View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Thursday 12 January

Quite an acceptable day, after last night's heavy rain and strong winds. We had regular showers, passing over or nearby, creating a typical Hebridean cloudscape. The sun is less than 10 degrees above the horizon at this time of year, meaning it plays an active part in making for colourful tableaux - which change continually. It certainly underlines one of the many aspects that have kept me spellbound here for the past 7 years. Darkness now falls half an hour later than at the solstice, meaning that it is now still a little light at 4.30pm. We're definitely on the way back up to the long days of summer. But the thermometer has taken a tumble: 4C / 39F.

Last night, I posted about the hurricane of January 2005, which claimed the lives of five members of one family, representing three generations. The North End of South Uist has seen two other accidental deaths in recent years. Archie Steele died after apparently being struck by a car on Monday night near the village of Ardmore in South Uist, a mile or so south of the causeway to Benbecula. And Simon Macmillan was found drowned in Loch Bi, a mile or so southwest of Ardmore, after going missing in December 2008. He was a Merchant Navy cadet, who was returning home after a party at Daliburgh. It took weeks for his body to be recovered from the shallow waters of the loch.

Talking of water, there have been frequent problems with the water supplies in these islands. The visitor centre at the Callanish Stones, 18 miles from Stornoway, has had to close repeatedly last summer after the water supply dried up. This week, the residents of villages around Laxdale, just north of Stornoway, were told to boil their water after a broken waterpipe and a broken sewage pipe were found right next to each other in the district. Last autumn, some islanders in North Uist were boiling their water until they saw blue in the face while Scottish Water got a new part delivered and installed at a water treatment works - with a repeat performance this week. The water company is in the process of upgrading its water pipes all over the Western Isles.