View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Wednesday 28 September

A very strange day in terms of weather. After the initial clouds had rolled away, the temperature shot up to an unusually high 20C / 68F. That sort of 'heat' is usually confined to July or August; late September should see our temps down to 14C / 57F. However, it was quite welcome to have a spot of summer weather.

I was equally pleased to note that Scottish National Heritage is objecting to a large windfarm, which has been proposed for an area about 4 miles west of Stornoway. It would sit between the Pentland Road, Lochs Road and Cleascro Road, with the village of Achmore at its western apex (see this Google Map). SNH is insisting that a third of the turbines be removed. This would make the windfarm economically unviable, as its output would be too low to justify the construction of the subsea electricity cable (the interconnector). Similarly, the RSPB is insisting that the scheme be scaled back.

As a perceived result of the Arab Spring, women in Saudi Arabia have taken to going behind the wheel of a car (unaccompanied). That is illegal in that country, and one woman has been apprehended, tried and sentenced to ten lashes. King Abdullah (presumably as a result of the international outcry) has overturned the sentence, according to the BBC's Frank Gardner.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tuesday 27 September

Busy at the moment assisting the friend currently in hospital with a broken ankle. The stay there looks like being rather longer than initially hoped. I am not prepared to go into further detail on an open Internet site.

Monday was gloriously sunny albeit breezy, making a nice break from the dismally grey weather we've been having of late. The wet stuff put in a day-long appearance today (Tuesday), making it eminently forgettable. Elsewhere in the UK, the mercury is shooting up to the mid 20s celsius, but we're in the mid teens. Well, someone's got to have it bad, so why not us.

The row surrounding Sunday ferries out of Tarbert (Harris) continues apace, but although the Lord's Day Observance Society claims (perhaps correctly) that no community consultation has taken place, I don't feel they have a leg to stand on. There is a Sunday ferry out of Stornoway, Leverburgh, Lochmaddy, Lochboisdale and Castlebay - all ports in the area of the Western Isles Council. Furthermore, someone in Harris must have been asking for it. In addition, a ferry already leaves Tarbert on Sunday morning, to return the same evening - so why not allow passengers and vehicles on it, to make it pay for itself? I'm sorry, but I am glad that the times are over when the church dictated what you could do on a certain day, even if you are not a member of said church.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sunday 25 September

Our autumnal weather continues, with frequent downpours and very strong winds this afternoon. Highest winds were 30 mph, gusting to 43 mph at the airport. There were some angry white horses rippling the Basin outside my position at one point. Visited the casualty from yesterday's accident at Ballantrushal in hospital twice today. There is hope of a discharge tomorrow, pending assessment of the use of crutches.

I have copied the 1943 tributes to the Internet, and now just need to link them into the various pages of the WW2 tribute site. Alongside that, I am currently working to make the Excel files available for viewing on Google Docs, including an all-islands file. I made separate tribute sites for Harris and the Uists (Berneray to Vatersay). The WW1 tribute site for Lewis remains as well.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hurricane update 24 September

Ophelia is a strange tropical storm, waxing and waning in intensity. It is not a threat to land, as it sits 400 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and forecast to move northwest.

Philippe is the latest tropical storm in the Atlantic, south of the Cape Verde Islands. This system too is not threatening land, but is worth watching once it veers north. It is not often that we see a hurricane in the eastern troipcal Atlantic.

Hilary is a category IV hurricane in the eastern Pacific, and is a tiny but intense system, carrying winds of 140 mph near its centre. Winds of galeforce stop beyond 85 miles from the centre.

Nesat is a tropical storm in the Pacific, which is going to do very nasty things to Luzon Island in the Philippines, which can expect winds of 130 knots (160 mph) in a few days' time. After passing over land, the storm will regenerate in the South China Sea and could hit Hong Kong with winds of 115 mph by Wednesday or Thursday.

21W is a tropical depression off the coast of Vietnam, which won't get much stronger than the current 30 knots (force 7 on the Beaufort scale) before it comes ashore in Vietnam.

91L is a tropical disturbance off Cape Canaveral and over the northwestern Bahamas, which looks like getting its act together. Will be interesting to see what it does when I next check the tropical cyclones after 9 am GMT tomorrow!

Saturday 24 September

A day of heavy showers, interspersed with bright sunshine. The Norwegian cruiseliner Fram was in port. She is a regular occurrence at the end of the season. Went out in a car, aiming to show someone round Ness, but our expedition had to be aborted at Ballantrushal, after one of the company broke their ankle due to slipping on wet and muddy ground. Person concerned has undergone surgery and is doing fine. Western Isles Hospital A&E was full of people who had suffered injuries, resulting from the wet conditions.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday 23 September

Didn't do an entry yesterday, but I'll catch up today. Both yesterday and today, I transcribed the tributes from the local paper for island servicemen who fell during World War II in the year 1943. Over the weekend, I'll plant those on the internet and link them into the tribute site for WW2. Next week, I'll make a start on the year 1944.

