New home is Owen’s best birthday gift

Owen de la Rey got a new house for his sixth birthday. He went to see it being delivered to the Ulva Ferry site.

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What do you get a six-year-old boy for his birthday? How about a house?

That’s exactly what Mull’s Owen de la Rey got on his special day this year.

While most young lads can only dream of getting toy cranes or trucks for their birthday, Owen got the  real thing when his family’s new house was delivered to Ulva Ferry on the island’s west coast.

The big event, marking an exciting fresh start on the island for Owen, his mum Ruth, sister Phoebe, nine, and brother Robin, 13, just happened to coincide with the youngster’s birthday.

Owen de la Rey on the new house site with his sister Phoebe, mum Ruth and her partner Jason Smith.

‘It had to be his best birthday present ever,’ said Ruth, who works at the Spar shop in Salen and was one of 31 hopefuls wanting to be allocated one of the four new affordable homes going up for long-term rents on a site at Oskamull as part of a Mull and Iona Community Trust project working with Ulva School Community Association (USCA).

Ruth, who hails from Edinburgh but has lived on Mull for three years now, said news of being selected for one of the new houses came as a huge relief, after living short-term in a number of properties and at one point fearing her family could be made homeless or have no other choice but to leave the island.

Ruth took Owen along as a birthday surprise to see the pre-fab units of their new home being unloaded – they hope to move in by April.

‘It was really wonderful to get the good news that we’d been selected for one of the houses, I’d almost been homeless before. It means I can relax now we have a long-term rental – there was a point I thought we’d have to leave Mull,’ said Ruth.

Both Owen and big sister Phoebe will be joining other pupils at Ulva Primary School once Covid allows a return to class.

‘We found out last week the first house had arrived on the site and the next one coming was going to be ours and going to be delivered on Owen’s birthday. He really loves cranes so it was a special treat to watch it get unloaded – he wanted to know which bit was going to be his bedroom.’

Two of the new homes have three bedrooms while the others have two bedrooms. Built by The Wee House Company, the homes are 90 per cent ready before leaving their Ayrshire factory and are delivered on site ready-fitted with kitchens, bathrooms, plumbing and electrics.

MICT general manager Moray Finch said all of the 31 applications were assessed  against an allocation policy which had previously been drawn up in consultation with the local community. Scores to each bid were given in accordance with the policy. There was a balanced but strong weighting in favour of families with primary school age or younger children to help sustain numbers at Ulva Primary School. Other factors taken into account included applicants’ housing circumstances, the length of time living in the area and any links to it.

Mr Finch said all four properties have now been allocated.

‘This is an incredibly proud moment for myself and Helen MacDonald our hard-working housing project manager. It is the culmination of seven years work, working alongside volunteers from the local community and Ulva School Community Association,’ he added.


Caption: Owen de la Rey got a new house for his sixth birthday. He went to see it being delivered to the Ulva Ferry site.