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Voice for Arran - November 2011 Visitors:
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Christmas marketing

It makes sense to buy Christmas presents on Arran. Less hassle, less travel time and expense – and a brilliant range of gifts, many of them hand-made, that you won’t find on the mainland.

If you are a producer of nice things, either to eat or as presents or decorations, why not book a space now in our December Christmas Market edition? As a special offer, you can have a full-colour advert for a mere five pounds. Click on Adverts or send a cheque to Voice for Arran at Aorangi, Whiting Bay, Arran, and we’ll help you design what you want.

Calum’s Road on Saturday, November 5th

NtosLogo.jpgThis astonishing play about a man who built his own road must surely ring bells on Arran, afflicted as we are with the worst roads in Scotland. Roger Hutchinson, who wrote the original book, told the Voice how it all began. He was working on the Highland Free Press on the Isle of Skye in 1979 when a press release from Highland Council said it was considering adopting two miles of road built by a man on the small isle of Raasay. Roger went to investigate. He found Calum MacLeod carrying a telegraph pole on his shoulder, and heard the whole story.

CR0.jpgRaasay, off the west coast of Skye, has a northern part, as separate as Arran’s South End used to be, that was once home to a hundred people. But it was hard to get into or out of. There was no road, not even a cart track – nothing but the paths that sheep had made. The crofters lived in a close community without electricity or running water, but as modern times raised the need for communication with the outside world, they started to leave. At last, Calum and his wife and small daughter were the only ones remaining. Calum had been battling with the Council to build a road that would bring supplies from the ferry crossing in the south and give them the means of connection, but the Council said there were not enough people to justify it. When Calum’s daughter started at Portree High School in the early ‘60s, she could not get home for weekends. It was the last straw. Calum began to build. He read up the engineering and surveyed the route, then started laying stone for the road’s foundations. He had no tractor or JCB, just a wheelbarrow. He finished it in about 1974.

In those fourteen years, he’d built two miles of road. When the Council at last adopted it, the engineers they sent gave it a glowing report. It was, they said, beautifully constructed. And all the while, Calum had gone on tending a working croft and walking miles each day as a postman. Roger Hutchinson recorded the story in his book, Calum’s Road, and just this year, David Harrower adapted it for the stage. ‘I couldn’t imagine how he did it,’ Roger admitted. ‘But it works wonderfully.’

Calum’s Road, together with a play for children, Tall Tales for Small People, is touring Scotland in a world premiere. It’s at the Community Theatre in the High School this coming Saturday, November 5th at 7.30 pm. Hold your firework party the next day – this is going to be too good to miss.

The childrens' play, Tall Tales for Small People, is at 1pm on Sunday 6th November, also in the Community Theatre.

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You can see some production images from each play by clicking on the pictures above.


Music Society Concert – a very Scottish affair

Photos - © Mhairi Hall 2009

On Saturday 19th November at 7.30, at the usual venue of Brodick Hall, the Mhairi Hall Trio will provide an excellent evening’s entertainment. Comprising guitar, keyboard and drums this highly original group plays a tremendous variety of Scottish music, ranging from the folk idiom to the classical repertoire. Mhair Hall is herself a talented composer, and the programme will include some of her own enchanting compositions. Whether you enjoy the toe-tapping traditional music of Scotland, beautiful old tunes or intriguing new ones, this concert promises a great richness and variety.MhairiHallTrio2.jpg


Corrie Film Club

FilmClub.jpgOn Sunday, November 13th, Corrie Film Club shows one of the all-time greatest nail-biting thrillers ever, the 1953 Henri-Georges Clouzot production called Le Salaire de la Peur – The Wages of Fear. It stars Yves Montand, at that time a popular singer, as one of four down-and-out men hired to drive two trucks over mountain dirt roads, carrying the nitroglycerine needed to extinguish the fire that is raging in a South American oil well. It brought Clouzot international fame, and has resonance to this day in its wry look at noncitizens without proper paperwork for work or travel. These drivers will do anything for a chance to make some money and break the deadlock that holds them as serfs to the American corporation that dominates the town. In fact, the film was so critical of the American oil company SOC that it was accused of anti-Americanism and several scenes were cut for the U.S. release.

The men, two of them French, one Dutch and one Italian, have taken on a job so dangerous that none of the unionised SOC employees will touch it. A raging fire at one of the SOC oil fields has defeated all efforts to extinguish it, and the only remaining option is to blow it out with a vast explosion. Nitroglycerine will do the trick – but it is notoriously unstable, specially if moved about in any way where air is present. It should be carried in sealed containers, but in this emergency, the only way to carry it is in jerrycans placed in two large trucks. For £2,000 US dollars, the men recruited from the community will risk it.

There’s never any certainty about how things will end. Even those who saw it years ago will find themselves re-living the sweaty tension of what happens, and to the very last frame, it’s all guesswork. The New York Times wrote, ‘You sit there waiting for the theatre to explode’, and as recently as 1992, Roger Ebert stated that ‘The film's extended suspense sequences deserve a place among the great stretches of cinema.’ In 2010, the film was ranked 9th in The 100 Best Films of World Cinema.

The screening starts at 8.00pm in Corrie Hall. There is no charge for admission and non-Film Club members are welcome. A contribution to hall expenses would be welcome but is in no way obligatory.


‘Water and watercolour’ workshops

Following on from the very successful workshops led by Rebecca Roberts on painting with a knife, Arran Visual Arts presents the highly entertaining Jim Williamson on the theme of water, coupled with the techniques of watercolour. He will be running two workshops on the weekend of November 5th and 6th, but is happy for students to attend a single one if they can’t manage both. Called From Source to Ocean, his watery subject matter encompasses everything, from a tiny stream trickling through woodland to the sea itself in all its shifting moods. It’s a fascinating subject, and the workshops will undoubtedly be very rewarding. Contact Alison Barr on 303 607 if you would like to attend. The cost is £70 for the two days, but £50 for members. Since annual membership is only £12, joining is an excellent bargain.


