Category Archives: Letters To The Editor

Piping Campaign

Dear Editor,

My late husband, Iain C. Macdonald was a piper with family connections both on Tiree and Mull.

Piping bird While sorting through his pipe music I came across the enclosed printout of a rare species of bird which I thought may be of interest to the island bird watchers.

The Avisfisulasaccus tiriensis was created from the Latin – avis-bird: fistula-pipe : saccus-bag : tiriensis – belonging to Tiree.

I believe it was part of a campaign mounted by Robert Beck (the vet), with the help of Iain Mackinnon (Hillcrest) and my husband, to persuade the education authorities to provide Tiree pupils with a piping tutor and to give the same opportunities to them as were available on other islands. Until this time (2008), Robert Beck had been the voluntary tutor for school pupils teaching up to Highers in music. He was worried that, due to poor health and failing eyesight, there would be no one to carry on his work.

His campaign was successful and for several years a tutor was provided.

Let’s Hear It for Tiree

How lucky are we to be living on Tiree just now? Although we are each isolated in our own way, there is still a sense of being part of a community, and a caring, proactive and responsible one at that. We also have vast, empty open spaces for our prescribed daily exercise. Spare a thought for those crammed into anonymous city flats. A lot of messages of gratitude have been conveyed to our front-line medical staff and carers, and rightly so, but there are many unsung heroes on the island that must continue with their jobs and voluntary work in order to provide lifeline services to the rest of us. So, a huge THANK-YOU! to all food providers, shop staff, delivery drivers, pier and airport personnel, posties and postal staff, internet providers, telephone engineers, water and electricity supply personnel, petrol and fuel providers, waste disposal staff, police, emergency services personnel, and An Tirisdeach. All these services help us stay safe and connected at this strange and difficult time.


On Being Rescued

letters to editor

I had the doubtful pleasure of being a ‘rescued casualty’ in the Tiree Multi- Agency Emergency Responders Exercice held over Easter Week – end.

On the Sat night, in the 1st incident I was the ‘voice’ to the dummy casualty trapped under a quad bike, on the machair, with a broken femur and pelvis. I became the casualty, after the ‘dummy ‘ had been moved onto a stretcher sledge.

On the Sun morning, in the 2nd incident, my ‘wife’ and I had capsized our kayak in rough seas. We lost the kayak and swam to shore, only to be battered onto the rocks of a headland, to await rescue. My ‘wife’ was semi concious, ‘bleeding’ from her ear with a possible bad head injury. I was a Type 1 diabetic.

In both incidents I was in awe at the professionalism of Tiree’s Rescue services and the resources at their disposal.

Tiree, you are in very safe hands.

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

Unleashed Dogs

Dear Editor,

I am surprised by the amount of dog owners –both local and visiting– that do not carry a leash with them for their furry companions and allow them to wander freely unattended, especially in public areas, including the beaches.

I understand that we place a lot of trust in our animals. We consider them a part of the family, but we put far too much belief that they won’t hurt another creature. We need to remember that dogs are pack animals and can act aggressively towards others without prior provoking.

I have been regularly informed that “My dog is very friendly!” when their dog wanders up to mine, who I make an effort to keep on a leash when I know there are animals or people nearby. I don’t think these individuals take the time to consider that perhaps my dog is on a leash because they may not be friendly. I don’t want to risk the safety of my dog or anyone else’s animal because of their naivety.

We need to also consider that there are other human beings who are uncomfortable with dogs and to children many dogs can appear terrifyingly enormous. Having a strange dog that they have either never encountered or don’t know very well creates a stressful situation that could be easily avoided if the owners took responsibility and kept their dog on a leash in public areas. It isn’t funny to see someone react in fear to a dog or interrupt their day with a dog dashing through their outdoor activities.

It’s not my intention to put a damper on anyone’s day or holiday if they are visiting the island with their dog(s) with this letter, because we are very lucky to live in such a beautiful open space, but people need to take more consideration when it comes to their dogs; both for their own enjoyment and for the comfort of those around them.

– A Local Resident (Name & Address supplied)

Low speeds

As many are aware, Tiree’s internet isn’t exactly wonderful, but it does the job.

This past month we had reason to submit a ticket about our speed as it had gone from 1.5MBps down to a terrible 0.4MBps. This impacts me personally, as I run a shop online and need to be able to see orders and update listings.

We had a phone call from our provider last night (We don’t use Tiree Broadband, we’re getting ours via the phone line), saying that BT had brought in a new rule. They now have a minimum speed for areas, and unless the speed drops to that or below, they will not investigate. For Balemartine, perhaps Tiree, it is 0.2MBps. We’ve had that speed once, when we moved to the island. You can’t open a page with images; Facebook (where a lot of communication on the island happens), won’t open; you’ll have to try a few times to even open email clients.

I know that BT struggle to keep up with issues, but I think it terrible that the way they address this is to set such a low limit that people with online businesses suffer, as will the school’s pupils at home. They won’t be able to load educational videos, contact their friends online, or load pages such as Wikipedia.


Jacqui Bennett

Rubbish Dumping

I read with interest the Tiree Community Council update published in issue 659.

With regard to the paragraph on rubbish dumping and refuse collection, there is indeed a problem which has to be addressed.

The suggestion however that a commercial uplift for all holiday houses be made compulsory is inequitable. Not all second home owners let their homes and it is the multiple let properties which cause the problem.

Graeme Lees, Greenhill.

Ultra Marathon Kindness

I’ve just returned from running the Tiree Ultra and wanted to thank everyone on Tiree for being such incredible hosts.

Of course huge thanks to Will, and every member of his team who made it happen, stood out in the wind and rain to marshal, cheered us on and welcomed us back with such enthusiasm. I was also lucky enough to be the recipient of kindness from many other people on the island – when my bike fell apart 5 minutes after getting off the ferry, a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch kindly picked me up from the roadside and drove me to Millhouse Hostel.

David at the hostel went back to fetch my bike and gave it a good enough fix that I didn’t have to abandon it.

Neil, who just happened to be driving the right way at the right time, drove me back to the hostel after the run, and then gave me a lift to the ferry the next morning, which my weary legs were hugely grateful for!

Thanks of course to the landowners who let 200+ muddy feet tramp across their land and many other people who I probably haven’t even thought of but who helped it all happen. The ultra showcases not just the incredible natural beauty of the island, but also its amazing people – thank you!

Sue Gyford

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

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?

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