Category Archives: Letters To The Editor

On Gaelic as (non)trivia

Hello a chairdean,

I am sure it was not intended in this way but the signposting of Gaelic as ‘trivia’ in the Tirisdeach is sending out a very poor message indeed, especially on an island that essentially exists in a Gaelic isolation as the last cornerstone of the language in Argyll.

I would have thought a swift response in both languages would be appropriate.

Le meas MA

Mary Ann Kennedy


Dear Editor

I am very sorry that I should have to write to you in these terms. As a native of Tiree, and also a prime mover in the establishing of Bord na Gaidhlig and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act of 2005, I feel particularly strongly about your unfortunate ‘error of judgement’. It reflects, potentially and by implication, on myself and others who have done our utmost to maintain the Gaelic language across the years and in very difficult circumstances.

May I suggest, please, that the Tiree Development Trust and ‘An Tirisdeach’ should consider the newsletter’s editorial policy on Gaelic as a matter of some urgency? Might you even think of providing a paragraph of Gaelic in every newsletter, for the benefit of those who are trying to learn the language, as well as for the benefit of the island’s Gaelic speakers?

I would suggest too that it is a little unwise to entitle a page of this newsletter ‘Tiree Trivia’, whatever the language. Sooner or later, the validity of the title, relative to a particular item, will be disputed by someone. What is ‘trivial’ to one person may not be ‘trivial’ to another!

On a happier note, may I say how much I appreciate the brighter and better format of ‘An Tirisdeach’? That aspect of the newsletter has improved immeasurably, compared with its drab format a year (or less) ago. Well done!

Professor Donald Meek

Dear Mary Ann & Professor Meek

When the Trust approached An Tirisdeach to have a regular Gaelic saying featured in An Tirisdeach, it was embraced wholeheartedly. The suggestion of placing the article on the Tiree Trivia Page was in no way intended to upset or demean the Gaelic Language and speakers.

The situation of the phrase was chosen as An Tirisdeach is aware that many readers enjoy this page and considered it somewhere to showcase the language so many are trying to preserve with the intention that it may encourage more readers to try learning something new in a fun way.

Two actions have been taken as a result of the above articles,

1. The Trivia Page has been re-named “Fun Puzzle Page”

2. The Gaelic Phrase will be situated somewhere else in An Tirisdeach

Please accept my sincere apologies for the obvious upset this has caused not only to you but many others in the Gaelic speaking community. Regretfully I cannot reply in Gaelic as although I would like to, I do not speak the language..

Lyn Bryce, Editor

Children’s Behaviour

As an “incomer” to Tiree I haven’t grown up with the ways of the isle and as such I notice things locals take for granted.

On the mainland I worked as a lollipop lady and spent quite a bit of time with children of 6 to 11 and their younger siblings. During this job the children generally fell into three categories:

1. Those that were wonderfully behaved and always said thank you

2. Those easily distracted but well behaved

3. Those who were, shall we say, less than polite.

Today I was at the Tiree High School Gala Day helping my husband man the ice cream stall. May I congratulate all on Tiree for their excellent manners! Not a single type 3 child was seen by myself and I have a new category “Those who are so shy that they whisper in a crowded hall”

The Gala day was wonderful and I am extremely happy to live in such a wonderful community.


Jacqui Bennett

Response to Colville Laird Letter (issue 579)


At present we don’t know what difference it will make.

Tiree Broadband is delighted that Marine Scotland gave BT a licence to lay fibre optic cable to the island, but as reported to the recent Trust AGM, BT has not yet decided how they will deliver the service beyond the tower in Scarinish, even to their own Broadband customers. They are still developing the technology and there are various options being considered.

Tiree Community Broadband is actively lobbying BT to try to ensure that they deliver a level of service that will benefit the whole island. There are likely to be some areas of Tiree beyond the reach of the new fibre services.

Tiree Broadband plans to continue serving those who would be otherwise disadvantaged by this failure in the telecoms market. We should be in a position to offer faster services to our customers due to the improvements in internet back haul that fibre connectivity brings. Exactly what Tiree Broadband can deliver and where depends on the decisions that BT makes about its fibre rollout on Tiree.

In the meantime we will continue to deliver the best service that we can to our subscribers given the financial and infrastructure constraints upon us.

Tiree Broadband Committee

To the Editor – response to Karl & Lorna Hughes letter

letter to the editorWe have a great deal of sympathy with the difficulties experienced by the Hughes in getting ferry spaces at short notice during our busy summer period. This is not unique to Tiree and it is something we hear from other parts of our network.

