With 2009 almost coming to an end I thought I'd give it a try and write my Islay Blog review. I know I'm not as good as Jim Mitchell, who usually writes the year review for the Ileach Newspaper, but one is never to old to learn so I wrote a review of some of the most interesting and eye catching stories of this year. I'm sure I missed some interesting bits here and there but I think it turned out rather well so I hope you enjoy it.
The year started with the announcement of the winners from the first edition of the ForArgyll awards which was succesful for several Islay Blogs and websites including this blog and the Islay Info website. This also brings me to this years awards, make sure to vote for the Islay and Jura candidates, there are a couple of them left in the final stage who can use your support. January saw a special visitor on Islay, a canvasback duck while Ardbeg announced a stellar explosion followed on the 18th by a genuine Islay winter storm. Later in the month Bowmore round church received it's new organ and discussions were held for a sheltered harbour at Port Ellen.
Mark Unsworth started his photo blog early February while I was busy giving the islayinfo.com website a major upgrade. A couple of days later another photo blog from Islay saw the first image published, this time from Ewan. Victor MacLellan from Bunnahabhain had his last day of employment this month after working five decades for the Bunnahabhain distillery. Later in the month plans were announced for an offshore windfarm south-west of Islay. Continue reading.....
In March, after our first and last Islay trip of this year, the first stories appear about the new Calmac Ferry that doesn't fit Port Ellen. Later in the year it's clear that it doesn't fit Kennacraig and Port Askaig either. While Ardbeg wins a drammy award for being the best distillery the Islay Pipe band lost it's sponsor and was in dire need of your support. Karen Siddall starts Islay on Foot and the battle of the peat monsters is covered on the Whisky Exchange Blog. Now I'm just writing about the last year, Carl Reavey wrote about the last 300 years on Islay, try to beat that! The last day of the month saw the first of several technical problems and reduced timetables for the Calmac Ferries.
It was quite a ferry year and in April the first story came out about the Islay Ferry sailing from Oban in the future, just stories and noting definite yet but things will become more serious later in the year when the first details for the ferry review are leaked out. CMAL sent me a preview of the new Islay Ferry and Islay Ales celebrated their 5th anniversary. Talking about anniversaries, my Islay Blog saw blog post nr thousand which was reason for a price competition. Diageo announced that the collapsed grain silo's were going to be rebuilt on the same spot and we experienced a very happy personal event with the birth of our baby girl Annika
May already and the first bottle of Kilchoman has been filled while Kilchoman and the other distilleries are preparing for the upcoming Islay festival. Stormcats announce a new boat, the Tope Hunter and Teresa Morris sent me a video of the first Corncrakes arriving on Islay. The Finlaggan visitor centre was officially re-opened on May the 16th and Ardbeg distillery received air support to save the water in Loch Uigeadail from leaking away and a record brown trout was caught in another loch on Islay, Loch Gorm. The last week of May saw another very successful Islay festival
Islay is preparing for the commonwealth fly fishing championship which was held later in the month of June and other wildlife came flying in early in the month, the painted lady butterfly. Margaret Rozga and Ailsa Hayes appear on STV at the same time as a parade was held in Bowmore by the fly fishing participants. The Ileach has uploaded two really nice video's of the Islay Rugby tournament and another great video from the homecoming parade is uploaded by a visitor. Brian Turner a.k.a. the Islay Fisher, had another great week on the island and Christine Logan also appears on STV, Mary Bavin writes an interesting article about medieval life at Finlaggan
Gordon from the Woollen Mill explains his machinery in a video while traditionally the Cantilena festival is held. July and summer is in full swing as you can see from the beautiful flowers in the dunes at Killinallan Point, although summer..... A couple of days later a tornado was spotted on Islay, luckily the classic malt cruise were sailing somewhere else at the time. The Islay lifeboat crew was rewarded and Teresa sent more images of the common blue butterfly. In the run up to the Ride of the Falling Rain I decided to dedicate a whole week to cycling on Islay followed by stunning images of dragonflies and damselflies, again by Teresa Morris.
August traditionally starts with the Ride of the Falling Rain and the Half marathon. I already mentioned the ferry news and in August came confirmation that the new ferry wouldn't fit Port Askaig either, more public money has to be spent to make this happen. The Islay Pipe band, now supported by Bruichladdich Distillery, managed to become European Champions in Grade 3B, quite an achievement after the earlier mentioned financial difficulties. The Ileach published a video of this years Islay Show and I myself managed to find time for a website about the Southern Hebrides. I always find it amazing how many events are held on Islay and late August saw the Islay airport open day while the ferry timetable was back to one ship for the third time already.
