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Polar Bears Dip

The air was crisp and the sun shining down as the Polar Bears made their way into the Atlantic Ocean on the 1st of January for their New Year’s Dip.

It was the biggest gathering yet with around 10 people turning up for a refreshing swim in the cold sea. The group has been meeting frequently for over a year and welcomes swimmers and non swimmers of any ability and any age

! Cold water swimming has been proven not only to have physical benefits but also does wonders for our mental wellbeing!

Thanks to everyone who came along and made such an amazing start to the New Year! To find out more about our sessions you can find us on Facebook under Tiree Polar Bears.

Off-season visitor

letters to editor

When I first landed on Tiree at the end of November, I was greeted by the cold, dark winds that bustle about the island. It swept me right into the airport, greeted by the cozy warmth of freshly strung Christmas lights and familiarity among the strangers around me.

As a first-time traveller, everywhere I went seemed so big and new and daunting. Coming to Tiree feels like coming to a home I’ve never been before, but I feel as though I’ve settled right in.

Although the island is small, it’s full of personality and beauty of its own. From the soft mushy grass to the hard and slippery sea-shaven rocks, there’s so much to discover and appreciate here. Each time I go out it feels like a new exploration to me. The beaches here are quiet and open, a stark difference to the commercialized California coastlines I’ve visited. When you go on a walk, it feels like the whole world is your own to wander.

People have given me funny glances and told me it’s off-season to visit for so long, and I can see why, when the island seems too quiet and ghostly without a breath of anything happening in sight. But I don’t regret the cold, sunny day picnics I’ve had on the beach, nor the snuggly days inside when the fog hugs the island tighter in the sharp cold.

Maybe it’s the differences in American and British culture, but people around here have a strong sense of community with each other, and I’ve never felt more welcome anywhere. Spending the holiday season here was one of the best choices I’ve made, and I look forward to the day I can park my suitcase here and never have to move it again.

Elizabeth Hanson, CA, USA

A Seal Called Taz

I have quite an active job, but I’ve never been a big fan of exercise. For a ranger, jogging on Tiree’s beaches is a sure-fire way to uncover extra work: dead things that need to be recorded and sampled, or alive things that – for whatever reason – need to be sorted out.

I’d already passed a mummified dolphin and a fusty seal. When I spotted the pup, motionless and jumbled in with a cast of kelp, I chalked it up as just another casualty. However, it looked fresh. This warranted closer inspection, as it would likely need to be sampled In fact, the little seal was so fresh it was still alive – but only just.

It didn’t open its eyes to my voice, hand clapping, or even to a judicious prod with a kelp stipe. Though it was carrying a good amount of weight, it was clearly sick. Once it stirred, it started to shiver uncontrollably.

A group of community volunteers were recently trained to assist marine mammals in distress. After contacting the BDMLR and explaining that vets Anne and Mark were on standby, we were cleared to assess the animal. As a new volunteer team, we don’t yet have a full strandings kit. Following an examination by Anne, the seal was rolled onto a discarded tonne bag and carried back to our vehicles. This sounds straightforward – but the pup weighed almost 30-kilos. Even its weak protestations were enough to make the job awkward. It was deposited in the back of my jeep. At the surgery, Anne and Mark expertly administered antibiotics and hydrating fluids. Noting the animal’s laboured breathing and yukky nasal discharge, nobody was getting their hopes up.

The next morning, thanks to the fluids and initial medication, the seal was much better. Anne managed to source some Tiree Mackerel, which he munched with enthusiasm and then spat out all over the large animal area. Giving further treatment became challenging: 30-kilos of ‘no thanks’ – with big teeth at one end – will give even experienced handlers cause for thought. Anne consulted with the BDMLR and the decision was made to try for immediate release; rather than transporting the animal to the Fife rehabilitation centre, and causing considerable stress to all parties.

Volunteers Stuart and Linda came to help load the animal into a borrowed livestock trailer. When we arrived at the surgery, it was reclining in the bottom of the large pet unit like a giant slug; peppered with bits of half-chewed fish, and stinking to high heaven. It had no desire to leave this paradise. Indeed, it was so keen to remain where it was, that encouraging him out of the pet unit proved difficult.

