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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse - July 2006

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On Saturday afternoon, the sound of the increasing wind was drowned out by helicopter noise. The Coastguard helicopter Hotel Lima was hovering low over the Newton Basin. Below it lay a boat which had turned over. It is (as yet) not clear what caused the yacht to topple. At the time, there was a blustery wind force 5 from the south. We often hear of helicopter rescues hundreds of miles from land. This one was yards from land. Fortunately, the yachtsman appeared to be unhurt, though shaken.

The Stornoway lifeboat "Tom Sandersen" had to come out to recover the wreck of the boat, which was drifting out of the Newton Basin under the influence of the falling tide and the wind. The boat was put ashore on Goat Island and looked over by the lifeboat crew.
Helicopter over Newton Basin. The overturned boat can be seen to its right.

No further news has come through about the exact circumstances of this incident, which took place under the nose of the Coastguards in the Coastguard Station, which stands at the end of Newton Basin.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 16:32

Pollution at Stornoway

At the end of May, a vessel could be seen hovering around Stornoway Harbour, removing rubbish from the seabed. Stornoway Port Authority published the results of this clear-up today (4 July), announcing that 23 skips of discarded waste had been removed from the seabed in Stornoway Harbour. This waste consisted of trawler warps and other paraphernalia of the fishing trade. This comes 3 years after the harbour was last dredged, at a cost of £50,000. This year's operation cost £20,000.

The Port Authority told BBC On-line that it was deeply concerned about the very high levels of so-called polycyclic aromatic carbons, chemicals closely associated with oil. It is suspected that vessels pump their contaminated bilge water overboard, which is illegal. The levels of pollution found in silt from Stornoway Harbour have been found to be so high, that it may even be refused a license to dredge silt and sediment from the harbour.

Shoreline rubbish collections, which started in February, have yielded 250 bags of waste from the Inner Harbour, with 65 sacks being filled in the first week alone. Stornoway Port Authority is seeking urgent meetings with representatives of the fishermen to find a solution to these problems.

It should be pointed out that it is illegal to dump anything at sea. This applies to those who work at sea as well as to passengers on board ferries. Do not throw anything overboard, but collect it and hand it in at the first port of call.

On a related point, a reminder to vessels visiting UK ports (such as Stornoway) from an overseas port that it is ILLEGAL to bring animals ashore (such as dogs, cats etc.), under rabies prevention legislation.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 18:43

Machair in bloom

It's July and the machair blooms again. I blogged about this in the early days of Island Blogging, showing two pictures taken in late July 2005. Went to Ness this morning and found flowers stretching as far as the eye could see on the Eoropie machair.

The machair is a unique habitat found in the Western Isles. It is created by sand, which includes ground-up shells, blown onto peatland. The calciumcarbonate in the shells neutralises the acid in the peaty soil, leaving a very fertile environment. At Eoropie, a small river courses through this environment, and it boosts the flowers.

One other comment I need to make (I cannot leave comments on the Island Blogging blogs, yon error message keeps coming up - Graham, any further news?) is that I'm a bit disappointed at the state in which the Dell Fank has been left following the Dating Extravaganza. Just LOOK at it

Dell Fank
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 23:53

Machair in bloom - 2

Following comments on the first post, I've decided to put a few pictures on which show the flowers in more detail.

Sorry about the angle

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 17:56

Paper scrap

The regional press in the islands this week is full of a vitriolic exchange of letters between a high-ranking official of NHS Western Isles and a councillor of Comhairle nan Eilean (a board member) as well as the MSP for the Western Isles.

It is a deplorable sight to see the discussion of problems, besetting the health service in these islands splattered over the letters columns in two newspapers.
It only demonstrates that even communication within the NHS Western Isles Board itself has broken down. It has even gone this far, that the councillor who sits on the Health Board has demanded an apology from the Board chairman for stating that the councillor had tried to raise issues in an open board meeting "for personal and private gain".

Part of the exchange centered on the provision of medical cover to the Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway. The Health Board states it is unable to afford the three palliative care consultants it claims are needed to keep the hospice running, as required under new Scottish Executive guidelines. Yes, of course these were drawn up with densely populated areas in mind. But it would appear that the Board's Medical Director has forgotten about the existence of a Professor in Remote and Rural Medicine within its own organisation. He is uniquely equipped to work out a method that will allow this very small hospice (only 4 beds) to continue to operate in this remote area whilst compliant with the Scottish Executive guidelines. It would be a disgrace if it were forced to close and people in the last stages of life would have to leave the islands for the mainland.

