New lifeline connects cut-off North Kerrera to Oban

The new North Kerrera ferry service is being operated by local tour boat skipper Jack Macgregor

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Fishing trip skipper Jack Macgregor is casting a lifeline to stranded Kerrera residents thanks to emergency cash.

Since October, the north of the island has been cut off from the mainland with no ferry service of its own, leaving some residents to rely on a few people who have their own small boats, often crossing in dangerous conditions.

But this week, with funding from the Foundation Scotland Response Fund and by the Scottish Governments Communities Recovery Fund, a new North Kerrera Community Ferry service launched running four ferries a day –  three days a week.

The total funding is £19,485 and is to support the organisation, increase community resilience and administer and operate the ferry service.

Before lockdown Mr Macgregor, with his wife Linda, ran boat and angling trips on the Creagallan from the old Oban Times slipway. When tenders were sought to run the temporary ferry service, the Macgregor’s put in a bid.

The Creagallan will be connecting North Kerrera residents to the mainland from now until May with help from emergency funding.

‘Our last trip out was with some anglers in November and we’ve not been making any money since, so when this came up we felt it was something we could do and put in a reasonable offer that lucky for us was accepted,’ said Mr Macgregor, a former creel fisherman from Seil who took on the boat trip business in 2015.

Isle of Kerrera Development Trust (IKDT) chairman Martin Shields said it is a welcome lifeline service for the 30 residents living in North Kerrera.

The service is a short-term solution with enough funding to last it until the end of May.

‘We are hopeful that by this time, with life approaching some level of normality, that Oban Marina can be back up and running and residents can access the marina’s service to the mainland,’ added Mr Shields.

Oban Marina’s owners are very generously waiving any landing fees, meaning the emergency funding has stretched further.

The island’s long-term solution of a road connecting the north and south of Kerrera, where the Gallanach ferry crosses, is due to start construction in April 2021 and the hope is it will be ready to use before the end of summer.

Mr Shields said: ‘Like all communities, Kerrera has suffered the effects of the pandemic but we are very pleased to be able to provide a lifeline service for almost half the population who have effectively been cut off from the mainland for months.

‘It’s great that with lockdown easing in the near future, our northern neighbours can be assured of a transport link that will tide things over until the road is in place.’

One of those relieved North Kerrera residents who will be making the most of the new service is Karen Keys. She said: ‘This is excellent news and will be really helpful for all of us especially as lockdown eases and we’re all able to do more. We can now look forward to the road link knowing we have mainland access until it is built.’