Concertina Weekend at Kilmory

by David Donnison

As I set out on a Friday morning from Glasgow to Ardrossan and the Arran ferry I wondered if I needed my head examined. I was going to shut myself in a hostel at the far corner of the island till Monday morning with fourteen complete strangers to play concertinas. They would all be better musicians than me. We would be playing music that would frequently baffle me. We would be sleeping in bunks – eight to a room – relying on God-knows-what food and drink. And it would rain ceaselessly. Indeed, it was already raining.

But there are so few people who are mad enough to play a concertina. So my attempts to play one either take place in groups who all play other instruments; or they are a lonesome, late-night practice in my Glasgow flat. I was getting into bad musical habits and making little progress. That’s why I had resolved to give the “Arran Concertina Event” a try.

Led by Samantha Payn (you can email her at: ) this week-end project has been going for six years. So there must be something about it that brings musicians back to Kilmory Lodge again and again.

They were assembling as I arrived: four from England; four from Holland - in a small car stuffed with rucksacks and instruments, enduring fourteen hours on the overnight ferry to Newcastle before driving to Ardrossan - and six from Scotland. Samantha did a great job. She has a talent for unobtrusive leadership that gets everyone happily involved in planning the days, choosing and playing the music, preparing food and doing the washing up. Between us we had a flute, two mandolins, a banjo, some uilleann pipes, a melodeon, guitar, two fiddles and a bouzouki, as well as four kinds of concertina.

After working together in groups playing different music and having great evening sessions around the kitchen table, we went on Sunday to play in two well-known bars with Arran musicians who gave us a warm welcome. In the hostel, food was plentiful and good, there was a barrel of excellent beer, bottles of whisky, and plenty of hot water for showers when needed. And - most important – everyone was encouraging and helpful, no-one was humiliated, and I learned new tunes and a good deal about the beautiful little instrument I play.

And yes, it rained ceaselessly, till after our departure on Monday morning. But no-one let this get them down, which shows what a great experience we all had. Next year’s event runs from October 5th to 8th.

Samantha Payn adds,‘The delicious hot meals were provided by Robert Marr of the Old Pier Tea Room, and all I had to do was make them available for the musicians to heat up and dish out.’


First Music Society concert on the Colin Guthrie piano

HellerTrio.jpgAn eager audience gathered in the Community Theatre at the High School on Saturday October 22nd, keen to hear the new piano, so magically gifted by Colin Guthrie, put through its paces. The Heller Trio, Jean Fletcher, violin, Gareth John, cello and Blair Cargill, piano, laid any doubts to rest. The glossy black Kawai is, Blair said, ‘a wonderfully responsive instrument’, and the evening was one of great pleasure.

Haydn’s Gypsy Rondo, with its inventive variations in the first movement and its melodic lead for the violin in the second, led to the energetic rondo itself, and settled everyone into enjoyment. Beethoven studied with Haydn in Vienna but somehow seems the more ‘modern’ of the two, with an emotional content that communicates very directly with audiences today. His Trio in B flat major began with a bright allegro, then the cello led into the second movement with a beautiful, song-like adagio, joined by the violin. Variations, as in the Haydn, formed the final movement, based on a popular song of the time and still possessed of a quirkiness that the players expressed with great verve.

The big number of the evening was the Mendelssohn Trio in D minor Opus 49. A passionately romantic piece, it also touches on moments of deep sadness, balanced by a light sparkle reminiscent of his well-loved music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the final movement, its fast, thundering sequences of double octaves showed Blair Cargill’s mastery. Altogether, the evening was a great baptism for the new piano, and a concert that triumphed in its own right.


Record fall in Scottish university entries

Recently published figures bring stark evidence of the consternation caused by a potential rise of university costs. Scotland shows the biggest fall in university applications in more than 30 years, with a decrease of 11.8% compared to last year's level, according to UCAS. Some schools report teenagers from poorer families are proving more hesitant about applying than middle-class pupils. Ministers who claim their finance package is designed to favour the least well off may have to think again.

External pictureSarah Thwaites, Deputy Chief Executive of Financial Skills Partnership (FSK), said, “Young people in Scotland may see apprenticeships as an attractive option due to rising university costs.’ She admitted, however, that ‘Young people are confused as to where to start to find out about opportunities.’ For this reason, the FSK has recently launched a Directions portal that ‘enables young people in Scotland to obtain first-hand experience of the world of work in financial services, accountancy and finance.’

We don’t know how useful this will turn out to be in practice, but it could be worth a look. Meanwhile, keep protesting about the scandalous over-pricing of university education.


More tidal energy in Kintyre?

The Crown Estate is considering new tidal energy sites in West Islay, Mull of Kintyre and Sanda Sound, to add to the world’s largest tidal power array in the Sound of Islay. Argyll and Bute Council Leader Dick Walsh welcomed the proposal and said, ‘As a council we recognise the opportunities that can come from sustainably harnessing our natural renewable resource.’ He welcomed the opportunity to work with the Argyll and Bute Renewable Alliance ‘to optimise these opportunities and to secure benefit to our local communities.’


The Rolls Royce of tidal power

Those who think renewable energy is a ‘green gimmick’ may change their minds on learning that Rolls-Royce, probably the most prestigious engineering company in the world, is seriously into tidal turbines. It has just announced that the prototype turbine it set up off the Orkney Islands has generated and fed over 100 megawatt hours (MWh) of electrical power into the national grid.

Robert Stevenson, Vice-President of Rolls-Royce Power Ventures said their now proven tidal technology could generate up to 30TWh (terawatt-hours) of UK electricity, enough to power 3 million homes.

