View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

In clear contravention

It is a duty of our elected representatives to make decisions on our behalf, sometimes going against public feeling. Our elected representatives have more information than we, as individuals, may have. A council, like Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has established policies to deal with (e.g.) planning applications for windfarms. To just throw those policies to the winds leaves the council, to my mind, with serious questions to answer. But will anyone ever ask those questions?

I am referring to the decision by the CnES planning committee to allow 14 turbines, each standing 126 metres (just over 400 feet) tall, to be built inland from North Tolsta, between Tolsta Glen and Diridean.
The scheme:
  • is too close to habitation
  • breaks the Western Isles Development plan
  • carries significant impacts on landscape, amenity and homes
  • endangers golden eagles at its northernmost point
In spite of that, a letter campaign by 53 residents (with only 1 against) was sufficient to sway the decision against all of this. The community was held to be unanimously in favour of the scheme. Councillors also stated that objections from people faraway should not be given much weight.
To my mind, having observed the saga of windfarms on Lewis over the past decade, it wasn't the popular vote that swayed the planning committee. It was the fact that the scheme and its 42 MW output would provide the electricity needed to make the proposed interconnector to the mainland economically viable. SSE, who have spent this year dragging their feet over the issue, is due to make a decision before the end of December.

As ever, full council is expected to rubberstamp the planning committee's decision later in the week. Oh, the community benefit will amount to a mouth-watering if not eye-watering £294k per annum.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Pairc buy-out

I have received information regarding the amicable buy-out of the Pairc estate, which was agreed to at a public meeting last Thursday (21st). One line stood out like a sore thumb.

The present Landlord will only consider the amicable purchase of the estate providing he will still benefit from any wind farm development post purchase, as if he was still the Landlord.

There is an interposed lease between PRL (Pairc Renewables Ltd) and SSE regarding the proposed windfarm. The SSE part has been taken over by the neighbouring Eishken Estate. Do not forget, in this context, that the Eishken Estate already has a windfarm (Muaitheabhal) ready to be constructed. They now stand to gain even more, once the Pairc Windfarm is up and running.

The outgoing Landlord will receive the same income from the 26-turbine windfarm as the Pairc Trust, namely £330,000 per annum. In spite of the fact, that (as outlined above) he no longer owns any land. £330,000 is not a small amount of money for you and me, but actually only amounts to £1,000 per person per year. That won’t go awfully far if we’re talking about economic regeneration. Two individuals will become very rich, gaining £8.4m over the 25-year lifespan of the project.

There are currently only 26 windturbines in the planning, but if the community wants more (thereby increasing their revenue), they can get more.

This is all depending on the construction of the interconnector (the sub-sea high-voltage electricity cable to the mainland). I am told informally that this is a done deal.

I feel, very strongly, that the people of Pairc have been sold down the river for a chest of beads and mirrors.  How on earth, after all these years of obstruction, divide & rule and non-cooperation from the Landlord, could people acquiesce to such terms?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Friday 22 November

I am currently looking into WW1 casualties from the Uists. By Uists I mean all islands from Berneray to Vatersay. However, of the 12,266 people in the 1911 census of the Uists, 426 (3.4%) lost their lives in the Great War. That was 7% of all men.

For Lewis, out of a population of 29,629, losses amounted to 1,285 (4.3%), equating to 9.4% of all men.

For Harris, out of a population of 4,849, losses amounted to 126 (2.6%), which was 5.6% of all men.

Small wonder these islands were referred to as the Isles of Sorrow...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Wednesday 20 November

An overcast and very windy and cold day. We had a northerly gale all morning, with frequent showers. The mercury did not make it above 5C / 41F all day.

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland has suggested an amnesty for all the crimes committed as part of the sectarian fighting in the province before Good Friday 1998. The suggestion has met with a frosty reception, both in Ulster and in London. Some 3,500 people were killed by the various factions in the province between 1969 and 1998. The hurt of that continues to date, and will continue for a long time to come. Northern Ireland has been basically at peace since 2001, but the memories will remain. If anything, the atrocity of 9/11 had one good outcome; it showed the American backers of the IRA what terrorism actually means, and what they were sponsoring. I agree that those who have committed atrocities in Ulster should be held to account, irrespective of the passage of time. The fact that Germany established itself as a respectable nation in the aftermath of World War II does not mean that the war criminals of the Nazi era should not be brought to justice.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday 17 November

After a sunny start, we are now (12.40pm) having rainshowers and the wind is picking up. The temperatures are on a downward slide, and we'll bottom out at 4C / 39F by Tuesday, with a probability of some snow. This being the Hebrides, we'll quickly bounce back to 9C later in the week, thanks to our warm blanket otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean.

