Islay News Roundup March and First Half of April 2009

Before I start with the round-up I have some good ferry news to report first. Elliott Bowman of Islay Sea Shipping sent me an email yesterday and he told me that the M.V Isle Of Arran is now back from Birkenhead dry dock after suffering from damage in Oban. She departed the Mersey Thursday afternoon at 1400hrs bound for Kennacraig where she arrived Friday morning 0730hrs. Picture right shows the Isle of Arran on the Mersey in Liverpool. (image courtesy of Phil Owen). She arrived at Kennacraig Saturday morning about 0730hrs. Calmac has confirmed that the normal timetable will resume on Sunday 19th April 2009. It's going to be a busy ferry weekend, there are extra freight sailings due to the big cattle sale thats on. In the meanwhile the M.V Pentalina B departed Kennacraig Friday afternoon at 1340hrs bound for her home port of St Margrets Hope. She carried out her last sailing Friday at 0615hrs ex Kennacraig and 0845hrs ex Port Askaig.

Scottish Ferries Review The Scottish Ferries Review was launched last August and its remit is to consider enhancements to ferry services across all Scottish routes. The review will consider current provision of ferry services and what improvements should be made to meet future needs. It meets the Government’s commitment set out in the 2006 National Transport Strategy (NTS) to ‘develop a long-term strategy for lifeline services to 2025’. The NTS committed Government to carry out: a detailed appraisal of routes to determine whether a better configuration could be developed in response to calls for new and faster connections serving those isolated communities and a review of fares structures as part of the affordability of public transport. Continue reading......

Port Ellen Primary School raised £1,091.05 on Red Nose Day Comic Relief is always a big fundraising day for Port Ellen Primary School, and this year is no exception. We had a ‘Wear Red to School Day’, and there were lots of red noses in evidence. Mrs Macfarlane even painted her own ‘Pick Your Nose T-Shirt’ for the day! We started off with a sponsored funny spell in school, which raised loads of money thanks to generous donations from friends and family in Port Ellen. The healthy cooking club and P1,2 raised £38 by baking buns and anzac biscuits and selling them with strawberry milkshake at break. P7 held a car wash and raised £50; Mrs Clark’s car has never looked so shiny! We had a talent show in the afternoon featuring jokes, music, dancing and magic. Port Ellen Primary also started a new website which was created by the P7 class last term, and they are now experts on web design. Most of the writing and ideas on the site come from the children themselves, and we have recently added a selection of powerpoints on mysteries and Scottish scientists created by the children which are really great. There are also samples of the National Mod award winning Gaelic choir to listen to. Check out their new site at

A whole lot of Red Noses at Port Ellen Primary School

The Mighty Gyr “While going down to get the papers on Saturday morning (21st of March), we were lucky enough to see this Gyr Falcon on a telegraph pole on the roadside just after Rockside. It seemed quite unfazed by us taking its picture, it then flew off towards Loch Gorm. It was later seen by James How, in the afternoon over at Gruinart. There had also been a sighting of a bird up at Ardnave, on Tuesday of the previous week “In some ways, this bird reminds me of the Gyr Falcon that was seen here a few years back, in the sense that it too was highly mobile, seen at various locations on Islay over some time. “If we had been either slightly earlier, or even, say five minutes later, possibly we would not have seen the bird at all, but it all goes to prove about being in the right place at the right time, fortunately I had my camera to share the image with you.” Ian & Margaret Brooke

Scottish Ultra Marathon to return to Islay/Jura Niall Colthart of Port Ellen has finalised the route for Scotland’s toughest race which will take place over six days from May 3rd this year starting at Ardbeg distillery. Around 50 competitors are expected and a part of each runners entry fee will be going to Islay and Jura Sick Children’s Fund. Niall told the Ileach: “We also have a guy from Australia competing who is asking people not to sponsor him with monetary contributions but by donating blood - which is at a premium in Australia after the bush fires. All of us in the organising team have done this.” The event attracts some truly tough nuts. One girl who came last year is planning to swim to the start line from the mainland while another guy is competing having lost a leg in the Falklands conflict. He is now the High Constable of Perth. Read more on

