View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tuesday 31 July

The day started like this, with a few showers. The cruiseliner is the Kristina Katarina, which is visiting Stornoway today. Another liner will call tomorrow. The passengers trouped ashore, and the town was buzzing to the sound of foreign tongues.

In the afternoon, the showers faded away and the sunshine became quite warm (by our standards), with the mercury reaching a pleasant 17C. I went for a walk to the newly finished Nicolson Institute (see previous post) to take a few pics. I carried on down Francis Street to the Town Hall, where an exhibition had been opened just a few hours before about the history of the school. It was first established in 1875.

An alert was put out this morning that a girl aged 3 had made a 999 call from her home in Leeds to the effect that her mother had fallen and was unresponsive. This had happened yesterday, so police were very concerned. However, it turned out this evening that two girls aged 10, calling from Bridlington (on the east coast of England) had perpetrated the prank. They have been spoken to. Bored during the holidays? Well, I hope they will be taught a lesson.

Nicolson Institute

The island's secondary school has a new building, a prominent edifice along Sandwick Road next to the Council offices. The builders handed it over yesterday, 30 July, and pupils will be entering it on August 16th. Stornoway Historical Society have an exhibition on the history of the school was opened in Stornoway Town Hall, which is well worth a visit. Of the old buildings making up the 'Nic', only the Pentland Building and the Matheson Hall will be retained. The other premises are to be demolished before the end of the year.

Clocktower Main entrance Service entrance Matheson Hall

Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday 30 July

The morning started off quite wet, with plenty of drizzly showers. These dried up through the afternoon, and as I type this, light is fading on a decent evening. The nearest weatherstation to show detailed rainfall readings, Flesherin (9 miles northeast of Stornoway), collected 4.4 mm today, bringing July's total to 62 mm or 2.5 inches.

This morning, I went to a carpark on Kenneth Street to view a procession of tractors that were preparing to set off for the long drive to Rodel, some 55 miles south of Stornoway at the far southern end of Harris. Well, the procession totaled 4 tractors, as well as two that had set off early as they were so slow. One sat on a trailer behind a car, as it could not move under its own steam. A smidgen disappointing, but it's the gesture that counts. The drive, which would have taken 6 hours, was in aid of the Linda Norgrove Foundation. This charity was set up in 2010 following the death of Lewis-born charity worker Linda Norgrove. She was killed in Afghanistan during an abortive mission by US forces to liberate her from her captors. Her parents set up the charity to continue Linda's work in her name.

Do you blog? Well, you'd better be careful about the use of pictures on your blog. You could get sued for their unauthorised use, as this blogger explains.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sunday 29 July

Sunshine and a lot of showers today, those showers being of the drizzly type. When you get caught out in one you get incredibly wet. Nonetheless, the rainfall total for today was only 3 mm. Went out for a short amble just before ferry time (2.30pm). Sunday in Stornoway remains very quiet, and nothing moved.

I shall not be watching much television for the next fortnight or so, whilst all the British TV channels are clogged with Olympic coverage. That in itself I don't really mind, but the inexecrable hype over medals that British competitors should have had but don't get, really gets on my nerves. Also, there are other things going on in the world apart from the Olympics - the Syrian crisis e.g. - and I find it very hard to keep up with the rest of the news.

Not much happening on the hurricane front, except for two tropical storms in the western Pacific. Saloa is heading north towards Taiwan, which it will eventually pass as a category III typhoon at 100 knots; Damrey is moving west towards China. Both systems will end up soaking the east coast of China, either side of Shanghai, with large amounts of rain. If memory serves, eastern China has suffered severe flooding so more rain is the last they need down there.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Danish connection

This evening, I found a comment, made on one of my local history sites by a Danish man who had visited the Outer Hebrides. Upon crossing North Uist, he visited the cemetery of Clachan Sands, about 6 miles west of Lochmaddy on the road to Berneray. I visited that graveyard in July 2009 and photographed the gravestone of Ewen Nicholson, who was lost during the First World War. An image of the actual gravestone in the Railway Dugouts Cemetery can be viewed on this link.

My Danish correspondent researched the fate of Ewen, displaying some very graphic and gruesome images of conditions on the frontline. I have looked into Ewen Nicholson's information and came out with the following:

Ewen Nicholson
Born: Grimsay, North Uist
Date of birth: 29 May 1892
Trade / calling: Labourer
Married: No
Volunteered at Valcartier on 23 September 1914
Age upon enlistment: 22 years 4 months
Height: 5 ft 10¼ in
Complexion: fresh
Eyes: light brown
Hair: brown
Religious denomination: presbyterian

Son of Alexander and Ann Nicholson, of Grimsay, Lochmaddy, North Uist.
Last known address in North Uist: 4 Aird nan Sruban Grimsay
Military unit: 7th Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment)
Service number: 21065
Date of death: 3 June 1916 at the age of 24
Interred: Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, Sp Mem G. 29

In 1901, Ewen was 8 years old. His father Alexander was a crofter, 41 years of age, married to Ann. There were four other children in the family: Mary (12), John Archie (10), Alexander (5) and Andrew John Macalpine, age 1 month.

