Review of the Year – July to December 2021

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Pics will be in a folder in D Photos OT wk 53, titled Review of the Year July – Dec 2021


Oban lockdown inspires tribute to ‘Scotland’s forgotten music genius’

Pipe Major John McLellan DCM, a composer from Dunoon and Jura whose First World War song may replace Flower of Scotland as the national anthem, is the subject of a tribute website and Spotify playlists created by Duggy McGregor while locked down in Oban.

Pipe Major John McLellan ‘is probably Dunoon’s, if not Argyll and Bute’s best known composer of bagpipe music,’ writes Dunoon-born Duncan ‘Duggy’ MacGregor on his tribute website, created while working in Oban during lockdown.

Altogether, John McLellan wrote more than 160 melodies and songs. His most famous, The Road to the Isles, was written when McLellan was just 16 years old and living on the Isle of Jura.

‘The aim of this website is to remember the man and his music and gather all the relevant information about Jock into one place online,’ said Duggy. ‘It was my late mother’s wish that I create the website to Jock as she was his great niece.’

You can read more about Pipe Major John McLellan DCM on Duggy’s tribute website and listen to McLellan’s many tunes via Duggy’s playlists on Spotify.



Home By The Sea: Genesis’ ruined Mull pile on sale for £5M

For some people, the Ross of Mull’s abandoned Pennyghael House will be haunting and creepy. For others, it’s part of rock and movie history. But for the right buyer, this eight bedroom wreck, alongside its 8,700 acre estate, presents an opportunity.

Five million pounds is all it would cost, far more than its name implies. Pennyghael means the Pennyland of the Gael: a land valued by the penny or section of the penny. In 2021, it would cost you half a billion pennies.

The new buyer joins a long list of owners over the last 500 years, including the English rock group Genesis, though their presence left a somewhat invisible touch.



New Trossachs monument to mark Scott’s 250th anniversary

The Steamship Sir Walter Scott Trust has received the green light from Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to reinstate the historic Roderick Dhu Path and construct a stunning lookout tower and platforms above Trossachs Pier at Loch Katrine.

This is the spot where Sir Walter Scott was inspired to write his Lady of the Lake poem, published in 1810. Scott was born 250 years ago on August 15 and it was his poem that is credited with triggering the birth of Scottish tourism.

Funding of £375,000 was secured earlier this year.



Yours for £550k – poor land that named Canada’s richest city

Calgary, Canada’s third largest city, is home to nearly 1,300,000 people, and the country’s highest concentration of millionaires – around 1,800 overall.

Its downtown skyline, backdropped by the prairies and Rocky Mountains, stocks 60 storey skyscrapers, including Canada’s highest twin towers, while below one of the continent’s busiest rail systems carries 270,000 passengers per week day.

In almost every way, Calgary, Alberta, could not be further from the bare, isolated north western tip of Mull that gave it its name: Calgary Bay.

In August a piece of that history – 382 acres of sheep grazing land plus a village of 20 houses abandoned during the Highland Clearances – went up for sale for £550,000.

It is a far cry from the skyscrapers of Calgary, Alberta, for ‘the land is currently grazed by sheep on a seasonal basis’ and ‘there is no electricity or mains water supply to the land at Calgary Bay’.

Just up the hill from the pier is the deserted village of Inivea, where roofless stone ruins remain as a relic of the Highland clearances.

Many families affected by the clearances left for Canada from the pier at Calgary Bay.

In a strange quirk of history, their descendants may be walking the streets of Calgary city today.

On the east side of the bay is Calgary Castle, which was built in 1817 by Captain Alan MacAskill, who retired there. Around 1870, the house was acquired by John Munro Mackenzie, Chamberlain of the Lews from 1848 until 1854.

As the chamberlain, or factor, to Sir James Matheson, the then owner of the Isle of Lewis, MacKenzie was the man in virtual control of the everyday lives of its people.

He presided over one of the key periods of emigration from Lewis when, between 1851 and 1855, 1,772 of the poorest sub-tenants, from a population of nearly 20,000, were assisted with their passage – not always willingly – to Canada.

In 1872 Mackenzie, retired in Calgary Castle, was visited by a relation of his by marriage, Colonel James Macleod of Drynoch, Commissioner of the Canadian North-West Mounted Police.

Colonel Macleod was so taken by Calgary Castle that he suggested it as a name for a fort along the Bow River, which had initially been named Fort Brisebois after its then-commander. Fort Calgary, in turn, gave its name to the city of Calgary, Alberta.




