January: A somewhat tempestuous introduction to the New year. The temporary closure of Port Askaig pier exposed the limitations of Port Ellen pier in bad weather. Lagavulin boat builders ?Stormcats? launched a new model, the ?Stormbreaker?. There was an affecting story of Church of Scotland Reader Angela Stather?s battle with psoriasis. Memories were stirred as Bessie Williamson?s long association with Laphroaig were recalled. Iseabail MacTaggart took over the baton of the Islay Gaelic Choir. A party of bird enthusiasts, fuelled by a modicum of the local product, identified ninety-eight different species (or maybe 106...). Trailing clouds of glory - the Ileach was deemed Highlands and Islands Community Newspaper of the Year. A confidential US Navy document was washed up on a Bruichladdich beach. The once familiar puffer, the ?Pibroch? had been spotted laid up in Connemara. Renewable energy projects were to the fore. An advertisement promoted the expenditure of non-renewable energy on a belly dancing programme. A reader?s letter suggested that, surprisingly, security procedures were tighter at Islay Airport than at Glasgow. The house at Gruinart farm burned out, caused, probably, by a lightning strike. Continue reading.....February: Withdrawal of the Hebridean Isles again incapacitated the Islay ferry service - apropos of which the design for a new vessel purpose built for the route was in the early stages. Entries were invited for a Memorial Prize writing competition, sponsored by the Ileach in memory of Jean Hunter. Islay High School S1 pupils qualified for the Argyll sports team. The project for a new Avonvogie abattoir was going ahead. ?It ain?t what you do, it?s the way that you do it?. Differences in practice between Orkney and Islay in the shipping of tractor and trailers were highlighted. Aileen McLellan, Kilchiaran, was honoured (and rewarded!) for distinction in agricultural studies and practical procedures.
March: A new Port Charlotte Distillery was at the planning stage. A pharmacy emerged in Bowmore. John Findlay confirmed he was standing down from his Council seat. Lily MacDougall recalled a genuine wealth of life, mainly Islay based, over ninety plus years. Caol Ila was coming into its own as a single malt. Sir William Stewart - can I claim a little reflected glory? - was to again chair the Islay Gathering. Unison held meetings on Islay regarding ?Single Status? for Council employees - nothing to do with marital state. It turned out that ?them there llamas? at Port Mor are actually alpacas. There was much discussion on the ferry, Bruichladdich pier, road safety at Kiells and?Scottish Water amongst other things, and there was a report on the Islay Gathering. Donald Feist of Port Charlotte added to his attainments a four-year music scholarship at the RSAMD. Good Friday saw a joint procession through Bowmore of the Islay churches for an Easter Blessing.
April: The Whisky Coast was launched, a joint effort by West Coast Distilleries to promote their brands featuring a gorgeous angel plus the odd non-exotic entrepreneur. The Netherlands appeared to have been the beneficiaries of snowdrop bulbs from Bridgend Woods. The Bowmore Co-op, as reconstituted, excited both approval and criticism. Wait for it - on the 31st March Port Ellen was the hottest place in the UK! To widespread approval, the Rhinns SWRI presented long-serving Coastguard Neillan McLellan with new maps and compasses. The Mactaggart Leisure Centre held its first water disco. The Ileach presented a portrait gallery of the local candidates in the forthcoming election - one lady had her fists clenched, which probably says it all. ?Hustings? presided over by Glenn Campbell, were voted a notable success. Minor crime and yobbo vandalism raised its ugly head in Bridgend and Port Charlotte. Bowmore Primary seemed to have assumed leadership of the environmental drive. Lagavulin Fundraisers raised the money for a ?3,000 hypothermia machine for Islay Hospital, while Bunnahabhain generated nearly ?1,700 for local good causes. IDEAs gave a presentation at a Strathpeffer conference on charity development - the verdict from which was: ?you don?t realise how much IDEAs have achieved until you see it in black and white!? Islay Clean UP Day involved the younger generation in a really good exercise in the island?s villages. There was a heart warming picture of Dr Knowles as a patient in a demonstration of the afore-mentioned hypothermia machine.
May: Robin Currie topped the poll in the Council election, but the SNP took the Holyrood seat (ah well, - you can?t win them all!). The ?Hebridean Isles? was involved in search operations arising from diving problems in the West Loch. A coalition emerged to control Argyll and Bute. The Jean Hunter Memorial Prize for writing in Gaelic was won by Joanna Jackson. Bruichladdich Distillery reported overall progress, notably in pressing ahead with the Port Charlotte Distillery project. Over forty RIBs made the trip from Ulster to Ardbeg. The Gaelic Society of London?s Certificate for Gaelic Conversation went to Eilidh Oliver who also won the Jean Hunter Prize in English. Ronald Torrance, victim of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome was remembered in the provision of an ECG machine at Islay Hospital. Twenty-five years of the Scottish Country Dancing Society?s ?Big Weekend? were celebrated. Chinese martial arts were also on offer and for those with strong stomachs, there was some authentic looking belly dancing.