Five days after his 24th birthday, Ewen lost his life in fierce battles near Ypres. He was buried in one of the many cemeteries around the town.

Saturday 28 July

A fairly bright day, but with the odd shower or two. Went to the local supermarket, which has decided on a major overhaul in the middle of the busiest time of the year. You know the routine: swap everything round to different aisles so you spend double the amount of time looking for everything. We are getting self-service check-out things. What on earth for, I am asking myself. I mean, we have about 15 tills in that shop and it's not as if it is supposed to serve the whole of Edinburgh or a place of like size.

The local seagulls decided to descend on my part of town and congregate on the seawall across the road. As you can see, the tide is going out, leaving all sorts of juicy tidbits for the gulls.

On the maritime theme, we also had a small freighter in - it came in late last night and is discharging - well, actually I don't know what it carries. Probably something like coal.

I have been looking at the problems that I have been experiencing with Firefox; at times it grinds to a complete halt. It appears that the latest version of the Flash player (11.3) clashes with FF. It is recommended to uninstall version 11.3 and install version 10.3. A switch to Google Chrome appeared appealing, but it has some glitches that bug me when copying blogposts; I do that several times a day, particularly when doing the hurricane updates. So, I'm back on Firefox and much happier.

Friday 27 July

A very wet afternoon, which dumped 17 mm of rain on the island, followed by a much nicer afternoon. Our rainfall deficit is gradually declining. More rain is in the forecast.

Olympic Games starting off today, and I find the wall-to-wall coverage on the BBC a bit much, to be honest. The rest of the news is drowned out, and I have to resort to the Internet to keep up-to-date with other events that are on-going at the moment. I watched the Opening Ceremony, from 9pm until 1 am, live on television. Curmudgeonly me was fairly impressed with the depiction of British life, some of the musical performances and very impressed with the way the cauldron was constructed by the participating teams, each carrying a part of the burner.

The crisis in the local fishing industry appears to have been averted after boats from the east coast of Scotland were banned from fishing for prawns in our west coast waters. Following a dearth of prawns in the east, fishermen from that part of Scotland came to the Minch to get their catch. A fishing ban would have deprived the local fleet of an income and would also have had major ramifications for the fish processors.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Thursday 26 July

A fairly bright day, but not much sunshine. There was a little rain, but Scottish Water continues to remind its customers in these islands to use their mains water wisely. A device is available from the offices of the water company that can be placed in toilet cisterns to reduce the amount of water used when the loo is flushed. The total amount of rainfall in July, even after last Sunday's downpour, only stands at 34 mm, an inch and a third.

Shortages are also on the cards for the local fishermen. After 50 large fishingboats plundered the fishing grounds of prawns, meaning that the fishing could be closed as of September. This would not only leave the fishermen out of a job, but also the people in the processing plants. A couple of those stand across the water from my position, and each day I see its workforce going back and forth.

Less than 24 hours to go until the start of the London Olympics, and I'll have a job avoiding coverage. I shall be watching the opening ceremony tomorrow evening though. However, as I was discussing with one of my Facebook contacts earlier, the Olympics seems to be hugely important to many people. Are we seeing a global expression of tribalism, almost ersatz-war? Where I am from, the expression goes that football is war. Anyway, leaving my pot-psychology to one side, I hope it all goes well and may the best ones win.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wednesday 25 July

Quite a nice day, especially as we finally lost the wind that has been much in evidence since the weekend. We once again managed 17C this afternoon, a temperature I much prefer to the 30C that was on the thermometers in London.

That city is ready to start hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, if it weren't for the fact that the Games have already kicked off. A soccer football match in Cardiff heralded the commencement of the sporting action. The BBC have launched 24 dedicated channels on satellite and terrestrial television, so it is possible to watch 24 different sports at the same time. You do need 24 separate TV sets for that, so I somehow don't see anyone doing that.