The weather is autumnal. That's very much appropriate, as the astronomical autumn started at 09.04 GMT this morning. There are frequent heavy showers, and this afternoon, the rain was pretty much continuous. As I type this, late on Friday evening, the wind has picked up to force 5 or 6 and is rumbling about the house. Not complaining about temperatures, which currently stand at 14C / 57F - at 11pm at night.

Our MP has received an apology from the government in London over an e-petition which called for the removal of rioters to the Outer Hebrides for a period of 5 years - by way of punishment for the violence that gripped cities south of the border in August. The petition contained some derogatory remarks about the islanders and the way of life here, which suggested we were still stuck in the 19th century. We're not. The fact I'm posting this on the internet using a broadband connection says enough.

And did I tell you all about the price hike of 4p/litre of fuel this week, in some rural petrol stations? That appears to be in response to a reduction in fuel prices of 5p/litre, which has been proposed by the UK government. The suppliers here are now accused of abusing their near-monopoly to push petrol prices to £1.62 per litre in South Uist - for my American readers, that equates to $9.50 per gallon.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Wednesday 21 September

A cold, autumnal day, with rain in the morning and heavy, blustery showers in the afternoon. The mercury has gone down to barely double figures, 11C at the moment and wind at force 6 from the southwest. That's of course nothing in comparison to central Japan, where typhoon Roke blasted through earlier today, with winds of 90 mph and 600 mm of rain. The remnant of the storm is headed for Fukushima on the northeast coast, where the copious amounts of rain will cause problems at the wrecked nuclear facility there.

Facebook has made a few changes too many, and the site is trying to be like Twitter, with fast-moving updates; like Google Plus with new-fangled groups and whatever. They'll be their own undoing.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Highest Apple

Lyrics copied from Where Mountains meet the Sea
Performed by Runrig

An Ubhal as Airde

Comhla rium
A tha thu an drasd
Mo shuilean duinte, mo chuimhne dan
Nam sheasamh a' coimhead
Gach cnoc is gach traigh
Is an siol a dh'fhag thu ann a 'fas

Tha an garradh lan
Le craobhan treun
Le meas a' fas dhuinn ann ri bhuain
Ubhlan abaich
Milis geur
Ach tha aon ubhal nach ruig sinn idir air

Seididh gaoth is dearrsaidh grian
Tro mheas nan craobhan lin gu lin
Ach thig an la is thig an t-am
Airson an ubhal as airde
Air a' chraobh a bhuain

Is co 'nar measg
A mhaireas la
Seachad air am is air oidhche fhein
A liuthad uair
A shreap mi suas
Airson an ubhal as airde chur gu beul

Seididh gaoth is dearrsaidh grian
Tro mheas nan craobhan lin gu lin
Ach thig an la is thig an t-am
Airson an ubhal as airde
Air a' chraobh a bhuain

The Highest Apple

At present
All you were is with me
My eyes closed, my memory confident
Standing here watching
Each hill and shoreline
With the seed you left
Still growing

The garden is well stocked
With mighty trees
With fruit growing for the whole world
Ripe, sweet
And bitter apples
And the one apple
That is beyond reach

The winds will blow
And the sun will shine
From generation to generation
Through the trees of the garden
But the day and the hour
Will surely come
To take the highest apple
From the knowledge tree

Who amongst us
Can exist a single day
Beyond our own time and our own limits
Countless and futile
Are times I've climbed
To reach and taste
The forbidden fruit

The winds will blow
And the sun will shine
From generation to generation
Through the trees of the garden
But the day and the hour
Will surely come
To take the highest apple
From the knowledge tree

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monday 19 September

Typhoon Roke has strengthened from 70 to 100 knots in a period of 6 hours. The storm will weaken a little as it approaches the Japanese island of Honshu from the southwest over the next 24 hours. However, the unpredictability that this system has shown over its lifetime of more than 8 days could yet herald more surprises. Another typhoon, Sonca, will veer away into the open Pacific; furthermore, it is slowly turning into a normal depression.

I have transcribed and linked the 1942 tributes from the Stornoway Gazette to the WW2 tribute site. This has yielded four names of people not previously known [to me] to be connected to the Isle of Lewis who fought and died in the Second World War. This is a large task, with about 100 tributes per year coming out; some just consisting of a portrait photograph with a few identifying lines. However, tomorrow, I shall continue with the images of tributes from 1943.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sunday 18 September

A man who caught burglars red-handed in his home in Cheshire killed one of them by repeatedly stabbing him with a knife last night. There has been an on-going discussion in the UK whether a home owner or occupant is allowed to use force to defend himself against intruders. I can imagine that this could have fatal consequences, but whether murder or manslaughter is condoned in such circumstances is an extremely difficult call to make.

