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In late June the 34ft steel sailing boat Aquila, owned and captained by Robert Kincaid of Oban Sea School and with a crew of five, including your intrepid editor, left Oban and headed up the Sound of Mull.
Two nights later we dropped anchor in the little bay of Hallaig on Raasay island, made famous by the late Sorley MacLean of Raasay, whose poem, “Hallaig” tells the story of the cleared settlement there, and is inscribed on a cairn above the bay:
Time, the deer, is in Hallaig Wood
There’s a board nailed across the window
I looked through to see the west
And my love is a birch forever
By Hallaig Stream, at her tryst.
Between Inver and Milk Hollow,
somewhere around Baile-chuirn,
A flickering birch, a hazel,
A trim, straight sapling rowan.
In Screapadal, where my people
Hail from, the seed and breed
Of Hector Mor and Norman
By the banks of the stream are a wood.
To-night the pine-cocks crowing
On Cnoc an Ra, there above,
And the trees standing tall in moonlight -
They are not the wood I love.
I will wait for the birches to move,
The wood to come up past the cairn
Until it has veiled the mountain
Down from Beinn na Lice in shade.
If it doesn’t, I’ll go to Hallaig,
To the sabbath of the dead,
Down to where each departed
Generation has gathered.
Hallaig is where they survive,
All the MacLeans and MacLeads
Who were there in the time of Mac Gille Chaluim:
The dead have been seen alive,
The men at their length on the grass
At the gable of every house,
The girls a wood of birch trees
Standing tall, with their heads bowed.
Between The Leac and Fearns
The road is plush with moss
And the girls in a noiseless procession
Going to Clachan as always
And coming back from Clachan
And Suisnish, their land of the living,
Still lightsome and unheartbroken,
Their stories only beginning.
From Fearns Burn to the raised beach
Showing clear in the shrouded hills
There are only girls congregating,
Endlessly walking along
Back through the gloaming to Hallaig
Through the vivid speechless air,
Pouring down the steep slopes,
Their laughter misting my ear
And their beauty a glaze on my heart.
Then as the kyles go dim
And the sun sets behind Dun Cana
Love's loaded gun will take aim.
It will bring down the lightheaded deer
As he sniffs the grass round the wallsteads
And his eye will freeze: while I live,
His blood won't be traced in the woods.
Hallaig by Sorley MacLean, translated from the Gaelic by Seamus Heaney for the Guardian, November 2002.
Go to The Guardian web site for a fascinating discussion of the poem by Seamus Heaney.
From Raasay we sailed north, via Rona, around the top of Skye, and headed across the North Minch for the Shiants. On the way we saw sea eagles and many common dolphins played around our bow, and we were accompanied for some time by an adult minke whale and a youngster.
The Shiants are surrounded by notoriously difficult waters but it was beautifully quiet when we sailed into the bay between the three main islands and dropped anchor under the great eastern cliffs of Garbh Eilean. These are a major seabird breeding site, and countless puffins, guillimots, razorbills, kittywakes, fulmars and shags were arranged at different levels up the rocks according to their particular preferences, while the odd great skua glided menacingly past.
We rowed ashore and set off to find the wee house (barely a bothy) so well described by Adam Nicolson in his book Sea Room: An Island Life (see Book Review later in this issue). Nicolson had inherited the islands from his father Nigel, the publisher; before that they had at one time belonged to Compton Mackenzie.
In his book Adam Nicolson describes how he enlisted the help of an archaeologist and lover of remote places, Patrick Foster, and set about trying to unearth (literally) the early history and prehistory of the Shiants. Foster had made many significant discoveries over a number of years of visiting the islands, adding greatly to our understanding of human life here over the ages.
Imagine our surprise then as we came round the shoulder of the hill to find a small, stocky man, in his seventies, sitting sunning himself outside of the house. And we were even more surprised to find that this was the renowned Patrick Foster himself! He had come to help make a film about the islands and was now awaiting a boat coming to take him off. He proved a welcoming and voluble host, and described in detail the significant historical sites on the islands and their backgrounds, and pointed us to the remains of a black house a little further along the hillside. After much more entertaining conversation we eventually returned to Aquilla, and the next morning set off on our return journey.
This took us to Canna, Eigg and Mull, and eventually back to Oban. But it was the truly serendipitous meetings with the minke whales and with Patrick Foster on Eilean an Taighe that will remain long in the memory.
Despite the fact that bee-endangering pesticides are banned in the EU, the UK government just gave the go-ahead to farmers to sow these toxic-coated seeds anyway. Any day now, toxic bee-hurting seeds could be sown -- wreaking even more havoc on our bees. Instead of listening to us, the Government listened to the intensive farming industry - ignoring the growing evidence of how dangerous these chemicals are to bees and other pollinators. Hundreds of thousands of people have already signed petitions to the UK Government to stop harming our bees, and they're feeling the sting. A massive public outcry could force the government to back down and protect bees.
Neonicotinoids or “neonics”, the world’s most widely used insecticide, were restricted in the EU in 2013 because they were found to be of ‘high acute risk’ to bees. They can still be used on some crops but not those that attract bees when they flower. Serious scientific evidence shows that the nerve agents cause serious harm to bees - whose pollination is vital for many crops, and thus threaten our whole food supply. This plan to sow UK fields with treated bee-harming seeds flies in the face of science and facts.
