Regular visitors to Islay will mostly be familiar with the American Monument on the Oa and the history behind it with the Tuscania and Otranto shipwrecks in WWI. Still, history tour guide Bruce Fummey has created an interesting video about the history and the links between Scotland and the USA, well worth watching:
I hope you found the video interesting and informative, especially if you’re new to this part of Islay’s history.
Something a bit different today, not just a video with some beautiful views of Islay, but some background on what we’re seeing. Kate Gordon and Nigel Scott take us to Finlaggan and tell us about the history of the Lords of the Isles:
Nigel had contacted me a month ago about using one of my pictures for a video he was editing about Finlaggan. As it was for a non-commercial educational project I was happy to give him permission. While I was away on Islay for my second visit this year (more about that in another post) he sent me an update with the link to the video. Now that I’m back and had time to catch up with a view things I finally had a chance to watch the video and now share it with you.
I quite like it, I think it’s well made and tells the story very well. Quite a lot of information without getting too long and going into too much detail, just right. Hopefully you like the video as well and found it interesting.
The wooden walkway to Eilean Mòr at Finlaggan, the ancient seat of the Lords of the Isles on Islay, has gone through a few iterations over the decades. Because of the harsh conditions at Loch Finlaggan the wood starts to decay and the wear and tear at some point makes the walkway unsafe. Over the years there have been different walkways, this is how it looked in 2006:
In 2007 it was replaced by a new walkway built by the Army 39 Engineer Regiment after removing the old rotting walkway. Visitors soon enjoyed good access to Eilean Mòr again:
In 2008 the visitor centre also saw some significant renovation and extension, making it the valuable place to learn about Islay’s history it is today:
The walkway built in 2007 has now aged so much that it needs to be replaced to ensure continued access to the site. To do this the Finlaggan Trust needs support. The Finlaggan Trust writes:
We have already secured partial funding from a number of sources and are able to contribute a certain amount ourselves, but there remains a £30,000 shortfall in the £86,000 total nonetheless. If successful in our fundraising we hope to begin work in September/October 2021, with a five- to seven-week timescale for completion of the build, C-19 restrictions and weather conditions permitting.
If you want to support the Finlaggan Trust you can make a donation at The Finlaggan Walkway Project JustGiving campaign. As of writing this in the early days of the campaign 8% of the target have been reached, hopefully that will jump up soon and continued access to Finlaggan can be secured:
Most people who have travelled to/from Islay via Port Askaig will at some point have noticed the ruins on Am Fraoch Eilean on the Jura side at the southern end of the Sound of Islay. This is Claig Castle, once a quite important castle on the west coast of Scotland. Someone from Cine Gate has flown a drone over it for a closer look:
It is probably around 500 years old, dating back to medieval times, and once was a Macdonald stronghold. Certainly an excellent position to control the area and any traffic passing through the Sound of Islay!
Haven’t blogged here as much recently as I would have liked, so I’m going to try to get better again. Today I thought I’d share a mix of links to articles and other things I found interesting recently. I hope you’ll find something of interest to you as well:
Western Ferries had long gone from the Islay route by the time I first boarded a ferry to Islay, so I don’t have any real memory of them (apart from the pictures and articles about them I’ve seen). This might be changing again at some point, as reports indicate they are interested in (re-)starting a freight only service to Islay.
Something slightly outside of the normal content of this blog, but then there’s a good chance that without the Islay Sessions I wouldn’t have heard of this album (and others I will write about some other time). So I think it does fit into this blog. I’ve known Gráinne Brady for a number of years now, performing at and organising the wonderful Islay Sessions. Early on she was mainly performing together with other artists, last year saw her launching a solo project with her debut album. I’ll let her tell you about it herself:
The Islay Sessions saw the second ever live performance of the album, Gráinne supported by Andrew Waite and Innes White. It was a great experience, her telling us about the project and then performing it, taking on parts of the spoken word as well. Some great musical storytelling. Here’s a short snippet (mobile phone recording, so not the greatest quality) from the sessions, just to give you an impression:
If this got you interested, Gráinne is going on tour in Ireland and Scotland in late February and March 2019. Here is her tour poster:
Earlier today a wee blue bird told me (not sure if this qualifies as a bad pun?) it’s 10 years ago today that I joined Twitter, of course using the handle @islayblog (although my name shows as Armin, as I tweet as me, a human being). A decade of squeezing a post into 140 characters (or more recently writing 280 characters). Naturally I sent out a quick tweet, promising a celebratory dram later on:
Now it’s time for said dram, I decided to open a special bottle (also keeping in mind that New Year is approaching rapidly and I need something nice for that): From my Islay shelf I picked a Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength, batch 004, Jan.12. Here’s the proof:
A lot has happened in those 10 years. According to Twitter I’ve posted 33,838 tweets so far (probably a few more by the time you read this). Apparently I have just under 3,000 people following me now (I hope not too many of them are bots). Quite a few of you I’ve met personally, others I only know from Twitter (and sometimes other social networks), but we’ve still had many helpful, interesting, funny and more exchanges. Others I don’t really know yet, but I hope we’ll bump into each other one day. I’ve learned quite a few things on Twitter, found out information, had a lot of fun and more. I hope I could give some of that back, give those who follow me or communicate with me something to enjoy, something they found helpful or something that inspired them. Or just something to laugh.
With that I’ll finish for now, time for another dram. And another tweet.
From my recent Islay visit I returned with a quite large souvenir which is now hanging on one of my walls. A few weeks ago Pat Farrington announced on Facebook that she had some maps of Islay, Jura and Colonsay in Gaelic for sale. I contacted her that I was interested and if I could pick one up during my Islay visit in November (they were sold pick up / delivery on Islay only).
We agreed to meet in Bowmore, where £10 and in return the map changed hands. From Bowmore I drove over to Islay House Square, where I dropped it off at Islay Studios to be framed. Mark had mentioned that they had framed another copy, I decided to do the same to keep it in prime condition and make it easier to hang up. I picked a light coloured wood as most of my furniture is pine and I wanted them to go together.
Here’s how it looks with the map hanging above my ‘Islay Shelf’ (where I keep my Islay single malts, my Islay books and various souvenirs):
I’m very happy how it turned out, I think it fits very well above the shelf. The map looks very nice in the frame, it covers many places including villages, hills, mountains, lochs and more. Of course all in Gaelic, as that’s the whole point of the map. The speech bubble is a lamp (hence the cable), but it didn’t look very nice switched on for a picture, so I turned it off (it looks very nice otherwise and is lit while I’m typing this).
Today saw a Ceremony to remember sinking of HMS Otranto on Islay at Kilchoman, the disaster happened 100 years ago today. Earlier this year another salute to the victims of the HMS Otranto took place in the water of Machir Bay as the Badlads Diving group visited what remains of the wreck to pay their tribute. Peter was so kind to get in touch to share the link to the video of the event:
A very nice tribute I think, very well done. The group has been visiting Islay for many years, I’ve shared a number of videos by them before.
As it turns out they were on Islay at the same time as me in June, I actually took pictures of them leaving and returning to Kilchiaran Bay, where they had set up base. Unfortunately I hadn’t realised at the time that it was them, otherwise I would have gone over to have a chat. Maybe another time.