Life at the end of the road

February 23, 2013

Happy hens :-)

Filed under: animals, daily doings, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:45 pm

Well, I was shocked this morning to see water on the ground when I poked my head out of the front door Sad smile I think there had actually been a little rain during the night.


Certainly the Storr had a fresh dusting of snow and XCWeather  showed sunshine for a whole week, so I ignored the dampness and broke out the paint brush Smile



I’m waging a war against certain members of our flock who insist on breaking into the garden, it’s only five out of the thirty two but it’s the same five every day.



Here’s three of them plotting whilst they take a dust bath in the sunshine just next to where I’m painting, I know as soon as my back’s turned they’ll be in the garden.


This fence, which I put up to keep the deer out also has chicken wire half way up it but the rascals jump up then hop through the gap so that they can grub about at the base of the bird table Sad smile last week we clipped all their wings and that sorted most of them but these five seem to have bigger thighs than the rest Smile Anyway I wanted to paint the fence prior to putting up some netting to try and keep them out. We could of course just do what everyone else does and lock them in a run but these chooks are seriously happy girls having laid well throughout the winter, even today in February we had thirty eggs!!!! Not bad from thirty two birds Smile


After lunch the Dude and I went out on the quads, first to Loch Beag for a little target practice



then we left the quads at Tarbert and followed ‘Rainey’s wall’ to the east side of Raasay.


Rainey’s wall, a legacy of one of Raasay’s most brutal landlords spans the narrowest part of Raasay from Tarbert in the west to


a small rocky bay on the east side who’s name I do not know, though I’m sure it will have one. In shades of the current situation it was built to keep the peasants off the sporting estate to the south Smile Still as the wise ‘Crofting minister’ Paul Wheelhouse said ‘it’s what’s best for the Scottish people’ Smile Smile

Robbed at gunpoint! Government strip Raasay crofters of shooting rights

Friday 22nd February 2013

Raasay crofters have protested angrily at the Scottish Government’s decision to lease their shooting rights — which the island’s crofters’ association has successfully managed for the last 18 years — to a stalking partnership in South Ayrshire.

Raasay Crofters’ Association, which represents 11 active crofters on the island, has leased the local shooting and other sporting rights since 1995. Before then they had been leased from the government by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who had assumed them from the infamous absentee landowner Dr John Green.

The association was formed to manage such rights and prevent a return to the days when, in the words of the association’s secretary Mrs Anne Gillies, “locals watched helplessly when property after property was sold off over their heads to outside interests by the Scottish Office”.

Since 1995 the crofters’ association has erected and extended deer fences, invested in deer manage­ment training for its members, bought equip­ment and chilling facilities and hosted stalkers and woodcock shooters. It has establish­ed a popular wholesale trade in Raasay venison, venison burgers and sausages.

In November last year their lease came to an end. The crofters’ association was informed by the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate that the sporting rights were to be put out to tender, but that Scottish Ministers were “not obliged to accept the highest offer”.

Raasay crofters had been paying £650 a year for the rights. They doubled their offer to £1,150 a year.

In January the crofters were told that their bid had been unsuccessful. One of their members, John Willie Gillies, then telephoned the directorate and was “encouraged to appeal”.

On 14th January the crofters’ association wrote again to the directorate in Edinburgh, expressing their “dismay”. They added: “The current population of Raasay is in the region of 140, down from about 180 in the last five to 10 years and the split of houses owned by residents to those owned by holidaymakers swapped from 60%-40% to 40%-60% in that same timescale.

“The island’s fragility is recognised by public bodies and, among other initiatives, they are investing in a Raasay Development Partnership in an attempt to combat the disadvantages we face. It is bizarre that one government department is putting money into the island while another appears to want to take it away.

“We paid rent set by your department and offered almost twice the final figure. You stated that you were not obliged to accept the highest or any offer yet we fear that your decision has been taken on the basis of the price. We would be grateful if you would explain any other reason that we were not successful.”

The letter of appeal was copied to the crofters’ local MSP, David Thompson. The secretary of Raasay Crofters’ Association, Mrs Anne Gillies, was then telephoned by Mr Thompson’s parliamentary manager who told her that “the lease has not yet been signed”.

