THE ILEACH :: THE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FOR ISLAY + JURA

Excerpts from issue 49/19 2 July 2022

Jura's Fantastic Bees
jura's fantastic bees

Jura's Small Isles Primary School has been awarded a Certificate of Achievement for their 'Fantastic BEES and Where to Find Them (Newt Scamander's Suitcase)' pocket garden, in a competition organised by Keep Scotland Beautiful.
According to Jonathan Pye, principal teacher at Small Isles Primary, much credit for the success is due to Mrs Welch, the teacher in charge of the project and who guided the children's enthusiasm.
The school's pupils said, "Our garden is set in the suitcase of Wizarding Magizoologist, 'Newt Scamander' (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) where he looks after and studies various magical beasts in their home environment created within his magical case.
"He nurses ill species back to health using the herbs and potions in his apothecary, which we have created in the upstanding case area of our design. You'll find 'Mint for beastly breath', 'Lemon Balm for coughs and colds', 'Lavender for snotty noses', 'Thyme to send aggressive beasts to sleep', 'Nasturtium for nasty natures' and 'Borage for beastly boils'."
The children have (as in the story) created an Arizona desert-like area using cream pebbles and with cornflowers as cacti. They have painted Occimies who nest up high nearby (one in the hanging basket nest) and a Thunderbird, which is native to the desert, is by the stone stacks which the children re-created. Picket (the stick-like creature) is hiding with the borage to disguise himself and Niffler is hiding with his stolen treasure (as always) in the jungle area (rainbow chard).
Newt and Grindelwald are etched on logs at each side of the handle and have wands drawn towards each other to show their battle of good versus evil. The magnifying glasses are there to represent Newt's constant search for new or rare creatures and are also there for the children and Pre5 children to have fun, mini-beast hunting.
"Our senses poem and the many bee images around the case bring in the main pollinator we have aimed to attract and link it to where you can find them in relation to the Fantastic Beasts and plants in Newt's case."

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In this week's issue:

Pat McGrann is islands regional hero, CMAL presentation on Port Ellen pier upgrade, SNP councillors reject council's education proposals, Jura's Fantastic Bees, Keills Primary celebrate childhood day, Bowmore Primary endeavours and maths success, Ballygrant Ceilidh, Port Ellen Football Festival, Should fèis Ìle extend to two weeks?, Additional Friday coach to Glasgow, Botanist Foundation bursary, Port Ellen Playing Fields update, Progress and change at Loganair, IHS Awards and Dux interview, Perry Green takes a walk along the Big Strand, Searching for the Vikings, MYFOS update, Two book reviews.

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Is up the only way?
lagavulin distillery

Islay's traditional Fèis Ìle annual festival, was joined by the island's distilleries in 2000 to create a larger, more international festival, while still retaining facets of the island's arts and musical heritage.
Since that day, the festival has grown almost exponentially, bringing ever-increasing numbers to the islands' shores in the final week of May each year (Covid notwithstanding).
However, the first major change to the annual programme was the addition of Ardnahoe Distillery in 2019 which entailed their sharing the midweek slot with Bowmore Distillery.
With the likelihood of two more distilleries (Portintruan and Port Ellen) joining the happy throng in the next couple of years, comments heard during this year's festival suggested it might become necessary to enter a second week in order to incorporate the new distilleries.
And with the prospect of the Laggan Distilling Company (Islay Ales) constructing new premises at Glenegedale, and the projected new distillery at Gearach, it's easy to see how one week might become scarcely sufficient.
Already for 2023, the Fèis Ìle Committee have extended the festival to ten days, from Friday 26 May until Sunday 4 June, but have admitted that they are planning to hold discussions concerning a potential expansion for 2024.
But is that an option that would find favour with everyone, including the distilleries themselves? Owner of Kilchoman distillery, Anthony Wills, told the Ileach, "I'm not convinced going to two weeks for Fèis is the answer. It would be too protracted and lose its appeal.
"More of the distilleries should share days and independent bottlers and others should only be allowed to put on events in the evenings."

