Excerpts from issue 42/07 24 January 2015

the big gaelic song weekend

Last weekend's Big Islay Gaelic Song Weekend saw a large turnout at both Portnahaven Hall, and Ardbeg's Old Kiln Cafe.

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Finlaggan Samaritans

The crew of the Finlaggan are arguably the most pleasant, friendly and helpful people in the whole Caledonian MacBrayne fleet, as regulars on the Islay to Kennacraig crossing will testify.
But what do they get up to when they are sailing other routes? Why, being even more pleasant, friendly and helpful of course.
A fortnight ago they were over in the Outer Hebrides when the weather was truly wild and came to the assistance of the good folk of Harris. The island had been without power for approaching 48 hours.
Opening up her gangway to members of the community from 4-8pm, the Master, Barry Scott, and his crew welcomed approximately 50 local residents on board and provided hot drinks and filled rolls, as well as offering them the chance to take a shower. Some who were aboard took hot water and food back to those who could not venture out, and also took the opportunity to re-charge mobile devices in case the telephone network was restored.
Meanwhile the ship's Chief Engineer and 2nd Engineer were able to apply their technical expertise at a local hotel, wiring an emergency generator to supply power.
"The Master and crew of MV Finlaggan were pleased to be able to support the relief efforts," said duty operations manager Finlay MacRae. "A hot drink, some food and a shower hopefully provided some respite, and thanks, too, to our engineering colleagues from Finlaggan, whose assistance in connecting a generator helped the pierside hotel to assist with relief efforts for the wider community."
(Before we are inundated with letters, let me say that we know the crews of the Hebridean Isles and the Arran are a great bunch too!)

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Islay and Jura Mobile Library

Maggie Birtwell writes:
Islay and Jura Youth Action Group, assisted by kind friends, well-wishers and people with library experience are getting together for a major book sorting session. This will take place in Portnahaven Hall from noon on Saturday, 7 February. If you can spare even half an hour it would be much appreciated. Any books donated over the years will be stored, given to local charities, or boxed and sent by IJYAG for use in developing countries. Council property will be kept, boxed for sending to the central stores on the mainland, or prepared for disposal to recycling. Any other ideas would be welcome but there is very little room for long term storage.
In order to develop the mobile library service to include schools, nurseries etc., some change to to the timetable is inevitable. It will be as minor as possible but visits to establishments will mostly be on either side of lunch times, which will be used for Book Group meetings in local hotels, cafes etc. (The first one will be on 9 February, 1pm in Jura Hotel, thence every third Monday.) When the plan is consolidated it will appear in the Ileach and also in poster form around the community. Until then, things should be fairly unchanged, breakdowns and weather permitting!
The official mobile library number is 07884 114 390. Do use this to text any queries. When computerisation takes place there will be scope for better communication, but that will be some weeks off I fear! It will happen.

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The Caledonian Steam Packet Company. An Illustrated History by Alistair Deayton. Amberley Press Softback. 128pp illus. £19.99
The Caledonian Steam Packet Company

The recent spate of storms battering Islay's coasts and the subsequent disruption or cancellation of our ferry services, was perhaps a timely reminder of just how fragile an existence is experienced by the islands off Scotland's west coast. This relative isolation from the mainland (daily air service notwithstanding) can be considered either a plus or a negative depending on your point of view. Several days without ferries often means a lack of essentials such as bread, milk, newspapers (apparently) and no letters on the doormat.
To an extent this underlines CalMac's definition as a lifeline service, even though the advent of RET for visitors as well as residents may be seen as a slight undermining of that status.
But the islands and coastal ports of the Clyde are also served by this Scottish national ferry service, ultimately an amalgamation of several competing ferry groups over the past hundred or so years.
One of these component parts is the Caledonian Steam Packet Company, founded in 1889 and subsequently merged with the David MacBrayne fleet in 1973. This itself was an outgrowth of Caledonian Railways, a company keen to provide steamers to complement the trains serving its new terminal at Gourock and from Wemyss Bay.
The growth of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company eventually encompassed many Clyde ports that some may have nostalgic memories of visiting. Rothesay, Ayr, Ardrossan, Ardrishaig and Arrochar were all visited by a fleet of paddle steamers that had no need of fitting the pier in the manner that MV Finlaggan didn't.
For in those days, any cargo that might have been carried, including motor vehicles, were lifted aboard by crane or driven across two strategically placed planks of wood. Presumably devices such as linkspans were either not thought of or unwarranted in those halcyon days of yore, when large crowds of passengers and would-be passengers could be seen thronging decks and piers.
It is also notable that, while the number of destinations served has proportionally reduced as the motor car has become ever more ubiquitous, there are many ship names that will be familar to modern day travellers. It appears that the name 'Glen Sannox' has been used on about three separate occasions, along with 'Juno', 'Pioneer', and 'Jupiter' to name but a few.
There is also the not insignificant factor of there having been a 'Queen Mary' on the CSPC fleet, a boat which was subsequently re-named 'Queen Mary II' when Cunard requested the former name for its own trans-Atlantic liner.
Author Alistair Deayton has certainly not skimped on his research. Virtually every boat that ever sailed in the CSPC colours is not only mentioned in the narrative, but often fleshed out with specific details about engines, modifications and subsequent history on leaving the fleet.
Unfortunately, this attention to detail could also be levelled as a criticism. The book is entitled 'The Caledonian Steam Packet Company. An Illustrated History' but in point of fact, it is an (excellently) illustrated history of the fleet and not really of the company itself. Ports visited and routes operated exist almost exclusively as a supporting cast to the ships themselves, and though I earlier referred to the text as 'narrative', that is perhaps a tenous description at best.
Disappointingly too, particularly in such a scholarly work, though each and every ship is listed at the back of the book, there is no index and thus no easy means of finding either specific illustrations or details of people, places or boats mentioned. The typesetting too could be a tad more spacious in presentation. It's a shame that the publishers did not see fit to emulate the typography utilised for quoted passages.
And finally, that title on the front page. It is, I'm sure we'd all agree, The Caledonian - Steam Packet Company, given its subjugation from Caledonian Railways, however the layout has it reading as The Caledonian Steam - Packet Company.
Art lies in the details.
But all criticism aside, £19.99 is a small price to pay for the copious number of well-reproduced and annotated illustrations. Images such as the 'Duchess of Hamilton' berthed at Arrochar, the 'Glen Sannox' at Greenock and the 'Juno' at Ayr, are easily worth the price of admission alone. And I'll never tire of looking at hand-coloured monochrome postcards, an art that has long since disappeared.

bp

www.amberley-books.com


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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE 7 February 2015

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Islay Natural History Trust Blog

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islay community council

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Additional information is available on the Isle of Islay
and Isle of Jura websites.

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Islay Diary 2014/15

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