CalMac masters talk weather in new Storm Heroes programme

Donnie Mackay and Michael MacNeil, MV Hebrides.Donnie Mackay and Michael MacNeil, MV Hebrides.
Donnie Mackay and Michael MacNeil, MV Hebrides.
A brand new BBC Alba series called Storm Heroes '“ Gaisgich na Stoirme in Gaelic '“ will begin tonight (November 15) with Caledonian MacBrayne playing a feature role throughout.

Masters from both CalMac’s MVs Hebrides and Lord of the Isles will talk about stormy weather and the challenges they can face getting through, as well as the difficult choices they must sometimes make.

The programme in Gaelic with English subtitles, takes a look at the work of those who keep everything ticking over in the face of extreme conditions – the Storm Heroes.

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In the new four-part series, presenter Donnie Mackay joins a small army of people who leave their warm beds to battle the elements on our behalf. We see how they prepare ahead of bad weather, and how they manage to do their jobs when the storm arrives.

For episode one, Donnie is on the high seas with CalMac, hearing from skippers about how their decisions are made – on occasion, CalMac vessels will be the only ones still sailing when other shipping been confined to port – find out why.

The programme hears from two experienced masters, Michael MacNeil, skipper of MV Hebrides and Iain MacNeil, skipper of MV Lord of the Isles, both of whom are from Barra.

CalMac will feature in each episode of the four-episode series and the film crew visited a number of ferries during the making of the programme, including MVs Hebrides, Loch Portain and Loch Bhrusda. During the course of the series, they chatted to skippers and crew alike about how bad weather affects their jobs – whether they’re on the bridge at the controls of the ship or in the galley rustling up hearty fare for the passengers.

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Donnie also meets those who supply essential services to their communities. People like Neil McCormick working for SSEN in Uist, delivering emergency power where it’s needed, and care worker Chrissie Macrae in Stornoway, who looks after the elderly in their own homes.

Keeping the streets free from snow and ice is Comhairle nan Eilean Siar roads manager Roddy MacDonald, who gets up at 3am to make the roads safe before the morning rush.

And lorry driver Murdo John Mackay shares his experiences of driving through snow storms to get essential goods delivered.

In Perthshire, during the height of the floods, Donnie meets emergency teams at Tayside Contracts who are busy saving people’s homes from disaster; and in the Cairngorms, he helps farmer Robert Macdonald feed his flock in blizzard conditions.

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While Donnie braves the elements, BBC ALBA weather presenter Sarah Cruickshank joins forces with meteorologists to track our winter storms as they approach. Sarah gives us insight into each weather front as it comes in, providing an explanation for our changing weather patterns.

Storm Heroes, produced by Eyeline Media for BBC ALBA, starts on the channel on Tuesday 15th November at 8.30 until 9.00pm.

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