The small island of Berneray played host to the Scottish Education minister Mike Russell today, as he was shown round a community facility, the Nurse's Cottage. The link I supply may, when visited much later than the day of posting, show a different news item. Fellow researcher Direcleit is doing some work there on emigration from his isle of residence, a subject that appears to be a new focus for local historians. A new website, Hebrides People, was set up this weekend to help those who want to trace their roots from diaspora. There are now quite a few web-based resources around on the subject, and I quietly wished that someone would pull all the strands together. However, many of the sites (not just Hebrides People) charge for their services, so we can safely forget about this idea. The best site is Hebridean Connections, now slowly gathering dust. I have been told that it is not being updated and its funding withdrawn.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Tuesday 24 July

A windy day but bright and with good spells of sunshine. We once again managed to reach the dizzy heights of 17C / 63F. The powercut brought some minor inconvenience to the shops in this town; the tills were not working, and the bank had to take even longer to reopen once power supplies were restored. It took an hour for people in Ness and Harris to come back on supply. The cause for the powercut is not clear.

Eight people have been charged in connection with alleged conspiracy to intercept communications, in other words phone and other forms of hacking. All have vehemently protested their innocence, something which will be down to a court to decide. The whole saga has opened a cesspit of dirty dealings between the press, police and politicians. Whether things will change depends on the outcome of the Leveson inquiry, which is moving towards a conclusion in terms of the first tranche of hearings.


Oops, that was the power off at 2.45pm. Which, in the house, is naturally an inconvenience. Nothing works, no internet, no appliances. And, at night, no lights. But this is mid afternoon in July, it's a bright day, so no real problem. And after 15 minutes, the power did come back on. However, in the town centre, all the shops shut their doors to customers, as they could not operate their tills. The outlying districts took longer to come back on supply, but the power company reported on Twitter that everybody should have their electric back. Meanwhile, the powerstation at Battery Point (a few hundred yards from my position) is belching out smoke, providing a back-up. Don't know what brought this all on, but the fact that I am able to put this entry on the WWW means that everything is back to normal. In my usual daily blogpost, which I shall put up this evening, I will relay experiences of people who were actually in the shops when the power went off.

Hurricane update - 24 July

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has issued the final warning on typhoon Vicente, as it moves overland, still packing winds of 100 knots (115 mph) near its centre. At the height of its power, the typhoon presented this image on the radar at Hong Kong, not much more than about 60 miles away. As Jeff Masters writes in his blog on the storm, Vicente presented a nightmare scenario, intensifying from 75 knots (cat I) to 120 knots (cat IV) in the space of a mere 6 hours. A direct hit on Hong Kong or Macao would have claimed many lives; a comparable scenario on the US coastline would exact a similar toll, as there was no time to evacuate.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday 23 July

Quite an improvement on yesterday, with good sunny spells and gradually decreasing winds. That cannot be said about the weather in Hong Kong, which suddenly found itself on the receiving end of a category IV typhoon with winds of 110 mph in the outer areas of the territory. Here in the Hebrides, we reached 17C / 63F, which is about par for the course. Went into town for a few bits and pieces; bought a book about the Scottish community land buy-out movement, which has been gathering pace since the 1990s. It is a subject that has my interest; I have never understood why a landowner, who leases land to others, is able to influence what his tenants do on his land.

Yesterday's windy weather kept the local lifeboats busy. The Leverburgh lifeboat was tasked to Skye to help a yacht whose anchor was dragging near Waternish; the Portree and Castlebay lifeboats were called out for similar problems. The Leverburgh lifeboat Lifetime Care has been on station only since May this year, but has had five call-outs already. She plugs the gap between the RNLI stations in Castlebay, Stornoway and Portree. Lifetime Care also has easy access to the west coast of Skye, as was demonstrated in yesterday's shout.

Hurricane update - 23 July

I got quite a shock in the last half hour, when I happened to look at the webpage for the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and found an amendment to the 1500 GMT warning for typhoon Vicente, near Hong Kong. Originally, warning 12 quoted Vicente at 70 knots, equivalent to a category I hurricane. JTWC have changed this ever so slight to 120 knots, that's a category IV hurricane. The storm has intensified by an unbelievable 50 knots in 6 hours, a rate of intensification that is classified as explosive.

The Hong Kong Observatory has placed the city under hurricane signal 10, reporting winds of 110 mph in places around the territory.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday 22 July

The third anniversary of the Sunday ferry in Lewis saw the boat not cancelled in spite of winds reaching 35 mph this morning. The weather, until about 4pm, was pretty awful with lashing rain and those high winds. However, it has since dried up. Low, jaggedy clouds are racing northeast with the mercury at a pleasant 15C, well, it would be pleasant if the sun were out. But it's not, and not likely to be for the next day or so.