The Government gagged its own pesticide advisers to try and stop campaigners from piling pressure on the government -- showing that they are terrified of a massive public outcry. Companies like Bayer and their associates have been trying to overturn the neonics ban in the EU for years - using lawsuits and intimidation tactics to try and get their way. Let’s swarm the UK Government with signatures now and make sure they protect bees once and for all.
Please sign the petition now to the UK Government: stop allowing our bees to die -- uphold the pesticide ban!
Please click here to visit the SumofUs web site.
Cicely Gill writes:
On Friday 10th July, I posted a heavy bundle of poems to Simon Armitage for him to pick a winner for the 2015 McLellan Poetry Competition, now in its sixth year. This year we had a record number of entries, most of which arrived in the last week.
It is always interesting to see what particular subjects people are writing about and this year we were struck by the number of entries about hospital experiences; there were more about death than about birth; many of course about the landscape, nature, especially animals and birds; two poems containing the word ‘palimpsest’; hardly any poems about work or politics. I think a sociologist might have deduced that a recession was going on and people are finding life a struggle.
The other difference this year was the geographical reach: we had poems from India, Australia, the USA, Thailand as well as Ireland, Wales and places all over England. What an amazing tool the internet is!
Simon Armitage is a poet, playwright and novelist and Professor of poetry at the University of Sheffield. He has published over a dozen poetry collections, his latest being Paper Aeroplane: New and elected Poems 1989-2014. His best-selling memoir ‘Walking Home’ (2012) described a journey North to South down the Pennine Way as a modern troubadour. A sequel, Walking Away, describing a journey along the South West Coast Path, starting from Minehead, was published this June. He was awarded the CBE for services to poetry in 2010.
On the 28th of August he will be coming to Arran (not on foot) for our competition award ceremony, to be held at Little Rock Café, Brodick. Besides giving the prizes and commenting on the poems chosen, he will read from his own work. If you want to taste of what might be in store look at the video below of Simon Armitage reading in the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival.
His poetry is very accessible and can be both serious and funny. I think we are in for an entertaining evening. I for one am looking forward to seeing if there is a plug coming out of his back that fits the socket in the photograph. Hope to see you there.
Selected by David Underdown who also writes the commentary.
And if it snowed and snow covered the drive
he took a spade and tossed it to one side.
And always tucked his daughter up at night
And slippered her the one time that she lied.
And every week he tipped up half his wage.
And what he didn’t spend each week he saved.
And praised his wife for every meal she made.
And once, for laughing, punched her in the face.
And for his mum he hired a private nurse.
And every Sunday taxied her to church
And he blubbed when she went from bad to worse.
And twice he lifted ten quid from her purse.
Here’s how they rated him when they looked back:
sometimes he did this, sometimes he did that.
Simon Armitage was born in Huddersfield in 1963 and still lives in the West Yorkshire village of Marsden where he grew up. Many of his poems reflect the culture and society of the Pennine towns. He is currently Professor of Poetry at Sheffield University and was recently elected Oxford Professor of Poetry. ‘Poem’ is taken from Simon Armitage’s second collection, ‘Kid’, and is one of his most frequently anthologised works. As well as writing and teaching poetry he writes novels, plays and has recently published two successful travel books based on walks on the Pennine way and along the Cornish Coast Path. He is a frequent broadcaster and is currently judging the McLellan Poetry Competition. He will be visiting Arran for this year’s festival and you can hear him read at the Little Rock Café on Friday 28th August or participate in his writing workshop in Corrie Hall on the following day.
The end of this month sees the ten day McLellan Festival take place (see advert in this month’s Voice) with its usual variety of arts events. This year there are 10 events and 3 adult workshops including the acclaimed poet Simon Armitage, the popular and entertaining Festival Ceilidh, a morning of sacred music in Corrie Church, a night of music and poetry in Brodick Bar, an interesting discussion about Scottish painting with Alan Riach and Alistair Moffat at Altachorvie, a pioneering Scottish dance company who perform to live cello, a funny and poignant musical show about the Paisley Mill Girls duting the Second World War, an opera gala with the talented students of the Royal Northen College, a showing of five films in Corrie Hall and an oratorio with the students of the summer school and the McLellan Festival Chorus. In addition, there will be a writer’s workshop with Simon Armitage, an instrumental improvisation workshop and a strings workshop.
If you were planning to come to more than one of these events, you should think very carefully about purchasing a special Festival Ticket. It costs £40 and admits you to all events except the poetry workshop – a saving of £30 if you attended all events and will be a saving even if you only attend 5!! These special saver tickets are available from arranevents.com from now or from the Book and Card Shop in Brodick from the 15th August. Don’t miss out on this bargain! As always, all children and young people at school are free at all events.
If you would like to attend either of the workshops (Instrumental improvisation (any instrument) Tuesday 1st September, 2.00pm in Lamlash Firestation; Strings Workshop, Thursday 3rd September, 2:00pm, Lamlash Firestation) please contact Diana Hamilton on 601322.
There are also still places in the chorus for the oratorio (Haydn’s Nelson Mass) on Sunday 6th September. If you would like to join in this scratch performance please contact Margaret Wright.
Two committed young people on Arran are working hard this summer to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease and Multiple Sclerosis research. These degenerative conditions affect families in Arran and all over the UK and have touched the lives of Josh Macdonald of Brodick and Wallace Currie of Shiskine who have decided to do something constructive to raise money for the cause.
To do this they are putting on a play – more of a pantomime really - called Bo-Peep which is very loosely based on the Nursery Rhyme character. The show has lots of laughs and is suitable for children and will be performed in the Community Theatre in Arran High School on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th August at 7:30pm.