Mr Thompson had, he said, spoken to his Scottish National Party colleague “the Minister for Crofting, Mr Paul Wheelhouse, who was horrified by the situation that has arisen and it is expected that he will discuss it with the Cabinet Secretary, Mr Richard Lochhead”.

On 6th February Mr Wheelhouse had recovered sufficiently from his horror to write to the Highland Conservative MSP Jamie Mac­Grigor: “we are unable to reconsider our decision. The lease was put out to tender on the open market as required, and the offer submitted by the Raasay Crofters Association was the lowest.”

“I am sure you will appreciate,” wrote Mr Wheelhouse, “that Scottish Ministers are governed by principles to ensure that we achieve best value for the assets we hold on behalf of the people of Scotland.”

Two days later, on 8th February, Raasay Crofters’ Association was finally informed by the directorate that the sporting rights had been leased to another body and that nothing could be altered.

MSP David Thompson told the Free Press this week that the lease had actually been awarded immediately after all bids were received on 14th December, a full month before Mrs Gillies was told by Mr Thompson’s office that it had “not yet been signed”.

“This decision was made under executive powers by officials,” Mr Thompson said, “and I am very disappointed with this course of action.”

The new lessees, Chris Dalton and his partner at South Ayrshire Stalking in Girvan, met crofters in Raasay on Monday. “They said that they wanted to get along well with people,” said crofter Andrew Gillies afterwards, “but we weren’t offered anything that would compensate for losing the rights. And we’ve lost all control of the shooting and fishing. An era in Raasay has come to an end.”

Raasay Crofters’ Association wrote on Saturday to the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate: “We believe we have been badly let down by the Scottish Ministers.

“We were told that Mr Paul Wheelhouse was ‘horrified’ by the situation that has arisen. We take that to mean he thinks that the wrong decision was taken. Your letter says ‘that Scottish Ministers are governed by principles to ensure that we achieve best value for the assets we hold on behalf of the people of Scotland’. Raasay is part of Scotland and we are part of the people of Scotland.

“Raasay Crofters’ Association was set up specifically to avoid the possibility of the sporting rights being let to an outsider. The importance of local control was recognised then and is equally relevant today.

“In the early years our tenancy was something of a burden in that we struggled to raise enough to pay the rent, but we turned it around into a successful self-funding enterprise which trained people, invested in equipment and was then able to provide a service for the community and contribute funds to community projects.

“Our success brought attention to the sporting lease and gave it a value. You have now sold it to the highest bidder and shown no concern for either our fears or our aspirations for the community. You have let us down.”

The wall itself is a marvel of dry stone dyking , though it’s style radically alters along its length from the neat and regular west to the chaotic and altogether ‘porous’ east.

018 019



I’d wager that there is more skill in making a wall like this that will stand for centuries than the more formal one at the Tarbert side.


It really is quite a marvel, just look how it uses that huge boulder as part of its construction.



Once at the end of the wall we followed the eastern shore, or at least the top of the rugged cliffs that lead down to the sea several hundred feet below. This is unforgiving territory yet littered with old peat banks, hen houses and small walls that were no doubt tiny potato patches or sheep pens.


024 025

Just east of our little patch of paradise lies the tiny promontory of Creag na Gaoithe, which I think means ‘the windy rock’, it sports the remains of a helipad and a redundant metal obelisk that  must have been something to do with the BUTEC (British Underwater Testing & Evaluation Centre) range at one time. The solid rock that it sat on, some 150m away had on it a nice puddle with a plastic bottle in it that provided a splendid target for my Alex Martin .243 Smile Not only that but I hit it twice out of five shots and the other three were very close Smile



Just above above ‘Calum the road’s’ house with a fine vista all the way to Lewis we came upon a group of eight hinds,



six in the heather



and two actually laid down in the birch wood.



You can only see the one but there’s another close by, even after the six had run away these two stayed put until we were just feet away Smile

Home was just a few hundred meters away so we headed there and then got on with the hen proofing.



Happy Birthday John ‘The Caley’

Not only was this weeks WHFP full of Raasay news it also had a mention of John Nicolson’s 90th birthday Smile

john the caley

A native of Torran, a veteran of Atlantic convoys, years of service for the NLB (lighthouse board) many a ‘gathering’ at Torran, Fladda, Arnish and a mine of local information.