The three-bladed turbine is attached by a tripod to the seabed. Fully submerged at a water depth of 40 metres and invisible from the surface, it continually rotates to face the incoming tide at an optimal angle. The turbine unit is semi-buoyant and can be easily towed, so it doesn’t need a specialist vessel for its maintenance.

Neil Morgan, Head of Energy at the Technology Strategy Board said: “This is a significant milestone for the UK marine renewables industry. The UK is well-placed to exploit tidal stream energy resources and, if commercialised on a large scale, this technology could be an important part of the renewable energy mix we'll need in the future.”


Big drop in Marine Harvest profits

In the third quarter of 2011, operating profit for Marine Harvest, the company that used to run the St Molios fish farm in Lamlash, dropped from 759m Norwegian kroner (NOK) to NOK 457 million. Net earnings (profit) dropped to only NOK 18 million (£2 million), compared to NOK 670 million in the same quarter last year. This sharp fall is the more remarkable set against an increased harvest volume of 83,076 tonnes compared to 64,034 tonnes last year.

The collapse of profit is blamed on the big increase in world supplies of farmed salmon and a consequent drop in prices. CEO of Marine Harvest ASA, Alf-Helge Aarskog, warned that ‘a challenging market’ lay ahead in 2012. The company intends to reduce re-stocking with young smolt by 11.3 million.

The Scottish Salmon Company, which now runs the Lamlash company, is a much younger company, and despite its cheery website pointing to international appetite for salmon, particularly in China, its growth projection for this year and next is in minus figures. Are we starting to see a saturated market for farmed fish? Time will tell – and probably quite quickly.


Tax empty homes?

Argyll and Bute Council is enthusiastic about the proposals in the current parliamentary bill, ‘Council Tax on Empty Homes’. It would give local authorities new powers to tax empty homes, and the money could in turn be used to build new affordable housing. The bill would apply to properties that have lain empty for more than six months.

Spokesperson Councillor Robin Currie welcomed the announcement, saying, ‘As a council we support the aim of bringing properties which have been empty for a long time back into use.’

We don’t have any comment from NAC, sorry.


Where are Arran’s hedgehogs?

Hedgehog.jpgUntil a few years ago, hedgehogs were a familiar sight, pottering about in gardens and helpfully munching slugs. They seemed to have a liking for houses, often turning up at the back door in the evening, specially if the owner of a faddy cat sometimes put out a saucer of moggy-rejected food. Motorists frequently had to brake for a hedgehog shuffling across the road, mistakenly convinced that rolling up inside its prickles would protect it from cars. But lately, the hedgehog population seems to have vanished. Whiting Bay is bereft of them, and many people on this side of the island say they haven’t seen a hedgehog for ages. Have the Mrs Tiggywinkles taken themselves off to the Southend, or to the delights of Shiskine or Pirnmill? At the Voice, we’re all suffering from hedgehog-deprivation, and are considering writing to Uist, where they’ve been culling hedgehogs to protect seabirds’ eggs. Dear sir, if you don’t want your hedgehogs, can we have some? Meanwhile, to put us out of our distress, please let us know if you’ve seen one.


News from The Valdete Trust

Hello from a warm and sunny Albania. It’s been a busy time as always but much progress has been made with the plans for our day care centre.

At last, we know we have the building we’ve been waiting for since May. It will be available to us from January 1st 2012. It’s a great place, just three years old and unlike many buildings in Albania, it has no steps. We’re not sure when it will open as we have to apply for a licence and be registered with the government as a charitable foundation. This is just a formality but everything happens slowly here. Thankfully, we have lots of help from Albanians we can trust and of course an Albanian lawyer to help smooth things out for us.

ValdeteCeilidhWee.jpgBefore leaving for Albania, we made contact with an organisation that can help us with our physiotherapy equipment, computers and even furniture for the centre. They have links with another organisation that can provide us with a wheelchair accessible vehicle which is vital before we can begin our work fully.

Janice Christison asked me to tell her many supporters that the sum raised for her sponsored silence, was in fact £1200.This was absolutely amazing and we thank Janice for a good idea and thank her generous supporters.

Please come and join us at our next fundraising event which is a ceilidh with buffet supper on Saturday, November 12th in Corrie hall. This will begin at 7.30 pm and tickets are available from the book and card shop in Brodick.

With your help our work will continue to progress as quickly as we can make it happen. Watch this space!!


How's About that Then? - Oban Mourns Loss of Sir Jimmy

By John Kinsman

Oban Lifeboat Station

Oban Lifeboat Station has lost a staunch supporter with the death of well known disc jockey and broadcaster Sir Jimmy Savile.

Jimmy was always pleased and delighted to open many of the Oban Lifeboat station’s open days and other local RNLI events. He would often remain there most the day, chatting to locals and visitors and generally attracting lots of people to the event.

As a result Jimmy was made an Honorary Member of the Oban Lifeboat Crew. He will also be missed at many other events in the West Highlands where he had a cottage in Glencoe and was a great supporter of the Mountain rescue teams in the area.


An Arran-sized island with 84,000 people

by Alison Prince

Heading south from Kildonan, we could get to the Isle of Man quite directly by sea in a reasonable boat, but as things are, the only way to get there is by air from Glasgow airport or by sea, courtesy of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Its ferries run from Heysham, Birkenhead, Liverpool, Dublin or Belfast, but no longer, alas, from Ardrossan Harbour. All the same, it’s well worth making the trip, because the Manx way of life is highly enjoyable, as I found in a recent trip there with a friend. What’s more, as Scotland teeters on the edge of a more independent relationship with the Westminster government, the Manx way of life provides a fascinating example of independence at work.

picWherever you go, there are gentle reminders that the island is not part of the UK. The Manx post office issues its own stamps and runs its own delivery service. There are Manx banknotes, and the Manx telecom network is cheap and very effective. ‘The Government’ means the Tynwald, based in Douglas, not Westminster. In 1960, they abolished supertax in a move to attract off-shore businesses, a policy that paid off handsomely, but the big irritation at the moment is the rise in VAT. Because this is a tax added to goods at source, the Manx cannot opt out of it, and they are mightily annoyed. Quite a few shops displayed notices that say, ‘No VAT increase on our stock.’

