Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mining the Archive/Alistair Campbell/Getting My Priorities Right

As you know isleoftiree.net is still online (under new ownership and in a new format) all the old pages are retained by me. Recently I’ve been having a look at some of the old reports and photographs I filed back when I had the original site.

This week’s rummage in the vaults came up with thie grandly titled Tiree: It's Airport and History from September 2001. Actually there's not much history on this page but there are some fascinating photographs such as the one above taken by Iain Knapman in 1969.

ALISTAIR REMAINS A SCOT AT HEART: Here's an interesting little snippet which appeared recently in the Sunday Mail.

SPIN doctor Alastair Campbell has REFUSED to play for England in the celebrity Soccer Aid match - because he was desperate to team up with Scots chef Gordon Ramsay.

Tony Blair's former communications chief was born and brought up in in Keighley, West Yorkshire.

But he qualifies as a Scot thanks to his Gaelic-speaking father Donald, the Hebridean island of Tiree, and his mother Elizabeth, who is from Kilmarnock ...

Something happened in January this year which changed our lives forever. Joanne, my wife, suffered a mild stroke.

I dropped in to see her at the Co-Op one afternoon just to say hello. She told me about this strange tingling sensation all down her left side.

I took Joanne to the surgery. The Doctor confirmed what I already suspected – Joanne had succumbed to a Transient Ischaemic Attack or ‘mild’ stroke. The next thing we knew we were boarding a tiny Islander two prop plane and heading for Glasgow where Joanne was to be admitted to the Southern General Hospital.

I’m glad to report that Joanne soon recovered the feeling in her left side. Her concentration is not as good as it once was although this is improving and her energy levels are greatly depleted. But she should be back to full fighting fitness within the next few months.

In a sense we’re grateful that this happened the way it did. It could have been so much worse. All she has to do now is keeping taking the pills and hopefully there won’t be a reoccurence.

We both got a fright though. Something like this makes me wonder why I don’t appreciate things much more than I do. If you’re like me you’ll spend far too much of your time worrying about things which might never come to pass and dwelling on the past and wondering if you could have done things better. We seem to spend so little time in the present.

Marcel Proust, the 19th century French novelist, once wrote something along the lines of ‘the true voyage of discovery consists not in travelling to other lands but in seeing with new eyes.’

Every single second we’re alive is a rare and precious gift beyond compare.

I’m so glad that we are members of the close knit and vibrant community that is Tiree. I’m not renowned for being wise but the idea to move here with my wife and my daughter is one of my more smarter moves. That was nearly 14 years ago and I still get a kick out of being here. Sometimes I don’t even mind going to work and that’s saying something.

But being part of a small community can also hurt. Already this year the island community has had to suffer more than it’s fair share of tragedy and sadness. I still find it had to accept that Neil MacKinnon of Balevullin is no longer with us and miss him very much as do many others.

Of course the reason why we hurt when tragedy befalls a member of our community is simply because we care for each other.

Living in a small community like ours has often been compared to living in a goldfish bowl. But for me it’s more like being a part of great big family. That certainly doesn’t mean that we all get along swimmingly all of the time. But what it does mean is that that when it comes down to it, when push comes to shove, we will look out for each other.

That’s why you wouldn’t get me to live anywhere else, not for all the tea in China.

Thanks to Doctor Pringle and Nurse Storm Kemp for looking after Joanne so well in the immediate aftermath of her illness and to the Nurses and Doctors at SGH.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tiree's Endurance Sportsmen

