Life at the end of the road

March 26, 2011

Still in a spin, or ‘summer’s here’ :-)

Filed under: animals, daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:02 pm

I’m severely lacking in the enthusiasm front but it’s Saturday night and I’m tied up alongside Raasay pier with little else to do. Well of course it’s not me that’s tied up but the Loch Striven but you know what I mean.

Anyway, I left you on Tuesday night, which once again had me in bed early, shattered and what little time I had spent ‘on line’ had been trying to sort out a heating system for the new house. A task made difficult by not actually having any firm data on what power I have reliably available to run the UFH and DHW but I am working on it.


Full of enthusiasm (yes really) I set off for work early with my 7 bananas, a bag full of Eddy’s bones and a spare pair of socks. The bananas are my calendar, the bones were for a pot of soup to see me through the week and the socks were for the generator 🙂 OK they were for me but I like to keep a pair nice and warm above the ‘in service’ generator for my permanently cold feet 🙂

The drive south being free of Libyan air strikes and nuclear contamination on account of my radio not working so I arrived at work in good spirits and fired up the ship. With the port generator purring away and both big Volvo’s ticking over I got on with my first ‘daily marker’, the bilge alarms, or at least one of them. The ship has seven watertight compartments, each with its own alarm so first thing every morning I test one of them as it helps me (along with my bananas) keep track of the days 🙂

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That’s the first one in the bowels of the ‘aftpeak’, the tiny space at the stern of the ferry.

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I then took advantage of the high tide to give the windows a good wash before we commenced the days work of shuttling too an fro in earnest.

The already damp and driech day was made worse by the death, at around mid morning of Norman (Norrie) Gillies who passed away peacefully at home with his family nearby. Norrie was a great character and will be sorely missed but thankfully his battle with cancer was short and despite being 93 he was fit, active and even driving up until recently.

To say that Norrie had an eventful life would be something of an understatement, born in 1917 at Oscaig on Raasay he joined the RAF in 1937 spending the first couple of years at Turnhouse near Edinburgh. War broke out just as he was starting his annual two weeks leave on Raasay and a telegram called him back before he’d barely set foot on Raasay 😦 Leaving him and his pal with their savings to spend on the way back 🙂

He spent the war in Iraq, North Africa and Italy and some of his reminiscences were thankfully recorded here

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That’s him on the left.

After the war he did a spell of shark fishing with Gavin Maxwell and another Raasay man George Langford, and I wish I’d heard some of those stories 🙂

image image

That’s the old shark fishing station on Soay.

A spell with Ferranti then British Aluminium preceded his return to the islands whereupon he worked for many years up until his retirement at Skye’s first power station.


The Storr Lochs hydro scheme built in 1952 was the power station that first electrified Skye, prior to that only a few few houses on Skye were connected via an undersea cable from the hydro scheme at Nostie. With it’s 136m head and 2.4 mw capacity it makes my attempts at hydro power look puny. I wish I’d spoke to Norrie first before installing mine 🙂


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The only thing that I remember about Thursday was a seagull eating my windscreen wipers 😦 Still it did solve the mystery of how they were in taters after only six months 🙂

Summer’s here 🙂

Not that you would notice, but Friday did herald the start of the summer timetable with its extra afternoon sailing and regular late Saturday sailing.

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I know it’s a cr4p picture but those two brown birds on the spit at Sconser are sea eagles!!!!

sea eagles

Looks like a female on the left and a young male on the right, these birds have to be seen to be believed, the male has a wing span of 6’ and the female is even bigger.

That’s it I’m afraid 20:10 on a Saturday night and I’m just going to fire up the ferry for the last sailing. It’s been a sad day as Norrie was laid to rest today and my thoughts go out to his widow and family.



  1. If you cover your wipers in aluminium ammonium sulphate you’ll stop the birds eating them. Or get silicone ones, it’s something in the rubber that the birds eat.

    Comment by Tony Giles — March 26, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    • And it’s not just birds Tony, when there were cattle at the north end of Raasay they were notorious for eating wiper blades 🙂 Must have been some deficiency up here because they never did it anywhere else on Raasay.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 27, 2011 @ 9:18 am

  2. salute to a long life well-lived, and thank you for mr. gillies’ pictures and links and story. love those guys in the desert in their shorts with those pie hats on the sides of their heids.

    Comment by jeannette — March 27, 2011 @ 12:26 am

    • following up your links for islanders in ww2, this is kind of fabulous, written by a highlander of the 51 division while a POW in poland. the reel was originally (in the POW camp) danced only by men.

      Comment by jeannette — March 27, 2011 @ 12:39 am

      • Many thanks for that link Jeannette, though I’ve not had chance to check it out yet due to connection speed. A very good and long departed friend of mine Murdo Nicolson was in the 51st and the Polish prison camp. He must have known the composer.