I was amazed and annoyed by a report that the UN has criticised the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Holland. Yesterday, Sinterklaas (St Nicholas or Santa Claus) arrived in Holland for his annual visit, and his entourage consists of dozens of Black Petes. These are people with their faces painted black, making them look like negroes. They caper around, scattering sweets and little presents to young children, if they have been good; if they have been bad, they're going back to Spain with Black Pete and Sinterklaas. St Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra (Izmir in modern-day Turkey), but when the Muslims took over the city, his bones were spirited across the Mediterranean to Spain. For a while, Spain was occupied by the Moors from North Africa, who are very dark-skinned. I hope you can now see why Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet are the way they are. It has nothing to do with racial discrimination, although, if you wish, you can of course read that into it. Black Pete is referred to in Holland as Sinterklaas's footman, so it is very easy to play the slavery and race cards. In the Netherlands, people are very annoyed at this inference, particularly as it seems to come from people who don't know the first thing about the festival.

Saturday 16 November

A grey day out here, but the sun is trying to put in an appearance. Strong southwesterly winds bring in spells of light rain, with unseasonably mild temperatures of 13C / 57F. In a few days' time, we can take off the leading "1" in the Celsius reading for our daytime max as we get our first blast of winter.

Looks as if our old freight ferry Muirneag has found her regular run, from Samsun in Turkey to Gelendzhik in Russia. This is rather a longer run than her old haunt in the Minch - 18 hours across the Black Sea. We wish her well.

Friday 15 November

This week has been dominated by the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan, which swept across the Philippines as a category V storm, with winds up to 200 mph / 320 kph. It has left thousands dead in the archipelago, and the survivors without food, water or shelter. An aid operation is slowly swinging into action to alleviate their plight, but it will be a long time before everything is back to normal out there. Another tropical cyclone, prosaically named 03A, has claimed several hundred lives in the Puntland area of northern Somalia, but that news was completely snowed under on Monday.

Thursday 14 November

Wednesday 13 November

We have a gale today, with gusts to about 55 mph at the Butt of Lewis. Who had the beans last night?! Anyway, plenty of cancellations and disruptions on the ferries, with our ferry stormbound at Ullapool until this evening; she is due to come back at 8.20pm. I know of at least one person who was supposed to come on the now cancelled lunchtime service.

It is two years ago this month that teenager Liam Aitchison was found murdered at Steinis, a mile or two outside Stornoway. BBC Alba's Eorpa dedicated a programme to the tragedy. It had a major impact on the community, particularly because people in the Hebrides pride themselves on the caring and community aspects of their islands. It is felt that this somehow fell by the wayside in this case; without negating the primary blame, borne by the two convicted murderers.

I am continuing my additional research into the WW1 dead of North Uist, and have reached some interesting conclusions. Unlike Lewis, the vast majority of casualties from North Uist served in the Army, particularly the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders; I have, thus far, not come across many Royal Naval Reservists. Yesterday, I found a man quoted as being from Leriva. That was a corruption of Eilean Leireabhagh, a small island a few hundred yards south of Lochmaddy. A house still exists there, according to the Ordnance Survey map. His place of birth was given as Stromban, Sron Ban, the nearest township on the road to Clachan.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Tuesday 12 November

As many of you know, I keep a close eye on hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones (all the same things) around the world. Following their tracks, build-up and decline over a period of hours, days and sometimes weeks is one thing. Seeing the impact that such a system has upon striking land is something else. Last year, it was hurricane Sandy, bringing the city of New York to a standstill. This year, it can't be anything but supertyphoon Haiyan, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and caused immeasurable destruction and suffering in the Philippines. It brings it home what you're dealing with. Mind you, I'm not into calling a weather system a "monster" storm. They are inanimate phenomena, brought about by the sun, evaporation and condensation of water and the rotation of the earth. A typhoon is a giant safety valve, which serves as a conduit of heat from the equator to the poles. However, we're talking about forces on a planetary scale. To demonstrate that, the power of all tropical cyclones in the northern half of the Pacific Ocean this year would power the USA for 50 years.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

I was watching the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London this morning, mindful of Armistice Day tomorrow. It prompted me to post pictures of the nearly twenty war memorials in the Isle of Lewis. That is a huge number, bearing in mind the population of this island being 30,000 in 1911 (it's 20,000 today). The number of casualties in the First World War was 1,250; one out of every five that joined up. The total for the Second World War stands at about 450. Lest we forget.

