The Stornoway Trust Election count took place on Tuesday and the electorate responded well to the interest in this year’s ballot with 4,261 votes cast, 42% of those eligible to vote.
Twenty-two candidates - the largest list in 40 years - fought a campaign on several issues from Sunday opening to renewables.
A lot of campaigning had taken place on social media, with a number of Facebook pages set up to promote candidates and debate issues.
Christian blogger and college lecturer Catriona Murray was the biggest success story of the night, she received more votes than anyone else.
Catriona, who blogs as Post Tenebras Lux and writes a monthly column of the same name in the Free Church monthly ‘Record’, received 1,849 votes.
The other successful candidates were Donald ‘Dickie’ Macleod, who took 1,629 votes, Donald Nicholson with 1,332 votes and Murdo F Campbell with 1,189 votes.
Norman A Maciver, who has already served 12 years on the Trust, was voted back in with 1,129 votes.
Former trustee Callum Ian Macmillan was also standing for re-election but lost his seat.
There was significant interest in the election, with Stornoway Town Hall being packed for the count and the declaration of the result, which came just after midnight. The polls had closed at 8pm.
Speaking immediately afterwards, Catriona, who lives in North Tolsta, said: “I’m speechless. I’m delighted and I’m just pleased at the confidence that the voters have placed in me and I’m pleased that it shows that a woman can achieve elected office in Lewis – even a Free Church woman.”
She added: “It’s been a tough campaign. I’ve been subjected to some fairly vitriolic abuse online but I’ve had a lot of good support as well.
“I’m amazed I’ve topped the poll. I certainly didn’t expect that. I thought I’d be lucky to be placed in the top five. I hope I can repay their confidence by being the kind of trustee they want.”
Donald ‘Dickie’ Macleod, a retired teacher, had spoken in his campaign literature of the “critical importance” of the renewables issue and the need for Stornoway Trust to be sensitive to the community’s heritage.
Speaking after the result, he said: “I feel honoured to be elected and very thankful to the electorate who voted for me. I will do my best to honour the commitments I gave in my election campaign.
“It’s a very exciting time for the Trust – new challenges, lots of things going on – that we’re looking forward to taking forward together.”
Murdo F Campbell, a Deacon in Garrabost Free Church, said he was “surprised” to get in, admitting he now felt “under a wee bit of pressure when you realise everything that’s in front of us now”.
He added: “There’s a lot of work to be done. I think it’s exciting times ahead for the Trust; a lot of opportunities in front of us.
“I just hope and pray that we all get on together and work together and work with other community organisations throughout the Trust and throughout the island.”
The other newly-elected trustee, Donald Nicholson, was not at the count.
Donald, who served as a councillor with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for 22 years, had said in his campaign literature: “I have no wish to see any further erosion of the Lord’s Day among us as a day of worship and rest and if elected will vote accordingly if required.”
Norman A Maciver, who took the fifth seat, said he was “delighted” to be re-elected, admitting he was “absolutely surprised as well”.
He said: “I’m delighted that people have put their confidence in me to vote for me again.
“I’ve done 12 years and I didn’t come here today thinking that I had any advantage over anyone else for being there for 12 years.
“I’m just delighted that there’s five new trustees elected and there was a better turnout.” It was now time to “carry on the work”, he said.
Speaking afterwards, Stornoway Trust Factor Iain Maciver said: “The community were given an opportunity to vote for their landlord and it’s good to see that over 42 per cent took the time to do so.
“The interest exceeded expectation and I hope that those who are elected will enjoy a peaceful and positive term of office.”