At long last the sun has returned!
I managed out for some much-desired training in the morning and in the early evening. I have to be honest and say I felt less than sharp today (something to do with a late night a bottle of white wine) and the wind out of the west is still quite strong when you're trying to run in to it.
Maybe I shouldn't have waited until my 50th year to begin a running career!
I wish I could be more like one or two Tiree heroes of mine. If you were a regular reader of IOTON you will recall that quite a few times I featured the accomplishments of road cyclist Duncan Urquhart on the site.
One hero of Duncan's stature would surely be enough for such a small island as Tiree. It's remarkable actually that so many Tirisdeach and those of Tiree descent excel in what can only be called endurance sports.
Take Leven Brown for instance (pictured above). Leven is a really nice, unassuming and quiet kind of a guy, extremely polite. When you are introduced to Leven your first impression is that this man - like most of us - lives a normal, unexciting and even mundane existence.
Not so long ago Leven rowed single-handed across the Atlantic in his boat Atlantic Wholff taking a route similar to that taken by Columbus to the new world on his third voyage in 1498 Leven left from Puerta Sherry Marina, Cadiz in Spain on 14th August 2005 and arrived at Scarborough harbour in Trinidad on the 28th January 2006 after a journey dogged by running repairs, a collision with a trawler and a three-day lightning storm in which he thought he might lose his life.
I bumped in to Leven recently in the Scarinish Co-of where he told me that his next adventure will be to wind surf - I think he said - across the Pacific in a specially built wind-surfing boat.
There's a rather fascinating website - www.columbusrun.com - where you can learn all about the journey and read Leven's email dispatches from the Wholff while he was actually engaged in his adventure.
If you are at all interested in people who live life to its fullest then I highly recommend you check out the site.
Tiree Endurance Sportsman #2 is Will Wright. Will is a mate of mine, a triathlete, physical fitness liaison to the school, wind surfer and all-round good guy. He's been taking part in a mountain bike competition known as The Scottish Cross Country Series 2006 (or SXC). So far three events have taken place in the Sport M series: at Laggan, Fort William and recently in the Sidlaws at Dundee. Will came 2nd at Laggan, 5th at Fort William and - on the 21st May - he won the event in Dundee. There are another four events this year in the Sport M series and we all send our congratulations to Will and best wishes for continued success.
Tiree Endurance Sportsman #3 - and this one is hot off the press. Okay, J. Scott Cameron doesn't actually live on Tiree - in fact, he lives in Guelph, Ontario. But his roots and his heart reside on Tiree so it is with great pride that I tell you that today Scott ran the ING Ottawa Marathon and finished 136th in the category Men 45 - 49. If you know anything about marathon running then you'll know that any non-professional who posts a time under four hours can be justly proud of their achievement. Scott finished in 3:59:31!
I see from the race stats that Scott got to the 10km point in 50 minutes. That's incredible. As you know I'm training for the 1st Tiree 10k on the 10th June and I think if I post a time 20 minutes later than Scott's I'll be doing well.
I relate these three stories in no particular order. They are all people I look up to and I think we can be justly proud of them.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Boo Hugh

Two weeks exactly until the Tiree 10k and once again the wind and rain has stopped me from going out to do any serious training. I ventured out on my bike this morning, though: a quick 6 miles or so just to get out of the house and in to the fresh air. And boy, was it fresh! The wind out of the west was very strong - according to the BBC it was something like 25 mph - and I 'granny geared' it all the way back from Crossapol where I'd gone to try to find my digital camera.

Some of you will know already that I work for Argyll and Bute Council. On Thursday evening my colleague Allina Langley and I took a few of the older folks who come to the Lunch Club at Crossapol out to the concert given my Cliar at An Talla. This highly rated Gaelic band were performing during A 'Bhuain and they were certainly worth going to see. Somehow I misplaced my digital camera after the gig and this morning's cycle was an attempt by me to 'retrace my steps' in the hope of coming across it but it was nowhere to be seen.

So it was a wild and windy morning. Already the island seems a lot quieter, something I'm a little sad about. All the folks from Canada, the States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere were so nice and it was a pleasure to meet them all. In fact, during the interval at the Cliar concert I got a tap on the shoulder and when I turned round the gentleman who stood there introduced himself as Archie MacKinnon, a long-time email contact. It was wonderful to meet him. Archie - like so many other people during this week - told me how much he had appreciated Isle of Tiree Online News and how sorry he was that it was no longer available.

In retrospect I'm also sad that I didn't get to most of the A 'Bhuain week. Ideally I would have taken the entire week off work so that I could attend more but alas this wasn't possible. Most of the organising of the event took place in the office adjacent to my own, at the Business Centre in Crossapol. To my mind Liz Lapsley worked like a Trojan to make the thing run as smoothly as possible. Everyone who had anything to do with A 'Bhuain should get a medal.

As I mentioned in the last post my time away has been spent pursuing other projects. Apart from the singing and writing that I've been doing - and learning how to run a 10k without having a heart attack! - one of my other long-time ambitions was fulfilled and that was to act. Again, it was A 'Bhuain which enabled this long cherished wish to come true. Along with a number of Tiree friends I appeared last week in a play directed by Mabel MacArthur of The Glassary. The play was a re-enactment of The Napier commission visit to Tiree in 1883.

I played the part of Hugh MacDiarmid, the factor on Tiree at the time. Mabel asked me to play the part very sleazy and I duly obliged. In fact when I volunteered to take part in the play I stipulated that I would only do it if I could play a 'bad guy'. Mabel duly obliged. I tell you there is no buzz quite like that of being booed and hissed at by 300 men, women and children. What a buzz! Everybody who took part was great and I've got to hand it to Mabel - she's a great organiser and a great director. Word is that the week after next we will be putting the play on again, this time so that the Tiree folks who were working can get a chance to see it.
The digital camera? It turned up wedged under the seat of the bus we'd used to take the folks to the Cliar concert. I found it only after I'd searched the bus a second time.
It will take a while to get all the links to other sites re-established but while I'm doing that I'd like to bring to your attention Keith Dash's Home Page (the link is under 'useful Tiree-related websites'). Keith was the moderator of the Tiree branch of the Rootsweb genealogy website. (I'm not sure if he still is - my mate over in Guelph, J. Scott Cameron, may be doing that now.) While I've been on sabbatical Keith has put his fantastic site together and you genealogy buffs are going to love it.
One last thing: at the bottom of each of these postings you can click on a link to leave your comments. A pop-up window should appear and you can then type in your message. Scrolling down you will be asked to provide to provide your 'Blogger' ID, an 'Other' ID or whether you wish to stay anonymous. My feeling is most of you will not have a 'Blogger' ID so it's going to be one of the other two. Finally you will be asked to key in one of those random letter generator things which prevent the site being over-run by hackers.
I hope to be hearing from you!