Titanic’s forgotten predecessor: SS Norge – an Atlantic catastrophe

The second worst civilian maritime disaster in the Atlantic after the Titanic, the sinking of the SS Norge, off Rockall, with the loss of 635 souls, was commemorated by an exhibition touring the Outer Hebrides.

The display about the Norge maritime disaster more than a century ago, and the role played by the people of Stornoway in looking after survivors, opened at Comunn Eachdraidh in Ness, Isle of Lewis in September.

It told the tragic story of the foundering of SS Norge on a reef close to Rockall on its journey to New York, in 1904. It was carrying nearly 800 souls – Russian Jews, Norwegians, Finns, Swedes and Danes – and more than half were mothers and children. With only enough lifeboats for 215, only 160 survived and 635 perished.

Most of the lifeboats drifted in the Atlantic for days before being found by chance – one close to the Faroes, around 500 miles from the sinking – and the survivors from two of the closer lifeboats were landed at Number One Pier in Stornoway.

Some went on to be cared for in Lewis Hospital and others in private homes. Sadly, a number of them did not survive and they are buried in the cemetery at Lower Sandwick.

The last place to pick up a signal from the ill-fated ship had been Lloyd’s Station at the Butt of Lewis on June 27, the day before she sank.

The disaster remains the second worst civilian maritime disaster in the Atlantic, after the sinking of HMS Titanic in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives, and it made headline news around the world when the story broke a week after it happened.


Manx shearwaters: the Rum old seabird that freaked out the Vikings

Over a million Manx shearwaters, 95 per cent of the world’s population, nest along Europe’s Atlantic coast. Half of these, around 250,000 breeding pairs, can be spotted on just three UK islands: Skomer and Skokholm off Pembrokeshire and the Isle of Rum.

In spring and summer every year, Rum’s national nature reserve becomes home to 100,000 breeding pairs, who mate for life and fly hundreds of miles out to sea each day to feed a single fat, fluffy chick nesting underground.

If the chick survives attacks from rats, cats, hedgehogs and even killer sheep and red deer, it takes to the air on its maiden flight, battling storms and tempests on an epic 10,000km migration across the Atlantic Ocean to the fish-rich waters of South America.

But not all of them make it. On the way, lured by the bright lights, many are crash landing into Tobermory, Mallaig and cruise ships. Unable to take to the sea and air again, the seabirds blunder about until they are eaten by cats or gulls, or starve.

In September, Conor Ryan, a guide for Nature Scotland who lives in Tobermory, appealed to Mull residents to help the lost and bumbling seabirds resume their marathon journey.



Britain’s oldest warship tests robot rib in Royal Navy first

A major milestone in the Royal Navy’s use of autonomous vessels in future operations has been reached during recent trials aboard HMS Argyll, Britain’s longest serving frigate which celebrated its 30th birthday this year.

In a first for the navy, the warship successfully controllesd an uncrewed Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boat (RIB) while sailing at sea.

To mark the frigate’s 30th birthday this year, its 18th commanding officer Commander Charlie Wheen gathered the bulk of his 200-strong ship’s company on the flight-deck for cake and athletics in the Atlantic.



Read all about knit: Barra knitters spin a good yarn about herring girls

The knIT crowd are hooked on warm Hebridean clothing inspired by the historic herring girls, crafted by a growing team of knitters on Barra and Vatersay.

The close-knit team, which has expanded from one to 14 knitters in just two years, found purls of wisdom in Barra’s traditional knitwear, putting the island’s unique pattern called a True Lover’s Knot into scarves, shawls, hats, gloves, cushion covers, bed throws and fishermen’s jumpers called guernseys.

A sea-faring labourer’s woollen ‘gansay’, or ‘geansaidh’ in Gaelic, had to be durable, easy to mend, stain resistant, easy to move about in and warm. Traditionally they were knitted by fishermen’s wives, sisters or mothers, using a pattern passed down through the generations.

This meant islands, coastal communities and families had their own designs, which could be used to identify the wearer, like a US army ID badge.

It’s said a drowned sailor could be identified by his jumper, but as fishermen followed the shoals of herring round the coast from Aberdeen to Great Yarmouth, closely followed by the herring girls salting the catch, the British Isles’ distinctive patterns got guddled.

It is from this deep well of tradition that the Barra knitters lifted up patterns for their Herring Girl Collection, which is securing orders from all over the world.

The herring girls were a band of formidable island women who, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spent many years following the shoals of herring around the British coast undertaking gruelling work to gut, cure and pack the fish for sale.