The lads have persuaded 16 of their talented friends to take part as various outrageous nursery rhyme characters and have asked Heather Gough, Steve Garraway and Cill Paul to give them a wee hand with production.
Their cause and their efforts deserve a big audience so come along and support them if you can. Tickets on sale at the Book and Card Shop Brodick.
Chris Attkins describes a typical day in his life behind the wheel of George Lammie’s new taxi.
5am, Glen Rosa. Rounding up athletes for today’s triathlon. This unearthly time offers ultimate tranquillity, apart from the birds busy rehearsing their oratorio. Deserted roads make it easy to deliver ridiculously fit men to Lamlash in record time. One competitor is missing so I am despatched to Kildonan. As you know, much of the island has little or no mobile phone signal, which makes communication extremely hit and miss. I’m several miles south by the time I receive the news that Southend Superman has turned up. About turn and race for Belvedere to prepare fruit platters and cooked breakfasts for our guests.
9:15am. Summoned to collect a party of American visitors from Kildonan. Plenty of time to make the round trip to the ferry, but with cyclists in abundance I’m keen to get going. The competitors are no problem, peddling fast with good road sense. Unfortunately they are outnumbered by a raggle taggle horde of holidaymakers on tandems, tricycles and those little trailer tents on wheels. What sort of parent entrusts their little darlings to such death traps? They terrify the life out of me because every time mum or dad encounters a pothole they meander all over the road. Overtaking on a windy stretch is impossible, so I resign myself to 10 mph for several long stretches of the journey. It’s after 10am when I pull up. Plenty of time. The Americans greet me with anxious expressions. “Are we going to make the ferry?” I do my best to reassure them as they clamber into the taxi. With seats for six in the back and another up front, I frequently carry seven passengers, copious luggage, golf clubs and even bicycles. Today my four outsize Americans somehow manage to fill the entire volume of the vehicle. I sense the suspension gasping at the strain as each one climbs aboard, and remain in second gear throughout the long climb out of the village. Under such full load the dashboard displays fuel consumption of 9 miles per gallon. No sooner have we reached the main road than we find ourselves joining the tail end of a queue of traffic impeded by an elderly couple driving at an erratic 20mph. It delights me to observe visitors appreciating Arran’s wonderful scenery; I just wish they would pull off the road to enjoy it every now and then. The Americans are growing restless, checking the time as we crawl along. “Don’t worry,” I reassure them, “We’ve plenty of time.” Actually we haven’t and I need to step on it. There is bound to be congestion in Lamlash due to the triathlon. With my morning schedule of closely spaced bookings now in jeopardy, and masking my own frustration at the old dears causing such a tailback, eventually I manage to overtake them. Ten minutes to get to Brodick; it should be possible. As expected, in Lamlash traffic slows to a crawl, then stops. What is usually a leisurely one-hour round trip is extending towards two. In my head I rehearse an apology for my Americans missing their connection back home. It’s not my fault, but I want to placate them and have them take away a positive impression of the island. The clock shows 11 as I approach the ferry terminal and my heart sinks - until I turn the corner. The Caley Isles is still some way off. Phew
11:15am. I’m parked up at the rank waiting for Marella to disembark from the ferry. She has booked me to take her to a wedding in Lamlash. It’s easy to spot her among the multitude making their way ashore. Recognising the black taxi, she greets me with a big smile and a groan. “What a journey! I set off at 5am and I’m still late.” I know the feeling. Putting her suitcase in beside her, I offer calm. “Don’t worry, everything is running late today. I’m sure they won’t start without you.” Nevertheless I get moving, climbing out of Brodick right on the speed limit. As we pass Allandale I put my foot to the floor and choose for all doddery drivers to be taking a coffee break. The day is warm and I open the windows to catch the breeze as we accelerate towards the wedding. I am suddenly aware of an explosion of black chiffon behind me and assume the draught has caught the contents of Marella’s suitcase. “Oh, sorry!” I shout, over the rush of wind through the cab. “Don’t mind me,” responds my fare maiden, “I just need to get changed for the wedding.” And she proceeds to disrobe and climb into her costume. At least I think that’s what happened. Of course I had to keep my eyes on the road.
I offered my services to George because I love driving, I love exploring Arran and I was doing very little of either. Driving George’s taxi affords the ideal opportunity to do both. And how! On a busy day I get to visit Lochranza four times, Kildonan twice and Blackwaterfoot at least once. However, the best part is discovering delightful properties tucked away in secluded spots you never knew about. Have you ever been to Woodside Cottage?
I first explored Arran over forty years ago, riding round the island on a small motorbike, and although we’ve lived here for nearly twenty years, I’m still acquiring my ‘Arran knowledge’. With so few street names physically marked, when people book the taxi, locating their property frequently becomes a piece of detective work. Even if I could pronounce the names of half the houses on Arran, finding them is another matter entirely. I now have even more respect for our postpeople!