I have been watching a series of programmes on BBC TV highlighting the on-going discrimination of Australia's indigenous population. The circumstances under which those "Aborigines" are living defies all description. A British GP, Dr Mary Fortune, spent 11 weeks at Kununurra, Western Australia, last year, with a camera team in tow. It painted a bleak picture of a community slowly succumbing to alcohol abuse, inadequate or non-existent housing, and systemic government neglect. It made the apology by former Australian PM Kevin Rudd, made three years ago to the Aborigines, sound rather hollow.
However, that all meant nothing to the family who had travelled 600 km (370 miles) to their nearest clinic, with sick children. One, a kiddie of about 3, had pus pouring out of his ears. Number 2, aged about 6 or 7, just wanted to lie down all the time, and was found to be thirsty, hungry and suffering from a chest infection. How can a nation like Australia, which is very like Western Europe in many respects, treat its own citizens like that?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Saturday 17 September

A cool autumn day, with some sunshine and the odd shower of rain. I went to the library to gather more material from the Stornoway Gazette, year 1943, and processed the tributes for the preceding year. Tomorrow, I shall link them from the site with all the personal and military information. I find it striking that the number of tributes decreased markedly as the year 1942 progressed.

Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fatal accident in the Gleision mine in South Wales, which claimed the lives of four miners. I copy a little poem I found on Facebook:

A Welshman stood at the golden gate, his head was bent and low.
He meekly asked the man of fate, The way that he should go.
'What have you done' St. Peter said 'To gain admission here?'
'I merely mined for coal' he said, 'for many and many a year.'
St. Peter opened wide the gate, And softly tolled the bell.
'Come and choose your harp' he said 'You've had your share of hell.'

Remembering the miners of Gleision ..... may you all Rest in Peace Boys.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Friday 16 September

. ... .(,)
. . _.-ﺜ-._
. . |. . . . |
. . |. . . . |..A candle burns in memory for the Welsh Miners in Swansea.
. . |. . . . |
. . [♥ღღ♥]..Please keep the candle burning

Yesterday, a group of four miners became trapped in a small coalmine north of Swansea, South Wales. A fall occurred in one of the mine shafts and the exit routes became flooded. A search and rescue operation was mounted, requiring the use of divers and the pumping out of large volumes of water. As the day progressed, the missing miners were all located - deceased.

Mining in the UK took a huge tumble in the wake of the 1984/85 miners' strike, and very few collieries remain open today. One reason is the imports of cheap coal from places like Poland and South Africa; the other is geological conditions which make mining in this country a hugely expensive operation. Being a mineworker is one of the most dangerous occupations, as is demonstrated again in Wales this week.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Thursday 15 September

Another sunny autumn day, but noticeably cooler than earlier in the week. The sun still keeps it nice and warm, but in the shade, you do notice it's not much above 14C.

I transcribed more 1942 tributes today, some of which threw up some interesting queries. During 1942, HMS Curacao was sliced in two by the Queen Mary, leaving many sailors dead. Their bodies washed up all over the Hebrides. One at Kilmory, on the northern shores of the Isle of Rum.

However, when I checked my files, it appears that the casualty actually lies buried in Sandwick Cemetery, here in Lewis. Donald Maciver came from Newvalley, just outside Stornoway. I am chasing it up (hopefully) with local history people in the Small Isles, to check if there is a record of such a burial on Rum. At the time, the island was still privately owned by the Bullough family of Accrington.

Fifteen years later, Lady Monica Bullough was taken to her last resting place at Harris (sic), Isle of Rum, along that hard, hard track from Kinloch.

She was to be laid to rest at the family mausoleum. The first mausoleum was constructed, but subsequently destroyed at the orders of Sir George, as he was not pleased with it. The Greek-style mausoleum you see below now stands over the last of the Bulloughs.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Wednesday 14 September

A day of sunshine and showers, although the latter receded during the latter part of the afternoon. I have spent the better part of the afternoon transcribing more 1942 tributes, and am now on the last 30. Some of the articles consist of a photograph and a few lines; some are a whole newspaper column long, and the columns in those days were more than 2 feet long. As I have come to recognise the limitations of the photographs, I end up splitting up lengthy tributes into more than one picture.

There has been a lot of gentle ribbing in this island's internet output about all the dire warnings regarding last Monday's storm. However, reading the reports in the Press and Journal newspaper, it appears to have been a lot worse elsewhere in Scotland. Sometimes it is better to be a lot further north than everybody else.

I was stunned to read that the British Transport Secretary feels that train travel is a rich man's plaything. Well, Mr Hammond, you'd better get your finger out to make it transport for everybody. Trains are public transport. Rail travel in the UK was privatised in the 1990s, and there are now two dozen different train companies providing services. These are more interested in generating profit, it would seem, than in providing a decent service. Worse than that, next January fares are set to rise by 8%. The current rate of inflation in the UK is 4.5%. There are a lot of people who rely on trains to go to work, and have no alternative.

One other gripe is the idiosyncratic fare structure. Two years ago, I was travelling from Inverness to Darlington, a town in northern England. The distance is about 320 miles. The fare I got out of Scotrail was £96 single; splitting up the journey into a Scotrail and an East Coast Trains segment reduced it to £56. The dearest fare ever found was a single from Penzance to Kyle of Lochalsh - an eye-watering £1,000. The distance is approximately 700 miles.

