Colonsay Mobile Phone Outage
"Yet again Mobile operators treat rural and remote areas with contempt" says Russell
Commenting on Vodafone's failure to restore a mobile phone signal to Colonsay - which has been without coverage since March 23rd - the MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell who has been campaigning for major improvements in mobile phone service in his constituency said:
"Yet again one of the major mobile operators has treated citizens in Argyll & Bute with contempt and is caught out making feeble excuses for their failure. And yet again lives are being put at risk by the failure of the company to honour its commitments."
"This is far from being an unusual event. On December 8th the O2 mast on Tiree was put out of operation by gale force winds , and it took that company no less than five weeks to restore coverage. Then on January 3rd, as a result of a major storm, some 80% of Vodafone Cells and over 50% of O2 ones went off air because of power failures. Yet after the power was restored - within hours in some places like Oban - the companies trailed well behind and failed to bring their equipment back on line for ,in some cases, several days.
Mobile coverage in the Argyll & Bute constituency is nothing short of a disgrace. But lack of service is not just an inconvenience. I have spoken to several doctors who are aware of injuries being made worse, and even deaths occurring , because of mobile phone signal failure or poor coverage, with victims of accidents being unable to contact the emergency services. Certainly the inadequate response of the mobile providers led to complications in communication for those trying to restore power supplies in Argyll in January , and delays in their work.
Mobile phone subscribers in Argyll & Bute pay the same bills as every other customer, yet what they receive is very much poorer than is provided elsewhere. I have been arguing that there should be no 4G licences awarded until all of Scotland has 3G coverage , not least because no part of Argyll & Bute has such coverage except for a small spill over signal on the Clyde shore. I hope that demand will be taken up by others as it seems that all the mobile companies are interested in is profit.
This incident on Colonsay has been very difficult for Vodafone customers on the island. I hope it will get wide coverage so that Vodafone and the other companies are forced to realise that they have to improve their service as a matter of urgency. "
1. Hi Scott, Blimey the April Corncrake is a whopper! We spotted that our ceilidh is listed as starting at 7pm when we are starting at 8pm – is it possible to correct that? No problem if its not – I know the corncrake is not always a smooth process computing-wise! Cheers Kenny
2. As many of you already know Mike and Liz have retired from the shop which has been taken over by Keir Johnston, Mike's right hand man and emerging Gaelic speaker. Mike and Liz would like to thank all their customers, both islanders and visitors, for their entertainment and for their commitment to the shop over the years. They would also like to wish Keir the very best of luck in his new venture. The good news is that Daniel O'Donnell has been replaced with Elvis !
N.B. There is also new material under Late Arrivals and Letters sections!
Reserved for late news ousted by even later! The editor is Scott Weatherstone
Colonsay Festival of Spring 2012
Loads of Spring Things going on for 3 weeks - 28th April to 18th May 2012
Walks, Talks, Birds, Plants, History, Bread baking, foraging, stained glass, Art, knitting, photography and lots , lots more.
for a look at the timetable go to www.colonsayevents.co.uk .
Accommodation is still available, including B&Bs, the Hotel and smaller cottages, ~ many offering short breaks and special prices for the Festival!
look at www.colonsay.org.uk and click on the front page link to see available accommodation.
The 2011 Festival was great, come & experience even more in 2012!
THE ISLAND DREAM
Many islanders will recall the presentation entitled “An Eye on the Hebrides” which we enjoyed seeing in June 2009. That show was made and produced by Ruari Cumming ARPS, a professional photographer. Ruari is back on Colonsay during May, his fifteenth visit to the island (he must like it here!), to run photographic workshops for our “Festival of Spring”.
He will also be showing the second presentation in his Hebridean Trilogy in the Village Hall on both 5 th and 12 th May. This one is called “The Island Dream” and was photographed on Colonsay during his 3 week visit in 2009. It is an evening of audio visual sequences, many of which portray some islanders as they go about their daily lives.
Apparently it has had some wonderful reviews from photographic clubs in the south, a few of whom have said….
“...Your skilled artistic photographic eye brought us sequences, perfectly balanced, of countryside, nature and social documentary. The scenes we felt we were there on the island with you, just brilliant” - Bracknell Camera Club
“...It was a really outstanding presentation and we were so impressed by the way you combine expert professionalism with easy informality” - Princes Risborough Camera Club
“...Ruari very cleverly chose music to fit in perfectly with each sequence, interspersed by his lively & poetic narration to make this a highly professional presentation & a most memorable evening for all. His photography must rank amongst the best” - Whitchurch Hill Camera Club
So if you are on the island on 5th or 12th May, try and get along to see it. Tickets are available on the door or in advance from “Festival of Spring” at l firstname.lastname@example.org
COLONSAY BOOK FESTIVAL, 27TH – 29TH APRIL 2012
Not long to go! There's a keen sense of anticipation about this new event for the island. Several residents and friends on the mainland have been making preparations for weeks, aided by the Local Development Workers.
Full details can be found at the Festival's excellent website: www.spanglefish.com/ ColonsayBookFestival
In anticipation of the event, the Corncrake has managed to conduct exclusive interviews with some of the authors who will be appearing at the festival. At the time of publication, we hadn't yet got word back from Liz Lochhead or Alexender McColl Smith; when their contributions come in, we'll add them to the Corncrake, under “Breaking News”.
So, in order to whet your appetite further for the word-feast……
“I came to Colonsay in 1965 with a friend and her family, who were regular summer visitors. Lorna and I brought our bikes and cycled all over the island, but never made it to Oransay because of the tides. I really hope to get to Oransay this time. I've always wanted to come back, and the holiday inspired me to visit many other islands, but, as it happens, not Colonsay itself again until now. I think the Colonsay Book Festival is a great idea, especially as I'm one of the lucky authors to be coming to the inaugural event. I'll be reading and talking about my most recent novel, “The Gathering Night”, which is set in Argyll 8,000 years ago. There is a Colonsay connection, although the novel is not set on Colonsay at all, because when I was researching the book I read the dig reports on the Oransay middens, and also about the Mesolithic hazel groves on Colonsay - all relevant to the novel. I believe my other books will also be for sale through the bookshop. Last year I was at the Islay and the Shetland Book Festivals and at Lismore the year before. I much prefer small festivals in the Highlands and Islands to the really big events like Edinburgh and Toronto. One has much more chance to meet the people who come along, and spend time with the other authors. It's more relaxed, and, of course, in an ideal setting. When I'm on Colonsay, I want to visit many of the places I went to in 1965, and I am very keen to get to Oransay as I've read so much about it. I'm looking forward to the festival!”.
