Islanders, and descendants of American soldiers and British crewmen who lost their lives when HMS Otranto sank off Islay, gathered to pay their respects on Saturday ( 6 October) at a commemoration on the island to mark the centenary WW1’s worst convoy.
HMS Otranto, a former luxuryliner that had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the war, was the flagship of a 13-vessel convoy bringing thousands of US troops to the conflict on the Western Front. But, caught in Force 11 gale and unsure of her position, the Otranto collided with another ship in her convoy, HMS Kashmir. While the Kashmir managed to limp to the Clyde, the powerless Otranto was driven by the storm towards the treacherous coast of Islay.
British destroyer, HMS Mounsey, commanded by Lieutenant Francis Craven, dashed to rescue 600 men from the Otranto, but nearly 500 men were still aboard when it struck a reef off Kilchoman Bay, on Islay’s west coast. Local shepherds and farmers rushed to the shore and pulled survivors from the pounding surf, but, of the men still on board the Otranto when it struck the reef, only 19 survived. The islanders tended the survivors and, although many of Islay’s able men had already been killed or were still at war, scoured the rugged coast to recover bodies and did all they could to identify them and bury them with honour. Continue reading....
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Saturday 6 April 1968 was a new beginning in ferry travel for Islay and the forerunner of ferries as we know them today.
On a beautiful sunny, day 50 years ago, Western Ferries’ brand new red and white ferry, MV ‘Sound of Islay’, sailed into Port Askaig for the first time, heralding a transformation in ferry travel to and from Islay. On that first day it seemed as if half the population of Islay was in Port Askaig to see the new ferry with, what appeared to be the other half, there on Sunday. Captain Angus Mitchell and First Officer, Sandy Ferguson found their ship overrun by enthusiastic sightseers.
With the arrival of the ‘Sound of Islay’, came a revolution in vehicle transportation to and from Islay, as, up until then, cars were driven onto a net and swung into the hold of the mail boat. Now, here was a roll-on/roll-off ferry, bringing Islay into line with the other west coast islands that had, had roll-on/ roll-off ferries since 1964. In 1964 the Scottish Office had three identical ferries built, the ‘Hebrides’, ‘Clansman’ and ‘Columba’, to serve the islands from Mull to Lewis but, for reasons best known to itself, omitted to include Islay in the plan and as had always been the case, Islay was ‘left out in the cold’, having to make do with the ageing mail boat, the ‘Lochiel’. Continue reading...
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Exciting news for those travelling to and from Islay by air. Yesterday Loganair announced that starting next year, on the 31st of March 2019, they will operate a direct link between Edinburgh and Islay. This in addition to the current direct link between Glasgow and Islay. It's in fact the first link between Edinburgh and one of the Hebridean islands.
A 34 seat aircraft, likely a Saab 340, will fly up to 7 days weekly from Edinburgh to Islay and back, with a flight time of 45 minutes. The plane is scheduled to leave Edinburgh around noon and leaves Islay Airport around 2pm. This is not a year round link as it only operates from the 31st of March to the 26th of October. At the time of writing a single journey started at around £80.
You can book your Edinburgh to Islay flight on the Logain Air website: www.loganair.co.uk where you can also book flights from Glasgow to Islay.
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This year’s Islay Sessions will take place from 23 to 25 November, with a very varied and exciting line up planned. Kicking off the weekend of events will be Irish fiddler Grainne Brady with an intimate concert in the Port Charlotte Hotel conservatory. Joined by Andrew Waite and Innes White, Grainne will be launching her debut album The Road Across the Hills. The music explores the social themes associated with the mass immigration of the Irish to Scotland, particularly at the start of the 20th century. Taking inspiration from Donegal writer Patrick MacGillâs novel ̃Children of the Dead End, the music acts as a soundtrack to the story.
Playing at the Saturday night concert in Bruichladdich Hall will be Dallahan, Josie Duncan & The Dusk and Brighde Chaimbeul. Dallahan is one of the most thrilling forces in the international folk music scene; heavily rooted in traditional Irish music, but with hugely diverse backgrounds and influences. They call on their mixed Irish, Scottish and Hungarian heritage to create a unique and seamless musical montage, drawing in influences from jazz, funk, pop and classical music.
Josie Duncan is a folk singer from the Outer Hebridean Isle of Lewis. Having been immersed in Glasgow’s fast-moving traditional music scene for the past few years where she studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, her crystal-clear voice is equally at home in Gaelic, Scots or English. Josie was awarded BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Award in 2017 alongside guitarist Pablo Lafuente. Josie Duncan & The Dusk consists of Innes White on guitar, Megan MacDonald on accordion, Brighde Chaimbeul on whistles and Signy Jakobsdottir on percussion playing alongside the talented young singer. Read more....