Reid calls for review of electricity grid following power cut Alan Reid MP has called for an urgent review of Scotland’s electricity grid following the loss of power for over two hours to a large part of the west of Scotland at around 4.30pm on Monday of last week. A fault at a single substation saw a large part of Glasgow lose power with the outage running west to Argyll through Clydebank, Drumchapel, Milngavie, Bearsden and Helensburgh and on across. Cowal, Mid Argyll, Kintyre, North Argyll, Mull and Islay. Reid said, “This power loss raises serious questions about Scotland’s electricity grid. A fault at one sub-station should not cause a loss of power on this scale. An urgent review of the grid is essential to ensure that a fault at one sub-station cannot cause a loss of power to a large part of the country. I have written to the UK and Scottish Energy Ministers and to Scottish Power calling for an urgent review”

2nd Coxswain Neil MacEachern Honoured Members of the Islay lifeboat crew have honoured one of their colleagues with a special presentation at a fund-raising social evening in the Ballygrant village hall. Neil MacEachern, who joined the service in the 1970s and has acted as second coxswain for the past 10 years, received a brass plaque and mast tight clock to mark his devoted service to the cause. This was handed over by lifeboat mechanic David MacArthur and the recipient’s dedication was praised and highlighted by Captain Malcolm Anderson, chair of the Islay Lifeboat branch. The second coxswain has had a long family association with the Port Askaig lifeboat station. His late father Willie was the lifeboat mechanic for over 4 decades, his brother Islay is the current station operations manager and his niece Cara is also a member of the crew. She was only 17 years of age when she took part in the arduous rescue of the stricken Irish fishing vessel ‘Niamh Aine’ in horrendous weather conditions and treacherous seas off Skerryvore Lighthouse in January of last year. During the celebrations, thanks were also expressed to the local RNLI fund raisers committee whose sterling efforts over the past year saw in excess of £30,000 being added to the lifeboat coffers.

The 3rd Annual Jean Hunter Memorial Prize 2008 The Ileach is again inviting entries for the competition which was established in memory of our late chairman. As before, two prizes of £50 are offered for the best articles submitted by readers, one in English and one in Gaelic. There is no set form or subject. We want you to write about what interests you and in the form you want to use – fact or fiction, prose or poetry. Although we particularly want to encourage entries by young people, we place no age limits on entrants. Entries should be received in the Ileach Office, Main Street, Bowmore by May 15th 2009.

Drumming up support Islay never fails to rally to a good cause and Islay Pipe Band has reason to be thankful for that. Since first publicising their reduced sponsorship for 2009, the band has had many offers of help and received a number of generous donations. Local businesses and organisations have been quick to respond, and help has also come from further afield, after Islay enthusiasts Ron of and Armin Grewe published the band’s appeal for help on their websites. The money bingo held in Portnahaven on Friday 3rd April was attended by almost 100 supporters and was a great success - thanks are due to Wendy and Janey for their sterling help in the kitchen, as well as to all those who donated baking and raffle prizes. So is the crisis over? The short answer is no - several thousand pounds are still required to fill the gap left by the sponsorship reduction. Next on the fundraising events calendar is a dinner dance currently being organised for July - watch the Ileach for details. In the meantime we are working to relaunch the 100 club - for just £4 per month you can enter our monthly draw to win £100, with two larger prizes each year. Anyone who would like to join in and has not yet had a form can obtain one from Sheena MacMillan (860 278). While all this is going on the pipers and drummers are still practising hard twice a week to prepare for the demanding schedule of competitions. The young exiled pipers have not been forgotten either, with Pipe Major Nigel Morris along with James and Andrew MacEachern travelling to Edinburgh two weeks ago for a second mainland practice. This week the students are mostly home on holiday so they will be able to join in with regular practices. The band will also be appearing at Iomairt Chille Chomain’s Homecoming Concert in Bowmore Hall on the 18th, so you can judge for yourself how they are progressing!

Port Ellen Angling Club to Run Commonwealth Championship Port Ellen Angling Club recently held their AGM in The Ardview Inn with many agenda items being discussed. There was a good turn out of members at the meeting with the top topic on the agenda being the forthcoming Commonwealth Championships which are being held on Islay this year. The club are heavily involved in running of this competition and look forward to help making it a great success. The competition is being run along the same lines as the 2003 European Championship and once again controllers are required to ensure the competition runs smoothly. Controllers are asked to measure the fish and note down their size on an competition form. It’s as easy as that - so if anybody is interested in helping out could you phone Iain Laurie at 01496 302264 and register your name. If you cant make all the days dont worry - you can still register for some of the sessions. The competition will run from the 15th June till the 20th. The opening ceremony will be held on the 15th with the teams marching through Bowmore. Tuesday the 16th is Practice Day - then its down to the serious business after that!