11:38am. On my way back to Brodick I am flagged down by a couple of holidaymakers. The concept of hailing a cab is still foreign to most Arran residents, so it’s easy to spot visitors. As I draw up they are engaged in animated conversation, which is not interrupted by climbing aboard. “Ferry terminal,” is instructed mid-flow and so we set off. It’s immediately obvious these are not happy campers. “When we get home I want a divorce,” says he. “Aye, that’ll be right,” she responds. There’s a screen separating the front of the cab from the passengers and the only way I can hear them is via an amplifier. I switch it off, not wishing to be party to such acrimonious dialogue. The life coach in me instinctively wants to go into action, but realistically this is neither the time nor the place. Several times I have been carrying a large party, with one gentleman sitting beside me in the front, and to a man they all think it’s a wonderful idea to be able to switch off their wife in the back
12:18pm. First run of the day to Lochranza. We trot along behind a horse until there is space to overtake. It’s hard to imagine this was the fastest mode of transport only a few years ago. I am thankful that at the end of the day I don’t need to feed and stable my steed. The taxi is something of a camel, only requiring a drink every few days, but what a long drink! The bill to fill is just shy of three figures.
The Boguillie is littered with sheep. For some reason the greenest grass always seems to be on the other side of the road, so the journey involves delicate negotiation between these woolly inhabitants that have a habit of running in front of you at the last moment. Blink and it’s mint sauce for these frisky lambs. Talk about gambling with your life!
In a city, I imagine a taxi seldom drives for long without a fare, but here on Arran, a trip to Lochranza tends to be a one-way deal, yet the metered price remains the same as anywhere on the mainland. People are surprised to discover that for some journeys the taxi can cost less than the bus! My afternoon is spent ferrying people back and forth across the island, with a break for a nap and to refuel myself ahead of a busy evening.
The evening ferries deposit more visitors, keen to check in to their accommodation. Having accommodated over twenty thousand visitors at Belvedere, I’m used to the variation in their luggage, but nothing compares with George, whom I see standing abandoned outside Brodick’s TIC, the bus having long gone. In truth it is not George, but his pile of bags that first catches my eye. In total there are seven, ranging in size from a regular holdall to the most enormous suitcase I have ever seen. I have to ask George to help me lift it into the boot of the cab. “How on earth did you carry this lot by yourself?” I ask. “In several journeys,” he admits. I crack the obvious joke about his friend travelling free inside the huge case. “Books,” he confesses. “I’m a rep and these are my samples.” Only by literally biting my tongue do I resist suggesting he might like to bring his car next time, when the story unfolds. George has just lost his driving licence, but is desperate to hang onto his job. Immediately I have visions of becoming his personal chauffeur for the next day or two, but he assures me he will manage on foot.
Meanwhile I’m in demand to deliver folk to various eating establishments and it’s something of a scheduling triumph when I can keep the cab filled in both directions, taking Kings Cross residents to Brodick and Brodick residents to Lamlash in time for their tables. Greener greens on the other side perhaps?
And so the evening draws to a close. I return the various far-flung diners to their respective homes with unpronounceable names. Some live up long, winding tracks that further test the suspension of our black hack. Rounding up revellers takes hours, entailing repeated trips to and from local hostelries. As the night wears on they are variously vivacious, lugubrious, mostly intoxicated, and in some cases, incoherent. I do my best to empathise with all but the latter, whom I quite literally pull or pour out of the taxi at whatever destination I believe to be correct. Excessive alcohol intake certainly brings out the worst in people and by 1:30am it’s becoming rather an effort to see the funny side of things, even though many of my passengers find everything hilarious.
1:45am. I’m summoned to collect a hen party. This will be my final fare. As I approach the pub I’m suddenly surrounded by a strange apparition: six ladies cavort around the taxi, all dressed in white as fairies. The bride-to-be even carries a magic wand. Summoning my meagre remaining reserve of wit, I suggest to them we had better be quick before the taxi turns into pumpkin. Shrieks of laughter. With my fairies safely cooped up in the back, I set off into what’s left of the night. For reasons I don’t begin to understand, but suspect may be related to substance abuse, the girls think I’m really funny, laughing at every line. It occurs to me that this must be what drives comedians. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but it eludes me. Eventually we arrive at the hen house. The completion of my shift is marked by each of them in turn insisting on kissing me on the cheek. Now I know what it feels like to be hen-pecked. In the end they were £2 short for the fare, but I let them off; I’ve never had a more receptive audience for my feeble jokes. Please don’t tell George.
Island Going by Robert Atkinson. Birlinn 2008
Sea Room: An Island Life by Adam Nicolson. HarperCollins 2002
Lovers of islands (presumably most readers of the Voice!) may well know these two books already, but if not they should.
In July 1935, Robert Atkinson and John Ainslie set out on an ornithological search for the rare Leach’s Fork-tailed Petrel. Their search was to last for twelve years and to take them from their Oxford base to many of the remote and often deserted islands off the North West coast of Scotland (including North Uist, the Monarch Isles and St Kilda), to an almost inaccessible North Rona and, their search rewarded, beyond.
Robert Atkinson’s account of his twelve year adventure provides a detailed and emotive description of the wildlife and landscape of the Hebridean outlanders. He recounts with clarity his first sighting of a puffin, ‘So brand new was this unique first insight of puffins … they might have been of fresh creation: bright fantastic dolls but alive!’, and explains in detail the effort entailed in reaching the most inaccessible of islands. But more than that he records with compassion the lifestyles of the islanders, their living conditions, traditions and histories and notes too the changes they witnessed as the war years came and went. His writing has inspired many of the later accounts of Hebridean travel. Atkinson’s account of his travels, Island Going, was first published in 1949, and has established itself as one of the greatest of all memoirs of sailing in the Hebrides. It was republished in paperback by Birlinn in 2008.
