View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 28 September 2015

Facebook is down, but we blog on

Facebook is down around the world, so, as I smirked on Twitter, a surge of productivity is gripping the globe. At least I have the option of writing down my thoughts on Twitter in 140 characters, or (more verbosely) here on Blogger. Google Plus is still around, in spite of it all. Ach, let's just go and do something useful. Posting the hurricane updates, for instance. Isn't it 10 o'clock yet?

Inter island connections

Joined up thinking (and more importantly: ACTING) required for improved inter-island connections. Are they really that bad though? It is possible to cover the 140 miles between Stornoway and Castlebay in 8 hours by public transport, which I think is not too bad at all. Yes, re-instate the inter island flights post haste. What should also be done is the double-tracking of the entire Outer Hebrides spinal route. Sections which are still (partly) single track comprise the A859 Tarbert to Leverburgh, the B893 Berneray to North Uist, the A865 North Uist circular, the A867 North Uist to Lochboisdale, the Daliburgh to Eriskay road and the A888 Barra circular road. OK, I'll dodge the flying pigs.

Blogging anniversary #11

On 28 September 2004, I was seated in the common area of Kirkwall Youth Hostel, and had my half hour on the communal computer. At the time, I was user of AOL, and discovered their blogging service Journals. I opened a blog (or journal) and named it Northern Trip. At the time, I had been on the road for about seven weeks, and was coming to the end of my four week stint in Orkney. I returned there, for those interested, four years later, in different circumstances. A fortnight later, I found myself in Kyleakin, in Skye (see pic below), and decided to start making daily entries in my blog. The first entry refers to people going swimming in the sea at Kyleakin, which today sends shivers down my spine. Last week, a man went missing doing just that, and his body was discovered last Wednesday a few miles away to the north. From Kyleakin, I went to Eigg, Rum, Lochaber and finally the Western Isles, which greeted me on November 10th. My entry into Lochmaddy was one to be forgotten, and my eleven year stint here has not been without hitches. But then, what would life be without its challenges. Four years after opening Northern Trip, AOL closed it down and I switched to Blogger to open Atlantic Lines. A transfer to Facebook followed shortly, and I am now mostly 'blogging' on Facebook. I kept this blog going mostly as a photoblog, but have recently taken to writing longer postings here, something that Facebook is less suitable for. What the future holds is not clear for me at this stage. I have enjoyed 11 years of blog, and hope to add many years to that.

Kyleakin, Skye, October 2004

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Winter looms

The tourism season is entering its last four weeks. It will come to a close with the mid-term break in the second half of October.

When the Royal National Mod Oban 2015​ is over, and the islanders and their youngsters back on home soil, we batten down the hatches for winter.

Locals will be familiar with the EVENTS: what's happening in Lewis + Harris​ magazine, the latest edition of which will be ready for picking up in early October. There is a surprising amount of stuff to do in the Outer Hebrides, even in winter.

Those dependent on public transport will have their wings clipped after October, as winter timetables come in with a reduced service.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Coming home

Coming home has a special meaning in these islands. Anyone coming to Lewis, e.g., is said to be coming home. Even if their actual home is elsewhere, even if they have no connection to the island. The expression encompasses more than just arriving in the island, it denotes a spiritual connection, one that the islanders themselves feel very strongly, particularly when away. They experience what in Gaelic is termed cianalas. However, this longing transcends life itself. Many an islander who passes away on the mainland, or even outside the UK, will be brought back to these shores, where he or she was born, grew up, went to school, and left to go to university, college, work, raise family and live their lives. However, they always want to come back to their home soil, even in death.

Next week will see another instance, when the remains of one islander (I did not know him, only very indirectly) will be brought back on MV Loch Seaforth at lunchtime. The coffin will then be driven to a mission hall in Bragar, 15 miles north of Stornoway on the west coast of the island where a brief funeral service will be conducted. After that, the interment will take place at Bragar Cemetery. As in the case of all island cemeteries, that graveyard is located near the sea, looking out west over the Atlantic - for ever.

