Excerpts from issue 43/24 17 September 2016

hebridean isles fast rescue craft
A ferry story with a happy ending

Our photo shows the launch of the fast rescue craft from the CalMac ferry MV Hebridean Isles during a mid-journey rescue of a stricken yachtsman at the beginning of the week.

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T in the Church

Every Wednesday morning, from 11am until 2pm, local church members in Portnahaven and Port Wemyss lay out a mouth-watering spread in Portnahaven Church, paraphrasing the annual 'T in the Park' music festival and holding 'T in the Church'.
Teas, coffees and, worthy of special mention, a delicious vegan quiche (yes, really) amongst other vittles can be bought and consumed in the relative peace and quiet of the church.
T in the Church was originally started three years ago to raise funds for replacement windows in the church, but since then, the £2 for tea and cake has resulted in several thousand pounds being put towards church repairs and improvements.
During the summer months this can realise between £150-£200 per week.
Aside from renewing the windows, Portnahaven Church has also benefitted from new gates (donated by Jack Build Islay) and an air-source heating system.
Interior decorating, re-pointing the external stonework and widening the path for easier access are all items on the to-do list.
A Friends of Portnahaven Church has recently been constituted and individuals all across the world have regularly contributed to the well-being of one of the few Telford churches to exist in its original form.

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Islay's rowing regatta

Jon Gerrard writes:
Islay welcomed Boatie Blest and rowers from Pittenweem and Glasgow Rowing Club (the Clyde-based sliding-seat club, some of whose members are also Islay coastal rowers, rather than the Glasgow Coastal Rowing club) to join them for a day of racing in Port Ellen on Saturday 10 December. Strong winds and heavy rain affected ferry timetables over the weekend, creating a real danger of not being able to return home which meant that Mull had to take the hard but understandable decision not to attend.
In the event the day was fine and sunny, though fresh winds whipped up a bit of a sea resulting in a decision to slightly shorten the triangular course to around 1500m. A hard row into the wind for the first leg was rewarded by a swift run with it in the second, with the final leg across some tricky waves demanding concentration to avoid crabbing.
Men's, women's and mixed open races were run, and run twice to allow everyone to get a chance of a good turn. Results were as follows:
Men's Open Race 1 - Boatie Blest
Women's Open Race 1 - Boatie Blest
Mixed Open Race 1 - Boatie Blest
Men's Open Race 2 - Islay (recording the fastest time of the day)
Women's Open Race 2 - Boatie Blest
Mixed Open Race 2 - Boatie Blest
Finally, two fun races were run where names from all clubs were drawn from a hat to be formed into mixed crews for all four boats. Boatie Blest took home to Cockenzie and Port Seton, a handsome plaque as the overall winners.

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A Year In A Ditch by JC Jeremy Hobson. Whittles Publishing softback 142pp illus. £16.99.
a year in a ditch

Over this past summer, when the wind was on holiday, the grass was green and skies were blue, aside from the ubiquitous motorhomes infesting Islay's roads, it was also possible to witness a constant peloton of cyclists intent on enjoying our relatively traffic-free roads. Thankfully, the oft mentioned cyclist/motorist interface that is an endemic part of the mainland commute rarely rears its ugly head in this corner of the Hebrides, but as local cyclists well know, every now and again it becomes necessary to pull in and allow a queue of motor cars to pass unhindered.
We are nothing if not courteous.
The practiced ease with which this is accomplished, however, does not always translate well to those venturing from foreign parts, even if those stretch only as far as Scotland. To this end, I witnessed a hapless cyclist who happened to be riding in front of me, pull onto the grass verge in the face of oncoming traffic.
As mentioned above, though usually a less than iniquitous set of circumstances, in this case the end result was most certainly not what was expected.
The poor cyclist, apparently unaware that Islay's grass verges are mostly bordered by overgrown ditches, had put her foot down on what she obviously expected to be solid ground, only to keel over into the hole in the ground, I'd rather suspected was there all along.
Had she previously read JC Jeremy Hobson's 'A Year In A Ditch', she may well have been able to save herself the embarrassment and dunking received.
Do not be misled by the book's eponymous title. This is not a 142 page essay on the purported benfits of living marginally below ground at the edge of the road, but in fact a highly informative and entertaining description of the uses, history and construction of the humble ditch. There's even a chapter entitled 'Dining out in a Ditch', exploring the many plants that may be considered delicacies when incorporated into appropriate recipes, a number of which are included in the chapter.
As the author is keen to point out, Britain's network of waterways, rivers and canals are much admired, yet when it comes to the ditch, important as it is by way of irrigation for farming and a haven for wildlife, it probably receives as much by way of praise as dispensed by the unfortunate cyclist mentioned above.
Mr Hobson takes great delight in pointing out in his introduction that what may be casually designated as a 'watercourse' does indeed cover a multitude of sins:
"...according to the Water resources Act of 1991, the word 'watercourse' encompasses and includes all 'rivers, streams, ditches, drains, cuts, culverts, dykes, sluices, sewers and passages through which water flows, except mains and other pipes..."
However, the ditch, as most of us understand the definition, is mostly seen as a '...simple yet effective way of keeping land drained and water on the move..' If anyone was best qualified to present this in a literate and enjoyable manner, it is surely Mr Hobson.
'A Year In A Ditch' is remarkably well researched and illustrated, written in a compelling yet relaxed manner. Though ditches may not be the first topic of conversation that springs to mind in polite company, there's little doubt that this slim volume from Scotland's Whittles Publishing will provide a new perspective to your appreciation of a singular aspect of the countryside that surrounds us.

bp

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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE 1 October 2016

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islay info

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islay community council

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Islay Diary 2016

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