‘That’ll be our render off. Thanks Nature.’ Quake disturbs a good night’s sleep

Argyll was rocked by an earthquake early on Tuesday morning, waking people up from Ardrishaig to Barcaldine with a ‘faraway boom’ that shook whole houses and rattled bedroom furniture.

The tremor, which measured 3.3 on the Richter scale according to the British Geological Survey, struck while most lay asleep in their beds at 1.44am. The epicentre was recorded 12km deep in the earth’s crust below Achnamara near Lochgilphead.

The ripples spread out, shaking homes in Ardrishaig, Ford, Dalmally, Seil, Oban, Taynuilt and Barcaldine, according to witnesses who took to social media to report their shock.

A Lochgilphead resident near the epicentre described the quake as a ‘very loud, low frequency rumble/growl, then an impact type noise followed by the house and foundations shaking. Glass bottles in dressing table rattled. It was of very short duration, felt like no more than a couple of seconds.’



A Taste of Trotternish celebrates Skye bard’s 200th anniversary

The life and work of Màiri Mhòr nan Òran was celebrated this November in a two-day community gathering – Blas Thròndairnis (a taste of Trotternish) – organised by Ionad Thròndairnis.

Màiri Mhòr nan Òran (Big Mary of the Songs/Mary Macpherson) was a nurse and prolific songwriter from Skye, known for her powerful songs of protest, praise, exile and hope.

She championed crofters in the struggle for tenure of their land and her poetry celebrates many aspects of Gaelic culture at the time, as well as shinty – the sport of the Gaels.

Margaret Nicolson, chairperson of Ionad Thròndairnis said: ‘2021 marks 200 years since the birth of Màiri Mhòr nan Òran and we think it fitting that this milestone be celebrated in our inaugural gathering which, we hope, will become a regular event.’


Ferry McFerryface? Your chance to name Mull’s new-ish vessel

Any competition to name a boat should sound the ship’s alarm.

Who could forget ‘Boaty McBoatface’, which scored the highest number of votes in a poll to name the British Antarctic Survey’s £200M polar research ship, later christened the more august RSS Sir David Attenborough.

A quick Google search reveals boat owners are as good at puns as hairdressers: Seas the Day, Shore Thing, Usain Boat, Water U Lookin’ At, Pier Pressure, Ship Happens, Aboat Time and, perhaps fittingly for CalMac’s ageing fleet, Knot Working.

That’s perhaps why Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has wisely given a shortlist of names associated with Mull, in its competition to name the island’s recently purchased second-hand ferry, the MV Utne. The shortlisted names are:

Loch Frisa – The largest loch on the Isle of Mull, located four miles south of Tobermory.
Glen Forsa – A beautiful open glen in the heart of Mull, with the peak of Beinn Talaidh at its head.
Torosay – Torosay Castle was built in 1858 by architect David Bryce and sits on the northwest side of Mull’s Duart Bay.





Argyll lit by art on St Columba’s 1,500th birthday

Five Argyll and Bute locations were bathed in art and light on December 7 to celebrate the 1,500th anniversary of St Columba’s birthday.

‘Illuminations’ projected artwork in the gardens of Hermitage Park, Helensburgh; onto McCaig’s Tower, Oban; The Queen’s Hall, Dunoon; The Egg Shed – Scottish Canals, Ardrishaig, and at a site on the Isle of Bute.

Each site was lit up with projections featuring the artwork of artists who have received funding from Duais Dìleab Chaluim Chille/The Colmcille Legacy Award. In June this year, McCaig’s Tower in Oban was lit up by projections featuring Colmcille Legacy Award artists.

NO_T49_Columba birthday light display_01_McCaig Tower, Oban, Colmcille Awards Projection Event (09.06.2021), artwork by Alicia Hendrick. Photography Och Aye Events


One man and his dog complete epic 5,000-mile rewilding trek across Canada

After a gruelling nine months on the road which began on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, 32-year Michael Yellowlees from Perthshire and his faithful Alaskan husky dog Luna have finally reached Canada’s Atlantic coast, having trekked right across the vast country for Highlands-based rewilding charity Trees for Life.

On Sunday December 5, throngs of well-wishers gathered at the remote Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland, while political leaders in Canada and Scotland expressed their admiration for Michael’s heroic venture.

‘My best wishes on the successful completion of your incredible walk across Canada, Michael!’ declared Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.

Noting that Michael has raised $50,000 for the Scottish rewilding charity Trees for Life, Prime Minister Trudeau added: ‘Michael chose Canada for this mission due to the many Scots who left their homeland generations ago, settled here and contributed significantly to the fabric of our country.

NO_T51_Canada trek_02_Mike and Luna