Stornoway Gazette letters 16/5/13

A cute spring lamb at Skigersta , by Ali Finlayson  of Ness. The recent rainy and cold weather has meant our usually plentiful supply of Beautiful Island photographs has become a little thin.  If you have some striking images you would like to share with our readers please send them to  Remember images need to be around 1MB in size to reproduce well and should be in a jpeg format. With your image please Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
A cute spring lamb at Skigersta , by Ali Finlayson of Ness. The recent rainy and cold weather has meant our usually plentiful supply of Beautiful Island photographs has become a little thin. If you have some striking images you would like to share with our readers please send them to Remember images need to be around 1MB in size to reproduce well and should be in a jpeg format. With your image please Include your name, where you are from, where the picture was taken and what inspired you to take it, as well as any technical information about the picture.
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The council leader, in his recent public letter ‘Budget Reality’ highlighted the council ward fund being withdrawn under alternative budget amendments.

This fund costs approximately £150k, a strikingly similar amount to the money received from the Government to run the Barra to Benbecula air service. Were the flights axed in order to continue individual funds for Councillors? Is that the Budget reality?



Isle of Barra HS9 5XJ


I wish to submit a letter for publication re: ‘Erect Statue to Maggie’.

If ‘Jock’ Murray is so indebted to the late Baroness Thatcher, I suggest he erects a statue of her, in his own garden.


North Tolsta,

Isle of Lewis


This is Mental Health Awareness Week which this year runs from Monday 13th May to Sunday 19th May with the theme of physical activity and exercise and the effect on mental health and wellbeing.

I personally believe any week starts with the first day of the week which is Sunday. Nevertheless, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), which is a charity doing a lot of good work in Scotland and elsewhere, is to be commended for the work done in promoting the beneficial effect of exercise this week.

The Mental Health Foundation has a focus on public mental health and ensures an understanding of what works to promote mental health across society, prevent mental health problems and support recovery.

The MHF has launched an excellent booklet called “Let’s Get Physical” which can also be downloaded free from the MHF web page (

The opening pages make a point and ask a question, “There are many reasons why physical activity is good for your body – having a healthy heart and supple joints are two. But did you know that physical activity is also beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing?”.

Mental health, like health generally, is more than the absence of illness or disease. The World Health Organization’s well known definition remains relevant, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. I understand this definition has not been amended since 1948.

The Bible teaches the relative merit of bodily exercise and that it “profiteth (a) little”. We don’t need a sports centre to be open on a Sunday in order to be physically active in the Western Isles.

The local authority is to be commended for the availability of the local Slainte Mhath scheme six days per week. We have some beautiful countryside to walk and run in. The castle Grounds are an amazing asset.

I am expressing my own personal opinion when I say I believe it is legitimate to walk and run on a Sunday and that there is more Scriptural precedent for this than running a motor car. That said most exercise training regimes advocate a day of rest, so why not try to coordinate this with the first day of the week.

I personally believe we can be a bit stationary in our worship. We must avoid the unnecessary burdens and constraints of culture and the traditions of men. Some sit to pray and others stand. This is a clear case of culture and tradition.

Why not walk or run to the meter of the psalms? I remember when I first happened to be in a church building in Stornoway reading the preface to “Sing Psalms”, a book I had not been familiar with until then, and finding myself wondering what was meant by “metrical translation” as opposed to “paraphrase”.

I must confess I am now sold on the merits of emphasising the metrical aspects of the text’s translation. I like the idea of each syllable corresponding with a step.

Last year preparing for the Paris Marathon I ran with the verse “I can do all things through Christ which strength-en-eth me” . This was my 12 meter verse for 2012. Each time my mind repeated the verse my body had been moved forward 12 steps. It was almost as if my feet were programmed by the verse which was inspirational in every sense.

Involve as much of your being in meditation as you can.

Why have we lost the disciplines of physical activity and exercise with regular rest, good nutrition, fasting, and meditation?

Don’t wait until the New Year before resolving to get mentally and physically fitter. Why not memorise, and meditate, on your feet this week?

One of my favourite aphorisms is “What is good for the heart is good for the brain”. Last year I ran the Paris Marathon seeking sponsorship for the British Heart Foundation in a time of 4h23m49s and was 23,146th out of 32,980 “Arrivants”.

This year I am running the Edinburgh Marathon on 26th May D.V. seeking sponsorship for the Mental Health Foundation. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives.

Please support the work of the MHF. I would be grateful to receive sponsorship please to this end at the following site;

I appreciate some will have difficulty with the Edinburgh Marathon being on 26th May which is a Sunday but would ask that consideration is given to doing good for a worthwhile charity.





