Jim Mitchell’s Annual Ileach Newspaper Summary 2009

The Ileach year opened with an inspiring story of dedicated professionalism supplying the vital need of a Colonsay visitor, who had left her insulin at home. 1984 was revisited - Orwellian ‘Newspeak’ polluting the dissemination of official information. A letter from John Heads unravelled the mysteries of space. 50,000 competed in the Singapore Half-marathon - Donald James coming in a meritorious 241st. Mark Reynier related the story in fascinating detail of Octomore and its illicit still. Peggy McEachern revived nostalgic memories of pre-digital Islay. Raven numbers were to be cut down to size. Technology in the field of waste heat would be employed to augment the already valuable assistance to the Mactaggart Leisure Centre. A technician from Marks and Spencer came to carry out work at their Black Rock establishment - wrong Black Rock, should have been in Ireland. Those permanent memorials - the standing stones evoked from Catriona MacGregor, a masterly exposition in Archaeoastronomy. The ‘Tuscania’ disaster recalled, as were the Cliftons and Kildalton castle, and the distinguished Islay/American soldier/statesman, Alexander MacDougall.
Past glories - a rather wistful, two page picture spread supported a feature on the Museum display about the once flourishing dairy industry and Islay Creamery. Islay Energy Trust received a grant of £117,000 towards reducing the so-called ‘carbon footprint’. Fund-raising was also in process to enable continuance of the work of IDEAs. From the Manse - the Rev. Steve Fulcher gave a word on St Valentine’s Day which, through the welter of passionate protestations, pointed firstly and finally to the reality of heavenly love. Carl Reavey reported on Celtic Connections and interviewed Dr David Caldwell about Finlaggan while John Findlay attended a Royal Society of Edinburgh session which reviewed current landward developments. Continue reading.......

A young man from Jura and another from Ballygrant, each named Scott Muir, were both serving with 45 Royal Marine Commando in the Taliban infested region of Afghanistan. A pinch of salt - Argyll and Bute had 5,000 tonnes to hopefully clear the roads during the (as we then thought) incredibly long freezing spell. Two advanced model sporting telescopes had been stolen from the RSPB Visitor Centre. Heart warming in more ways than one - during the intense cold, the Round Kirk faithful were able to meet in the rather warmer Bowmore Baptist Church. The educational and cultural scene - the Barbirolli Quartet, BBC Alba re-casting the weather, how to behave à la mode at classical concerts, wildlife photography, a small gem of pictures of Islay life in the early/mid twentieth century, and inevitably, belly-dancing. C’est magnifique.
Core issues loomed large. Ferry docking facilities, the suitability of the vessels in prospect. Possible effects of a Royal Mail sell-off. A mammoth ‘wind farm’ to the west of the Rhinns. The due place of the Islay Community Council in decision making. The possible damage to the fishing industry arising from the proposed tidal energy turbines in the Sound of Islay. Somehow or other, the Royal Bank, the Stone of Destiny and Ian Hamilton QC crept into the equation. One read with regret of the freak polo accident which claimed the life of Tracy Mactaggart, Sir John’s sister-in-law. It was forty years since Western Ferries vehicle ferry ‘Sound of Gigha’ came into service. Jim Mather MSP contributed a note on the power supply vis-a-vis the National Grid. And joy of joys, ladies’ rugby seemed to be gaining popularity.
The Harbour Inn was named ‘Island Hotel of the Year’ and there was an interesting article on the ruined village of Fornisaig on the Rhinns. SNH hosted a conference at the Machrie on the Greenland White-fronted Goose.

‘Behold I show you a mystery’, a rather less exalted one than the Biblical quote. The Ileach issue of 28th March bore on its front cover the date ‘23rd March’; ah well, even Homer nods... Re-building of the collapsed Port Ellen Grain silos was announced. Low-grade crime disturbed the hallowed peace of Port Charlotte. ‘Drop your Coppers’, organised in conjunction with Islay Pharmacy was raising useful cash for IDEAs. ‘Solar One’ demonstrated the potential of the sun to operate a model train set. Now, if we can do that life-size...
Islay High School and Primary School bands gave a notable performance to raise money for entry to the mid-Argyll Music Festival. There was an intriguing note by Catriona Bell in the matter of land tenure. A rare bird, the Gyr Falcon, was seen by Ian and Margaret Brooke.

