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Tiree, Scotland’s ‘Sunshine Isle’ by Paul Rees

The below article featured in the travel section of The Guardian last Wednesday the 24th of July. With the writer, Paul Rees giving a rave review of our ‘sunshine isle’. Have a read and see what you think.

The last time I sat on the saddle of a pushbike I was still in short trousers. Forty years later, I was pedalling gleefully down an undulating single-track road on a clear blue mid-July morning. Either side, the road was framed by hedgerows and, beyond, untamed croft land was gold and purple thanks to an abundance of buttercups and heather. Up ahead lay an expanse of ocean, aquamarine and twinkling. The air was rich with birdsong and the scent of grasses and sea. There wasn’t a car in sight. It was like riding into the pages of an Enid Blyton story. Until, that is, a great black-backed gull swooped from on high, plucked an enormous brown rat from a roadside ditch, soared once more to the heavens and flung its poor victim back to Earth, and its doom.

Such are the enchantments and wildness of Tiree – resident population 650, and the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides. When I arrived the previous morning by ferry from the mainland port of Oban, it didn’t so much loom as sneak into view: pancake-flat but for Ben Hynish, the solitary, 141-metre hill, and all but treeless. Tiree, though, glories in what happens around and about its 36 miles of coastline. It both reinforces and gives lie to the cliche that the beaches of the Hebrides could belong to the Caribbean or Pacific, but for their weather, heather and midges. Tiree’s edges are indeed made up of numerous secluded crescent-shaped bays, each with fine, white sand, as picturepostcard perfect as the next, and near deserted. Thanks to the mild influence of the Gulf Stream, Tiree is the Sunshine Isle, basking in more hours of annual sunlight than just about any other location in the British Isles. Since it is also out in the Atlantic, and as such also Britain’s windiest place, it has the additional advantage of being inhospitable to the summer-long curse of most of Scotland’s islands and Highlands: midges.

The Gulf Stream also warms the waters around Tiree and its near-neighbour, Coll, and they teem with life. The latter half of my four-hour ferry journey was a marine adventure in itself. From my vantage point on the upper stern deck, I counted five surfacing minke whales, an eight-strong pod of leaping white-beaked dolphins and the arched black backs of many more harbour porpoise. Not to mention squadrons of gulls, shags, guillemots, arctic terns, marauding arctic skuas and diving gannets.

The three-mile drive from the tiny port of Scarinish to my accommodation covered a quarter of Tiree’s length. I stayed in a cosy, white-walled crofter’s cottage, Traigh Mhor, surrounded on three sides by heathland grazed by a herd of Highland cattle, and facing out to the island’s longest uninterrupted stretch of sand, Gott Bay. Other snug and hardy houses (with outer walls painted bright pink, yellow or red) are dotted along the track roads that criss-cross the island. At 12 in number, Tiree also boasts the highest concentration of traditional thatched buildings in Scotland. Tiree’s two exceptions to convention are House No 7 and An Turas. Nestled into a coastal promontory at the southern tip of Scarinish, the former is a multi-award-winning home. Designed and built for his parents by London-based architect Murray Kerr, it is a striking, but empathetic melding of an older, renovated cottage with a brace of more futuristic-looking, metal-clad, barn-like extensions. Sadly, it’s not for rent. Sited dockside at Scarinish port and Scotland’s 2003 Building of the Year, An Turas meanwhile is a standout cuboid structure of glass, metal and wood that serves as both art exhibition space and a shelter for foot passengers on the ferry. Both buildings bring a dash of daring to Tiree. Otherwise, Tiree is an escape from the fast pace of modernity and best seen from a bike (hired from various outlets around the island, from £8 a day).

On a glorious afternoon, I pedalled up and down Tiree’s southern extremity, visiting Balevullin Bay at one end and Balephuil Bay at the other. At Balevullin, surfers and windsurfers rode crashing whitewater waves. From Balephuil, the venerable Skerryvore lighthouse is visible on the horizon, standing guard on its base of jagged, treacherous rock. It was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “the noblest of all deep sea lights”, and there is a charming museum to this 19th-century monument at the nearby township of Hynish. For lunch, I called at the Farmhouse Cafe, just around the headland from Hynish in Balemartine, which offers simple sandwich and snack fare. Sitting on a sun-dappled patio I was serenaded from the bordering grassland by the distinctive comb-scraping-on-matchbox call of corncrake. Later, I stopped off at Chocolate & Charms, a gift-and-snack shop in Heylipol, for a cup of rich, creamy hot chocolate. On this occasion, from my outside perch on a wooden bench, I was dive-bombed by batteries of swallows and sand martin.