June: The introductory message from our new MSP seemed to contain the obligatory quota of buzz-words. The BBC?s Springwatch programme admirably presented much absorbing detail of the island?s natural features. James MacTaggart was leaving Bowmore after thirty years to fill the manager?s post at Arran Distillery. The managing director of Western Ferries focused attention on the vexed question of the Islay ferry service since the nineteen sixties when his company provided competition. The Islay mod was well supported and the Islay Pipe Band became the Black Bottle Islay ditto. The Schroder family forgathered in numbers to celebrate seventy years at Dunlossit. A radio controlled miniature aircraft flew from Ballycastle to Port Ellen. Melrose won the Beach Rugby (again...). The survey ship HMS Echo appeared in Loch Indaal and Bruichladdich?s Le-Mans entry was forced to withdraw early in the race. Bowmore pre-five unit scored in the Scottish Education Awards. Islay, it was claimed as a long term water shortage - here?s mud in your eye! Lagavulin Fundraisers once again pillaged malt from all of our distilleries.
July: The lugubrious features of the First Minister, twice reproduced, supported the record of his visit to Islay. The Lifeboat Guild raised ?1,200 for the cause. Bowmore Co-op?s attractive staff trekked from Port Ellen to home base to raise ?1,580 for Aberlour Children?s Fund. Cara McEachern, a soccer lovely from Keills, won an Argyll and Bute Sports Volunteer Award. John Heads expatiated on the advantages of the square wheel, notably in the field of medicine. Finlaggan Open Day escaped any of the rainy day hazards of St Swithin?s Day and a very informative article filled in the picture... The RSPB was hoping to build on the intense interest generated by the Springwatch TV programme. brian palmer cycled 600k from Hampton Court to Versailles in aid of international children?s charities. CalMac had their say on the ferry question, and a recalcitrant ramp put the ?Hebridean Isles? temporarily out of service. A still-hot disposable barbecue dumped in a wheelie bin ultimately wrote off the adjacent vehicle at Saligo. Islay and Jura ambulance service was under review. An IDEAs tenth anniversary report deprecated the meanness of Council support.
August: The Bowmore Pharmacy opened for business. Almost unprecedented seasonal traffic well justified timely police advice on driving conduct. Lagavulin was invaded by the Viking longship ?Havhingsten?, while High School pupils were active in Malawi. A very unwelcome by-product of the postal strike was interference with the transmission of blood samples. The hogweed menace had re-emerged. The police drew attention to a spate of automobile vandalism, mainly in Port Ellen. ?11,000 was raised for Yorkhill Hospital by Fiona MacLeod and her husband?s walk on the West Highland Way. Stuart Davidson of Sandbank won the Sheepdog Trials. The Show broke all records despite the absence of livestock caused by the foot and mouth outbreak. Islay House was placed on the market. A Road Equivalent Tariff exercise, based on the Western Isles, was in prospect. ?Gaelic Goes Digital? - the mind boggles.... Jim Rozga won the Cross. The William Monaghan Memorial soccer match raised over ?2,250 for Gartnavel Hospital. The Finlaggan Trust was in line for a ?98,500 grant from an Environmental Renewal scheme. Islay Airport handled record levels of passengers, but in the nature of these things, continued to show a loss. The Black Bottle Islay Pipe Band was placed fifth in class 4B at the World Championships in Glasgow.
September: Something to lift the spirits - the first birth pangs of the new Islay Hotel in Port Ellen. Environment Minister Michael Russell came to take the local temperature. Touring car manoevres around Bridgend were to be facilitated by laying anti-skid road surfacing. Scottish Co-op Community volunteers engaged in a variety of activities beneficial to the area. Blowing in the Wind - progress details of Islay Energy Trust?s turbine projects. It was suggested that drams enjoyed on distillery tours might be a mixed blessing. Islay Masters Swimming Club notably overcame the murderous waters of the Gulf of Corrievreckan. Bruichladdich Boat Park received its official blessing. Sarah Daniel?s piece on the historic link between the Orsay light and the flora and fauna there made interesting reading. Mark Reynier caught a large sunfish in Loch Indaal (cue for a new and different bottling?) while Stormcats launched their new 950 during the week of their Tope Fishing festival which was won with a 66lb specimen. Liz Redman, who irresistibly combined personal charm and therapeutic magic, retired as Rhinns Medical Centre Practice Nurse. Port Mor Community Centre officially opened. Peter Campbell from Stirling, with Oa and Skye connections - took over as Glasgow Islay Chairman. The Strange Boat Film Company took centre stage with young Islay film makers and the ferry service finished up back with CalMac. A wind turbine project in the Port Ellen area was ruled out as too adjacent to the airport. Mrs Macgown celebrated her 110th birthday. ?It doesn?t mean a thing if you ain?t got that zing? - Sheena Swanson and the Black Bottle Islay Jazz Festival. The Royal Engineers, based at Port Mor, were busy at Finlaggan and Dunlossit.
