On the 20th November at 14:30, the alarm was raised on the discovery of the Applecross fishing boat ‘Varuna’ grounded on the shore. There was no-one on board.
This sparked a major search involving the RNLI, coastguard, rescue helicopter and many members of the community. The search continued over a number of weeks, sometimes in challenging weather conditions. The family of Ali “Snoddy” MacLeod used his Applecross Life blog to keep the community updated on the search. His body was found on the 9th December at Staffin. My thoughts are very much with the family of Mr MacLeod, and also his home community of Applecross. I met him several times in his secondary role at the Applecross Inn, having usually just delivered his fresh catch – ready to be served to dinners in the world famous inn.
Many people forget how dangerous fishing is, but also how much a part it plays in the lives of so many people on the West in particular. It really is true when they say it is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
On Friday 15th December, many people were following the drifting of the fish feed vessel MV Fame off the coast of Harris and the subsequent attendance of both Stornoway and Leverburgh RNLI lifeboats and the emergency tug from Kirkwall. Many people were quick to criticise the ‘toxic’ cargo (is fish feed toxic..?) and what would happen if she had grounded and been holed. This is of course linked to the ongoing argument about retaining an emergency towing tug in Stornoway as well as in Kirkwall. But I would encourage anyone who criticised the MV Fame to go on a Ship AIS tracker and have a look at the number of vessels five times the size (and more!) going through the Minch everyday carrying usually crude oil. Instead of worrying about a fish feed boat, I would be worrying about these tankers and what would happen if they grounded and started leaking their cargo into our waters. Have you thought about how long it would take to bring a two hundred meter drifting tanker to a halt when the nearest suitable towing vessel could be as far away as Kirkwall in Orkney? Of course this doesn’t just apply to the Minch. Look at how many vessels pass the mouth of the loch on a daily basis, from fishing boats to submarines and the regular visitor that is the small cruise ship Hebridean Princess. Our seas are thriving, but we need adequate emergency support to be mobilised in the event of a marine emergency. Thank goodness we have many RNLI lifeboat stations and dedicated volunteers across the West, but I don’t think a lifeboat is big enough to bring a crude oil tanker under control.
I was delighted to receive a large collection of old newspaper articles from Am Baile and have started sharing them on the Kishorn Online website and social media pages (as well as my own!). It is very interesting to see accounts of events and incidents that took place in the local community, particularly about things that are not here today such as the Kishorn school. There also some sad stories reported, such as the death of a man trying to get to Applecross from Kishorn who perished in very heavy snow fall. Keep an eye out for more of these articles…
Speaking of very heavy snow fall, the Bealach was completely closed at the end of November for a few days while it was covered in snow. The Lochaber and Skye Police twitter account shared the photo below. Over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of December there was very heavy snowfall on the hills and even at sea level. This snowfall and also low temperatures resulted in many local roads being blocked. This was on a weekend, but there is a problem that exists during the week. School bus routes (notably Achintraid) are not being gritted before the school bus because they are not ‘priority one’ gritting routes. The priority route system needs redrawn. Now, almost every community wants their road gritted and I understand that it isn’t possible to do every single one. But is it not common sense, when it is the law that children should attend school, that school routes are cleared and gritted and made as safe as possible? You also cannot expect the bus drivers to drive down these roads in treacherous conditions. I am going to investigate what council schemes are available (if any) which allows communities to take control of their own gritting. If I had the money in my bank account to buy a quadbike or small tractor and purchase a grit spreading trailer then I would. But like many of us I don’t have that money. But, if the money can be found for such a scheme then I personally would commit to gritting the road before the school bus. Otherwise its a shovel and hand bucket… how long would that take me?
On the 21st November there was another landslip on the Inverness to Kyle train line, this time just past Muir of Ord. This meant that some services were cancelled. It is a reminder of how much of a lifeline this route is, and you don’t notice it until its not there! I remember a few years ago reading a letter in the local paper suggesting that the line should be completely closed and the Stromeferry Bypass road moved onto the current line away from the rock face. Apparently the service wasn’t used enough to justify it being kept open. In the middle of the winter on the evening service, yes, the train can be very quiet. But overall each day it remains a well used service and I certainly couldn’t justify closing it down.
There has been no official notification from the Highland Council about the Stromeferry Bypass but I have heard that after the latest stage in the ‘replacement journey’ it looks like a new bypass through Glen Udalain has come out on top. I’ve lost all hope of seeing work starting within five years and I just wish that the Scottish and UK Governments would commit to the project too! I have heard “council road, council problem” too many times. Enough is enough. I want the Government’s to tell us what routes can be used to get funding for the replacement option, as the Council cannot afford to fund it all.
A defibrillator is being installed at the Kishorn fish farm and although it will be located at the shore base, it will be available for any medical emergency in the village. It is becoming such a vital piece of equipment to have in any area but particularly in rural communities. I will keep you updated on the final location of the defibrillator once it is installed.
The village of Lochcarron now has several defibrillators, including one outside the village hall and one at the back of the Smithy Heritage Centre. It is fantastic that Kishorn and Lochcarron have them particularly with the amount of visitors and traffic that go through each village in the summer. I have seen that in parts of Skye and the mainland, there is a first responser scheme where several local residents are trained to assist with local medical emergencies. It is a scheme that seems to be very popular in rural and remote areas where a doctors surgery or hospital are not close by.
I am looking forward to launching the revamped Kishorn Online website in the New Year. Although I give it a ‘freshen up’ every year along with my daily and weekly updates, I have done some new design work and made the website menus less complex and more direct. Make sure that you keep up to date with the Facebook and Instagram pages too! I always enjoy seeing your photos and hearing your views.
I often look out my window and just admire the view. Sometimes I take a quick look and move on… other times I notice every crevice on the Bealach, every wave on the sea, every tree that is now bare. I forget how lucky I am not just to live in a place that has spectacular scenery and an always changing landscape, but in a place that has such a sense of community, of knowing every face. It’s a very special place, this wee west coast settlement and I look forward to returning home to it after being away, especially in the dark. Passing through Sanachan and seeing the shop sign, the light of the selfie box and the distant streetlights of Broadford as you pass the seafood bar and reach the sea again. Turning at the junction and seeing the lights of Achintraid glistening across the water… and looking forward to seeing what has changed once daylight has arrived. But although the seasons come and go, and things are built or knocked down, the Kishorn Islands still sit at the head of the loch. The tide still rises to the shingle of Achintraid beach and goes out to reveal the large expanse of flat sands. And Beinn Bhàn still looms over the settlements, with small dots of cars travelling the Bealach na Ba scattered across the slope. I would agree with anyone who says there is no place quite like home. And there is no place quite like Kishorn.
I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes, and all the best for 2018. Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur dhuibh uile.