Monday, 28 November 2005

Sunday 27/11/05

Awake to a bright but cloudy day. Breakfast at 10, during which I see a large flock of birds hovering over an area of the sea beyond the beacon. It's likely to be a whale. The odd shower pushes through, but it's only light and doesn't help to wash the salt off the windows. Recent high winds have left a nice layer of salt. And after all the bother of washing them 9 days ago! The ferry left this morning at 7.30, unusual on a Sunday. It had to make up for missing quite a few sailings earlier in the week. Spend the day in idle sloth, going through a few Sudoku puzzles and watching telly. Sunset at 3.45. I cook supper for mrs B and her sister, both recovered from their aquavitae experience last night. Bed just after I finished this entry

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Saturday 26/11/05

The heavy hailshowers continue through the night, with the wind decreasing gradually. At 6 a.m., it appears to increase again. The ferry sails at 10 a.m. on its only sailing of the day. The Small Isles ferry was delayed because the A830, Fort William to Mallaig road, was blocked at Arisaig. Everyone had to transfer to the train to reach Mallaig. Went out to buy a ticket for a film performance next Thursday, 1 December; it's a local production called Rocket Post. It's about the failed experiment in 1934 to transfer mail from Scarp to mainland Harris by rocket. The rocket exploded, scattering all the mail over the beach and burning some of it. Tickets for this evening's showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were NOT available until at the door. In Somerfields there is not a lot of fresh fruits, and no vegetables. Fairly busy in there nonetheless. Buy a new book with 400 Sudoku puzzles by Carol Vorderman, which should keep me happy. The 500 travellers that were stranded on the A30 in Cornwall are beginning to make their way home. A train derailed on a landslip at Moy, south of Inverness. The carriage remained upright, and 9 passengers were injured, none seriously. After an early supper, I proceed to the Town Hall at 6.30 for Harry Potter. Film was better than I had expected, it kept close to the storyline or what they could show of it. Although boisterous at the start, the teenagers present were very subdued at the end, by 9.20. There were one or two young children present, accompanied by mum and/or dad, as this is a 12A rated movie. As I said, very good but pretty graphic. Return to Newton to find mrs B and her sister partaking in some uisge beatha whilst waiting for a Xmas cake to cook in the oven at 100C. Small wonder it takes about 4 hours.

Friday 25/11/05

Very unpleasant weather today. We have a northerly gale, which is gusting in excess of 55 knots or force 11. Elsewhere the wind is even stronger, like at Malin Head, Kirkwall and Lerwick. The strongest gust, 69 knots, was observed at Kirkwall. Snow is a big problem throughout Scotland, although not here. Temperature is 5C, which is too high to allow snow to accumulate. We have a train of hail and snow showers which come barrelling through. Ferry is cancelled for today, and along much of the West Coast, services have been disrupted. The wind isn't that much of a problem, apart from causing a few powercuts in some parts of Scotland. I don't show my face out of doors, but keep abreast of events. Snow becomes a big issue elsewhere. It causes a traffic infarct in Holland, with tailbacks in excess of 900 km or 560 miles. Here in the UK, 500 motorists are stranded on Bodmin Moor when lorries on the A30 Penzance to Exeter road fail to negotiate a steep incline, blocking the path of following traffic. Here in Stornoway, people are panic-buying because there are no ferries.

Thursday 24/11/05 - Thanksgiving (II)

Received some nice info from the North Lochs Historical Society. Climbers were lost on Ben MacDui, Cairngorms, in today's blizzards, but were found safe and well if cold. Many schools are closed, Skye Bridge is shut for high-sided vehicles. Big problems with snow and ice, on one section of road vehicles could not gain traction. By 5pm, the freight from the ferry has been unloaded into the supermarket. After dark, snow showers intensify. Gusts up to 56 knots (64 mph) are reported. This is the only place in the UK where Thanksgiving is being held on the last Thursday in November. Heavy snow- and hailshowers leave a fair accumulation out the back. Very cold, barely above freezing. Met Office reports not coming through from Stornoway, so have to get info from Spaghetti bolognese from mrs B, with wine.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Thursday 24/11/05 - Thanksgiving

Dire, dire warnings about today's weather. We start off with a heavy hailshower, which is followed by a procession of snowshowers. MV Muirneag turned back to Ullapool after sailing from there at 3 a.m.. The Isle of Lewis did leave at 7.15. Because of the strong winds, powersupplies may be interrupted. Schools in the Southern Isles were closed due to the weather. Schools in Lewis & Harris are closed for Thanksgiving. Spindrift whirls over the Newton Basin. A fishing boat, heavily laden, leaves port, but turns back. We have a northwesterly wind today, and at 9 a.m. gusts reach 54 knots, force 10. Temperature has plummeted to +2C, as opposed to yesterday's 11C. The Metcheck website is running very slowly indeed. Go into town at 10.30, where many shops are shut for Thanksgiving. I want a roll of film, but the shop in Point Street is closed, as is KJ MacDonald's Pharmacy. Net result, I have to go to the Tourist Office. Wait for about 30 minutes for a haircut. Spend 90 minutes in the library re-scanning pictures. Got some interesting material from North Lochs Historical Society re. Project Timbertown. Mrs B is getting all the candles out in case of a powercut. It is bitterly cold, with a strong to galeforce northwesterly wind, gusting up to force 10. There are frequent hail- and snowshowers. The ferry situation is once again bad. Our ferry is due back at 3 pm, and is unlikely to sail until NEXT MONDAY!!! Notice strong winds right the way down the Irish Sea coast, as far down as Crosby, Liverpool. Gusts at 50-54 knots there, Lusa not far behind at 49 kts. Ferry comes in at 3, followed hard on its heels by a heavy snow shower.

Further notes in a separate entry

Thursday 24/11/05 - Ferry disruptions

The weather is bad, so Caledonian MacBrayne is cancelling the following services:

Ardrossan Brodick Service

Due to adverse weather conditions the 1350 sailing has been diverted to Gourock eta 1600. All remaining sailings today have been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Islay Service
Due to the adverse weather the sailings have been cancelled meantime

Sound of Harris (Berneray/Leverburgh)
1320 ex Berneray & 1440 ex Leverburgh cancelled due to weather conditions. No further sailings today

Fionnphort/Iona Service
Due to adverse weather conditions this service is cancelled for the remainder of the day. Sailings will resume as per timetable on Fri 25th November - weather permitting.

Oban - Castlebay & Lochboisdale
Due to adverse weather the 1530 hrs from Oban has been cancelled. Next sailing will be 0930 hrs on Friday weather permitting.

Mallaig - Armadale
Due to deteriorating weather conditions the 1600 ex Mallaig and the 1645 ex Armadale sailings are cancelled.

