Review of 2021 – Part 1

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Review of The Year – Part 1


Over the last three decades, Craobh Haven skipper Duncan Phillips had voyaged eight times the equivalent of sailing round the world – and crossed the infamous Corryvreckan thousands of times.

At the helm of his motor launch Farsain, the 80-year-old had safely transported sightseers on boat trips daring the swirling whirlpool and out to the islands sitting out of the picturesque harbour that has been his home since returning to his native Scotland from Essex.

He had also run a water taxi service for appreciative residents at the north end of Jura and there have been numerous rescues out at sea and boats that needed to be towed back to a safe haven.

The Oban Times was there to catch on camera Mr Phillips retiring and handing over his boat and business to friend and new owner Tony Daley.

Cheers to skipper Duncan Phillips retiring after 31 years of running boat trips from Craobh Haven. KG_T02_skipper01

Young Jack Grant started the New Year afresh with a mission to clear up a roadside near where he lives.

Upset by the mess, the Kilchrenan Primary School pupil got little brother Hamish, 3, and mum Issy with baby Rory in tow to help pick up discarded cans, crisp packets, tissues and takeaway leftovers. He even asked dad Douglas to build him a bin cart to take on his regular clean-up rounds.

A big fan of save-the-planet crusader David Attenbrough, Jack wanted to do his best to keep the Ardanaiseig road waste-free and sent a letter and poster to The Oban Times asking us to help him stop the litter bugs.

Jack Grant out litter picking with his little brother Hamish.


Community nurses on Mull were tackling wild terrain and the elements on foot to vaccinate residents.

District nurse Moira Westland and staff nurse Cara Donnelly went the extra mile to get Covid-19 vaccinations to remote clients by relying on their own two feet to reach remote residents’ homes that were not easily accessible from the roads.

Most of the island’s roads are single-track and narrow, with off road trails to get to some places surrounded by wilderness and high cliffs plunging to the sea, secret sandy beaches and rocky coves.

Moira said that determination to keep the vaccination programme on target was powering her on.

Staff nurse Cara Donnelly went the extra mile on foot to get COVID19 vaccinations to remote clients. NO_T10-Cara Mull

Young people were making themselves seen and heard as part of a growing campaign to protect ‘people’s park’ Ganavan from the threat of more houses being built.

This group of friends, all aged under 12, took themselves and placards to the popular beach to make their point.

Young Ganavan fans add their voices to the campaign to protect the area from possible developers.


Sparks were flying when Oban Airport was featured in an edition of Top Gear.

Millions of TV viewers tuned in as hosts Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness battled to prove which vehicle was the ultimate off-roader.

The airport was just one of the Highland and west coast locations included in the popular programme.

Viewers watched as the daredevils took it in turn to be towed along the scenic runway – behind their vehicles at high speed.

A Top Gear daredevil stunt at Oban Airport.
Photograph: BB Studios.

A lick of fresh paint 100 feet above Oban was all in a day’s work for these workmen painting the town’s distinctive distillery chimney.

Keen photographer and Keep Oban Beautiful (KOB) stalwart Maurice Wilkins caught the birdseye shot on camera for The Oban Times.

The paint job was part of an annual inspection to keep the tall chimney spic, span and safe and KOB was hoping people would follow the distillery’s lead by joining in a socially-distanced clean-up of the town that weekend.

Covid meant the usual co-ordinated Spring Clean community event could not happen, but KOB was encouraging people to get out on their own or in their bubbles to pitch in with litter-picking.

High maintenance: Oban Distillery’s distinctive chimney gets a makeover.
Photograph: Maurice Wilkins.


Firefighters battled for 15 hours to extinguish a raging wildfire on a hill near Oban.

At the peak of the blaze, beyond the Scottish Water installation near Pennyfuir, there were four appliances at the scene after the fire broke out on April 16.

Crews from as far away as Inveraray’s retained station and volunteers from Dalmally, Appin and Tyndrum joined Oban firefighters using beaters and specialist knapsacks and hoses to get the flames, seen from miles around, under control.

Firefighters had to walk their way in from Pennyfuir to get to the burning hillside.

Dramatic photographs were captured by people in the town, with the orange glow of flames shooting up into the sky with landmark McCaig’s Tower in the foreground, and there were others with the fire looking perilously close to homes.

The area on the hill was full of gorse and vegetation popular with a variety of nesting birds.

The dramatic scene above Oban as the wildfire rages. Photograph: Daniel Earl. NO T17 oban wildfire_Daniel Earl

Oban ambassador Kay MacDonald was back on the beat welcoming tourists returning to town.

On the day that non-essential shops, pubs and other hospitality venues opened their doors again, Kay and fellow ambassador Joe Reich were out and about on the meet and greet frontline.

Oban ambassador Kay MacDonald offers the best of Highland hospitality with a warm welcome to tourists. T18_Kaysback-02


Photographs were snapped showing Cruachan Dam being transformed into a set, where a scene for a new spin-off Star Wars TV series was to be filmed.

Production crews took over an area of landscape above Loch Awe and the Corran Halls in Oban – both guarded by security.

Although renting it out to show makers, Argyll and Bute Council was keeping a vow of silence saying it was not in a position to make any comment.

Despite the hush, The Oban Times understood it was for a new Disney + Channel show, likely to be the Kenobie series.

The Oban Times was sent photographs by walkers who spotted partly-underwrap spaceship props at Cruachan, which were a big giveaway.

A reader snapped this spaceship undercover shot while walking up at Cruachan Dam.

Dalmally sounded the last post.

The village said a special farewell to its sub-postmistress Gilli Chrystal when she retired and shut up shop on its award-winning post office for the final time.

Trumpeter Garry Thompson played the last post on Wednesday May 19 to mark Gilli’s retirement after two decades behind the counter and to mourn the end of the postal service in Dalmally, which dated back to the 1800s.

Villagers including schoolchildren turned out to wish Gilli Chrystal a happy retirement from Dalmally Post Office. Photograph: Steve Beesley No_T22_DalmallythanksGilli


A community council took matters into its own hands to flush out badly behaved campers.

Taynuilt Community Council decided to rent a portable toilet and put it down by the lower pier in the hope campers would use it instead of leaving toilet paper, wipes and worse in the wild.

Signs also went up reminding all visitors of their responsibility to leave no trace and explain the etiquette of camping in a remote spot.

Renting the temporary toilet was going to be trialed over one month.

If a success, it would be rolled out longer.

Taynuilt Community Council rented a portable toilet, which they hoped would be used by wild campers rather than people leaving human waste around the pier. NO_T26_Taynuiltportaloo.


Barra marked the official opening of its new Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) with the help of royalty.

HRH Princess Anne visited the island by helicopter to visit the service in Castlebay.

The Princess Royal was accompanied on June 7 by Vice Lord Lieutenant Elizabeth McAtear, who is based in Barra and is a founder member of the Barra CAB.

Figures from 2020 showed they helped 327 people with 546 problems resulting in an extra £141,550 coming into homes from new or additional benefits claimed, extra wages due or a reduction in debts.

Strategic manager for Western Isles Citizens Advice Service Steven Hankinson, who was there to welcome Princess Anne, said the real figure was much higher.

The Princess Royal with Barra castle in the background during her visit to the island on June 7.
Photograph: Stephen Kearnsley.