Thursday, 26 November 2015
Today is Thanksgiving in the island, a religious occasion, not necessarily anything to do with the consumption of turkeys. Some 10 years ago, shops would still close at lunchtime to allow people to observe the occasion. Schools now close on the Friday and following Monday for the holiday. This is one of four times in the year when the island communions are on; remember that Lewis, Harris and North Uist are staunchly presbyterian. I'm faintly disgusted with the overt references to Black Friday, that have surfaced in commercial Britain, which has been borrowed from the USA. In the States, Thanksgiving is connected with the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in America. In the Hebrides, it is purely religious.
Television is a relative late-comer to the Outer Hebrides. In the 1960s, two enterprising gents set up a television relay in the town of Stornoway, with a receiver on a hill overlooking the town. Signals from a transmitter on the mainland were then fed round town by cable, to whoever was prepared for them. In certain weather conditions, it was possible to get TV reception without this relay, but islanders beyond the town had to wait until 1972, when the transmitter tower at Eitsal, outside the village of Achmore, was taken into service. Eitsal is a hill rising to 700 feet above sealevel, and with the tower rising another 700 feet, its top stands 1400 feet high. The transmitter serves an area of the Scottish mainland, still more than 45 miles away, as well as most of Lewis, Harris and parts of the southern isles. The transmitter was converted to digital television when the national switch-over from analogue to digital occurred in 2010. Those who are out of 'sight' of Eitsal tend to use satellite receivers, from e.g. Sky, for their TV needs. Freeview, the digital TV service in the UK, offers a good range of channels for nothing - Sky subscriptions can become very expensive very quickly.