With regards the shootings in Aurora CO, I can only implore the Americans to realise that they really have to move into the 21st century with regards their 19th century attitudes towards gun ownership. This is not the shoot-out in the OK corral, where everybody has the right to bear and use arms because nobody else will stand up for them. That went out a very, very long time ago. There is no cause for anyone to bear arms in the street in this day and age, other than those involved with law enforcement, the defence of the state or properly licensed. The availability of firearms and ammunition is ridiculous. How can anyone just go out and buy 6,000 rounds of ammo for three different types of arms on the Net? However, there is a lot of politicking going on, and bearing in mind my tendency towards (over)simplification, you'll forgive my ignorance with regards the connections between politicians, the gun lobby and what not. I don't WANT to know.

The Peace Camp at Valtos is cancelled, after the forecast for high winds prompted the tents to be taken down at Cliff Beach (just over the hill from Valtos). I did not have the opportunity to view the camp myself; Valtos is barely served by public transport, and it is certainly not served after 6pm. The camp was only open between 9.30pm and 4.30am, so you see my tiny difficulty. I hold a driver's license, but do not own a car. A local resident, who was involved with the camp, kindly posted some pics on Flickr, so I refer to those.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Saturday 21 July

Summer has come to an end here in the Outer Hebrides (for now) whilst the rest of the country finally gets its summer. Rain came in at 3pm, and it's still raining as I type this (10pm). More rain is expected over the next few days as a deep depression slowly moves over Iceland towards the Arctic Ocean. 966 mbar is deep for mid summer, but our drought will be alleviated by it to some extent.

The alleged culprit behind the Aurora shootings (12 dead, 59 injured) left home before going on his shoot-out, having booby-trapped his apartment to the last square inch. Why, for goodness' sakes. Why.

The story of the extra ferry sailings between Lochmaddy and Uig (Skye) has me befuddled. Calmac (our ferry company) is putting on extra late night sailings between the Uists and Skye in order to beat the security restrictions around London to do with the Olympics. This is primarily to benefit haulage firms who are carrying fish down to London for onward transportation to the European continent.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday 20 July

Well, as I type this, a hefty rainshower is passing through, a most welcome phenomenon after weeks of drought. Mind you, we'll have to wait until Sunday until the rain really does return with a vengeance. The salmon are waiting eagerly, as they need the rain to fill up the rivers. Only then can they go upstream to spawn. And die afterwards. It's quite uncanny, but the fish go up the same river where they hatched themselves. It's almost like sheep that go back to the place where they themselves were born in order to give birth themselves.

I was shocked to hear of another mass shooting in the USA, with a dozen people reported killed in a cinema in Denver, CO. The culprit also threw a gas grenade into the theatre. He has been arrested; his flat is apparently booby-trapped, and the security services are proceeding cautiously. My sympathies are with the families of the dead and injured. I do not expect any change in gun laws in the States, although it is needed.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Thursday 19 July

Another day of gradually changing weather, starting grey with some showers. Oh wow, we had some rain (0.03 inches). However, we are due some serious rainfall on Sunday, when the normal weather patterns finally return, after an absence of three months.

Today is the day that the weekly papers are published, and one of them had an interesting article, about a place called Tormore in Skye. It is a farmhouse, that was once home to the factor of landowner Lord Macdonald - and an unpleasant piece of work he was to his underlings. The historical appraisal started in 1920, but my interest goes back to the decades before 1883, when Lord Napier went around Skye to investigate the condition of the crofters and cottars there (as well as in other parts of Scotland). Lord Macdonald gave up his lands in 1920, by which time his factor had long gone the way of all flesh.

I have made steady progress through the Qu'ran. The English translation of the Muslim Holy Book that I have leaves me with the strong impression that it is a follow-up to the Bible. I'm not making that up; in one of the sura's [chapters], the Prophet states that God gave Man the Torah and Man did not take heed; then, God gave Man the Gospel, and Man did not take heed; God gave Man his teachings through his Prophet, and Man still is not taking heed. Furthermore, the Qu'ran quotes the same stories that occur in the Biblical Old Testament, refers to the same prophets and the same events. Why can't we regard the Qu'ran as a Third Testament? However, after more than 1400 years of ill feeling between Christianity and Islam, I don't think there is much chance of that.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Wednesday 18 July

A cold feeling day, with this cold northeasterly breeze keeping the mercury down at 13C / 55F. And it really was the wind that made it feel very cold. Not a very welcoming climate for the cruise passengers on the cruiseliner Deutschland, which anchored off the Arnish Lighthouse this morning.

I have been amazed at the sudden interest in the UK in the Tour de France cycling race. It is a competitive race by professional cyclists, all over France. The reason is that the man in the yellow jersey (in first place) is a Brit. Well done to him. There is only a couple of days left of the race, which will terminate on the Champs Elysee in Paris on Sunday.