Eating out at night in Tiree is also a rustic experience. The island has a handful of fish and chip shops, and the Cobbled Cow at Crossapol does meat and seafood dinners, but you will search in vain for fine dining. Best bet for an evening meal is to pick up something from Tiree Lobster & Crab in Scarinish. It’s basically a Portacabin in the car park next to the Co-op, and sells catch-of-the-day fish and shellfish at reasonable prices. On my last night on Tiree, I walked a mile up the road from my cottage to Salum Bay. This more rugged, tucked-away corner of the island hosts a 70-strong grey seal colony and affords a panoramic view of the Outer Hebrides, the shadow peaks of Barra, South Uist and Benbecula sweeping off into the further Atlantic.

At 11pm, the darkened sky was still gashed with the crimson of a setting sun and there was no sound but for the barking of seals and lapping waves.

Like Tiree, I was entirely at peace.

Loganair Flying Solo

It was announced at the end of last year that Scotland’s Airline Loganair will be ‘flying solo’ and operating flights in its own right from September the 1st.

With only one month to go until the current franchise agreement with Flybe and other airlines expires, Loganair has now released images of the newly painted aircrafts which will continue to operate on all current routes, Tiree included.

The tartan inspired design will be rolled out to all aircrafts and uniforms of their 600-strong team, introducing a new, definitively Scottish identity to the skies.

Loganair provide over 1,000 flights each week across 46 routes, offering unrivalled connectivity for Scotland and with operations stretching as far afield as London, Norwich, Manchester, Dublin, and Bergen in Norway. It has almost 300 flights each week to and from Glasgow, and is the largest operator at key airports throughout the Highlands & Islands including Inverness, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Tiree.

The extensive Loganair network also includes the world-famous “times subject to tide” operations to the beach airport at Barra and the world’s shortest scheduled flight, linking the Orkney islands of Westray and Papa Westray with daily flights taking only two minutes.

Scotland’s Airline has operated its services under franchise agreements with British Airways, from 1993 to 2007, and latterly with Flybe from 2007. The current franchise arrangement with Flybe will continue till the 31st of August 2017.

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive of Airline Investments Ltd, Loganair’s parent company, stated back in November: “Although Loganair has flown as a franchise carrier for larger airlines over the last 24 years, there is still a huge level of recognition and affinity for the Loganair name throughout Scotland and beyond. We believe the time is right for Scotland’s Airline to now spread its wings once again, and are delighted to be introducing a bold new corporate identity to accompany this important move.” “On behalf of the 600-strong team at Loganair, I’m delighted that Scotland’s Airline will be taking to the skies in its own right,” says Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair’s Managing Director. “All of us are very much looking forward to providing the highest standards of safety, punctuality and customer service synonymous with the Loganair name. We hold tremendous responsibility to operate services on lifeline routes and provide connectivity for Scotland – operating more flights in Scotland than every other airline put together – and I am wholly confident that Loganair’s independence will be warmly welcomed by both our customers and our dedicated team of professional employees.”

The new Loganair Booking system is now up and running and all flights from the 1st of September onwards can be booked through the website at www.loganair.co.uk.

Any flight bookings in the interim can still be booked through www.flybe.com

A Predictable Response

Dear Editor,

Below, is my Oban Times Column of 06/07/17 in reply to James Laikie’s letter to this paper and his letter to the Oban Times.

“As I don’t wish to turn this column into the “Tiree Scalloping Weekly” I promise next week to be back to pleasant subjects like music, summer voyages and special people.

James Laikie’s reply to my piece of a few weeks ago was disappointingly predictable. Alongside some misinterpretation of my points, some fairly standard-type manipulation of my supposed opinions, some mistakes in analysing what I “appear to think”, an unfortunate tone, and reaffirming his lack of understanding, there were, however, some valid points.

There are, of course, many valid points on all sides of the scallop-dredging and wider marine-management issue and satisfactory resolution and a good future path will only come by engagement, education and compromise. The compromise of course must always come from all angles but small-scale, low-impact operators like Coinneach MacKinnon, whom James would like to see cease trading, should certainly not be bearing the brunt of the anti-scallop dredging campaigners.

The lack of knowledge and/or ability to differentiate between scales of fishing, types of ground worked and the vastly varying resulting impacts is a major problem with many anti-fishing lobbyists and this is displayed perfectly by Mr Laikie. To lump in this small one-boat business working on flat sand and gravel beds that have been harvested sustainably in this way for over 60 years with mass industrial fishing operations is very unhelpful for all sides and can be devastating to the lives of the individuals targeted. The jobs provided by this operation, as well as the knock-on economic benefits ashore and at sea may not be of significance on a national scale or to the Laikies, but to Tiree they are very important. Contrary to what Mr Laickie states, this issue has everything to do with “fragile island economies.”