MV Isle of Lewis will attempt a crossing from Ullapool to Stornoway at approximately 1130. It is anticipated that the vessel will arrive in Stornoway between 1500 and 1600. The 1345 sailing (ex Stornoway) and the 1715 sailing (ex Ullapool) have been cancelled, due to forecasted severe adverse weather.

Due to the weather forecast for the next couple of days, the Master of the vessel has indicated that the following sailing may be affected from Stornoway and Ullapool; Thursday p.m - doubtful Friday a.m - extremely doubtful Friday p.m - extremely doubtful Saturday a.m - doubtful Because of the knock on effect of these disruptions we took the decision to close the affected sailings for reservations. This will be reviewed on a sailing by sailing basis, if the weather improves at any stage it may be possible to attempt a crossing WEATHER PERMITTING. Please contact local offices for further details.

Tarbert - Portavadie cancelled until further notice.

Mallaig/Small Isles
Rum and Canna calls cancelled due to weather MV Lochnevis returning to Mallaig

Mull Service
Due to adverse weather conditions the ferry between Oban and Craignure has been cancelled for the whole of today. The next scheduled sailing will be 0800 hrs on Friday 25th Novermber from Oban

Sound of Barra Service
Chargehand has advised that due to weather conditions he was cancelling the first return sailing on this service. ie 07:15hrs ex Ardmhor and the 08:20hrs ex Eriskay. He has now advised that due to weather conditions and forecast he was cancelling the remainder of the sailings on this service for today. Weather permitting timetable as normal for Friday 25/11

Wednesday 23/11/05

MV Muirneag sails into port at 8.40, with all of TWO lorries on board. Apparently, nobody wants to travel on the poor old girl anymore, sniff. The SFPA boat [Scottish Fishery Protection Agency] leaves at the same time. The fire extinguisher chap is back with us this week, as are two gents from the insulation company. Today dawns dark and later on it turns drizzly. The lights have to stay on over breakfast. Late tomorrow the fun will start, as they're forecasting a snowstorm in the afternoon. It's so dark this morning, that I'm having the lights on at 9.30 to write this. Typical for late November. A drizzle sets in late in the morning. A heavy drizzle sets in at 10, which persists into the afternoon. Mrs B's sister calls in later that morning and her son is in for lunch. A lot of work is required for maintenance on the house. Discover the weblog of a family who moved to North Lochs in 2003 from the UK Mainland. The usual litany of problems. Our tanker, the Border Heather, leaves port at 3.30. Visibility is so poor that I can barely discern her going past Green Island. At dusk, I go to Somerfields for my shopping. Lottery ticket was a waste of good money, as they usually are. Nice supper from mrs B.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Tuesday 22/11/05

Bright and sunny morning, with the sun rising behind the Coastguard Station at 8.30. Sunset will be at 15.55 this afternoon, which means that we're only 1h05 above the daylight quotum for the shortest day. Sunrise on December 21st will be at 9.15, sunset at 15.35. At lunchtime, Mrs B and myself are taken to the carpark halfway down the Braighe, the causeway to Point. From there, we'll walk back to Mealabost and pick up a bus to Newton. It's a breezy afternoon, and visibility is not as good as a few days ago. Can barely see Kebock Head, 12 miles away. The views northeast and northwest up Broad Bay are very good. Cellar Head is just about idscernable above Back. In Point, I can see Aignish, Garrabost and Sulishader. Plenty of birdlife along the shoreline, such as shags, cormorants, grebes and gulls.

It's a very pleasant 1 km stroll to Mealabost, where a small picnic area awaits the weary and hungry. A few head of highland cattle browse in an adjacent field. Four jegfighters come past before circling to land at the airport, just over the hill. The bus comes at 1.35 and returns us to Newton some 15 minutes later. When I go to Somerfields, I encounter Sally (from Balallan) who I have not seen for several months. Her daughter had to leave Lewis due to bullying, but will be returning to continue her education at a university. Cloud increases as the evening progresses, and it comes on to rain at 10pm.

Monday 21/11/05

Cloudy but mild day today. The normal Monday morning rundown of crashes (5 hurt in car which went off the road at Balallan) and drunken misbehaviour (17-year old stopped for drunk driving in town centre) on Isles FM. MV Muirneag comes into port at 9 a.m. looking very empty and high out of the water. I reckon the lorrydrivers are not prepared to risk another crossing in that tub again. We've got 3 guests in at the moment. One was here last week, learning about fire-extinguishers. He's getting some practical work, on the Muirneag this afternoon. The other two work for a company in Glasgow, which puts insulation into homes. Jack Frost is a regular customer of Mrs B's hospitality. Later in the week, we can expect to turn from being the warmest place in the UK to the coldest, with an Arctic blast. Am looking forward to the snow, puts everything in a totally different light. Bed at midnight.

Monday, 21 November 2005


I'm quite flattered to have reached 2000 pageviews!

Sunday 20/11/05

Overcast day, which starts late at 9.45 with a prolongued chat over breakfast. It stays the same temperature, 10C, all day. Watch Landward, the Scottish counterpart of Countryfile. In the middle of the afternoon, I go for a stroll through a deserted town, up to the Town Hall. Then up Cromwell Street as far as Kenneth Street. Up the hill along Scotland Street to Matheson Road. Goathill Road takes me along the perimeter of the Nicolson Institute to Smith Avenue and back to Newton via Island Road. I encounter on average 1 person per street. The weather is the mildest in the country. Prepare supper for mrs B, which turns into a mushy mess. The spuds aren't what I'd expected of them. Television is a disappointment, with another series of "I'm a Celebrity, get me out of here". What a collection of fools.

Saturday 19/11/05

Cloudy but bright morning. During the night, temperatures have risen steadily to about 10C. Go out later in the morning for some shopping. There is a farmers' market on outside the Town Hall, where nice looking spuds are being sold from Aignish - Kerrs Pink. Need some post-its from the Baltic Bookshop and a ream of printing paper from the Post Office, which is the cheapest in town. Lumbered with a flimsy bag full of heavy items, I also have to go into Somerfields.They are nearly, but not quite, out of carrots. Return to Newton where mrs B's sister calls in for a chat about her former job. After she leaves, mrs B herself returns after a good shopping spree. I had been wondering where my hankies had gone to, but I retrace them. Completely missed the ferry going in and out at lunchtime. The sun sets in a blaze of pink and red at 4pm. Am served a meal of scallops, pasta bake and sticky toffee pudding, followed by a bottle of white wine. No, not a lot on the telly. The lottery ticket was a complete waste of money.