Operation Market Garden - 71 years on

Seventy-one years ago last Thursday, the airborne landings commenced just west of the city of Arnhem in eastern Holland. On 17 September 1944, the Allied forces had been on campaign through western Europe for 3 months, after the successful landings in Normandy on 6 June. Airborne troops were parachuted into the area between Ede and Arnhem to engage the Nazi-German forces, which were occupying Holland at the time. Although the Allies managed to penetrate into Arnhem, they failed to seize the Rhine bridge there. Fierce fighting in the city dislodged them from forward positions. Poor communications as well as a stronger resistance than anticipated forced a withdrawal south across the River Rhine.

Arnhem and Oosterbeek were evacuated, and looted by the Nazis. Holland north of the Rhine remained occupied until the early spring of 1945. In the wake of the failed action at Arnhem, the Netherlands' railway network in the occupied sectors went on indefinite strike. This caused major problems for the Nazi forces, but also for food supplies - by the spring of 1945, many people in the major conurbations in western Holland had starved to death. Others survived by eating flower bulbs. The Allies finally managed to cross the river at Remagen, between Cologne and Koblenz, in February 1945.

Reposted and modified from an original posting in 2009

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Refugee crisis, Assad and Putin

I feel for those people from Syria, who see no way out of their situation but to flee their country. They flee president Assad, not ISIS. Who is bolstering Assad? Vladimir Putin. Next question. Tens, hundreds of thousands of people is an invasion. It is going to destabilise Europe, something by which Putin has to gain. By bolstering Assad, ostensibly against ISIS, Putin will gain brownie points. He may well help to obliterate ISIS, something we would all benefit from. It would also show him to be stronger than the USA, which cannot make a substantial impact against ISIS. Who, meanwhile, is facilitating the transport of those tens of thousands across the Mediterranean to Greece and Italy? People smugglers. It is time we addressed the root cause of the refugee crisis. Can we, if its root cause is being supported by a major player on the world stage?

Saturday, 12 September 2015


The British Labour party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader with nearly 60% of the votes, leaving his competitors behind by a margin of 40%. Will this be the start of a reversal of fortunes for Labour in Scotland? Some Scottish commentators immediately take the constitutional slant (that's the reason I've gone off the news big time recently), but let's see whether Mr Corbyn can mount an effective opposition in the UK, thereby reestablishing Labour as a credible party of opposition north of the border. Both are needed; neither are present at the moment. For reference, I'm not a natural Labour supporter; I dislike many of the Tory policies and can certainly not stand the SNP.

Friday, 11 September 2015

9/11 - 14 years on

This tribute is published on the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, under the auspices of Project 2996.

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman

Image: Family photograph, via

Source: Aurora Beacon News, Aurora IL 9-23-2001
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, age 41, of Novato, California, formerly of Yorkville, IL, a flight attendant for American Airlines, died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Jeffrey was a 1977 graduate of Yorkville High School in Yorkville, IL. Jeff was formerly employed, for over 10 years, at All-Steel in Montgomery, IL. He had then worked, for a brief time, at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California before attaining his dream of being a flight attendant with American Airlines. Jeffrey loved his job and traveling to other countries around the world. He also loved to play and watch tennis. Jeff was a true people person who enjoyed visiting with and getting to know others. He became a flight attendant in 1997. Two years later, Jeff received the American Professional Flight Attendant Award and was considered a spirited and dedicated flight attendant. He liked to entertain children on his flights, and he was fond of playing tennis and traveling, friends said.

He is survived by his parents, Dwayne and Kay Collman of Yorkville, IL and Beverly Sutton of North Aurora, IL; his close companion, Keith Bradkowski of Novato, Ca; his brothers, Charles Collman of Fort Meyers, FL and Brian Collman of Las Vegas, NV; his sister, Brenda Sorenson of Aurora, IL; his step-brothers, Steve (Linda) Gengler of Yorkville, IL and Chuck (Lakshmi) Gengler of South Orange, NJ; his step-sister, Susan Bohan of California; a god-child, Marlene Wakelin; his half-sisters, Laura Kries of Brooklyn Park, MN, Caroline Sutton of Joliet, IL and Vickie Michel of Aurora, IL; several nieces and nephews, many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jeffrey will also be missed by 100 other flight attendants.

He is preceded in death by his grandparents and his brother, Mark Allen Collman.
A memorial service was held on Monday, October 1, 2001 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Yorkville, IL with Pastor John Leaf officiating.