The natural environment of the world and particularly that of the ocean is in a worrying state and action needs to be taken. Unfortunately, through ignorance and willful blindness, campaigners like the Laikies are wasting effort on easy but non-relevant targets. It is much easier to write a letter demonising a young fisherman on Tiree, than to take on big industry – fishing and otherwise – doing the real damage to the world’s oceans.

I would suggest that if Mr Laikie, as he claims, has the “utmost respect for Tiree’s fishermen….” then he might have engaged with them directly before writing letters of protest to local newspapers. Tiree is a small island and it would have been very easy to find out about the facts and individuals involved in his chosen subject of protest before putting pen to paper. If this courtesy had been shown originally then some column inches would have been saved and the fishermen – “sensible” or otherwise – referred to might have been more receptive to his views and he may have gained a different perspective on the issues.

I hope if James and Linda are on Tiree in the future when I am home we might meet over a meal of scallops to join in friendly debate. I will have sustainably dredged scallops from Coinneach and out of respect for their views I will offer them sustainably-dived ones. We may even ceremoniously swap during the evening and hopefully nobody will be eating parrot. “

Angus MacPhail

Just Over A Week Until Tiree Music Festival

  • New Acts Announced
  • Unique Audience Experience With Cinemor 77
  • Launch of Tiree’s Very Own Tyree Gin
  • A Special Guest Appearance
  • Last Few Tickets Remain

With less than two weeks to go until Tiree Music Festival 2017 a host of new acts have been announced, alongside a unique audience experience, the launch of the island’s brand new gin and a special guest appearance!

With the last few tickets available the countdown is on to get tickets to what was voted Scotland’s Best Small Festival at last year’s Scottish Events Awards.

The Island of Tiree is often dubbed ‘The Hawaii of the North’ and with picture-perfect white sands and world-famous surf, TMF is more than just a music festival but instead a true island adventure to what has been described as one of the most stunning festival locations in the world.

Gary Innes, one of the new acts to be added to this year’s line-up, and Tide Lines’ front man Robert Robertson gave the new unique audience experience at this year’s festival a trial run. Social Enterprise group Cinemor 77 will bring their Cinema Yurt to Tiree Music Festival where they will offer special film experiences alongside a number of intimate gigs.With cushions and bean bags for seats and a capacity of only 30 people this will provide a unique experience for festival goers who will be able to watch their favourite artists perform in an intimate setting. Robert Robertson,who will be playing in Cinemor 77’s Cinema Yurt, had this to say after trying it out, “It was brilliant, I have never seen anything like it before! I can’t wait to play a gig in such a unique and intimate environment, I think it will be really special and definitely one of the most memorable venues I’ll have ever played!”

An exciting new act to be announced for this year’s Tiree Music Festival is highland born accordionist, founding member of Mànran and presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Take the Floor, Gary Innes who will be performing his new album ‘ERA’ at this year’s festival, Scotland’s only summer festival to showcase the new material.

Another brilliant new addition to 2017’s Tiree Music Festival line-up is Glasgow’s Have Mercy Las Vegas. Following their launch onto the Scottish Music scene in 2011, Have Mercy Las Vegas have gone from strength to strength with their rowdy and eclectic mix of folk and blues and their Celtic flair.

Known best for their live performances where they fully show off their range of original songs, foot stomping hoe downs and even some harmonious laments. Another addition to this year’s line-up is former front-man of the much loved Scottish Americana band The Felsons, Dean Owens.

His compelling and engaging live performance connects with the audience through an emotional hurricane of stories and songs. He will be joined by his band, The Whisky Hearts, who are a mighty all-star line-up.

Owens has been described by BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris as “One of Scotland’s best” and with Russell Brand encouraging us all to “For God’s sake buy this album”, TMF can’t wait to welcome him to the festival.

Jam Sandwich will be returning to Tiree Music Festival again for 2017.When they last played TMF in 2014 Festival Director Daniel Gillespie remembers them nearly blowing the roof off the then brand new Big Top Tent, he says, “They created an electric atmosphere with their feel-good, high energy performance – absolute crowd-pleasers from the word go.”

Tamzene, the first signing to new label Belladrum Records, will also be performing at this year’s festival. Hailing from Cromarty in the Highlands of Scotland, Tamzene’s debut single ‘Lullaby’ has been released to critical acclaim and the TMF audience can look forward to hearing more of what this highly talented multi-instrumentalist has to offer.

Flame haired songstress Sophie Rogers will be showcasing her Caledonia soul and folk/pop fusion at TMF 2017. With a new EP coming out this year Sophie will be playing an array of new material as well as some old favourites from her sold out EP ‘An Overflow of Words’ and album ‘Two Sides’.

Sophie is no stranger to performing live having toured across the UK, Europe, USA and Canada.

