Reflections on the Islay Weather

December 2009 and January 2010 were the coldest in Scotland since records began

I couldn't think of a better follow up on yesterday's Islay snow image. I found a nice article in the latest issue of the Ileach from the hand of Catriona Bell in which she wonders 'how future generations will view the recent cold spell'. It has indeed been a cold winter and Islay had many days with snow and frost. As a side effect the album with wintry Islay scenes has been expanded quite a bit. There is another reason as well that I'm happy to post this article. A while back Martine Nouet sent me beautiful images from Islay's recent cold spell and I decided to show most of them in this post, a perfect combination. Thanks Martine! Now back to Catriona Bell and her article:

In a good week it arrives in Ballygrant shop on Saturday, often it’s Monday or Tuesday but it’s always welcome, the weekly paper I’ve been reading for longer than any other. In January the front page has been dominated by a debate on the finances of Gaelic education which has generated ‘one of the highest amounts of correspondence on one issue received by the Northern Times’ That’s Sutherland now, I pass on to my essential reading – Sutherland 25, 50, 75, 100 years ago. ‘From Our Old files’ gives glimpses of life in early 20th century, balls that went on till breakfast was served, men called to war, good harvests and bad, and the weather, always the weather. And why not? Isn’t it our most common topic of conversation, especially when it produces the exceptional. Continue reading.....

Which got me wondering, as I heard that December 2009 and January 2010 were the coldest in Scotland since records began, will anyone, 100 years from now, be ploughing through old Ileachs in the Museum’s archive? Will he or she be interested to know how Islay fared in that exceptional winter, only to discover we were disturbed so little, in January issues it hardly merited a mention? Yet it was exceptional. Beginning on December 19, a normal sleety winter’s day, sometime in the evening it changed. About 8 o’clock passing through the conservatory I looked up to see the glass roof completely white. Before bedtime I had to do a circuit of my white garden wonderland and along the drive, now clear in the darkness, convinced the snow would all disappear by morning. But it didn’t, it snowed all that day, and then froze – hard, and continued to freeze for three more weeks. My car thermometer recorded temperature lows of -6.5? C, and that was in daytime.

On Christmas Day we did a family walk from Ballygrant to Lossit Loch. When it snows, for snow lovers, there’s no place on Islay like Ballygrant. The sun shone, fields sparkled, frost patterned frozen ditches, snow decorated grasses and ice covered the loch. We relived winters past, skiting stones across the surface, waiting for the weird cracks and sighing noises that follow, and ploughed through deep Knocklearach snow to reach the Glen road. In the early days of January when there was no wind, and water in sheep troughs froze solid, sunshine hours must have broken records - if anyone was recording. Ice formed at the edges of Lochindaal, and, with exceptionally low tides, on beaches all round the island. On 3 January the tide at Loch Gruinart had receded to the deep channel, acres of sand were revealed, patterned, where the shallows would have been, with frozen spouts of razorfish.

And the snowdrops waited. Not until mid January did the frozen layer of snow melt and a few begin to appear in Bridgend Wood, singly here and there. Even on the last day of the month, as the bunches thickened, more than half were still just white tipped spears. Without any Islay records, it’s back to the NT to see how this January’s weather compares with 100 years ago. 1910 was an election year, as is 2010 is. Polling day was in late January. ‘Throughout Sutherland the weather (was) of the bitterest description’ and despite ‘on Tuesday snow .. lying to a considerable depth all over the county.’ ‘the number who polled was greater than any previous elections…. every available voter turned out in the parish of Golspie’. A thought for to-day’s politicians.

Tag: winter snow ice photography