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It’s the stuff of island Christmas nightmares: you’ve stocked up all the food and drink for the big day, ready for anything your hungry and thirsty family might demand, and then the water pipe springs a massive leak in a remote spot that needs a helicopter to get to.
That was the logistical challenge facing 10 households on Colonsay when a three-inch mains pipe burst the day before Christmas Eve, depriving households of water to boil their potatoes and sprouts for Christmas dinner, or even make a consoling cup of tea.
Scottish Water engineers were dispatched to dispense bottles of water and find the troublesome leak. They tracked it down to a remote part of a beach, but accessing the spot with all their equipment proved too difficult a task.
So they decided to hire a helicopter or a boat to get there, and in the end plumped for a rigid inflatable vessel to speed them 60km across the sea from Oban. The boat left on Christmas Eve morning, but the weather was so awful the boat had to return to the mainland.
Just when all looked lost for the Colonsay residents, local Scottish Water operative Les Robinson stepped in, trekking overland with his equipment to carry out a full repair single-handedly in the rain, restoring normal supply by lunchtime on Christmas Eve.
Ross Barclay from Scottish Water, who was on the boat that had to return to the mainland, praised Les’s effort to get water back to the islanders’ homes. ‘Les did an amazing job in very trying circumstances,’ he said.
‘This was a complicated repair to carry out in a number of ways. We were determined to ensure we would do all we could to make sure those facing disruption on Colonsay had their water supply back to normal in time for Christmas Day.
‘Our first problem in carrying out the repair was even getting to the area where the burst was located and we were initially looking at hiring a helicopter to fly us there, but we arranged to hire a rigid inflatable boat to take us to the island to carry out the repair.
‘The weather meant we had to turn the boat around and come back to the mainland. Les Robinson then stepped in and managed to make the repair on his own and restore normal supply to the customers.’