THE ILEACH :: THE INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER FOR ISLAY + JURA

Excerpts from issue 51/19 13 July 2024

Air Mail
jura mail drone

In the highly favourable weather conditions that pervaded the isles on Monday 8 July, Royal Mail, in conjunction with Skyports, tested the delivery of mail to Jura by drone. The test was witnessed by a film crew along with Argyll & Bute MSP, Jenni Minto, Royal Mail management and two local Royal Mail staff, seen above in the grounds of Dunlossit Castle.

Photo: Les Wilson

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................


In this week's issue:

This Sporting Life: Bowmore Sports and Islay Football Club, CalMac crises once again, Apology from CalMac, Brendan O'Hara retains Argyll & Bute seat, Cantilena return to Islay, Safer landings for little terns, Ella's dancers return with trophies and medals, New manager at Ardnahoe, Questions over Islay's grid capacity, RNLI scroll to visit Islay, Port Ellen primary's end of term, Monitor Farm visit, IHS Battery project, Royal Mail trial drone delivery to Jura, Laura Cameron's photo project, By Election candidate statements, Charlène Busalli's Brought to Book, A Passion for Whisky - book review, Dom Joly on Jura, Botanist bursaries.

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................


A letter of apology from CalMac

I would like to apologise to everyone who was affected by the disruption to CalMac's ferry services to and from Islay on the last weekend of June.
In summary, the disruption between Thursday 27 and Sunday 30 June was due to a combination of factors including high winds, sea swell, closure of Port Askaig, infrastructure works at Kennacraig, MV Hebridean Isles having limited crew quarters available and the unexpected arrival of the grain boat MV Victress.
Whilst there are two berths at Port Ellen, the weather conditions and sea swell meant that it was unsafe for MV Finlaggan and MV Hebridean Isles to berth alongside the grain boat.
There was concern that, if berthed together overnight, there was a risk of damage to a vessel - which would have led to a much more damaging period of disruption than what we experienced over the weekend.
In the situation we found ourselves in at the weekend, we would usually have Port Askaig at our disposal. In periods of bad weather, or when the grain boat is using Port Ellen, it would be standard practice for our ferry to use Port Askaig instead. Due to the port's closure for vital upgrades for the new ferries, this was not an option.
MV Hebridean Isles had to leave the area to berth at Brodick due to ongoing infrastructure works at Kennacraig, which means only one berth is available. The nearest location for the vessel to berth overnight was Brodick, with Campbeltown and Oban both unavailable. She could not return to the area until Friday evening due to crew hours of rest, which is a legal requirement.
The decision to sail rests with a Master. Our Masters are vastly experienced mariners, all acutely aware of the safe operating parameters of the vessel of which they are in command, and they do not take the decision not to sail lightly. It is maritime law for Masters to decide whether to sail, and it is also enshrined in legislation that a Master must not have any external influence exerted upon them when making a safety-based decision. We stand by the decision-making of our Masters and they put the safety of the crew, and everyone who travels on a CalMac ferry, above all else.
However, I appreciate that the cancellation and delay of several services led to a build-up of traffic, particularly at Port Ellen. Our teams on the ground did their very best to manage traffic flow and provide up-to-date information. We also did all we could to prioritise essential travel for those who needed it, be they people or commercial passengers. This included removing some motorhome vehicles and commercially pre-booked space to allow us to ship time-sensitive backlogged cargo as soon as we possibly could.
Services have been disrupted more than we would like recently. But one thing that has always stood out is the consistently positive feedback for crews and port staff from people who have experienced disruption. Passengers regularly point out how helpful and supportive our frontline teams are. Over the weekend, they were subjected to unacceptable abuse. We know that disruptions are frustrating and stressful, but there is no excuse for abusive behaviour.
We are in regular contact with all involved in delivering both the timetabled ferry service and the port upgrade works at Port Askaig and Kennacraig. We are engaging with them proactively following the disruption at the weekend to look at what we can learn from it, and what actions we can take to avoid it happening again for the duration of the infrastructure works.
We have suggested a meeting with all service user sectors to review our fail-to-sail traffic priority and will share our documentation on fail-to-sail with the local ferry committee and other stakeholders.
Duncan Mackison
Interim CEO, CalMac

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................


Cantilena returns
cantilena

The Cantilena Festival, a part of Islay life in July each year since the turn of the century, returned with an opening concert at the Gaelic Centre on the evening of Sunday 7 July.
Welcomed by warm sunshine and a large, appreciative audience, violinist, Angus Ramsay joined with cellist Martin Storey and guitarist Allan Neave, to present a superb rendition of Bach's Violin Sonata No. 4.
Angus pointed out that this piece of music would normally be accompanied by piano, but the version played had been re-arranged instead, for guitar.
The second piece, prior to the interval, was Schubert's 'Arpeggione', the latter an instrument from a bygone age, described by Martin Storey as similar in stature to a cello, but featuring six strings and a fretted fingerboard.
Despite the lack of such an instrument, Storey and guitarist, Allan Neave, served a beautiful rendition of what was described as a 'Schubert song, but with the words missing'.
Prior to the interval, Angus Ramsay invited members of the audience to engage with the regular members of the festival with suggestions as to how Cantilena on Islay might move forward, intimating that they may visit later this year to host an informal meeting on the subject.
Following the timely break, guitarists Neave and Tim Beattie presented a selection of works for classical guitar, followed by the evening's finale; Mozart's Piano Concerto in C, with Esther Ersfield Mandujano on piano, accompanied by members of Cantilena's string players.
A marvellous return.

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................


This is Islay
this is islay podcast

A monthly podcast featuring individuals, personalities and features of Islay and Jura. Listen now at https://anchor.fm/thisisislay

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................


Biomass progress

Ian Storey writes:
Islay Development Initiative (IDI), Dallol Energy and AMP working with CVH Spirits over the last two years have established one of the world's first biomass plants fuelled by draff and forest biomass.
Bunnahabhain distillery's draff by-product is successfully blended with locally-harvested timber from Argyll and Bute to run the plant. The result has proven itself to be both sustainable and economically viable, giving Bunnahabhain a 95% reduction in its carbon footprint for distillation.
Following this set-up and proving phase, the relationship between IDI and Dallol will be moving to a pre-planned next phase where, having gained the necessary experience across all aspects of handling this exacting mix, and following the current 'silent season,' IDI will handle less of the day-to-day operations and concentrate on the forestry phase.
This will ensure sustainable supply of on-island timber to reduce and soon replace imported biomass, maximising the value of the community-owned and commercial forests of Islay and ensuring the sustainability of at least one Islay distillery and the community benefit this brings.

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................


to subscribe or advertise, contact ileach@ileach.co.uk

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................

NEXT ISSUE ON SALE, Saturday 27 July 2024

...........................................................................................................................................................................................................