At Random with Martin Laing week 48

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Great news at last for Billy

There is a very welcome rush of good news this week.

The most obvious is the release of Billy Irving from the nightmare that he has been living through in an Indian prison.

It was brilliant to hear the outcome of the Indian appeal court’s decision on Monday that Billy and the other 34 men he was convicted with were, in fact, not guilty.

For four long years these men and their families have been forced to endure this ordeal so it was fantastic to hear their news.

However, as we report this week, the men may not be allowed to return home just yet so Billy, the ex-paratrooper from Connel, and his fiancée Yvonne MacHugh might have to exercise yet more patience.

The Oban Times has campaigned consistently along with Yvonne and others to secure the men’s freedom so we are obviously thrilled that the desired result has been achieved.

On a personal level, I would like to thank the Indian justice system for finally righting the wrong done against the Chennai Six. However, I still stand by my previous and regular caustic comments against the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for their utter inability to bring these former British servicemen home.

Mr Johnson and the FCO staff he commands still deserve all the opprobrium visited up on them.

There has been such a high level of interest in the plight of Billy and his colleagues, as was evidenced by the enormous surge of comment on our Facebook page on Monday when the news broke. We had scores of people welcoming the report.

For me, the real star of this excellent news is Yvonne. She has toiled unceasingly and with great dignity to have Billy freed. Indeed, it was hard not to feel emotional on Monday night watching her on television. I’m so pleased for her.

Let’s cheer the winter festival

To stay with the buzz of positivity, this year’s Oban Winter Festival has been a fabulous success.

I was out and about on Saturday at the Scottish food and craft market, as well as a couple of Christmas fairs. The weather – not entirely surprisingly – was less than ideal but the turnout from the public was superb.

I chatted briefly in the distillery with Pamela Lockhart, a member of the organising committee and she was understandably delighted with the number of people who supported the initiative.

I cannot praise highly enough the selfless people who work so hard to ensure these events take place and brighten brilliantly the arrival of winter’s dark nights.

Great gig deserved better support

One other really good event I attended on Saturday night was the live music gig at the Corran Halls featuring Edinburgh band Supa and Da Kryptonites, as well as Oban’s very own rappers K9 Kev and Rory O’B.

Now, given my advancing age, I have to fess up that I’m not naturally drawn to rap but I first encountered K9 and Rory at this year’s Oban Live and became an immediate convert.

Kevin Irvine and Rory O’Byrne wowed the crowds at Mossfield back in June and were really well received on Saturday at the Corran Halls. Rightly so, as they performed a terrific series of songs before making way for a high-octane set from Supa and Da Kryptonites.

If there was one down side, it was the disappointing number of people in the halls for what was a terrific night of energetic music. With tickets at just a tenner each, it would have been good to have seen more people there. They’d have enjoyed themselves.

What do you think?

Write to me at or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB.