Monday, June 29, 2009


Yellow Iris grow all over the islands and look lovely, but are past their best now. During the last week, the pink Spotted Orchids have appeared around the croft, cultivated Delphiniums are in bloom in the garden and escaped Mimulus, Yellow Monkey Flower, is growing in ditches throughout the village. The heads of white Cotton Grass are waving about everywhere.
The Orchids are late this year. Just a week ago, there were only a few scattered patches and individual flowers, but taking a walk to the bottom of the croft last night to see what's there, we found hundreds of them, which is very pleasing. I've been wondering if the Orchids have good years and bad years and if so, this one is a success.

I keep a close eye on the birds that inhabit the garden and croft and have had recent visits from a pied Wagtail, Turtle Dove and Black Backed Gull, in addition to the more regular visitors. Wheatears seem to be everywhere now though, but I'm not sure if they have been nesting on the croft.

The weather has been wonderful during the last couple of weeks and continues to be glorious. With the help of visiting friend, the peats have been cut and are now drying well . Lots of sunshine and a good wind should ensure that they will be ready for use long before Christmas. The village grazing clerk tells me that our peat banks are in a Site of Special Scientific Interest on the moor and the village gets a small sum of money each year for looking after the banks carefully. Consequently, with the guidance of the grazing clerk, we've cut the peats then put the turves from the top of the bank into the trench where the peat has been removed and it all looks neat and tidy again now.
I've friends coming to stay in August with their two children, who are aged about ten and twelve. I'm hoping to persuade them that it would be very exciting to bag my peats, bring them back to the house and make a nice big stack by the kitchen door for me. We'll see.

There has been a Government missile range on South Uist, with an associated tracking station on St Kilda and a military base on Benbecula, for about fifty years. As part of a cost cutting exercise, the Ministry of Defence has announced that it proposes to transfer some of the functions of the range to another site, in Wales, with the possible loss of up to 125 jobs on Uist. This is a terrible blow for the local community, especially in the middle of a recession when replacement jobs are few and far between.
Ironically, there was resistance against the opening of the range many years ago, but it has been a valued asset on the islands for a long time now. As part of their plans, the Ministry intend to remove all personnel from St Kilda, which has twelve people working there and all remaining equipment will be made automatic or operated remotely.
A task force has been set up locally to opppose the plan to reduce the workforce on the range and to minimise the impact of these job losses for the community. An uphill struggle I think.

There have been regular sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises at the Butt of Lewis and Tiumpan head recently, so get here quickly if you want to see them.

I've been shilly-shallying about going to the Hebridean Celtic Festival this year, but have finally got my act together and booked tickets to see Karen Matheson at An Lanntair and Fred Morrison at the Community Hall in Breasclete.
Incidentally, I went to see Andy Irvine playing in Stornoway last week and was reminded that the last time I saw him play, with Paul Brady, was more than thirty years ago. Their version of 'Arthur Macbride', from the brilliant 1976 album 'Andy Irvine and Paul Brady,' still leaves me open mouthed in admiration.

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