Saturday, 19 November 2005

Friday 18/11/05

Sunny morning, with the mainland hills slowly fading. Forecast for low daytime temperatures, 2-5C in Scotland. The two other guests leave today, one is off home to Skye at 6 a.m., to catch the 7.30 ferry at Tarbert. After morning coffee, the windows are washed. Strange folks, those Scots. Wash the windows after weeks of rain. After lunch, I set off on a walk to the Iolaire Monument. Mrs B had wanted to come with me, but she could pick up her new glasses. These were about a week late in coming. Go down towards Lower Sandwick where thick-coated sheep are grazing contentedly. The rams are already in with the ewes. The views are phenomenal today. As I walk along to Stoneyfields Farm, I can see right down the east coast to Skye and the Shiants, with the procession of inlets along the east coast of Lewis: Loch Grimshader, Loch Erisort, Kebock Head. The second gate by Stoneyfields Farm is set in a mire after heavy rain. The works at Holm are still going on, months behind schedule. At the Iolaire MOnument, the wreath of poppies is still attached to the railings, and the two Remembrance crosses are embedded in the cairn. Look for a stone to place on the cairn, but have to extract one from the very ground. As others have had to as well. View reaches right down to Bla Bheinn and Beinn na Cailleach near Broadford, 75 miles away. The Storr, north of Portree is slightly closer at 50 miles. The Applecross Forest puts in regular appearances on the southeastern horizon. The mountains on Sutherland are invisible as obscured by Point. A boat is out by the Shiants. Leave the area at 3.15, to walk the 40 minutes back to Newton. A steady breeze blows in from the south, and high clouds creep in from the west. The sun sets on my return, and mrs B has gone out shopping. I catch up with her at Somerfields, new glasses and all. We have a nice meal, stir-in sauce Karai with rice and chicken. Quiet evening by the fire.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Thursday 17/11/05

Very cold morning with temps around freezing. Eskdalemuir went down to -5C. Nice and sunny though. Go out to buy the weekly papers, which are full of last Friday's voyage from hell on board MV Muirneag. I send a letter to Calmac to help them by showing the Met Office was late in sending their galewarning on the day. Well, of course everybody knows that the boat should never have sailed in the first instance. The sliding door on mrs B's frontdoor requires a new rider, as the old one has rusted shut. Go out to the Arnish Road after lunch to walk back with mrs B via Gallows' Hill. The Creed River is in spate, still draining water from the moors. A sliver of mist is draped below Eitsal, 9 miles away. The island looks beautiful in the autumnal light. The mountains on the mainland are covered in snow, but they disappear from sight behind a shower in the Minch. The town below is bustling. Walk through the Castle Grounds towards Lews Castle. Mrs B is stunned by the devastatioin wrought by January's hurricane. Last week's storm did not cause a lot of new damage; only see a few freshly broken branches. Lews Castle College students are just leaving for home. Town is very busy as we return there at 4.10, sunset time. At 7 o'clock, mrs B's sister appears for supper. Very good, piece of lamb with vegs and mash. Have an extensive natter with the guest. There is a problem with a mouse at the lady's house, 2 doors down. I stuff up the holes through which the blasted rodent has entered with plastic bags. The mouse left its excreta around. A mousetrap is available in case.  

Wednesday 16/11/05

Bright but cold morning, 4C, with occasional hail showers. The guest goes to his fire extinguishers at 9 o'clock, mrs B goes to see a vampire and I sort out my stacks of paper. Over the weekend, 4 youths were discovered in a storage depot up the road, formerly a Harris Tweed mill. They vandalised a car by bashing all its windows in, and a caravan by spraying the windows with paint. They had rigged up a Xmas tree to a car battery. It's a quiet day, just for a change. A flotilla of ducks has taken up residency in the basin outside the front. Ferry is in later than scheduled at lunchtime. Generally the consensus is that we had an atrocious week, weatherwise last week; the weather is nobody's fault, but breakdowns are. As is a decision to sail in stormforce winds, which were forecast, although the formal warning came out a bit late. I sent an email to the Met Office expressing my concern over the absence of a galewarning for NW Scotland, until it was too late. It was issue at 10 a.m., but then the decision to set forth had been taken. After supper, mrs B's sister comes to call. She normally lives on Tyneside and came on the plane. She smokes like chimney stack. Bedtime around midnight. It's very cold; temperature around 0C, Eskdalemuir at -3C at that time.  

Tuesday 15/11/05

Nice morning with a shower passing over Arnish at breakfast time. It's cold, but afterwards nice and clear. A vast improvement on recent times. Chat to a new guest, who is starting a new job for which he is receiving in(tro)duction here in Stornoway. Another guest is due in tomorrow night; he is a regular, who comes to the town to check the IT equipment in the hospital. The man who is here now had to wait for 6 hours at Uig, Skye, for a ferry to turn up. Weather fairly OK with the odd shower every now and again. Papers are full of the crossing from hell on board MV Muirneag last Friday. I find the history of the boat on the Net, and she's been shunted from owner to owner over the 26 years of her lifetime. Mrs B attempts to obtain logs for the fireplace through the Stornoway Trust. Her fire also burns coal. Today is a cold day, with temperatures of barely 5C, a lot lower than of late. A remarkably low tide late at night. During a TV report from Yorkshire, I can see the moon and the planet Mars, both close together behind the reporter's head. We have a different ferry today, MV Clansman (image below, (c) Ships of The Isle of Lewis is undergoing repairs.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Storm Report

The new journal St Martin's Storm 2005 is now on-line. It contains the following:

- reports from Metcheck

- a bundle of forecasts for the storm

- transcript of newspaper article about the Muirneag

- diary entry for the day

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Monday 14/11/05

Ferry never came back, it was due its refit 2 weeks ago. As per normal, the replacement ferry was unavailable. Weather quite unpleasant, heavy drizzle and strong winds with galeforce gusts. Loch Glascarnoch reports gusts of up to 44 knots, which is force 9. There will be an inquiry into the sailing of MV Muirneag on Friday. Someone was injured, and had to be airlifted off, 5 miles east of Tiumpan Head. The Coastguard is asking why the boat was at sea in such conditions in the first place. Lorries were damaged in the crossing. So, we've got NO ferries. The Small Isles ferry cannot call at Muck today. The story surrounding the Muirneag takes another twist, when the BBC breaks the news at midday that a crewman assaulted a passenger on board. This was later sorted amicably with a handshake. Muirneag sailed on Friday from Ullapool at 10 a.m., but could not enter Stornoway Harbour for 16 hours due to winds gusting at 65 knots. In other news, this weekend a digger burned out at Balallan. Went into town to drop off my pictures for processing. There is driving rain with force 9 gusts. Temperature today 13C, but set to decrease later in the week with wintry conditions. On Saturday, a large barge with 265 people on board was sent adrift in the North Sea. The occupants were taken off by helicopter. The lifeboat sailed yesterday to help a fisherman who was hurt after falling in his hold. More cancellations on the ferries: The Uig ferry is stormbound at Lochmaddy, the Armadale ferry is cancelled as are the ferries at Leverburgh and Eriskay. The strong winds abate at 4.30, when clouds break. The moon comes out later in the night, close to the planet Mars in the sky. Grampian TV showed a graphic report from Cuddy Point, interviewing passengers who had travelled on board MV Muirneag last Friday. Two men said they had written letters to their loved ones, as they were convinced the boat was going down. A vintage Rolls Royce was badly bashed in the crossing. CalMac claim they didn't know it was going to blow - well, they should have. A man arrives from Skye at 10.40pm, after the Uig ferry arrives at Tarbert. Methinks the excitement in the weather will now refocus on temperatures: looks like a cold night in the offing.