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 27, 2011 @ 9:21 am

      • Hi Paul.
        It’s great to see the men having a gay time on the traditional scotish highland dancing when I say gay it’s the one when you are having a good time. Glad to see your back upto blogging speed. Walter

        Comment by Polite Scouser — March 27, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

      • Morning Walter,

        not quite up to speed yet 🙂 distracted by new house heating and confused by clock movements 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 28, 2011 @ 5:20 am

  3. Those sea eagles look great….didn’t have them around when I was on Skye, mid/late 1970s. They are spledid creatures, I think. My wife, J, saw an osprey grab a fish from lake in Finland a few years ago.

    Comment by Iain — March 27, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    • A white tailed sea eagle in flight is easily distinguished. Does it look like a barn door flying in the sky? Yes, then it must be a sea eagle! 🙂

      Comment by Phil Cook — March 28, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

  4. Sad news about Norrie, he was the stereotypical island gentleman.
    Every time we met, he called me Angus, but no problem there, my mum does the same thing. Not unusual for me to get a telephone call in Perth asking me to give her a lift over to the ferry. I hope she knows how much I would love to be close enough to do that.
    Very sad really,every time I go home, there appears to be fewer of the people that made Raasay what it was, and while new blood is a must in places like Raasay, it is loosing the indigenous core

    Comment by Jackie — March 27, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    • Aye Jackie, sad indeed, it’s losing everyone, not just its indigenous core 😦 There are no ‘characters’ these days. I think our ‘elf, safety, and litigation culture discourages them.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 28, 2011 @ 5:18 am

  5. Dear Paul
    Sorry to hear about Norrie. I enjoyed some lovely chats with him when I was relief nursing in November. He was a very interesting, clever gentleman. You wrote well about him. Please say hello to Jessie.

    Comment by Beverley Anne REID — March 28, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

    • Hi Beverley and welcome aboard, sadly I had far too few ‘chats’ with Norrie. The last ‘wee chat’ I had with him was on the ferry when he was trying to have a ‘sly puff’ on a cigarette 🙂 Amazing gentleman, lived a life that you could make a film of and never be bored and was still smoking and driving into his 90s

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 29, 2011 @ 5:16 am

  6. hey Pual, this is unrelated to your post, but i wasn’t sure how to contact you.

    anyway, i was following up on your new turbine project for your friend.

    did you decide on Powerspout, Harris or Stream Engine????

    I am looking over all 3 and comparing/contrasting. Any thoughts?


    Comment by magnus johnson — March 29, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    • Hi Magnus,

      the latest one that I’m doing is a ‘PowerSpout’ but as yet I have not ordered it yet alone fitted it so I can’t really comment on it. It’s for myself and I decided upon just to compare it with the other two to be honest. That and the fact that it’s cheaper due to the higher voltage option and the long (1500m) cable run. If it was not so far away I would stick with the ‘Stream Engine’ at 230v. For a short cable run and head over 50m I’d probably go for the ‘Harris’ with its pelton runner as I suspect its more efficient. Having said that I prefer the Stream Engine’s nozzle arrangement as they can be removed easier for cleaning or changing, it’s also easier to ‘adjust the field’.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 29, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

  7. re:
    “having any firm data on what power I have reliably available to run the UFH and DHW ”

    My tip is insulation, as much as poss, then your body heat and the laptop will heat the place. At least 100mm of kingspan type plastic foam. In my place (old Aberdeenshire cottage) we are insulating individual rooms, so internal walls are insulated. This allows us to heat each room as required and massively reduces heat requirement, and means you can heat rooms up quickly from cold. Central heating the whole house all the time will take alot more power or more insulation.

    Someday I want to build an earthship, 100% passive solar.


    Comment by Max — March 29, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

    • Hi Max,

      we’re really going OTT with insulation, 500mm in the roof 300mm in the walls, triple glazing and at least 100mm below the concrete slab, I don’t think you can have too much insulation 🙂 I think for most of the year we won’t actually need any heating but it’s those cold frosty days with the solar panels covered in snow, the hydro frozen and no wind that I’m concerned about 😦

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 29, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

  8. Sad to hear about Norrie Gillies. I last spoke to him a few years back and loved listening to his lovely soft Raasay accent which I remember as a child growing up on the island. I knew Norrie back then, and the other Gillieses in Inverarish.

    Comment by Christine — March 30, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    • Morning Mairi,

      glad you approve, it’s always difficult to write about one you and many others love so much, I would have loved to have told some of the stories related to me by your uncle or is it great uncle Norman from Portree 🙂

      Have a big hug from us all X

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 31, 2011 @ 6:09 am

    • Morning Christine,

      sad indeed about poor Norrie, one of a rare and vanishing breed, our safety and litigation culture seems to discourage the development of such such fine characters nowadays 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — March 31, 2011 @ 6:11 am

  9. lovely piece on grandad. Its nice to see old photo’s of him. mum directed me towards it this evening.

    Comment by Mairi — March 30, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  10. Just found these great timelapse videos -I’ve commented because there’s a good one of a CalMac ferry and a couple of v nice scenic ones too

    Comment by Andy — March 31, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  11. and it would be smart to include the link….my memory’s not what it used to be –

    Comment by Andy — March 31, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

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