Sea Room: An Island Life by Adam Nicolson describes - and relives - a love affair with three tiny islands in the Hebrides which the author had owned for the last twenty years. The Shiants (the name means the holy or enchanted islands) are a wild and dramatic place, with 500 foot high cliffs of black columnar basalt, surrounded by tide rips, filled in the summer with hundreds of thousands of seabirds and with a long and haunting history of hermits, shipwreckers, famine and eviction. Adam Nicolson’s father, Nigel, bought them as an Oxford undergraduate in 1937 for £1,400 and gave them to his son on his 21st birthday. They became the most important thing in his life, not only an escape but as the source of a deep engagement with the natural world in some of its most beautiful, alarming and all-encompassing forms.
Sea Room - a sailing term which Nicolson uses to mean ‘the sense of enlargement which island life can give you’ - is a long investigation of man’s relationship to these islands in particular and to islands in general. Why should a dark age hermit (whose cross-inscribed stone pillow the author discovered during an excavation of one of the Shiants’ ruins) have chosen this place to come nearer to his God? What was it that allowed four or five families to live here since the stone age? And what drove them out towards the end of 18th century? What is it about islands now that continues to have such a hold on the literary and the travelling imagination? This book is a response to all those questions, but also more than that: a hymn of praise by the author to the islands he owned and loved.
The Voice has often carried reports on goings-on in Westminster from Katy Clark, our previous MP. We have asked Patricia Gibson, our new MP from the SNP, to continue this tradition. Patricia is a teacher of English and has been an active SNP member for 17 years. During that time she served as a councillor and for five years was SNP spokesperson in Scotland’s largest education authority. This is her first report.
I am delighted to have been asked to contribute a short piece to Voice for Arran this month. After almost three months as the new MP for Ayrshire & Arran, there is much to share and I will do my best to offer a brief insight into what has been happening during that time.
The first weeks following the election were a complete melée. Scrabbling for office space, completing security screening, setting up communications, being sworn in and giving my maiden speech were all crammed in to a few short weeks.
I am pleased to say that, with my constituency office in Ardrossan now open and email and phone lines installed, I am starting to make headway with the great amount of enquiries which have been sent to me by constituents.
Earlier this month, we also saw the first exclusively Tory Budget for 18 years. The true impact it will have on families in North Ayrshire & Arran and across Scotland is becoming disturbingly clear. For many households, particularly those with children, the benefits of the minimum wage increase and income tax changes are eroded by the cuts to tax credits changes.
There will be a freeze on working age benefits for four years, public sector workers will see a rise of just 1% over that period - regardless of inflation - cuts to Employment Support Allowance will mean new claimants lose out on £30 a week and people claiming tax credits will be limited to claiming for two children from April 2017.
George Osborne’s so-called ‘national living wage’ of £7.20 is nothing of the sort, especially when you consider the Living Wage – as used by the Scottish Government – is £7.85! Although an improvement on the minimum wage, it will not offset cuts to tax credits of up to £3,000 per family and will not apply to those aged under 25.
In recent weeks SNP members have taken the UK government to task on a series of issues important to people in Scotland.
The SNP is pressing the Treasury to look again at exempting Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service from a continuing VAT anomaly. Police Scotland is the only police authority in the UK unable to recover VAT and is liable to an annual cost of around £23 million. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is similarly disadvantaged, and is liable for an annual cost of around £10 million.
Unlocking these resources would improve the effectiveness of our Police and Fire service at a time when Scotland’s budget is under increasing attack and I am hopeful that we can make progress on this in the weeks ahead.
With the Westminster now in recess, I look forward to spending my time in the constituency, meeting residents and local community groups. I am certainly looking forward to my next visit to Arran.
And this is from our representative in the Scottish Parliament, Kenneth Gibson MSP:
I am delighted that – following recent positive developments and the involvement of the First Minister – the Clyde and Hebrides ferries dispute has ended amicably. Further strikes are not in anyone’s interests and I am pleased that all parties were able to resolve their differences in a constructive and respectful manner. After four days of intensive talks involving CalMac, the SNP Government and trade unions, a breakthrough agreement was reached which ensures pension rights and employment conditions will be protected as part of the new ferries tender contract and with the summer months vital to Arran’s tourist industry the resolution of this dispute will come as a great relief to islanders and businesses alike. The SNP Government continues to invest in and improve our ferry network which has already benefited from £1billion of investment in port infrastructure, vessels and services since the SNP came to office in 2007. The roll out of Road Equivalent Tariff – drastically reducing the cost of ferry travel for passengers and vehicles – coupled with the £18million redevelopment of Brodick Ferry Terminal and the commissioning of new vessels will help Arran’s communities to flourish after a difficult few years.
In other welcome news this week, new figures show that the number of young people aged 16-19 who are not in employment, education or training in Scotland is at an all-time low. At 16,270 numbers are down from the previous year’s figure of 19,970 and the 2003 peak of 27,790. Here in North Ayrshire, the number of young people not in a positive destination post school has fallen to 490 (7.3%) from 650 (9.3%) last year and a huge improvement on the 2003 figure of 950 (13.8%).
With further powers over the economy, employment and social security the Scottish Parliament could take further action to strengthen our economy, enhance our world class universities, strengthening our vital further education sector and create more and better paid jobs.
In recent months the SNP Government published monthly data, showing how our NHS is performing in a number of key areas. Following winter flu outbreaks and a series of other pressures, many Accident and Emergency units were struggling to meet the SNP Government’s ambitious targets of ensuring 95% of patients are seen within four hours. Indeed, in some hospitals the figure had dropped to 87%. However, following concerted efforts and the deployment of additional resources many of these pressures have been relieved and the situation is much improved. Last month, 95.4% of patients across Scotland were seen within four hours. At Crosshouse Hospital 94.8% were seen within the same time limit. To offer some context; had two more patients out of the 1,296 who visited Crosshouse last month been seen within four hours, the 95% target would have been met. I am pleased to see that waiting times are improving so markedly and would like to take this opportunity to thank our NHS staff for their hard work and dedication in making this possible.