Monday, 14 November 2005

Friday 11/11/05 - The big storm PICTURES

Pictures taken at the height of the hurricane are now inserted into the entry for 11th November; click this link if necessary.

Remembrance Sunday - 13/11/05

It's a grey and drizzly day, with a thin wind blowing. Jerry left on the ferry, which finally departed for Ullapool at 7.45. Breakfast at 10 o'clock, after which we watch the Remembrance Day ceremonies in London's Whitehall. It's sunny down there, and the trees are still very much in leaf. Services are being held in 4 different churches in Stornoway, each allocated to one or more units of military or civil defence forces. I go out shortly after midday to attend a Service of Dedication up on the War Memorial. As I walk down Kenneth Street, the Free Church goes out, everybody hurrying to their cars to get home. I head down Bayhead Street to the Porter's Lodge, and along the Willowglen Burn to the Watermill. From there, I head up through the housing estate between the Lochs Road and Stewart Drive, to the Memorial. A lady is staggering up the Lochs Road, talking loudly to ... nobody. When I reach the top of Stewart Drive, two minibuses from the Army Cadets are parked. Walked up behind a group of fire officers. A fair crowd had gathered at the Memorial, about 100. A proportion of Army and Navy as well as veterans. Rev W. Black of the Church of Scotland started with a longish prayer, for which everybody took their hats off. Even though it was raining steadily. After that, we sang Psalm 46. Fortunately, someone passed round a crib-sheet with the words. After the psalm, which was not exactly sung with thunderous gusto, the wreaths were laid inside the Memorial. As the picture at the top of the entry shows, this is a tower, 26 metres high, perched on top of a high hill. It can be seen from far away. The tower is normally locked, but opened for this occasion. Proceedings were closed at 12.50, 15 minutes after it began. We sang two verses of the National Anthem, verses 1 and 3. For those who have just forgotten what the lines were, go to Everyone filed away, the Army cadets were marched down, the Airforce Cadets, complete with banner were bellowed on their way by their sergeant. The Army lot only went as far as the Stewart Drive gate, the RAF cadets went all the way to Memorial Avenue. I cut through the estate to the Lochs Road and went to the Watermill to take some pictures. Returned to town via the Golfcourse which looked very autumnal. Hardlyanybody about in the town. Returned to Newton at 1.30, where I joined mrs B for lunch. A large flock of gulls wheels over Sandwick Bay, behind the Coastguard Station. We await the return of the ferry, but end up waiting all day. Don't know if it came back. A Navy boat is hovering on the horizon for a while. The lifeboat goes out at 15.10. As darkness falls, visibility drops below 1 mile. Arnish Lighthouse is only visible by its light, on account of the heavy drizzle. With the evening progressing, the wind picks up. The moon is out at 8pm, and a strong wind blows. A severe gale warning is out for the tops of the hills. Later in the evening, I accompany mrs B to her sister's house, just down the road. She is due to return to Stornoway later this week, after an absence of 15 months. The house has lain empty for that time, except for a spell in the summer when a lady staid there for a while. I switched on the electrics and the central heating boiler. It's a nice wee place, but it's a bit pokey; windows are set deep in the 2 feet thick walls.

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Saturday 12/11/05

Jerry was due to go on the ferry (sorry, no pun intended) at 7.15, but CalMac cancelled the sailing. The wind has now veered into the northwest and is still at galeforce. By 10 a.m., we learn that the 13.45 will be going as timetabled. TWO lifeboats are seen leaving port at 10.15 - strange, we only have one on station normally.

Because of the poor weather, the wreath laying at the Ness War Memorial, at Cross, will now be taking place in the church. Most ferry services are going normally now, apart from the Small Isles sailing which was unable to call at Canna. The Eriskay to Barra ferry is off as well. The Isle of Lewis is NOT sailing after all; it has broken down. Again. On Thursday, it took 5 hours to reach Ullapool, a crossing that normally only takes 2 hours 45 minutes. CalMac put out a desperate appeal for parts, which served to patch it up. Now it's not going again. Another boat is due in tomorrow, and folk are being bussed down to Tarbert to go via Skye. Jerry cannot take up that offer, because his car is parked in Ullapool. Yesterday, schools were closed, a plane couldn't land at Stornoway Airport due to water on the runway. Another plane had to turn back from Kirkwall because the 55 knot winds were too strong. Debris is still flying around in Skye. Weather her starts cloudy with spells of rain, but later on the sun breaks through. Very cold wind. Muirneag did come in, but it still has lots of stuff on board. Lorries were damaged during the crossing yesterday. Isles FM reports that CalMac are putting on an extra sailing tomorrow, which is very unusual for a Sunday. There has not been a proper ferry service for 3 days now, and huge backlogs have built up for cars, vehicles and passengers  on both sides of the Minch. After nightfall, the showers turn into hailshowers. Jerry and myself are served lasagna by mrs B. The former goes to An Lanntair for a jamming session with his bouzouki. A raging success, he doesn't return until 3.30 a.m..

