Monday, April 25, 2011


All is well here at the Homestead. Following a demanding couple of weeks at work, I now have a weeks holiday and am enjoying doing a bit of sightseeing and taking it easy with the friend who is visiting. The weather has improved dramatically and it's 13 or 14 degrees most days, which suits me fine. The flowers are starting to appear and it was lovely to see the Machair on Barra covered in Primroses earlier this week. I've just got Daffodils and Narcissus in bloom in the garden, but there are Violets in flower on the croft, Marsh Marigolds in the ditches and Silverweed has just surfaced and is uncurling everywhere.
The birds are returning too. Although I've seen nothing unusual yet, the Wheatears are back and there is a Rock Pipit outside the kitchen window as I write this. The Gyrfalcon that has been spotted up and down the islands recently has not been to see me.

Way back in 1984, a couple from England bought the buildings of Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the Island of Scalpay, a short distance from Tarbert, Harris, some forty miles from here. The lighthouse is historic, very picturesque and potentially a great tourist attraction, but is in a woeful condition at present. It's in a lovely position overlooking the Minch and is one of my favourite places for walking and pottering about.
In the mid 90's, apparently after getting into difficulties with the mortgage on the property, the female owner set up a fake Charity called the Friends of Eilean Glas and over the next couple of years, attracted donations to the charity and then systematically stole more than £100,000, which others had given, believing it was being used to maintain and improve the lighthouse buildings, which it clearly was not.
Well, chickens come home to roost and in 2004, both owners appeared before Southampton Crown Court, when they were each jailed for three years for fraud, later reduced to two years on appeal. The Court was told that the money was used to purchase shares and premium bonds, to buy the council house of the mother of the male owner - said to be a financial adviser - and to pay the school fees of their son.
The couple did their time, were ordered by the Court to repay some of the fraudulently obtained money from their remaining assets and all went quiet for a few years.
Moving forward to the present, the local Community on Scalpay are interested in purchasing the lighthouse to restore it and develop its potential for the benefit of all. A fly in the ointment though, is that the lighthouse buildings remain under the ownership of the Friends of Eilean Glas Trust, which is now controlled by the son of the two individuals who were jailed for fraud in 2004. In an email to the West Highland Free Press, the son said that the Trust (he and his parents?) had their own plans to develop the lighthouse site and hoped to secure funding from Historic Scotland in the coming months to help them achieve this. He then went on to say that :
" We recognise the benefit of Community involvement in the management of Eilean Glas and efforts will be made to involve the community in the daily operations and long term strategy of the lighthouse"
Just in case you might think that I'm making this story up, there is plenty of information on the internet about Eilean Glas and the role of the owners who were imprisoned.
A spokesman for the community group hoping to buy the lighthouse made his own statement this week saying:
" The actions of the owners of the Eilean Glas Lighthouse led directly to their imprisonment and to the current lamentable state of the buildings. I therefore think it is difficult to see how any funding body or community group could have the confidence to support any organisation that has the managerial involvement of any member of this family."

Went to the museum in Stornoway a few days ago to see the twenty three Lewis chessmen which are on display here until September. I first saw them many years ago in London, but had forgotten just how beautiful and imposing they are to look at. They are spectacularly well carved and such an important exhibit for us to have back on the island where they were discovered in 1831. Strongly recommend a visit to see them if you possibly can.

It's a bit windy, but I need to use the time usefully before I go back to work, so we're off to cut some peats now.

1 comment:

Iain said...

Preposterous notion that these charlatans should be permitted to control the Lighthouse and its future in opposition - it seems to me - to the local community! Why wasn't the issue and a possible confiscation order against the fraud/debts considered by the Crown Court? God alone knows!