I am now approaching the one-third mark in my quest to find out, using my limited means, further information on the nearly 1300 men from the Isle of Lewis who lost their lives in the 1914-1919 war. The information is compiled into a website, supplementary to my main tribute site, Faces from the Lewis War Memorial. I am pleased to note that I occasionally find further information on some of the casualties. Tomorrow, I shall look into the men from the village of Aird Tong, numbering 15, who were lost. Aird Tong is a tiny hamlet on the outskirts of the slightly larger township of Tong, due north of Stornoway, on the far side of the Cockle Ebb, as shown below.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tuesday 17 July

Quite a nice day, with some spells of sunshine, which served to lift the mercury to all of 17C / 63F. Compared to the stifling heatwave in the USA, this is of course nothing. What does remain a prominent feature of our weather is the lack of rain. Nothing today. The weatherman are suggesting that the jetstream may shift north, propelling rainbearing weathersystems our way. Well, seeing is believing. I'm not expecting anything major until the weekend. However, it is nice not having your flowers, shrubs and trees blown to bits by a gale, and it's even nicer not to have many midges. Those pests have been kept down by the lack of moisture, which has served to dry out the island's bogs.

I was horrified to hear of the find of a car under a landslip, which occurred 10 days ago in Dorset, SW England. The vehicle had been flattened by the landslip, which left it encased under many feet of mud and rubble at the entrance to a tunnel near Beaminster. Nobody had known that the car was under there, until its occupants began to be reported missing.

This evening, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my internet contacts in the flesh, after my help was enlisted by one of his friends who had a spot of bother making mobile phone contact. I had been in touch through the local blogs for several years.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Monday 16 July

Although the day started out a bit grey, the sun came out in the afternoon and as I type this (9.30pm) it is quite sunny. Once again, we're left with very little rain and the drought continues unabated. We need weeks and weeks of heavy rain, and it's not gonna happen in a hurry. The salmon should be running up the rivers at the moment, to spawn, but they are stuck at the tideline. Down at Garynahine, some 15 miles from Stornoway, the salmon are swimming round a pool, unable to get up the river.

My attention was drawn to a "Peace Camp" which will be in operation at Cliff Beach, Uig, Lewis, from July 19th to 22nd. The camp consists of a large number of tents with lights inside positioned at remote locations. The installation is accessible between sunset and sunrise, and here in Lewis that means between 9.30pm and 4.30am. You need to book a slot (of an hour) and present your booking slip at the gate. You must also bring outdoor gear and a torch. There are several other locations around the UK hosting peace camps, which are celebrating love poetry and landscape, to quote the website. It is possible to contribute poetry, imagery or music to the Peace Camp project. I'm not sure if I'll be traipsing the 35 miles to Cliff in the middle of the night to view this installation. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sunday 15 July

A quiet day, as per usual on Sunday. The Hebridean Celtic Festival is over, the last performances took place last night. The big tent remains on the lawn of Lews Castle, but will probably be taken down tomorrow. The area around it is fenced off and closed to the public as all the equipment is still on site. I went for a walk round to the Castle, and was able to walk down the shore road to Cuddy Point. It being Sunday, the area was busy with walkers and cyclists.

Tributes have been flooding in since yesterday in memory of Fr Calum Maclellan, the parish priest of Eriskay. Although he is known to many as one of the three priests featured in the Island Parish TV series, his achievements span many of his 86 years.

The drought conditions have sparked another major wildfire, this time just outside the village of North Tolsta, some 15 miles northeast of Stornoway on the east coast of the island. In contrast to the rest of the UK, the Outer Hebrides are crying out for rain, which has been in short supply since the middle of May. We have only had about an inch of rain over two months. A month ago, four wildfires wreaked havoc in the Castle Grounds.

The fire was in the area of woodland, shown at the centre of the map below.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Saturday 14 July

Happy Quatorze Juillet to all in France; 223 years ago today, revolutionaries stormed the infamous Bastille prison in Paris, and razed it to the ground. It commenced what later became known as the French Revolution, which ended up devouring one of the men that started it, Robespierre. The last King and Queen of France lost their heads in the Revolution - through indecisiveness, as it later turned out.

Today is the last day of the Hebridean Celtic Festival, and the town is bustling with people playing the bagpipes, a harp and what not on the streets. Tonight, another set of bands will play in the big tent on the Castle Lawn; yesterday's performances were part televised, but I was underwhelmed to be honest. Until last year, Festival Saturday was also the date of the Lewis Highland Games, which were held in the village of Tong, 4 miles outside Stornoway on the road to Tolsta. Unfortunately, the organisers could no longer afford to meet the legal requirements and decided to pull the plug on the Games at their AGM last January.

