Macneil meets with HIE

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP today met with representative from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). Representing HIE was Chairman, Lorne Crerar, Alex Paterson, Chief Executive, Giles Hamilton, Board Member and Rachel Mackenzie, Area Manager.

Following the meeting Angus MacNeil MP said: “I was pleased to be able to meet with key members from HIE today to discuss many of the issues arising in our islands.

“I was particularly pleased to hear that HIE are actively marketing the premises and skills set of the highly trained former GSH employees in Harris.

“There is an excellent opportunity for companies looking for a high standard of back-office functions with a stable and highly trained staff, working to asset management “Maximo” software.

“I wish HIE well in their efforts, the outcome of which will be important to the former GSH employees and also the wider Harris community.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fire in the Castle Grounds


No, it’s not another blaze due to the hot and dry conditions. Yeah, well…  It’s actually a view of the Vikings’ fiery torches as they marched at the recent tattoo.   Pic: Morris Macleod

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

SNP Group calls for special meeting of the Western Isles Council to discuss the UK Government’s response to ‘Our Islands Our Future’


The SNP Group at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling for the Comhairle to be reconvened to discuss the UK Government’s response to the ‘Our Islands Our Future campaign.

Councillor Philip McLean explained: “All Members of the Comhairle were emailed a copy of the ‘framework agreement’ by the Leader last Thursday with a covering note saying that the document would be discussed at the next scheduled meeting of the Policy & Resources committee being held on 2nd October. It seems strange that the first opportunity we will get to debate the document is after the Referendum vote.”

Cllr Rae Mackenzie added: “We’ve been promised the UK response since June and now we find out that despite the cost of Comhairle representatives attending meetings in London to make the case for ‘Our Island Our Future’ all we’ve been promised is an annual meeting and a desk in Edinburgh. Compare that to the real income for the islands that would be generated by having the rights over our seabed as has been pledged by the Scottish Government in their response.”

Referring to the document and the ‘NO-Thing’, Cllr John A Maciver added that it was now clear a NO vote on 18th September would result in No-Thing new for the Western Isles.

Posted in council, snp | 3 Comments

Heartbreak in the Hebrides as gentlemanly Vikings from Shetland invaded our shores

There is a theory in these parts that not all Vikings were the same. After they sailed from Scandinavia to where we now call Scotland 1,200 years ago, it is said that, by the time some of them reached the Shetland Isles, some of them were a bit green round the gills. Yeah, they were a tad seasick.

It is also thought that the namby-pamby Vikings who were a bit Moby Dick insisted on getting off at Lerwick while the real wild men of the longships carried on southwards to go berserk in places like the den of iniquity that is Stromness or even to the pleasure paradise back then that now has adopted the name Carloway.

Viking invader

Viking invader

Whatever the truth of it, that’s what I’ve heard. In fact, it was a councillor who told me that yarn in the butchers last Saturday. I mention that because having read in the paper that a bunch of hairy Vikings were coming down from Shetland to invade Stornoway, my wife was all agog. The Jarl Vikings from Up Helly Aa were heading for our shores. Ooer, missus.

Since seeing Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier in the film The Long Ships, Mrs X has always come over all unnecessary at the mere thought of smelly, uncouth men from the north turning up and taking what isn’t theres – a bit like the hunters from Ness who go to Sulasgeir for the gugas – but with bells on.

“Why haven’t you got a horny helmet to do something scary with,” she snapped at me. Even though it was late, I had to go for it then while she was in the mood. Although the owner of the Engebret Filling Station is Norwegian, he was out of Viking headwear.

My beloved then went looking for Councillor Charlie Nicolson and offered to take a photo of his tattoo. I had no idea he had an inky patch. You can’t even see it when he’s in short sleeves. Apparently, Charlie was so pleased she going to capture his tattoo for posterity that he gave her a pass so she could see the invasion of the Hairy Harrys at Cuddy Point.

An atmosphere of expectant scariness descended on the slipway as a faint clattering of sinister-sounding metal on metal could be heard out in the harbour. Then the lights glinted on some of the most well-polished helmets this side of the fjords as out of the mist the swarthy Nordic warriors emerged. Not a longship in sight. Just a load of shortships. One was an inflatable dinghy. Hey, these budget cuts are even affecting pillagers. Tough times indeed.

It was clear that Mrs X had got terribly carried away with the legendary reputations of the Vikings and she seemed to be playing the part of a distressed Hebridean maiden perhaps too well. She sort of half-swooned and said: “What are you going to do to me? Please don’t carry me off into the trees in the castle grounds as it is so dark and scary and I don’t want to be alone with such big, powerful men. The path is just up there, by the way.”

Then the largest and meanest looking Viking with the biggest horns stepped ashore amid a loud clanking and creaking of body armour. He was going to roar. “Well, thank you so much,” he simpered to her instead. “That was very entertaining. Well done to you. Now where’s the tea tent?”

