View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas & New Year

I am not blogging regularly these days, but as I am travelling to Holland today (21st December), I shall reopen my Shell Gallery blog for any updates. I'll see you all there.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Old teachers

Learned that the headmaster of my secondary school died a few days ago at the age of 83. Yes, I left school that long ago. He was a nice man, whom I met a number of times in recent years during my Christmas visits to Holland. Not the last few years, as he was in a nursing home. I'm a little sad. 

I also remember my maths teacher, who passed away a year after I left school. He was a formidable north country man, who was dedicated to his final year-students. Although very ill with stomach cancer (I later learned) he came in specially for us. He gave me the insight in the world of algebra, differential and integral calculus as well as trigonometry that had eluded me for so long. I remember him with respect.

Then there was the religious education teacher who did not read the Bible with us, but insisted on showing us videos about real life. About sex. About what goes on inside the oven of a crematorium during the incineration of a body. I had to write an essay about Mahatma Gandhi (at the age of 17), for which I was granted 10/10, as it was 20 pages long. But he did wonder whether I had actually learned something from him. Not at the time. I have now.

Not all my teachers were wonderful. Some smoked in class - this was the late 70s, early 80s. Two got into a fight with a pupil. That is unforgivable, and unspeakable. I don't think either of them are still alive, and I quite frankly don't really care. Neither do I care much about the bearded geography teacher who got pissed off with the know-all that was me who knew all the answers to his questions, and finally shut me up by saying "would you like to take my position in front of this class?" 

Tragedy struck at least once, when a fellow pupil was cycling along a road and a car driver opened his door into his path. The lad was knocked off his bike and promptly run over by a car coming in the opposite direction. He died later that night. I sometimes think about him, he had a whacky sense of humour.

Hilarity was also not far off, particularly when we went on a schooltrip at age 12. We went to the Ardennes (a very hilly area in eastern Belgium) and were made to walk the Hautes Fagnes. That translates as the High Bogs. We slept in youth hostels, and the one at Bevercé (near Malmédy) was less than clean. But, horror upon horror, whispered the boys and girls, there was a boy and a girl who had snogged. And had S. E. X. Just as well we had to do more walking the next day. The journey home was punctuated by the radio on board the coach playing "Dancing Queen" by ABBA. And that's where I'll end this trip down memory lane.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Of mice and men

In my years in Stornoway, I have witnessed the publication of varying schemes to enhance the economy and employment in Lewis. One of the most publicised of these is everything to do with windfarms. One was mooted that would have seen 180 turbines, standing 450 feet tall, marching from Port of Ness in the north to Bragar in the west and Stornoway in the south. Never came to be. What we have now is about 20 turbines, scattered across the island and not many more able to be built due to the lack of a high-voltage cable to the mainland. That will cost over £1 billion, and the likelihood of it ever coming to pass is asymptotically close to zero.

Next we have the Arnish Fabrication Yard, a revolving door if ever I saw one. At one point, it was going to be the base where all the aforementioned 180 turbines were going to be built. When that disappeared, it was going to be a renewables base offering work to 3,500 men. Well, the current unemployment figure in the Western Isles stands at 500. The AFY now has about 70 on its roll, working on a project - and they'll be laid off once complete. Four years ago, a site for industry was excavated on the road into the AFY, but that is yet to be put into use. Perhaps the electrical infrastructure for the interconnector (subsea high voltage cable) is going to be put there. I refer to the likelihood of said cable ever being laid.

So, now Stornoway Port Authority has mooted some great looking plans to expand marina capacity. A new marina in the Newton Basin, and another one off Gob Inacleit, better known as The Battery, and not as Sandwick Village. The latter one looks a bit iffy, as very exposed to swells in the Minch at times of high winds. I hold out more hope for the Newton development, as that also includes expansion of the slipway and hard standing for boats. SPA itself is more bullish about the proposals for Glumag Harbour, where a quay for large cruiseliners is to be built, with facilities for offshore industries. Just one little snag. Money.

