View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 4 April 2011

Monday 4 April

Today was mainly overcast, and the morning saw some quite unpleasant weather. Persistent moderate rain, blown along by a strong easterly wind made it feel particularly cold. The Greenpeace vessel Esperanza came in to seek shelter from the poor weather, docking alongside no 3 pier until just before 6pm this evening.

I had to go to the post office to get 8p worth of stamps. A postcrossing card was ready with a 60p stamp to go to Germany, but the postal rates went up as of today, so the extra postage was required.

I am not a terribly political person, but one thing stood out in terms of the May 5th Scottish election campaign. One of the main political parties have announced that if they come into government, they will scrap the Road-Equivalent Tariff, which has led to a halving of ferry fares over the past few years - resulting in a 30% increase in tourism trade in the Outer Hebrides. I think that's a classical case of turkeys voting for an early Christmas.

I have now completed the research into the Harris witnesses, who gave evidence to the Napier Commission in 1883. You may wonder why an event from 128 years ago is so important in 2011. The findings by Lord Napier led to a fundamental change in laws and practices surrounding land ownership and land usage. Next, I shall have a look at the witnesses at St Kilda, thence on to Uig (Lewis).

Sunday 3 April

The day start off fairly sunny, but we got a healthy dose of April showers not long after midday. Rain, hail, snow, not to mention the kitchen-sink came down. It is supposed to be mild darn sarf [down south], but not so up here in the far north. I kept a quiet day, looking into the witnesses to the Napier Commission who hailed from Taransay. That island's reputation took a bit of a knock in 2000, when 35 people were boated out there for 12 months and told, upon punishment of public humiliation, to build a community there. Local people were not really amused, except by the antics of some of the participants. Castaway 2000 only has one of the living pods left in mainland Harris - it sits along the village road into Luskentyre, 10 miles southwest of Tarbert.

There is a tinge of sadness about the personal story of the two witnesses. Although nobody lived permanently in the island after the 1880s, they both died on Taransay, in 1909 and 1913. People had to move away after they had been banned from sowing seed or keeping livestock.

Paible, Taransay, from Horgabost