September starts where August ended, with more events, such as the Islay Book festival and a video is published from the Stormcats Tope Festival held in August. Three Islay panorama's and two new Islay websites later the Rest and be Thankful pass is closed again after a landslide. If you want more events you are in the right place, how about the release of the very first bottle of Kilchoman Islay single malt Whisky, the visit of the Princess Royal in Port Askaig and the Islay Jazz festival, just to name a few. September also saw a great new video from Bowmore distillery, a new website for Ron Goudie, Highland Ponies by Jane Dawson and news about yet another upcoming festival, the small isles film festival which was held in October. Re-JIG celebrates their 10th anniversary!
October and the first geese arrive on Islay and so does the first storm resulting in dramatic light conditions. While more geese are arriving on Islay, Ardbeg Supernova is named as the best Scotch Malt Whisky of the year by Jim Murray. Festival tired yet? No? great! Steve Hunter wrote a nice report about the Islay Jazz festival and almost hundred people from Islay travelled to Oban for the National Mod and were very successful, again! At the same time Teresa walked to Sgarbh Breac, followed by a walk to the bothy at Proaig while the Islay pipe band did very well at the worlds in Glasgow. CMAL launced a prize competition to name the new ferry and Calmac announced that their service will be further improved. Did I mention that Teresa likes walking? She made another trip to McArthur's head and sent me more stunning images including a couple from the cattle egret a couple days later. The EU investigation had no consequences for Calmac so they are here to stay. The sisters Margaret Rozga and Rachel Whyte both receive a gold star award for their excellent accommodations.
Early November and I find myself in a nostalgic mood given the many nostalgic posts such as the interview with Florrie Phee, a beautiful black and white Islay video and some nostalgic images from Port Askaig Hotel including a lovely introduction from an old Islay Guide kindly supplied by Keith Faulks. While councillor Robin Currie has a great idea by creating a triangular ferry route, councillor Douglas Tott from the newly elected Islay council had a less popular idea, not backed by the others from the council, which was soon followed by his resignation, I guess Oban was a "bridge too far" for him. Marc Frederick sent me a nice report about his busmans holiday on Islay, the Islay lifeboat will benefit from quite a large legacy and Bowmore will benefit from more funding which will include money for a traffic management system (yeah really) as well as funds for the restoration of the public toilets, very much approved by my wife! Despite the poll and other ways of protest about the lack of Islay related ferry names CMAL announced at St Andrews day that the new Islay ferry will be named Finlaggan, a fine name for Islay's new ferry if you ask me. While news is leaking out about the ferry review Islay's own master distiller Jim McEwan wins a lifetime achievement award.
December already and with Christmas coming up Jim Lutomski organised a charity run and the crew of the Calmac ferry Hebridean Isles go madness in a very popular video. This last year was a busy year for the Islay lifeboat crew and there is news about yet another possible event for next year, the tall ships race will most likely visit Port Ellen next year in August. The year on the blog ended with many beautiful snow images of Islay, again supplied by Teresa Morris for which I'm extremely grateful.
A year review isn't a year review when the sad things aren't mentioned. In this respect I would like to mention the sudden death of James McGregor, a very friendly chap, a great guy and a respected member of Islay's community. It was devastating for many people to find out about his death and our thoughts will be with his kid who will miss him terribly. May you rest in peace James.
Running a blog like this is usually great fun, sometimes difficult when there is little time, and often very rewarding when other people contribute stories, pictures, news snippets or point out interesting links which I can mention here. I can safely say that I couldn't have done it without these people and that's why I want to mention and thank them in this year's review. First of all I have to thank the staff of the Ileach Newspaper for giving me permission to publish some of their stories on this blog and for supporting me in other ways. Also a big thank you for Teresa Morris from Islay Wildscapes and Mark Unsworth from Islay Studios who both are responsible for so many breathtaking Islay images. Although Jeremy Hastings stopped sending his nature reports due to his team Wiggle record attempts, more about that later, I have to thank him for the many nature reports earlier this year. I also like to thank Keith Faulks for sending me images and text from the Islay Guide and the special friend on Islay for the many images who likes to stay anonymous. Many of the readers sent me emails to support and thank me which is highly appreciated, thanks very much for that.
I want to finish by thanking someone very special, someone who isn't among us anymore. His name his Dougie MacDougall and through his stories published on this blog many memories live on. For me these stories are some of the most rewarding things to publish, they give us an insight in a time that most of us can hardly imagine, a time when things like globalisation and internet didn't exist, a time in which people had sometimes a hard time to survive but which must have been a fantastic time to live in as well as a time that some of us long for. Thanks very much Christine and Lily for giving me permission to publish some stories of your late father and husband. And for the readers, you can expect lots more stories from Dougies hand in 2010 so do come back.