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Friday 11/11/05 - The big storm

At 12.30 the sun puts in an unexpected appearance. Wind increases appreciably, now gusting to force 10. Barometer going down like a lead weight: 983 mbar at 12.00. Ferry is not sailing once it's back from Ullapool. The road across the Braighe is closed due to a high tide at 3 pm. Although the rain has now turned into showers, it's still very wild. During one squall, we lose sight of Arnish, and a wild frenzy of spray is blown over the causeway. This is force 11. Several more showers come barrelling through, with a similar effect. Malin Head reports 65 knots, which is force 12; Benbecula at 1pm is on 57, force 11. The ferry was expected in between 1.30 and 2.00, but there is sight nor sound of her. She is reported to be sheltering in Loch Erisort. An accident is reported on board Muirneag, also still out there in the Minch. Lorries have crashed into each other and she is now sheltering off Tolsta. I went out for some shopping at 3.15, which was a disconcerting experience. The force of the wind made walking difficult. After getting food, a paper and a roll of ilm, I went out again for some pictures. Don't know how they're going to come out. Took the camera to the coastguard station, and snapped away. I abandoned any idea of crossing over to Goat Island. The causeway is awash with massive seas going over, and the wind is so powerful that they blow the water clean out of puddles at the corner of the CG station. Back to town, where big seas are running into the seawall on South Beach Street. Water is flying over Newton Street, Shell Street, the busstation (buses are parked up against the shrimp factory, rather than in the bays). Walking very difficult, as I have to hold on to whatever comes to hand. Railings, bins, cars. A gale blows up Cromwell Street. All the fishing boats are tied up in the Inner Harbour. Return soaked, in spite of wearing waterproofs. Wonder where the ferry is - still up Loch Erisort. As darkness falls, winds continue to increase. Tiree and Benbecula now ratcheting up windspeeds of 75 and 73 knots, full hurricane force gusts. Sustained winds there of 55 knots, force 11. Gusts in Stornoway at 4pm reached 65 knots, also hurricane force, so that explains my problems in getting about. Sustained windspeeds up to 45 knots, force 9. The ferry finally comes in at 5.45, 4½ hours late. Suddenly, the winds decrease to sustained force 7, gusting to force 10. Still very strong. The really severe weather transfers east. The heaviest gusts occurat Loch Glascarnoch, between Ullapool and Garve, at 62 knots, nearly force 12. Tulloch Bridge and Skye are both going strong with gusts of 50 knots, force 10. Wick is now topping the bill at 65 knots at 9pm. Even Kirkwall and Lerwick are now affected, with 56 knots, force 11. In spite of all the strong winds, there do not appear to have been major problems. Electrical engineers were on standby at the substation in Dunvegan, Skye, which serves the Western Isles. Although we had a few dips in power, it never went off. Mrs B's son and his wife turn up to lash down their caravan, which is parked in the backyard. The wind is expected to veer northwest overnight, which puts it at risk of being blown away.

Friday, 11 November 2005

Ferry cancellations - 11/11/05

Due to adverse weather 1355ex Berneray + 1505ex Leverburgh have been cancelled. Next sailing 0830ex Berneray 12/11, weather permitting.


Rothesay/Wemyss Bay Service
Due to adverse weather conditions the following sailings have been cancelled 1100 & 1145 ex Rothesay & 1015 1100 & 1215 Ex Wemyss Bay. MV Bute will depart Gourock @ 1200 sailing to Rothesay. Intending passengers are advised to check prior to travelling.

Brodick/Ardrossan Service
Due to adverse weather conditions passengers are advised that the 1105 ex Brodick will be going to Gourock. ETA 1310hours. There will be a bus service from Ardrossan to Gourock at 1230hours. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Uig / Lochmaddy Service Disruption 11/11/05
Due to adverse weather conditions the 1245 ex Lochmaddy and the 1500 ex Uig sailings are cancelled. Subject to an improvement in weather conditions, MV Hebrides hopes to take up the 0730 sailing ex Lochmaddy on Saturday 12/11/05.

Services to Colonsay, Barra, Uist and Mull
Due to adverse weather conditions the following sailings have been affected:---- 0930 sailing to Barra & Uist cancelled. Next sailing 1500 Sunday 13th as per timetable.---- 1000 sailing to Colonsay cancelled. Next sailing 1430 Saturday 12th weather permitting.--- 1600, 1700 and 2130 Oban/Craignure/Oban sailings currently looking uncertain due to weather. A final decision will be made at 1500. MV Isle of Mull will however operate an extra Oban - Craignure sailing today at 1200 weather permitting.

Sound of Barra Service
The 09:25hrs ex Ardmhor and the return 10:30hrs ex Eriskay have now been cancelled. Due to the weather forecast the remaining sailings for today are very doubtful.

Mallaig-Small Isles service
The service to the Small Isles today of Eigg and Muck has been cancelled due to adverse weather.

Mallaig - Armadale Service
The 0840 ex Mallaig and the 0925 ex Armadale have been cancelled due to adverse weather. We will update later with regard to this afternoons sailings.

Fionnphort-Iona service
Due to adverse weatherconditions this service is off at present. We will update as and when we get further information. This service has been CANCELLED for the rest of the day.

Tayinloan - Gigha Service
Due to adverse weather conditions the Gigha Service has been suspended until further notice.


Armistice Day, Friday 11/11/05

Armistice Day today, with some quite appalling weather. Gales and rain. Many ferry services are off - I've copied the list of cancellations at midday into a separate entry. The Stornoway ferry is on its way across (rather them than me). Irish weatherstations on the west coast report gusts up to 60 knots (force 11). Stornoway is on 45 knots, force 9. A rare gull was blown across on the winds of Hurricane Wilma and is now attracting twitchers to Bragar. If they can get across at all.

Further updates in a separate entries.

Thursday 10/11/05

Fairly bright morning, but with short, sharp showers. Another gale is in the offing for tomorrow, which will be followed by a drop in temperature. Ferry is cancelled, because it broke down at Ullapool.. Calmac advise travellers to go to Uig in Skye. Nice one, that is a trip of about 200 miles via Inverness and Kyle. Jerry is sorting out the purchase of his cottage in Sheshader. When I go out to get the Thursday papers, they have not come in. Apparently, the lorry missed the Muirneag, which itself was an hour late coming into port this morning. Weatherforecast for tomorrow pretty awful. The evening is quiet, and we enjoy a logfire. Jerry takes his bouzouki to O'Neills and plays there till 1.30 a.m..

Wednesday 09/11/05

Brilliantly sunny morning, not a cloud in the sky. Colossal hangover. Own fault. Have a nice chat with Geoff and Jerry (try not to think "Tom and Jerry"). Jerry will be viewing houses today. The weather gets interesting as the day wears on. It clouds over at lunchtime, and the temperature drops. At 3 pm, a Norwegian submarine pulls into port. It leaves not long after, first going round behind the lighthouse, then going east. She had a flashing light on the conning tower. Submarines do not rise high above the waves, so they are easily overlooked. Crew stood to attention on deck as she came in. As evening falls, the wind picks up, until there is a full gale going with gusts up to force 10, 50 knots. Very strange, at 9.45 the wind drops back to force 5 and the rain stops. Jerry tells stories of the three properties he has viewed. At Garyvard, the house had been unoccupied for 14 years, with the personal effects of the deceased occupier still untouched. Newspapers, going back 70 years, hats, caps, it was all exactly as the man had left them the day he died. The house needed a lot of work, due to the effects of worms and damp. In Hacklete, Bernera, the house had proved difficult to find. The property had been unoccupied for 3 years, after the French couple that owned it had left. Apparently, the lady had died and the husband had never returned. Again, things had been left as if the owners would come back any day. But damp and rot had taken their toll here as well. The third property, in Sheshader, Point, was an incomplete conversion. Just walls, with windows and a cement floor. No interior walls or facilities connected. Jerry will be putting in a bid for this property. He currently lives on a boat, which costs about £100-150 in monthly harbour dues.