The new press officer for the Western Isles NHS Board will be a Daily Mail columnist who was reportedly sacked from the Glasgow Herald newspaper, after stating that the infamous murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in the town of Soham (Cambridgeshire, England) a number of years ago would not have occurred if their parents had "kept the Lord's Day". Said columnist is the son of a Free Presbyterian minister who keeps a column in the West Highland Free Press, a Skye-based weekly newspaper, which is one of the Health Board's most bitter critics.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 18:06

Great Bernera

Over the weekend, I visited the island of Great Bernera, which is situated about 22 miles west of Stornoway, just off the west coast of Lewis. Apart from image 1, which shows a small beach at Tobson, all pictures were taken around Bosta at the far northern end of Bernera. I have previously blogged about the Iron Age House there.

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 15:41

Arnish Fabrication Yard

There are days that you get up - and wish you had stayed in bed. This is one of them.

Within the last hour, the BBC Ticker coughed up the announcement that the Arnish Fabrication Yard is in financial difficulties. Its owner, Camcal, has initiated talks with its shareholders and investors as to its financial future.

Just for reference, the Arnish Yard is the place that fabricates elements for renewable energy projects. Earlier this year, segments for a Portuguese wave energy project were produced there. Towers for a wind energy project on the Beatrice platform in the Moray Firth (near Inverness) have recently been produced here. Following the completion of this project, a number of Polish workers were laid off; 90 people remain employed there.

Until September, the yard will be working on towers for windfarms in Holland and Germany as well as a small project here in Lewis.

The Operations Manager at the yard told BBC Online that it was quite ironic for the plant to be in difficulty whilst renewable energy is flavour of the moment.

It should be noted that this is about par for the course for the Arnish yard. Following its closure as an oil fabrication yard, it was taken over and asset stripped. It has opened and closed for short term contracts on a regular basis, and local workers are reluctant to fill vacancies there as they arise, as there is no guarantee for a long-term contract. This is the reason for Polish workers having to be drafted in to fill the gaps. Those that did not apply late last year for the 100 vacancies probably feel vindicated in their decision.

Although the Arnish Yard and the Lewis Windfarms have been mooted as the panacea for the Western Isles financial and economic woes, current developments are hardly encouraging for sustaining that view. A decision from the Scottish Executive is not far off regarding the North Lewis windfarm and the Eishken Windfarm. Should the go-ahead for the windfarms be given, and Arnish not there, I think Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are severely out of reckoning, as they were banking on about 400 jobs to be generated by the project, many of them over at Arnish.

An announcement is expected by the end of the week.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 12:03

Tong Games

Last Saturday, 15 July, saw the Tong Games in full swing. And it was better than ever. Just a little rundown of events:

highland dancing
one man and his dog plus a few sheep
hit the coconut with up to 3 balls
various drinkstands as well as a beertent
3 bouncey castles
several pipers + competition
a brass band
helicopter flypast plus stunts
Spitfire flypast (one of them is called Lewis and Harris)
BBC Sports Relief "Run a mile"

Heavy events
tossing the caber (a long pole of wood)
lifting 100kg heavy spheres of rock
tossing a bale of hay up to 20 ft high
flipping tractor wheels (the hind ones)
pulling said tractor wheels

It was very well attended, there was a free bus service from nearby Stornoway and everything appears to have passed off without a hitch. Apologies if I inadvertently omitted your event. A little gallery of pictures of the day:

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 12:14

Western Farce

NHS Western Isles, if it wasn't so serious it would be laughable. Employing a private detective to find out who is leaking documents to the outside world.
Accusing the Vice Convener of the local council of acting against the Health Board (as Board Member) for his own personal or political gain.
Accusing the MSP of misquoting (where did I hear that before?)
Not allowing criticism, and stifling dissent with threats and intimidation.
Appointing a press officer with the views I quoted in my previous post on this issue

Sounds pretty dire altogether. I have never heard of a public service organisation so at loggerheads with everybody they are supposed to work with. This really cannot continue. MSP Alasdair Morrison has written to the Health Minister, asking him to intervene. Will he? I hope for goodness' sakes he will.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 17:20

Royal Visit

As part of the celebrations for her 80th birthday, HM Queen Elizabeth II is expected to visit Stornoway on July 29th. She is due to arrive on board the cruiseliner Hebridean Princess, escorted by HMS Argyll, a state of the art Royal Navy ship with all the latest equipment and defensive materials.

The official celebrations took place in June, at the time that Her Majesty ordinarily celebrates her birthday. Queen Elizabeth was born on 21st April 1926, but because the weather is usually better in mid-June than late April, the celebrations are fixed for the second Saturday in June.