I’d been prepared for a lot of conspicuous wealth, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. True, there are discreet office signs in Douglas about Wealth Management and Asset Control, but the community busies itself with charity shops and concerts just as we do, and people seem to get along cheerfully with no reference to big business. At the same time, it’s obvious that the Tynwald is not short of a bob or two. Social housing is developing at a vast rate on the plentifully available land on the outskirts of towns, and ‘recession’ seems to be an unknown concept. The Manx unemployment rate is 1.8%, which they tut over and regard as unacceptably high, but for the UK, it’s exactly the other way round, with 8.1% of its citizens jobless.

picWhatever the economic background, the island has a relaxed, friendly feel about it. Nobody seems in a hurry, so conversation is easy to get into. Most people sound as if they come from Lancashire, with an occasional touch of Irish or Liverpool. Manx Gaelic is staging a big comeback and is being taught in schools. Most strikingly, the place is wonderfully clean and tidy, with no trace of graffiti anywhere. Travelling on the enchanting Vistorian steam railway that still provides useful service, there’s an inevitable view of the backs of buildings and occasional blank walls, but there is never a mark on them. Maybe any offender gets officially beaten to death with his spray can – it’s hard to guess how the general sense of willing conformity works. It seems more likely that the cleanliness from a very clued-up local authority approach, couple with a whacking great budget for cleansing services. There is absolutely no litter, probably because every shopping street has dozens of well-maintained litter bins only about 20 paces apart. What’s more, they are sensibly equipped with a perforated ‘stubbing out’ top that makes it ridiculous for smokers to tread out fag-ends on the pavement.

Manx buses, too, are beautifully clean, looking as if they get washed and polished every night. An all-week transport ticket worked brilliantly, giving us the use of all buses and trains, including the quirky electric railway that clatters its way to the top of Snaefell. The service is so comprehensive that the bulky timetable is generally regarded as incomprehensible, but it certainly works. Bus-routes link up smoothly, not only with each other but with rail services as well. It had its human quirks, though. A bus that turned up ten minutes late had simply run out of fuel. And in the tiny village of Port St Mary, a bus roared past a stop nearly quarter of an hour early, leaving us to set off somewhat glumly on a 2-mile walk in a high wind. The driver saw us on his way back - and reappeared after a few moments, having turned his bus round to take us on the two-mile journey, with apologies. We might of course have made a fuss at Fat Controller level, but all the same, he was nice about it.

picAn election was being held in the week of our visit, but posters for the various candidates did not indicate a political party. This puzzled us – but it turns out that parties don’t exist. ‘Liberal Vannin’ had nothing to do with the UK Lib-Dems, it was just a new group of broad outlook Manx people. (‘Man’ mutates to ‘Van’ in Manx Gaelic genitive case, hence ‘Vannin’). All candidates stood as individuals, though was told that anyone nominated must have at least £50,000 in the bank. There was some cynicism. ‘It’s who you know, isn’t it,’ one woman said. But then, the Manx community is a close one, and everybody did know the candidates, as they would on Arran, should we do the same thing.

I went to an imaginative AV presentation of Tynwald functioning in the Old House of Keys in Castletown, now a museum. We were invited to ‘participate’ in several historic debates, and also to vote on the current issue of whether the Isle of Man should secede completely from the UK and seek membership of the European Union.’ It was universally rejected, on the grounds that the EU was in far too flaky a state for any such move.

The Tynwald is more concerned with its own realities than external politics. It is looking at tidal power generation and plans a big off-shore wind farm, to start construction soon. At present, the island generates its electricity with natural gas, but they know that may not be sustainable. There’s a great practicality about the place, explained with clarity by the world class museum in Peel, the House of Mannanin, where emergence from prehistoric living gives way to the long fight for independence. Manx people have an inherited memory of the brutal past when English landlords used them as slaves and left them with nothing. It seems to have left a head of psychological steam that powers the island’s pride in its hard-won independence. Living on the island now is felt as a privilege, and the ultimate sanction against a wrong-doer from anywhere else is banishment.

What I loved most was the feeling of common sense. The Snaefell mountain railway, built in 1890 and still running, due to devoted maintenance, has one closed carriage and one open one, where there is nothing to stop you falling out from your wooden seat and down the tumbling cliff to the sea. Wonderful. Independence means you must take charge of yourself, your children, your dogs, your shopping bags and, in a small way, of the island where you live. If things go stupid, there is no-one else to blame.


National Poetry Day at the Douglas Hotel

by Janet Baraclough

Poetry1.jpgDespite wild weather, there was a great turn out On National Poetry Day (October 6th) for an evening of poetry and song in the Piano Room of the Douglas. What a great new addition to Arran's evening venues … the Piano Room is stylish but intimate, and right next door to the bar for refreshments.

The Poetry evening was arranged and charmingly introduced by Tim Pomeroy, who had invited all of Arrans more famous local poets and writers and a delightful number of locals whose work I'd never heard before. The atmosphere was relaxed. Poets read a selection of their own work, interspersed with songs from the local group Vivace, and solos by Maureen Robertson, accompanied on guitar by Tim. Is there no limit to the diversity of talent on Arran? There were far too many poets (and poems) to list them all, so I'm just going to pick one.

