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7 November 2014

Arnish Lighthouse - April 2007

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I have been going round a few of the island's cemeteries in recent times, looking for and photographing tombstones of victims of the Iolaire Disaster in 1919. On my visit to Bragar's cemetery this week, I came across the tombstone for Kenneth MacLeod of Shawbost, an important figure in the Harris Tweed industry. He died in 1949 at the age of 67.

Standing there on a cloudy, windswept day, the news came back to me about ongoing developments in the industry today. And what would he make of it now? Mr Macleod got local weavers to weave tweed for him in the first half of the 20th century.

Late in 2006, Yorkshire industrialist Brian Haggas bought over the remaining Harris Tweed mills in Lewis, of which the largest stands in Stornoway. Shortly beforehand, the closure of the mill in North Shawbost was announced, with the loss of about 30 jobs. Last week, plans were announced to shrink the range of tweeds to 5, although not directly in such words. The announcement was to the effect that single-width weavers would be laid off. Not many of them left, but it was seen as a sign on the wall. Some 20 years ago, there were hundreds if not thousands of different tweeds in circulation. It was a top of the range product. Fears are now being expressed that this prestige will be lost.

It sounds as if Harris Tweed is heading for its own graveyard in history.

On a related note, I came across streets of derelict business premises in the Newton area of Stornoway. This used to be the centre of the Harris Tweed industry in years gone by, but is now broadly in disuse. A line in the recent Budget caught my attention, as the tax on disused business premises was due to be increased, or words to that effect.

I am surprised that the non-residential side of Newton is allowed to fall into ruin like it is at the moment. I hope that following the local council elections on May 3rd someone will have the foresight to come up with a plan for a major revamp of the area. Yes, I am aware that a number of businesses are thriving there.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 22:36

Tourist Information - bustour West Side of Lewis

A timetable for touring the West Side of Lewis by bus is now available on the Web. Click this link. It is a private collation of information, freely accessible by anyone with an Internet connection. It enables visitors to visit up to five of the main sites on the West Side of Lewis in one day. Admittedly a bit of a rush job, but a bargain at £6 for the busfare and a maximum of £7 in total admission charges. You can even do it without paying any fees.

Just a nudge to the bus company involved: how about a dedicated all-day tour?
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 23:47

Lochs revisited

Went down to Crossbost on Thursday of last week, for more business related to the Iolaire Disaster. After locating the gravestones for 14 victims in no time at all (look in the lower cemetery, closest to the shore), I went for an amble through Crossbost and Ranish, the next village, for an hour or so. Can't say I was raving about the weather, but then it's April. Just want to share a few pics.

North Lochs War Memorial, Iolaire section

Sheep on croft, Crossbost

Road to Ranish - muirburn has blackened the hill on the left

Boats on the shore of Loch Grimshader

Loch Grimshader from Ranish
Ranish Temple - not signposted from the road
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 00:11


I'm not given to make party-political statements on this blog. Just a couple of observations. And to make my stance on politicians-at-election-time perfectly clear: their promises are worth about as much as a tomcat's promises of everlasting fielty in March or October.

In the villages and in Stornoway, the placards have climbed up the various poles. It makes a colourful sight. The Labour Party have taken over the old shop, called D.D. Morrison & co, on Cromwell Street. As their candidate is called Morrison, they have craftily removed the "D.D." and the "& co" from the shopfront. Whether they are just as crafty as wheedling their way out of the windfarm mire remains to be seen.

The SNP have enough trouble to keep them going for a little while. Having their party's leader pictured in the West Highland Free Press, looking gloomy, in front of the Labour party's campaign headquarters is a wee bit unfortunate.

I've seen placards for the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, but am yet to discern any of their activists in the streets. Maybe later on in this riveting campaign. The Scottish Christian Party's candidate merrily cycles around town, scattering leaflets in his wake.

Local council elections are run concurrently with the Scottish Parliamentary elections, on May 3rd. The Western Isles' council wards have been thrown onto 9 new ones, with 3 or 4 councillors to be elected for each ward. What the geographical sense is in lumping North Lochs with Uig is beyond me.

As I indicated at the start of this post, I haven't got much time for party-politics or politicians, and this election-campaign wearies me no end.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 19:23

Erisort Bridge

Learned today that an engineering study has been commissioned for a crossing of Loch Erisort in the Lochs area of Lewis, some 12 miles south of Stornoway. Loch Erisort is home to a number of fish farms. In order to facilitate the passage of salmon and boats, a causeway with bridge is being considered.

The crossing would cut 10 miles off the journey from Stornoway to South Lochs. Two locations are being considered, both starting from the village of Laxay. One would go from the Bhaltos area, to the east of Laxay to Habost in South Lochs. The length of this crossing is 800 metres / ½ mile; the second location would cross from Ravenspoint in Kershader to the Keose side of Laxay, which is 500 metres / ¼ mile. If the Eishken windfarm is granted planning permission by the Scottish Executive, rock, quarried from Eishken would be used in the construction of the crossing.

The engineering study is being paid for by the Eishken Estate. Below map shows the locations for the proposed crossing.

I am glad that this transport link is now moving a step closer to becoming reality. I have previously made my opposition to the windfarms in Lewis clear, and am feeling quite ambiguous about the windfarm in Eishken providing the necessary for this crossing. However, the decision is not yet final.

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 17:27

Ten days to go...

And we're having elections for the Scottish Parliament and the local council. Other blogs have waxed lyrical about the new wards in the Western Isles. Particularly in Lewis & Harris - remember, it's ONE island landmass - where various disparate communities are lumped together for no reason other than a line on a map.

Harris, for instance, is under the same umbrella as South Lochs. Now, I am aware that the two aren't a million miles apart - only the width of Loch Seaforth. BUT. The habitable parts of South Lochs are a good 25 miles by road from Tarbert.

Which handsomely leads me on to disparity 2: North Lochs and Uig. These two communities couldn't be more different. Like them both very much, but again, they are up to 35 miles apart, and separated by a largish body of water called Loch Langabhat and the most inhospitable terrain that Lewis can offer. I've walked from the Uig road to Balallan (yes, that's Lochs), and it's rough going.

Mind you, it could be worse. If you link Harris to Uig, you're really making the laughing stock of yourself. The communities of Brenish (Uig) and Huisinis (Harris) are 7 miles apart by sea. The distance by road is a mere 78 miles.

Still on the subject of Lochs, I noticed the other day that the third turbine is finally going up along the Grimshader road - they brought in a new one the other day, to replace the turbine that is now providing a wildlife habitat at the bottom of the North Sea. It went overboard from the ship, bringing the machine back from Denmark last October.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 23:47

A corner of Ness

Visited the old cemetery in the machair behind Suainebost on Friday, before walking up the coast to Eoropaidh. Just thought I'd share some of the images.

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 23:49

Over the sea to Eilean a'Cheo

Well, that's going to lead to a flurry of new roadsigns around Tarbert, when we all throng to join the ferry to Eilean a'Cheo - no longer Isle of Skye. The name change was announced today, and led to a flurry of concerned residents, worried about ditching an iconic name. Now, I'm a Lewis-based blogger, so cannot comment all that much.

I wouldn't worry, is all I'll say to people in t-Eilean Sgitheanach. We in the Western Isles had a paintjob on the official name a number of years ago, and our MP and MSP now represent Na h-Eileanan Siar. Everybody else still talks about the Western Isles, or more often about the individual islands by their names.

Anyway, the Storr and Trotternish mountains peeped clearly over the Arnish hills this morning, so Skye wasn't very misty at all today.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 19:18

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