When you live in an island, you have to be inventive. That was in evidence in the first week of July, when the gangway to the ferry broke down. New parts were needed, so people turned to Ebay to get these; other parts were fabricated by Lews Castle College. So, now foot passengers can walk on board via the covered gangway, sheltered from the rain (what rain???); rather than via the vehicle ramp.

A little while ago, the sad news reached me that the parish priest for Eriskay, Fr Calum Maclellan, has passed away at the age of about 84. Fr Calum served Eriskay for many years, and featured in two series of An Island Parish on BBC television. He was a man of character, hugely respected and loved in the Southern Isles. May he rest in peace, now that he has gone home.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday 13 July

Friday the 13th. Well, it certainly wasn't a good start of the day on Highland roads. A lorry went up in a fierce blaze on the A9 near Aviemore. The A835 Inverness to Ullapool road was blocked at Aultguish for a couple of hours following an accident, prompting a detour of 100 miles through Gairloch - not good for ferry traffic. Because today is the second day of the Hebridean Celtic Festival here in Stornoway. About 15,000 people have descended on our wee town, but to be honest, the line-up doesn't do it for me. I am typing this, watching live coverage on the Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba. And I'm singularly not impressed.

Rangers FC of Glasgow look set to play in the lowest division of the Scottish football league in the new season, which starts in August. They were demoted from the top flight after going bust - as a result of not paying tax. They were more than £100 million in the red.

I was saddened to hear of the death of nine climbers on Mont Maudit (near Mt Blanc) in France. They were killed in an avalanche yesterday morning at 5.30 am local time. At the time, there had been high wind conditions, which are known to be a contributing factor for avalanches to occur. Those on the climb were experienced and well equipped mountaineers, and the 9 deaths are attributed to an accident. I know, from my own experience, that mountains should be treated with respect, and any hazards anticipated and their risk assessed. But still, even the most experienced can get caught out - one of the dead was a former general secretary in the British Mountaineering Council.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Thursday 12 July

Quite a nice day, with good sunny spells. A northeasterly breeze did not prevent the mercury from rising to 15C / 59F. As I type this, the sun has just set, and cloud appears to be increasing. But no rain is in the forecast. Our drought continues.

Three hundred and twenty-four years ago today, the Battle of the Boyne was fought in Ireland. It was basically between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and the strife continues to date. King William of Orange, who had come over from the Low Countries to assume the English throne, had made it his life's work to fight the popery - and his good offices (sarcasm alert) continue to reverberate in 2012. In Northern Ireland, the day is marked by marches by the Orange Order. I refer to this Wikipedia article for further details.

The wee house on Shell Street has disappeared, and is now just a small heap of rubble. Lorries arrived by mid afternoon to cart it all away, and very shortly, it will become an area of hard standing for tanker lorries on the adjacent fuel depot. I don't think the Maclean family, who inhabited the premises between roughly 1861 and 1891, would have expected their domicile to be reduced to a pile of rubble at any stage.
The pictures I put up yesterday were in demand by the local paper today, as their own photographer turned up after the last walls had been knocked down.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wednesday 11 July

You may wonder what the connection is between these two pics, but it has to do with the house on the right in the left-hand picture (taken in May 2011). This, as planned, is now being pulled down as well. It has very thick walls, and in the early part of the 20th century stood right on the shoreline. There were steps leading down from the frontdoor.

It was a mainly overcast day today, with occasional showers and not too cold. Went for an amble around town, but found it not to be overly busy this afternoon. It's the Hebridean Celtic Festival this week, and its first concert is tomorrow, Thursday. I do not have tickets for any of the concerts, as none of it really tickles my fancy this year. The main stage is inside this striped tent, located outside Lews Castle (which you can see in the background)

I happened to pass the Festival Office on Church Street, where festival goers were queueing out the door to get tickets. Admittedly, the shop is a small affair, even smaller than the premises they had rented last year. If memory serves, it is actually the Jehovah's Witnesses' place.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Tuesday 10 July

The day commenced grey and overcast, and we had a spell of drizzle for an hour or so between 11 and 12. This started just as the competitors in the Sail Stornoway "Coronation Cup 1902" set sail for Cromore and Bayble. When I went to the Coastguard Station to take pictures, I could hardly make out the white sails against the grey sky, so the pics from the house have to suffice.

Tomorrow will see a Sail in Company to Bayble, some 5 miles east of Stornoway, followed by a barbeque on the beach and the adjacent pier.

The Hebridean Celtic Festival is set to take off on Thursday, with quite a few well (and not so well) known bands playing in the big blue tent by the Castle, and in venues across town. This is the 17th edition of the festival, and once more, many thousands are flocking to these shores. I expect tomorrow's three sailings from Ullapool to be packed out, and cross my fingers that the ferry doesn't break down. It's been doing that a few times too many of late.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Monday 9 July

A bright day with sunny intervals and some 1-minute spells of light rain. We have had the grand total of 9 mm of rain this month so far, whereas Edinburgh had nearly 100 mm in the same period. In other words, our drought conditions basically continue.