Pairc, Kershader

East Loch Roag, Callanish

North Lewis (Ness), Cross


North Lewis, Borve

Tolsta Chaolais

Kinloch, Laxay

West Side, Bragar

Great Bernera

North Tolsta

North Lochs, Crossbost

Uig, Timsgarry

Lewis War Memorial, Stornoway

Branahuie & Melbost

Harris, Tarbert

Iolaire, Holm Point

Point, Garrabost


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Kristallnacht - 75 years ago today

9 November 1938 - an organised mob of Nazi forces and sympathisers go on the rampage in towns and cities across Germany, smashing and destroying Jewish-owned property and businesses. It was to be a marker, to what was to come during World War II - the extermination of anyone deemed sub-human by the warped mind of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. Jews topped their league of the unfit, closely followed by gypsies, the mentally ill and many many others. The Reichskristallnacht was a night of infamy, and not just to Germany.

For Hitler was allowed to get away with literally murder for several years beforehand. In 1936, he occupied the Rhineland which had been ceded to France at the end of the First World War. The League of Nations, a toothless talkingshop, cried wolf but had no bite. In March 1938, Nazi forces marched into Austria to join that country to Germany, an event referred to as the Anschluss. Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with Adolf Hitler on 30 September 1938, returning with the infamous phrase: "Peace for our time". Six weeks later, the Reichskristallnacht took place, a sign of ill omen. Only a few months later, Germany invaded the Sudetenland area of Czecho-Slovakia, and again, nobody moved a finger to stop. In September 1939, Hitler thought he could get away with the invasion of Poland. But instead, it prompted the outbreak of the Second World War.

The lights have gone out in Europe, it was said at the time. The lights in Europe were extinguished in 1914, and had not been relit, not even at the end of the First World War. The Versailles Peace Treaty of June 1919 contained all the ingredients for another war, which duly materialised.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Friday 8 November

I'm typing this just after sunset, with the crescent moon peeping between the showerclouds. It is quite cold outside, and last night, ice on the A857 Stornoway to Barvas road caused a bus to skid off the road. Eleven people, who were being taken to Ness on the last service of the day, had to be taken to hospital in Stornoway to be checked over. Two were slightly injured, one required overnight observation. Once more, the daytime high has reached the dizzying value of 7C / 45F.

I'm disappointed to have to observe that my temporary withdrawal from Facebook has not had the intended effect. There are people around to whom internet social networking is anathema. One of them I regard as a close friend. Yes, I still use the present tense. There are people around who feel that you cannot come to know someone unless you speak to them in the flesh, hear their voice, see their body language etcetera. Of course that's true, up to a point. Over the 9 years that I have been involved in social networking on-line, since the good ole days of AOL, I have met three people in the flesh whom I first became acquainted with on the WWW. Two ladies, one gentleman. My impressions on-line were borne out 90% when meeting the person face to face. So, I can't be said to be a poor judge of character. I have very serious disagreements with some people on the issue, and after a particularly unpleasant episode on Monday, I thought that a week's break from Facebook might serve to alleviate the strain. Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case. I shall resume my Facebook activities tomorrow, although I'll be far less active than before.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I'm appreciative of the support that I have received from several members of the former J-land community over my continued absence from the social network. I don't really want to go into details, as I don't know which eyes will glance over this post. And it's just too silly for words. However, it has caused considerable disruption, and when I return, there will be a considerable reduction in my friends list. Don't worry, J-land will remain unaffected.

Oh remember the plans we had for this?

Not to forget the good ole days of AOHell

Thursday 7 November

The last few days have been overcast and cold, with frequent heavy showers and a brisk southwesterly wind. The mercury has barely seen 7C, and is currently at only 3 degrees above freezing. It's November, and we'll know about it.