The above complaints are longstanding, and no political party has the bottle to put the train companies down to a decent fare structure. End of moan.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Tuesday 13 September

The day after the storm that never was. It continued to be a quiet day, but with less sun than yesterday. I spent the day transcribing tributes from the local paper for the year 1942; the total number stands at about 90, I guess. I am halfway through the 110 articles, some of which carry photographs.

The Lewis Chessmen came "home" today; 6 of the figurines were taken across to Uig Museum in Timsgarry for five hours. The museum stands about a mile from the site where the Chessmen were first found in 1831. The event was accompanied by story telling, people dressing up as Vikings and an opportunity to share tales. I viewed the Chessmen myself shortly after they came to Stornoway, but did not attend the event in Uig. It is hoped that the 91 Chessmen can come to the island as a permanent fixture.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Day of wind

Well, it's not blowing here, that's for sure. We never had more than 15 mph, that's force 4 on the Beaufort scale. After my lunchtime update, the weather just got quite summerlike for a few hours. By 3pm, I was sorely tempted to go and sit outside in the sunshine, with the mercury at a most creditable 17C. The only thing that spoiled it was the midges. By 4pm, the cloud returned and we had a shower of rain.

I am just hearing that a driver was killed on a road in county Durham, when a tree was blown onto his vehicle. A boy of 11 was injured when he was struck by a roof, blown off a garage in the same area of England. The winds appear to be subsiding on the western side of the British Isles, but may pick up again - but we remain in the eye of the causative depression.

Monday 12 September

It is 1.20pm as I type this entry, and it is brightly sunny with a mild breeze. Not what you might have expected from me, after all the dire warnings I have been pumping out all through last week. An indication of Katia's presence is the low barometric reading (974 mbar) and winds of 50 to 75 mph over Northern Ireland, southwestern Scotland as well as west Wales. The depression is directly overhead - we're in the eye of the storm. I'll update later if conditions change markedly.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 - a decade on

This tribute is published on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, under the auspices of Project 2996.

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman

Image: Family photograph, via

Source: Aurora Beacon News, Aurora IL 9-23-2001
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, age 41, of Novato, California, formerly of Yorkville, IL, a flight attendant for American Airlines, died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Jeffrey was a 1977 graduate of Yorkville High School in Yorkville, IL. Jeff was formerly employed, for over 10 years, at All-Steel in Montgomery, IL. He had then worked, for a brief time, at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California before attaining his dream of being a flight attendant with American Airlines. Jeffrey loved his job and traveling to other countries around the world. He also loved to play and watch tennis. Jeff was a true people person who enjoyed visiting with and getting to know others. He became a flight attendant in 1997. Two years later, Jeff received the American Professional Flight Attendant Award and was considered a spirited and dedicated flight attendant. He liked to entertain children on his flights, and he was fond of playing tennis and traveling, friends said.

He is survived by his parents, Dwayne and Kay Collman of Yorkville, IL and Beverly Sutton of North Aurora, IL; his close companion, Keith Bradkowski of Novato, Ca; his brothers, Charles Collman of Fort Meyers, FL and Brian Collman of Las Vegas, NV; his sister, Brenda Sorenson of Aurora, IL; his step-brothers, Steve (Linda) Gengler of Yorkville, IL and Chuck (Lakshmi) Gengler of South Orange, NJ; his step-sister, Susan Bohan of California; a god-child, Marlene Wakelin; his half-sisters, Laura Kries of Brooklyn Park, MN, Caroline Sutton of Joliet, IL and Vickie Michel of Aurora, IL; several nieces and nephews, many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jeffrey will also be missed by 100 other flight attendants.

He is preceded in death by his grandparents and his brother, Mark Allen Collman.
A memorial service was held on Monday, October 1, 2001 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Yorkville, IL with Pastor John Leaf officiating.

Father’s thoughts
Dwayne Collman's imagination gets the best of him when he thinks about the final minutes of his son's life on American Airlines Flight 11. He's filled with horror thinking about what the 41-year-old flight attendant from Yorkville went through as terrorists with knives steered the plane into the first World Trade Center tower. Collman knows his son received safety training in flight school, but he doubts it ever could have prepared him for the challenges he would face on the morning of Sept. 11. The grieving father is sure of one thing about his son, though, even if the details about his death are not certain:
"He would have fought like hell."

Jeffrey Collman, an American Airlines flight attendant for five years who grew up in Yorkville, died Tuesday morning when his hijacked plane, destined for Los Angeles, crashed into New York's famous landmark at 8:45 a.m. Though his body has not been recovered, his parents knew he was gone when he didn't call within a few hours after the tragedy. He had sent his stepmother, Kay, an e-mail the night before, telling her he would be flying from Boston to Los Angeles the next morning.

"I knew he was in that accident because every time there was something going on with airplanes, he would call and say, 'Hey, I'm all right,' " said Kay Collman. "So I knew that, when he didn't call, he was on that plane."

His parents [...] say Jeffrey Collman wanted to be a flight attendant because he loved to travel and meet people around the world. After working for years at Allsteel in Montgomery, he moved to California about five years ago to pursue that dream. Lifelong friend Dolores Humphrey, who went to school with Jeffrey Collman at all grade levels in Yorkville, said she feared he was killed when she heard the news because he often flew early-week flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
She said Collman never lost contact with his friends, even though his job took him around the world.