Unfortunately reconciling the rival demands of islanders who often need to travel at short notice, with those of tourists who like to book well in advance is a challenge. Our contract with Scottish Government requires that bookings are taken on a first come, first serve basis and setting aside ‘islander-only’ spaces is far harder to manage than one might expect. For example how do we decide within an island community who should have priority, and if the spaces are not required, how and when do we decide to release them to open sale?

We are currently investing in a new online booking and ticketing system that will address some of the imperfections in our systems and that will be phased in towards the end of next year, although it will not address the fundamental issue that the Summer is our busiest time of year and many sailings will have been booked up well in advance .

We would encourage people who do not have to travel at the busy times, such as weekends, to consider travelling at other times and, during busy periods, it would also help everyone if customers advised us as timeously as possible of changed plans and cancellations to maximise what space we do have on the most popular sailings.

We would totally reject any claim that islanders are being treated as second class citizens, but sadly there is no quick fix to this perennial conundrum.

Letter To The Editor

letter to the editorThe photographs from Nàdair Thiriodh of Crossapol taken in December and again in March (An Tirisdeach 566) are a timely reminder of how vulnerable the machair dunes are to extreme weather conditions. The most damaging of the winter’s storms on 3 January 2014 was caused when low pressure drew in very strong winds and a tidal surge of about a metre on top of the high spring tides. These are the very same conditions that caused the lethal floods in East Anglia in 1953.

Walking the beaches the day after the January storm was a sobering experience. Ten years ago, when I was studying oceanography and climate change for an OU degree, the forecast was that such events could be expected once every 200 years. More recently it has come to be understood that higher ocean temperatures will cause storms to be more powerful and more frequent. We have seen what that will be like this winter. If we care about the machair we must also care about climate change. It is right that we should ask Argyll & Bute and the Scottish Executive what they are doing to protect the machair. In return they could reasonably point to their ambitious renewables strategies as contributions to achieving a low carbon economy.

We have seen the formidable spin machine of No Tiree Array in action in recent weeks as they stamp on any sign of opposition. Tiree has much to fear from climate change and how we respond to the challenge of renewable energy is much too important to be left to a single issue pressure group that feels no obligation to listen to the community or to consider the wider context of what they campaign for.

The Argyll Array may have gone away for now, but there will be other renewable opportunities for Tiree such as a re-engineered array, wave generation or building on the success of Tilley with an ambitious community owned project. It is time to hear from others in the community. For example, is it the settled will of the majority on Tiree to refuse to play any further part in implementing the Scottish Executive’s renewables strategy? If we are unwilling to make our own contribution to this strategy, what right have we to ask others to help protect our machair?

It is to be hoped that the new community council will be an opportunity for a more democratic discussion of issues in which single interest groups are not the only voices heard.

Bill Welstead, Taigh Allamsa, Baugh

Setting The Record Straight

letter to the editorI was interested to read, in the last edition of An Tirisdeach, about the swimming lessons in Loch Bhasapol. This seems to be a very sensible solution to teaching swimming on Tiree where an indoor heated pool is not financially viable.

However, in the piece, Catriona Spink states that ‘ Tiree children only get one school trip in first and second year at secondary that involves swimming’. I would like to set the record straight on that comment.

When I became Depute in Tiree High School in 1990 I continued the already established practice of taking Primary 7 Pupils to the mainland in June on a Swimming Trip where the pupils were given swimming lessons every day. This continued annually until fairly recently, when the numbers dictated that the trip happen every second year with the group becoming a combination of P6 & 7.

Many pupils learned to swim on these trips and those who could already swim were able to improve their skills due to the expert tuition they received. I hope these Primary trips will continue with the main emphasis being on swimming lessons and I am confident that all the pupils who had this experience will endorse its value. Jessie Gray

Letter To The Editor

letter to the editorOver a year ago you printed a letter from me regarding struggles with broadband connection in parts of Balevullin/Hough.

At the time, along with Lorna MacDonald, I was requesting support to engage the interest of BT in waking up to their poor service in parts of the island, Tiree Broadband having frozen their list. Interestingly we engaged some 23 interested parties but got nowhere with BT. I even had contact from other folk on the island who said they were using Plusnet for example in their own ‘remote’ part of the island. People were so helpful but sadly Plusnet, along with BT still could not support me.

Then, this year a solution came along. Tiree Broadband started to upgrade their service (Balevullin being early on their list) and opened their list again.

One phone call this July and within 4 days the guys were up at the house in Balevullin sorting out a very good broadband connection for me.

I want to thank those who made contact to support us last year and to suggest those still struggling make contact with Tiree Broadband. Yes the big companies are cheaper but they just cannot offer such a good local and responsive service. Moran Taing to all those who attempted to give us support last year and to Tiree Broadband!