Tiree Music Festival also looks forward to welcoming vocalist and guitarist Marianne Fraser, of folk ensemble Cherry Grove, to this year’s festival. The keen songwriter describes her main influences as Karine Polwart, Boo Hewerdine, Nickel Creek and Regina Spektor.

The Sea Atlas, winners of the Calmac Culture 2017 competition, will also be performing their atmospheric folk rock at this year’s festival. From the Western Isles of Scotland this 4 piece draws inspiration from their Scottish surroundings when writing and performing their wealth of original material.

Another coup for the multi-award winning festival is the official launch of the Island’s brand new Tyree Gin taking place over the weekend. This brand new addition to the ‘Hebridean Gin’ is a true taste of Tiree with the flavour being achieved through six locally foraged botanicals which are ground together with Kelp and Sea-Belt from the wild Atlantic Ocean. Tyree was the original spelling for Tiree’s Post Office, established in Scarinish in 1802, the name was changed to Tiree in 1889.

There will also be a special guest performance from Anthony “Anto” Thistlewaite, long-standing member of Irish rock band The Saw Doctors, who will join Tide Lines on stage at this year’s festival.

The multi-instrumentalist was a founding member of The Waterboys and has recorded with the likes of Bob Dylan, Sharon Shannon, Eddi Reader, Chris De Burgh, Robyn Hitchcock, Fairground Attraction and Psychedelic Furs to name a few.

Festival Director, Daniel Gillespie, said: “The countdown is well and truly on! I can’t believe in less than two weeks we will be welcoming an array of talented musicians to the island and also, of course, our inimitable Tiree Music Festival audience! “There are some brilliant up-and-coming acts that are not to be missed this year, alongside some fresh new material from some well-known festival faces. “We can’t wait to welcome Cinemor 77 to the festival this year too, this will be a really unique and memorable experience for our audience who will get to watch some of their favourite artists perform in such an intimate environment!”

Artists confirmed to play the Cinemor 77 Yurt are Siobhan Miller, Robert Robertson, Gentlemen of Few,Have Mercy Las Vegas, Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts, Tamzene, SophieRogers, Marianne Fraser and The Sea Atlas.

The full 2017 line-up includes Scouting for Girls, Dougie MacLean, FunBox, Skipinnish, Skerryvore, Tide Lines, Siobhan Miller,Gary Innes, JigJam, Gunna Sound, Trail West, Heron Valley, Gentlemen of Few,Have Mercy Las Vegas, Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts, Dosca, Jam Sandwich, Cornaig Ceilidh Band, DùnMòr, The Defenders,Tamzene, Sophie Rogers, Marianne Fraser and The SeaAtlas.

Fèis Thiriodh 2017 off to a Fantastic Start

The 27th annual Fèis Thiriodh kicked off at the beginning of this week and what a brilliant first couple of days they have been!

The star-studded line up of tutors have been busy tutoring over 100 students who are signed up to the main Fèis, Fèis Bheag and Fèis Bheag Bheag, making Fèis Thiriodh 2017 another fantastically supported event!

The start of the event also marked the start of the summer sun and we have been making the most of the lovely weather, with a variety of sports classes and the younger classes enjoying lessons outside. Fèis Bheag and Fèis Bheag Bheag has again proven very popular with the younger generation, which is very encouraging for the future of the event. Over half of the overall numbers are attending these classes where they have been receiving guest appearances from the music, dance and sport tutors to give them an insight of what is to come when they are age to attend the main workshops. The evening and fringe events have also been a huge hit.

On Monday evening, the first ‘Taste of Tiree – Blasad den Eilean againn’ welcome event was held. Tiree Trust will be running these events for the next 6 weeks, to welcome visitors to the island and the first one was billed as part of the Fèis and was a welcomed addition to the programme. The evening was excellently chaired by local Mabel Macarthur and enjoyed by many who were entertained by a selection of Fèis music tutors and a special highland dance performance from Iona Cairns. This was followed by interesting talks from Dr John Bowler and Dr John Holliday.

Tuesday was billed as the Tutors’ Ceilidh, which is always a fantastic evening of entertainment. Fèis Thiriodh have been very lucky over the years to attract and secure a huge amount of very talented musicians and individuals who work extremely hard over the week, tutoring and entertaining at various evening events. Tuesday’s ceilidh was well attended by the community, who were kept entertained and well informed by the ‘fear an taighe’ for the evening, Seonaidh Charity.