"Every time he got into town, he would call anyone he knew to meet for breakfast," said Humphrey, who last talked to Collman [5 days before 9/11]. "He would talk for a couple hours, then have to go fly somewhere else."

His stepmother said Jeffrey was the type of person who could "sit down next to someone on a plane and walk away knowing their life story." His father said Jeffrey loved tennis and flew around the world to watch professionals play. Kay Collman says her stepson never went anywhere meekly, and he loved his job so much that she's sure he didn't back down in the face of terror. "He took it seriously," she said, "and he would not have let anyone walk on him."

Humphrey said Jeffrey talked of flying even when he was a child, and his dream came true when American Airlines gave him a job. He was never afraid to fly, she said, always asserting that he was safer in the air than anyone on the ground. Collman's parents have begun to realize how their son died, and that he will always be remembered as a victim on one of the saddest days ever in the United States.

"It's completely different than just someone dying," Kay Collman said. "We'll have the pictures forever. We'll always see where he died. It's part of history."

Seattle Times, 17 September 2001
His partner, Keith Bradkowski, said Collman was courageous and safety-conscious. "He was so focused on safety," Bradkowski said. "If there was a threat, he would have done anything in his power to prevent it." He didn't normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but made an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month. Collman grew up in Yorkville, Ill., and besides Bradkowski left behind four brothers and a sister. (Seattle Times)

Further information: the fate of Flight 11.

Memorial to flight crew


Blogger Nathanael V.  found out 5 years after 9/11, that Jeffrey Collman was a neighbour's grandson.


and as attributed above.

9/11 - a decade on

When this post is published, it will be exactly ten years to the minute that the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York. The events of what is now referred to as 9/11 are only too well known.

My thoughts are with all victims, whether identified afterwards, or not. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My thoughts are with the passengers and crew on the four flights destroyed. My thoughts are with the victims killed in the World Trade Center. My thoughts are with those emergency workers who lost their lives trying to save others'.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who perpetrated these atrocities, for they lost too. Even before the events of September 2001, they lost their loved ones to a delusion of hate that is not of the religion they claimed to be faithful to. Hatred leads to destruction - as shown seven years ago. Forgiveness is a pillar of Christian faith, as it is one of the Islamic faith. Whether those that lost a loved one in 9/11 can find it in themselves to forgive is beyond my scope.

But first and foremost, my thoughts are with Norberto Hernandez, whose tribute I first filed on Northern Trip, the predecessor to Atlantic Lines, in 2006. The searches for Norberto on Google are contaminated with references to the Falling Man, who was in fact another victim, Jonathan Briley. This confusion has led to much anger and anguish, something the families of both men could do well without.

Norberto, rest in peace.

This entry, as stated above is dedicated to the memory of

Norberto was a pastry chef from Elmhurst, working in the restaurant Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. After the attacks, he was reported missing for a week until parts of a torso and an arm were found in a collapsed stairwell. DNA testing and finger printing reveiled that these were the remains of Norberto. It also invalidated claims that the image of the Falling Man was that of Norberto; this was another victim of 9/11 who will be the subject of a different tribute.

At the time of the attacks on the WTC, Norberto was aged 42 and had been married for 25 years. He was the fourth of ten children by his parents’ marriage, and also had six half-siblings through his father. His parents separated when he was young. Norberto himself had three daughters, three grandchildren and 37 nephews. He was a man of Puerto Rican origins, and had hoped to spend his final days there. Instead, after 9/11, a funeral service was held and his remains cremated in Puerto Rico.

His sister Luz described Norberto. “He was quiet, kind”, she said. “He was a handsome man. Everybody loved him, you know. Everybody.” Norberto’s nickname was Bible, as he was very dependable. Together Forever was his motto.

Norberto started work in Windows on the World at the age of 17, washing dishes. He was interested in cooking, so a manager paid for his tuition at cooking school. Norberto became pastry chef and worked up to 10 hours a day. His sister Luz said that he made cakes, desserts, cookies and bread. His cakes were fabulous.

Outside work, Norberto loved sports, and was a fan of a Puerto Rican boxer, Felix Trinidad Jr. Four days before the attacks, he rang his mother and asked her to play “I would cry but I have no more tears” four times.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane striking the North Tower, Norberto called his sister Luz. “He said: ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I’m OK”.They were disconnected, and when Luz tried to call back she could not get through. Other accounts from Windows on the World tell that smoke and dust filled the restaurant after the strike, and that people lay on the floor to escape the worst of it. Air was beginning to run out at the time of the last contact.

These are the facts that I have managed to pull together from the Internet.

From the little that I have learned of Norberto, he came through as a gentle giant. Although 6’2” (1.84m) tall, he was always listening, and talked later. His family suffered a double loss, as Claribel Hernandez (his sister-in-law), a secretary working elsewhere in the North Tower, was also killed in the attacks. Norberto was close in the family and responsible, which earned him the nickname Bible. He loved his work, and by the look of one of the images, loved to impart that knowledge to others around him.

