Excerpts from issue 42/09 21 February 2015

snow in bowmore

March 3rd. Welcome to Spring on Islay

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Fourteen Islay and Jura seeks panel members

£250,000 to spend - find out how to become involved.
Fourteen Islay & Jura is an initiative which will see around £250,000 of Commonwealth Games legacy funding coming to these two islands.
Individuals, groups, clubs and organisations will be able to apply for funding to develop projects which will increase participation levels in sport, cultural activity and arts, youth leadership and volunteering.
We are now seeking nominations for a panel of 14 local people who will develop a community plan and make decisions on the allocation of funds.
The minimum age for nominations is 14. If you would like to put yourself forward or nominate someone else please contact Petra Pearce (IJCVS) 810 743 or Samantha MacDougall (IJCE) 810 767.
There will also be a series of community consultation events where you can find out more about Fourteen Islay & Jura, nominate yourself for the panel or anyone else you think would be suitable. The following have been arranged:
Islay Natural History Trust AGM and Fourteen. Islay & Jura in Islay Natural History Centre, Port Charlotte Friday 27 February 7pm. Mactaggart Leisure Centre Howat Room 'Drop Ins' Saturday 28 February 10:30am - 1pm and reception 2-5pm. Islay & Jura Community Enterprises AGM and Fourteen Islay & Jura in Mactaggart Leisure Centre Howat Room, Monday 2 March 7:30pm. South Islay Development Company AGM and Fourteen Islay & Jura in Ramsay Hall Port Ellen Thursday 5 March 7:30pm.

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Islay Gathering entertainers

Hugh Smith writes:
Performers at An Comunn Ileach's annual gathering, to be held in the Glasgow University Students' Union on Friday, 6 March at 7:30pm, will provide a variety of songs and instrumental music guaranteed to please and entertain the patrons.
The lady soloists are Janet Campbell and Linda MacLeod, neither of whom are strangers on the city's Highland scene. Janet, now resident in Mull, continues to sing with the Glasgow Islay Gaelic choir while Linda, a native of North Uist and a Glasgow University graduate, has recently researched and helped to preserve a number of unpublished Gaelic songs that have a particular connection with her Uist neck of the woods.
Keeping up with the ladies will be Angus MacLeod and Andrew MacTaggart, successful singers in the world of Gaelic and opera.
Angus, who has family connections with Skye, the Uist and Lewis, is a lead partner in an Inverness legal firm and won the men's gold medal last year at the Royal National Mod in the Highland capital.
Andrew is a classically trained baritone who regularly appears with Scottish Opera and also sings with the Paisley Philarmonic as well as guesting at other high profile events. His grandfather farmed at Kilchiaran on the west coast of the island and he is the great nephew of the late Mysie Thomson, one time depute secretary of the association.
Upping the tempo will be accordion and piano selections from brothers Alan and Kyle Rowan from Edinburgh. Their mother Mairi comes from Islay and their career soldier father Gordon is proud of his Tiree roots. They are also the grandsons of the late Hester Stewart, formerly of Cornabus, and their grandfather Angus remains a ken speckle Bowmore resident.
Piano accompaniments will be the responsibility of Kirsteen Grant, conductor of the Glasgow Islay Gaelic choir and a Mod gold medallist to boot, and the concert opening selections will provided by the group's pipe major Andrew McCowan Jnr.
The guest chairman is Peter Malcolm Campbell, manager of Cardhu Distillery, and who served in a similar capacity at the Port Ellen Maltings and at Lagavulin.
The event will be hosted by president Janette MacArthur and then organisers are hopeful that this, the 154th annual gathering, will continue to receive the support that it enjoys from city Gaels and grass root Ilich.

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But the Distilleries Went On. The Morrison Bowmore Story. Ian Buxton. Angel's Share press hardback. 329pp illus. £30
but the distilleries went on

Reputedly, per head of population, Islay has the highest concentration of Single Malt whisky distilleries in the world. And though they occupy significant areas of the island's landscape between the buildings, warehouses and water supplies, they seem to have blended so well into the fabric of the isle as to be almost invisible. But no doubt the same could be said of many places around the world, always assuming we're looking at things from a local perspective.
The sizeable influx of whisky obsessed visitors over the course of a year, bolstered by the annual Festival of Malt and Music, would perhaps paint a different picture of events when seen from a different point of view. And though we all know someone who works in at least one of the distilleries, it's quite likely that there is a large majority of residents who have never undertaken a tour of any of them. Which makes it even more unlikely that we'd know much about their history in any specific detail.
Bowmore distillery is, by common consent, the oldest surviving 'legal' distillery on the island, having been apparently constituted in Daniel Campbell's original plans for the village of Bowmore in the late 1760s. There are suggestions that distilling in Bowmore was begun at this time, but the company itself dates the foundation of Bowmore Distillery as 1797 on 'a piece of ground in Hill Street and Shore Street.' Since it is unlikely there was a school atop the road in the late 18th century, we must assume that 'Hill Street' is the present day 'School Street'.
However, the history of the distillery from that date, though briefly covered in the final chapter of Ian Buxton's chapter of 'But the Distilleries Went On', is not the principal subject of this handsome tome. It would do the prospective reader well to be aware that, according to the foreword by former CEO, Mike Keiller, "We decided to commission Ian Buxton to write this account of the business...", a phrase that provides something of an explanation as to why certain aspects of the company's history seem a tad superficial. This is not necessarily a 'warts and all' account of Morrison Bowmore Distillers from its inception in 1951. Considering the depth with which Buxton relates aspects of the Microsoft based computer system that currently handles the company's logistics, to then read that Auchentoshan's modest visitor centre was 'mysteriously closed in the 1980s' seems a bit inconsistent.
The same foreword, however, offers a somewhat eccentric series of 'laudable aims' which Keiller hopes the book will fulfil, to wit; 'a nice read', 'a gift', 'provide a historical record for future generations.' The book will no doubt fit into any of the above, but it seems an odd tack to pursue in a foreword. Of course, Morrison Bowmore has now been swallowed up by the world's third largest drinks conglomerate, Beam Suntory, so Mr Keiller no longer has any say in the matter. In fact both he and the MBD Operations Director and Finance Director 'elected to leave the company', leaving Morrison Bowmore Distillers to exist 'largely as a brass plate'.
Whether you view that as a sad end to a demonstrably successful business, would depend on your appreciation of the finer points of modern commerce.
Buxton's narrative is one that's easy to read on pages not only well laid out, but well illustrated, even if the opening double-page illustration is simply captioned 'The Moss, Islay' giving the impression that we have only one. There is, however, always at least one 'but', and in this case it is the odd and varying spacing between sentences, something that, in its inconsistency became rather irritating by the time I'd reached page 329. Similarly leaving a space between the final word of a sentence and both exclamation and question marks is not common practice.
It's a not inexpensive book at £30, but to those with specific interest in such matters, probably well worth the outlay.
bp
Ian Buxton's book can be purchased from C&E Roys Celtic House, Shore Street, Bowmore.

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NEXT ISSUE ON SALE 7 March 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 2015

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