I realise that my piece has more than a slight whiff of negativity about it, born of experience through observation. I can't help noting that there is a degree of fixation on renewables, all heavily dependent on subsidies which are beginning to dry up. I am still hoping for a more flexible approach, taking the bigger picture into account, without looking at specific interest groups. That has done untold damage to the island economy.

Saturday, 10 December 2016


It was reported today that hackers, allegedly operating on behalf of the Russian government, managed to influence the outcome of the American presidential election. Their findings were handed over to Wikileaks, who published the relevant material. This made a couple of things clear to me.

Hilary Clinton had too much baggage from the past, waiting to be unearthed, to be a safe candidate that would stand up to scrutiny. She failed in that regard. The Democratic Party made a definite mistake in putting her forward. Oh, don't get me wrong - I like Donald Trump even less.

The Russian government, in its dealings with rival countries (like America and the European states), has decided that direct, military confrontation, is not going to work. NATO has been flexing its muscles directly on Russia's borders, with the Baltic states, in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis of 2014.

So, weakening is in order, and it is beginning to look that it is in the Kremlin's interest to have a weak president, Donald Trump, in the White House. Further interference is becoming apparent in the German elections in autumn 2017, with ferreting being detected against Angela Merkel.

The Brexit phenomenon will weaken, if not cause the demise of, the European Union in the next decade or so. The Brexit poll, heavily slanted on the nationalist angle, will see its reflection in the Dutch parliamentary election in March, with anti-Islam and anti-immigrant candidate Geert Wilders, likely to end up with the largest number of seats. I'm not suggesting any Russian interference in the Netherlands, they are unwittingly doing the Kremlin's job themselves.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

St Andrews Day 2016

Last day of November is the national day for Scotland. I have nothing against national pride, but I do have something against nationalism. I am pleased to note, though, that the nationalist government at Holyrood [Edinburgh] is losing relevance at a rate of knots. Knots being what the administration is tying itself into, with inconsistency being the common denominator.

Today is a grey and overcast day in Stornoway, with a breeze whistling through the streets, blowing the last of the dried out husks of leaves in front of it. This autumn has been quiet, with only one episode approximating a gale in it. I am making no predictions for the winter.

Today is also the last day of the hurricane season in the Atlantic, Eastern and Central Pacific basins. The southern hemisphere season starts in earnest in December, what is the start of their summer.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Monday 28 November

November is coming to a calm close, here in the Outer Hebrides. The tourists have long gone, the roads have reverted to commuter routes, and not a bicycle to be seen. Apart from those ridden by local residents, who are easily picked out as not carrying large amounts of luggage. Darkness falls before 4pm at this time of the year, and ice has been a regular occurrence in the mornings and late evenings. It has even claimed the lives of a married couple in the village of Gravir, who appear to have slipped and fallen badly late one evening. They were laid to rest in the village cemetery last Friday. May they rest in peace.

Glen Ouirn, Gravir, July 2007

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Watching the unseemly muddle that is the preparation for Brexit, with government ministers spouting ideas that are subsequently shot down in flames leaves me with only one conclusion.

Nobody gave it a moment's thought as to what would happen in case the Brexit referendum of 23 June 2016 yielded a vote for the UK to leave the EU. Worse than that, the vote was arrived at based on false, inaccurate or absent information, and mainly based on base emotions like fear and nationalistic fervour, see my earlier post on this subject.

In my opinion, which counts for nothing, the Brexit referendum should be cancelled and rerun, based on proper information. Yes, and pigs will fly.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday has been and gone. I watched the parade in Whitehall on the television, and was impressed with the people in it, and some of their stories. It is for all wars since 1914, including the two world wars, the conflicts in Korea, Suez, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here in Lewis, a new war memorial was taken into use at Barvas (also covering the village of Brue), and in spite of the poor weather, attendance was good. Services were also conducted at Stornoway, Back, Branahuie, Garrabost (Point), North Tolsta, Cross, Borve, Bragar (West Side), Carloway, Tolsta Chaolais, Callanish, Great Bernera, Timsgarry (Uig), Kershader (South Lochs), Laxay (Kinloch) and  Crossbost (North Lochs).