Seonaidh introduced all the acts throughout the evening which included a variety of ceilidh sets led by musical director for the evening, Eilidh MacFadyen on the box. Eilidh was joined by a host of others including, Mairi Innes on guitar, multi-talented musicians, Micheal Steele, Wee Ewan Henderson and Duncan MacDonald who entertained on the pipes, accordion, whistle, flute and drums. We had some wonderful solo singing performances from Alastair Currie, Iona Brown, Linda MacLeod and Johnathan Gillespie, along with a fantastic fiddle set performed by Craig Espie. The tutors were also joined by the tireless, hardworking Fèis committee who took to the stage to help sing this year’s Fèis song, Lag nan Cruachan, which was chosen and dedicated to the late Bernie Smith who was a very active committee member and supporter of Fèis Thiriodh.

As An Tirisdeach goes to print, we will only be half way through the Fèis week. Wednesday will see the event shifting location for a few hours, as they take to the seas and set off on the ‘Muse Cruise’ up to Barra. This is always a very popular event and the good weather looks to be continuing for it. On the return to Tiree, the tutors will be having a few tunes in the Lean To. A family dance will take place on Thursday, in An Talla, followed by the final dance on Friday night.

The band for the evening will include a variety of the tutors, who will be sure to keep you entertained and on your feet throughout the night.

For further information on all the remaining events make sure you check out the website www.feis-thiriodh.com or look out for the official programme which is on sale throughout the island.

Well done to all the committee, tutors and students who have worked to create another fantastic event!

Screen Tiree Goes Viral

T3 Trainspotting Tiree from jack lockhart on Vimeo.

One of our local community groups, Screen Tiree has recently gone viral with their own remake of the iconic, Trainspotting scene.

The popular scene which sees cast member Ewan McGregor running through Edinburgh streets has been reshot here on Tiree, featuring islanders and members of the Screen Tiree committee.

Derek Campbell took on the lead role of ‘Renton’ even throwing in a stunt man move of being hit by a car. The 44 second clip follows, Derek, Jo Vale, Mairi Forbes and Forrest Lockhart running past the Co-op and down towards the Scarinish Hotel, featuring the original soundtrack of ‘lust for life’ and an alternative Tiree version of the voice over: “Choose life. Choose gale force winds. Choose whole families of cyclists going really slowly on single track roads. Choose power cuts. Choose no signal on your mobile phone. Choose ferry cancellations due to adverse weather conditions. Choose rusty cars. Choose wellies and a fleece. Choose your future. Choose Tiree’.

Screen Tiree set up just over a year ago with the aim to reintroduce a form of cinema club and movie screenings to the community. Since then they have put on 14 films and organised a variety of opportunities for children through the ‘into film’ initiative. The latest film that was shown was the Trainspotting sequel, T2, where the audience received the first glimpse of the local scene.

The clip was created entirely by the Screen Tiree committee, filmed in only a couple of hours using a mobile phone. However, it has since been uploaded to social media and has now been viewed over 10,000 times through shares on Facebook and mentioned in The Oban Times and in national newspaper, The Sun.

It was even retweeted by the author of Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh, who simple commented ‘love it’. Fantastic! The film will also be screened at a film festival in Italy next week!

Screen Tiree hopes to continue making as well as screening films as it’s such a great way of bringing people together for a great time! With the success of their first effort, I am very much looking forward to seeing what else can be produced. The Screen Tiree programme of screenings has now finished for the summer and they are planning a new season for the autumn although they do have a few rainy day titles up their sleeve. To keep up to date with all the latest events and screenings search for ‘Screen Tiree’ on Facebook and look out for local adverts within An Tirisdeach.

Tiree Community Council

The well-attended June meeting of Tiree Community Council was also its AGM, and I gave a run-down of the campaigns with which we have been involved over the year.

These included facilities for the disabled on the ferry, the withdrawal of security at the airport, proposals for a cash machine for the bank, a scheme to create a Marine Protected Area around the island, organising the Remembrance Day service, the loss of the school library service, abandoned trailers in three locations, an area next to Pier View in Scarinish where builders’ waste was lying, buying the old phone boxes from BT and setting up the project to design a flag for Tiree.

We also set up a ballot concerning the beach huts at Gott and Balevullin, and presented the results to the planning officials of Argyll and Bute Council. It has been a busy year, and it is hard now to imagine life on the island without a community council.

I told the meeting about the resignation of John MacCaskill from TCC. John it was who first had the idea of re-forming the council, and his energy brought together the first group of us to stand for election. Since then he was Vice-Convenor for several years, and has also chaired the Tiree Transport Forum. John’s major success was to persuade the authorities that Tiree needed two planes a day, something long taken for granted by Campbeltown and Barra. He also fought hard to improve signage on the roads. John has now decided that his new job managing the airport has made it impossible to devote enough time to TCC matters, and he is reluctantly standing down for the moment.We would all like to thank him for his considerable political achievements.

