Life at the end of the road

March 2, 2013

The Raasay shooting rights debacle :-)

Filed under: animals, daily doings, harbour, New hybrid ferry, stonework, Trucks and plant — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:08 pm

March already, where has the winter gone ?? Of course we’ll be due the ‘lambing snow’ in April and the equinox will usually throw up the odd icy blast but winter’s ‘back is broken’. The sight of two wheatears last Sunday, a pied wagtail in Portree and frogspawn on the Torran path today all pointed towards winter’s demise.


The chirpy wee bird that can often be seen pecking itself in car wing mirrors or tapping on our kitchen window may well be common enough throughout the winter ‘down sowf’ but he’s purely a summer visitor here.

As for the wheatear he’s a summer visitor from Africa and in these parts is the favourite ‘foster parent’ for the lazy cuckoo. On Raasay he has a Gaelic name that means ‘follower’ for he can often be seen chasing the cuckoo, who no doubt is trying to lay an egg in the much smaller birds nest.

Wheatear - male

A ground nesting bird who has nothing whatsoever to do with wheat, the name coming from it’s distinctive white rump (white rear) as it flies away Smile

Back in the Minch

As you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted for days or replied to many comments, not through any loss of interest or lethargy but because I’ve either been too busy or stuck in Lochmaddy. Not that there’s anything wrong with Lochmaddy apart from abysmal phone and internet coverage there, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t Sad smile The day after Lochmaddy we were in Tarbert on Harris but a minor problem with one of the main engines meant a 21:00 finish which saw me showered and in bed before 22:00.


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A busy week saw a familiar visitor to Raasay making a trip over the Minch to collect a 13 ton Hitachi, Eyre Plant’s ‘W’ reg Scania having done many a days work on our own village hall and new harbour.



Not such a common sight as they used to be and certainly not in this quantity are ‘small bales’ but here was a lorry load crossing the Minch on Thursday.

A bit of a ‘U turn’

You really couldn’t make this up Smile Imagine a small island crofting community on the brink of crisis, the school roll is falling, the shop about to close, the population aging and no drink or pub on the island Sad smile A significant reversal of these trends being envisaged once Raasay House is back up and running after two renovations and one fire Sad smile Millions has been spent to give us a decades overdue harbour and a world first hybrid RoRo ferry is on the way. We have two development officers looking for ways to bring more jobs and prosperity to the island and in the background the crofting community carry on doing two or three other jobs whilst raising cattle, sheep and pigs. They don’t do other jobs because they’re greedy, they do it to keep their heads above water.

Most of them are tenants and their landlord is the Scottish Office who own about 80% or more of Raasay. The Scottish ministers own Raasay and rent the land to the crofters but not the shooting or mineral rights, at least they didn’t until around 12 years ago when they leased out the unused ‘rights’ to a group of crofters that proceeded to develop them. Over the years they’ve brought in hunters from all over Europe, erected fences, invested in a chiller, found a market for ‘Raasay venison’ supplied the shop and most importantly given the ‘rights’ a value by returning figures to their landlord.

This will be a landlord that oversees the allocation of various grants and schemes to keep such fragile communities as ours alive. This will be the same landlord that is funded by the government and works closely with the ‘Crofters Commission’ another government funded body. Now both of these departments are real big on ‘community buy outs’, empowering the locals and supporting diversification amongst crofting families.

So how on earth did they let the sporting lease go to a company 250 miles away . Initial inquiries suggested ‘ a significantly higher bid’ and when questions were asked in the house, ‘best value for the taxpayer’ and ‘what’s best for the people of Scotland’ rolled from the tongues of the politicians Sad smile Turns out the ‘significantly’ higher bid was about the price of an MP’s lunch and travel expense for the week, a whacking £1850 Smile It also transpires that Raasay’s bid was accompanied by letters from several satisfied local business’s expressing their satisfaction and support of the ‘in house’ venture.

Anyway, after a week of discussions at the highest level and an embarrassing climb down for poor old Alex the lease has been returned to the right place.

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So let me get this right, for some brainless civil servant thinking he can make a full £1850, South Ayrshire Stalking have been awarded £9000 compensation and a delegation came up from Edinburgh to apologize Smile The days ‘jolly’ from the capital would have cost about as much as the tender difference and the SNP shot their selves in the foot, priceless Smile



Well, at least everyone is smiling now and its good to see the ‘next generation’ taking an interest Smile



To be honest I can see much good coming out of this fiasco, Raasay is once more in the spotlight,  it has been much discussed in the hunting press so may generate more interest in our fine woodcock, deer and trout Smile Many thanks for Davie Carslaw for the pictures and Paul Wheelhouse and company for seeing sense Smile

Meanwhile back on the croft 

Sorry if this is a little disjointed but you can blame Darrel for that Smile Well, actually it’s a bottle of Lindeman’s ‘shiraz cab sav’ but it was recommended by Darrel Smile You don’t have to go to an expensive vintner to find a good bottle of plonk on Skye, nope, you just go to the Broadford Co op and seek out Darrel Smile He will point you in the direction of the best bargains in the vin department, I speak from experience Smile 

Anyway, I left the good ship MV Finlaggan on Friday afternoon and headed home via the Cuilins








though to be honest, they’re rarely out of sight.


The ‘wall from Donegal’ was now two walls Smile

I collected my son at the ferry and finally arrived home around 17:15 in time to feed the pigs. Saturday arrived without incident and once all the feeding was done and the bins taken out we all ‘took off’ to go and visit my parents, something I’ve done precious little of recently.



A pleasant few hours followed, along with a ‘wee walk’


just check out the fallen tree and how it’s lifted the fence.



Then it was back to Sconser for the 15:00



and I do hope that this is not the full size of the waiting room Sad smile



Imagine trying to get 50 wet schoolchildren and their baggage in that Sad smile



Looks like that’s just the porch Smile HRC may well be carp at maintaining the roads but they sure do make nice waiting rooms Smile

Moving house

Once back on the croft and with the animals fed we all went over to Torran to collect a house, a hen house that is.


It was needing a little work but was basically sound, having come from ‘Donald the hen’ on Skye. Donald Macdonald of Struan has perfected this 18 hen house over many years and I remember it being carried over to Torran some ten or fifteen years ago. No mean feat along the steep and uneven path, however it had been unused for many years now and wifey had been offered it for the extra hens she was planning.



All the dry weather of late had dried it out nicely so we had no bother rolling it onto the trailer and ‘ratcheting’ it down.

Though before we set off back the Dude took us to the cemetery, no ordinary one, one that was used for burying dead infants, marked on the OS map as Cladh an Torrain I never actually knew where it was.


However the Dude had been shown its location last year and led us to it,


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hard to discern from the picture but quite clear on the ground, a small walled area with a natural stone boundary on the south side. In days gone by when death in childbirth was common and infant mortality high, this is where the young were buried.

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After visiting the cemetery I gingerly headed home with my unstable load, discovering the first frogspawn of the year with the wheels of the quad Sad smile


Not the only working generator Smile

And whilst my trusty Lister SR2 ‘flashed up’ for the first time in months yesterday, somewhere on the Clyde one of the Volvo D13 generators on the MV Hallaig burst into life for the first time in the hull of yard number 725 Smile


A little puff of smoke indicated that our new hybrid ferry had a ‘heartbeat’ at last Smile

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