We have a very large number of war memorials in this island, and I'll repeat the numbers involved in the Great War.

Signed up for war service: 6,200
Lost their lives as a result of war service, during or after: 1,300
Of these, lost in the sinking of HMY Iolaire: 205

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them
We will remember them

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


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.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Nationalistic fervour

There seems to be an international resurgence of what I can only view in a negative light: nationalistic fervour.

We have seen plenty of it in Scotland in recent years, with an independence referendum that was run, by the Yes camp, along those lines.

It is actively propagated by Vladimir Putin in Russia, whose unstated aim is to reunite the old Soviet Union into a new Russia, starting with the Crimea, and possibly continuing with the Baltic States. Fomenting political instability, claiming discrimination against Russian minorities will be given as pretext, once Putin sees the way clear - at the moment it is not.

I was shocked, back in June, when the Brexit referendum yielded a (narrow) vote to leave the EU, again on the grounds of nationalism. Give Britain its sovereignty back, away with meddling Brussels bureaucrats. Teresa May's government thought they had the political mandate to act on the result forthwith, but a challenge in the High Court a few days ago delivered the judgment that Parliament should have a say first. The three justices who handed down this judgment were subjected to on-line and off-line abuse. The Lord Chancellor has (at moment of writing) not spoken out against this, and I hope Members of Parliament will call on her in the Commons to do so, however belatedly. What really concerns me is this cry "the will of the people". Why do we need referenda, when the will of the people is being acted out by MPs, elected every 5 years (or so)?

Glancing across the Atlantic, with the American presidential election grinding to a close shortly, we have the Republican Party's candidate Donald J. Trump promising to put America First. Build a wall along the Mexican frontier, at the Mexicans's expense; threatening to negate on clause 5 of the NATO treaty, which obliges all member states to act militarily if another member state is under attack; and choking dissent.

Fourteen years ago, I attended a concert in London to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. When I approached Buckingham Palace, the mood I encountered was not one of celebration and merry making. It was an ugly, threatening, nationalistic mood, redolent of the Germany of the 1930s.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


So we're all getting aerigated over a Russian warship passing through the English Channel on its way to the world's current hotspot, the Middle East. Its request for refuelling in Ceuta was cancelled, in order not to upset people too much, because the planes on the deck of the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov are going to do some bombing in Aleppo. Dreadful.

Could somebody please explain this sarcastical cynic what the difference is with an American naval battle group going into the Persian Gulf in 2002 / 2003 to do some bombing in Iraq, prior to an invasion into that country? I mean, the British parliament voted down an invite to do some bombing in Syria 3 years ago, and now we're crying wolf because the legitimate government of Syria is being bolstered by its powerful ally? After all, Saddam Hussein was the (sort of) legitimate leader of Iraq, until the British and American governments decided to take a dislike to him.

In 2011, there was an uprising in Syria against that country's dictator, Bashir al-Assad, which led to a brutal civil war which will keep going for a bit. The city of Aleppo has become the epitomy of all that is wrong about foreign interference in an internal squabble - whether it be by the Americans against Assad, or by the Russians for Assad. Why is this godforsaken dustbowl so important? Because Syria is Russia's only foothold in the Middle East - and will never, ever, give it up. The Americans are jumpy about that, on account of good old oscar india lima - OIL - from surrounding nations.

Da'esh? Gradually being bombed into submission, but used as an excuse for more bombing.

Wish everybody would just butt out.

New Nicolson Institute

During the recent Royal National Mod, the precinct of the Nicolson Institute was open to the public. I took the opportunity to walk through and take some photographs - the school was newly built in 2012.


Transocean Winner - no more

The oilrig Transocean Winner has arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, on the deck of the heavy load transporter Hawk. The ship came to anchor there around 5pm GMT yesterday evening after a 17 day journey from the Isle of Lewis. At the moment of typing, preparations are being made to offload the rig from the Hawk and take it for demolition.