A miscellany of transport issues still dominated the pages. Neil MacEachern was given a well-merited award at a presentation in Ballygrant. Easter was celebrated with fitting, well-attended services. The much appreciated Islay House Community Garden had launched out on its summer programme. The local Primary Schools were engaged in various community friendly activities including gardening, beach cleaning and cycling proficiency. Re-Jig’s Spring Clean Islay Week cleaned up in more ways than one. Islay Energy Trust opened an office in Bowmore. A car accident at Kildalton claimed the live of one man and injured another. A four part TV documentary on Islay life commenced and included footage of Duncan MacGillivray restoring an old puffer. History, Culture and Community Celebration - a headline that fittingly summed up the opening of Finlaggan Visitor Centre. Marie-ann Brown, Chair of the Community Council differentiated between the facts and illusion regarding the ferry schedules. The presumed infallible Times Educational Supplement had made an award to Islay High School open only to entries from England and Wales... The IDEAs reserve fund profited from a carpet of coins running down Bowmore Main Street. Five years of Islay Ales! On Jura, the Antlers Tearoom was restored and the Passenger Ferry opened for the summer season. Martin Clunes had an unhappy experience diving while taking part in an “Islands of Britain” programe. There were further ferry thoughts in the shape of Archie Mactaggart’s account of a catamaran trip to the Orkneys. Islay livestock prices reached record heights at a sale at the Mart.

The Merry Month opened exceedingly damp, the water waist deep in places for the Vango Scottish Ultra cross-country event. The Scottish Country Dancing Weekend drew its customary quota of enthusiasts from far and wide. Funny money - an argument as to the validity of cheques in the Gaelic was ultimately settled in favour of the native speakers. Scottish Water, nationally rather than locally, seemed to be under scrutiny. Kilchoman spirit came of age, Ardbeg had special bottlings and were later talking of a water shortage. Diageo were brandishing Caol Ila and Lagavulin. All topped off by the Whisky Festival. Much on the regular topics, ferries, school activities, beach cleaning. There had been an outbreak of fly-tipping - Re-Jig were reminding readers of their disposal services.
An Islay folk study ‘S ann an Ile’ was on TV. Finlaggan Open Day was a notable success and the recently concluded ‘walkislay’ programme had attracted the support of 477 pedestrians. £5,000 was donated to Islay and Jura Community Enterprises by the North British Hotel Trust. Helicopter was the most cost-effective mode of transport for materials to remedy Ardbeg’s water leak. ‘Fruity’ was the adjective applied to the efforts of Islay Hospital staff, assisted by the Co-op, to raise funds for cancer research. Big Brother was tightening up on Septic Tank registration.

A quite inspiring frontispiece showing the ‘Grand Parade’ through Bowmore was illustrative of the contribution made by the island’s various emergency services. Charities benefited to the tune of £5,400 from the sale of the very first bottle of the new Kilchoman whisky. Ian Middleton took the Machrie Open. There seemed to be a spate of charitable donations for a variety of worthy causes which spoke well of the donors in the middle of the credit crunch. Climate Change - the Islay dimension. An illuminative article. And the Malt and Music Festival was generously recorded.
“Costa Port Ellen” read the headline, reflected in a welter of seasonal activities, not forgetting a new space-age £140,000 mobile dental surgery. Alan Reid MP expanded on what seemed to be a rather lesser participation in the House of Commons expenses exercise. The Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championship was a notable success. A technical breakdown on the ‘MV Clansman’ resulted in a network-wide disruption of ferry services. Staff Nurse Maureen Woodrow retired after 43 years service to Islay Hospital. A seabed survey of the Sound of Islay produced over 25 kilometres of still and video images. Beach Rugby attracted 500 sportsmen (of both sexes) and a large and enthusiastic assembly of onlookers. The degree of participation and support for the Islay mod spoke volumes for the health of Gaelic on Islay.