“I came to Colonsay as a boy and have written poems about the island. I've also been over twice to work in Kilchattan Primary School. I think it's splendid that the Colonsay Book Festival is happening. It was a sheer delight to be invited to take part; it's my hope that the festival will go from strength to strength. I'll be doing some readings from old and new work of mine. In particular, I hope to read from a new volume of work appearing very soon from Polygon/Birlinn. It's a sequence of poems telling the story of the papar-Celtic Christian hermits who most likely travelled from Iona to Iceland in the 6 th Century. Much of my poetry is concerned with the Hebrides; my volume of selected work is entitled “Island”, so that says a good deal! I've previously taken part in the Islay Book Festival and in Faclan in the Outer Isles. I'm most certainly looking to the festival and to making a pilgrimage to Kiloran Bay!”
“I first came to Colonsay on holiday as a child, staying near Kiloran Bay. There followed an interlude of twenty years before I came back a few years ago to write a travel piece about the island for The Guardian newspaper: www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/oct/04/scotland.shortbreaks .
The Book Festival is a great idea. You have such a beautiful island; anything that helps attract more visitors to it outside of the usual holiday season is bound to do well. I'm particularly looking forward to taking part in a Book Festival on such an intimate scale. I'll be reading from my novels and poetry, accompanied by projections from one of my recent photographic projects on North Atlantic Landscapes. For this, I photographed in locations on the Lofoten Islands, the Faroes, Colonsay itself, and Sutherland and Caithness. Some of my photography is online at www.cooke.carbonmade.com . Maybe I'll do a little more photography on this trip to Colonsay too. My most recent book is 'Under The Mountain', published by Random House. There'll be copies available to buy at the Book Festival. I've also just started up the Skriva Writing School in Edinburgh, where we're running 6-week courses in Novel Writing, Short Story Writing, Poetry, and Screenwriting. There's more information about Skriva at: www.skrivawriting.com . In case you're wondering, 'skriva' is 'to write' in Faroese, Swedish, Breton, and Old Frisian. I am HUGELY looking forward to the festival. Colonsay is one of my favourite places in the world, and I'm delighted to be coming back to take part in such a nice event - with such good company! I came to the Colonsay Folk Music Festival when I was writing the piece for The Guardian. And I've been to HebCeltFest on Lewis. But this is definitely my first Hebridean book festival. I'm hoping for good weather so I can swim. I'd also really like to walk out to Riasg Buidhe, as it's a place I've not visited before. Walking anywhere will keep me happy”.
“I've never been to Colonsay before and am really looking forward to my first visit. It looks like being an entertaining and stimulating weekend, both for the authors and, I hope, those who attend the different events. I'll be reading from and talking about my fiction for adults, my poetry and perhaps also, if there's time, my books for children in the Scots language. My most recent novel, And the Land Lay Still, is a kind of panorama of the last 60 years of Scottish political and social life, and I'll be reading from and talking about it. I'm very much looking forward to the festival; I enjoy the informality of meeting and chatting with readers. I've attended book festivals all over Scotland, including in Shetland and at Ullapool, but this is the first Hebridean one for me! I hope to have time to do some walking, and I believe a visit to Kiloran Bay is a must!
GEORGINA HOBHOUSE'S COLUMN: BOOKS AND WORK OPPORTUNITY.
A CHILDREN'S CLASSIC
What could be better than a series of absolutely delightful picture books, showcasing some of the great cities, states and countries of the world? Paris, Venice, Texas, New York, Hong Kong, London, Australia, Ireland – the list is endless. What makes the whole thing particularly enchanting is that these books were originally designed for children! Make no mistake, adults everywhere are going to be buying these, ostensibly for children and then enjoying them too much to want to hand them over.
Mirooslav Sasek was born in Prague during the First World War and this series was originally published in the '60s. Now we have another chance.
The one for Corncrake readers is surely the one centred on Edinburgh. This manages to dwell on all things Scottish; kilts, bagpipes and whisky, are but a few of them, and then, the book explores the city itself and we see many familiar landmarks from the Castle and Princes Street to the Usher Hall and the famous buses. The age of the cars is really the only thing with which to date the pictures and this only adds to their charm. I will be unable to resist ordering some for myself, which at £10.99 each for a large format hardback, is a snip. .....so let me know if you too are interested.
More can be discovered about Mirooslav Sasek by going to www.miroslav sasek .com
On the subject of Colonsay Bookshop , this seems a good moment to let everyone know that we will be having a stall in the Village Hall during the Book Festival for which we are proud sponsors. We will endeavour to stock there a reasonably complete assortment of books by all of our visiting authors, including Maggie Fergusson. This will give both locals and visitors an opportunity to get volumes signed by the authors.
Obviously we will concentrate on the most recent works, but some older books are going to be irresistible as well. Sandy McCall Smith is very prolific, with his ‘Precious', Scotland Street, Corduroy Mansions and other series; Kenneth Steven also takes in a number of genres – children's, short stories and poetry, with a particular slant towards West Coast traditions and Iona; Liz Lochhead will be represented by, among other things, her own recent collection of poems, ‘A Choosing', her plays and by books showing her skills in introducing works by others. I could carry on... but, suffice to say that the Bookshop is now in almost daily contact with publishers, publicists and other suppliers, to arrange an attractive selection for that last weekend in April.
In addition to all this, I am actively seeking someone, or even a small family, to come here, look after me and share my wonderful view for a period during the end of July and early August. Mary is going away then, to ‘Dog Sit' in Thailand, so I can guarantee the self-contained accommodation as dog friendly! Someone with some ‘caring' or driving experience might be good, but these skills are by no means requirements; all is negotiable, but basically, I am trying to arrange not to be ‘home alone' at that busy time of year.
If you have any questions, about any of the above, try email@example.com
DEVELOPMENT COMPANY AND TRADING COMPANY AGM.