September 11th, 2001, dawned as a brilliantly sunny morning in New York. Two planes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse within 2 hours. The destruction of so many lives was brought about by mindless hatred and madness, fuelled by religious zealotry which was not based on any writing in any scriptures in any religion.

Norberto may have heard of that on news reports, but it was probably quite far from him. He was a man that lived for his family, always there for them. A diligent worker, putting in up to 10 hours a day, loving his creations from the oven. Travelling to the WTC on the Subway every morning, his thoughts were probably far from what was to happen not that much later on that fateful Tuesday.

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six are known to have died that day, or in its immediate aftermath. Norberto’s ashes were scattered in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His memory lives on in his family, and in the memory of those that read this. He is deeply missed by those close to him.

To Norberto Hernandez

Rest In Peace

This link is no longer operational

I have attempted to contact the University of Columbia to use the material in this link, but have not received a reply. As it is central to the tribute, I have used it, and acknowledge the writer, Sarah Clemence.

This is a poem by Barbara Phillips, from which I have used some factual references to Norberto. It refers to him being the Falling Man though.

I have been granted permission by UIM to reproduce the commemorative quilt for Norberto.

The poster, pictured above, proclaiming Norberto as missing after the attacks, hung on a walkway of Manhattan for more than a week

Saturday, 10 September 2011

In memory - 9/11


Having monitored tropical cyclones for 5 years from the northwest of Scotland, it is a strange feeling to be the subject of a direct warning from the National Hurricane Center over in Miami. Hurricane Katia is no longer a tropical system, but a very strong depression, currently just under 2000 miles west southwest of Glasgow, to quote the NHC. The dangerous surf conditions, which the eastern USA have experienced during the past week will now affect these shores, and the stormforce winds are expected to cause damage to trees and disruption to transport networks in the UK. Ex-Katia, with a central pressure of 954 mbar, is scooting east at 46 knots, that's 52 mph, with winds of 70 knots, 80 mph. The contrast between a cold airmass to the north and a warm, tropical airmass to its south, will maintain Katia's strength - it is temperature contrasts that fuel mid latitude depressions, rather than the venting of oceanic warmth through condensation as shown in tropical cyclones.

Katia will sit over the Western Isles at midday on Monday, as I already reported in my previous post. This is part of public advisory #50 from NHC, published at 4pm local time.




Saturday 10 September

My eldest nephew is 21 today, so he'll be having a whale of a time this weekend. My youngest niece is 13 on Tuesday of next week, meaning she'll be a teen well and truly. Trust a good time will be had in her house as well.

Here in Stornoway, it is a calm if slightly damp Saturday morning. The news is full of dire headlines about the approaching hurricane, which will be carrying winds of force 9 to 11 to Scotland on Monday. We shall see. According to the latest weather charts, its centre will be right over Lewis at midday on Monday, meaning we'll be seeing the eye of the storm, and some very low barometric pressures. The charts suggest 960 mbar. Not a record; the 2005 hurricane carried a central pressure of 944 mbar.

Tomorrow will see the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and I shall not be posting a normal blogpost on here. What you will see are two tributes dedicated to the memory Norberto Hernandez and Dwayne Coleman, who lost their lives in the atrocities at New York ten years ago. These tributes will be posted at the exact time that the first plane struck the WTC in 2001.

If there is anything else I can think of to post today, you will see that, else I'll be resuming normal service on Monday.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday 9 September

Overcast and wet, but no wind to speak of. Quite a few boats in port today. The Froyhav and Roy Kristian are well-boats, used to transport young salmon to fish farms.

The yacht is the Cary Ali, registered in the Marshall Islands, in the middle of the Pacific.

And we even had a tall-ship in, the Soerlandet, a Norwegian training vessel.

This was, as I said, a calm day. Over the next few days, things are going to get progressively worse. Monday shows winds of force 9 to 11 on the forecast - as Katia comes to gives us an old-fashioned "winter storm", to quote the National Hurricane Center in Miami. We in Scotland get warnings from the NHC? Oh my goodness, I'd better batten down those hatches!

Thursday 8 September

Quite a reasonable day in terms of weather. Still busy monitoring no fewer than four tropical cyclones - Katia, Maria, Nate and Kulap. Dire warnings are appearing about Katia, which has the British Isles in its crosshairs for early next week. The Metcheck website had a gremlin in its forecast, warning us of 220 mph winds. Well, we do get high winds here, for sure, but not that bad.

I have started transcribing WW2 tributes from the Stornoway Gazette, which should appear on the Internet in the next week or so.It is noticeable that the rate of tributes falls off sharply as the year 1942 progresses, which shows that the RAF has won the battle of the skies, and that the U-boats are losing the battle of the seas. I have more than 100 articles to transcribe.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Hurricane update - 7 September

Approaching the apex of the hurricane season, and boy, it is heaving with tropical cyclones tonight. The Atlantic has no few than three of them.

Katia is a hurricane that is not bothering anyone at the moment, apart from some high swells on the east coast of the USA. The British Isles will see a slightly weaker version on Monday of next week; 60 knots equates to a force 11 storm.