The Hebridean Princess, the converted Caledonian MacBrayne ferry Columba, is a regular visitor to the port. Local rumour has it that she skipped her last scheduled call, on June 20th, because the weather was quite bad at the time. The Princess can carry up to 49 passengers on cruises around the West of Scotland, has a library and charges up to £7,500 for a cruise.

Hebridean Princess (L) in Stornoway in June 06
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 16:11


Well, summer WAS here for a number of days. Balmy breezes wafted a very pleasant 25C / 77F wind over from an overheated mainland. I don't want 30C up here, thank you. I found 25C quite warm enough.

People I encountered visiting the island spent their days lounging on beaches, all unique because there was nobody else on them. Fancy that, going to a beach in England and not having anybody else on it.

It's now Monday and the weather is suitably dreich. The cruise passengers trooping ashore from the liner Deutschland, hiding behind Arnish, are treated to the traditional Hebridean weather. Drizzle and cool winds. The Royal visitor is on her way round the Hebrides, and I trust the supplier of the well-known paper bags has been busy by Royal Appointment. You never know how rough the seas get.

Come Saturday, I'll be on the look-out for the Hebridean Princess and her trail of diesel and frying fat. I happen to know where the Royal Barbeque might be held, but I suppose they'll have to bang a few guns first to get the meat to put on the BBQ. Nonetheless, the area concerned is densely populated by the very creatures that might end up on HM BBQ, so I do not foresee provisioning problems.

Maybe Her Majesty could prevail upon her Scottish Ministers to finally put an end to the exercise in narcism being perpetrated at the local Health Board.
Maybe Her Majesty could be shown the plans for the windmills which just about may go up in her favourite district in Lewis. Don't think she'll want to have a BBQ there after that, unless it contains Windpylon Tower a la Eishkenaise.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:53

Buses and Boats

I am going to have a scoff at our estimable ferry operators: Caledonian MacBrayne. It's a long time since I inhaled the fragrance of diesel exhaust fumes, or listened enraptured to the clink of fork against plateful of bacon butty.

In recent times, CalMac were presented with a petition for a late Saturday ferry. This would be convenient for those attending football matches in Inverness or folk going shopping there. The answer was no. There would be no connecting buses on either side of the journey on a Saturday and people would have to wait at Ullapool for 4 hours. That's not accurate.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, there is a very late ferry, departing Ullapool at 22.00 and arriving here in Stornoway at 00.45. Now, i agree that at a quarter to one in the morning, you can't expect the local bus operators to lay buses on to all parts of Lewis. But on Saturdays, there are buses to all corners at 11pm. So, why can't there be a ferry at 8pm (tweak the preceding departures a bit) from Ullapool, arriving here at 10.45, in great time for the buses out of SY?
I mean, on Wednesdays and Fridays, Citylink buses go to Ullapool to arrive there at 9.10pm, so I'm sure they could lay something on to arrive at 7pm??

Come off it, Calmac - people pay good money by necessity to go on your boats, so talk to Citylink, tweak your timetables and get it in order. Thanks.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 15:02


Part of the problem with NHS Western Isles is the alleged culture of bullying. I am not going to pepper the rest of my post with the word "alleged".

It is therefore important to highlight the report on bullying within the nursing profession that is featured on BBC Scotland today, see this article. First of all, those within NHS WI who feel that they are subjected to bullying can rest assured that they are not the only ones. I would invite people to leave comments on the webpage, as depersonalised as possible if they so wish.

Second, as in any workplace, bullying affects quality of work. Within the health service this can obviously have the direst of consequences and could in the worst possible instance cost lives. It is therefore important to expose this problem and root it out.

As for the specifics of the bullying problem within NHS Western Isles, I would like to refer to the various posts I have dedicated to the subject.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:29

Saturday 29 July

Busy day today. The schooner Thor Heyerdahl, a German registered three-masted sailing ship, departed Stornoway just before midday on the high tide. She made a magnificent sight sailing down the harbour, before turning east.

Within half an hour, the cruiseliner Hebridean Princess came into port, carrying the Royal Family. A large crowd gathered at the ferry terminal, where the Hebridean Princess docked, to wave and cheer at Her Majesty the Queen. Unfortunately, I was not there for the disembarkation, as I had an agricultural show to go to.

The Point Show took place at Aird School, near the northeastern tip of the Eye Peninsula (An Rudha). It was an extensive affair, taking full advantage of the primary school building. Displays and entries of bakery, crafts, photography, produce as well as cattle and sheep could be admired. A barbeque churned out endless supplies of burgers, a fancy-dress competition took place, and it wasn't until 4 o'clock that the rain started. By which time the show had already started to wind down. Although there was a free bus, my timings fell outside its timetable, but I'm not complaining about £2.20 for a return trip over about 10 miles.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:39

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