Gillean Lockhart's richly expressive voice is like music by itself, and her poem about “Changeover Day” clean up should be a comedy classic for this island.

It was a wonderful evening, and from the enthusiastic response I hope it will become an annual event. Thanks to Tim, for arranging it, and to the Douglas Hotel for their hospitality.


Poem of the month

On My First Sonne
by Ben Jonson

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sinne was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy,
Seven yeeres tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O, could I loose all father, now. For why
Will man lament the state he should envie?
To have so soone scap’d worlds, and fleshes rage,
And, if no other miserie, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say here doth lye
Ben. Jonson his best piece of poetrie.
For whose sake, hence-forth, all his bowes be such,
As what he loves may never like too much.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) was an actor, playwright and poet. In his day he was more highly regarded than his contemporary, William Shakespeare whom he outlived. Jonson led a colourful life combining his theatrical career with holy orders, a fact that allowed him to escape the gallows by invoking ‘benefit of clergy’ when, in his twenties, he was convicted of the murder of a fellow actor. Written in 1616 after the death of his son Benjamin, this poignant take on a father’s grief is in striking contrast to most of Jonson’s work which is both cynical and worldly.


In My Garden

Nerine bowdenii

Arran hosts incomer plants from all over the world, many of which fit in to the landscape as if to the manner born and speak with an integrated Scottish accent. But not nerine bowdenii.

Nerine.jpgThis plant never learnt the lingo of Scottish horticulture. At the end of summer, sensible garden plants batten down the hatches to escape the gales and rain, assume the colour of tweeds and raincoats, and cringe from rough Autumn weather like the rest of us. But not nerines.

Nerines hide underground through a Scottish summer , in a bulb the size of a tangerine. Come late September they leap out of bed stark naked, flashing bright pink crimped flesh. Each gale-proof two-foot stem bears a curvily exotic fist sized umbel until late October. There used to be a fabulous annual display of nerine bowdenii at the south end of Lamlash. From its size it must have been a very old colony of bulbs Sadly disappeared after the place was tidied up.

No matter where you place nerines in the garden, they are going to look completely contrived and unnatural; but nothing is going to deter them. It's only just over a century since Bowden introduced them to Britain from their homeland in the Drakensburg mountains of South Africa. You'd think they might appreciate a well drained sunny spot in Scotland, but I find my earliest plantings brazenly poking out from dense wet shade and still increasing sturdily. No feeding, shelter or pampering required; they increase underground with no assistance.


Hand stitched Christmas cards for adults and older children

by Judith Baines

Cards using patchwork techniques.

SomersetFoldedWee.jpg1. Prairie points or Somerset Folded Patchwork.

Cut small squares of plain and patterned fabric – about 2 inches (5 or 6cms) square. Fold in half to form a rectangle.
Bring the folded edge corners down to meet in the centre to form an arrowhead and iron.
Place four points together to form a square, stitch into place on a scrap of background fabric, then arrange two rings of eight overlapping points as in picture.
Mount in a card with a circular aperture with double-sided sticky tape.

ChristmasTreeWee.jpg2. Prairie point Christmas tree.

Cut five squares of fabric, one 3cm, one 4cm, one 5cm and two 6cm.
Fray the edges of the fabric squares slightly.
Fold into prairie points and iron.
Arrange as shown and attach to a piece of background fabric with beads and/or sequins.
Mount in a card with a rectangular aperture.

You may find this design needs a thin piece of wadding the same size as the aperture of the card to make it stand out a little.

PatchworkCardWee.jpg3. Traditional Patchwork patterns.

Iron whatever fabrics you want to use onto Bondaweb or Wonderweb so that small pieces can be cut and used without fraying.
Arrange shapes into your chosen pattern and carefully iron onto a background fabric.
Stitch across the joins with any decorative stitches you like and embellish with further stitching, couched threads or beads.

Click on the pictures above to see larger versions.


Community benefit from windfarms

Wind turbines that are built as a private financial enterprise yield no benefit to the community, but when a windfarm is developed and run by a responsible corporation or a local authority, there can be substantial money available for sharing out. Argyll and Bute has just invited anyone living within ten kilometres of the An Suidhe Wind Farm near Inveraray to apply for a slice of a £28,500 grant fund. It’s not just a one-off, either. For the next 25 years, wind farm operator RWE npower renewables will award £28,500 annually, rising in line with inflation, to the An Suidhe Wind Farm Community Fund. The fund’s purpose is to ‘support activities which will enhance quality of life and promote people’s well-being, bring people together and foster vibrant, sustainable communities.’

Councillor Bruce Marshall, Argyll and Bute’s environment spokesperson, urged people to make the most of the opportunity. He said, ‘This fund has the potential to make a significant and lasting impact on the communities it covers, and the chance to secure a share of it is one which should not be missed.’ On the Ayrshire mainland, Ardrossan has benefited considerable from the windfarm just up the hill from the harbour, and Councillor Marshall pointed to the same benefit to inhabitants of Glendaruel and Cairndow.

The Scottish Community Foundation, a grant-making charity, is inviting applications for grants of up to between £250- £7,000. An advisory panel made up of local residents and representatives from the areas will meet regularly each year to make decisions. Smaller awards of less than £250 can be made through a ‘micro’ grants scheme administered by each of the community councils serving the area.

Kathryn Harries, UK Community Investment Officer at RWE npower renewables said: ‘Supporting the communities that surround our developments is an integral part of our business. We’re delighted the An Suidhe Wind Farm Fund has been launched and we look forward to seeing how the local representatives on the advisory panel decide to spend the fund over the coming months.’

Is Arran missing out? Well, yes, it probably is. You can visit the Scottish Community Foundation website by clicking on the picture below.


Next time we get a windfarm application, we need to ask the right question. ‘Does this benefit Arran?’ If not, turn it down and wait for another applicant who has the community at heart.