Father’s thoughts
Dwayne Collman's imagination gets the best of him when he thinks about the final minutes of his son's life on American Airlines Flight 11. He's filled with horror thinking about what the 41-year-old flight attendant from Yorkville went through as terrorists with knives steered the plane into the first World Trade Center tower. Collman knows his son received safety training in flight school, but he doubts it ever could have prepared him for the challenges he would face on the morning of Sept. 11. The grieving father is sure of one thing about his son, though, even if the details about his death are not certain:
"He would have fought like hell."

Jeffrey Collman, an American Airlines flight attendant for five years who grew up in Yorkville, died Tuesday morning when his hijacked plane, destined for Los Angeles, crashed into New York's famous landmark at 8:45 a.m. Though his body has not been recovered, his parents knew he was gone when he didn't call within a few hours after the tragedy. He had sent his stepmother, Kay, an e-mail the night before, telling her he would be flying from Boston to Los Angeles the next morning.

"I knew he was in that accident because every time there was something going on with airplanes, he would call and say, 'Hey, I'm all right,' " said Kay Collman. "So I knew that, when he didn't call, he was on that plane."

His parents [...] say Jeffrey Collman wanted to be a flight attendant because he loved to travel and meet people around the world. After working for years at Allsteel in Montgomery, he moved to California about five years ago to pursue that dream. Lifelong friend Dolores Humphrey, who went to school with Jeffrey Collman at all grade levels in Yorkville, said she feared he was killed when she heard the news because he often flew early-week flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
She said Collman never lost contact with his friends, even though his job took him around the world.

"Every time he got into town, he would call anyone he knew to meet for breakfast," said Humphrey, who last talked to Collman [5 days before 9/11]. "He would talk for a couple hours, then have to go fly somewhere else."

His stepmother said Jeffrey was the type of person who could "sit down next to someone on a plane and walk away knowing their life story." His father said Jeffrey loved tennis and flew around the world to watch professionals play. Kay Collman says her stepson never went anywhere meekly, and he loved his job so much that she's sure he didn't back down in the face of terror. "He took it seriously," she said, "and he would not have let anyone walk on him."

Humphrey said Jeffrey talked of flying even when he was a child, and his dream came true when American Airlines gave him a job. He was never afraid to fly, she said, always asserting that he was safer in the air than anyone on the ground. Collman's parents have begun to realize how their son died, and that he will always be remembered as a victim on one of the saddest days ever in the United States.

"It's completely different than just someone dying," Kay Collman said. "We'll have the pictures forever. We'll always see where he died. It's part of history."

Seattle Times, 17 September 2001
His partner, Keith Bradkowski, said Collman was courageous and safety-conscious. "He was so focused on safety," Bradkowski said. "If there was a threat, he would have done anything in his power to prevent it." He didn't normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but made an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month. Collman grew up in Yorkville, Ill., and besides Bradkowski left behind four brothers and a sister. (Seattle Times)

Further information: the fate of Flight 11.

Memorial to flight crew


Blogger Nathanael V.  found out 5 years after 9/11, that Jeffrey Collman was a neighbour's grandson.


and as attributed above.

9/11 - 14 years on

When this post is published, it will be exactly fourteen years to the minute that the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York. The events of what is now referred to as 9/11 are only too well known.

My thoughts are with all victims, whether identified afterwards, or not. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My thoughts are with the passengers and crew on the four flights destroyed. My thoughts are with the victims killed in the World Trade Center. My thoughts are with those emergency workers who lost their lives trying to save others'.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who perpetrated these atrocities, for they lost too. Even before the events of September 2001, they lost their loved ones to a delusion of hate that is not of the religion they claimed to be faithful to. Hatred leads to destruction - as shown seven years ago. Forgiveness is a pillar of Christian faith, as it is one of the Islamic faith. Whether those that lost a loved one in 9/11 can find it in themselves to forgive is beyond my scope.

But first and foremost, my thoughts are with Norberto Hernandez, whose tribute I first filed on Northern Trip, the predecessor to Atlantic Lines, in 2006. The searches for Norberto on Google are contaminated with references to the Falling Man, who was in fact another victim, Jonathan Briley. This confusion has led to much anger and anguish, something the families of both men could do well without.

Norberto, rest in peace.