All went smoothly until we reached the trailer ramp. Sensing that the good times were coming to an end, the seal wriggled off the tarpaulin and set out purposefully across Anne and Mark’s lawn. It made its feelings very clear on recapture, with a series of ill-tempered gargling noises. We had high hopes for a fairy-tale ending once we reached Balephetriash Bay. The water was calmer there than over at Gott, and as this animal was fully weaned Balephetrish offered a better option for the release.

When the ramp dropped we all stood back, record button at the ready, expecting our seal to sprint out and be joyously reunited with the sea. A couple of hostile snorts came from the trailer, but nothing else. Eventually, we decided to walk him out – at which point he bounced down the ramp in a very undignified fashion and landed like an angry sack of potatoes on the sand. From this vantage point, he glared at us all, and declined to move for the next two hours. We withdrew to the dunes and watched as the tide crept in.

Other seals bobbed in the surf, craning their necks and holding themselves upright to get a better look. While seals naturally spend time out of the water, they get all of their moisture from their food. As our seal had experienced a difficult few days, it was important for it to feed and avoid further dehydration. Even when the tide washed over the seal, it stayed put. Our proverbials were comprehensively frozen and it was pitch black. I couldn’t see the sea anymore; never mind the seal. Stuart and Linda kindly checked on him in the morning: he was very close to the same spot. Anne and Mark took another look, and decided that despite the previous day’s progress, something still wasn’t right.

Ann from The Green kindly lent us her large dog crate, and arrangements were made to have the seal collected at the Oban ferry terminal. Coaxing it into the pet crate was tricky. We then used straps to lift him up the dune track and into the back of the ranger van. When we reached the Scarinish Pier ferry queue, negotiations opened to find a suitable seal chauffeur. Alan Worsley and his canine companion Butch crumbled first. Alan chatted to the seal as it was removed from the back of the ranger van and safely installed in his transit. The seal responded with a series of yowls and much snapping of its teeth. Butch looked apprehensive.

Upon arrival in Oban, the seal was collected by a SSPCA officer and our BDMLR area coordinator. I am told that he was quite a handful when it came to administering further treatment. Staff at the SSPCA rehabilitation centre in Fife have called him ‘Taz’, after the famously angry cartoon character; at the last check, they still hadn’t quite got to the bottom of what was troubling him.

My sincere thanks to everyone who assisted us with Operation Seal: – Volunteers Linda, Stewart and Louise for time given; – Claire and Duncan for the Mackerel; – George for the use of his livestock trailer; – Ann for the use of her pet crate; – Alan and Butch for being Seal Chauffers; – Derek Wilson Carriers for very kindly transporting the borrowed pet crate back, free of charge. A special mention goes to Anne and Mark of Coll and Tiree Vets – who not only bore the main burden of caring for this animal, but have also purchased and donated two plasterer’s baths to construct a custom-made seal transporting device! This will be a huge help to Tiree’s Marine Mammal Medic team, and we will be fundraising for other items of kit in the near future.

Hopefully, Taz the seal will live to gurgle another day.

Highly Commended At The Nature of Scotland Awards

The awards presentation dinner was hosted by TV wildlife presenters Kate Humble and Euan McIlwraith at the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh on the 22nd of November.

There were nine different categories: Young Nature Champion, Food & Farming, Business, Political Advocate, Innovation, Nature Tourism, Sustainable Development, Youth & Education, and our category – Community Initiative.

Within each category, there were between four and eight shortlisted projects, seven in ours.

Tiree’s bees got a special mention from Euan McIlwraith who “loved the title of this project”. Perhaps he thought that it was a great project about yellow bumblebees!

I am delighted with the result and proud of the recognition that our work has received, possibly even be a little relieved that we didn’t win the top prize – winners of each category were invited onto the stage in front of bright lights, cameras and around 400 people! Nervewracking.

As this award is for all participants and supporters of the project, we’ve made the original framed certificate available to view in the Ranger Service Information room at the Business Centre. Congratulations everyone!

Community Council News

At a well attended meeting on Wed 5th Dec the main topics discussed were ;-Tiree High School, Marine Litter, Linkspan replacement, CalMac’s Winter 2019-20 time table consultation and the update of ongoing TCC matters.

At the outset, TCC advised that it would be meeting with Tiree’s County Councillors, in January, to discuss Council budget issues, prior to Feb’s A&BC’s Council Budget meeting. Tiree High School;- Will Wright, chairman of the Parents’ Council gave a detailed briefing of current issues at the school. This was followed by a lengthy general discussion, with many parents offering input. TCC advised that it would assist the Parent’s Council as required, and would attend,as an observer, the forthcoming PC meeting with various educational bodies.