Cross-party (and NAC) support for the Waverley

Both the Scottish Parliament and Westminster are now showing support for The Waverley Appeal, a campaign to secure the future of the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer. Scottish Labour MSP for the Glasgow region, Drew Smith, has, with cross-party support, launched ‘Full Steam Ahead for the Campaign to Save the Waverley’ while in London Liberal Democrat MP, Alan Reid, has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the House to welcome the Waverley Appeal. The 20 MPs who have already signed it have been made aware of the considerable economic contribution that the Waverley and her passengers make to the many towns at which she berths. Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies is raising awareness in the Vale of Glamorgan of the Waverley’s urgent need for support.

The newly-appointed Chairman of the Waverley’s Development Board, Charlie Gordon, said, ‘We are absolutely thrilled to have cross-party support. The Waverley has been a pioneer in developing local tourism, and will continue to do so with the necessary funding and support. We are supported by many volunteers, and to see politicians getting involved across the country is wonderful.’

Inverclyde and North Ayrshire, both key stopping-points on the Waverley’s summer itinerary, have pledged £15,000 respectively, joining long-term supporters Glasgow City Council.

If you want to help, see the Waverley’s own website.

The pictures below show the Waverley leaving Largs pier with a full complement of 860 passengers on her last outing of 2011; and returning again after a grand day out.

© John Newth
© John Newth

The History of Agriculture on Arran

by Jim Henderson

Changing from the old runrig system to something like modern farming did not happen easily. An old Jacobite, James Bain Fullarton, led the resistance to Burrell’s plans for Arran – and people had good reason for complaint. Prices were rising fast, producing easy profit for the upper layers of Scottish society but somehow failing to ‘trickle down’ to working people. The price of corn rose by at least one-third, and cattle were making double the money seen in the previous thirty years. By 1766 it had risen still higher. The new farming system was producing rich profits, but there was no benefit to people who had lived in the same simple way for centuries. Burrell and the Dukes of Hamilton saw the situation as one that could only be improved by progress. It was decided that the 99 run-rig farms on Arran, then supporting some 1100 families, would be divided into 250 farms, each to support one family. The change sounded simple, but in fact it took 70 years from 1772, when the first leases came up for renewal, to the completion of dividing the Duke of Hamilton's estate into 458 family farms. This was far longer than Burrell anticipated. Most of the changes on the western side of the island did not happen until well into the nineteenth century.

CarryingPeat.jpgDuring this time, the population count was rising, but the islanders were struggling to meet increased rents or, in some cases, to survive at all. Burrell’s policies led to as many as 800 families losing their holdings and therefore their homes. Burrell did what he could to soften the blow. He spent money on mining work at the Cock of Arran and boring for coal at Lamlash, and tenants at Corriecravie and Tormore were relieved of the collective responsibility of debt. He also offered incentives to make the new system work well, with for instance a prize of 6 guineas for the best field of cabbages. Meanwhile, modernisation was in full swing.

The 1800’s heralded the arrival of Robert Bauchop who surveyed on Arran for five years, drawing up plans for the new land divisions due to come into effect in 1814. Both he and the 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767 – 1852) were enthusiastic supporters of Burrell’s recommendations. As leases expired the old runrig system disappeared with them. Arran farmers had to make good the debts of their neighbours to obtain the tenancies and were required to build a new house within a year, for which they were allowed relief of one year’s rent. Some managed to do this, but others could not, and inevitably, there was discontent. As always in times of social unrest, protest was viewed as undesirable, if not downright sinful. Grave fears were expressed that many of the population had become ‘more openly abandoned in wickedness.’ This frightening scenario probably prompted the religious revival led by the Rev. Neil McBride.

HorseAndCart.jpgFarmland management was not the only thing to change at this time. A road was built between Brodick and Gorton Alister, Lamlash, paid for by the Government and the Landowner. This made travel much easier and increased the use of wheeled vehicles as opposed to heavy wooden sledges. In 1817 the String road was built, connecting Brodick and Shiskine, and the Ross to link Lamlash and the South End. Another new road linked Brodick and Sannox. Progress indeed. And for all the complaints and hardships, Arran’s population reached 6500 in 1823, the highest ever recorded. There may have been some incomers, for the island became much better connected to the mainland when the steamboat Helensburgh began sailings from Greenock to Arran via Rothesay, returning via Millport.

Despite these successes, an increasing number of people could not meet the new rents demanded, and the big farms were not the same thing as the traditional, self-regulated system that they were used to. By 1880 the Hamilton Arran estate comprised 99 farms supporting over 1,100 individuals, but the nature of the work was very different. Mass employment had set in. It was reported that one farm in the Southend of the island had a population of 300 souls (between 30 & 40 couples with their families), working as agricultural labourers rather than self-employed peasants. For those not engaged in this large-scale work, there was little to hope. The old system had gone, and they could not afford to buy their way into the new one. From the landowner’s point of view, these people were a problem and a nuisance. Emigration provided a useful answer, though it probably only attracted the more capable of the dispossessed people. A steady trickle of islanders had been emigrating to North America over the years but by 1829 large numbers of Arran residents were being encouraged to find a new life in Canada.