The next film at Corrie and Sannox Village Hall on Sunday August 9th at 8pm will be Ilo Ilo.
Set in Singapore during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Ilo Ilo chronicles the day-to-day drama of the Lim family - troublesome grade-schooler Jiale and his overstressed parents, Heck and Leng. Comfortably middleclass and with another baby on the way, they hire Teresa, a Filipino immigrant, as a live-in maid and nanny. An outsider in both the family and Singapore itself, Teresa initially struggles to manage Jiale's antics and find her footing in her new community. The two eventually form a unique bond, but just as Teresa becomes an unspoken part of the family, unforeseen circumstances in an uncertain economy will challenge the new normal yet again.
According to film site Rotten Tomatoes, Ilo Ilo is quietly compassionate and rich in detail, and a strikingly mature debut from writer-director Anthony Chen.
All are welcome – do come along.
Last month’s film, Ida, could not be shown as, at the last moment, it became apparent that the DVD was a Blu-Ray version and incompatible with the projector in the hall. We watched the wonderful 1935 version of The 39 Steps instead, but it was a salutary lesson to check formats carefully before buying DVDs. Ida will be shown again, in the correct format, later in the season.
The Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture has scored a notable victory with two decisions by the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC). In both cases, the SIC has ordered Scottish Ministers to disclose damning seal-killing data in relation to salmon farms by 21 August 2015 (the SIC is required, by law, to give the Ministers at least six weeks to disclose the information).
“This is a landmark victory,” said Don Staniford, Director of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture. “These decisions are a shot in the arm for freedom of information and a shot across the bows of the bloody Scottish salmon farming industry. Now the public will be able to boycott salmon from lethal salmon farms. It is shameful that the Scottish salmon farming industry continues to kill seals and shocking that supermarkets still source seal-unfriendly farmed salmon. Sadly, the majority of consumers are unaware that both the RSPCA's 'Freedom Food' and the WWF/Aquaculture Stewardship Council's salmon certification scheme shamefully permit the killing of seals. The sure-fire message to consumers is simple: Scottish salmon is farmed and dangerous.”
“We welcome the decision to release this information as it is vitally important for the public to know which salmon suppliers are killing seals in order to make ethical consumer choices when shopping,” said John Robins, Secretary to the Save Our Seals Fund. “When you buy Scottish salmon you pay for bullets to shoot seals.”
“GAAIA will be writing once again to the U.S. Government reiterating the call to ban imports of all farmed salmon sourced from seal-killing salmon farms,” continued Staniford. “Under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act it appears illegal for consumers in the United States to buy salmon from farms where seals have been shot. Given that the U.S. is the biggest export market for Scottish farmed salmon it is not surprising that the Scottish salmon farming industry has been busy lobbying the Scottish Government against disclosure.”
The decisions follow repeated Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA) since April 2012 asking the Scottish Government to name individual salmon farms killing seals. Despite rulings by the Scottish Information Commissioner in 2012 and 2013 forcing disclosure, the Scottish Government stopped publishing site specific quarterly data in 2014 claiming in August 2014 a “significant risk of accidental injury to campaigners if they seek to get between licenced seal shooters and seals.”
According to official Scottish Government figures (excluding 2015 since no data has been published), salmon farms in Scotland have killed 634 seals since 2011. An analysis of the data by GAAIA in 2013 revealed that Hjaltland (Grieg Seafood), Scottish Sea Farms (Leroy/Salmar), Marine Harvest and the Scottish Salmon Company were the most lethal. Over half (52%) of the 215 active salmon farms in Scotland killed at least one seal. The deadliest salmon farm was Hjaltland’s Lax Firth site in Shetland with 18 dead seals followed a Scottish Sea Farms site in Veantrow Bay in Orkney with 14 dead seals.
The senseless slaughter of seals around the Scottish coast is coming under increasing public scrutiny with alarming video footage shot by Sea Shepherd making waves in the media.
“Next time you’re at the checkout, how do you know that the salmon in your basket isn’t essentially drenched in seal blood?” said actor Martin Shaw in an interview with The Sunday Times. “The best thing you can do to end this bloodshed is to simply boycott this intensive and cruel industry.”
Who do you think should be writing the terms of the huge trade deal between the EU and the US that’s currently being negotiated? Politicians? European citizens? Or corporate lobbyists, paid hundreds of thousands of Euros a year to push a big business agenda in Brussels?
SumOfUs and Corporate Europe Observatory have found that some of the biggest increases in lobbying spending came from the finance sector and big pharma. Not the most trustworthy people when it comes to protecting European citizens.
Research found that many corporate lobbyists didn’t even bother signing the EU’s transparency register -- leaving the public completely in the dark about their influence on the trade deal.
Even though politicians might try to ignore corporate lobbyists, their constant presence -- not to mention fancy dinners -- can be hard to resist.
The best way to stop politicians listening to lobbyists is to deliver a louder, stronger, people-powered message opposing TTIP.
But we also need to make sure we chip away at the power of the lobbyists lurking behind closed doors in Brussels, paid big money to convince politicians to ignore their voters in favour of big business’ demands. Shining a light on what they’re up to destroys their power.
