, and initially request up to five addresses of people anywhere in the world to send a postcard to. You write the code, assigned by the website, on the card in addition to whatever else. Then you put it in the post and wait for the recipient to register yourcard upon delivery. You will be notified by email once that has happened. Your address will then be assigned to a random other Postcrosser who will send you a card, with code. You register the code on the site, and the sender get notified in turn. You get a different address every time you request one, and similarly your address is given to different people each and every time.

Personally, I use my collection of photographs (currently about 35,000) for printing on blank cards, which go in an envelope. Strictly speaking, that's not a postcard (but I don't care). My pictures are what makes my account special, so that's what I'm sticking with. 

The most proficient users of Postcrossing are in Finland; other regulars are Germany, Russia, Taiwan and the USA.

Copying blog onto Facebook

If you want to relay the postings of your blog onto Facebook, you need the services of a site like Twitterfeed.com. There are several other similar providers. You open an account with the site, and once all done you click on "Create new feed".

You name the feed (e.g. give the name of your blog) and copy the URL of the blog into the second box. Before you proceed further, I do suggest you tweak the Advanced Settings, particularly the Post Content section.

In the 2nd step, you configure the service you want to copy your feed onto, Facebook is included. You will be prompted to Authenticate a FB account (if you are a first-time user of Twitterfeed), or select an existing account.

Finally, you click Create Service, and in the next screen All Done, unless you want to add another service (e.g. Twitter).

Twitterfeed checks your feed (blog) for updates every half hour, so updates are posted pretty quickly.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Friday 19 August

Although the day started fairly bright and even sunny, cloud moved up through the afternoon, and not long after 4pm the downpour started. We managed winds up to force 7 (30 mph), before the situation relented within the last hour or so - light winds and no more rain.

I am monitoring tropical storm Harvey off Honduras, which is strengthening prior to making landfall in Belize tomorrow. By then it could be at 55 knots, if not right up to hurricane strength (65 knots). After passing over the Yucatan Peninsula, there is a chance it could pop up over water - and bearing in mind that tropical storms need warm water, you can imagine what that will mean: it could strengthen after its passage over land. One to watch.

Another two or three systems, currently at an embryonic stage, need watching between Africa and South America. Prosaically described as 97L, 98L and 99L, these could each develop into a Cape Verde hurricane. These have long passages over the warm waters of the tropical Atlantic to brew up into serious storms. The peak of the hurricane season is around 10 September, so things are just about warming up to a crescendo now.

I have been putting some order into my Postcrossing pictures, having created a set on Flickr.com for my received and sent images.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Alcatraz UK - 2

I am much obliged to fellow blogger Tony Giles, over at Closed Sundays, for digging out the text of the offending petition to HM Government. The petition has now been removed from the e-petitions website, but for the record, I copy from the Caledonian Mercury:

Send rioters to the Outer Hebrides for 5 years
Responsible department: Ministry of Justice
All rioters and looters from the recent troubles in English cities should be banished to the Outer Hebrides for 5 years. This would be much, much, cheaper than keeping them in expensive prisons, saving the taxpayer money. Five years of being forced to live in the Outer Hebrides with none of the comforts of English city living e.g. running water, electricity, decent food, culture and shopping, will put them on the straight and narrow, and frighten them not to riot or loot again. Many local people there look after sheep part-time, so they can earn a small amount of extra money looking after rioters and looters as well. 

My previous blogpost was intended to highlight one prejudice against these islands, namely that of the weather. Which, admittedly, can be pretty atrocious - but only rarely, really. To rebut the completely erroneous statements:

* We have piped running water
* I am using a computer and the Internet so we do have electricity (surges and spikes included)
* We have quite a few restaurants that I am more than pleased to frequent for dinner (and you can get a 3-course meal for less than £15 in some of them), not just in Stornoway but several well out of town as well
* Culture? An Lanntair is often ridiculed, but it's a shame that there's not going to be a Grinneas nan Eilean this year, as that really is a showcase of local creative art. There is a vibrant music scene, both traditional and popular.
* If you know your local shops you can get everything you need in Stornoway.
* Sheep may safely graze, but they're a bleeding traffic hazard

No, it would be patently ridiculous to turn these islands into a penal colony - hence the tongue-in-cheek title to these two blogposts.

Thursday 18 August

Well, I complained to the people in Canada and they cancelled the invoice. I very much appreciate that gesture, particularly because it's ridiculous to pay $15 in order to fulfill a $3.50 bill. The person who gave me the good news also told me that he had been going on for more than a decade to have credit-card payment enabled within his organisation. You'll notice I'm not naming names, and that's not going to change.