Colonsay Community Development Company held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, 24th March 2012.
The Company Chair, Keith Rutherford, reviewed the Company's achievements over the last year. He started with an appeal for new members: “We need the next generation to take a hand with new vigour, so I appeal to anyone who is a member to think about becoming a Director”.
Keith paid tribute to Directors who had had to leave the Board: “Unfortunately, Don MacLeod has resigned due to ill health. We will miss his help and service to the Company and the Community and I am sure we all wish him well. Sarah Hobhouse has also resigned for personal reasons and the Board would like to thank her for her input”.
Keith then expressed thanks for the work done by Diane Clark and Kirsty MacAllister, the ultra-efficient administration workers in the Service Point. He went on to recognize the work done by Keir Johnston and Pedie MacNeill, our Local Development Workers: “We have been lucky to have our two LDOs beavering away on lots of different projects and happily their contract has been extended to the end of 2013…. They have been very proactive and have needed little steering”.
Keith highlighted the success of the Croft Project: “Pedie has been doing a lot of work on this and we are pleased to say that the crofts near Kiloran Bay are now in the hands of Will Dadie and Jodie Callaghan (lower croft) and Caroline Seymour and Phil Jones (upper croft). Keir has been working on the revamping of the Colonsay Community Website, which is all but ready to go live”.
Keith wants to make it known that the Argocat (an open 6-wheel all-terrain vehicle) is still for sale. To put in an offer, please contact Andrew Abrahams.
Keith thanked Christa Byrne for once again organising the Colonsay Gathering, to take place on 2nd March 2013 at the Crianlarich Hotel and encouraged all friends of Colonsay to take part in this hugely enjoyable event. He hopes to repeat the success of last year's ceilidh this year. It will take place on 28th July 2012. He also looked forward to the imminent arrival of another batch of Bruichladdich Malt Whisky with the Colonsay Special Edition label!
COLONSAY TRADING COMPANY
Keith referred to the price of the fuel that the Trading Company brings to the island: “We signed up to the UK Government's “Fuel Duty Relief For Scottish Islands and the Isles of Scilly” scheme; however, the discount of 5p per litre was completely submerged by a petrol company's increase of 7p per litre”.
The electronic equipment for the petrol pump failed many times during the winter, mostly through power fluctuations and cuts. The Trading Company has been advised to purchase a second pump, to act as a standby; however, this would be an expensive option and the Company is still weighing up their decision. All the existing equipment had to be shipped to Penrith for repair and will be re-installed soon. The Company would like to thank Mike and the staff at Colonsay General Store for helping to deal with the winter difficulties.
If you would like to become a member of the Colonsay Community Development Company and the Colonsay Trading Company, or are a member who would like to join a very grateful and welcoming Board, please ask Keith Rutherford, Christa Byrne, Andrew MacGregor or Andrew Abrahams for an application form.
IMPROVEMENTS AT KILORAN BAY CAR-PARK.
Kiloran Bay is recognised as one of the finest and most beautiful bays in the world. Sadly, in recent years, its surroundings have become disfigured with tangles of bramble and bracken, the view has been spoiled and the rich flora, native to the area, threatened.
The Colonsay Community Development Company is delighted to be in a position to begin a rolling programme of improvements. Phil Jones, new resident at Uragaig, has been busy with his strimmer and has made enormous progress restoring the area to its pristine state. We are delighted and feel sure that Islanders and our summer visitors will be as well.....
Christa Byrne, CCDC Board Member.
COLONSAY: A VIEW FROM A(NOT VERY)FAR, BY HUGH McNEILL, PLUS COLONSAY ESTATE'S RESPONSES.
“After reading the various recent stories in The Corncrake concerning the future of Colonsay, I thought I would add my own thoughts. As someone who was born and bred on the Island, the decision to leave with my family eight years ago was not taken lightly. Would any of the recent initiatives on Colonsay have made a difference if they had been available at the time?
One of the main reasons for our decision to leave was the lack of full-time jobs available. After years of doing a couple of hours here, there and everywhere, and then trying to remember who should be billed for what at the end of the month, the thought of an 8-hour day, 5 days a week was very appealing.
The current discussion regarding the setting up of a fish farm seems to have focussed heavily on the environmental side of things. I know this is very important but it surely must be possible to make sure all necessary guidelines are strictly followed. The addition of 6 full-time jobs would be a huge boost to the Island. When you consider how few full-time positions already exist on Colonsay this would be a major change.
Of course, affordable housing also has to be available to allow people to move to the Island to take up these jobs. The recent scheme to create new crofts seems to be bearing fruit now and bringing in people. Another solution would be for the Estate to let out Scalasaig, Garvard, Baleromindubh and Balerominmor as small holdings. Each could give a family a reasonable foothold on the Island and they also have outbuildings suitable for conversion to various uses to expand income.
There have been many changes in Colonsay in the past eight years and I am sure there will be many more to come. The setting up of the Air Service (also vehemently opposed by some) was surely a good thing.
At the end of the day it is important and right that, as with the Fish Farm, the Islanders have a major say in what goes on.
So, to answer the original question, would any of these things have changed our decision to leave? I have to be honest and say probably not. We were probably ready to leave anyway and I don't think that would have changed.
However, these changes will allow people who want to stay to have that option and could encourage some much-needed younger people to come to Colonsay. For that reason, I really hope that the Fish Farm (with suitable safeguards) is successful.
Some of you may be thinking that I have no right to express my opinion as I have left the Island, however, that is all it is. My opinion. As Colonsay will always be “home”, I will always have an interest in its future and I sincerely hope it is a bright one.”
The Corncrake contacted Alec Howard of Colonsay Estate, to find out what his response was to Hugh's suggestions for the development of the island. Here's what he said:
Provision of affordable housing: “I agree with Hughie that it would be ideal if there was a pool of low-cost housing available for new or existing residents on the island. I have actively worked with the Colonsay Community Development Company on a scheme to make this possible. So far, it has not been possible but I hope the sheltered housing idea will be the start of something along these lines”.
