Another Islay Year by Ileach Editor Carl Reavey

It is a whole year ago since we were all asked to write to the Mactaggart Leisure Centre in support of a big grant application - the fruits of which we are now beginning to see. It was announced that ‘Finlaggan’ would be the name of our new ferry, despite the naughty Ileach registering ‘Isle of Islay’ and offering it to CMAL free of charge.... Bank managers were in short supply in Bowmore but there was plenty of support for the Beatson from the William Monaghan football boys. A farmers market appeared at Dunlossit and the usual loonies from Lagavulin Fundraisers jumped off the pier on Boxing Day to raise ever more cash. We were worried about potholes in our roads (little did we know) and we were admiring the enterprise of those living off grid and harvesting their own rainwater. The findings of the Shoreline Project Consultation were published and there was the first of a series of articles about the WW2 air crash at Blackrock. Bowmore was to be ‘regenerated’ with pontoons and ‘streetscaping’. George Robertson was writing to Alex Salmond about Port Ellen pier.

A mechanical failure aboard ‘Isle of Arran’ precipitated the first of a series of ‘heavy berthings’ of ferries but no-one was hurt even if quite a lot of machinery got bent. Islay High School won two Gaelic film awards, and young rugby player Scott Piper was to lead out the Scottish team against the Auld Enemy at Murrayfield. Tom and Kevin won their 4th Badminton championship and David Boyd proposed a radical solution to the problem of Islay freight traffic. Glenn Campbell won a top award for his TV journalism and Flora opened a new sweetie shop in Portnahaven. It was Feis Oigridh time again. The former CVS premises at Highfield were handed over to ACHA, Ashley, Kelly and Kelsey did their best to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake and if we thought we were having cold weather then… Continue reading....

Alex Salmond failed to give an unequivocal assurance from the Scottish Government for rebuilding Port Ellen to accommodate the ‘Finlaggan’ in a letter to George Robertson. The ship was to serve Port Askaig only. Powerage were providing a tribute to Bon at the Ramsay and the traditional venison was on the menu at the Finlaggan Trust. There was a gruesome picture showing the aftermath of deer poaching on the Oa and John moved to support Anthony and the team at Kilchoman. The Bowmore Secondary School of 1956 was revisited, we heard lots about tidal energy and were reminded of the stunning medieval gold brooch that was found on Islay and now resides in the National Museum of Scotland. Diageo were thanked by Port Ellen Primary for helping them buy loads of video cameras and president Peter Campbell welcomed the throng at the Islay Gathering in Glasgow. Gary Vandermeulen wowed the Dolphins, and many were saddened by the passing of the Rev. George Campbell.

The announcement that money had been found to re-develop Port Ellen to enable the ‘Finlaggan’ to dock was made to a stunned audience in the Ramsay Hall. ‘Hallelujah’ said the Ileach. A ‘new’ pier is to be built long enough to accommodate the grain boat and the new ferry at the same time. Fiddlers Bid wowed a capacity audience in Portnahaven and we all enjoyed a pie and a pint at Islay House Square over Easter weekend. The Jura Passenger Ferry Service was back on the water again and the Easter Football Tournament trophy was lifted by Glasgow Islay. Our ladies were winning at shinty and Alfie Perring talked renewables. Seamus MacArthur remembered the brave firemen lost in the Cheapside Street fire and the WalkIslay Festival seems to get bigger and bigger. The school bands were doing well on their travels overseas and a General Election was looming.

The Sunderland Memorial was held at Blackrock and the Scottish Country Dance Weekend was reeling in the years in Bowmore Hall while a young band were singing to a rather different set of tunes during their ‘Fantastic Fun Weekend’. Sandy Peters and Fiona Ford took the honours during the Islay Golf Open at the Machrie and the quick thinking of a visiting vet almost certainly saved the life of a Dumfries rugby player during a game against Islay. George Robertson was writing about the remarkable achievements of Andrew Banks up in Orkney and Agnes was everyone’s Local Hero when she won a national award for her selfless work. There were a series of huge fires on the moss and the Ileach drew attention to the Council’s “School Estate Review”. Eric Faulkener and Donnie Munro were to appear at the Feis and the Lord Lieutenant re-opened Bowmore Army Cadet Hall. Ardbeg brought in an old style helter skelter for folk to enjoy at the Feis, and the tall ship Thalassa visited Port Ellen and Bruichladdich.

The infamous barge impeding improvements at Kennacraig was finally to be shifted and ISIS 2 was launched by Lagavulin Fundraisers’ benefactor Iain Smith. The Islay Mod was the most successful for years and Ella’s Highland Dancers brought home more silverware, this time from Tarbert. Skerryvore were pulling the crowds as ever and there had been an RNLI Open Day at the Feis. A scare about the potential closure of Bowmore surgery finally abated and there was another day of big hits and eating sand in front of a huge crowd at the Beach Rugby tournament. Ardbeg ran out winners. Jim McEwan stepped down from the chair of Islay Boys Football Club and Ballygrant Village Stores closed its doors. Liz Sykes celebrates ten years in Islay House Square, a new air service between Islay and Oban appeared and Jim Mather MSP decided not to stand for re-election next time round. The Islay Pipe Band were very much back on the road with a competition in Annan, and there was a nice picture of the class of P1/2, Bowmore Primary 55 years ago.