Just found this graphic, liked it

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Tuesday 08/11/05

The wind has dropped by morning, although there is still a good breeze going. Nice bright morning but cloud is bubbling up. Twenty minute powercut at 11 a.m., when the roadworkers in Inaclete Road cut the cable. Mrs B's brother-in-law calls in with stories from the hill, which I cannot relate here. He knows Stulabhal better than I do. Ferry services were disrupted last night; the 5.15 out of Ullapool never sailed. Extensive powercuts in Northern Scotland. Two trimarans in trouble in the Atlantic, because they overturned. Another lost her mast. Helicopter and RAF Nimrod in attendance. A few wind gust readings from last night's storm:

Stornoway 68 kn (120 km/h)
Tiree 74 kn (135 km/h)
Malin Head 77 kn (138 km/h)
Lerwick 78 kn (140 km/h)
South Uist 86 kn (155 km/h)

At midday today, the wind is still sustained at 35 kn (force 8) with gusts up to 51 kn (force 10). Irrelevant information: finished another pen in 11 days. The ferry is an hour late leaving for Ullapool, with quite a few showerclouds around. About 6 in sight at 3.30 pm. We're having two guests in. One is an elderly gent who is very quickly out of breath. Mrs B spares him the ordeal of having to walk the 10 minutes into town for his meal and gives him a meal in his room. This chap, Geoff, lives in Benbecula but hails from the Home Counties of England. He is in Stornoway to attend hospital. The other is a jolly fellow from East Anglia, who is here on a house-hunting mission. A little while ago, the house by the pier at Garyvard, South Lochs, was advertised for sale. Jerry plays the bouzouki

which is what they call an 'octave mandolin'. Each string is actually double-strung, with the two strings tuned an octave apart. It sounds sharper than a guitar. We have a music session, comparing various types of music. Me on the keyboard and the Runrig and Salm CDs. Jerry plays a CD on which he and his partner perform. Very pleasant.

Monday 07/11/05

Bright morning with showers. Isles FM gives the customary post-weekend rundown of drunken loutishness around town. There was a crash two streets up Island Road, outside the Lewis Crofters store, where one of the cars ended up on its side. Dire warnings in the forecast for tonight's storm, gusts in excess of 100 mph over Shetland and here. Otherwise not a lot happening. Go into town to do some shopping, like getting new pens from Woolworths. The lady behind the counter is suffering with laryngitis and can only whisper. Went into the library to double check some facts about project Timbertown. There was a reunion in the Caledonian Hotel in 1959, but it is not mentioned in the pages of the Gazette for that year. Await the arrival of the gale with bated breath, and it duly arrives after 10pm. Gusts of 77 mph at Malin Head, Ireland; 74 mph in Tiree. Tales from Northern Ireland about people being blown off roads. Lights start to flicker, but we keep the power. Gusts in Stornoway of 55 mph. I hear that South Uist had 97 mph. Go out for a walk at 1 a.m. to record the sound of the wind. The wind is howling, the rain lashing and the waves crashing. Get soaked by a wave that crashes over the seawall by the CG station.

Sunday 06/11/05

Reasonable day weatherwise. Check out the Vivi Awards (see earlier entry), which were given out between 2 and 4 a.m.. Sent messages to all the winners, but I wasn't one of them. Although it's sunny, it is very windy. This gale was not forecast. What was forecast (by Metcheck) fortunately did not happen; a daytime temperature of minus 174C. Rogue data apparently. We're having a southwesterly gale. Watch the gulls juggle the air currents around the seawall in Newton Street. Also the white riders on the basin. Very rough. Wind slowly abates as the day wears on. Once again supper courtesy of mrs B; pepper goulash. Like last night, it left me well filled-up. Forecast for Monday mentions a force 10 wind.

Saturday 05/11/05 - Bonfire Night

Today starts sunny, but it clouds over very rapidly, and the wind picks up just as quickly. Rain starts at 10.40. It doesn't last very long, and recedes into showers around lunchtime. Head into town after 4.45 to get a paper and a lottery ticket. There was a long queue at the lottery counter in Somerfields. Someone bought £45 worth of tickets. Guy Fawkes night in Stornoway was a damp squib; hardly anything went off. Weather not fantastic, but I heard that plenty of fireworks had been sold. Very nice supper with mrs B, who is spoiling me rotten. Lottery yielded nothing, but mrs B won £10.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Friday 04/11/05

So, I went to Barvas on the 10.30 Ness bus. At the Loch Street junction, I changed ino another bus, which took me right to the end of the street. This bus was packed full of people from the West Side who were coming into town for shopping. Got off at the end of the street, and found my address staring in my face. After knocking on the wrong door, I was let in by Margaret Joan MacLeod (who I'll refer to as MJ after this, for brevity's sake). I had been advised that she would have more information and names for project Timbertown. MJ used to be a teacher, but had to give it up to look after her mother. She is very elderly and frail following a major operation. Although not a lot of info is forthcoming, MJ goes out of her way to ring around the area to try to find folk whose ancestors were in the internment camp. The internees are now all deceased, and their descendants elderly themselves. It's beginning to sound like the experiences from HMS Timbertown (click here to go to website)  have been taken into the grave by those that were there. MJ got her neighbour in, Donald Morrison, and tries another relative, who unfortunately is off to town for the day. I'm plied with tea and cakes. House is warm, but quite modest. A peatfire is lit for me. It appears MJ has gone out on walks with the Barvas & Brue Historical Society, to the Barvas Hills, 6 miles to the south. Next year they want to walk to Muirneag, a fair old distance. She also tells the story of a circular walk from Maraig to Reinigeadal and Urgha, return by Lacasdal Lochs. The ascent from Loch Trollamaraig is brutal, and none the better in pouring rain. I take my leave at 2.15, when the bus comes up Loch Street. At the junction with the main road through the village, I change into a bus, bound for Stornoway. I was back in town some 20 minutes later, at 2.40 pm. After a late lunch I ensconsed myself in the library for 2 hours, trawling through the Roll of Honour 1914-1919. I found at least 105 names of people that were interned at Groningen during the Great War. Some of them had been awarded the 1914 Star or Mons Star medal, although officially all that had fought at Antwerp should have been awarded this decoration.

When I leave the library at 5.45, it's dark - small wonder, the sun sets at 4.30 pm. Mrs B is making mashedturnip and separately mashed potatoes with onion rings. Mind you, the turnip was fully organically grown, fertilised with seaweed. And mince balls, which I'm in charge of. I made them a bit too big.

Thursday 03/11/05

Cloudy morning, but a lot better than the gales and rain they're having down in England. Decide to visit Barvas tomorrow, in order to put a limit on the duration of my visit. The lady in question will only be in during the morning. Not an awful lot doing today. Go out to get all the Thursday papers, which don't have a lot to report. Apart from that horrendous story of the OAP who killed a cat, only two streets away. Why? He had been visiting a friend, who complained that the animal had given her a rash. He promised that he'd "sort" the cat. By kicking it and putting it in a pillow case to whack it against a wall a few times. The poor dumb animal didn't survive this. The police were called by neighbours who were woken by the disturbance at 5 a.m.. They found the body of the cat and tell-tale signs of what had happened. The man, aged 66, was arrested and is now serving a 4 months' jail sentence. He has also been banned for 10 years from keeping animals. Very unpleasant.
After updating the website, I heard of a rescue going on 200 miles west of Benbecula. A man had been crushed by a 2 tonne door. The coastguard yanked a local GP off a scheduled flight and took him on the helicopter. This had to refuel at Benbecula before setting off into the Atlantic. Bought a microwave meal for mrs B and myself, which went down a treat.


Have added entries to another entry from earlier in the year: 25 March, when I walked from Tolsta to Muirneag.

Vivi Awards

No, I didn't make it, but I'm very pleased that this came along. It's given me a fantastic opportunity to read other people's journals. Congratulations to all the winners, listed below. Have a look at what goes in AOL J-land.

Just One Girls Head Noise - his1desire

The StupidSheet Guy - stupidsheetguy

Judith Heartsong - judithheartsong

Dave Cryer, Cave Dryer - davobarbus

Adventures of a desperately fat housewife - tillysweetchops

Aurora Walking Vacation - plittle

My Journey to Life - grassriver

Judith Heartsong - judithheartsong

This and that, and hockey - nightmaremom

WonderGirl - cneinhorn

Adventures of a desperately fat housewife - tillysweetchops

Watching My Sister...Disappear - mlrhjeh

Just One Girl's Head Noise - his1desire

Inane thoughts and insane ramblings - swibirun

A Pennies Worth - blondepennierae

the wizard of ahs - anarchitek

High Above Courtside - monponsett

Alphawoman's Blog - alphawoman1

Albert's World of Artsy Fun - lamove04


Random Ramblings - xzasporated1

Mrs. Linklater's Guide to the Universe - jevanslink
Screamin' Remo - screaminremo303

Freely Floralilia,the official journal of pointless posting - floralilia
Mortimer's Café - luvmort

In The Shadow Of The Iris - justaname4me2

Musings from Mâvarin - mavarin

"The Wedding From Hell"
        Adventures of a desperately fat housewife - tillysweetchops

Stories From My Ambulance - sekirley

I Have a Life, This is It - animaquarius2500

Holding On & Letting Go - rickysbunnie

Life Or Something Like It ~ LIVE from the U! - luckyaugustgirl


Fresh Cup...Move D
own - schnozbeary

The Daily Snooze II - hewasolddog299
The Light's On...But No One's Home - krspkrmmom

From Here to There - firestormkids04
Lotus Martinis - txguinan

Life With Linny - lindainspokane

Adventures of the 2-Faced Baseball - upseted

Saturday, 5 November 2005

The Iolaire Disaster

(Article from the Scotsman, 18 January 1919)

The Iolaire disaster, where 200 men died yards from shore


31 December 1918

THE ISLE of Lewis had a hard war. Some 6,200 men joined up and nearly 1,000 had died. Every family on the island had lost fathers, sons, brothers or uncles. So, the night of 31 December 1918 was tense with expectation. The war was finally over, the world was at peace and after four long years the men who had served king and country were on their way home.

The Kyle of Lochalsh was alive. Hundreds of laughing, boisterous servicemen were crowded onto the quay. The regular steam-ferry, the SS Sheila, was soon packed so the Royal Navy ordered the Iolaire across the Minch from her berth in Stornoway to carry the extra men left behind.

The Iolaire had been a luxury yacht before the war, sailing under the name of the Amalthaea. She was used by the navy in anti-submarine and patrol work when she was renamed the Iolaire – Gaelic for "Sea Eagle".

When she arrived in Kyle there was some discussion between the Master, Commander Mason and Commander Walsh, in charge at Kyle. Commander Mason was worried about the paucity of life-saving equipment onboard. She was kitted out with only two lifeboats and lifejackets for 80. Even more worrying she had never sailed into Stornoway harbour at night, a tricky manoeuvre in daylight.

Discussions were brought up short when two more trains arrived at the quay spilling out more demobbed men. The master ordered the 284 servicemen, predominately navy reserves, up the gangplank and onto the ship.

She left at 9:30pm, sailing out of the darkness of the new year. But 12 miles out of Stornoway Harbour the weather turned. As a gale took hold the crew of a local fishing boat watched in confusion as the Iolaire failed to change course to make harbour. Instead she carried on full steam ahead into the pitch-black night.

Biastan Thuilm - the Beasts of Holm - is a rocky outcrop just short of the harbour entrance. A small light attached to the rock warns mariners of the approaching danger. When the Iolaire failed to turn, the flickering light was useless. The momentum of the ship kept pushing her forward.

Visibility was poor. Sleet was falling and the seas were wild. When the ship collided with the "Beasts" she went over almost immediately. Nobody on board knew where they were. The boat was lying only about 20 feet from land, but between the ship and the rocks was a boiling, raging sea. Fifty men jumped into the water and made for shore. They all drowned in the freezing water. The two lifeboats were launched, but were swamped immediately as too many men battled for too few seats.

At three o’clock in the morning the ship’s back broke and she went under.

As the men onboard slowly drowned one man, John Macleod, swam for his life hauling a rope behind him. When he reached shore he set up another stronger rope, and 25 men escaped along this safety line. John Macleod was awarded the highest peacetime aware for heroism for his incredible courage and strength.

Donald Morrison climbed the mast as the ship went down and clung on as she submerged. He was picked up alive the next morning at 10 o’clock, having spent eight hours in the water.

His brother was not so lucky. He drowned alongside 205 men who had seen off enemy fire only to die within shouting distance of their own homes.

The Lewis Roll of Honour records the poignant loss of Kenneth Macphail whose death epitomises the tragedy: "He was the sole survivor of a ship torpedoed in the Mediterranean in October 1917. He had a terrible experience before he was rescued having been nearly 36 hours in the sea until washed ashore in Algeria. Pathetic in the extreme it is to think that this powerful seaman after so miraculous an escape in the Mediterranean, perished within a few feet of his native soil."