Creation of new employment opportunities/letting of farms as small holdings: “ The Estate employs at least 18 people on the island for the majority of the year (not including Jane and me). We also make extensive use of self-employed tradesmen on, or closely associated with, the island. Our wage bill is easily our greatest cost and the contribution that the properties mentioned (Garvard, Scalasaig, Baleruminmohr and Balerumindubh farms) make to the Estate businesses are an important part of the overall turnover which is required to keep the enterprise viable”.
Many thanks to Hugh and Alec for their contributions to the debate: if you would like to respond to their contributions, please contact the Corncrake.
HOUSE-BUILDING AND RENOVATION.
If you are travelling through the leafy suburbs of Upper Kilchattan, you'll see some serious construction work going on.
Firstly, Chris Nisbet is at the early stages of building a new house on the north side of the road, between May McKinnon's and Duncan McDougal's (where Gavin Clark is currently in residence).
A little further down the road, you'll hardly recognize Rena Frew's former home (just next to School Cottage). To the best of our information, it now belongs to Finlay Geekie.
NATURE AND AGRICULTURE
OLD MUCKSPREADER: AN AGRICULTURAL UPDATE.
The lovely sunny, dry weather arrived just in time, with the first calves appearing at the beginning of March. Both cows & calves are enjoying the warmth, spending much of the day sunbathing!
Lambing is just starting, with the ‘in-bye' ewes leading the way. The main hill flocks start a little later, in mid-April. The sun has also boosted the grass growth, for which the ewes are very grateful and it will give them a physical boost as the hard work of rearing their lambs begins.
Conservation continues to be a large part of our farming programme, and selected areas of grazing have had livestock excluded from them, (from the 1st March), so that the vegetation can grow unchecked to provide early cover for Corncrake (the bird, not the online island newsletter) and ground nesting birds. These areas will be increased on the 15th May to include all the silage mowing fields, which will not then be disturbed until the 1st September, after which we can start the silage harvesting.
For anyone wanting more of an insight, David (Hobhouse) will be conducting walks during the Spring Festival, looking at how farming on Colonsay has changed to meet conservation needs. This will include a tour around Kiloran Farm looking at wildlife habitats & how the livestock are being used to enhance the environment for Chough, Corncrake & other protected species.
SOS: SIGNS OF SPRING.
As we emerge, battered and bruised, from a severe winter, what a pleasure to see light at the end of the tunnel!
These photos document the positive signs that Spring is, indeed, springing. The first lamb of the year, at Scalasig Farm; the first primroses, on the road to Uragaig; and a beautiful display of daffodils at Glassard. We've even been treated to the sight of Mr Angus McPhee in his shorts: once seen, (unfortunately) never forgotten. The editorial board has, however, decided not to publish any photos of this apparition, for fear of offending public decency.
We don't want to get ahead of ourselves: no doubt the weather has a few surprises for us before we can truly say that Spring is here. Still, with the clocks having gone forward, with the consequent longer evenings, and the ferries having switched to the Summer timetable, if we are not out of the woods yet, we have at least identified a route and have our flasks, sandwiches and compass at the ready.
SHEEP OF THE MONTH
This feature is attracting more attention and input from readers than any of the masterful journalism to be found elsewhere in the Corncrake. You just can't keep these livestock enthusiasts down!
Firstly, we have Mr Gary Hamilton to thank for the very romantic image of, he says, “Demelsa; she had turned up at Garvard as she'd heard there was a small shindig in progress!” Thanks for that, Gary.
Next, in my opinion, the best SOTM photo yet, sent in by Piermaster Kevin Byrne: is it only on Colonsay that the sheep seem as happy standing walls as on the ground?
Finally, Penny Gill continues to express her love of, er, sheep through the medium of paint.
Her caption to this image is: “Personal trainer? No, I'll get Archie to chase me round the croft a couple of times- that'll get the weight off”. If you're reading this, Archie, please let me know when you plan to do the chasing of the sheep: that is a photo-opportunity no self-respecting editor would dream of missing!
Your usual correspondent Izzy is away at the moment being trained in the ways of the RSPB before beginning her new job as Colonsay Information officer next week.
I'm sure we've all been relieved to have had some decent weather recently, and the birds seem to agree. We saw our first wheatear on 23rd March, and were delighted with 3 goldcrests on Sunday 25th , an unusual record of this tiny bird for Oronsay. Chiffchaff have been singing away in the tree plantation and we have 250 golden plover on the island before they begin the next leg of their journey further north.
We had a brief view of a white tailed eagle on Monday 26th as it put every gull on Dubh Eilean into a panic and good views of two juvenile golden eagles over last weekend during the excellent weather. There were also small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies on the wing as well as bumblebees and honey bees visiting the longed-for spring flowers. Outside the garden lesser celandine and violets are in flower.
Signs of spring abound as everywhere there are signs of nesting and nest-building birds; lapwing, chough, sparrows and starlings are all busy, and the peregrine falcon is on territory. Ravens will already be on eggs, being a particularly early nester.
We had our annual volunteers working party over the last weekend, this was the 9th year. We had 9 volunteers arrive eager (!) to do lots of work, including de-fencing and fencing and gate hanging. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this photo of the group taken managing some corncrake habitat in the priory was taken in the height of summer.
A rubbish collection session on Seal island (Eilean nan Ron) produced spectacular results. We did this collection at this time of year so as to avoid disturbing nesting birds and emergent vegetation.....
What, a load of rubbish?
This month look out for more migrants - the first swallow could be here any day now, as will the cuckoo, and the corncrake should be craking away from around the 22nd . We'll be saying good-bye to the geese around the middle of the month, they'll wait for a southerly wind to assist their passage north. A greylag goose with a collar (marked L60) was spotted on Sgreadan Croft it was one of 1200 birds that had been “collared” (an alternative to leg ringing in species where it is sometimes difficult to see the legs) or ringed on Tiree since 1998, as part of a research project entitled “Status,habitat use and movement”. It is one of only15 to have been recorded away from Tiree in all that time.
COLONSAY AIR SERVICE
Just a wee reminder that travel on the plane in the morning Colonsay to Oban costs £32.50 whereas afternoon is £65.00.
Similarly Oban to Colonsay in the afternoon is £32.50 whereas morning is £65.00
So a day in sunny Oban can be had for the princely sum of £65.00
The cost to Islay is £25.00.