South to make five No-Trumps. West leads the ♣2.
South wins the opening lead and plays three rounds of hearts. There are eleven easy tricks, incluidng four spades and three diamonds, if East jettisons his ♥Q, so he wins the fourth trick and is a trifle endplayed. If he returns:
A. a low club., South discards a middle diamond and North wins. The fourth heart now triple-squeezes East. A spade or diamond discard lets South discard from the opposite suit and run for eleven tricks, so East discards a club; but South jettisons his other middle diamond. South exits with a club. East's best return now is a low spade, but North wins and cashes his fourth club to squeeze East again.
B. a low spade., North wins and leads a high club to East's king, South discarding a middle diamond. South discards his other middle diamond on the club return and the fourth heart starts a repeating squeeze against East.
Is there anyone amongst the middle-aged and older folk of Arran who doesn’t have a fund of stories to tell about their lives? Some have lived here all their lives and remember other times and older ways; others have finally arrived after years of longing, with childhood visits and family holidays; some come for a couple of days and never leave. It is a feature of island life that we are interested in how people have come to make Arran their home from such diverse backgrounds, and others can tell incomers how it was in the old days when the puffers still ran and the piers still stood. There are as many different stories to tell as there are different lives spent, in often unexpected ways.
A new small group is being set up to explore these stories through writing brief pieces and sharing them. Based on an idea developed by Penny Henderson of the University of the Third Age in Cambridge, we hope to gather for two hours each week in Kildonan over 8 weeks in the Autumn and 8 weeks in the spring. Each person will bring a brief piece of writing about some aspect of their life story to share with others at each meeting. We will be listening much more to the stories themselves than to the ways they are written.
If you think you might be interested in forming part of such a group and would like to know more please contact Sue Weaver or Alan Bellamy on 820615 or via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Woodland Trust has commented on the results of a recent survey of native Scottish woodlands by the Forestry Commission Scotland. The survey found that of 14,000 sq. km. of woods in Scotland under a quarter are native, and of those more than half are in poor condition. Since the 1970s fully 14% of Scotland’s ancient woods, those with the greatest ecological value, have disappeared completely.
The Trust says “Some of the survey’s findings are shocking. Our native woods are under siege from overgrazing, smothered by invasive rhododendron, and hit by climate change and tree disease. The figures suggest that without immediate action, more than half might not survive to the end of the century.”
The Trust is calling for native woodland to be doubled by 2050, with the planting of more than 5000ha of trees a year, and the curbing of red deer numbers, which have increased dramatically since 1960. To find out more on this click on the picture below.
Tim Pomeroy writes about Arran Open Studios for the Voice
This does just what it says in the title. Over a long weekend in August (Friday 14th until Monday 17th inclusive) artists and craftspeople all over the island will open their studios and workshops for the public to visit and, potentially, buy artwork.
A brochure has been produced in which all the artists display photographic examples of their work, give details of their practice and supply information on opening times, access etc. Central to the brochure is a map on which all the studios are located and which includes personal directions from the artists on how to find their own particular studio.
This brochure is the main vehicle for advertising Arran Open Studios and it will be placed in major visitor outlets, galleries, art centres across the west of Scotland and the central belt. As well as everywhere imaginable on the island…look out for it!
What began as 25 participating artists has now blossomed to 34. Participants include sculptors, painters, printmakers, weavers, potters, jewellery makers, wood turners and furniture makers. This is an exciting addition to Arran’s calendar of arts events attracting art-loving visitors to the island and providing a new attraction for existing visitors.
An Art Bus will be running Friday Saturday and Sunday. What is an Art Bus you say? This is a minibus that will drive to three different parts of the island on three different days. The bus, which will aim to visit around ten studios per day, will stop and wait at studios to allow visitors to peruse, chat and perhaps purchase an art work. The bus will then drive on to the next studio. This allows visitors not only to see the studios but to get a hands free view of the magnificent scenery; Arran Open Studios organisers have guaranteed sunshine for the weekend!
The Arran Open Studios website www.arranopenstudios.com is a comprehensive guide to the people and works you can expect to encounter, and the Facebook page is an informal and sometimes humorous and informative peek into the lives and activities of the makers within and without their studio walls. This year’s event again boasts a small taster exhibition at the Visit Arran Office. This will run from 3rd to 17th August; pop in and see whose work you’d most like to see first. This is the third year of this event and it continues to grow in numbers and ambition. Support your local artists. Come and see them, as David Attenborough might say, in their natural habitat.
Please feel free to phone Ruth on 01770 820374 or Jan on 01770 700249 if you would like more information on Arran Open Studios.
Just a few days ago in early July, the many people who volunteer for Arran Eco Savvy Community heard the long-awaited news that SCIO (Scottish Charity Incorporated Organisation) status had been awarded, under charity number SCO45785. Eco Savvy Community is now formally registered for the purposed of advancing education and environmental protection and improvement.
Many of you will know of the Arran Eco Savvy Community as the site of a community shop in Whiting Bay which supports the people of Arran in reducing waste, by upcycling and passing on items which they no longer want. Now that SCIO status has been achieved the trustees and volunteers who jointly make decisions will be looking forward to widening the scope of Eco savvy’s activities considerably, all with the aim of supporting Arran’s move towards the ideal of zero waste.
Plans are already under discussion for developing a Community Garden and contributing to the reduction of Arran’s green waste through composting in its many different forms.
