View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Wednesday 8 February

Grey, overcast and very windy today, with galeforce winds for most of the day. With the temperature at 6C, this made it feel unpleasantly cold. I went into town this afternoon, and hardly anything stirred. The ferry only made its afternoon crossing, the morning one having been cancelled. As I type this, at 9.15pm, it is due in at 10 o'clock, 2 hours late. Other ferry services along the west coast have also been disrupted by the weather.

Looking 600 miles to the southeast, keen disappointment is being felt across Holland after a major 125 mile ice skating race was called off. The Eleven Cities Race through the province of Friesland is a rare event, run over frozen canals and waterways. The ice thickness required, 6 inches, was not universally achieved, some places only managing 2½ inches. As a thaw is expected to set in this weekend, the organisers have decided to pull the plug on the event for now. Last time round, in 1997, some 16,600 people took part. The Netherlands has seen its share of continental cold over the last week or so, with the mercury plunging to -20C / -4F last weekend.

This afternoon, I called in to see a gentleman in the town to give me more information about one of his ancestors, who was killed in the First World War. The story was, as can be expected, a sad one. His uncle and his intended had planned to marry out in Canada, where he was employed with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. However, some idiot fired a shot into an archduke at Sarajevo, which meant that thousands had to line up to face near-certain death on the field of battle or out at sea. John Macaulay joined the Royal Naval Reserve in his native Britain, and got married at Stornoway in January 1917. Fourteen months later, he was lost when his ship, the SS Kenmare, got torpedoed off Anglesey. His wife Catherine never spoke about this again - she died in 1961. Whether she commissioned the adornments to John's grave at Balrothery, Ireland is not known. The adornments included such as railings and the additional inscription "Not dead but sleepeth until the day break and the shadows flee away". A tribute website can be seen here.
On 2 March, I shall remember him on the 94th anniversary of his death. Alongside his nearly 1300 comrades who also never returned.