A new facility exists - a calendar of events! Have a look at it now and save it as one of your favourites (best to copy and paste if any problem with the link): http://www.spanglefish.com/colonsayvillagehall/
We are reproducing here the text from the leaflet that George Lyon, the Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament, posted to all residents in early March. This is followed by a piece by Mike Russell, SNP MSP, which in part responds to Mr Lyon's piece. Finally, we have a message from Liberal Democrat Councillor Robin Currie.
GEORGE LYON MEP
I was born and brought on the Isle of Bute, so I understand the importance of ferries to our island communities and the vital role they play in the economy of the Isles.
Just like many of you, I welcomed the SNP Government's decision to expand the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) to new routes. I was, however, amazed to discover that before the introduction of RET, the Isles of Islay, Gigha and Colonsay, will have to suffer through a 6.5% increase in the cost of their ferry fares.
These changes are discriminatory and deeply unfair. Therefore, I have asked the EU Competition Authorities to investigate the actions of the SNP Government.
I also want to be able to show the Scottish Government the strength of feeling from islanders on this issue.
To show your support for my campaign for Fair Ferry Fares for all Scottish Islands, I would like to ask you to do two things: sign the tear-off slip below and post it back to me in the FREEPOST envelope provided and display the poster on the reverse side of this letter as a diamond shape in your window,
George Lyon MEP, Member of the European Parliament for Scotland.
9, Newton Terrace, Glasgow, G3 7PJ Tel: 0141 222 2480
MIKE RUSSELL MSP
In the late 1970's and early 1980s I lived on the Island of Benbecula. There was much discussion at the time of that mysterious thing called RET - Road Equivalent Tariff. What it meant was that many of us believed that ferry fares - even then much higher than any islander wanted them to be - could and should be reduced to match the real distance of the islands rather than be set according to the high costs of fuel and shipping.
I am very proud to be a member of a government which , more than thirty years later, is at last introducing RET. No other government - none whatsoever , of any political hue, at Westminster or Holyrood - lifted a finger to do so until the SNP honoured its promise by instituting a pilot programme in the Western Isles after we were elected in 2007. Now , as I promised in my own election campaign last year, we are starting to spread the pilot out in our second term, with Colonsay benefiting from it later this year.
It is being done at the most difficult time, financially. The cuts in the last few years from Labour and from the Tory / Liberal Coalition have been and continue to be severe. So it will take time to cover the whole of the Western Isles and the Clyde, yet that is also planned for and announced.
However a significant threat to this much needed reform has now emerged , and it is , incredibly, politicians who should be helping, not hindering, our many Scottish islands. The incredibly foolish, dog in the manger, actions of George Lyon and Alan Reid in referring the whole process to the European Commission as part of a political ploy runs the risk of disrupting or even destroying this positive move for the islands and the islanders.
The RET scheme that will - Lyon and Reid's machinations permitting - come into place on Colonsay has been adjusted to ensure that light vans that deliver from Oban are in the scope; a considerable help compared to what might have happened. The regulations will also ensure that local visits to and from the mainland will become more affordable and coupled with the suggested improved service in the Draft Ferry Plan this should all be a good step forward.
Just as many of us hoped it would be all that time ago when it was only a gleam in the eye of young politicians ! So let stick with it , and make sure it happens.
COUNCILLOR ROBIN CURRIE.
It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have represented Colonsay on the Council for the last 24 years. There have been many changes over that period but it has been good working with the community of Colonsay to try and improve things on the island.
As everyone will know, I have been closely involved in the air services to Colonsay and was very pleased to see the new contract awarded last year. I do feel however that some aspects of the service could be improved and I have been asking for a community meeting to be arranged on the island so that the service provided is what the people on Colonsay want. I had hoped that this meeting would have taken place by now but it hasn't. If I am re-elected in May, I will make it a priority to have this meeting as soon as possible. There are things like changing the High School time-table to let the students away earlier on a Friday which need actioned. It was great that my campaign to get the discount scheme operating on the Islay/Glasgow flights was agreed by the Scottish Government but I think the fare structure to Oban is still on the high side.
I was over the moon to learn that we now have young crofters in the new crofts on Colonsay. I carried out the study into crofting on the island many years ago and my report recommended that the creational of new crofts on Colonsay could increase the population by 20%. It is great that we are now starting on that journey to have the community crofts let.
The next Council election is on May 3rd and I will once again be standing for Ward 2, Kintyre and the Islands (which includes Colonsay).
Robin Currie, Councillor, Kintyre and the Islands
Spokesperson for Rural and Island Affairs, Housing and Gaelic
Home Tel: 01496 850517 Mob: 07795222849
FISH FARM PROPOSAL
THE GREAT FISH FARM DEBATE
Hugh McNeill (see earlier article in this edition) has made some comments on the proposal. In the March edition, Andrew Graham-Stewart (AGS) expressed his point of view. Most of his points were critical of the proposal; we decided to put his views to Steve Bracken (SB), of Marine Harvest:
THE FISH-FARM SITUATION IN NORWAY (HOME OF MARINE HARVEST).
AGS POINT: The head of Norway's Directorate for Nature Management (the equivalent of Scottish Natural Heritage) recently called for a 50 per cent reduction in salmon farming production because parasitic sea-lice infestations in farms (which spread to and devastate juvenile wild fish) have, for two years running, been out of control.
SB RESPONSE: It is correct that Janne Solli, Director of Nature Management in 2010 claimed that a 50% reduction of the salmon farming industry was necessary to preserve wild salmon stocks in Norway. However his claim has no scientific basis. In fact, 2011 was a record year for the return of Atlantic salmon in Norway with the exception of the River Tana in Finnmark County where the stock in this river was severely overfished. It is agreed amongst Norwegian scientists that this river stock has not been negatively impacted by salmon farms.
FISH FARM JOBS FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS.
AGS POINT: How many jobs will go to locals? It is also worth bearing in mind that over the last 10 years, despite the huge rise in tonnage, numbers employed by the industry in Scotland have hardly increased – because of the ongoing trend to increased mechanisation.