Pearl Brown

An Open Letter To The Community

Dear all,

…the cycle continues until there comes a day when there is no secondary education on Tiree

I have been a member of the Parent Council and PTA for the last decade. The one issue that has consistently risen over that time has been the funding and security of the Music post. I do not need to tell anyone who truly knows the island how important this post is. Tiree continues to produce musicians of national renown thanks to the commitment of Joyce MacInnes and the Music Club, We now have the opportunity, through our community turbine, to secure this post and have a post which reflects the time required to ensure all our children, primary and secondary, have an opportunity to access music from an early age.

I have discussed this with parents, the education authority, Trust Directors and the wider community. As time is moving on and I want to submit a formal application to the Windfall, I need to ensure that this proposal has the majority support of the community. As a community we have to take a spoonful of reality where our school is concerned. If we do not intervene to enhance the post it will be advertised at 0.5, a half-time post!

The proposal involves a partnership with Argyll & Bute Council with the personnel management of the process handled by them. I am not naïve and I am sure there will be negotiation to ensure we receive the best possible outcome for our children by part funding the post.

Now, before the cry goes up about funding teachers posts, here is my argument. We have a small roll of secondary children – this year it is under 30. This is one of the reasons that we have fewer subject choices. Less children equates to less teachers which equates to less subjects. This will not change until the roll rises. There begins a cycle – parents not satisfied with the choices for their children, the educational experience becomes limited because of the system and structure of the educational model… Already I am hearing of parents choosing to educate their children elsewhere, therefore when these children go the school roll drops further, so we have even less teachers and even less subjects, and the cycle continues until there comes a day when there is no secondary education on Tiree and Argyll & Bute Council did not even have to discuss closure because we managed to do that all by ourselves!!!!!

We are not talking about a huge amount of money. In relative terms that means we are looking for 7.5% of Tilley’s earnings. The comments people have contributed have been very thought provoking.

One comment is that we have plans, funded by Tilley, for new buildings and expansion of existing buildings, yet as a community we are happy to send our children to one of the worst buildings on the island.

Another comment was that we should not fund teaching posts until the school is restructured. What I have learned, often painfully, is that trying to introduce new ideas into an entrenched system is similar to trying to swim up Niagara Falls!!! The structure of the school will be changed because there is a move away from the traditional model.

The comment was made that if we fund one post we may end up funding other subjects. Where does this stop? Well, we have to start somewhere and if the outcome of funding teachers is that we may end up with a school that attracts families and even becomes a centre of excellence, then why not?

If you support this proposal please drop in at the surgery, stop me on the road, and tell me your views.

Kate MacCallum

In Appreciation

letter to the editor

As someone privileged to have been kindly invited to attend the recent celebration at An Talla of the legendary Tiree sea Captain, Donald MacKinnon of Heanish, I would like to thank all concerned, in particular Angus and Mary MacLean, whose untiring efforts and hard work made this memorable event possible, Lloyd and Robin Pitcher who travelled all the way from Australia and made a wonderful and informative presentation on the related families, Dr John Holliday, An Iodhlann and An Talla for their valuable support, and the 60 or so attendees on the night who came to pay homage to a famous son of their Island.

My wife and I – neither of whom have any connection with Captain Donald MacKinnon of the fast tea-clipper TAEPING – or Tiree, although both originally islanders ourselves, were captivated by your beautiful Island and the hospitality of its people – a big thank you everyone – moran taing!

Angus and Frances MacKinnon Troon, South Ayrshire and Eriskay, Western Isles

RET Concerns

letters to editorLast week it was reported in An Tirisdeach that RET will be made permanent for Tiree; what was not in the report was that, with this announcement came the shocking news that commercial vehicles will be included.
This will mean lorry fares increasing by as much as 55%; this in real terms means an unavoidable significant increase on the price of goods brought from the mainland for the people of Tiree and Coll. If the eligibility criteria for the volume discount scheme used for commercials prior to RET is changed to allow Tiree hauliers to qualify the increase will be reduced to 33%, better but still totally unacceptable.
The savings from RET over the last 3 years, have allowed island hauliers to keep delivery costs stable in the face of escalating operating costs (such as fuel, insurance, maintenance, CPC training etc.). Removal from RET will make haulage costs unmanageable. We must campaign to get this decision reversed. Neither the hauliers nor our customers can bear such an increase and if nothing is done there is no doubt that this will seriously impact on the haulage, crofting, fishing and construction industries on Tiree and Coll as well as putting up the cost of delivering general goods to the island’s residents including fuel and groceries.
If you would like to help us lobby for commercial vehicles to remain in the RET scheme let us know and we will give you the appropriate contact details.
Iain MacKinnon I A MacKinnon Haulage

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