Local News for Monday 26th June 2017

Miniboats cross the ocean
Three mini mailboats sent to sea by schools in the United States have launched an exciting series of exchanges with island schools, after two of the vessels came ashore in Benbecula and Harris this weekend. The miniature boats, each fitted with a GPS tracking device and loaded with messages from American schoolchildren, form part of an educational programme teaching pupils about geography, earth sciences, maths and technology. The weekend’s strong winds brought the miniboat Shields Surfer ashore on Saturday on rocks somewhere near Huisinis, where it’s yet to be located despite a search by Coastguard volunteers. It’s spent 187 days at sea, since being launched by children from an elementary school in Lewes, Delaware, a seaside community of 2,500 people. On Thursday the miniboat ‘Lilboatthatcould’ came ashore in North Uist, 168 days after being launched by children from Kennebank Alternative Education School in Portland, Oregon. She’ll now join the first boat to arrive, the miniboat West, which landed in North Uist in November last year after drifting via Portugal. Before the end of this term, pupils from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist School) will have completed messages and decorations on the boat as part of a project run with Comunn Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist Historical Society). She’s later to be relaunched as the project continues, thanks to help from CalMac, who restored and waterproofed the sea-battered boat. In a strange twist, a North Uist descendant, Ru Morrison, is Executive Director of one of the US Oceanographic Institutes which has collaborated on the project. He’s expected to arrive in North Uist next week, bringing a new sail and new GPS trackers to set the West off on her next journey. Meanwhile anyone who finds the miniboat Shields Surfer on rocks north of Huisinis is asked to contact Seumas at Sea Harris, or Stonroway Coastguard.

Read more: Local News for Monday 26th June 2017

Local News Update - Friday 23rd June 2017

Island athletes off to Games
A chartered flight from Stornoway airport will tomorrow morning take off with the Western Isles Island Games team aboard, heading for Gotland in Sweden for the 17th NatWest Island Games. The 126-strong Western Isles party includes 72 competitors, who’ll be up against the finest of the world’s island athletes in sports including football, track and field events and swimming. Physios, coaches, managers and administrators make up the rest of the squad, together with 38 parents and supporters. The team, sponsored by the Scottish Salmon Company, will attend tomorrow night’s opening ceremony before the first events on Sunday. 23 teams are competing, from islands as far afield as the Cayman Islands, St Helena and the Falkland Islands, with closer to home rivals Shetland and Orkney also participating. First to compete for the Western Isles on Sunday will be Ruaraidh Macdonald and Donald Walker, who’ll be competing in the shooting from 8am, while at 11.30 Christina Mackenzie goes in the women’s individual triathlon. Both football teams are in action – the women’s team against Aland at 1 o’clock and the men against Greenland at 5pm. In the evening events on the track and field, Duncan McKellar is in the men’s 10,000 metres, and Abbie Mackay and Jenny Mactaggart are both in the women’s long jump.

Lewis Pipe Band
Also heading off the island tomorrow morning are members of Lewis Pipe Band, setting out for Grant Park in Forres to compete in the European Pipe Band championships. Piping at Forres, the biggest event in the Highlands piping calendar, attracts competitor bands from all over Scotland, but also from Europe, Canada and the US. Lewis Pipe Band are defending champions this year at Grade 3a, after a storming year of competition last year, and have been working hard to up their game. There are 11 bands competing at their grade, and Lewis will compete at no 10 in the list, around 2.30pm tomorrow afternoon.