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Today was one of those perfect days with wall to wall sunshine, blue skies and hardly any wind. It's as if these days occur independently of any season as we've had such days in almost any month of the year and somehow they all feel the same. This weekend was supposed to bring very cold weather with Arctic air and I must admit that it was cold yesterday, but today was a different story. We walked in our t-shirts on the Ardnave beaches and it was heavenly!
The Ardnave walk always has a surprise for us. Today it was the extremely low tide on our way back. Loch Gruinart seemed to have vanished as you can see in one of the eerie looking images below. Another nice surprise was a Seal pup on the rocks at Ardnave Point. This is something which happens more often, these pups seem to be deserted but are usually soon reunited with their mother so it's best to leave them alone. There was lots of wildlife about today varying from hares, a few buzzards, barnacle geese, whooper swans, chough, seals, oystercatchers and a lot of smaller birds. Below are some impressions of today's walk. Isn't it magic? Read more...
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One of the many interesting projects from the Islay Development Initiative is the Islay Pollinator Initiative. It started as a way to protect the pollinators, the biodiversity and the natural environment on Islay and they are currently employing 5 people on this fantastic initiative. The project co-ordinator is Fiona MacGillivray and I'd rather let her introduce this exciting project to you in her recent press release. Here goes:
The Islay Pollinator Initiative is an exciting project to be involved in, the first of its kind, an all-round approach to habitats, pollinators and honeybees on the island. It's a broadly focused project looking at all native pollinators, butterflies, bumblebees and other insects and improving habitats for them, the project also sets out to develop a social enterprise in honeybees and products that can be gained from wax and honey.
The basis of the project is employability to provide training and opportunity to the young people on the island to develop skills in beekeeping, the associated ecology of pollinators, habitat development and the products based around this, developing money generating pathways on the island. Read more.....
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In the pretty conservation village of Port Charlotte, on the shores of Loch Indaal, is a great opportunity for someone who wants to take over and run an already successful restaurant. Yan's Kitchen, which has an excellent reputation, is for sale since a few months. The current owners have decided to sell this lovely place and are looking for a new owner.
With Islay getting busier each year there is a huge potential and it's an ideal start for someone to step in and follow up on the successes the previous owners had. The current restaurant has an average 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor and an average 4.4 rating on Google which is very good.
The beautiful views over Loch Indaal certainly help in providing a lovely lunch or dinner experience on Islay. Yan's Kitchen restaurant is located opposite the Islay Museum and has recently undergone a thorough exterior refurbishing. Their website https://www.yanskitchen.co.uk/ offers information and menus about the current restaurant. The key selling points are: Read more....
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In the last days two American Hunters operating under the name of Larysa Switlyk twitter.com/@LSwitlyk posted photos on Instagram and Twitter showing off the killing of a Feral Goat and Ram on Islay, see below. Many folk were appalled by the images. Although Feral Goats are roaming around the island in many places they are not part of some sort of culling scheme and as far as I know there is no regulated hunt on Goats as there is on the Red Deer population. And besides that, there is a big difference in hunting to regulate animal populations and trophy hunting which, in their case, was for the "fun of it". Apalling indeed!
As so many people included us in their tweets I feel obliged to respond. I myself was appalled by these images as well and I question the legality of this senseless killing of animals which is NOT what Islay is about. On the other hand however, stalking and hunting does take place on estates all over Scotland, also on Islay. That's the way how some estates work and it's a way for them to make money, it also brings millions to the Scottish economy. This type of hunting is taking place within the law. Read more...
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100 years ago, on the 6th of October 1918, the Troopship HMS Otranto sunk off Islay's west coast, merely half a mile from the coast near Machir Bay. In this terrible tragedy almost 400 soldiers lost their lives. Today, on the 6th of October 2018, a Commemoration Service, led by Reverend Valerie Watson, was held at Kilchoman Military Cemetery to honor those who lost their lives, the survivors and the folk on Islay who treated the men with dignity and respect.
The walk up to Kilchoman Military Cemetery
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Robin Smith, a one time resident of Islay, and frequent visitor since, sent me an email a few weeks ago with a link to a very nice video. Robin writes that despite the weather not being the greatest he did manage to fly his drone to take some very nice shots of Bowmore, Gartbreck, Bridgend, Nerabus, Kilchiaran, The Big Strand, Port Charlotte, Kilchoman and last but not lease some great views of the Cultoon Stone Circle. I'm sure you'll enjoy this one.
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