If she expected to be pounced on and dragged by the hair halfway up Gallows Hill by wild men intent only on pillaging and, er, rampaging, she was sorely disappointed. This bunch of swarthy types from Zetland turned out to be a fine body of charming chaps with impeccable manners and, as far as she could discern, a most unexpectedly exemplary standard of personal hygiene.

Bitterly disenchanted, she had to concentrate on taking photos of Charlie’s tattoo. She told me she took snaps of it from the turrets at the top of Lews Castle. Blimey, it must be massive if she could see it from up there.

However, the climb to the top took its toll on her body. There are a lot of steps. She was painful in places where she didn’t know she had places. Then on Saturday night, despite her aching bones, she dragged me and a couple of her mates out for a drink. As usual after a couple of Drambuies, her mouth stopped working properly. She couldn’t pronounce anything right. It was like she was lisping.

Then, who did we bump into but the very same Vikings, still in jingly-jangly body armour. One of them was called Brian, or was it Kevin? Anyway, after a few bevvies he was really getting into the role of a Viking and he told her not to call him by his first name. In fact, he thought he was a God.

“I’m Thor,” he roared loudly outside the Criterion Bar. Mrs X wasn’t impressed. She said: “You’re thor? Lithen buthter, I’m tho thor I can hardly thit down.”

Posted in P&J column | Tagged | Leave a comment

Laxdale accident driver named

The driver who died following the road accident close to Laxdale School at lunchtime on Saturday has been named by police as Harry Thomson, aged 72, from Back.

Mr Thomson was taken by ambulance to Western Isles Hospital after the crash but was later confirmed to have died. Officers from the road policing unit in Dingwall travelled to the island and have been carrying out an investigation.

They ask anyone who witnessed the accident to contact them at Stornoway on phone number 101.

Posted in Lewis, police, Stornoway | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stornoway broadband’s nightly slump

Anyone else in the Stornoway area noticing that internet speed nosedives at 7.20pm each evening?

Posted in broadband, Stornoway | Tagged , | 2 Comments

GSH pull-out is opportunity for mainland companies – MP

Having met with former employees of the GSH Group, Angus Macneil MP believes there is a great resource available in Harris of skilled back-office functions in what he calls “the tremendous human capital and skills set” that have been left following the departure of GSH due to contract losses within the group.

After meeting representatives of the workforce, he said: “There is an opportunity for a company requiring skilled staff for back-office functions, an off-the-peg option and skilled team, that have formed in Harris over the last decade, working to asset management “Maximo” software, a well-known standard in many industries.
“The centre in Harris has high-end skills in human resources work, planning work and compliance work for contracts. This together with excellent broadband services in Tarbert, means that the workforce and their skills are as close as any office down the corridor.
“I hope that the skills that have been built up in Harris, will through the efforts of myself and others, find a company or group who are in need of these services and make the perfect match where we can deliver a win-win situation.
“It is certainly a source of concern to lose such a valued skills base and I hope it is short-term but there are also a number of young women working here, who are exactly the demography we want to keep in our islands.”

Mr Macneil said he would be writing to the Scottish Government asking that some of the requirements in the field that will inevitably come with independence can be placed in Harris. The tangible opportunities of independence should be felt early on in our island communities such as the Isle of Harris. he said.

He added: “Meanwhile, any companies interested in utilising this excellent workforce can contact me through my Stornoway Constituency Office (Telephone 01851 702272) where I will put them in contact with a long established and skilled workforce.”

Posted in Harris, politics | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Macsween asks MP for Hebrides Range correspondence – letter

Dear Sir

Apart from a rather dubious and irrelevant response from Dr Wilson, there has so far been no reply from Angus B MacNeil MP to my request for information relating both to the campaign to ‘save’ the Range a number of years ago and also the number of visits he has undertaken to these facilities since the election of 2010.

I find this rather strange. After all, this is a man who made his early reputation as an MP calling for transparency and accountability in Parliament. Does this, I wonder, only apply to others and not, for some reason, to himself?

I call upon him again to release all the correspondence, letters and emails connected with the threat to the existence of the Range, complete with access to all the media statements he made at that time. Given the fact that he himself has raised the issue of its survival at that time over the last few weeks, surely it would only be fair and just of him to do this.

Can I ask again, too, for all the details of the visits to the Range he has undertaken between the election of 2010 and the end of July 2014? This is just in case he has responded to my previous letter by suddenly organising a visit to the Range in order to obtain some kind of informed opinion about what is going on there. Clearly, as Paul Blake points out in his recent letter, his last pronouncement had as little connection with the Range’s realities as his nonsensical claim that both he and the MSP ‘saved’ it.

But perhaps I do him an injustice. He wouldn’t have been so unprofessional as to fail to have gone there at any time over the last four years.

Or would he?


Donald John MacSween,
Lower Bayble

Posted in Letter | Leave a comment

Revealed – why Stornoway cabs don’t turn up at your home quite so quickly any more

Age doesn’t come alone. Not that I’m feeling the onset of the years heavily on my own shoulders, you understand, because I am now enrolled in exercise classes but so many others that I know are just going to seed. Just recently I arranged a cool luncheon date with a dear friend who I bumped into not simply because I had not seen her for ages.