Happy birthday John from us all at the north end Smile


  1. Hi Paul.
    A question! who owns the live stock that has been part of the now defunct crofters association previous lease or has all the animals been given gratis to the new lessees?

    Comment by Polite Scouser — February 23, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

  2. There are 6 Westminster MP’s who are members of the Scottish Nationalist Party–I wonder how much publicity they could gather from this treatment of hunting rights on Rasaay? MP Angus MacNeil is a native Gaelic speaker from Barra.

    I’m not saying you should paint your faces blue and hire Mel Gibson, but the island would get pushed around lots less if there were weeks of publicity that embarrassed the Minister. Surely blogs and newspapers would like to fill some space! Journalists might even learn how much the current lease holders have contributed to the minister’s political fund! I’m from Texas, so you will have to forgive me for assuming all politicians are corrupt and/or self serving (because that’s the only kind we have). Many islanders would doubtless fear financial reprisals, so perhaps most press releases could be sent out under the names of citizens aged 90 or above.

    On the other hand, if the islanders ate all the deer there wouldn’t be much reason to travel all the way from Ayrshire. And the store could sell them the “special” Smidge that seems to attract bugs!

    Comment by drgeo — February 24, 2013 @ 12:37 am

  3. Why not shoot all the deer and turn them in to bambi burgers, then when the unwelcome shooters from wherever turn up and cant find anything to shoot they will Bugger off and not come back, THEN when no one wants the lease and it can be bought back by the islanders re stock with new deer? Also its a small island, could unwelcome shooters not be made unwelcome? or am i being daft?

    Comment by v8mbo — February 24, 2013 @ 12:54 am

  4. £400,000 for annual berthing at Raasay for new ferry..has the world gone mad..the farepaying public punished by the government at every turn. Stop island economy, ruined infrastructure, charge enormous sums, people in bondage to SNP, emigration will return, and all this a precursor to a referendum for an independent Scotland.. Salmond take note. Yes folks, get the barbies on,and reduce the deer population to its pre1984 levels asap.

    Comment by SOTW — February 24, 2013 @ 1:13 am

  5. It’s in some ways reassuring to me to learn that the Scottish parliament is every bit as venal, crooked and downright stupid as it’s Westminster counterepart…I’m a civilised man, and have spent most of my life espousing democracy…
    I believe in realistic solutions for day-to-day problems, and can’t wait to see the day these parasitic bastards are strung up by the genitals…

    Comment by Cogidubnus — February 24, 2013 @ 3:51 am

  6. happy birthday mr. nicolson from all of us in new mexico.
    have the citizens of raasay ask south ayrshire stalking to give them back the shooting rights. it’s the right thing, and they know it.

    Comment by jeannettesmyth — February 24, 2013 @ 3:57 am

  7. Am i being a little bit childish here, the infrastructure the islanders have set up, fences, chillers etc. Make the new owners of the stalking rights either purchase them at extortionate rates or take the down. Of course the maintenance costs for this equpment is really massive.

    It’s a bit like, this is my ball and your not playing with it. But hey if thats the way to go then do it…

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — February 24, 2013 @ 4:35 am

    • If you are childish then so am I, for those were my thoughts exactly about the improvements to the fences etc. If it is the shooting rights that have been bought how can that include fences?

      What will happen now is that any other local group like the Raasay Crofters Association will think twice before doing any similar improvements/investment in their area for fear of having the rug pulled from beneath them.

      Comment by Margaret Mansfield — February 25, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

  8. Happy Birthday, Mr Nicholson, Slàinte mhor a h-uile là a chi ‘s nach fhaic!

    Comment by drgeo — February 24, 2013 @ 5:51 am

  9. I read the news about the shooting ‘rights’ (an oxymoron in this case) in the Scotsman last week with much anger and frustration. The bidding process is meant to be ‘best value’ not ‘highest bid’ but it has degenerated over time into just that. If the new ‘owners’ don’t put anything back into the island then the value is only for the government, the new owners of the stalking rights and folk who come to shoot. If parts of the island are fenced off and the friendly signs beyond Arnish and Tarbert that invite people to walk on disappear, together with the successful management that the community has done over the past years it will be a disaster for all who live in and love the place. Everyone who cares anything about Raasay and its people should send protest letters to MPs.. Even if we don’t get anywhere it at least lays down a marker.