We discussed the triangle of land to the west of Pier View,which belongs to Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Both the Tiree Trust and Tiree Community Business had made an offer to buy the land in the past few years for use as a play park and community garden. We have learned recently that the ground is now under offer from MacLeod Construction of Lochgilphead. MacLeod’s, the builders of the original ‘Tank Farm’, have proposed three further houses with workshops attached. The way that this process was handled has raised questions about how HIE negotiates with communities, and we have written to them to ask them to come to the island to explain how this decision was taken. Under Part 4 of the Community Empowerment Act (2015), community bodies have a right to buy land that is “neglected”.

We remain concerned about the pier head, which struggles to cope during peak season. The car park is often full and cars have to find space where they can on the surrounding ground. CMAL, who own and manage the land, have written to the Community Council detailing their investment plans for the pier and surrounding area. These amount to over £8 million pounds between 2013 and 2022, including the replacement of much of the link span deck. While this is extremely welcome, we still feel that congestion and parking at the pier head is not getting the priority it deserves. There have also seen worrying reports about corrosion affecting the columns supporting the pier itself. We have asked for a meeting with CMAL and will persevere with these two important concerns.

Efforts to design a flag for Tiree took an important step forward recently with a visit from an expert from the Flag Institute. Philip Tibbetts told us how to organise a successful competition, how long it would take and how much it would cost. We now know how to proceed, and hope to have the official unveiling next summer.

We discussed the state of the police mortuary at the airport. This has no running water and is powered by a generator. While needing a considerable amount of work, we decided that, as it was used solely by the professionals involved, this was a matter that was outside our remit.

We had also set up an online survey about setting up a cash machine on the island. 96%of those who responded said they would use one, with comments like: “I am often asked if there is an ATM on the island. It would be very handy to access cash without having to make a purchase to get cash back, and I am sure it would benefit local businesses and increase transactions on the island generally.” It was pointed out that post offices were another useful way to access one’s account.

The bins outside the gates of the waste facility in Gott, which had been removed by Argyll and Bute Council because of indiscriminate dumping, have now been reinstated after representations by TCC.

We decided that, due to the hectic Tiree summer-fest, our next public meeting would be in September. The Council would still be working behind the scenes, however, and if there were pressing matters, we could still call a meeting in the next two months.

Dr John Holliday (chair), Rhoda Meek, Ian Gillies, Aisling Milne and Jessie Gray were present.

Tiree Ranger Service Update

One aspect of my job that I find particularly rewarding is meeting people.

Offering opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy being active in nature is core to our remit as a Ranger Service. I’m delighted to tell you that, since the beginning of our events and guided walk programme in mid-April, almost three hundred guests and community members have joined in. This is an incredible show of support for Tiree Ranger Service, and I am extremely grateful to each and every person that has taken part. As the summer jollies approach and Tiree girds itself for the height of the visitor season, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the activities and experiences that we have shared so far:

The first event to take place was our Great Easter Eggcase Hunt on April 14th. This event was jointly led by myself and Willie Mackinnon – Tiree’s Youth Worker. Though I produced a written summary at the time, I hadn’t fully appreciated the long term positive impact that this session would have. The event was enormous fun and I had a great time leading it. However, what has struck me since is the number of families that now actively look for (and hopefully record) eggcases as they spend time on the beach. Young people often approach me in the Co-op to tell me about their most recent finds! Genuinely, I couldn’t have asked for a better result. On the day, the weather was rather changeable: Instead of collating our finds at the end of the activity, some families took them home to record, while others left the fruits of their labour with me to be processed in one large batch. I must say, well done to those families that went ahead and submitted their findings (presumably after a cup of something hot!) – it was great to see the new records popping up online. When I finally completed this task for the pooled Gott Bay samples, I was left with 137 records. These are currently being added to the Shark Trust website:

•120 Smallsoptted Catshark eggcases •6 Thornback Ray eggcases •9 Spotted Ray eggcases •2 Cukoo Ray eggcases

I was also given one Blond Ray eggcase and three Flapper Skate eggcases from unknown locations around Tiree – these were recorded separately. The enthusiasm engendered by this event is almost worth the perma-layer of sand that has ingrained itself into my carpet, and the hours of trying to untangle and measure the sodden eggcase mountain… If you’re interested, there are eggcase ID leaflets (with information on how to submit your findings) available from my office at the Tiree Rural Centre.

Our next session was Beach Bingo – a family scavenger hunt to spot and identify different items on the seashore. In essence, this was an excuse to dole out a few sweeties (!) but the children did practice identifying different colours and textures – or different types of seaweed, seashell and gull for the older participants. This event caught the tail end of the Easter break and attendance by visiting children and younger residents was good.