SB RESPONSE: We have stated previously that we intend to employ local staff. We have also said that we would need to bring in an experienced farm manager. The farm would employ six full time staff (one being the manager) and two seasonal staff. For health and safety reasons and holidays we cannot envisage having less than this number of staff on the proposed Colonsay farm. By way of example we are opening two new farms at Stulaigh on Uist and Hellisay on Barra next month where we will have six staff employed on each farm.
The number of staff employed on salmon farms did drop because of mechanization but between 2008 and 2011 there were 506 new jobs created by Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation members. In Argyll and Bute the direct employment from SSPO member rose from 321 at the end of 2008 to 489 at the end of 2011.
WASTAGE OF FISH.
AGS POINT: It takes three tonnes of wild fish to create one tonne of farmed salmon.
SB RESPONSE: This figure is incorrect. The Fish In, Fish Out ratio in 2008 was 1.7:1 therefore 1.7 tonnes of fish to produce 1 tonne of salmon. And this ratio is reducing further.
Please see http://www.iffo.net/default.asp?contentID=730 for more information on Fish In, Fish Out and also the video found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKQU8ex8ric
AGS POINT: The seabed beneath the cages becomes a foul lifeless quagmire. Residues of chemical treatments compromise water purity and jeopardize shellfish populations.
SEPA regulate environmental impact in accordance with Environmental Quality Standards which allow for sustainable use of natural resources. For fish farming, and indeed any activity which SEPA regulate, a degree of local environmental impact is expected and accepted. All Marine Harvest fish farms hold a Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) Licence. This stipulates environmental limits for the farm's on-going operations and conditions that the operator must abide by. It also includes mechanisms for regular monitoring and reporting of compliance with these to SEPA. SEPA uses a computer model, called AutoDEPOMOD, to assess the maximum allowable biomass of a farm. This is an integral part of the application process for a fish farm CAR License.
The model uses site-specific data to predict a site's likely impact; this includes current data recorded at the proposed location and a detailed depth survey to allow the model to accurately recreate the bathymetry of the area. The output of the modelling process determines the maximum allowable tonnage of fish to be allowed on the farm at any time, as well as indicating likely deposition footprint. This predicted footprint is then used to develop the site specific monitoring regime which will be used to monitor the impact of the site when it is in operation. If the model predicts that the impact from the farm will be beyond the limits set by SEPA, the farm will not be licensed. The AutoDEPOMOD model, along with another specialist SEPA modelling tool, is used to set limits on medicine. The limits for medicines are set by SEPA's Environmental Quality Standards, which guard against impact on native species, such as crustaceans and shellfish. Medical treatments are minimised at all Marine Harvest fish farms wherever possible.
The monitoring regime for fish farms involves taking sediment samples from beneath the pens, at the edge of the predicted footprint and at pre-determined control locations. These samples are analysed by independent laboratories and scored based upon both chemistry and biology. The sample values are compared to baseline data for the site, which are required to be collected prior to the commencement of operations at the site, before being judged for compliance against SEPA's Environmental Quality Standards. Biodiversity is a key indicator in this; a farm with no life to be found beneath the pens would be considered to be failing by SEPA's standards. In the event that SEPA are not satisfied that a site is compliant with this regime, they take legal steps to reduce or completely remove impact so as to avoid long term problems. While there is generally a visible level of impact directly below fish farm cages, all visible signs of impact have disappeared by the time the edge of the predicted footprint has been reached. The proposed Colonsay fish farm is located in an area which has high energy currents which will help to disperse deposits from the fish farm into what will quickly become environmentally insignificant quantities.
EDITOR'S NOTE : The Corncrake mentioned Ben Hayfield, of Marine Harvest, in an earlier edition. Steve Bracken has pointed out that the correct name is Ben Hadfield; apologies for the error.
SUNDAY HERALD, 1st APRIL 2012
Rob Edwards, the Sunday Herald's Environment Editor, has been in touch with the Corncrake and with various islanders, to gather information on an article about the Colonsay proposal that he plans to publish on Sunday, 1st April. It should interesting reading; if you didn't manage to buy a copy, you could go to their website: www.heraldscotland.com
Having read the article in today's (Sunday, 1 st April) Herald regarding the proposed Fish Farm I would like to make the following points:-
As a member of our “ageing population” - and having lived on the Island for over 60 years, I have seen it change to the extent that not only are there no full-time jobs available for our young people - there is very little social life for them unless more of them can remain on the Island. The young folk grow up nowadays thinking only that they must leave their home isle to get work. Have those of us who have been able to remain here and struggled to make a living any right to deny them this possibility?
Colonsay may well be “an unspoilt holiday Island” - and indeed it is a wonderful place for a holiday - but this provides limited employment for around 6 months in the year. Then we are again left with an ageing population for the rest of the year. Would the fish farm really have a detrimental effect on tourism? - or would it damage the environment? - only time will tell, though I know that SEPA do keep a close eye on things.
“Bribes”and “dangling of money” are words which do not give a good impression. I feel that as a community we must seriously consider all angles to this situation. The viability and future of the Island could be at stake here! It seems that the choice is ours.
Yours sincerely , Eleanor
The debate about the fish farm is far from over. If you'd like to express a view, please contact the Corncrake: it will be to the benefit of us all to examine the issue from every angle before casting our crucial votes.
The summer timetable started on 30 March, and more than 30 cars were on board for the first sailing, a great start to the season. The Wednesday sailings should be more popular than ever, as they will be operated by the magnificent new MV "Finlaggan".
MV "Hebridean Princess" will be making regular visits as usual and in addition the world's last sea-going passenger-carrying paddle-steamer will be making two visits. PS "Waverley" is due for a 30 minutes call at 5.30pm on Friday 1 June, and again at 11.30 am on Monday 11 June - see her website to make a reservation.
RET ("Road-equivalent-tariff") is to be introduced this autumn, making fares even cheaper for people to visit the island - evidence from elsewhere suggests that this will lead to increased demand for short-stay and inexpensive accommodation, and it should also help to extend the season. Obviously, increased carryings will also help to sustain the general level of service.
CHUG (Colonsay Harbour Users Group), Colonsay Estate and CMAL (Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd) have come to a joint agreement to work together for mutual benefit; CHUG members will encourage visiting craft to use the Honesty Box to pay for their stay, Colonsay Estate will continue to facilitate small-boat owners and CMAL (who have already upgraded the facilities) will re-invest all Colonsay dues in further improvements, e.g. moorings etc.
As usual, ferry customers are implored to check-in on time (30 minutes for vehicles, 10 minutes for foot-passengers). Staff try to be helpful, but genuinely are required for other duties after check-in has closed - there are safety and legal issues involved. Remember - you can always check-in early and go away again, then return when the ship is due to arrive.
Kevin Byrne, Colonsay Piermaster.
STRATHCLYDE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE: ARGYLL AND BUTE.
We would like to help and assist with some Fire Safety advice and at this time of year it is especially important to watch that any scrub or heath fires do not get out of control. You are probably aware that Colonsay had a major heath fire last year which saw our crews responding for almost 24 hours to ensure that the blaze was contained and safe. Whilst it is great to see the sun break through for the first time this year we need to be reminded that small fires can become large fires in a very short timescale and please consult our website www.strathclydefire.org for further info on this type of fire and other fire safety advice.
We would also like to encourage everyone on the island and especially your readers to sign up for a FREE Home Fire Safety Visit, again this can be done via our website or by calling 0800 0731 999.
The new Group Commander with responsibility for the Colonsay Community Fire Station is David McCaughey. He can be contacted on 01546 605 530.
Paul Connelly, Area Commander, Argyll and Bute.
The Surgery will be open as usual on Good Friday, 6th April, but will be closed on Easter Monday, 9th April. In the event of an emergency, please phone 01951 200 328.
The Physiotherapist will be visiting Colonsay on Thursday, 19th April; if you would like to book an appointment, please contact the Physiotherapy Department on 01631 788 983.
Medical Student Robert Cornford, who is in his final year of study at the University of Dundee, will be joining the practice for one month, from Monday, 9th April, to gain experience of working in a rural practice.
Doctors Jan Brookes and David Binnie.
STRATHCLYDE POLICE, ARGYLL AND BUTE.
Colonsay roads are no different to any others in the country as defined by the Roads Scotland Act & as such are governed by the same laws & legislation as the mainland.
There are some exemptions that apply that are well documented but for the purposes of our visitors that are very welcome after such an inclement & long winter it is worth remembering the following:
Passing places are there to allow the free flow of traffic in both directions and not as parking places. You may be enjoying the scenery but the vehicle behind you may be a volunteer emergency worker in the fire brigade or coastguard trying to get to a call.
Seatbelts are still mandatory. Colonsay has no exemption. If you are caught you will be prosecuted.
A lot of the livestock & wildlife (and free range children!!) wander all over the roads; please adjust your speed accordingly.
Please do not abandon your vehicle in such a way that it is causing an obstruction, the island's emergency service vehicles need unhindered access 24 hrs a day.
These are the most common complaints I receive from islanders at this time of year, but with a little bit of courtesy and common sense we can hopefully make everyone's visit to the island a memorable one.
PC Jeremy Moore
THE COLONSAY QUIZ.
Three readers shared First Prize for correctly answering the questions set in the Quiz in the last edition.
Hugh McNeill of Machrins, currently exiled in distant Oban, was delighted:
“That's good news! I will be over next month so if you could just give the Pantry voucher to my Mum and I will use it then. Thanks and keep up the good work with the Corncrake.”
Sheena Miller of Wesham in Lancashire (but with very strong Colonsay links) was also over the proverbial moon:
“YES!!!!! and thanks. Much as I would love either the Honey or a quick trip to the Pantry, please donate my winnings to be used as a raffle prize at the next Ceilidh”.
Margaret Matthews from Blackpool was the third winner:
“Please give pantry £10 voucher to my uncle Pat (Walter Williams)”
Well done to all the winners and many thanks again to the Colonsay Pantry and Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey/Isle of Colonsay Oysters, for their generous donation of prizes.
For your information, here are the questions agian, but this time accompanied by the answers:
Which member of the current British Cabinet lived on Colonsay as a boy? Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
In which country is the town of Colonsay situated? Canada (Saskatchewan; it has a population of around 420).
In which decade did the Strathcona family buy Colonsay? In 1905; Donald Smith (whose full title was Sir Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal) bought Colonsay from Sir John McNeill.
4.….. and, within £5,000, for what price? £44,000
According to Wikipedia, the name Strathcona was coined in the 19th Century. It is a variation of which place-name in Scotland? Clue: it was coined in order to avoid association with a place with a violent and tragic history. Glencoe
In which year was Colonsay connected to the National Grid? 1983. 16th October to be precise (Thanks to Mrs Eleanor McNeill of Machrins for clearing that up!). The Loder book describes the historic occasion as follows: “The local MP was linked by telephone from the mainland to a small gathering at the hotel with the intention that the local generator should be switched off and he would throw a switch to activate the new supply cable. Unfortunately, it had not been appreciated that the telephone relied upon the generator. When that was switched off, the telephone went dead. It was some time before the ensuing silence was broken as contact was re-established with the MP, whose momentous and historic utterances had meantime been dissipated into thin air”.
What is the biggest that the island's population has ever been (according to the official Census)? 904 1821 (Census).
Who is the current MP for Colonsay? Alan Reid (Liberal Democrat) won the seat in the 2010 General Election.
Who is the current Constituency MSP for Colonsay? Mike Russell (SNP) won the seat in the 2011 Scottish Parliament Election.
10-12. Apart from Loch Fada, what are the three biggest freshwater lochs on the island? Loch an Sgoltaire, Loch Turraman, Loch Cholla.
Bonnie Prince Charlie's ship anchored in 1745 near to which islet off the Colonsay coast? Eilean Olmsa.
For the purposes of the Shipping Forecast, in which sea area is Colonsay situated? Malin.
15/16 Can you name the two CDs jointly recorded by Pedie and Jen MacNeill? “Family Life” and “Fathers and Sons”.
17. Can you name the young Colonsay singer/songwriter whose song, “On My Boat”, appears on a CD recorded in 2010 by Plockton Music School, where she was studying at the time? Caitlin McNeill
18. Munroes are Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet; Corbetts are Scottish mountains between 2,500 and 2,999 feet in height. What collective name is given to the 22 hills over 300 feet in height on Colonsay? MacPhees ** PLEASE SEE KEVIN'S PIECE ABOUT THE MacPHEES, LATER IN THIS EDITION**
Apart from Colonsay, Caledonian MacBrayne sails to three islands whose names begin with the letter “C”. Name them. Coll, Canna and Cumbrae.
