Jöns Hellsing is an absorbing storyteller from Sweden whose heart is divided between Sweden and Scotland, and Islay in particular, as Jöns renovated the old coast guard station overlooking Portnahaven. You probably know it as the wee square building on the hill above High Street. Nowadays it is run as a holiday accommodation, Four Winds, and it has some magnificent views. Over the last years Jöns has been working on an Islay inspired book which will be soon be published under the name "Hope Island Trilogy". The Hope Island Trilogy is not a story about real Islay people. It’s a 100% made up story on a fictive island called Eilean Dóchas ”somewhere off the west coast of Scotland”. As the book is Islay-inspired I asked Jöns to send me some more info about himself and his new book.
Jöns: "My great great great grandfather Alexander MacLaren was a business man with sugar plantations in British Guyana and a farm on Kintyre. In May 1862, he bought the Sunderland & Foreland Estate on Islay including Coull and Cladville on the Rhinns. Through heritage and a trust called ”Mary Baker’s Trust", Cladville Estate has remained in my family even though all the land has been bought out by local farmers and crofters. Continue reading....
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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...
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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....
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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.
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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 café, tasting room and shop. The second will see an expansion of distilling operations and further warehousing. Continue reading.....
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Bruichladdich Distillery are undergoing a big change in management as Simon Coughlin moves on from his role as CEO of the company. Simon, who has been part of Bruichladdich since 2000 when he and Mark Reynier, with a group of fifty shareholders, bought the dormant distillery and turned the whisky into the internationally recognised brand it is today. He took the position as CEO of Bruichladdich when the French, family-run Remy Cointreau Group bought the distillery in 2012, and has remained in the driving seat of the biggest private employer on the island until now.
Simon has been appointed another role within the Remy Cointreau Group as he takes over the management of the newly created ‘Whisky Business Unit’. The unit was created following the recent acquisition of two more distilleries and will comprise Bruichladdich Distillery, Domaine des Hautes Glaces (French single malts) and Westland (American single malts). Remy Cointreau said, “Simon will draw on his experience and avant-garde vision of the world of whisky to fulfil his mission of unlocking the full potential of the various brands. This ambition is very much in line with the group’s strategy; that of becoming the world leader of exceptional spirits.”
Douglas Taylor, currently Global Brand Director, will take Simon’s place as the CEO of Bruichladdich Distillery Company effective immediately.
Photo courtesy of bruichladdich distillery
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Following much local discussion regarding the impact of camper vans and mobile homes visiting Islay, a questionnaire was placed in the Ileach on 6 August 2016 in an effort to seek the views of the community. From the responses received, the following points were highlighted:
- Lack of grey waste / chemical waste disposal facilities
- Numbers of litter bins needs to be increased
- Designated parking areas required, especially during Feis Ile week
- Disseminate information to camper van and mobile home owners
Whilst the feeling was that this type of tourism to Islay should not be discouraged, appropriate facilities and more information should be readily available. Continue reading....
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I can't think of a better way to start the new year than to go for a refreshing walk on one of Islay's amazing beaches. This year we decided to walk to Killinallan Point, on the east side of Loch Gruinart, which never stops to amaze us, no matter what the weather is. And today it was even more spectacular than usual. The sun was out and a chilly northerly breeze created a drifting sand spectacle I hadn't witnessed before. So out came the camera and below is my impression of the drifting sands at Killinallan Point.
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While I'm writing this blog post the rain is failling down and the wind is picking up. We can't even see the other side of Loch Indaal. Here's hoping that the rain will clear tonight, in time for the Hogmanay celebrations. This is a good moment to reflect on the past year as so many of us do in this time of year. Other than some bizarre political decisions (Brexit) and unexpected deaths (too many to mention) it was a rather good year for us here on Islay. After living more than two years on Islay we feel very much at home here and we enjoy life, and the many friendly folk on this beautiful island. It's not paradise, certainly not in the winter, but sometimes it comes pretty close.
Workwise it was another good year, both Manuela's Get Fit Classes and my Web Design and IT Business are doing very well as we're both very busy. The Islay Blog and Islay Info website are going from strength to strength and this was the first year that we welcomed over one million distinct visitors. This might have something to do with the redesign last spring when we changed to a renewed and mobile friendly design. I'm also delighted that the Islay Stock Photos and Prints Website is finished and already folk have ordered both digital files and Islay Photo Prints. For next year we're planning many new and very exciting things but more about that in another post. Continue reading...
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By the time of writing everything is peaceful and quiet with hardly any wind but that is likely to change as the weather patterns are shifting. A high pressure area has dominated Scotland on and off during the autumn which resulted in a quiet and sometimes very sunny Autumn. Winter has yet to start and it will do so according to various weather websites. Some sites, the ones we shouldn't take serious, are already talking about horror, ravage and terrifying weather forecasts for Christmas. They actually write: "The violent superstorm will make landfall at around 6am on Christmas morning and will see air pressure drop more than 24 millibars over 24 hours - a so-called explosive cyclogenesis, or weather bomb."
I tend to ignore such overreacting and panic creating websites and rather stick to the more serious and less sensational weather sites such as Netweather who write: "By Friday another area of low pressure is heading our way. This will bring wet and windy weather for Friday with widespread strong winds even severe gales to parts of Scotland early on Christmas Eve. Hot on its heels will be another deep low for Christmas Day with more strong winds, gales even stormy conditions for the west of Scotland. For anyone travelling during Christmas weekend, do keep an eye on the forecast this week." Continue reading...
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