FORMER CARINISH INN, NORTH UIST
Originally built in 1703, the Carinish Inn was a hostelry from then until late last year. The owners, a local building firm, put it on the market and after a few false starts, it was sold to the Free Church of Scotland. With one gigantic bound, the pub metamorphosed into a church on November 18. Services are now being held there regularly and one end of the building is about to be converted into a Manse, to house the new Minister. Two small long established churches on Uist have been sold to help fund this project. One of the brains behind this pub to church transformation has been a Minister on Benbecula, who I have regular contact with through my own work. Over the years, my views on the Church and religion in general have been fairly lukewarm, but this particular Minister, a good man by any measure, has helped to restore my faith. He is particularly interested in addictions and his church has set up a variety of non judgemental support services and self help groups for people with drug and alcohol problems, of whom there are many on these islands. They have a full time paid alcohol worker and whenever I have needed to get someone into rehab urgently, he has obtained funding and a place at their residential addiction rehabilitation centre in Northern Ireland quickly and without fuss. An application for a state managed rehab would involve vast amounts of form filling, problems over funding and a wait of many months and sometimes longer.
The issue of the Sabbath and Sunday ferry sailings to and from Lewis continues to generate great passion on both sides of the argument. Last week, the Islands Member for the Scottish Parliament raised the subject with the Government. The response was - "We recognise that there are very different and irreconcilable views about the potential introduction of Sunday sailings on the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry service." The Government spokesperson went on to say that "Calmac ( the ferry operator) is best placed to consider this issue". Calmac have indicated that they will take no action on Sunday sailings until the new reduced ferry fare structure is reviewed in three years time. So that's it then. No prospect of change for at least three years. Pro Sunday ferry campaigners are dismayed at this news whilst the Lord's Day Observance Society are dead chuffed.
During the last few years, electronic tagging has become commonplace for some released prisoners and as a sentence at court. Well, the idea has caught on and the EU currently have an intention to introduce compulsory electronic tagging and individual recording for every single sheep in the land. There are hundreds of thousands of sheep wandering around Lewis and Harris and the notion that they all be tagged to keep track of them sounds like bureaucratic lunacy. At present, a company called SERCO has the contract to monitor tagged offenders here and I suppose they could moonlight by keeping an electronic eye on sheep who are not complying with their curfews on Saturday nights. You may think that I'm spinning you a yarn and making this up, but not so. It's a genuine proposal from the politicians. Understandably, the National Farmers Union and Crofters Union are not best pleased and are making urgent representations to Brussels to stop this nonsense before it starts.
I've just started to feel that I'm emerging from hibernation after a long harsh Winter. The days are lengthening, it's warmer and it's raining less. My daffodils have still not burst into flower yet, but after months of dark evenings of self imposed confinement in front of a warm radiator with an improving book, I'm beginning to get out a bit more. Last night, I went into Stornoway to see an Island Book Trust slide show and presentation on the the history of migration between Lewis and Patagonia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Rivetting.
Tomorrow night, it's a trip to the cinema to see Frost/Nixon and Friday evening, it's a concert by a brilliant group of female Gaelic singers called Lewis Women.
Hell, It's becoming one endless educational and social whirl. If I can find time in between engagements, I'll blog again.