For those who stayed on the island, the industrial revolution was beginning to take effect. The new roads, improved transport and development of the rail network system on the mainland, began to influence many changes in the Arran lifestyle. Working with iron became newly vital as horses working on hard road surfaces had to be shod and cartwheels needed to be iron-rimmed. Almost every community had its own blacksmith, as can be seen from the various ‘smiddy’ references still found on the island. Lamlash had two smithies, one in the area of the present Aldersyde, the other opposite Glencraig. The local blacksmith had many uses, not all of them agricultural. He sometimes acted as a desperate port of call for locals suffering from toothache. Progress, even if it disrupts life and causes difficulties, is often a great benefit – specially in the arts of medicine.



by Dave Payn



 1  Allies' armies alter anthem (12)

 7  I revamp another scary type (7)

 9  Argumentative sportsman? (5)

10  Dash in the other lane (4)

11  Two lawyers in charge? It's savage! (8)

12  Fawkes, for instance, loses L plate and becomes a wizard (6)

14  Count's fireman? (6)

17  Alienate substitute (8)

19  Pompous direction to rob (4)

22  Eject a bit of perspex I left behind (5)

23  Medicine man and a copper … the French count (7)

24  Aloof nutter denies moving (12)


 1  After a short time I have to replace film (5)

 2  Uncontrolled diatribe about a politician (7)

 3  Evacuate them, in short, to Italy (4)

 4  Drum about to turn up for performer (7)

 5  Waste disposal unit for someone who likes needlework? (5)

 6  Seller of a great range of comestibles: excellent reputation to start with (6)

 8  Test Edward I at ten in the morning (4)

12  12ac swaps love for a scuttle (6)

13  Manager of quartet regurgitated ten pies (7)

15  Knight absorbs uncertainty in the character of fruit (7)

16  Denounced heartless act (4)

18  Regulate boxer and Graham Norton (5)

20  £1,000 for a piano? (5)

21  Cockney alleges: 'That bloke is calm' (4)


Answers to last month's crossword:

1 Cards, 4 Berlioz, 8 Inexact, 9 Credo, 10 Range, 11 Lively, 12 Princess Royal, 16 Utopia, 17 Comet, 20 Lingo,
21 Romance, 22 The Bard, 23 Chess

1 Chirrup, 2 Rhein, 3 Share, 4 Battle-scarred, 5 Recover, 6 Ideally, 7 Zoom, 13 Intense, 14 Coppola, 15 Lutyens,
17 Comic, 18 Manse, 19 Plot


Admirable clarity from Argyll and Bute

Argyll and Bute Council is taking part in a Scottish Government initiative to publish information on spending over £1,000. It already provides the Scottish Procurement Information Hub with information on what it spends, and you can see this on A & B Council’s website. It contains details of all payments to suppliers and contractors totalling £1,000 or more, though names are not identified.

Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Dick Walsh, said, ‘Argyll and Bute Council is committed to being financially transparent wherever possible. By making this information on our spending over £1,000 available online, people will have a much better idea of where their money goes. I’d encourage anyone with questions to e-mail and we will get back to you.’

North Ayrshire Council, alas, is deeply secretive about its expenditure, and financial queries put to its website result in a flat refusal to provide details.


Timing Flies

by Alison Prince

The Wall Street Journal, of all unlikely organs, ran a recent piece on punctuation. You’d think the plus and minus sign would cover all their needs, but not a bit of it. Henry Hitchings, who has just written a book called The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, wades in on the horrors of such clangers as Rest Room's or Puppy's For Sale.

My own favourite example is Time flies you can’t they fly too fast. Does this mean you can’t fly while some other, speedier beings can? Well, no. Punctuated, it’s about little insects. Time flies? You can’t – they fly too fast. But then, punctuation is all about timing. It exists in the spoken word as the pauses and vocal up-and-downs that are never noticed. Take a simple word like Yes. Spoken neutrally, it can go with a nod as straight agreement or a question answered. But speak it with a rise in the voice and you have a slightly rude query, as from an impatient lifter of the phone. Yes? Put Oh in front of it and it becomes deeply cynical. Oh, yes? We use these verbal nuances all the time, but we’re losing the trick of how to write them down.

Publishers first started to invent these handy little marks in around the 16th century, when early printed books needed to reproduce the timing that conveyed such a lot in the spoken word. Until around 1520, they used what we now call a slash to indicate a brief pause, then it shortened down to our present day comma. Henry Hitchings details other early marks such as a horizontal ivy leaf called by its Latin name of hedera, which sounds a bit too painstaking for modern use. You never know, though. Now that we can bung emoticons on our communications at a mouse-touch, there could be a great blossoming of new or retrieved punctuation. Think, for instance, of the delightfully named ‘snark’, which was a back-to-front question mark deployed to show the writer was being ironic. One wonders if Lewis Carroll knew about this when he wrote his long, irreverent poem called The Hunting of the Snark.

EnglishGrammar.jpgCurrently, punctuation is rapidly dying. The main reason, I think, is that we no longer ‘listen’ to written speech. It hurtles to and fro on the screen and though quickly understood it is seldom read with the deeper attention that unfolds its real meaning (if, in fact, meaning was articulated in the first place.) That’s why e-mails are so prone to misunderstanding. The nuance of what is implied doesn’t always decode to the person receiving it. Texts whizz from writer to reader but are seldom ‘heard’ in the way that a poem may sound in the head if read at the comparatively slow speed of speech. We have a shorthand way of interpreting what’s meant, rather as we did back in the days of unpunctuated telegrams, charged by the word. The subtleties of literary timing are giving way to what Mr Hitchings describes as ‘the jagged urgency’ of present-day conversation. We can’t be bothered with the measured gravity of the semicolon. We use dashes instead, as a quick alternative. I must admit, I rather like them, as they impose a small break that can’t be ignored. The dash had a frowned-on start, but it plonked its common boot into the aesthetic literary world when Emily Dickinson wrote her poems with dashes to separate thoughts and lines.

Hyphens in particular seem doomed. This is largely due to the Windows tendency to red-underline them, but they’ve been ruthlessly slaughtered by graphic designers who, as Hitchings points out, favour ‘an uncluttered aesthetic’. These high-handed artisans are probably also to blame for the reckless discarding of that little sign that is so vital to written English, the apostrophe.