The oilrig was being towed from Norway to Turkey on the night of 7th / 8th August when a well-forecast gale caused it to be separated from its tug. The TW was then blown ashore off the beach at Dalmore in Lewis. It became an unwanted addition to the landscape, with risk of pollution (minimal in the end); caused inconvenience to the villagers, visitors to the cemetery (which serves the district) and visitors to the beach.

On the evening of August 22nd, several powerful tugs managed to pull it off the rocks. It took them nearly two days to cover the 54 mile journey to Broad Bay, on the other side of the island. As the tanks in the base of the platform had been breached, a constant flow of compressed air was required to keep it afloat.

A heavy lift vessel, the Hawk, was chartered to load it and transport it to Malta and finally Turkey. This arrived in late September, but it was not until October 10th that the rig was finally loaded, and not until October 14th that clearance was given for it to be moved.

After passing through the Irish Sea, Bay of Biscay and Straits of Gibraltar, the Hawk arrived at Malta for a brief stopover. Last night, the ship reached its destination.

Transocean Winner - good riddance.

Friday, 7 October 2016

School art

The primary schools of the Western Isles have once again excelled themselves in painting up boards to celebrate the Royal National Mod, which is held in Stornoway later this month. The Mod, a celebration in competition of Gaelic music and culture, is held in a different town in Scotland each year. It was last held in Stornoway in 2011. I post the collection of pics of the boards.

PA074133 PA074121 PA074120 PA074117 PA074118 PA074119 PA074116 PA074115 PA074114 PA074111 PA074113 PA074105 PA074102 PA074101 PA074098 PA074099 PA074100 PA074097

Monday, 3 October 2016


As is well reported in the various news media, the Syrian city of Aleppo, or at least parts that are not controlled by the Assad regime, are being heavily bombarded from the air, by the airforces of Syria and Russia. It would appear that particularly hospitals and other humanitarian facilities are being targeted under the pretext of attacking Islamic State. Whilst that organisation is particularly nefarious, its outrages are nothing in comparison to what Syria and its ally Russia is currently perpetrating in Aleppo. I am grimly relieved that extensive media coverage is now being given to the war crimes and crimes against humanity that are taking place there.

It begs the question why. There are, to my mind, several answers. Firstly, the Syrian president Bashir al-Assad will stay in power at any cost. He will do, as he has the backing of Russia's leader Vladimir Putin. Putin has geopolitical considerations in mind, as Syria is his only full ally in the Middle East.

More to the point, it also shows to the world what the Russian military apparatus is capable of nowadays. The munitions used by the Russian airforce are more powerful than those used by their Syrian counterparts, and are referred to as block busters. They can penetrate a building to the basements, where they explode. Nice one.

The attitude shown in Russian foreign policy is increasingly confrontational, seeking to attribute all that goes wrong in the world to the actions of the West. Whilst a lot of the problems of the Middle East are attributable to Western foreign policies of the past, the propaganda makes all the current problems the West's fault, whether justified or not. The interview by Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov last weekend said it all. In spite of being confronted by incontrovertible evidence, he flatly denied any accusations of wrong-doing in Syria.

The people of Aleppo are shown what Russia in war-mode will be like. Adversaries will be pommelled into the ground, and no quarter will be given. We know Vladimir Putin is a bully, and we also know how to deal with bullies. But, let's face it. The muddle that is Syria is a crashing failure of Western foreign policy. Not just of this year. But going back over a century.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Over the years, large numbers of people have visited the Western Isles in a motorhome or campervan. Their presence does not elicit universal approbation, and feelings against them run very high in the district of Ness at the moment. Cafe Sonas in Port of Ness has had to close this week, after visiting motorhomes used their public toilets to empty their chemical toilets into. The restaurant's toilets are blocked and the place cannot open as a result. Also, the motorhome drivers have (ab)used the powerpoints in the toilets to charge up their batteries.

