Thursday, May 07, 2009


The weather here deteriorated rapidly last night and most of the inter island ferries were cancelled today because of high winds. I've been working on Uist and Barra for the last few days and thought that my flight back from Benbecula this afternoon might be cancelled too. Oh no. Our intrepid pilot decided that nothing, especially a bit of wind, was going to stop him getting home tonight. With his reassuring words "it will be a bit bumpy, but don't worry, just hang on to something " ringing in our ears, we took off. The next half an hour is best forgotten and I have no idea how I managed to keep my lunch down. The pilot made a good landing at Stornoway though, bless him.

I'd like to tell you that life improved then, but not so. Got to my car in the airport car park to find that I had a puncture. Changing the wheel in a high, stinging wind was not amusing. On the way home, a very annoying little dash light came on suddenly to inform me that one of my doors was open. Stopped the car just as it started to rain stair rods, horizontal ones at that. Nothing wrong with any of the doors, just a faulty warning light. Got soaked to the skin in about twenty seconds, so good humour disappearing by the minute. Did matters get better at home? Regrettably not. Drove down the drive to the house to find a flock of sheep had leapt over the three foot fence separating my garden from the common grazings and had eaten everything they could find growing, including eighteen strawberry plants I've lovingly tended for the last month.

Lewis, Harris and North Uist are Protestant, but South Uist, Eriskay and Barra remained Catholic after the Reformation. The very beautiful thirty foot statue of Madonna and Child, known as 'Our Lady of the Isles' and shown above, keeps watch over South Uist on the Hill of Rueval, near Gerinish. It was carved out of white granite by Hew Lorimer, erected in 1957 and consecrated the following year. It's a wonderfully imposing piece of work, especially at close quarters and well worth climbing a very long and steep path to have a good look at.

A Stornoway man is unhappy that his bank is refusing to allow him to write his cheques in Gaelic. For twenty years, he was a customer of the Bank of Scotland, who happily let him sign his name and insert the amount in Gaelic, on cheques issued by them. Earlier this year, he moved his account to the Royal Bank of Scotland, who have now told him he must complete all his cheques in English in future. RBS apparently give him cheque books and statements printed in Gaelic, but are insisting that the date, amount and signature are only acceptable in English. An RBS spokesperson said :

" It is necessary when customers issue cheques that they are written in English because in the UK, that is the language understood by all those through whose hands the cheque may pass from the time it is issued until it is paid. We must be able to verify that the amount written in words is the same as the amount shown in figures. English presents no difficulty for our staff, but if Gaelic is used, that would require having Gaelic readers at every place where Gaelic cheques may be presented for payment. For practical reasons, that is not possible, so we must insist that cheques are written in English."

This from a huge Scottish bank with a long established branch in Stornoway. I wonder why cheques written in Gaelic were no problem to the Bank of Scotland?

1 comment:

OR Melling said...

That is disgraceful. All any bank official has to do is go online and access an international translator. It's not as if the bloody banks don't charge enough for using a cheque, so why shouldn't they have to make an effort to protect their endangered ancestral language? Does Scots Gaelic have no rights, no protection in Scotland? Did he bring it to the Scottish Independence Party? (I do believe a former musician with Runrig is a prominent member.) How about the European Union?