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WW100 Commemorations Islay

Stuart Graham writes for the Ileach Newspaper:

The SS Tuscania was a troopship carrying American servicemen towards the Great War. The Tuscania was part of convoy HX20 bound for Liverpool. On board were over 2,000 American servicemen and a crew of 384. The convoy was headed for the North Channel when they were seen by a U-boat and shadowed until just after dark. At this point the Uboat commander, Captain Wilhelm Meyer, moved in to launch an attack. At 6:40pm he fired two torpedoes at the Tuscania. The first one missed. The second one hit the Tuscania amidships. Having fired the torpedoes the submarine immediately dived to escape as escort vessels came to attack. The Tuscania was roughly halfway between Rathlin Island and Islay when it was hit.

Twenty sailors were killed almost immediately by the blast and the inrush of water into the engine room. The ship was plunged into darkness and began to list. The American troops had all done several abandon-ship exercises and began assembling at their designated spaces. Three escort destroyers, Grasshopper, Mosquito and Pigeon arrived and helped take off survivors and the remaining troops and crew then took to the lifeboats. There was quite a heavy swell running which made for some difficulties in launching the lifeboats; several men were pitched into the sea. A couple of lifeboats made their way to safety in the north of Ireland while the others made their way to Islay. Continue reading...

Islay Quilters 25th Anniversary

On Tuesday 31 January Islay Quilters celebrated their 25th anniversary with drinks and nibbles for past and present members. They gathered in the quilting workshop in Islay House Square while Chairperson and founding member, Rae Woodrow, toasted the success of the group which started after around 15-20 people answered an advert in the Ileach for a patchwork class in Bowmore Hall. From there, the late Sally Taylor advertised in the Ileach for anyone interested in a regular sewing group. Around 30 people turned up to the Harbour Inn in response to the advert and, of them, around eight remained.

The group would meet at each others houses and early on decided that would like to be creating something for charity, which is when the annual charity quilt tradition began. To date, the Quilters have raised over £15,000 for 25 different organisations on Islay & Jura through the production of the quilts and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

With quilts and wall hangings being produced, the group soon outgrew each other’s houses and moved to the Youth Hostel where they were able to lay out their projects to work on them. However, at the end of each session they had to tidy everything away and eventually realised that they would need a premises of their own. Continue reading....

Update from RSPB Islay

This year we will start focussing more on the RSPB reserves on Islay. We will provide better coverage on the farming and wildlife side of the reserve as well as inform you about all the organised walks and events that will take place this year. And there will be many compared to last year, including walks on Sunday morning. We have teamed up with Dave Maynard, AKA Botswana Dave, who is the Community, Information and Tourism Officer, based at Loch Gruinart. Dave will be writing regular guest posts on our Islay Blog to inform you about everything that's going on at the RSPB Reserves on Islay, at Loch Gruinart, The Oa and Smaull Farm.

A good way to start the new year is to have a look back at last year. Many things happened on the reserves on Islay and all the information, together with info from our neighbouring islands, has been collected and turned into an attractive newsletter. In case you haven't read it yet we now offer the possibility to download it directly from our blog by clicking here. In this newsletter for instance you can read more about the hen harriers which had a fantastic year on the reserve, with 6 nesting females, the best since 2007 and these fledged 12 young. There is also more info on the barnacle geese. They arrived en masse with an amazing 32,230 on the reserve on 20 October. An impressive sight, with huge flocks wheeling around moving between salt marsh and grass. There's also information on the upgrade of some of the paths to the American Monument and the Moorland Walk too, one of the most fascinating walks on Islay. So please stay tuned as Botswana Dave will do his best to provide his first guest blog around the end of March with loads of information for this year. Let's hope it's going to be a good one, for the birds, other animals and visitors of the reserve alike.

Tag: rspb

Jim McEwan to Work for Ardnahoe Distillery

I still regret the opportunity I had last year to take a photo of Jim McEwan doing the ironing for his wife Barbara, just after he was retired from Bruichladdich Distillery. It would have been a rather unique photo as Jim's retirement was of a very short nature. Jim is apparently not the man to sit still and do nothing as it didn't take him very long to accept a dream job with Hunter Laing & Co, at Ardnahoe Distillery. And this might well be Jim's most special job he has ever done as this is in fact the first time that he will help building a whisky distillery on Islay from the ground up. He will be involved in any decisions taken on the construction of the distillery as well as being responsible for the production of the first spirit and the selection of the casks. A unique opportunity, something most of us would leave retirement for.

Hunter Laing & Co, the Glasgow-based company – run by Andrew and Scott Laing, along with their father, Stewart – expects Ardnahoe to start production in early 2018. Construction works on the new distillery have started late last year. Ardnahoe distillery will be built in two phases. The first will see the establishment of distilling operations, warehousing and a visitor centre comprising of a cafĂ©, tasting room and shop. The second will see an expansion of distilling operations and further warehousing. Continue reading.....

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