Which Colonsay beach's original Gaelic name translates to, “The Beach of the Cold Well? Traigh an Tobair Fhuair (sometimes known as Machrins Bay).
ISLAND OF CULTURE
This month's poem is by Janet McNeill, a relative of Rodger McNeill, father of Jesse and the late Alastair McNeill, of Machrins.
DUBH HUIRTEACH LIGHTHOUSE
On summer nights when seas are calm
Thy light gleams soft and clear
A lonely sentinel thou art
To guide the mariner.
When winter storm their raging seas
And breakers o'er thee dash
Still through the gloom, the midnight drear
Reveals thy warning flash.
And sailors, toil-worn, tempest tossed
Who view thy heartening ray
In renewed vigour set their course
And steer for Oban Bay.
Fierce blizzards from the stormy north
Upon my window play
Through darkest night – thy flashes bright
Shine round me as I pray.
God hold with the brave watchmen
Their vigil lone by night
Whate'er betide, guard thou and guide
The keepers of the night.
The Corncrake is indebted to Mrs Eleanor McNeill of Machrins for this poem.
Jodi Callaghan and Penny Gill are holding an Easter Exhibition of their landscape paintings in mixed media from Monday, 1st April to Sunday, 15th April. They will be showing their work in the Old Waiting Room Gallery from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on those days, plus whenever the ferry comes in.
COMMUNITY COUNCIL AGM
This will be held in the Village Hall on Tuesday, 3rd April at 7.30.
KENNY RUTHERFORD'S WEDDING CEILIDH
Kenny and Lisa would like to invite everyone on Colonsay and visiting friends to a Ceilidh to celebrate their wedding, on Saturday, 8th April at 8 p.m. [corrected for BST] in the Village Hall. Music will be provided by the excellent Hector McFadyen and his band.
The Colonsay Gun Club will hold a Shoot (for clay pigeons) on Sunday, 8th April at 13.30 hrs on the golf course. You are invited to try your hand. For a £15 entrance fee, you will be supplied with 2 boxes of ammunition. For non-shooters who frequent this area, please stay well clear on that afternoon. Thank you.
SPONSORED WALK – MACPHEE-BAGGING on EASTER MONDAY
ALL PROCEEDS TO GO TO THE KILCHATTAN PRIMARY SCHOOL FUND FOR EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL
There are 22 hills in Colonsay over 300ft in height and they are known as "The MacPhees" - ideally, they should be climbed in one connected walk starting and finishing below the high-tide mark. The total distance is about 20 miles. (On this occasion Ben Orasa will be omitted due to nesting birds).
STARTS 9AM ON EASTER MONDAY AT THE CROSAN GATE (BRIDGE AT KILORAN BAY)
Kevin Byrne and "Lola" intend to try to climb them all - please sponsor them at (say) £1.00 per peak.
You are most welcome to accompany them and - even better - get people to sponsor you instead! The more the better - this is an excellent cause. No need to complete the course - perhaps even one or two would be fun.
There is no age limit, this is not competitive and you are responsible for your own safety. No landowner or tenant or third-party has any liability - nor does Kevin!
If you come, it is at your own risk. Bring suitable clothes, hat, sunscreen, chocolate, water and lunch - it will be a long day.
See this page for H&S considerations, also possible joining/leaving points and times for part-participation.
On the other hand, it should be a memorable and worthwhile ploy - at no point will you be more than a mile from the road, so it is easy to stop when you have done enough.
There are forms at the Post Office, Pantry, Pub, Bookshop and Brewery or you can send a pledge by email to firstname.lastname@example.org Overseas payments can be made by PayPal using any credit card with automatic currency conversion.
JUBILEE GARDEN PARTY
Scott - I am holding a Jubilee Garden Party on Mon 4th June in aid of Maggie's Centres (hospices for cancer sufferers), a wonderful cause which we are very keen to support. All the island is invited. Details to be confirmed - there will be an entry charge, tea and cakes for sale and all proceeds will go to Maggies. Thanks - Jane Howard
‘NEW' IRON AGE FORT DISCOVERED ON COLONSAY !
In February staff from Kilmartin House Museum , along with local volunteers from Colonsay, continued the archaeological survey of the northern end of the island. Funded by the Scotlands ' Islands programme, the visit continued on from the previous survey undertaken in November 2011. Many new sites have been discovered including rock shelters and the remains of several hut circles, thought to date from the prehistoric period. Adding to what was already discovered in November, over 200 new sites have now been recorded
Roddy Regan, Field Archaeologist with Kilmartin House Museum , said ‘We have unearthed lots of amazing new sites on the island, including a previously unrecorded Dun or Iron Age fort. Together with the settlements we have found, we now have a much better picture of how the islanders' ancestors would have lived and worked on the island. The survey has also revealed where people were living on Colonsay in the past – often far away from where people live today. A big thanks to all the volunteers who turned out to help with the survey – and to the landowners who gave permission for the survey to take place.'
The survey report will be made available on the Museum website when completed. Go to www.kilmartin.org for more details or contact Ailsa Raeburn on 01546 510278.
By way of giving a wee hand to Don and Mary MacLeod, who are currently dealing with Don's health problems and will have to move to Oban as a result, we are including details of the sale of their lovely house in sun-kissed, panorama-tastic Uragaig. Whilst we will all very much miss the family when they leave, the Corncrake would like to do all it can to smooth the transition Don and Marie are having to make.
Please note: Don and Mary are running their B&B as normal throughout 2012”.
Tighe Donmar, Uragaig, Isle of Colonsay
Substantial Family Home with Croft Land Extending to Approximately 10 Acres
2 Shares in Common Grazings
Panoramic Coastal Views
Idyllic Island Location
6 Bedrooms (Master En-Suite)
2 Static Caravans
Large Garden Shed
Oil Fired Central Heating
Parking For Multiple Cars
These details can be found at www. macphee .co.uk
MacPhee and Partners Estate Agents' contact details are as follows: Address: 8, George Street, Oban Phone: 01631 565 251 e-mail: email@example.com
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