There are designated places in Lewis and Harris for motorhomes to hook up and service the vehicle (like for the toilets). It would appear to me that information about these facilities is being disseminated insufficiently, and there should be proper signage along the road. Also, all motorhome drivers entering the islands should be issued with an information pack as to where services for them are, and also where they can and cannot park for the night. A public carpark is not really appropriate, as it blocks up several spaces for, yes, cars.

I feel that anyone wishing to visit these islands in a motorhome is most welcome to do so. But let's make it a positive experience for all - I've given a few ideas how to make that happen.


Today in 2004, I set up a journal with AOL, and called it Northern Trip. It was to become a diary of my exploits in Northern Scotland, which continue to date. I started blogging properly about 11 days later, on 8 October - read that first entry about my exploits in Skye, from the big white building in the left of below picture.

This blog, Atlantic Lines, was set up as its successor 4 years later, upon the withdrawal of AOL's blogging service. Nowadays, I use Facebook, and I use Atlantic Lines primarily for writing down my views on various matters, near and far.

In the years I have been blogging, I have met many dozens of people on-line, but only a few of those I have met face-to-face. Many I count as friends, with all the ups and downs that that entails.

Here is to another year of blog - whether here, or elsewhere.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A barrel of tears

The Syrian civil war took another turn for the worse this morning, when an aid convoy was allegedly barrel bombed near Aleppo. More than half the trucks in the 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed.

This conflict has been dragging on for the last 5 years, and has been demonstrably exacerbated by outside influences (most notably the USA and Russia, in no particular order). Both powers are using the civil war as a means to promulgate their geopolitical aims. Russia's aims, with increasing clarity and with cynical disregard to human life, are to maintain their sole ally in the region, as spearheaded by Bashar al-Assad. Using the presence of the steadily degrading Islamic State group as a pretext, any attempt to break anti-Assad opposition will be used by Russian forces.

Do not forget that the emergence of Da'esh (so called Islamic State) is a direct consequence of American interference in Iraq in 2003. Do not forget that the network of factions in Syria is too complex for this situation to be resolved quickly. Experts name a term of at least a decade. And as long as the likes of Putin and Obama (to be succeeded by Trump or Clinton) continue to meddle, we'll see the people of Syria taking the blows.

Be warned.

This conflict has all the potential for this conflict by proxy to turn into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia. I am deeply alarmed at the anti-Western sentiments that reach even me from Russia.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

9/11 - 15 years on

This tribute is published on the 15th 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.

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


and as attributed above.

9/11 - 15 years on

When this post is published, it will be exactly sixteen 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.

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

Friday, 2 September 2016

Indyref #2

The Scottish National Party announced on 19 September 2014 that the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum, held the previous day, would last for a generation. The outcome was no to independence.

They have gone back on their word. Once more, Scotland is being canvassed on how it would like to inspect the inside of a voting booth again. Most can probably draw it from memory. Including how they voted on 18.09.2014. The case for independence has become weaker, on account of the crash in oil revenue and the brexit referendum vote (to leave the EU). Do the people and the economy of Scotland want and need more uncertainty? Brexit will bring enough uncertainty in the next few years. And please do not be deluded by the Nationalists' claim that independence will return Scotland to the EU fold. It will not - Spain (mindful of its restive Catalonian separatism) will block that with 100% certainty, never mind how many countries the First Minister visits. Foreign affairs, by the way, are not a matter devolved to the Scottish Government, and therefore none of the FM's business. 

Over the 9 years that the SNP have been in power in Scotland, their gambles have backfired on them without fail. It is my rule of thumb with them, and it works well. Scotland's oil? Revenue of 1.8bn has fallen 97% to 0.06bn since 2014. The Arc of Prosperity, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland? Iceland's banks have crashed, and so has Ireland's economy. The banking crisis of 2008 needed a £32bn bail-out by the government in London, which would have blown a substantial hole in the Scottish GDP, which stood at around £175bn.