October: A bottle of Bowmore, circa 1850, with a dodgy cork, fetched ?29,400. The three week trial of a fourteen passenger high-speed Craighouse-Tayvallich ferry proved very successful. Peat smoke from Port Ellen Maltings was flavouring the atmosphere. Ian Mackerrell, of the milk dynasty, became an Associate Member of the Royal Agricultural Society. ?Encompass, Counseling and Support? combined alcohol charities from a number of localities, including Islay. Islay?s first beef herd competition featured some familiar names. There was dredging in Loch Indaal to try to facilitate tanker berthing at Bruichladdich pier. There was a sensitive evocation of the 1918 Tuscania tragedy in a poem about a Kilnaughton gravestone. Ella Edgar?s Highland Dancers were again hitting the high spots. Highlands and Islands Enterprise Companies were again being re-jigged - the proof of the pudding.... The sad death of Peter Graham was giving grounds for suspicion. The side-effects of the foot and mouth outbreak were creating consternation. There was success at the national Mod with some nice pictures, and photographic evidence of Bowmore hall Committee paying one pound sterling to acquire the property. Willie Pate retired from Caol Ila after forty-three years service.
November: Bowmore Primary plus 1,500 bottles equaled one greenhouse. A new Islay ferry, due in 2011 was ordered from Poland. Iain MacPherson of Conisby walked the 212 mile Southern Upland Way in aid of the Sick Children?s Fund. The Port Askaig pier development, to be completed in 2008 will now cost ?11,500,000. Jean McGilvary Business Services chalked up their first ten years. Peter McLellan, former mine host at the Lochindaal Hotel in Port Charlotte passed away. The 21st anniversary of the Islay Boy?s Football Club featured a dance notable for Duffie MacNeill?s astronomic bid securing a unique 21 year old bottling of Bruichladdich whisky. The Islay Hotel was progressing well and the Rev George Campbell, already well known, was to become the new Baptist Minister on Islay. Spirited Soaps opened in Bowmore. There was a review of a new biography of Daniel Campbell of Shawfield whose impact on Islay is well remembered. Remembrance Sunday was fittingly observed. The authenticity of the ?1851 Mutter? Bowmore bottle was called into question. Carl Reavey, visiting Orkney, discovered more variants from, rather than similarities with, the Islay situation. To general approval the value of long-serving Coastguards was ceremonially recognised. There was an intriguing item on new, oriental-sounding, massage techniques now being practiced by Jane Taylor.
December: There was courage and resourcefulness of which one mostly hears little - the unexcelled record of the Islay Lifeboat over the past year. Police Notes listed a worrying variety of petty crimes and vandalism. A survey showed a water depth of 3.3 metres below chart datum at Bruichladdich pier. A civic reception was held for the Black Bottle Islay Pipe Band in recognition of their coming top of their category in the European Piping Championships. John Heads doubted the wisdom and practicality of the new Scottish Islands Federation. There will be ?No Life After Death? an Islay High School debate decided, but, as Alexander Pope put it, ?Know then thyself, presume not God to scan. The proper study of mankind, is man.? Lagavulin Fundraisers ran the Isis Rowing Challenge. Re-jig was moving up a stage and Port Ellen Harbour Association reported a progressive year. It was the Dolphins Swimming Championships with a nice photograph of the participants. Bowmore pier lit up but the Port Askaig re-development seemed to be lagging. Pantomimes from?Bowmore, Port Ellen, Keills, Port Charlotte and Islay High vied with each other to put on the most lavish productions. Those Responsible Dogs were again having their tail-wagging way. The breakdown of the Port Ellen franking machine necessitated the diversion via the mainland of all mail posted on Islay. The police catalogue of squalid minor crime included a caution to the ladies against leaving their ?refreshments? where some knave might dope them. Signs of the times! And Bowmore?s Christmas tree looked in danger from anti-social pests. But amid all the seasonal carry-on numerous carol services and similar gatherings demonstrated that the true faith-centered Christmas remains.