Letters to the Editor – 20.1.22

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Oban Bay clarification

We write jointly in response to the letter, published in your January 13 edition, from the chairman of the Argyll and Bute Harbour Board concerning a Harbour Authority for Oban Bay and Approaches.

We are delighted that the Harbour Board has recognised the need for action and agree that safety is the priority. We look forward to taking part in the preparatory work to facilitate the development of a Municipal (Council-run) Port, which the Harbour Board agreed on December 2, while recognising the need to continue ‘exploration of the future development of a Trust Port’.

We would, however, point out that Councillor Colville’s clarification fails to address the principal issues raised in the letter from OCC: consultation, timescales and finance. In putting forward the amended proposal during the Harbour Board meeting there was no opportunity for consultation with stakeholders, including local elected representatives, local businesses, or the Community Council. Councillor Colville asserts that the Municipal Port option will deliver a new Harbour Authority in ‘the shortest time possible’ but offers no timescale. With council support, as intended by the December 2019 Harbour Board, the Trust Port could have been in operation in time for the summer of 2023.

Councillor Colville states that ‘managing the bay will incorporate cost’. Trust Ports make surpluses which they reinvest in their harbour and community. If Councillor Colville is referring to initial setting-up costs then these should have been indicated, in broad terms at least, in the report. The setting-up costs of the Trust Port are detailed in the proposal.

Trust Ports in Scotland are driving local development – for example, in Stornoway, Mallaig and Ullapool. Run by independent, suitably qualified and experienced trustees, these ports are working collaboratively with their local councils, supported by external funding from government and private sources, to reshape their harbours and reinvigorate their economies. Planning for the development of a Trust Port for Oban, which remains the best option, will continue to be worked on. In due course the Oban Harbour Trust should take its place in developing a vision for Oban Harbour in 2030 or 2040 just as other Harbour Trusts are doing.

Why Argyll and Bute Council seems so unwilling to work towards the same objective is a mystery which Councillor Colville’s letter does nothing to clarify.
Signed on behalf of Oban Community Council (Marri Molloy), Oban Bay Stakeholders Group (Ross Wilson), and Oban Community Harbour Development Association (John MacAlister)

Throwing the book at him

Your article on my old pal Jeff Anderson’s well-deserved scouting award, and his first badge for cycling, triggered a schooldays memory.

Jeff and I sat together in Mr Dobbins’ French class – in a front seat so he could keep an eye on this cycling enthusiast. Jeff’s dad was a lawyer and had given our French master carte blanche to discipline his son. The boy cycled home for lunch and often returned with something to amuse himself during boring classes.

One afternoon he brought Chinese wire puzzles and sat fiddling surreptitiously. I leaned forward, chin supported with the left hand, to obscure old Dobbins’s line of sight. Our bored professeur droned on, reading from son livre. Suddenly, he yelled ANDERSON!, slammed the book shut and hurled it straight at the fiddler’s head. I turned to see the spinning missile speed across the room. My left hand shot out and caught it in mid-air. Quelle miracle! (In a cricket- playing school, I would be fielder straight away.)

Some months later, the French class relocated to the music room while they used the other for exams. Jeff and I managed to position ourselves nearer the back. Former pupils will remember the room tiered like a Roman arena. Jeff had returned from home, where he had been tinkering with his bike, bringing some ball-bearings. He flicked one along the desk groove so that it jumped over the inkwell hole. I stopped it
and flicked it back. Mr D droned on. Now and then, he would crack a little joke. No one ever laughed.

Unexpectedly, the silvery ball made a hole-in-one and hit the shelf below. It sounded to our ears like a thunderclap. Was another book about to be fired? We froze. The tiny sphere hit the floor and took off in a trajectory straight for our irascible master – stotting nearer and nearer. How could he possibly not see or hear it? I steeled myself to leap to Jeff’s rescue should le livre Francaise be launched.

We stared dumfoonert as the bouncing bearing took a final leap into the turn-up of the French masters’ trousers – just as he cracked a little joke. Two relieved schoolboys exploded with laughter. Mr D beamed over his glasses at us, half-suspicious, half-pleased. Have I made somebody laugh at last?

All the other kids turned to look at us. What were those two up to now? We whispered the explanation around the class. From then on, when Mr D made a feeble joke, everyone howled with laughter. It must have made his day – wasted as a French teacher, should have been a comic.

As Madame Dobbins stood lovingly ironing her husband’s breeks, I wonder what choice French expression escaped her fair lips on discovering le roulement à billes!
William Clark, Barcaldine.

Keep Oban safe and tidy

Used Covid-19 lateral testing cassettes have been picked up from the roadside opposite Millpark Terrace in Oban. They could have been easily picked up by children and present a bio-hazard that should have been disposed of as the test kit instructions directed. Oban’s streets are also littered with dropped masks, which should be binned in the proper places.

We all want to keep our town safe and keep the streets looking clean and tidy, so as we start this new year let us all try that bit harder to keep Oban safe and beautiful.
Stephen Jones, Oban.

Oban woodlands are important to the town

The stark pre-1880 picture of Oban Hill that you reproduced in your celebration of 16 decades of the Oban Times brings home the importance of trees and woodland when compared with the attractive facade the town presents today.

This easily ignored aspect of our townscape must be cherished and maintained as much as any other, especially if investment and tourism are to flourish.
Ian Reid, Kilnwick.