My previous post may have been a tad enigmatic, but I found a much better riposte to that ridiculous petition: why reward criminals for their bad behaviour (by sending them to the Outer Hebrides).

As I type, darkness is falling on the end of another day of mixed fortunes in terms of weather. There were a few showers, and there was some sunshine; it gave us a most wonderful spectacle of colours half an hour ago when that showercloud was lit up in pale orange colours for a full 10 minutes.

Alcatraz UK

Is this the image some people have of us?

December 2011.

Slowly, the ferry edges towards the quayside. Heavy rain is blown along horizontally on a southwesterly gale. Grey, non-descript buildings line the harbour front, which is only just discernible through the downpour, which is laced with sleet and snow. It is 1 o’clock in the afternoon, but the streetlights are on already. A line of old, decrepit coaches await the convicts, to take them to their place of habitation for the next five years. Only a few weeks ago, they were in the leafy suburbs of London - taking the opportunity to pick up a few unpaid bargains from smashed up stores as the police stood by and buildings were torched.

The families line the railings of the ferry, as they are only allowed to disembark under police escort. Their few possessions sit on trailers, which will be towed to their new dwellings. A small line of cars drives off the ferry ramp, and disappears into the gathering gloom. Resident islanders can be seen walking down the gangway, and are whisked away by waiting cars.

Finally, the call comes and our convicts walk off the ferry, leaving behind the smells of diesel, frying fat and vomit. The last three hours were hellish, tossed about on the waves as the wind howled outside. A line of police conducts the group towards a coach, and the two dozen sit down while they are driven through the town - did anyone catch any recognisable name on the road signs? The roadnumbers were in the 800s at any rate. A few Christmas lights sway in the streets, but very soon, the last houses of the town are left behind and the coaches are swallowed up by the dark, featureless landscape, in which water glistens cold and grey every few inches. A line of four high hilltops towers up to the left, and further away, a twin-topped hill looms. Who would want to live in a place like that?

August 2011

The Stornoway Gazette reports that someone (whose name I will not repeat here) has submitted an e-petition to the British government to the effect that all those who were convicted for rioting last week should be banished to the Outer Hebrides for five years. And the paragraphs that started this post was the image that the petitioner probably has of the islands. It is ridiculous to even suggest that living in our islands is punishment. It is a challenge, no doubt. But the community spirit you find here is something that is sadly lacking in many other parts of the country. I think whoever posted that petition should come and have a look here for himself.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Wednesday 17 August

Not a bad day, with some sunshine and a few distant showers. The evening began with a tug pulling a barge, loaded with 80 ft lengths of pipe, away from the quayside at Arnish. I also spent some time in the library, where I browsed the Stornoway Gazette for 1941 for tributes to islanders who lost their life during that year of the Second World War.

I really think that the UK government do not have a clue what lay behind the riots that rocked the country last week. Police have stated that there was no intelligence beforehand, suggesting that the unrest was spontaneous. This negates the government's current obsession with tackling gang culture - the riots had nothing to do with gangs.

I have also struggled all day to find a way to pay for some materials that were sent to me from Canada. I am quite pleased and able to do so, but cheques and money-orders cost far more than the actual money which needs to be sent. I am in touch with the provider of the materials to sort out a method that does NOT cost me 4 or 5 times the actual value in costs.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Tuesday 16 August

An overcast and wet day, but as I type this (just after 6pm), there is some brightness coming in from the west. In between spells of rain, the midges are having a field day. I've been cleaning up pictures, maps and descriptions on one of my Walking world walks, which has been languishing in the doldrums for more than three years. I originally walked it in April 2008, but it was filed in a bottom drawer following my mother's death the next month. I found it needed more pictures and waymarkers, so I have advised the Walkingworld's admins of my amendments and they will do their best to incorporate it. The walk is around the Arnish Peninsula - a mile away across the water, but a full 5 miles by road. I'll post some pictures to give you an idea of the area. There have been alterations since April 2008, but the outlying areas have not been changed.


Loch Arnish


Leireabhat River


At the mouth of the Leireabhat River


Tob Leireabhat

Monday, 15 August 2011

Monday 15 August


The day started with heavy downpours, which relented towards the midday mark. The tallship "Statsraad Lehmkuhl" was open to the public between 1pm and 4pm today, and I took advantage of the offer to have a look round. The post closes with some images of the visit. The ship is based at Bergen, Norway, and is nearly 100 years old. She was built at Bremerhaven, Germany, in 1914, and is 295 feet long, with masts of 160 ft high. She can reach 17 knots under sail, which is the same speed our ferry reach as a cruising speed. The ship departed Stornoway at 6 o'clock, bound for Dublin. It can carry up to 150 trainees, and has a normal crew of 17.