The ‘Clansman’ blew an engine, which had all sorts of consequences, Rachel Morrison was Dux of IHS and Katie presented Euan with a trophy in memory of her brother Jamie, her dad Dugald and their friend Neil. The Finlaggan was launched in Poland and all sorts of things were going on from gourmet rides, to piping and chanter competitions, Cantilena, digging potatoes, puppets, sheepdog trials and windfarms. There was loads of sporting activity too - triathlons, football tournaments, baseball and even orienteering. CalMac took Islay out of the on-line booking system which raised the temperature somewhat and the old Francis W Wotherspoon lifeboat was at Port. Lots of people were winning prizes at Argyll College and Alice Grey of Port Ellen Primary won a UNESCO Biodiversity competition for her artwork. Mickey and Minnie Mouse arrived to help Caroline Graham who went on to raise mind-boggling amounts of cash for Breast Cancer Care.

was quite exhausting for many, with the half-marathon, the Ride of the Falling Rain and Positively the Last Pillage. Those bollards arrived in Bowmore, and a crew of fearsome Islay Vikings swept all before them as they rowed a dragon through the opposition at Crinan. Lots of kids were passing music exams, Iain just pipped Jim to win the Cross for the second time and Bruichladdich started to distill gin with the help of Ugly Betty. The Show was even more magnificent than usual. That is some day out folks. Tope were caught at the Stormcats festival and Caroline conquered Ben Nevis. Cricket was played on Islay (but not for the first time apparently) and Hamish Campbell spoke up about ‘bogus consultation exercises’. St Kiaran’s congregation enjoyed a day in the sun while Neil and Jack brought back armfulls of silverware from the Mid-Argyll show.

Those bollards were still making the news, and the Rhino charged into Port Ellen with fellow members of Woodedz. The RNLI were involved in a string of rescues and Eleanor and James crossed Scotland in an inflatable kayak. The Islay Book Festival enjoyed Gruffalos and Mesolithic musings and magnificent baking while there was a roundup of the redundant piers scattered around Argyll and Bute. Crew from HMS Vanguard were in town and the new pontoons were open for business in Bowmore. There were Basking sharks everywhere and archaeologists were taking pollen samples. The Islay Gaidhealtachd had a practice run for the National Mod in Lochgilphead and the Dolphins were sleeping on the floor and winning medals in Campbeltown. The Jazz Festival was even groovier than usual this year, Bob Cuninghame won the Beef Herd Competition and the Girl Guides celebrated 100 years of good deeding.

The sub-sea electricity cable that feeds Islay is broken - and the island has been powered by the Bowmore generators since then, CalMac used the Ferries Review as an opportunity to criticise successive governments lack of investment in infrastructure and ships and the Co-Op in Port Ellen was reclassified (should that read ‘downgraded’?) to a ‘Convenience Store’. A rather splendid stone insert in the new Bowmore Square unfortunately has the village of ‘Kellis’ where Keills ought to be and StormCats were winning accolades again. The Port Ellen Baptists were down at the seaside for their Centenary and there was some interesting reading about Mesolithic archaeology. Murray Thistle provided their usual hilarious accounts of footie matches against Bowmore FC for the William Monaghan Memorial Trophy and lots of folk returned from the National Mod carrying silverware including Alasdair Currie, twins Anna and Eilidh Macdonald from Port Ellen and Ryan Johnston from Bowmore. Port Ellen Primary won the Badenoch and Strathspey Trophy for unison singing and Coisir Ghaidhlig Ile won the Puirt-a-beul for rural choirs.

There was widespread shock, and indeed anger, at the proposal to close Keills Primary School as part of a draconian cost-cutting scheme by Argyll and Bute Council. Jean Knowles was taking a long hard look at the extraordinary situation at Port Askaig, where a section was being bolted on to the linkspan to enable the new ferry to dock when it arrives next year. The linkspan had previously been put out of action by another one of those ‘heavy berthings’. Our Lifeboat crew were flying the flag at St Paul’s in London and Strathclyde Fire Brigade were worried about the number of chimney fires on Islay. A house fire in Bowmore happily did not result in any injuries and Keills Primary danced and danced and danced. The Talking Newspaper went digital so that folk who cannot see very well can still enjoy their Ileach and the Port Ellen Angling Club remembered Ted Burkenshaw. Neil took over at ICCI and we said slainte to Sven and Helena. Another ‘heavy berthing’, this time at Port Ellen, resulted in some unpublishable stories about how some folk wished the ferries had lady drivers.

The level of cuts being proposed by the Council are really very severe, Port Askaig pier re-opened and Billy MacFarlane was elected President of the Meat Traders Federation. Politicians hurled abuse at one another over the school closure proposals and CalMac won two national transport awards. The Dolphins celebrated their annual Club Championship and there was lots of fund raising for Children In Need. John Ross was remembered, some wild swans put in an appearance at Loch Skerrols, and it became really really cold. It even snowed. There were some very proud dogs presenting their owners with certificates and an excellent post-Mod concert in Bowmore Hall. There was a moving piece about sons of Islay lost during WW2, and some marvellous pantomime performances at the primary schools followed by an epic production of Robin Hood at the High School. Shannon and Christianne wrote passionately about their beloved Keills Primary, there was a review of the busy year at Islay Boys FC and John Mackenzie retired from active duty at the Coastguard after 36 years service. Some happy people moved into the new ACHA flats at Highfield and it was good to read about the relatively recent origins of one Santa Claus. Happy New Year everybody...

Tag: year roundup ileach