Remembrance Sunday 2006
Posted: Thursday, 09 November 2006
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, and in Stornoway there will be three services in separate churches. Each church accommodates different sections of veterans and services. All church services commence at 10.50 am, and participants should assemble at 10.45.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands & Islands Fire Brigade - St Columba's Church, Lewis Street
Royal Navy, Army - Stornoway High Church, Matheson Road
Lord Lieutenant, Royal British Legion, RAF Association, Air Training Corps, Merchant Navy, British Nuclear Testing Veterans Association - Martin's Memorial Church, Francis Street
A separate parade will be held at 10.30 from the Royal British Legion, with participants requested to be present at 10.15. The parade will conclude outside the County Hotel in Francis Street.
A wreath-laying service is to be held at the Lewis War Memorial at 12.30pm, and transport there will be arranged to start from the Royal British Legion at 12.15.
All medals should be worn at all occasions mentioned above.
Traffic calming measures
Posted: Thursday, 09 November 2006
Misgivings have already been aired against this proposal, because Matheson Road is used as a convenient shortcut to by-pass Stornoway town centre. It would lead to congestion at the roundabout which is the junction with James Street and Sandwick Road. Those wishing to circumvent the town centre could of course also use Moss End, Anderson Road and Perceval Road South.
Posted: Monday, 13 November 2006
Another story that caught my eye over the weekend was the seal that wanted to catch a flight at Benbecula. The runway at Balivanich Aerodrome is located directly adjacent to the briny main, and the seal had decided to haul out onto the runway, to have a bask in the November sun. A plane was due in, and the tower advised the pilot to prepare for circling while the seal was removed.
And of course, the weather has turned nasty. Gale after gale, hail over the weekend. I am sorry for the two crewmen who lost their lives in the Pentland Firth when their 42,000 ton tanker encountered a huge wave. The vessel returned to Scapa Flow (a recognised anchorage for oil tankers, with an oil terminal at Flotta). The Stornoway Coastguard Helicopter went out to assist, as did the Longhope [Hoy, Orkney] lifeboat. The helicopter pilot said he had never seen a lifeboat fly before.
Making the best of the weather
Posted: Monday, 20 November 2006
Just wanted to share some of the pictures I took at Battery Point on Sunday.
Posted: Thursday, 23 November 2006
There are plans afoot to withdraw funding, worth £150 million, from outlying post offices by 2008. This would mean that rural post offices, in such places as Gravir and Kershader in Lochs, Garrabost in Point and Ness would be closed.
BBC Alba's excellent Eorpa program featured a lengthy report on the issue on Thursday night. The post mistress in Garrabost explained that the PO is not just for selling stamps, it is also a focal point for the local community. A fair chunk of PO business has been overtaken by modern technology; you can apply for a car tax-disk on-line these days, and more than 3 million Britons took that opportunity over the last year.
If PO's like the ones mentioned were to close, customers would have to travel to Stornoway, in the case of Lewis, to do their postal business. This means a 30 mile journey one-way in places like Ness, Uig and South Lochs. Many customers in the out-lying districts are quite elderly, and bus services are so scarce (in places like Lochs and Uig) that your entire day will be eaten up simply for a stamp or going for your pension.
A petition was handed in to Downing Street earlier this autumn, containing 4 million signatures, to plead with Prime Minister Tony Blair to rethink his proposals. The Garrabost post mistress was amongst those handing in the petition. The answer was a blunt NO.
It is now important, more than ever, to make the most of your post office, whether it be in Stornoway or in any outlying village. Do whatever you can there. Once it's gone, it'll be too late.
Posted: Friday, 24 November 2006
Although Rocket Post was ready for release in 2003, it has taken another three years to find a distributor for the UK. The film will now be shown in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with screenings in An Lanntair during the week of December 14th.
During the 1930s, German scientist Gerhard Zucher came to the island of Scarp, west of Harris, to try out a novel technology for transporting mail between islands. After several test launches, the day came for him to pack his rocket with hundreds of pieces of mail. Unfortunately, his rocket exploded on the launch pad and the mail was scattered far and wide across Scarp. The island's postmaster retrieved a large number of scorched letters and posted them off by conventional means.
The film is loosely based on this story, with a certain amount of romance, antagonism with islanders against new technology and Germans coming to the island to retrieve their agent.
The film was also screened in Australia around Christmas 2005. It is worth seeing, and a great promotion for the Hebrides; the stunning landscapes do most of the talking.
NHS Western Isles
Posted: Friday, 24 November 2006
Apart from the Medical Directors, staff at the Health Board had passed a motion of no confidence in the Chief Executive and the Chairman of the Board on March 6th. The entire threesome has now left the NHS here. Health Minister Andy Kerr has put an emergency management team in place, which is sorting things out.
One of the remaining problems in the Health Service in these islands is a towering deficit of about £2 million. The Board asked staff to look for savings wherever they can, but I think not having a wagebill for 2 high ranking officials will help. Apparently, the shortfall was caused primarily by locum costs. Locum consultants are quite dear, but unfortunately, the Western Isles are not regarded as a position which is greatly conducive for advancing your medical career.
Posted: Thursday, 30 November 2006
On the whole, it's been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, although nothing is perfect. But the Fank Experience with Calumannabel, Niseach worthy, in April this year was unforgettable. I don't know if it was that event that prompted local bus company Galson Motors to acquire some decent rolling stock from Harris Coaches. Either that, or the exhaust pipe that parted company with a bus on Castle Street in Stornoway.
Harris Coaches, a Tarbert (Harris) based bus company, went under in 2006 after losing the lucrative contract to run the Leverburgh - Tarbert - Stornoway run to Stornoway rivals Hebridean Transport. Harris Coaches were reduced to doing school runs in Harris and charters for cruiseliners.
I am allegedly pleased with the outcome of the long-running Health Board saga.
I am not pleased with the windfarm saga. I notice that next Thursday at 8pm, the BBC2's Coast program is going to flag that up as an opportunity for economic regeneration. I have argued before that this is a false dawn, as the number of employees (if the scheme does come to fruition) will be quite limited. The Arnish Yard is closed following the liquidation of parent company Camcal - their demise forced the Stornoway Pier & Harbour Commission to write off a few thousand pounds over harbour dues that were never paid in 2003.
To my mind (and this is purely my own personal opinion), the 19 councillors who expressed an interest in a £10k to £20k severance payment must have had some prompting following their support for the impopular proposed windfarm. There were some memorable rows in community council rooms across Lewis, after councillors voted not in accordance with public opinion.
Well, here is to year 2 for Island Blogging (Western Isles), and I am actually pleased to see a Harris Blogger (come on Na Hearadh) and several other Lewis based ones.