Rhona Gillies, the High School Dux, nicely balanced the BBC’s (and Bowmore’s) Glenn Campbell in the front page portrait. Scotland won the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championship. The re-creation of Dunlossit Gardens, masterminded by Logan family members, made happy reading. ‘What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ quoted by the Rev George Campbell apropos the existing lamentable state of public affairs. Islay Pipe Band re-emerged under the aegis of Bruichladdich Distillery. The Diageo reorganisation was raising a few question marks, but not directly on Islay. Bowmore Primary erected a Peace Hut. Prices held up well at the cattle and sheep sales. The ‘Schools Triathlon’ represented a great effort from all the 48 young participants. Tim Henderson recalled the activities around Islay of U-boats during the 1914-18 war. The Germans enjoyed Islay lamb. The 17th Islay Triathlon produced some notable new records. Brian Wilson gave an eye-opening account of what sounded like sabotaging, under the Salmond administration, of the HIE.
A Raft Race in aid of the RNLI? - there must be some kind of higher logic there. ‘Home Argyll’ - a grouping of housing organisations - signed an agrement ‘to make finding housing in Argyll and Bute easier’. Some discussion in the correspondence columns as to whether Feis Ile retains its original inspiration. Home start family support volunteers, headed by Councillor Donnie MacMillan, exhibited a pseudo-cheque for £5,000 representing their last year’s value to the community. Cycling seemed to be the ‘in thing’ at all age levels. Bella MacCuaig retired after twenty years WRVS valued service. Attention was drawn to the need to give heed to the impending crofting reform proposals.

The Pipe Band, Port Charlotte lighting, the Classic Malt Cruise, The Torra water scheme, Donald MaLeod’s CD raising over £7,500 for the Sick Children’s Fund, Diageo doings, numerous other social functions, Coastguard assistance to an overturned boat (ungraciously received!), a helicopter evacuation from Port Charlotte beach of a man injured in a rock fall (the man fell, not the rock...), and a genuine local tornado, all enlivened by flak/and or friendly fire from natives and non-natives alike. “The Ride of the Falling Rain” was too sunny for some. Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham visited to learn what life outside Holyrood is all about. A special linkspan extension will allow the new ferry to operate through Port Askaig. Morons had been hurling rocks at a tent pitched on the Bowmore shore of Loch Indaal. Port Ellen Bowling Club hosted a a competition for a trophy donated by Sir William Stewart in memory of his son John. The young master, Sam Johnston, took the Kildalton Cross. There were 175 finishers in the Islay Half-marathon won by Paul Arcari of Stirling. A really creditable photographic record of the Islay Show featured in the issue which appeared rather less than two days after the event!
Renowned ornithologist Dr. Mike Madders, formerly of Carnduncan, and his son Daniel died in a saddening canoe accident. One of Islay’s favourite sons, Mod Gold Medallist Dugan Campbell, passed away. The insidious swine flu virus claimed the life of a Bowmore lady. Argyll and Bute were reported to have the worst roads in Scotland. Unbelievable rain storms created havoc and Islay High School went back into uniform. John Moffat, the pilot of one of the Swordfish aircraft involved in the sinking of the Bismark lent a note of distinction to the Airport Open Day. The Tope fishing festival was again won by young Millie Mitchell and Kilchoman Gala Day went ahead despite appalling weather.

The Princess Royal opened the new Port Askaig ferry terminal. The first batch of the emergent Kilchoman single malt sold out on the spot. Mindless vandals were making trouble in both Bowmore and Port Ellen - as did some irresponsible car drivers. Echoing earlier success by the younger element ten year old Beth Clark landed a seven pound salmon. The new Avonvogie Abattoir was doing very good business. Kate MacAffer and Margaret McLean were instrumental in raising the marvellous sum of £4,500 for the Mid-Argyll MS Centre. The Islay Book Festival was opened by Lord (George) Robertson. Young beneficiaries of the Schroder Foundation bursaries put on record their happy experience of the scheme. The names of two Islay lifeboatmen who died in the 1953 storm disaster were included in a memorial sculpture unveiled at the RNLI headquarters at Poole, Dorset.
Cross country biking, soccer, rugby, shinty, mod performances, athletics, all with distinction - and that was just the younger element! Then there were the fishing competitions, golf competitions and the High School going intercontinental to Borneo via Palau (which appears to be part of the Caroline Islands U.S. Trust territory). Back in real life we should note that there was a call for a better midwife service at Glasgow Airport, Lord Robertson received the coveted Wallace Award and Rose Gibson was the recipient of a gold Poppy Scotland badge in recognition of all her charity work.
A slightly jarring note was struck by the anti-social activities of some who had over-indulged. John Forteith of the Oban food company raised the question of ‘best practice’ for suppliers, transporters and customers, with particular reference to Argyll lamb. Voluntary beach cleansing was in vogue and the Bowmore Shoreline Project was under discussion.