The current canvassing will show how eager the Scots are for yet another plebiscite on independence. The result will, whatever the outcome, be that they want it.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

9/11 commemoration 2016

At 1.46pm BST on 11 September, this blog will publish two tributes to victims of 9/11. These are for Norberto Hernandez (a pastry chef in the Windows on the World restaurant) and Dwayne Collman, a flight attendant on flight 11, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

Much has changed in the world in these 15 years. Unfortunately, mindless violence has not yet left us.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Transocean Winner removed

On Monday evening (August 22nd), at 10.05pm, the Transocean Winner rig was successfully removed from the rocks at Dalmore. The structure was taken to Broad Bay, in a tow that took nearly 48 hours. There, it will be assessed for damage and a decision is to be taken at a later date as to how it will be taken to a facility for demolition. Although the local council have offered the services of the Arnish Fabrication Yard, the rig's owners (Transocean) have said that there is insufficient depth of water in the channel to the Yard to take the rig.

I went to Dalmore on Monday evening by bus, firstly by service bus to the end of the road leading into the village itself. The last half mile was covered in a convoy. People had parked their vehicles in the verge of the road. From the road end, a dedicated shuttle bus was ferrying spectators back and forth to the village, where a viewing area had been marked out. In the end, I estimate that about 200 people were watching. I found myself close to someone with a radio receiver, and I could hear the communications between the tugs, the crew on the rig and the salvage master, Sylvia Tervoort.

When high tide approached, the tugs were told to gradually increase the force applied to the tow wires, until, at 10.05pm, 120 tons on the wire (and 75% of power) dragged the Transocean Winner off the rocks. The next discussion was about the course to take, and Ms Tervoort told the captain of one of the tugs that this had been outlined in an email. The captain blustered (in Dutch) that he didn't have time to have his head stuck in front of a computer all blinking day - he had not read the email and was embarrassed to be found in ignorance.

By half past ten, the tow was well underway and I made my way back to the road. A fleet of emergency vehicles were leaving, and I found myself in the back of an ambulance. Other people, who were walking up the road, were also picked up. My taxi came at 11pm, as arranged (although the police had to render some assistance) and under a rising moon, I returned to Stornoway at 11.30pm.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Transocean Winner

Although I dub the hapless oilrig "Transocean Loser", it's not her fault that she ended up as an unwanted and unusual piece of flotsam, washed up at Dalmore. Two public meetings have come and gone, the late August springtide will be ebbing in the next few days, and it will be at least another fortnight before the Transocean Winner can be towed away from the West Side of Lewis.

I ask the question why the tow got underway, in spite of a gale in its path being forecast five days before it occurred.

I concur with Capt Maurice Macleod who asked Transocean why their rig wasn't ballasted down in the face of a rising gale.

I ask the Maritime and Coastguard Agency MCA whether they were monitoring this tow, and were advising the skipper of the tug Alp Forward to divert, either down the Minch or further out into the Atlantic.

I am displeased with the spineless attitude of our local authority who will not express an opinion on the necessity of an emergency towing vessel until the investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch is complete. This could take at least a year. I call it spineless, because the SNP group on said council have set up a petition to return an ETV to Stornoway, which flies in the face of the procrastination as endorsed by the full council.

I fully support the council, coastguard and police in enforcing the road closure of the Dalmore village road, between the A858 Carloway to Shawbost road, and the cemetery; a temporary opening on Monday 9th resulted in traffic chaos which took a long time to clear. I support the same agencies in warning people to stay away from the coastline between Gearrannan and Dalbeg (including Dalmore); this coastline is fronted by tall cliffs topped by grassy slopes which are slippery, certainly in the wet conditions that prevailed in the days following the grounding of the Transocean Winner.

I am not pleased with the attitude from Transocean and certain local agencies who ignored an invitation from the local community association to give information last Monday (15th), yet organised their own meeting three days later in the same village hall, something that smacks of a slap across the face. Transocean have apologised, which is the right and proper thing to do.