    Comment by Sue — February 24, 2013 @ 9:26 am

  10. A sorry state of affairs.Time to train the deer to shoot back.The motto for any government should be “Trust you to trust us”.

    Comment by Andy — February 24, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  11. just goes to show what most of know already….we are told we live in a democracy but really all that happens is we vote and they ignore!… ive had first hand experience of MPs running from a problem, i had trouble with a neighbour and went to a residents association meeting, met a local Mp, explained my prob and he literally turned the other cheek, made an excuse about having another meeting to attend and slimed off!, i know that dosent comapre to the gravity o this issue , but just wanted to give an example of what our taxes get us in return.

    Comment by Gordon — February 24, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

  12. I was introduced to our local MP, Nick Gibb, once
    “My missus voted for you” sez I
    “Oh really” simpers he
    “Yes” sez ! “And I haven’t spoken to the silly bitch since”…
    The look on his face was a picture…

    All the best

    Comment by Cogidubnus — February 24, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

  13. Hi Paul
    I have an email rant ready to send to this MSP private school clown who has probably never seen the island, would like to copy you in if poss email, I realy think this is shocking to sell out fishing & shooting rights for 2k, are these new people to be allowed to helicopter in shoot all the stock take their fees & leave !!!
    as comment 9 today the more people who voice their opinions on this the better

    Comment by Alan Patrick — February 24, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  14. Cont-
    This situation of giving away the Crown Jewels of the isle reminds me of large multi food retail corporations who get planning permission to open mega stores on the high street, near to or in a big field closed to the town. The first thing shops close, those that are left change their type of trade to a lower income level insome case trash shops that don’t employ the levels of staff of previous levels. Ultimately you get lower levels of employment all profits are taken out of the local circuit and they couldn’t give a $%}t for what they do to the local culture environment or people . Life has to be a win win for all, they had that on Raasay and they came along and took it right from under you. It’s no use talking about it fight for it back in everyway you can legally. It takes some one from your isle to start an e: petition I’m sure you will get thousands who will sign it I’m one come on people show your support.
    Polite Scouer

    Comment by Polite Scouser — February 24, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

  15. Does this mean that the shooters can shoot anywhere on the island?
    then i agree with the other comment of shooting the bambi,s get them into freezers and when they travel from all over and pay a fortune for shooting and it ends up rubbish they wont be back, you buy back the rights for pennies and happy days. As for the roads why dont you get a can of blue spray paint and go bannanas:)

    Comment by jimmy mcmillan — February 24, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

  16. Hi Paul

    Just came across this website: which seems to help people with Freedom of Information requests plus share the outcomes of such requests. Haven’t looked at it in detail yet (or its relevance to Scotland).

    I believe one of the prime movers behind the idea for the site/software is Heather Brooke [] the journalist who was a prime mover in unearthing the MPs expenses scandal. could be worth passing along to the local campaign group/community for further investigation?

    Comment by Carrie — February 26, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    • Sorry, the better link for ‘making’ FOI requests is and it appears to cover Scotland. (It uses the Alaveteli system.)

      Comment by Carrie — February 26, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

    • I believe one of the prime movers behind the idea for the site/software is Heather Brooke [] the journalist who was a prime mover in unearthing the MPs expenses scandal.

      Surely the MPs’ expenses scandal was revealed by the Daily Telegraph buying a “disc” from someone who was doing a temp job processing the receipts? The “disc” was hawked around Fleet Street until the Telegraph bit. Brooke’s poking around was speculative (just look at the obvious names she makes FoI requests about, rather than the more obscure guilty men

      Comment by San — February 26, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

      • You may well be correct; I am under the impression Brooke (and Ben Leapman, Sunday Telegraph, and Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas, Sunday Times) have all, independently, been investigating aspects of MPs expenses since roughly 2005 and it was their work that led to the data collection that ended up on said disc; but I’ll look into that some more, and answer on my own blog if need be.

        Whatever, it’s an irrelevant debate re any campaign the Raasay Crofters’ Association / community group wish to mount in relation to the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the Scottish Government’s procedures for the allocation of the Raasay rights. Whereas, ‘What do they know?’ website [ ] looks like it might be a useful tool in such a campaign.

        Comment by Carrie — February 27, 2013 @ 8:57 am

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