Heritage trust postpones Happy 21st to next year

Michael Shaw is Chairman of the Slate Island Heritage Trust and author of a new book on the history of the islands.

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A heritage trust celebrating the Slate Islands has put its 21st anniversary on hold.

Covid scuppered plans to mark the occasion this year, so The Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Trust has shifted the big celebration to 2021.

The virus means the doors of the Trust’s Heritage Centre at 13a Ellenabeich will remain closed and most likely open next spring instead.

But by no means will the trust be dormant, says its vice chairman David Glennie, who said there is lots of work to be done behind the scenes ready for its ‘resurgence’ – in 2021.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors from far and wide step through the doors of the one-room museum every year, so working out social-distance measures is going to be one of the big tasks ahead.

Volunteer members, many who are shielding and still self isolating, are usually at the door to welcome in visitors so lockdown back in March was inevitable.

The trust is missing the public and relies on donations to keep up its work but it will be back next year to celebrate its 21st anniversary properly with a new exhibition or possible a series of lectures, said Mr Glennie.

‘Of course we’re missing the public but we have to keep everyone safe, that is our priority and will continue to be so. We’re looking forward to opening our doors again and we’re quite optimistic it will be in the spring,’ he added.

Until then, volunteers will have the opportunity to rethink and refresh displays and ways of working to follow government guidelines – including how to handle, or not, cash in the museum.

‘We’ll use this time to plan our resurgence,’ said Mr Glennie.

In the meantime, the trust and its chairman Michael Shaw have got an alternative for anyone who cannot wait until next year to find out more about the Slate Islands that include neighbouring Luing and Belnahua.

Seil & Easdale is a newly published 47-page gloss-backed book revealing a glimpse of treasures to be found on the cluster of islands, illustrated by Trevor Davies.

Among those gems of the Slate Age are Kilbrandon Church with its five magnificent stained glass windows, Ballachuan Hazelwood Nature Reserve, the walled garden at Ardmaddy Castle and the famous Clachan Bridge – known as the only bridge over the Atlantic, where legend has it long before the bridge was built that an elderly woman acted as a Saint Christopher on hand to help less able travellers wade the channel.

The book, costing £5,  was brought out to mark the trust’s 21st anniversary and author Mr Shaw said he hoped its pages will ‘inspire a visit, stimulate a return or simply nourish’ fond memories for many people.

Mr Shaw said the timing of the book was a message to let people know that lots of hard work is continuing behind the scenes, with many members carrying on with research projects, including discovering more about Ballachuan Hazelwood and about the life and times of islanders.

Twice yearly the trust brings out journals to keep people up to date with its most recent discoveries and work.


The Heritage Centre