Aerial photograph of Stornoway

Aerial photograph of Stornoway

As New Year’s Day broke across the islands, families waiting for the arrival of their loved ones heard rumours of a terrible disaster. Men walked miles from villages to Stornoway searching for news. What they found was devastating. The Scotsman of 6 January reported the tragedy, soberly noting: "The villages of Lewis are like places of the dead. The homes of the island are full of lamentation – grief that cannot be comforted. Scarcely a family has escaped the loss of a near blood relative. Many have had sorrow heaped upon sorrow."

Days went by and still all the men were not recovered. Boats left the harbour in search of bodies to return as night fell to a silent crowd waiting at the harbour. In 1959 Donald Macphail, speaking on Gaelic radio, recalled the moment his friend found the body of his son.

‘The man’s son was there, and I remember he was so handsome that I could have said he was not dead at all. His father went on his knees beside him and began to take letters from his son’s pockets. And the tears were splashing on the body of his son. And I think it is the most heart-rending sight I have ever seen.’

Two investigations were ordered. With the crew dead no conclusion was reached, other than to rule out drink as being the cause. A public enquiry held later found that the deciding factor in the tragedy was the lack of lifebelts and life craft in the vessel.

How traumatically the Iolaire disaster affected the islands is unknown. Roddy Murray director of An Lanntair museum in Stornoway thinks that it cannot be underestimated. "We can speculate on its contribution to the mass emigrations of the twenties, its effect on the Lewis character, the rebirth of an inherent fatalism. Its effect was like the Passover of the Old Testament."

Snaking through the whole story, like a spectral ribbon are tales of supernatural occurrences. John Macleod later told his son that he saw his mother standing before him as he jumped into the sea. Deer, portents of death, were seen in a number of villages that night.

Strangest of all was the story of a man from Breascleit who was tormented with visions of a body floating in the sea. He walked to Stornoway and directed the recovery boats to the area he had seen in his dream. Sure enough a body was recovered in exactly the place he had described. It was no surprise to anyone when the body turned out to be the old man’s son.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

Wednesday 02/11/05

Brilliantly sunny morning after an overnight low of 4C. Awoke to the sound of migrating geese passing overhead. Rain elsewhere in the UK, but not here. Around 10 a.m., they announce that David Blunkett has had to resign from the UK government again. It's a long story, but it boils down to poor judgment. At 12.30, I set off with mrs B and her nephew to the Castle Grounds. After calling into the Bayhead P.O., we carry on to the Woodlands Centre where we enjoy lunch. I have a baguette BLT (bacon, lettuce & tomato), while my companions enjoy a smoked salmon with a colossal salad each. That was a filler all-round, so a walk was in order. After a brief run round to the northern edge of the Castle Groudns, we went to see the new watermill. This is a reconstruction of the old mill which burned down in 1890. It's very cleverly done. A run off from the Willowglen burn goes to a millpond, which supplies the water that goes over the big wheel. When this turns, electricity is generated to power lighting along the walkway to Cuddy Point. The mill was officially opened on October 21st (see picture)

The wheel is not operating right now as fencing still needs to be erected for safety's sake. Return to town at 3pm. Cloud has increased gradually, and it's feeling cold. Feel very full after the lunch, so contend with a bowl of soup. Watch some TV during the evening, such as All Creatures Great and Small.

Tuesday 01/11/05

Found this very interesting link on the customs surrounding Hallowe'en, All Hallows and All Souls. Hallowe'en being All Hallows' eve, and on 31st October. All Hallows, when all the saints are commemorated is on 1st November; All Souls, when all the departed are remembered, is on November 2nd. This has a strong Roman Catholic background!

November started with a bang at 4 in the morning, on account of two flashes of lightning and two claps of thunder. Heavy rain accompanied this shower. More follow through the morning. Three workmen are staying with mrs B, but their gear has not arrived on the good old Muirneag. Have a good old yarn with mrs B about the church and all the splits that continually occur in the Free Church here in Lewis. The weather turns pretty changeable, with heavy showers alternating sunny intervals. The ferry is about 15 minutes late getting in at lunchtime. I'm writing descriptions for hidden places in Lewis, such as Steimreway, 4 miles west of Lemreway. Others include the Iolaire Monument outside Sandwick and the sheilings at Cuidhsiadar and Filiscleitir in Ness. Also discover a very interesting article on the net from Views of Scotland about sheilings and the proposed windfarm. A bulletin board on features Angus Nicolson, a local councillor, who has some vociferous exchanges with a German photographer and frequent visitor. By nightfall, at 5pm, the showers fade away.

Monday 31/10/05

Bright blustery morning. Isles FM gives us the usual rundown of misdemeanours. The worst of these is the counterfeit ring that was uncovered. People were arrested, including children. Apart from that, only the drunken loutishness. The presenter drops his weather on the floor. Like you do. This coming Saturday, 5th, there will be a guided walk around Seaforth Head. I'll probably go if the weather is half decent. The brightness is replaced with some pretty threatening looking clouds as the afternoon wears on. By 2pm, the rain starts, and it only gets worse. The clouds break a little by 4pm, and the sun shines very brightly through a gap in the clouds to the southwest. Sunset at 4.40, which becomes noticeable when I go out for shopping at 5.15. It's raining heavily, and when I'm in Somerfields, there is only blackness outside the windows. On return, I notice lit-up Santa's in the windows at Edmundsons. Noooooo!

Hallowe'en 2005

Sunday 30/10/05

Clocks went back last night so the sun shone at 8 in the morning. Nice bright morning but hazy. Banks of cloud move up from the south, looking threatening, but dissipating all the while. Met Office has issued a severe weather warning with severe gales in the offing. After midday, the rain starts and it gets quite gloomy. Find a report on the Coastguard website that a Spanish fisherman was lost overboard 145 miles NW of the Butt of Lewis. Stornoway Coastguard were alerted by Falmouth CG, who in turn had been alerted by an Irish coastguard at Malin Head. He spoke Spanish, and happened to be monitoring traffic on 2182 kHz. Communications were going via Madrid because "none of the fishermen spoke Spanish". What? Stornoway Coastguard is very concerned, because the man washed overboard in full oiskins in southeasterly gales, with no lifejacket. Search is called off after 6 hours. Sun is back after 2pm, but the wind picks up through the afternoon. Learn that the planet Mars can be seen above the eastern horizon in the evening. At sunset, now at 4.45, a small yacht can be seen sailing into the harbour. Its progress is only slow, and it vanishes into the darkness once past Arnish. Sheets of water slam over the causeway. At 5.30, it's fully dark. Dinner tonight is sweet and sour chiecken with rice, a glass of wine and sticky-toffee-pudding from a tin. The latter is OK, but not like the real article. Finally manage to put the Mod music on the net, and it's available on