It's a valid point, and one reflected elsewhere. Another distillery spokesperson told us, "It would be great for many local businesses, but I think we need to make sure we are geared up to cope. It's a huge strain on the island.
"We need a review of the general travel infrastructure for the tourists (increased bus timetable, more buses, taxis etc), but also for the locals, so that they still have a good level of service. Then there are other questions like, should we have a larger police presence during this time? How do we ensure everyone gets fed when all the restaurants are full?"

Since Ardnahoe, Bowmore, Kilchoman and Jura already share their open days, why not simply double up elsewhere? As Mr Wills pointed out, extending the festival to two weeks might well result in the event losing its appeal.
However, a manager at one of Islay's other distilleries said that extending the festival, "...could make for a less frenetic period of activity if events were spread over a two week period."
The original remit of the festival when it emerged in the 1980s, was to extend the island's summer season, which, at one time, was more clearly defined over the months of July and August. Extending the festival into June would surely be a further fulfilment of that original goal?
But it's also worth noting that all the members of the Fèis committee are volunteers and are hard enough worked as it is, without imposing several more days upon them.
A final comment expressed to the Ileach stated, "It's now a major event and we should be very proud of getting it to this point. We just need to make sure we have the right support in place to ensure it continues to flourish."

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Book review

The Seasons with Cindy and Lucy. Old Farming Ways on Islay. Mary MacGregor Ailsapress paperback 74pp illus. £7.99
seasons with cindy and lucy - mary macgregor Even if you have no specific connection with farming, on Islay or elsewhere, it's hard not to notice that it's an industry that has changed quite considerably in recent years. However, it may be that the tractors and trailers have become substantially larger, but the seasons have scarcely changed at all. Traditions may have altered through the years, but the need to carry out certain tasks at particular times of the year, still impinge on daily farming life.
Mary MacGregor, who currently works at Bruichladdich Distillery, was brought up on Gartacharra Farm, situated on the land behind the distillery and village. Her family have farmed there for three generations. This book, as stated in Mary's brief biography at the back, fulfils a particular purpose.
"Now that the old ways are dying out, she would like to share the stories she has collected over the years."
Mary introduces herself in chapter one of 'Cindy', "I was a wee girl of six, and I already considered myself a very important farm worker."
The reason for this childhood boast was her job of tending to newborn lambs rejected by their mothers, which were brought up to the farmhouse to be "...cared for and fed."
This is how Mary met Cindy, a lamb with which she subsequently spent many a happy year. Cindy earned her name from a disturbing habit of pressing her nose against the guard rails of the peat fire in the kitchen (cinders).
Through her childhood and early school years, Mary and Cindy were almost inseparable, but the author has cleverly used this to enlighten the reader as to farming life on Islay at that time.
Collecting the eggs on a daily basis, planting potatoes while preventing Cindy from eating the seedlings, harvesting the hay and building hay-ricks...
The book's second part is entitled, 'Lucy', the name of a Highland pony which arrived on the farm several years after tractors had replaced the Clydesdale workhorses.
"When the Clydesdales were no longer needed to help unload the puffers at the pier, or hoist the sacks into the barley loft, there ended an era of majestic, mighty horsepower. [...] My Dad called them his gentle giants. How I wish I had known them!"
Lucy forms a major part of Mary's narrative, from their timorous introduction to each other, to getting her used to the bridle and saddle, to being prepared for and entering the annual Islay Show, to which Lucy had to be walked the five miles from the farm.
The book ends on a slightly despondent note, enlightening us that Lucy passed away in her stall at the grand old age of thirty. However, after being told that Cindy the sheep chewed the end of Lucy's tail the day before Show Day, Cindy is mentioned no more.
Whatever happened to her?
A delightful book, well-written and a joy to read.

bp

'Seasons with Cindy and Lucy' is available at the Celtic House, Bowmore.

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This is Islay
this is islay podcast

A monthly podcast featuring individuals, personalities and features of Islay and Jura. Listen now at https://anchor.fm/thisisislay

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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE, Saturday 16 July 2022

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