I had a look at the Uist witnesses for the Napier Inquiry, but am running into a few problems, such as two men of the same name, same age, and from the same township. I'll have to check in the library tomorrow. Library's closed on Mondays nowadays.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sunday 14 August - picture post


Social media

I have just been wading through my colossal backlog of blog reading. I shall have to make time each day to read the postings that you all make on the blogs, or at least on those I have on Google Reader. The number of links I monitor on there is somewhere around 350. That is not just blogs, but also news and information sites. Another source for information and news is Twitter, which is easier to keep track of when I'm logged into that site. Facebook has now taken the place of blogging, or at least it has done over the past couple of weeks and months, but I have now realised that many of you are still writing on blogs, so I'll be back there more often. I use Twitter for keeping up to date with matters local, regional, national and international.

Sunday 14 August

Quite a bright day until very recently; at half past six the atmospheric instability finally produced a shower. Quite a "boaty" day, with the cruiseliner Clipper Odyssey putting in a brief appearance in the morning, followed by the tall-ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl, which will be open to the public tomorrow afternoon. The ferry left pretty much on schedule at 2.30pm, trailing fumes of diesel and fried chips in its wake. Went for an amble around town - and hardly met a soul. It's Sunday!

Completed the transcripts of the 1940 tributes from the Stornoway Gazette (by inserting links and pictures in the main WW2 tribute site).

I am getting quite annoyed with our politicians who completely miss the point behind last week's riots in England. The police were late getting their act together from the word go; but it had nothing to do with gangs. The "gangs" that David Cameron sees are actually individuals who are linked together by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, you name it. I remain gobsmacked by the image of the young woman who is pictured carrying off six pairs of shoes - what is she trying to, emulate Imelda Marcos? She was no gangster - just a daft soul, carried away by the mass-hysteria of looting. And I don't think that it will do much good to evict the families of those found guilty of looting, in fact, it could make matters worse. Politicians, why do we vote for them.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saturday 13 August

A day of increasing amounts of sunshine, but with quite a strong breeze going. We had force 6 at one point, something we don't often see in summer. The temperature was OK, with a reading of 16C / 60F at the airport, better than it has been for most of the week. I have kept myself busy with transcripts of WW2 tributes (see this link), some research into the priest who was instrumental in building the present-day Roman Catholic Church in Castlebay (Barra) and a rip-roaring tale about the sinking of the SS Rangitane in the southwestern Pacific in 1940.

I shall close this post with some of the pics I took on Thursday, and which I have been promising over the past two days. A walk in the Castle Grounds, and out to the War Memorial.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Cameron's riots

I'm beginning to feel that our government is flying off the handle with its responses to the rioting earlier this week. Prime Minister David Cameron wants to be able to shut down Facebook and Twitter at times of crisis. Hey, who else is doing that? Muammar Gaddafi, our old fox in Tripoli that we've been trying to bomb into submission for five months. Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, who is still doing a grand job killing his own people for no reason. Hosni Mubarak, erstwhile president of Egypt, now self-induced invalid, tried to do the same before his people kicked him out. What's the saying again, if you can't beat them, join 'em?

On the same subject, what is the point in throwing people out of their council houses? Yes, they or their cohabitants have acted in a disgraceful manner if they participated in the riots. But it requires a fair bit of warped thinking to have people kicked out for something they did not do whilst in their houses.

So far, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition has carefully refrained from attributing the rioting to Government policies. At the end of the day, there was no excuse for it whatsoever. A man got shot by police in Tottenham, North London, last week and the police were slow off the mark in dealing with the incident. A peaceful demonstration got hijacked by the rent-a-mob crowd - very bad indeed. But what happened after last Saturday had nothing whatsoever to do with the death of the man in Tottenham.

I'll postulate a few of my own theories as to why people felt it was OK to go on the rampage.

1. The expenses scandal. MP's fiddling their expenses to line their pockets, on top of an already generous salary. Let's face it, £60k per annum is a large amount in anybody's book.

2. The War in Iraq. The government went to war, tying itself in knots to justify it - copying the lyrics from George W. Bush's hymnsheets, whilst not noticing that they were set in the wrong clef. Very few people in this country were in favour of it, and the government was advised left, right and centre against it. Note: this was a Labour government.

3. The bankers. Again, a breed of people who were seen to be pocketing colossal bonuses (7-figure sums) for heading up a loss-making enterprise, lending money to people who could never afford to pay back the loan, leaving holes that could never be filled. Perhaps it would have been better to let Northern Rock go to pot in 2008, rather than prop them up the way Gordon Brown did.