Breathe again! No-one will be left on the pier’ - CalMac. Local charities benefitted from the outstanding generosity of the Royal Arch Chapter. The inadequate 50mm pipe; Port Ellen water supply to be replaced by 90mm - I make that more than a threetime increase! Bruichaddich pier and road surfaces were due to receive overdue improvement. Royal Marine Corporal Scott Muir of 45 Commando and the Ballygrant area, serving in Afghanistan, was mentioned in despatches. there was an informative article about the police service, accompanied by some reassuring photos of the uniformed ‘dramatis personnae’. The future of Port Charlotte street lighting, apparently involving aerodynamics, a subject of controversy - this could run and run. MacBrayne Group annual report showed nothing untoward. Good prices at the first October sheep and cattle auction. A letter from the Operational Director (Argyll & Bute) gave a comprehensive review of the current position of the Port Askaig development.
Robin Currie was advocating including Islay in a new combined ferry service, serving also three other islands. Port Ellen fish quay wall was to be reconstructed. Current ‘prosperity’ of the Scotch Whisky industry being questioned! A correspondent queried the beneficial (supposed) overall impact of wind power generation. Port Ellen Primary prepared and served a genuine gourmet lunch for the parents. Dr Kitty Watt retired from the Rhinns Medical Centre, and the island bade something of a sad farewell to benefactor extraordinaire, Dr Hardie. Glory be! The new Bowmore water plan will re-route too close for comfort sewage. Islay competitors returned from the Oban national Mod trailing clouds of glory. Islay Ales received a CAMRA award for their Conditioned Beer. Recurrent vandalism reared its ugly head in Port Ellen’s Charlotte Street. The Rev. Steve Fulcher, Church of Scotland minister in the Rhinns, and latterly with an extended mandate, left for new fields of endeavour after his much-valued service for the Church and in the wider interest of the community.

Name that boat! The forthcoming Islay ferry replacement was the centre of some little controversy, and the EU had accepted the validity of ferry subsidies. Marie-Ann Brown, retiring chairholder of the Community Council, placed on record her appreciation of the efforts of all those with whom she had been associated in the business of the Council. Bowmore Primary, as reported by Zoe Wells, had produced an eye-opening musical, illustrating the dangers of the drug scene. Drs Rudi Gawens and John Currie joined the Rhinns Medical practice. Bruichladdich Distillery staff, whose variegated talents I well recall, held a fancy dress ball in aid of Corseford Special Needs School, and Bunnahabhain raised the almost incredible sum of £2,406 for Cancer Awareness. Port Askaig re-development was on record at some length. And pursuit of the body beautiful and the female form divine fetured in the High School curriculum.
The Shoreline Project - Islay Estates envisage a rather grand development of quality housing and associated undertakings to the southwest of Bowmore, echoing the thinking which led to the establishment in the eighteenth century, of the existing village. Further (but not at present connected with the foregoing) Bowmore ‘town centre’ promised £300,000 for re-development, regeneration is the operative word. A leaked ferries review by the Executive seemed to pose a threat to existing services. And a conclave of the business people of the island called on the Bank of Scotland to rescind a decision to do away with the bank’s business manager on Islay. ‘Shake-up’ was the term employed to describe mooted changes in the field of local government management. Crunch-wise, the Mactaggart Leisure Centre was feeling the pinch. Islay Lifeboat recalled seven busy, but largely unpublicised months of rescue efforts. A generous donation from a legacy to the RNLI was very welcome.

The ‘Spirit of Islay’ pipe band made its appearance. ‘Finlaggan’ to be the name of the much-heralded ferry replacement. Islay to be a venue for some of the 2011 ‘Tall Ships’. Islay representatives were coming out on top in wheelchair disco dancing, Scottish ‘legend cars’ racing, cyclocross with Port Mòr Wheelers, livestock at the Royal Highland Winter Fair, and what seems to be an inexhaustable fount of talent in all sorts of pursuits. However, one must record that, even in this ‘sceptr’d isle, set in a silver sea’, not all is peace and love - vide the corrspondence. Support for carers in Islay and Jura was under discussion, flashback to the 1960s - William Shand recalled service on the Australian emigrant ships.
Well, fellow seekers after truth, time and some rather extravagant tides seem to have brought us to the finals of the 2009 season. Let us therefore begin. ‘Sunday licensing restrictions lifted’. Strathclyde police say ‘Have Fun, Stay Safe’. Hugh Smith filled us in regarding the history of Christmas and Hogmanay. Catriona Bell to chair the 2010 Islay Gathering. Ella Edgar reported a successful year in the Highland Dancing metier. The four island primaries had all presented their own much appreciated pantomimes. Rumbles still persist on the prospective name for the prospective ferry. A possible reduction in the Islay air service appeared to have been negatived.

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

Tag: news review 2009 ileach