Local News for Thursday 8th March 2018

RNLI red letter day
RNLI Leverburgh Lifeboat station has two red letter days in the diary now, with the arrival of their new Shannon Class Lifeboat on April 21st, and a naming ceremony for the new vessel on July 14th. The new lifeboat is to be called the Stella and Humfrey Berkeley and will arrive on station next month. The arrival will be celebrated by the whole community of South Harris, who have been fundraising energetically since the lifeboat station opened on a trial basis in May 2012. The new vessel was launched in Poole in January and has the call-sign RNLI 13-25, so the team have picked 13.25 as the exact time of her launch on Saturday April 21st.

Ferry ‘chaos’ hits Barra
There has been significant disruption to ferry services between Barra, South Uist and the mainland, which has now reached a crisis point. CalMac is still completing its scheduled dry dock winter service programme, with MV Clansman and MV Lochinvar in dock – but MV Clansman has ‘an emerging issue’ in dock, and MV Loch Alainn has meanwhile been unexpectedly withdrawn from service on the Sound of Barra due to technical issues, with no replacement vessel available until Saturday. All sailings from Ardmhor to Eriskay and return were cancelled yesterday and today, while the Lochboisdale to Mallaig and return sailing are still cancelled. Some additional sailings have been laid on between Lochboisdale and Castlebay and from Castlebay to Oban. The community magazine Guth Bharraidh described the service to the Isle of Barra as ‘chaos’ as CalMac struggled to patch together transport options to serve the island and South Uist.

Portnaguran pier upgrade finished

The pier and slipway at Portnaguran in Point has been brought into the 21st Century thanks to a £5,000 grant from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust. The pier, which dates back to the 1950s, is still used by local villagers for fishing and leisure trips. It was in need of work ahead of the summer season including major revamp of the slipway, costing around £10,000. Previously so steep that a winch was needed, it can now be accessed by cars, making it much easier to launch and retrieve boats. Point and Sandwick Trust gave £5,000 towards the cost of improving the slipway, with the other £5,000 coming from the Scottish Landfill Tax. PST also gave £2,000 towards painting the pier and bridge walls, plus the former lighthouse store nearby, "to brighten the place up". The improvements around the pier have been led by the Portnaguran Amenity Committee.

Care with Muirburn – crofting federation

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has asked crofters who practice Muirburn to do so with extra care after fires went out of control in difficult conditions recently, including in Barra at the weekend. Yvonne White, vice-chair of the SCF, said: “Burning off the heather in a carefully controlled manner is an essential part of managing hill grazing. In some areas conditions have been difficult with very dry ground and erratic winds. Errors happen, you can misjudge the wind and the situation can change very quickly. I suggest that Common Grazings committees should review their Muirburn plan to make sure it is up-to-date as a new code has been issued. Following the guidance in the Muirburn Code can go a long way to ensuring a successful burn.”

Lewis photographer win
Lewis landscape photographer David Mould has won the top award in the monochrome category of Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year competition for 2017. David started his career as a teenager in Stornoway and now lives near Glasgow. He entered his image “Homeward Bound’ – taken at Ballinton, near Thornhill, on the Carse of Stirling, after a glance in his rear view mirror made him stop his car and jump out. David said: “All that I can say is that some shots are planned, some guessed and some are pure luck – this image is a combination of carefully planned luck.”

And another picture
Another much-talked-about picture this week came from RSPB Scotland, who have gone viral with a remote camera shot of a white-tailed eagle at the carcass of a dead stag in North Uist. The camera was set up at a road kill stag dragged onto the hill at Uist Forest Retreat by Angus and Kathryn Johnson. The bird’s wingspan of nearly eight feet clearly shows why they are known as ‘flying barn doors’ and has led some to question whether the image is even real. An RSPB spokesman said: “The photo is definitely real, and we were astounded ourselves when we saw it! A magnificent bird indeed.”