Maria is a tropical storm with winds of 45 knots (force 9-10) in the middle of the Atlantic. She will head west and may pass over the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico by the weekend.

Nate formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, in the Bay of Campeche. A track map is not yet available, but this chap will drift north and intensify to hurricane force. Northeastern Mexico appears to be in the firing line.

Kulap is a tropical storm in the northwestern Pacific, but the forecasters are at daggers drawn over its future course. Will it head north into Korea, or west into China?

Wednesday 7 September

Another day of sunshine and showers, the latter being of the beafy variety. Later in the day, as the showers move away east, they leave behind a legacy of rainbows. This island is famous for its rainbows in spring and autumn. Talking of autumnal weather, we are on warning for some very severe weather. The long range forecasts give us winds of 65 mph, gusting to 85 mph, on Monday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says that the remnant of Hurricane Katia will scoot just north of the Hebrides after the weekend, carrying hurricane force winds near its centre. The weekend is not going to be good, but Monday and Tuesday will be extremely bad. I am not given to refer to the weather here as either extreme or bad, but this is going to be one of those events.

I have completed my researches (as much as possible) into the witnesses who gave evidence to the Napier Commission during its sessions in the Outer Hebrides in May and June 1883. The information shows the make-up of their families, names of spouses and children, and if possible the date and circumstances of their death. I know of at least one person whose great-grandfather was a witness, 128 years ago.

If anyone wants to publish a tribute to one of the victims of 9/11, please visit the website of Project 2996. There are more than 2,100 names left without a tribute - many of them used to have one, but they were lost when people closed down their blogs. You can easily research any of those people, and even just a mention of their name would already be sufficient.

Where was I at 8.46 EDT on 11 September 2001? I was at my last place of work when the storekeeper emerged from his office with this strange look on his face. He said that planes had flown into the World Trade Center in New York. Four hours later, replays on the television brought home the horror of that day.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Tuesday 6 September

The day started very unfriendly, with lashing rain and strong winds. The gales that we were warned against did not materialise, as we were in the eye of the storm. At midday, the barometer bottomed out at 975 mbar, the rain stopped and the sun came out. As I type this, at 6pm, pressure has risen to 981 mbar as the causative low pressure system moves away east across the North Sea.

Hurricane Katia is moving steadily northwest and will pass between the USA and Bermuda over the next few days. She is not directly threatening land (apart from gales on Bermuda and an inch or two of rain there), but Katia could well threaten the British Isles in a week's time. Having transformed into an "ordinary" low pressure system, it will still be packing winds of up to 60 knots - and hurricane force is only a notch up on that, at 65 knots. I'll monitor the situation over the next few days.

I spent two hours in the library, photographing articles from the Stornoway Gazette containing tributes to servicemen from the Isle of Lewis who were lost during 1942. Towards the end of that year, the rate of the losses decreases noticeably. Although I took 109 images, I reckon it boils down to about 80 or 90 tributes. Once I have completed my current task of researching the witnesses to the Napier Commission from North Uist - 6 down, 7 to go at the moment.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Monday 5 September

Quite a boisterous day, in that there were beafy downpours and twisters reportedly trying to come down from shower clouds over the centre of the island. There was not much wind at groundlevel, which brought out the midges (scratch, scratch).

Next week, the Lewis Chessmen [Facebook link] will be back near the location where they were found back in 1831. It is their first revisit in 11 years, and there will only be a small selection of the figurines that will make it to Timsgarry, across the bay from Ardroil. The debate as to the provenance of their makers continues to rage.

Community Photo Challenge - Reflections

As Donna said, it's been a while since I took part in any of those, but you see my contribution above. Boats on the slipway on a windless day.  Contribution to the Community Photo Challenge.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sunday 4 September

Quite a nice, sunny day, ended by a spectacular sunset just after 8pm. Sigh, we've lost 2½ hours of daylight (on the sunset side), and the equinox is only just over a fortnight away. Had an easy Sunday, reading more of the Count of Monte Cristo, a book you really need to focus on in order to keep track of all the intrigue and machinations. Quote of the day: "Disgust is even more repugnant than hatred", and that coming from a man that is all about revenge.

A campaign is underway to map the blackspots in mobile phone coverage in the islands. Said he, barely suppressing a snort of derision. When I came to Lewis, I devised this rhyme No Eitsal no signal, as the mobile phone transmitters stand on the top of Eitsal, a hill backing onto the village of Achmore.
When I was in Switzerland, I always had mobile phone coverage. Whether on top of mountains, in valleys or even in the middle of a 22 mile tunnel. The cell information even changed as the train passed underneath different villages in the mountains above. Switzerland thrives on tourism. The Western Isles are heavily dependent on tourism, yet mobile phone coverage is poor. Yes, you can get a signal in town - don't try it at the junction of Kenneth Street and Bayhead. I realise that the number of residents and tourists in the islands are nowhere near the numbers that the Swiss Alps see. But there is no excuse for this appalling state of affairs.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Saturday 3 September

Three systems keeping me busy with the tropical cyclones blog: hurricane Katia is in the Atlantic, not strengthening much because the atmosphere is not cooperating; tropical storm Lee is soaking Louisiana; and tropical storm Talas is crossing mainland Japan. Strange as though it may seem, Talas is likely to impact the future course of Katia, although the two systems are 150 degrees in longitude apart.