The church plays a large part in public life in these islands, but tends to be susceptible to schisms. We have the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland and the Episcopal Church. Not to mention the Free Presbyterian Church, the Free Church Continuing, the Associated Presbyterian Church, the Baptists, the Church of the Latter Day Saints and a Roman Catholic Church. It is beyond me to explain the reasons for all those schisms, splits etc. However, the latest in the Church of Scotland's congregation has to do with the ordination of homosexual ministers. The 400-strong congregation is expected to vote in a bid to secede from the Kirk for that reason. The Free Church in Stornoway, meanwhile, has voiced its opposition to the use of musical instruments in the worship, which the General Synod of the Free Church had agreed was permissible. I respect everybody's religious beliefs as religion is one of those things we need in order to cope with the big issues in life, such as childbirth and death. In my personal view, it is not ok to ramrod your beliefs down someone else's throat, or to decry someone for professing their religious beliefs in a different way than yourself.

Typhoon Haiyan - 7 November

Supertyphoon Haiyan is now beginning to impact the eastern Philippines. The maximum sustained windspeeds near the centre are 170 knots (195 mph), gusting to 205 knots (235 mph). The Philippines weather agency PAGASA has public storm warning signals out right up to the highest level (#4) across the southern half of the country. A storm surge of 7 metres (24 feet) can be expected in certain areas, and rainfall totals could top 30 to 40 inches. The barometric pressure is estimated to be around 870 mbar, although that cannot be verified. It is one of the strongest typhoons ever seen.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan

Supertyphoon Haiyan is currently moving through the islands of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. The storm carries sustained winds of 135 knots (155 mph) with gusts of 165 knots (190 mph). The typhoon will strengthen even further, gaining a peak intensity of 145 knots (165 mph), with gusts to 175 knots (200 mph). At present, the islands of Kayangel and Koror in the Republic of Palau, east of the Philippines,  are likely to be at greatest risk of feeling the effects of the storm. Later this week, the Visayas islands of the Philippines, particularly the Samar and Leyte provinces, will receive a direct strike from the typhoon, which is equivalent to a category V hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Apart from winds, rainfall will also cause serious problems.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Tuesday 5 November

Guy Fawkes night tonight, and the fireworks are popping intermittently. It's been an unpleasant day, with frequent heavy showers, some with hail and sleet, and low temperatures. We barely managed 8C / 46F at best. The mercury is currently, at 9pm, headed for zero.

Last night, I decided to temporarily deactivate my Facebook account. When I return to Facebook, probably next week, the friends list will be a dozen names lighter. I cannot go into details, but sometimes you have to let people go, and the fall-out tends to be bigger than just the primary causal person. My output will also no longer include (in)direct references to the people that I come into contact with, as even that has caused me problems. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Saturday 2 November

Our new ferry Loch Seaforth is taking shape on a shipyard in Germany, and is expected to take over from the Isle of Lewis in July 2014. On Monday 11th November, the Pier & Harbour Commission will have an open day at the Stornoway ferry terminal for displaying their plans for the new ferry terminal. As the Loch Seaforth is larger than the Isle of Lewis, reclamation works will have to be undertaken to accommodate all the traffic. I'm wondering why this is only now being thought about, 8 months before the new ferry comes into service.

And although the Loch Seaforth is supposed to take the overnight freight runs as well, the relevant report on Hebrides News mentions that the linkspan on Pier #1 is to be refurbished - to take a future freight service. A prudent measure. During the summer, the ferry to Ullapool sails three times a day on Wednesday and Friday, leaving Stornoway at 6.00 am and completing the service at 1.45 am. Leaving just four and a bit hours to do the freight run which takes 8 hours back and forth. Well, I'm sorry, but even in the Outer Hebrides, a day only has 24 hours, not 29.

Friday 1 November

Another day of sunshine and showers, but the showers were rather beefy, sometimes accompanied by hail. Spent the day preparing for the visit of a friend, who I had invited for tea. A convivial couple of hours of talk of mutual experiences rounded off a pleasant evening.

PB015817 PB015819

Thursday 31 October

PA315815 PA315808 PA315805 PA315812
A day of sunshine and showers, accompanied by a few atmospherical light effects (such as the parhelion in the second picture). I don't do Hallowe'en, except for the preceding posting.

Someone posted portraits of two casualties of the Great War who originated in Harris; one from the islands of Soay, off Amhuinnsuidhe, and another from the tiny hamlet of Huisinis, some 5 miles up the road. The person concerned gave me permission to use it on the WWW. I was also given more info on another casualty, so all in all, Facebook does also have its constructive uses.