Transport issues:-

are a TCC perennial! TCC still has an on-going dialogue with Loganair on wheelchair access, but the main transport topic was CalMac’s Consultation on the Winter 2019-2020 time table. The Transport Forum,having assessed the options, was divided on maintaining the current status quo, or requesting closer alignment with the Summer timetable. TCC’s meeting reflected this division,but was advised that Transport Scotland’s cost-neutral requirement of any table change would probably dictate no change.

The Transport Forum has requested that any future discussion on CalMac time-tabling, should be a genuine consultation, and not a tick-the- box exercise.

LinkSpan Replacement:-

The comprehensive public presentations by CMAL and CalMac were briefly discussed. Feb- March 2020 has been decided for the work period. Both presentations are on the TCC website, and includes a list of Qs TCC has asked CalMac to clarify by our Feb meeting. ( http:// uk/tiree-linkspancmal-andcalmac- presentations/ )

Public toilets:-

re Community Ownership of Scarinish public toilet, A&BC’s initial response was favourable. TCC awaits further input from A&BC.

Marine Litter:-

TCC had received two detailed correspondences, one of which had been copied into Mike Russell MSP. Steph Cope gave a detailed presentation with particular reference to Scottish Govt policy, and initiatives . TCC is taking this issue further via MR By this time,eyes were drooping, so we rattled through the last couple of agenda items agreeing to seek clarification from A&BC on specifics re implementation of the Islands Bill, and advising the meeting that following the passing of the Crown Estate Bill, kelp harvesting would be subject to a Scottish Govt Regulatory Review, ie kicked into touch.

Councillors Willy Angus Maclean, Robert Trythall and Ian Gillies attended. Apologies were received from Alison Clark, and Dr John Holliday.

Linkspan Replacement

Tiree has lacked information as to the Alternative Transport / Freight Arrangements during the linkspan replacement period, however the Press and Journal quoted a CMAL source advising a ‘pallet carrier’ would be chartered-in for the period.

A pallet carrier is a ship with side hoists /ramps to load and discharge pallets, using forklifts. The irony here is that CalMac has a perfect pallet carrier in the LoTI! TCC understands from CMAL that the LoTI is not an option,as her hoists and ramps are no longer operable. CalMAC has been asked for full details, as with 15 months lead-time surely this can be rectified?

TCC has already identified the following issues to be addressed. It is not exhaustive. Any additional issues you feel need to be addressed please advise TCC, alternatively raise them directly with the CMAL-CalMac Team at their public meeting on the 4th Dec.

(1) How many sailings /week are being considered

(2) Can the pallet carrier carry private cars (obviously it is possible)

(3) Transporting fuel…is it an issue?

(4) Implications for public utilities eg BT, SSE and NHS

(5) Implication for crofters ie feed and fertiliser supply.

(6) Any livestock movements possible ie in trailers?

(7) Palletisation of goods where / when and how.

(8) Utilisation of mobile cranes to ‘palletise’ the Clansman.

(9) Utilisation of mobile cranes to LO-LO vehicles on/off the Clansman.

(10) Funeral Arrangements.

(11) Freight groupage arrangements.

Also explore the possibility of CalMac offering a car hire package ex Oban, ie ‘X days hire for price of car by ferry, with pickup/ drop off Oban pier.


Tiree Association Gathering

The third Thursday and Friday of November – the 15th and 16th – marked the 118th Gathering of the Tiree Association.

The concert – held at Partick Burgh Hall on the 15th and once again a Facebook Live Event – attracted some 120 people and proved to be an extremely successful evening. Following the remarks of our President, Margaret MacKinnon, John Campbell treated us to a selection of pipe tunes before our chairperson, Ian Gillies, delighted with his array of jokes and regaled the audience with tales of his early days on Tiree – we’re waiting for a new column in An Tirisdeach now: ‘Ian’s Anecdotes’.

He reminded us of the journey leading to the choosing of the Tiree Flag and the Association was proud to have an example of same – a gift from the Flag Committee – displayed in the hall.