This entry, as stated above is dedicated to the memory of

Norberto was a pastry chef from Elmhurst, working in the restaurant Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. After the attacks, he was reported missing for a week until parts of a torso and an arm were found in a collapsed stairwell. DNA testing and finger printing reveiled that these were the remains of Norberto. It also invalidated claims that the image of the Falling Man was that of Norberto; this was another victim of 9/11 who will be the subject of a different tribute.

At the time of the attacks on the WTC, Norberto was aged 42 and had been married for 25 years. He was the fourth of ten children by his parents’ marriage, and also had six half-siblings through his father. His parents separated when he was young. Norberto himself had three daughters, three grandchildren and 37 nephews. He was a man of Puerto Rican origins, and had hoped to spend his final days there. Instead, after 9/11, a funeral service was held and his remains cremated in Puerto Rico.

His sister Luz described Norberto. “He was quiet, kind”, she said. “He was a handsome man. Everybody loved him, you know. Everybody.” Norberto’s nickname was Bible, as he was very dependable. Together Forever was his motto.

Norberto started work in Windows on the World at the age of 17, washing dishes. He was interested in cooking, so a manager paid for his tuition at cooking school. Norberto became pastry chef and worked up to 10 hours a day. His sister Luz said that he made cakes, desserts, cookies and bread. His cakes were fabulous.

Outside work, Norberto loved sports, and was a fan of a Puerto Rican boxer, Felix Trinidad Jr. Four days before the attacks, he rang his mother and asked her to play “I would cry but I have no more tears” four times.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane striking the North Tower, Norberto called his sister Luz. “He said: ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I’m OK”.They were disconnected, and when Luz tried to call back she could not get through. Other accounts from Windows on the World tell that smoke and dust filled the restaurant after the strike, and that people lay on the floor to escape the worst of it. Air was beginning to run out at the time of the last contact.

These are the facts that I have managed to pull together from the Internet.

From the little that I have learned of Norberto, he came through as a gentle giant. Although 6’2” (1.84m) tall, he was always listening, and talked later. His family suffered a double loss, as Claribel Hernandez (his sister-in-law), a secretary working elsewhere in the North Tower, was also killed in the attacks. Norberto was close in the family and responsible, which earned him the nickname Bible. He loved his work, and by the look of one of the images, loved to impart that knowledge to others around him.

September 11th, 2001, dawned as a brilliantly sunny morning in New York. Two planes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse within 2 hours. The destruction of so many lives was brought about by mindless hatred and madness, fuelled by religious zealotry which was not based on any writing in any scriptures in any religion.

Norberto may have heard of that on news reports, but it was probably quite far from him. He was a man that lived for his family, always there for them. A diligent worker, putting in up to 10 hours a day, loving his creations from the oven. Travelling to the WTC on the Subway every morning, his thoughts were probably far from what was to happen not that much later on that fateful Tuesday.

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six are known to have died that day, or in its immediate aftermath. Norberto’s ashes were scattered in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His memory lives on in his family, and in the memory of those that read this. He is deeply missed by those close to him.

To Norberto Hernandez

Rest In Peace

This link is no longer operational

I have attempted to contact the University of Columbia to use the material in this link, but have not received a reply. As it is central to the tribute, I have used it, and acknowledge the writer, Sarah Clemence.

This is a poem by Barbara Phillips, from which I have used some factual references to Norberto. It refers to him being the Falling Man though.

I have been granted permission by UIM to reproduce the commemorative quilt for Norberto.
Link no longer operational
The poster, pictured above, proclaiming Norberto as missing after the attacks, hung on a walkway of Manhattan for more than a week

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

76 years ago today

Today in 1939, Nazi German forces invaded Poland. An ultimatum by the British government for them to withdraw by midday (11.00 GMT) on 3 September was ignored, prompting the declaration of war.

Five years, eight months and five days later, World War II had come to an end in Europe. It left behind massive devastation, tens of millions of dead and a political landscape altered beyond recognition. Six million people were murdered just for professing the Jewish faith, being of Jewish parents or having the merest connection with Judaism - murder conducted on an industrial scale.

The impact of WW2 continues today, unabated. The crisis in the Middle East is one of the worst results of the last World War, as is the burgeoning confrontation between Russia and NATO / the West. Similarly, the current migrant crisis is also an offshoot of the 1939-1945 conflict.