We very much hope that, like us at the Harris Tweed Authority, you too are very proud of and are enjoying the global resurgence of Harris Tweed. 

There is no doubt that this is largely down to Harris Tweed being recognised worldwide as the original and the very best handwoven tweed.

Our industry, of course, has also benefited greatly from new investment, new leadership and plain old hard work.  

A small part, however, of the current growth in our industry, stems from there being a market appreciation and therefore demand for quality products with an authentic history, rich heritage and provenance.

For this reason, it has been interesting to see many other brands now desperately trying to invent or concoct a history or back story where one does not truly exist.

This is not the case for the Harris Tweed brand. We have a most genuine and fascinating story to tell the world, of a cottage industry birthed in the mid 1800’s by aristocrats, legal twists, turns and firsts, production peaks and troughs, the passing of the 1993 Act of Parliament etc etc.

The Harris Tweed Authority, which holds the iconic Orb Certification mark in trust, on behalf of the people of the Outer Hebrides, want to tell this story to our customers and ensure our genuine story helps continued growth in sales for the mills and the weavers.

The Authority already holds an archive of interesting documents, marketing materials and other bits and pieces of note, but we are now calling out to the people of the island who worked in the industry through the years or whose families worked in the industry in times gone by, to share with us any interesting memorabilia, artifacts, images, advertisements, labels, pay slips, letters or any other records from our unique industry over its eventful lifetime.

I cannot overstate the immense interest our discerning customers have for glimpses of our past like these.

The HTA will simply photograph the items and return them to you after use. All items will be credited to their owners or, if preferred, submitted anonymously. We encourage you to participate in this project to help us continue celebrating this most special part of our island lives. 

Please contact me at the telephone number, email address or postal address below. Thank you.



Harris Tweed Authority,

Town Hall,

2 Cromwell St, Stornoway,

Isle of Lewis HS1 2DB


I have recently returned from three days spectacular holiday in the Islands. The scenery was fantastic but the Callanish Stones had me fascinated. The wind blew so strongly I felt I was in mid-Atlantic and I had difficulty keeping my feet.

Has anyone ever thought it could be the site of a pre-historic Naval College? The stone in the middle could be the mast of a ship and the outer stones could have been to teach youngsters the ropes of a sailing ship. The situation could acclimatise anyone to stormy weather on board ship.

It gives the impression you are looking out to sea. The sun could have been the navigation system. If the masts were made of wood they would break with the force of the wind. It makes sense to make them of stone is they are static teaching stones.

Has there ever been a ‘dig’ in this area? I had a distinct feeling that there was a lot more under the ground waiting to be discovered.

My sister teased me that the vibes of my Island ancestors may contact me here. She was right. I felt I was standing on top of an iceberg situation and under the ground there was much more.

Could it have been a model of a ‘Bireme’. This was a wooden hulled vessel used by the Greeks for both in commercial shipping and in Naval warfare from as early as 350BC.

Configured with a single square rigged sail on a short mast position amidships, the craft was also rigged with two tiers of oars for rowers to provide ‘human powered’ propulsion should the vessel encounter calm winds or for better control during combat.

One of the many noteworthy elements of this class of vessel was the bronze armoured ram positioned on the bow of the ship. This was the bronze ram which would be driven into an enemy ship with maximum force in order to cause a breach in the other ship’s hull below the water line and sink it.

It’s top speed was about seven knots. Can any seafaring man in the Islandss see this in the Stones?

My brother-in-law said he was there on a very hot day yet felt cold shivers go down his back when he walked down between the two rows of stones. What feelings have other people had?

What would the sail and ropes have been made of? Skin? Hair? Heather?

Some years ago a motorway was built in Surrey and the remains of Nonsuch Palace found. Till then the Palace was thought to have been in Norfolk.

Local people decided to investigate and they were allowed to have a ‘dig’. The site was evacuated by a local farmer and the outline of four towers found plus coins, glassware and remnants of pottery. It was photographed and documented and covered over again but there is a very interesting book written about it. It can only be borrowed from Cheam Library, Maybe there is a book waiting to be written about Callanish.


26 Maplewood Park,



The Scottish Islands Renewable energy report was made public this week and has been hailed as a “major step forward” in realising the energy potential of the Outer Hebrides.

Renewable energy projects on Scottish Islands could have a big impact on jobs and the local economy with the potential for more than 3,500 jobs by 2030, but there are major challenges that have to be overcome first – the cost of transmission charges and the provision of the infrastructure to allow the power generated to be transferred to population centres on the mainland - are just a few of the stumbling blocks.

Yes, there could be large rewards if the Islands can exploit its renewable energy potential, but Government must step up to the mark to help overcome the hurdles, or the Islands will not be contributing to the Government’s ambitious renewable energy targets.