As Ian introduced our artistes we were reminded of the sheer talent and range of achievements of each and every one. The concert kicked off with a rousing set from Martainn Skene on accordion and the tapping feet of the audience bore witness to their sheer enjoyment of the tunes. Alasdair Currie followed, much to the delight of the audience, with ‘Mo Mhathair’ and ‘Oran Mhanitoba’. Josie Duncan added to the relaxed ambience, inviting those present to join her in the chorus of ‘Ain’t No Ash’. Accompanist Kirsteen Grant provided stellar support to the singers – an accomplishment which was even more impressive as she’d had minimum notice of her appearance. Kathryn Callendar, who usually provides accompaniment, had to withdraw due to injury. (We wish Kathryn a full and speedy recovery).

After the inimitable James Graham completed the first half with a beautiful rendition of ‘Clachan Mo Ghaoil’ we moved to the interval.

Interval at the Tiree Association Concert would not be complete without Susan’s delicious dumpling and seriously tasty shortbread – for both we say Moran Taing!

During the second half Kirsteen led us all in a rousing sing a long before we were again treated to more from our artistes. After John’s vote of thanks the raffle was drawn; and a Grand raffle it was indeed! (Many thanks to Josie for her kind comments!) the committee would like to thank all those who so generously donated to the raffle – the list too long to itemise here.

The evening ended with a rendition of ‘Oidhche Mhath Leibh’ from all the singers accompanied by an enthusiastic audience.

A sincere thanks to all those who helped in preparation, on the night and by attending; thus making for a thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting evening.

Strictly Ceilidh Dancing

So, if Thursday was the concert then Friday must have been the dance!

Glasgow University Union was the venue and, from 9pm onwards, Dun Mor Ceilidh Band kept things jumping! An enthusiastic crowd immediately showed their love of the dance – any dance – and, as the evening progressed, eventually, a veritable tsunami of dancers was descending on the floor: the average age plummeted and, as these young folk birled around the floor, their sheer energy and enjoyment shone through: “..the piper loud and louder blew, the dancers quick and quicker flew.” To have their support – FANTASTIC! The committee would like to thank the band – who were magnificent – and all those who attended.

It was great to see so many over from Tiree to enjoy the concert, the dance, and more … As we head into the final month of 2018 we’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Healthy New Year.

And, as we head into 2019 – anyone fancy a Burns Supper? I can thoroughly recommend T.A. Burns Supper, Ralston Community Hall, Saturday 26th January. A three course meal, a toast to Burns and some superb entertainment – all for £15? You can’t go wrong! Hope to see some of you there.

Author Visit To Tiree

On Tuesday 20th November, the Tiree Library was visited by author Merryn Glover to give a workshop on The Ingredients of a Novel.

Merryn was born in Kathmandu and brought up in Nepal. She spoke of her fascinating upbringing and experiences, and how they inspired her first novel, A House Called Askival.

This was followed by a Q&A with the author, as well as home baking, tea, coffee and prosecco provided by Marion Burns and Monica Smith. Although the evening was chilly, the event was well attended and enjoyed by the islanders, where they had a chance to buy a copy of Merryn’s book and get it signed.

The following day at the Alan Stevenson House in Hynish, Merryn ran a writing workshop themed around Hands and Feet. The locals participated in writing poetry and small exercises.

Despite the event running for only two hours, it was gently-paced and inviting, with the freedom to participate in whatever parts the group felt comfortable. The atmosphere of the workshop was open, warm, non-judgemental and enjoyable to all that attended. Afterwards the group enjoyed lunch with Merryn, provided by Fiona Malcolm and her team in the cafe. If you would like to learn more about Merryn Glover, her website can be reached here:

Merryn’s book can be purchased from Amazon or a signed copy can be organised through her website by contacting her.

The event was arranged by Mairi Fleck, Training and Activities Coordinator from North Argyll Carers’ Centre, with funding from the Scottish Book Trust, to enable the Carers’ Centre to bring the event to Tiree for island carers and the wider community.

Tiree Community Council News

It was another long meeting, but there was plenty to talk about: the linkspan closure, an upgrade to the airport embarkation equipment, and a green light to discuss the pros and cons of taking the Scarinish public toilets into community ownership. The month had been full of meetings to report back on.

We had met Kevin Hobbs, the chief executive of CMAL, the company that owns the ferry fleet and the Tiree pier on behalf of the Scottish government. It was a chance to hear from the horse’s mouth about the shipyard delays on the Clyde, which mean the two new ferries are seriously behind schedule.