The main event of the day was a bit of a damp squib, with the Entrance of the Fleet consisting of barely half a dozen sailing craft assembling near the lighthouse, 45 minutes late. I was installed on Goat Island at 4pm, but there was this chilly northerly breeze and no boats. OK, to give them credit, here is my best pic.

I suppose I'm disappointed because, a year ago, we had sights like this moving up and down the harbour.

Sunday 8 July

An overcast, grey and very wet day today. Not much to write about, apart from Murray mania, which ended at 6.15pm when the Dunblane-born tennis star was eclipsed by his Swiss opponent. He'll live to fight another day. I watched a few more episode of Star Trek - The Next Generation, which I always like to watch. I'm normally averse to 'crap science', but I make an exception for this series, which presents it well. I also sometimes watch cop shows, in which cameras ride along with police officers on the beat. High-speed car chases, drunks and booze-fuelled mayhem - but one episode also showed how officers from Wiltshire police accompanied a hearse, carrying a fallen serviceman, through the town of Royal Wootton Bassett en-route to the final resting place. Wootton Bassett was awarded Royal status after its residents turned out in force to pay homage to the dead servicemen who had been repatriated to RAF Lyneham - each and every time. The casualties from the Afghan war now come through a different airfield, but Wootton Bassett quite rightly gained royal approbation.

This week will see the Hebridean Celtic Festival, and the ferry was bulging with festival goers on Saturday. Musicians have flocked to the Festival as well, and will be playing in jam sessions across the town through the week. The Heb Celt Fest runs concurrently with Sail Hebrides, and on Monday, we'll have prime position to witness the entry of the fleet [of sailing ships] at Glumag Harbour. Long term readers of this blog will realise that this body of water lies a quarter of a mile away from my position, within line of sight from the front window.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Saturday 7 July

An overcast, windy and very cold day. Well, the strong northeasterly wind made it feel cold, particularly as there was no sun. 12C is not that fantastic either. Tomorrow is going to be worse, as we're going to have some rain. Although, after two months of virtually no rain, I should not complain about some wet weather. People in the south of England have much more reason to complain about the rain, after the dramatic scenes of severe flooding in places. The weather is topsy-turvy at any rate; the hurricane season in the Atlantic has been going for some 5 weeks now, and the first hurricane is yet to form. There have been some low grade tropical cyclones (tropical storms) so far. The Eastern Pacific basin, southwest of Mexico, is the scene of hurricane Daniel and tropical depression 5. No land is currently under threat.

7 years on from 7/7

On Thursday morning, 7 July 2005, four suicide bombers headed into central London and proceeded to detonate their devices on board three Underground trains and a bus. Fifty-two people died, and many more were injured. The attacks came the day after London was awarded the Olympic Games of 2012, which are due to start in three weeks' time.

This post is dedicated to the memory of the 52 innocent lives lost that day.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday 6 July

So Dunblane boy Andy Murray is playing in the final at Wombledon. Well done. Now he's got to beat the other guy in that final on Sunday.

It's been a foggy day here in Stornoway, with haar rolling in from the Minch. As I type this, visibility is down to a quarter of a mile. The tanker ship Sarnia Liberty is off the port, blowing its horn to warn nearby vessels of its presence. We did manage to get up to 14C / 57F. I'm not complaining, by the way: there has been serious flooding in parts of northern England, and feel very sad for those whose property has been ruined by floodwaters.

The fog played havoc with the air service at Stornoway Airport, with no planes in or out until 1.30pm. Our mail and papers arrive on a plane at 7 am, but they were obviously delayed. I had to go to the shop at 8 pm to get my daily rag, the Press and Journal. Can't do without the paper, can we?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thursday 5 July

A bright day, but during the afternoon the fog in the Minch crept ever closer to and onto the shore. Nonetheless, we managed 17C / 63F. I gather from my American friends on Facebook that they started the day somewhere between 80-90F (27-32C). I think I prefer our temperatures. There was a 20 mph breeze from the north, which took the edge off the temperature.

Our ferry seems to be back to normal, after returning to port at 3.30 am (two hours late) this morning. The only thing hampering her crossings today are fogbanks in the Minch. The ferry between Harris and North Uist is on an amended timetable due to the springtides - it can't sail at low tide as there just is no water in the channel at certain key points in the journey.