Friday, May 26, 2006

By way of a re-introduction ...

Well, what do you know? Look who’s resurfaced!

And dare I say that I think I know who I’m talking to here because the first thing I’m going to do when I get finished with this first instalment of my web log is to send the link http://tiree.blogspot.com- to my friend in Guelph, Ontario, J. Scott Cameron, so that he can tell his Tiree web ring that I’ve crawled out of the woodwork after something of a hiatus.

My friends, this first installment of my Blogspot will be tedious. Please be patient.

Having said that I am of course presuming that there is someone out there reading this. I suppose it’s rather presumptuous of me to think that any of you will be interested in anything I have to say.

Over the past 18 months or so I’ve had a lot of feedback from people both here on Tiree and from folks – mostly Tiree descendents – abroad about how much they miss the website.

In the last week however something has happened to make me come out of – as it were – retirement. It was A ‘Bhuain week on Tiree, the time of the Homecoming. Apart from putting together a very simple website at http://tireehomecoming.comand playing the part of a nasty old factor in the play of The Napier Commission at An Talla last Tuesday I didn’t have anything to do with the organising of the event.

However, as the week went on I had the opportunity to meet people who told me how much the website had meant to them and how much they missed it. I must admit I was very touched by the nice comments and – I have to admit! – a little mad at myself for abandoning a project which so obviously brought a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people.

I always enjoyed putting the website together even though it was, at times, hard work.

Once or twice along the way I also managed to upset a couple of people, believe it or not: the website (which was always a voluntary and non-profit making ‘hobby’) became so popular (sustaining 3000 hits a month at its peak) for some it became the real voice of Tiree in the media. I never ever intended this to happen. However, being an independent operator, responsible only to myself, I was, at times, able to ‘tell it like it was’ and even, once or twice, to hit the target.

Although the overwhelming majority of people who read the page really enjoyed it there were always one or two people who wondered ‘who does he think he is?’ My retort has to be that the internet is there for anyone to use. If you don’t like what I’m saying, well, why not start your own website?

However the kind emails I would often get – particularly from people in other countries – convinced me that IOTON was a worthwhile project, one which had brought a lot of people not only enjoyment but also the opportunity to explore their roots, listen to Gaelic singing online, view and save pictures online, make their own opinions heard – and so on.

I have to be quite honest and say I initially had not intended IOTON to last more than one year. I started it partly as a winter project in or around October 2000. But I was also quite taken on with the idea of providing a way for descendents of the Tiree ‘Diaspora’ to be able to see what their ancestors’ homeland looked like and to give them a flavour of what was happening here. IOTON soon became an online newspaper.

I was always concerned, however, that it should not in any way challenge An Tirisdeach, Tiree’s ‘official’ print newspaper and always tried to assist and work with the various editors.

While I’ve been away I’ve been able to take up a few projects.

For one thing I returned to my roots and, at the ripe old age of 48+ got together with a bunch of friends and formed The Defenders. I love to sing and just to prove it I’m attaching a photograph at the top of this posting and in my profile. We are a rock group, no holds barred. We are loud and proud. I’m now 50 and we are gearing up for a couple of gigs, here on Tiree and over on Coll. Growing old disgracefully, that’s me.

Something else I’ve been doing is writing. I’m about a quarter of the way into a surrealist science fiction cum whatever novel which is also online in a blog but which no one reads except my daughter. Thus it should be.

This is close becoming a rambling diatribe on my part. Just let me say a couple of things before I bring this ‘re-introduction’ to an end.

With this current technology I could have run IOTON so much easier. Expect from this the same updates on what is happening locally, pictures, links – all the stuff you had at IOTON. The only thing that’s really changing is that it’s more personal. Instead of filing news reports I’ll just be passing things on to you informally – hopefully just as if I was dropping you a line every other day.

Although the IOTON name and URL has been sold I still have access to the majority of the pictures and even some of the very early pages that appeared on the site. We’ll be mining the archive regularly!

I’m sorry this has gone on and on. But let me finally say I’m not sure how we should do the old ‘email alert’ thing. There are new and more efficient ways to do this nowadays – RSS aggregators which will automatically download new postings (but I don’t know how to do that yet!) This stuff is so simple to work that I’d hope to be posting every other day. Can you handle it? Let's just say that if you want to be reminded everytime this blog updates send me an email to gdwscott@hotmail.com with 'update' in the subject line and I will drop you one back when the blog is renewed.

I hope you will enjoy the new relaxed approach. Sorry about this long, drawn out rant. For some reason I thought I had to explain.

I’m looking forward to this.