The Tiree linkspan is being replaced in February/March 2020, and we have to be prepared for the fact that we won’t be able to get cars or lorries on or off the ferry at the Gott Bay pier for four weeks. There is an important meeting on Tuesday 4th December 4-7.30 pm in An Talla, where CalMac and CMAL staff will do their best to answer our questions. The Tiree Transport Forum will make sure the engineers are aware of the big dates in the Tiree calendar so they can work round them.

We also met Michael Bratcher, who oversees air services within Transport Scotland. The contract for the flights between Tiree and Glasgow is up for renewal next year, and airlines will again be bidding. Passenger numbers are reassuringly up, and it looks as though services will continue much the way they are. Something Michael particularly likes is the ‘flight banking’ system that Tiree operates. This means that a few flights can be cut in the winter months and then used at the times of year of our choice when it’s busy. One piece of news is that a new and heavier SAAB is coming into operation, one that the Tiree runways cannot cope with. So the only planes coming to Tiree from next year will be the Twin Otter and the Kingair ambulance plane.

I also met our three local Argyll and Bute councillors last week. They had flown out from Oban to the island for the day, and were delighted with the convenience of the flight. When I pointed out that the Council had agreed to cut the subsidy of this service drastically, they were absolutely sure that the Oban- Tiree flights would be safe. Let’s hope they’re proved right!

While they were there, I took the opportunity to ask them for a bigger grant for Tiree Community Council to allow us to get to mainland meetings. They absolutely supported this. Let’s hope they’re successful!

There has been a problem over the last year with access to the Twin Otter for people who need help to get into the aircraft. The Stairclimber equipment to lift passengers up the steps is not powerful enough. The community council has been lobbying HIAL, who run the Tiree airport, as well as Loganair, to get a more powerful version, and we are delighted that HIAL have now done precisely that.

Another issue we have been chewing away at for over a year is the block of land next to Pier View in Scarinish. This was provisionally sold by HIE to MacLeod Construction, but has now come back on the market.

Finally: toilets. Every year the council cuts come closer. What has sharpened our interest recently has been the closure by Highland Council – apparently the UK’s ‘largest provider of public toilets’ – of most of their councilrun toilets in a bid to save £500,000 a year. Argyll and Bute councillors discuss the same cut every year too. We have taken the view that the Scarinish toilets, which everyone agrees are completely essential, are vulnerable, and we would be better to open a dialogue now to see if the council would consider passing them into community ownership. Community toilets are becoming more common – there are good examples in Biggar, Arisaig and the Kyle of Lochalsh. Things are at an early stage, but we have started the ball rolling. Now we will wait to see what sort of deal the council will make the community.

Councillors Dr John Holliday, Robert Trythall and Ian Gillies attended. Apologies were received from Willie Angus MacLean and Alison Clark.

Tiree Community Development Trust News

Tiree Trust Logo

The Milton Harbour Project has been out to tender. We hope to announce the result in the next edition of An Tirisdeach and the proposed start date for the work is 1st April 2019.

The Trust has been conditionally awarded £131k from Visit Scotland’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund towards upgrading beach access car parks and extending the car park at The Business Centre. This forms around 70% of the costs required and an application to LEADER is ongoing to make up the funding package. Funding has also been secured from SNH, The Windfall Fund and Tiree Community Business.

Youth Worker Willie MacKinnon attended a Duke of Edinburgh training session in Inveraray and Lochgilphead along with Lydia Macajova, in preparation for leading a group of Tiree children to gain a Silver Award.

A visit from Fergus Murray, Head of Economic Development for Argyll & Bute Council, was delayed in early November for the second time and is now likely to be rescheduled in the new year.

At the time of writing a meeting was due to take place on Wednesday 14th November with crofters who participate in the Croft Camping Scheme to review the scheme.

The Trust recently welcomed Ishbel Campbell as the new Gaelic Development Officer. Ishbel will work part time (17.5 hours per week) continuing the fantastic work that Donna MacLean carried out during her time with the Trust including regular Gaelic Bookbug, Stradagan and School Gaelic Club sessions. Ishbel has also started weekly Gaelic classes for adults –if anyone is interested in beginner or intermediate classes please contact Ishbel for more information.

After completing a Gaelic course through Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Ishbel then completed a post graduate diploma (Gaelic Immersion for Teachers) via Strathclyde University and currently works part time as a primary teacher at the school on Tiree.

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