Two Tornado jets collided in mid-air between Inverness and Wick on Tuesday. Fog in the Moray Firth has hampered rescue efforts. Two airmen were recovered alive from the wreckage, but two other remain missing presumed dead. One of those saved later died in hospital of his injuries. The RAF base at Lossiemouth, near Elgin, is in mourning for its lost personnel. An investigation is on-going into the cause, which could take some time.

Be careful around spell checkers. The Stornoway Gazette on-line posted this line:
MV Isle of Lewis set sail for Ullapool this morning (Thursday 5th July) at 7.00am, just 10 minutes later than secluded, after overnight repair work.
Methinks that should have read scheduled.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Wednesday 4 July

A warm day again today, with good spells of sunshine and the mercury up to 18C / 64F. Had lunch outside, admiring the cloudscapes of cirrus. Not a harbinger of good weather, as they gradually took over the sky and thickened. Fortunately, no rain ensued.

Our ferry sailed today, but as I type this, it is running very late. What should have been a 19.45 departure incurred a 2-hour delay. At this rate, it will be returning to Stornoway not much before 4 o'clock tomorrow morning; only to have to go out again at 7. There is a sneaking suspicion that these continual breakdowns might be down to a change in fuel oil. Cheap is nasty, it would appear. As I type this, an update has appeared on the local news website, indicating another technical fault. Well, if this happens next week, when the very well attended Hebridean Celtic Festival is on, we can expect chaos on an unprecedented scale. On average, 15,000 people attend the festival (roughly double the resident population of Stornoway, yep, we're that small).

I have previously written about the trials and tribulations of Rangers FC of Glasgow. The club was in severe financial difficulties, and its business has been wound up - and relaunched as a "newco" Rangers. Today, the 11 clubs in the Scottish Premier League voted against Rangers being readmitted to the SPL. In fact, Rangers could be made to resume in the lowest (3rd division) league.

Rangers is one of the most successful football clubs around, with 54 league titles in its 140 year history. The "Old Firm" matches (against fellow Glaswegian club Celtic) are legendary, but not always for the right reasons. Rangers and Celtic are always numbers 1 and 2 in the SPL, and the other clubs in the Scottish Football League deeply resent this, as they never stand any chance. With Rangers now dumped to the lower divisions, this would give other clubs a chance.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tuesday 3 July

A warm and fairly sunny day, with the mercury shooting up to the princely value of 20.5C / 69F. In the meantime, the ferry is out of action with engine trouble - no sailings to or from Stornoway at all. This means that all traffic is diverted 40 miles south to Tarbert, from where the MV Hebrides plies its route to Uig in Skye. Uig is 170 miles by road from Ullapool... Fortunately, Calmac made the announcement fairly early in the day, and put on an extra sailing which is currently en-route between Harris and Skye. It is due back in Tarbert at 23.40 tonight. This is the second time within a few weeks that the MV Isle of Lewis is laid up with technical problems, leading to awkward questions from Western Isles Council to Calmac, and Calmac admitting to being red-faced over the issue.

Two RAF jets have crashed into the Moray First, north of Inverness. Two of the four crew involved remain missing, and a search is on-going for them.

This afternoon, I went on a 3½ mile walk through Stornoway and the adjacent Castle Grounds. It was pleasantly warm, sunny and very green. The return leg took me across the Golf Course (one of the hilliest in the country). I post some pics for (hopefully) your enjoyment.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Monday 2 July

Quite a nice sunny day, except for this cool breeze. We seem to be bucking the trend nationwide, with our mainly bright and sunny weather. Over the next day or so we should see slightly warmer weather, but only for a few days. It was reported today that June was the wettest on record, with many places having more than double their normal monthly totals. Here, we only had half the normal rainfall for June.

The Big Minch Swim has now collected £15,000, after a successful weekend of fundraising in the pubs of Stornoway - more than £1,000 on Saturday alone.

Yesterday, we all lived a second longer, when a leap-second was added to our time. This was necessary, as the earth's rotation is continually slowing down. However, it is reported that certain major websites tripped over this extra second and crashed out. Google circumvented the problem by adding milliseconds through the day. 430 years ago, Pope Gregory ordained that 12 days should be omitted from the calendar.

Sunday 1 July

We've passed the halfway mark in 2012, and the days will start to draw in very soon. Sunday is always a quiet day, and today started likewise. Although it had been wet in the night, the day ended with bright sunshine as we passed the sunset hour of about 10.30pm.

I spent a little time trying to make a start with building an index for the Napier Report, but have to think carefully how that is going to pan out. You can categorise in so many ways, and the devil lies in striking a balance between too much detail and too little. The Napier Report being a session of 46,000 Q&As, you have to read carefully to determine how each question should be filed. I went as far as #150, but probably have to start from the top. So far, there are 46 headings for the index; there will be many more as I progress through the report.