Here in Stornoway, it is a typical Hebridean day, with periods of rain interspersed with periods of sunshine. This morning, I met with fellow researcher Direcleit, and we spent a pleasant half hour or so comparing notes over a coffee in the An Lanntair cafe. Later on, I completed the links in my Napier Witnesses blog. I only have to look at the witnesses for North Uist and Benbecula.

I am closing this post with some pictures I took in recent days.

Sunshine and showers, 3 September

Cruiseliners Vistamar (L) and Marco Polo (R)

Cruiseliner Vistamar in Glumag Harbour

Friday, 2 September 2011

Scriptural interpretation

A minister in the Free Church of Scotland has written to his Presbytery to resign as a minister and to be deleted from the register of retired ministers. Why? Because the Free Church recently proposed to introduce hymns into the service. Until recently, hymns and musical instruments were not permitted. The Reverend Macdonald is seriously upset that, after 47 years, he feels he is forced to this move. Introducing hymns is, in his view, unscriptural and sinful. More on this link.

I respect everybody's religious convictions, and am also prepared to acknowledge that different people have different forms of worship, and that some forms may be repugnant to other people, for quite genuine reasons.

I resent, however, the fact that people are condemning each other because of differing interpretations of the Bible, which is what happens a lot. Don't forget that the Bible has been translated several times, has come down over literally thousands of years. More to the point, who on Earth does anyone think they are when they claim know exactly what was meant by our Deity when He commanded whoever to write down His Word? It is the job of a Minister of the Church to interpret the Scriptures to the best of his ability and conscience, in order that his congregation can best be helped in dealing with the major (and minor) issues of life. The form of worship, with all respect to the Reverend Macdonald, is a minor side issue to that.

The Protestant Church is infamous for its multitudes of splits and schisms, brought about by differing interpretations, and each faction defending to the hilt the notion that they have it right, and when someone doesn't agree, they are wrong. I am all for a healthy discussion. I am strongly opposed to rigidly imposed dogma - something that both Protestant and Catholic Churches are very good at.

Some 30 years ago, I was invited to a meeting, hosted by the Opus Dei organisation. They were trying to convert young students to the Roman Catholic faith, and possibly recruit them into their organisation. They did a good job at convincing me that I could not do so. I do not accept certain tenets of the RC faith (that's a personal opinion), but I have a great respect for that Church nonetheless. Some of my best friends over the years have been Orthodox Roman Catholics. But it would appear to me that the rigid dogma of the RC Church has been copied by certain sections of the Free Church of Scotland - a comparison that will not sit very well with certain members of that Church.

Friday 2 September

I just had a look at the sidebar for my blog, and everything points towards autumn. My blogoversary will be on October 8th, the Royal National Mod is on from October 15th and my "seasonal" image is from October 2007.

It shows a derelict cottage along the shores of Loch Seaforth at Airidh a'Bhruaich. The russet browns of the dying bracken are much in evidence. The weather is quite autumnal as well, with dark clouds, a little sunshine and showers. The mercury now only just manages 60F, and that will very soon be a thing of the past for this part of the world. There were two cruiseliners in, the Marco Polo (a regular visitor here, on its 3rd call this season) and the Vistamar, which felt its way into Glumag Harbour this morning. The ferry had to squeeze past both vessels at 2 o'clock this afternoon.

Earlier this year, a lady driving a car just north of Tarbert was signalled by police officers to stop. Local rumour has it that she allegedly gave them "the finger". She did not stop. The driver continued over the Clisham, into Lewis, through Balallan, Laxay, Leurbost into Stornoway, where she turned left. Traversing the Barvas Moor, then turning right at Barvas, finally pulling up at Dell. For 60 (yes, sixty) miles, she had been ignoring blue flashing lights in her rear-view mirror. The woman is due in court next month on charges of failing to stop for police, and she has pled not guilty.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thursday 1 September

The weather today changed from bright and sunny in the morning to wet and windy just now, just after 6pm. Autumn has definitely arrived. I spent the afternoon salvaging a blog that was hosted on the website of a Dutch national newspaper. They axed their blogging service last week, and promised that a transfer to another service would be provided as of August 23rd. We are now 9 days down the line and nothing has happened. I was supposed to open a new account with the other providers - but the transfer has run into difficulties. So I've taken matters into my own hand and reconstructed the blog from Google's cache. I managed to retrieve virtually all the posts (yay!), but did get a deja-vu sensation - remember AOHell, 3 years ago?

In a few days' time, I shall meet fellow researcher Direcleit in person, after his move to Berneray this summer. He has secured a position as researcher for that island's historical society, with an extended remit to the Sound and Island of Harris. I am quite happy to continue my activities free-lance and on a voluntary basis, and am looking forward to comparing notes over a cuppa.