The third event of the year, Seòid a’ Machair, was a guided walk jointly led by myself and Donna MacLean – Tiree’s Music, Culture and Communications Coordinator. We explored the formation of Machair; learning how traditional crofting practice supports Tiree’s impressive biodiversity. Janet Bowler gave us an introduction to the rare bee species that she monitors here, and spoke about her ongoing project to encourage the planting of native wildflowers.

With Donna’s expertly prepared handouts and pronunciation guides, we learned the Gaelic names for many species that we encountered on the way – in addition to hearing about the language’s history and modern use on the island.

On May 12th, I led a short but terrifically enjoyable Wellness Walk down to Lag naCleite. Though the walk wasn’t intentionally aimed at viewing wildlife, there was simply too much to ignore! Highlights included lovely views of Great Northern Diver, Common Eider, Arctic Tern, Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin and a tiny Lapwing chick.

The following week, I was joined at Loch a’ Phuill by an enthusiastic group of Learner Birders.We got to grips with the basics of bird identification using our ID books and the new Tiree Ranger Service telescope; looking at a number of different wading and water species. A particular highlight was a small party of distant waders –which turned out to be a late passing group of female Black-tailed Godwits (thanks to John Bowler for following this up).

One of these birds was wearing leg rings, which indicated that she had originally been captured by French ringers. The same group had been spotted in Ireland just days before. Building on the enthusiasm of Learner Birders, our next session took us to the windy tops of Ceann a’Mhara for some Super Seabirds. Though the focus of this walk was primarily cliff-nesters, we experienced a diverse array of plant life and some very interesting natural history finds – such as the brightly coloured shells of predated seabird eggs. There was quite a bit of rain; but the walk was still one of my season highlights so far. In addition to learning about our environment, Tiree Ranger Service is here to encourage people to look after it.

On June 3rd, around 40 community members from across the island joined a Tiree Community Development Trust Big Tiree Tidy session to clear Crossapol Beach of debris. There is a lot of enthusiasm, and there are lots of great ideas, within our community. Watching people and their children come together and take time out of their day to help was extremely rewarding. A special mention needs to go tour local Argyll & Bute Council Workers, who very kindly offered to come and collect the material from the roadside. This made a difficult job much easier and was greatly appreciated by everyone.

June 8th saw me out and about early, placing riddles and clues along an 8km cycle trail for the children of Tiree High School. The Tiree Treasure Trail activity was part of a two-day programme to help P7 students through their transition to S1 after the summer break. The questions and clues had a broadly environmental and healthy living theme, and the students did a brilliant job of both finding and solving them – in fact, I think I rather underestimated their abilities?! I’d like to thank the children for being so sporting, and for their good behaviour and friendly manner throughout. To quote one student it was “slightly better than doing maths” – be still, my ballooning ego.

I’d also like to thank Will Wright of Tiree Fitness for his contribution of spare bikes, helmets and equipment checks; plus the other staff leaders (includingWillie, our island Youth Worker) for helping me to guide the group around Tiree’s roads safely. (…only one bike disintegrated, so I consider that to be a resounding success.)

Our Guided Walk Programme is now available to download from www.isleoftiree.com, in addition to being on display around the island in printed form. These walks will be running weekly on Thursday afternoons, weather and circumstances permitting.

Events, such as those featured above, normally run on Fridays. Currently, they are advertised locally and through our social media accounts. The first Guided Walk around Salum and Vaul produced amazing behaviour from the Salum Common Seal colony – with animals play fighting and leaping out of the water in the shallows.

Three routes will run on rotation until further notice – but please note that advance booking is essential! I’ll look forward to welcoming you and your guests along,

Dredging up Island Anger?

We were shocked by the hurt and anger – made very clear in your pages – that arose from our letter about finding a Orkney-registered scallop dredger in Milton Harbour.

One Tiree fisherman took it as a “patronising… personal attack“. It wasn’t intended as that, at all, but we nevertheless would like to apologise to him for the “cheek”. As long-term visitors, we have huge respect for all who make their living on Tiree, by land or by sea, and some idea of how difficult that can be.

It’s also true that, given the damage wrought over decades to banks in the Hebrides by big scallop dredgers, one small one isn’t going to make much difference now. Not so long ago, island boats would go out to the Scarinish banks to long-line for flat-fish, ling and even cod. That’s not possible, in part because of the dredging. But as Frazer MacInnes pointed out in his letter, we can’t turn the clock back.

Another fisherman wrote a lengthy attack on us, on ignorant tourists who question things and indeed on most marine science, in the Oban Times, which you also printed. This is the response that we’ve sent to that paper:

Angus MacPhail did a lot to illustrate the desperate PR problems of modern commercial fishing with his article “A Threat to Fragile Island Economies”. It firmly told off a tourist who dared to question scallop dredging for arrogance, ignorance, superciliousness, narrow-mindedness and a lack of education. Well… at least Mr MacPhail was listening. I’m that tourist.