What’s never been understood is that the apostrophe is not just punctuation but part of the grammar of the English language. It represents the genitive case, denoting possession. French doesn’t have a genitive case – hence la plume de ma tante. The concept of my aunt’s pen doesn’t exist. Languages that do have genitive, such as Latin and Russian, use a change of ending in any noun that owns something else. Mensa means table, but if we were talking of something owned by the table, such as a leg or cloth or varnish, it would be mensam. But English just uses the letter s, with an apostrophe. The table’s leg, cloth or what have you. The apostrophe is vital, because s also shows that things are plural. Hence the common confusion. My aunts have hats means several aunts, and their ownership of hats is picked up by the verb, have. My aunt’s hats means one aunt, owning several hats.

But – and it’s a big but – we also use the apostrophe to show a missing letter, as I have just done in writing it’s. I’ve missed out i from it is. If I hadn’t (short for had not) put the apostrophe in, its would be genitive, showing something belongs to it. That’s why you only put the apostrophe in when its is short for it is. OK? Countless announcements and even blurbs on book jackets get this wrong. Shocking, really.

Whoops. Found myself on the soap box again. But cheers for the Wall Street Journal. It’s a great day to see a financial paper using its clout to promote expressive clarity.


Fewer fish, more money- and what about the oil?

LerwickHarbour.jpgLerwick Harbour figures for the third quarter of this year are interesting. Total fish landings were down by 26% on volume. That’s a reduction of over a quarter, so let nobody tell you fish stocks are fine. However, the fish that was landed fetched 4.8% more on value. The price per tonne of white fish increased by 13.8%.

The website EU Fish News reports that ‘oil-related activity’ at Lerwick Harbour showed a significant increase this year. 55% more ‘oil-related vessels’ used the Shetland port between January and September than in the same period last year. Just what form this oil activity takes is not stated. Sandra Laurenson, Lerwick Port Authority’s Chief Executive, was pleased by the harbour’s increasing traffic, including a small rise in ferry passengers, but did not indicate that more oil was being produced. On the contrary, she said the continuing development of the port’s deep-water infrastructure would ‘service operations and support future decommissioning projects.’


Archive film night

On the last Wednesday of October, a second big audience packed itself into Corrie Hall for a showing of historic film clips that showed Arran as long ago as the 1930s. People watched intently, and there were constant murmurs of recognition as they identified remembered places and personalities.

Arran Sports 1932.

The films were strangely touching. Their black and white images brought back a time of simplicity that filled older people with nostalgia and evoked amusement and perhaps a trace of envy in the young. We watched children scrambling in and out of boats and diving happily in harbour water, and saw ice cream from a cart being spooned between wafers to make the ‘sandwich’ that constantly had to be licked round its edge to stop it dripping. Everything looked very natural and clean. There was no litter of commercial food wrappings, no plastic rubbish on the beach, no commercial manufacturers’ logos on the picnic food unpacked from rucksacks or hampers. No adverts. And nobody was fat. With hardly a car in sight except for the odd visiting vehicle being crane-swung onto the deck of a steamer, everyone walked or rode bikes, easily and naturally. The people climbing the hill to see a ruined clachan where their ancestors had lived wore summer dresses and faintly Woosterish slacks and shirts rather than boots and cagouls, but they did not seem out of breath as they stopped among rocks to gaze reflectively at the tumbled stones. Fitness was not a fetish, just a common, taken-for-granted necessity. Small things brought such easy happiness. Going out in a small boat, diving off a jetty, watching children play. The bustling steamers with their sloping funnels had a business-like beauty that was somehow absent from the first deep-screw vessel shown, the Glen Sannox. Everything seemed bathed in a gentleness and calm that we have long lost.

Car being lifted onto the Davaar, Lochranza.

The final item of the evening was a more recent recording of a Corrie Capers week, shot in colour and culminating in the Viking boat-burning, and the contrast was almost painful. Though good-humoured and enjoyable, it was a strident affair, boosted by Marines abseiling down the Corrie Hotel and doing a mock assault attack in clouds of green smoke.

Real war is rather different. The six-year conflict that ended the innocence of the ‘thirties marked a permanent change in outlook, as though a bitter lesson had been learned. Do not trust innocence, it will be betrayed. Grab what you need. Money buys improvement. Money has in fact filled our seas with plastic rubbish that kills the diving gannets and fouls our beaches. It has replaced fresh, simple food with processed factory stuff that makes us obese and sluggish and ill.

Corrie ferry boat.

Watching these old films is like opening fresh eyes on a forgotten past. As the brief, simple credits rolled, older people looked at each other in sadness for what has been lost. Younger ones smiled with a half-baffled nostalgic affection. There was a lot to think about.

If you or anyone you know has any early film of Arran, please make it available to the archive that Ed O’Donnelly is so devotedly compiling. You will not lose the material, as it will be copied and returned. Any contribution should be taken to the Heritage Museum in Brodick, where it will be welcomed most gratefully and treated with professional care. Compiling knowledge of our past is one of the most valuable things we can do for the future.


pic pic pic

Click on any of the images above to see a larger version.

500 download NAC iPhone app

NAC has set up a ‘report and track’ iPhone app that enables an instant and accurate complaint about such things as fly tipping and dog fouling. Launched on October 5th, 515 people downloaded the Report It app within the first seven days.

David Moody, co-founder of Lagan and VP Solutions Marketing at KANA, said, ‘It will provide a great insight into how to best harness the power of smartphones in order to engage more closely with local communities and improve service experience.’

We looked up the KANA website, which does not explain what the initials stand for but says it ‘gives managers total control over the customer service process, so they can take care of their brand while taking care of customers.’ An outsourcing exercise, then. In North Ayrshire’s population of 135,180, an uptake of 515 is going to leave an awful lot of people less than impressed.