View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday 27 October

In these islands we rely on ferries for all our supplies, both of goods and of people. During the winter months, these ships all have to undergo their annual overhaul in a drydock. This means that other vessels have to cover a run whilst the regular ship is away. Here in Stornoway, this means that we now have our old ferry Isle of Lewis. Things have not been going smoothly this week; the boat has been an hour late coming in on its evening call. Ferry company Caledonian Macbrayne have this SMS (text message) service which advises those who wish to be informed of disruptions. They do get it wrong.

Yesterday, the message read that MV Isle of Lewis had arrived in Ullapool at 1734 (5.34pm) and departed Stornoway at 1818 (6.18pm). Now that's a fast turn-around. Discharging and loading the vessel, sailing the 50 miles to Stornoway, then discharging and loading again and sailing once more, all in the space of 43 minutes? Wow!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Wednesday 25 October

A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a local friend. The lady in question was only 55, and although I was aware of long-standing health problems, her death came as a shock. What came as an even bigger shock was the funeral. The attendance was close to 1,000 which did not fit into the building of the Free Church Continuing in Sandwick. The deceased had been a pillar of the local community, being active in all sorts of roles. She was a well-liked and respected figure, so the fleeting, single reference to her name was took my breath away. That was the only time she was referred directly. In certain parts of presbyterian Scotland, when you have died, the remains have to be put in earth - the soul has departed. Until recently, graves were hardly if ever revisited. I don't want to appear disrespectful - it is one of my cast-iron principles to live and let live - but it rather jarred with the personality of the deceased.

I am aware I have now published two posts on the subject of death, so I'll try to change the topic.


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Tuesday 24 October

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity for a lift to the district of Uig, 35 miles west of Stornoway. It was a cold, windy afternoon, and the village of Erista (where I was dropped off) lies at an exposed altitude of 60 metres (200 feet) above sealevel. It felt positively cold when I ambled down the road past the old church (now being converted into other uses) and down to the former manse, Baile na Cille. That's Gaelic for Church Town. It features a small but ancient burial ground on a promontory above the Uig Sands. Visibility was not that great, and I've been there before in brighter conditions. My lift-givers were visiting an ageing relative whose memories of recent past were dim, but very clear on the distant past. It resonated with me that the very old among us are lonely at the top, looking down and back at their past. In the case of the person I'm talking about, they looked down on the village of their youth. From a "great" height. A height that will soon become insurmountable. Personal circumstances also echoed, as I have relatives in similar circumstances. My gloomy mood was not improved by the realisation that this was one of the last sights seen in his life by Torsten Kulke, the German man who went missing on cliffs at nearby Aird Uig in July. His remains washed up round the corner on Cliff Beach.

PA149788 Road to Aird Uig (right)
PA149782 Former Uig church at Timsgarry
PA149783 Uig Sands, with Baile na Cille bottom right
PA149780 Baile na Cille cemetery
PA149771 Bay at Baile na Cille

Monday, 23 October 2017

Monday 23 October

The mid-term holidays are over, the Royal National Mod has taken place (in Fort William this year) and the weather has been decidedly autumnal for weeks now. The bus timetables have lost their summer additions as of this morning, so we're into winter mode now. The weekend weather was in fact not too bad, with plenty of sunshine. Not so today; at time of typing, there was just a very heavy downpour. Another indication that summer is gone is the ferry ships going in for their annual overhaul. Our ferry, the Loch Seaforth, has headed off for dry-dock in Leith (near Edinburgh). Her timetable commitments are being taken up by the old Ullapool-Stornoway ferry Isle of Lewis, and the small Hebridean Isles which takes freight back and forth. The Isle of Lewis is slower than Loch Seaforth, taking 15 minutes longer to cross to and from the mainland. Other ferry routes will have similar modifications over the winter months. Daylight hours are becoming short, with sunset at 6pm. This seems to have caught out some walkers, who got lost on the Clisham (our highest mountain peak at 799 metres) and had to be airlifted off by the Coastguard helicopter. Finally, we had an unseasonably late visit by a cruiseliner, the Hebridean Princess, on Friday.