Which was why I ambled into one of Stornoway’s most classy joints one lunchtime recently wearing my shiniest shirt and freshly-pressed shoes. Wait. Or was that the other way round? Maybe. Meanwhile, my neighbour Mr Africa, who was also with me, had on the most inappropriate Hawaiian shirt and the knee-length ‘Morecambe and Wise’ trousers.

Honestly, you can’t take that guy anywhere. A heatwave is no excuse for exposing that particular kind of knobbliness in an eaterie. Such pale skin and spindliness certainly should be kept well away from a servery offering off-the-bone cooked meats. As Mr Africa reached out to load his plate, a lady from Parkend with National Health specs standing beside him asked the similarly-challenged chef to slice a bit off that “dodgy-looking chicken”. If Mr Africa hadn’t moved quickly, his right shoulder would have ended up on her plate with a bit of broccoli and mash.

Anyway, after 20 minutes, no sign of Madame. Had we the time wrong. No. Wrong date? Nope. Definitely Thursday. Wrong restaurant? Nope. This was Eleven. It was on the door. After an hour, we were bored. I had munched so many bread rolls that I felt they were coming out my nose. Meanwhile, Mr Africa actually had bread coming out of his nose, and his ears, but he had pushed those breadsticks in there himself. Mortified I was. Really can’t take him anywhere.

You know what, the lady Joanne has still not phoned to offer her apologies for standing us up. She probably meant to but forgot. She’s getting on a bit now, of course. When Mr Africa and I knew her in London, she and her pal Donna were the life and soul of the Hebridean social scene in that lesser-known Gaelic-speaking hinterland that nestles among the curry houses and Greek takeaways of Tooting Bec and Clapham Common.

Now though, our dear friend shuffles about making lunch dates willy-nilly and then forgetting all about them leaving patient and ever-faithful friends confused and forlorn. Being a Niseach may be the reason. Devouring those oily gugas must have some adverse effect on their brains and that will come as a surprise to no one – except the poor, deluded folk of Ness. Joanne Gillies is all the proof we need of that. Oh, m’eudail.

You should do what I do, Joanne. To look after my mind and my body I joined an exercise class. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Put it this way, when I signed up for contortionist classes I didn’t know what was involved. Now I’m kicking myself.

Some of our hard-working island taxi drivers are also forgetting some of the fine detail that is necessary for a life untroubled by people wearing silver buttons. Like speed limits. Police Scotland sent some of its finest gun-toting cops over to Lewis to keep us all safe during the recent Hebridean Celtic Festival.

To clarify, they were toting speed guns. Not even Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, the former friend of so many Highland councillors, would send real cops with real pistols in real holsters over the Minch to these God-fearing twinkling jewels of the western seas. Would he?

Soon the highly-trained squad got to work and were soon patrolling these mean streets in a sleek black plain-clothes Volvo and quickly nabbed a goodly number. It later turned out that quite a few were taxi drivers. A few? Three? Five, surely not. It can’t be seven. Oh, my golly gosh, and similar expressions of surprise.

No less than nine of these knights of the highway have had their collars felt – or, to be more accurate, had the points tally on their licences added to. As one who has found himself ticked off for being around the upper permitted limit, I do sympathise.

It is not just dear, sweet Joanne and our equally-lovely taxi drivers who are feeling their age. A crofter I know on the west side of this island is finding it more and more difficult to tend to his flock of sheep. Gathering them all in for dipping is a major challenge now. So a couple of days before a fank, he went and spoke to his 20-something neighbour and asked if he would help him. His legs were very sore, he told him, so he wondered if he would round them up for him.

The younger man asked him how many he had. “Och,” says the bodach, “It won’t take you long. There are only 49.”

“Only 49? Sure, I’ll round them up for you,” he said. “Fifty. There you go. Job done.”

Posted in P&J column | Leave a comment

Whisky from Rockall goes up for sale

A bottle of unique immature Scotch Whisky that has been on Rockall twice is being auctioned for charity with bids already quickly exceeding £100.


Record-breaking adventurer Nick Hancock resisted temptation to sip from it while he occupied the rock for 45 days recently.

Whatever money is raised will go to Help for Heroes, the military services personnel support charity.

Made at Uig on the Isle of Lewis by the small-scale distillery Abhainn Dearg, the unopened 500ml bottle is slightly weathered and has a water-damaged label after two voyages westward.

Photos of the bottle on the rock summit have been posted by Nick. The same bottle was in his backpack when he landed briefly on the rock on a reconnaissance trip two years ago. The winning bidder may also have it signed by Nick.

Abhainn Dearg is the closest distillery to Rockall.  Although not legally a whisky, immature spirit is highly-rated by some connoisseurs which often prompts much discussion and argument about its qualities.

Posted in adventurer, Lewis, Rockall, Western Isles | Leave a comment