With my wife, I wrote a short, polite letter to Tiree’s excellent An Tirisdeach newssheet where we questioned the arrival of a scallop dredger (from Orkney) at a Tiree pier. I had family links with Tiree, friends who are fishermen, and we have been visiting for many years. Along with all of marine science I know well enough what devastation the dredgers have wreaked there and around Britain.

Sadly, many small-scale fixed-gear fishermen and divers throughout Argyll and on the Clyde (where we live) have long been too nervous to speak up against this uniquely destructive fishing method. Someone needs to.

But Mr MacPhail says tourists cannot. We don’t have a right to do anything except take in the view. He ignores the fact that we are fishermen’s customers and that we are also tax-payers who subsidise commercial fishing – not least the improvement of fishing piers at Tiree and elsewhere. Mr MacPhail goes on. Marine science on dredging is not credible (if he disagrees with it). Britain’s most eminent professor of marine and fishing policy is simply “manipulating data” to support his “anti-fishing agenda”. There should be no Marine Protected Areas – fishermen can police themselves. Our view on dredging – which echoes that of the Marine Conservation Society, Scottish Environmental Link, Marine Stewardship Council, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and others, all science-based – is mere “moral posturing”. Sounds a little like Mr MacPhail pulled up Donald Trump in his trawl.

It’s not funny, though. This industry that has always shouted down those who dare voice concerns about a resource that belong to all of us. If Britain’s fishermen had proved good custodians of the sea and its contents over the last century, we might trust them a bit more. You only need follow the news to see how big scallop dredgers shamelessly flout the rules on gear and environmental protection – and we find out only about those that are caught.

This is little to do with “fragile island economies” – most large-scale scallop dredging is about big East Coast companies, big profits and a workforce many of whom are from abroad. I have the utmost respect for Tiree’s fishermen and all people across Scotland who make their living from the sea and land in a sustainable way – and I know many who do. I would suggest Mr MacPhail curb his temper and takes a measure of the width of his own mind. Don’t we all want pretty much what his father would have wanted – a healthy sea, recovering stocks and a fishing industry with hope for the future?

Dredging Response

In response to the tourists, James and Linda Laikie’s, cheeky letter which was a personal attack on me, my fishing boat Venus 11 K574 and type of fishing.

I find it very weird that people choose to holiday in a place and write a very patronising letter to the local newsletter complaining about the locals way of life when they should be enjoying themselves!

“The sensible folk like the Tiree fishermen”. That obviously implies that me trying to diversify and grow my business to be more multipurpose, i.e., creels and clams, is not sensible. Doing this gives me different fishing options at different times of year. Working mobile gear makes it easier for me to work a more structured week to be able to get more time ashore with my young family. Also I can tap into the very abundant resource that lies not even a mile off the shore in some places round the island, which for the last 20 odd years has been left to visiting boats from other parts of the country.

Scallop dredging is not a new thing on Tiree!! People often get carried away with this word ‘Sustainable’, and are very naive when it comes to listening to extremist conservationists, scientists and the like. Everything is sustainable if you look after it! If fishermen take all the stock off one bit of ground then there will be nothing left for next year. It is in our best interests to look after our own waters and the stocks within them. After all it is not just this year that we have to sustain our catches, but for the rest of our careers and that of the people coming behind us whether that be sons, daughters or new entrants.

This year we have opted-in voluntarily to increase the minimum sizes of the shellfish. Fishing is quite similar to crofting in some ways. You have to look after the ground to reap the benefits. Crofters turn the ground, sow crops and fertilize so they have sufficient food to keep livestock through the winter. Scallop dredging has been happening around the coast for decades and is very sustainable in its current state.

“Hand dived scallops are all that anyone who cares about the sea and its creatures should eat” – I hate to tell you but around 2% of the UK scallop fishery is caught by divers, the remaining 98% caught by dredges. Divers simply cannot supply the demand on their own. We all care about the sea and its creatures, but we also have to make a living. In my view conservation is best left to the stake holders of the ground and people who know then area.

In places like Tiree the weather is very much a form of natural conservation. When is it going to be time to start conserving the people and their way of lives?? Very soon every wee creature and organism both ashore and at sea will be conserved but there will be no people left in these areas to work them or contribute to the local economies.

For some more information look on the Fishing for the Truth website. This covers all types of fishing. http://www.fishingforthetruth.co.uk/environment/scallop-fishing

Well, when I eventually find the Parrot referred to in the Laikie’s letter I will be sure to offer him/her a tasty, sustainably dredged Tiree scallop to enjoy.

Regards

Coinneach MacKinnon

Skipper/Owner of Venus2 K574

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