4. Rupert Murdoch. Mr Murdoch (both jr and sr) were only interested in making vast amounts of money through newspaper sales. Nothing wrong with that. But politicians would tremble at the sight of him, as Rupert Murdoch decided who would win the elections. If the Sun newspaper said it would back political party X or party Y, that party would win the poll. And after their win, the leader of that party would invite him to No 10 for a thank-you do. The police were in it too, as shown by the resignation of the two most senior officers at Scotland Yard on allegations of corruption.

5. Nick Clegg. "I agree with Nick", the infamous quote from the prime-ministerial debates on TV in April 2010, when the leader of the Lib Dems was propelled to the dizzying heights of David Cameron and Gordon Brown, and he got delusions of grandeur. It was television that put Mr Clegg in government, forcing him to abandon his Lib Dem principles to the greater good of being in power.
Nick Clegg is a rich man, and so is David Cameron. What do they know about those in society who are struggling with little money in the bank, if any? Nothing at all.

It all points to the fact that people do not have confidence in those that are placed above them in positions of authority and power. So why would they be quiescent when those above them are shown to be corrupt or corruptible, out to stuff their pockets out of tax-payers' money? Why would they be law abiding, when the police, there to protect and serve, is seen to be more interested in bowing to the newspaper barons?

There was no excuse for the violence. But when all the people who committed crimes have been dealt with some hard questions will have to be asked and answered - by all political parties. Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat; and Scottish National Party. Alex Salmond also came to power because of Rupert Murdoch (and because 110,000 Scottish voters were disenfranchised through a poorly designed ballot form).

Are we going to see some political courage?
I don't think so.

Friday 12 August

The day started out fairly bright, but cloud rolled in and at 3 o'clock it started to rain. It has not stopped, and if anything, the rain got worse as darkness fell, now over an hour ago. Yep, it's nearly mid-August and sunset times are creeping back towards the 9pm mark. A far cry from the 10.30pm in late June. Sigh.

I have set up the transcript site for the Napier Report from Inverness-shire, but as there is nothing to see, I won't link to it. I have also completed the transcripts for tributes for Second World War casualties from the Stornoway Gazettes. I have transcribed them, but not copied them onto the relevant website. I have opened a new blog for that (my 56th blog on Blogger). You will have noticed by now that I use blogs as websites. Perfectly feasible, and saves having to faff about with HTML, CSS and other stuff.

I promised pictures from my walk, yesterday. Apologies, still haven't gotten round to it. 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Thursday 11 August

Well, we got the sun back today, which served to lift the mercury to 16C / 60F. Torrential rainfall caused extensive problems with flooding, even causing severe disruption to train services in and out of Glasgow's Queen Street Station. No problems like that here in the Western Isles, where we had the best weather in the country.

I went for a walk in the Castle Grounds in the afternoon, partly to re-walk one of the walks I have submitted to Walkingworld.com. A few things had changed since I created the walk in 2006, and I was able to log it on my GPS. I shall put pictures up tomorrow.

I also completed another transcript from the Napier Report, which I have been working on during the past twelve months. The evidence from Ross-shire can now be viewed on-line. The next chunk is Inverness-shire, both on the Scottish west coast and near the town of Inverness - the place is a city today, but was not so in 1883. The link for Inverness is as yet completely blank, but I shall dress it up tomorrow.

Today I received information from a South Uist contact about one of the witnesses to the Napier Commission in Barra, including a photograph. Bearing in mind the year that Lord Napier went round (1883) this is fairly unique. I have come across a publication with some more portrait photographs of the witnesses.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Wednesday 10 August

Thoroughly wet, miserable and cold today. We managed all of 12 degrees C today, which is 54 in Fahrenheit. It has only recently dried up (typing this just before 10pm). Let's hope tomorrow is a bit brighter. Spent the day in transcripts. More WW2 tributes from the Stornoway Gazette of 1940, as well as the Napier Commission's findings at Dingwall in October 1883. One witness describes the grinding poverty near Strathpeffer: A man had a hole in his roof. The snow of winter fell through it and settled on his bed. 


Next month, the Lewis Chessmen, currently being exhibited in the Museum of the Isles here in Stornoway, will return to the place of their find: the district of Uig. The 91 chess pieces were found in 1831 by a man in the sands of Uig Beach near Ardroil, or as the local bard put it more accurately: Capadal - a tiny hamlet near the mouth of the Red River. On 13 September only, the Chessmen will be on view at Uig Museum in Timsgarry.