I anxiously await further developments, but hope that compensation claims from those adversely affected by this grounding (like the surfing company and local fishermen) will be speedily and favourably assessed.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


The picture currently fronting this blog shows Dalmore beach, without an oilrig, as it was on 23 March 2011. The Transocean Winner ran aground at Dalmore in the early hours of 8 August 2016 and is likely to stay there for several weeks before it can be removed. The front picture will remain up until the rig is gone.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Turk and the Czar

You'll remember that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a military coup recently. Who was the first to ring him up afterwards? Vladimir Putin.

Turkey is a member of NATO. Its president, the aforementioned Mr Erdoğan, is looked at by the Americans askance. However, he is a key ally in the fight against Da'esh (you know, so-called Islamic State) and buffer against the horrors that lurk within the Middle East. Really and truly, the Americans should have been in there first to congratulate Erdoğan on his survival.

Same applies to the Europeans. For decades, they have rejected Turkish aspirations to the join the European Union. However, they needed Turkey to stop the flow of migrants and refugees and should have been a little more amicable to their eastern neighbour when he emerged from dire straits.

At the end of the day, Erdoğan is not a pleasant fellow, from our perspective. He is an autocrat, suppresses dissent and has for years sought to draw power onto himself. From his perspective however, he feels let down by his friends. The Europeans have been ungrateful for his acquiescence in the matter of the refugees, and so have the Americans. Putin spotted and immediately seized the opportunity, realising that Erdoğan was not flavour of the month in either Brussels or Washington. And he would love nothing less than to take Turkey out of European (and better still NATO) spheres and into his.

Erdoğan and Putin had a major falling out last year, when the Turks downed a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border. But now it's kiss and make up time.

I don't think either Brussels or Washington have been canny in their dealings with the Turkish president. Whilst disliking him, and I totally understand why, they could have exercised some political expediency to keep him on board.

I do not expect Erdoğan to fall for Putin any time soon. But this is a strong warning, an amber signal, to the Americans and Europeans.


Transocean Winner

That is the name of the semi-submersible oil rig that became stuck fast on rocks off Dalmore beach in the early hours of Monday 8 August. The structure, which weighs in at 17,000 tonnes, was being towed from Norway to Malta, and on to Turkey, broke loose from its tug and was blown ashore in galeforce winds. The tug, Alp Forward, had been experiencing problems controlling its tow for some hours beforehand.

The rig has nearly 300 tons of diesel on board, but no crew. Nobody got hurt. A debate has flared up about having an emergency tug stationed at Stornoway (ours got withdrawn 4 years ago). Meanwhile, the Coastguard have cordoned off Dalmore - its single-track access road is closed to all traffic, and appealed Nosey Nick (Johnny Public in other words) not to venture out onto the cliffs to get a sneaky peek.

The plan is to haul the Transocean Loser (as I call it) off the rocks at the next springtide, which will occur late next week. Let's hope it's a success. I hate to see lovely Dalmore defiled like this.

Image courtesy BBC

Thursday, 4 August 2016


It's August, so we can expect a gale. Force 9 over the Uists, force 8 here in Lewis. Big deal. There have been bitter complaints about this summer's weather, but when I look back over my notes from years gone by, I don't see the problem. This is the Outer Hebrides, latitude 58 north, and wind, rain and chilly weather are part of the deal. Today's temperature is 18C / 64F, which is perfectly acceptable. It is a sunny and breezy day, one to be treasured. The last nice day was July 19th, so we may yet get another one before August is out.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Metagama in reverse

In May 1919, a young woman called Mary got married in Glasgow to an American by the name of George. He had served in the Canadian Forces during the war, and was a chauffeur. Four months later, they went to Canada, to cross the border into George's home city of Detroit. For a while, they lived there, but it would appear that Mary had soon contracted tuberculosis - if not already back in Glasgow.