Meanwhile we are running creative upcycling workshops throughout the summer in preparation for our autumn fundraiser. It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and everyone is most welcome. The afternoons are spent sharing upcycling skills and learning new ones. We meet in the lesser hall Whiting Bay from 2-4pm on regular Wednesdays. The dates for August and September are –
Our autumn fundraiser is on Friday 23rd October and more details will be available nearer the time. There’s much more information on the Eco Savvy website.
David Underdown writes:
For Arran 2015 is turning out to be a bumper year for visiting poets. As well as Simon Armitage (see separate article) the last weekend in August will see an impressive line up of visiting poets and song writers for an evening of music and poetry at the Brodick Bar.
At the centre of the evening will be singer-song-writer Chris Harrison. A Cumbrian by birth, Chris is a regular performer at festivals and gigs in and around London and has recently been playing at the annual John Clare Festival in Helpston. For Arran he will be bringing his ‘Carols from the Coalfields’, a series of songs based on the life and poems of Joseph Skipsey, Northumberland’s ‘Pitman Poet’. You can find a taste of Chris’ work on his website.
To perform alongside Chris we invited six poets from off the island (including Alex Josephy, Ron Scowcroft and Sheila Templeton, all past winners of the McLellan Poetry Prize) to come up with poems that would complement his songs. Joined by Larry Butler, Helena Nelson, Liz Cashdan and our own Alison Prince, they should all add up to a varied and entertaining evening.
This will be free event and is un-ticketed, but space is limited so come along in good time. The bar will be open as usual for refreshments and thanks are due to Ian McFadzean for agreeing to host the evening.
by Dave Payn
1 & 16ac Haunting CD release (3,5,2,3,12)
8 Condemned without right and blamed (7)
9 South African girl has a bath (5)
10 Paid Christ to destroy tyranny (12)
11 Lessen the contents of an open fire, then end session (3,3)
13 Politician appearing in television needs sanctuary (6)
16 See 1ac
20 Machine part is the same when back to front (5)
21 Appreciate genuine taste, one hears (7)
22 A country where you can settle in niche, maybe? (12)
1 Relax? About what? (4)
2 Attractive headless impression (7)
3 Eton's strange beginning (5)
4 Natural state of untidy mess (6)
5 Former pupil to distribute catch (7)
6 A bit of a blow (5)
7 Old flame is large model (7)
11 Free Royal Academy when involved in defamation (7)
12 Exhibit in a bureau near the city (7)
14 Particular creep is unhinged (7)
15 Some beavers end up being antagonistic (6)
17 Composer to experience at the weekend, for instance (5)
18 Look at commercials, lots of them (5)
19 Spotted old queen coming out of river (4)
The answers for the July crossword.
1 Rely, 3 Fabric, 9 Miscast, 10 Dense, 11 Notebook, 12 Oer, 14 Usage, 16 Amend, 18 Eel, 19 Sibelius, 22 Arena,
23 Theresa, 24 Theory, 25 Else.
1 Roman Numeral, 2 Liszt, 4 Action, 6 Console, 7 Has-Been, 8 Heart Disease, 13 Watered, 15 Ailment, 17 Pinter,
20 Ideal, 21 Kale.
In 1999, a group of Arran people, decided to build a replica boat to celebrate Arran's Viking heritage and to extend their own sailing and rowing skills. They constructed a 40ft longship with wooden gunwales, thwarts, mast, oars and a fibreglass hull, made from a mould borrowed from a Viking group in Ireland. The renowned local wood-carver, Marvin Elliott, carved the impressive figure-heads and designed the iconic canvas sail - Black Eagle was born!
Check out the Ancient Black Ops programmes 'The Viking Berserkers' and 'The Varangian Guard' on YouTube to see some wonderfully atmospheric shots of Black Eagle – and some wild, local Vikings, filmed off Sannox, just last year.
The Arran Viking Longship Society has operated over the past 13 years out of the Old Port in Corrie, but will now be based in Lamlash Bay. If you are interested in joining in the unbelievable experience of sailing, and rowing, in a Viking longship; of learning the techniques of making facsimile Viking weapons, shields, chainmail and costumes; as well as re-enactment battles – then contact Stuart Gough at 'Carlo', Corrie Shore, tel.302670 or email email@example.com – or come along to the Arran Show on Wednesday, 5th August, and see Black Eagle and meet the Arran Vikings in person.
Correspondence (by email) to the Voice is welcome. The Editor retains the right to decide on publication and editing of letters, and the views expressed will not necessarily be those of the Voice.
John Inglis, Red House, High Corrie, Arran, KA27 8JB, writes:
The Euro crisis and plan ‘B’
I agree about the need for Syritza to have developed a plan B but that was difficult in the face of Greek public opinion in favour of staying in the Eurozone while opposing further cuts. The party should have prepared the Greek public for an alternative, a return to the Drachma and an exit from the EU, undoubtedly with harsh consequences but possibly less harsh than staying in under the imposed terms of corporate thuggery enacted by the EU. If these terms are finally approved there will be further thought provoking developments about the nature of the EU as we witness the devastation of Greece as its people starve and £50billion of its public assets are sold at knock down prices to carpet baggers. Quite apart from expressing outrage, which I hope the Scottish Government will do as well as initiating help, the issue requires a re-think on our own adoration of the EU as we move toward independence. In other words Scotland also needs a plan B which we need to be working on now. That should involve a truly internationalist outlook seeking mutual help alliances with other countries whose people want to secure their democracy and protect themselves against big global corporations and banks whom the EU represents.