Morrisons to bottle Drambuie Morrison Bowmore is to produce and bottle the iconic Scottish liqueur Drambuie at its Glasgow base, replacing the service provided by rival Glenmorangie, owners of Ardbeg. Morrison Bowmore, the maker of Bowmore and Auchentoshan whiskies, announced the deal as it revealed a 15 per cent rise in annual profits to around £3.6 million – boosted by its decision to concentrate on high-margin single malts. The firm’s provisional results showed a slight drop in turnover to £37m in 2008 as the company continued its withdrawal from the high-volume blended whiskies market. Around four million bottles of Drambuie a year are to be produced from Morrison Bowmore’s Springburn base from 2010, using the facilities previously utilised for the firm’s blended products.

Spring Clean Islay Week a great success! Re-JIG’s spring clean Islay week had people out in droves cleaning up the island. Groups, clubs, schools and individuals cleaned up their area, beaches and roadsides, and with the help of EB Scotland funding, Re-JIG were able to sponsor people based on how much litter they collected. 24 people from the Portnahaven area cleaned up Portnahaven beach and raised £151 for the Islay Lifeboat. A great community effort, and lovely soup, sandwiches and cakes afterwards! Bowmore Primary School on a very wild, windy day cleaned up around the school and raised £119. A group of Bridgend residents cleaned up along the roadside in Bridgend and raised an unbelievable £159 for the MacMillan nurses! Port Charlotte’s PM Club which is based at the Port Mor Centre did a roadside and beach clean and raised £137 for their club. Port Charlotte Primary School cleaned up the village and local beach and raised £126 for the school. They have recently adopted their beach through the Marine Conservation Society’s Adopt-a-Beach project, which was established to encourage groups to look after their local beach on a regular basis by carrying out seasonal litter surveys and beach clean ups, to identify local sources of litter and raise awareness of the problems caused by litter. Twelve S1 pupils from Islay High School cleaned up at the Battery behind the school and raised £66. The Islay Canoe club did a roadside clean up near Whin Park and raised £132 for their club. Congratulations to all who took part.

Finlaggan Open Again We are delighted that Finlaggan is open again. We did miss meeting visitors last year when the building was in progress, and look forward to being back as a tourist and local attraction now that we have our lovely new extension and an enlarged main display area. Although the Official Opening is not until 16th May we are open and look forward to seeing you from now on. There’ll be details later about events on the official opening day which Donald Bell is still busy arranging. Rona MacKenzie and Jane Taylor have been re-organising the layout of the displays, and Mary Babin has dressed two figures in mediaeval costumes of authentic design. Committee members have been shifting furniture, cleaning and polishing, strimming the grass etc.

News from the blogs The Walk Islay Week ended this weekend. Armin posted an update of the first half of the week and I expect that you can read a full report on his blog tomorrow or Monday. The Laddieblog published a story about the winning radical race car and they also included a link on the first of April to a webcam where you can watch whisky mature. I have been told it's less exciting than watching grass grow and no it's not April fools, or is it??? :-) Next year they are planning a heavenly webcam to let us check on the angels consuming their share :-)

Back to some more serious stuff now..... Whisky guy Rob, who I met on Islay and has one more month to go, still writes interesting stories and I can really recommend reading his blog. Elliott Bowman of Islay Sea Shipping posted quite a few updates in the last weeks, it's good to see him back to regular blogging. Ian, who runs the Islay ICT Blog runs a story about Informal curriculum and the wildlife blogs are updated almost on a daily basis. Check out Islay Birds blog by Ian Brook and the Islay Birder blog by John Armitage. Jeremy Hastings wrote about his Wildwood Wisdom Camps while the Argyll news as a whole is perfectly covered by For Argyll.

As far as my own blog concerns I had a milestone to celebrate last week with the 1000th post. If you are in for a prize competition and want to win a bottle of Octomore whisky or a framed 10x8 Islay image by Islay Studios, make sure to spot the ten differences in the images brian created. Click here to join

If you want to stay up to date on Islay news every fortnight you can subscribe to the Ileach community newspaper here. The Ileach editor Carl Reavey by the way is also into video these days. Check out the Ileach profile page at Vimeo where you can find the first four videos. I have included one of the videos below, which is about the The oil tanker 'Whitchampion' at Bruichladdich pier.

The oil tanker 'Whitchampion' at Bruichladdich pier from ileach newspaper on Vimeo.

I think this is pretty much everything I can come up with right now. I wish you a nice weekend and pleasant week and look forward to seeing you here soon!

Tag: news blogs roundup diageo maltings video ileach

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