In June 1922, Mary filled out a passport application to return to Scotland to visit her parents. The application stated that she was to return within two years. As was the case in those years, her husband was also named, although he did not travel with her. Mary was booked on SS Metagama to sail from Montreal to Scotland. In May 1923, Mary sadly died in the home where she was born some 27 years before, of tuberculosis. Seven months later, her sibling Margaret also died of TB. The story goes that they shared the same room for a year, slowly succumbing to their illness.

I have seen a portrait photograph of Mary, looking gaunt, ill and obviously suffering from consumption. I have looked into George's life after his wife departed for Scotland, and it does not present a handsome picture. At all.

You may ask the relevance of this story in relation to the SS Metagama.
Well, in April 1923, 260 islanders departed Stornoway for a new life in America on board this ship. Circumstances in the island were depressed, following the heavy loss of life in the sinking of HMY Iolaire (where over 180 islanders drowned upon returning from the war) and the lack of employment. They were so excited at the prospect of a new life out west.

A year before, a young woman had embarked SS Metagama to return from her new life in America, which, by all appearances, had not been what she might have expected it to be. She came to die in the bosom of her family.

Thursday, 21 July 2016


Things are beginning to look very frightening in Europe all of a sudden. 

France's president Francois Hollande wants quick Brexit talks now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, meaning there are divisions in Europe. Divisions and instability, caused by the massive influx of migrants from the east and south, leaving right-wing political parties in charge across the continent. Scotland, if it is granted another independence referendum, will break away from the UK.

Following the battering that American forces have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 15 years, there is little appetite in the States to get embroiled in any further foreign adventures. The anti-Islam and anti-Latino hype will reach a crescendo if Trump gets elected, and the USA will turn its back on the rest of the world. Forgetting that the world will come to it, even if it doesn't want it anymore. If Trump gets in, he'll let the rest of the NATO alliance go to hell. That will have consequences in Europe, which relies on the American forces to really keep them safe.

Putin, already champing at the bit, will have no hesitation to reclaim the Baltic States, and experience little if any resistance in doing so. Neither will there be any resistance to his plans to expand westwards into Europe, if he so wishes. 

Donald Trump is an idiot, but a dangerous one. He is a salesman, not a politician. He has picked up a few ideas that he finds to appeal to people, and is very good at flogging them. Appealing to base sentiments of fear of strangers, anger against one particular group (Muslims), who are being held up as being to blame for all ills - where did we hear this all before? Cast your mind back 80 years, and you have your answer.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Lews Castle

Last Thursday, 14 July, I visited Lews Castle which has been opened to the public for the first time in many years. Since the 1980s, the Castle had lain empty and unused, and was slowly falling into disrepair. A few years ago, a £19 million refurbishment programme was started and after many delays, the Castle was opened today.

Lews Castle, the country mansion of erstwhile landowner Sir James Matheson, was built in the middle of the 19th century for £60,000, which equates to £7 million in today's money. His fortunes came from the opium trade with China, something that even sparked a war between China and Great Britain. Sir James is credited with spending £329,000 (about £40m now) on the island of Lewis, with a road building programme and 'improvement'. Sir James's memory is tarnished by assisting 1,771 islanders to leave for Canada, America and Australia. They were removed as unable to pay the rent. The 1851 diary of his chamberlain (we'd call John Munro Mackenzie a manager today) shows cold contempt for the crofters, cottars and others who were unable to keep up payments. Rather than improve their lot on the ground, they had to emigrate. And when things did not go according to plan, it all became rather a nuisance.

Lews Castle today is resplendent in its former glory, but the contrast with the lot of Matheson's tenantry in the 19th century is excruciatingly jarring. One islander whom I accompanied on this visit was moved to tears. The rooms I visited were mostly completely empty, with the exception of the Ball Room, where dining tables were set out. The Castle also has a cafe and a small shop.

In a separate, newly built wing, the Western Isles Museum is housed. It has most of the exhibits on show that were featured in the old premises on Francis Street, but has moved in the 21st century with audio-visual and interactive displays. Full marks for that.

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Six Lewis Chessmen are on permanent loan from the British Museum

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Ball Room
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P7142367 Store Room Cafe
Further pictures here