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Islay News Roundup First Half December 2008

Another two weeks have passed since the last news round up. Time to look back at what happened but first a picture, a rather special one given the fact that it was taken early December, Saturday the ninth to be precise. And there is another reason why it was so special, there was quite a lot of snow and it was only on the northern part of Islay. The picture is taken near Port Askaig and this is what our friends said about it: "we couldn't believe it when we woke up on Saturday to thick snow and it lasted all weekend, the children spent the weekend sledging down the hillside, we had so much fun. It was a great surprise when we tackled the 'slippery ungritted' roads to find the snow did not exist past Ballygrant!" Very special and a lovely intro to Christmas.

What follows next is a wee overview of Islay news published in the Ileach newspaper and from various other sources, which haven't been published before on this blog. The news that has already been published is available in the December archive.

What happened in the first half of this month was probably the most tragic accident in living memory for a lot of people on Islay. Dugald and Jamie MacTaggart and Neil MacFayden were killed in a terrible car accident on Tuesday the 2nd of December near Bridgend. Grief and sadness crept over the island like a dark fog leaving a whole community shattered and paralised. I received several emails from people who were present at the funeral(s) or were otherwise involved. I would like to mention a few anonymous quotes here. A friend said about the MacTaggarts Funeral "I think there were about 1000 mourners yesterday; he said he has never been at such a big funeral." Someone else said: "Everyone is drained. Wee Calum(7), Fiona's son is amazing. He helped his Mum out of the church yesterday. He also explained to his 2 year old sister where her Daddy and brother have gone when she kept asking - "I told you Katie, they've gone for a spin in the lorry up to heaven". It is so sad and so unfair." Another friend said about the funeral: "when they drove from Bowmore to Kilnave he had never seen so many people ever at a funeral. When they turned into the Ardnave road by RSPB farm there was a solid line of full cars right across the flats and past the road to Killinallan!" In the meanwhile the condolence register has been signed by 80 people, which was also noticed by the forArgyll News Team, and has been read by almost 2000 distinct visitors since last week. Continue reading other Islay news.....Third prize for Lady Lauren: John Morris of Knochlearach Farm took Lady Lauren, his home-bred limousin cross heifer (born 28th March 2007), to the Royal Highland Winter Fair on 26th November where she was placed third in the prestigious national event. Lady Lauren had previously been Champion Heifer at the Islay Show and placed second in her class at the Mid Argyll show. John would like to extend particular thanks to Neil MacDonald of Bunnahabhain who dressed Lady Lauren for the event. The Royal Highland Winter Fair at Ingliston near Edinburgh is the rebranded Scottish Winter Fair put together by a partnership between the Scottish National Fatstock Club and the Royal Highland Agricultural Society.

Merry Ferry News: A year on from the announcement that a new Islay ferry had been ordered for the routes serving Islay from the mainland, the Scottish Government’s vessel owning company CMAL report that detailed design work is progressing well. CMAL Vessels Director Andrew Duncan was on hand recently to see the first steel being cut at the Remontowa yard in Gdansk, Poland. The company won the contract to build the new ferry last November. Delivery is expected in spring 2011. The overall cost of procuring the ferry and bringing her into service will be £24.5 million. To make sure the new ferry will be able to dock properly some modifications have to be done both at Port Ellen and Kennacraig. Port Askaig seems to be well prepared for the new ferry. The Ileach wrote a letter to CMAL re the works in both ports and received the following reply: "With regards to the new Islay ferry and potential developments at Port Ellen and Kennacraig, the new vessel will be able to use the existing ports as they are at present, however this is not ideal and some minor modifications are being developed." Let's hope this won't turn into a second Port Askaig!

More Merry Ferry News: The MV Hebridean Isles went for her winter overhaul last weekend, and CalMac have informed the Ileach that: "we have been able to secure the use of the MV Lord of the Isles on a temporary basis, thus ensuring that the two vessel service remains in place." The 'Lord of the Isles' has recently undergone her own refit in Aberdeen which included refitting some of her public areas, and apparently "she is looking very good indeed." The company has pointed out however that the relief vessel does not have as high a weight capacity for commercial vehicles as the MV Hebridean Isles, and that therefore: "this may mean that some commercial vehicles which have block bookings may have to wait for the next sailing. However we do not envisage this as being a major issue as the frequency of the two vessel service should ensure any inconvenience is minimised and is certainly preferable to only having one vessel."

Islay Hotel at Port Ellen: A new name hasn't been found yet or should I say hasn't been decided upon yet. Apparently a couple of names could make it and perhaps there will be more news on that soon. More important than a name is to get the new hotel a proper roof before the big winter storms arrive in December or January. The Ileach writes: "Work continues apace at the new Islay Hotel in Port Ellen during the available weather windows. Our local heroes have been joined by Gary Clarke from Darlington who is building the roof which has now beensheeted this week. It is hoped that the slates will be here next week." Armin has some more pictures of the new roof on his blog.

Opening Doors to our Language: There was a lot of fun and serious discussion at the launch of the Opening Doors programme at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle on Wednesday 3 December. Brian Wilson, who chaired the evening, provided his personal encouragement to the parents, children and families that attended. He stressed the value of Gaelic at home and in the community and offered his support for future initiatives on Islay. For further information on the “Opening Doors” programme please contact Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile on 01496 810818 or fios@ile.ac.uk.

Meat Islay: The new Avonvogie Abattoir has now been operational for two months. Around thirty farmers have used the service so far, many of whom have used the cutting services offered by Neil Campbell Butchers in Port Ellen. Having the abattoir operational is allowing a number of other enterprises to develop, Lyrabus Croft were the first to advertise farm sales of Meat Islay but there is also 'Lighthouse Lamb' being offered from Port Charlotte and 'Hebridean Hams' are developing a proposal for a cutting plant. In the picture you can see Fiona MacGregor (yes it was cold she told me :-) ) with the Meat Islay Cutting Wagon, which has just been delivered - a mobile cold store/cutting facility. The original idea behind the mobile unit was to provide temporary cover while the Meat Islay 'Pig’s Kitchen' is constructed, but all sorts of ideas are being bandied about for the truck to be used for demonstrations, workshops or even farmer’s markets. The new wagon will certainly boost the island’s meat infrastructure significantly.

Other news and blog snippets: I can already offer a sneak preview of the new StormCats website which is as good as ready. More news and a closer look on that next week! forArgyll writes about Biogas on Islay: "In an exciting development on Islay, the example of a successful Swedish plant has inspired islanders to start exploring the feasibility of capturing methane as biofuel from farm and distillery wastes. David Protherough, of Recycling Islay and Jura Group says: ‘We are looking to produce methane or biogas to use as road fuel to try and isolate islanders from rising fuel costs’." I am sure we will hear more about that in due time. Bruichladdich is happy with their 2008 Islay barley harvest while a day later the rain is lashing against Mark's window! Another blogger called Scottish eye is counting down the days for his Islay visit, at the moment of writing he has six more days to go. Armin published his latest blogging roundup last Sunday. Check out forArgyll for the latest news in Argyll and Bute. That's all for now, I hope you enjoyed it and I wish you a good weekend!

Tag: news blogs meat islay calmac

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