New local leader for SNP
The SNP group of councillors has a new leader, after Councillor Donald Manford announced he was stepping down from the role. He will remain as councillor for Barra and Vatersay, a role he was re-elected to last month, but has handed on the group leader’s baton to Cllr Gordon Murray of Stornoway North. Cllr Donald Manford suffered a collapse, from which he quickly recovered, during the Council election count in May. Announcing the change of leadership, Cllr Manford said: "After ten years as the SNP Group Leader on CnES, the time is right for me to hand over the reins to someone else. Working closely with colleagues and guiding the group over the past decade has been a huge privilege. I will now be concentrating all my efforts on ensuring that the Comhairle focuses more effort on tackling the huge issues of disparity and opportunity facing the Southern Isles in particular." Cllr Murray paid tribute to his predecessor, saying: "I am honoured to have been elected by the Group to replace Donald. He has been at the heart of our growth at the Comhairle and in presenting a real vision for change as set out in our published manifesto. The Group has benefited enormously from his advice, leadership and experience. I am delighted that he will still be there to support me as I take on my new role as Group Leader."

Ness Gala Day postponed
A foul weekend weather forecast has forced organisers of Ness Gala Day to postpone their annual event, expected to take place tomorrow. A spokesman said this morning “We're very disappointed to have to do this, but we need to consider the health and safety of all those involved and all those who would be attending. We would also be very limited in the attractions we would be able to run if it were to go ahead. We are looking to rearrange and will advertise a new date as soon as we have it. The gala day dance with Strange Brew will still go ahead in the Ness FC Social Club at 9pm tonight.

Ferry disruption
The weather forecast is leading to some early warning of ferry disruption tomorrow, CalMac advising that services between Oban and Castlebay, and across the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra, could be disrupted or cancelled due to winds forecast to gust up to 45 knots. Mallaig Lochboisdale sailings could also be affected.

Lewis Camanachd have had a productive week so far, with Katie Drain from the Camanachd Association running 'come and try' sessions for ladies and girls and a referee qualification course. On Saturday the senior team are up against Marine Harvest North Division 2 league leaders Glengarry at Shawbost. Throw up is at 2:30pm and local support is welcome.

Local News for Friday 23rd June 2017

New lottery for Western Isles
A new lottery meant to benefit every area of the Western Isles is to be launched on Saturday 8th July, offering prizes totalling 20% of all weekly ticket sales. Tickets are priced at £1, 60p from each ticket going directly to the area in which the ticket was purchased, using a postcode system. Six community groups have agreed to manage the funds in their own areas - Stornoway Amenity Trust will manage Broadbay, Harris Voluntary Services the Isle of Harris and Barra and Vatersay Community Limited have signed up to manage their own local funds. The project has been set up by the newly formed Western Isles Community Society, currently awaiting charity registration status. Tickets will be available from July 8th, with an official launch event in Stornoway that day. Tony Robson, Chair of Western Isles Community Society said: “This Lottery has been set up help to regenerate and upgrade the Western Isles. It will help to raise money for projects and services which aim to improve the aesthetics and lifestyle of the islands in challenging financial times.”

Read more: Local News for Friday 23rd June 2017

Local News for Thursday 22nd June 2017

Somewhere to stay – HebCelt plea
A plea has been made to help accommodate visitors to the 22nd HebCelt, set once again to double the population of Stornoway for a few days in July. Last year’s record-breaking festival increased the population of Stornoway to nearly 18,000 over the four days, and VisitScotland office has made an appeal to residents to accommodate festival-goers arriving from across Europe, Canada, the US and Australia. Alan Mackenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said: “HebCelt’s huge appeal as an international event continues to attract people from all over the world to the islands. The influx of people is great for the town and islands in general, but it does put pressure on the accommodation sector as already there are few beds available during festival week. We would be grateful if any regular accommodation providers that still have vacancies could contact our team at the Stornoway VisitScotland iCentre (01851 703088). Any extra help with good quality accommodation and hospitality in the Stornoway area for the festival week would also be greatly appreciated.

Read more: Local News for Thursday 22nd June 2017

Local News for Wednesday 21st June 2017

Iolaire remembrance events discussed
The commemoration of 100 years since the Great War will culminate at the end of next year with events to mark the centenary of the Iolaire disaster, and preparations for anniversary are already well underway. The passenger yacht Iolaire was wrecked on the Beasts of Holm in the early hours of January 1st 1919, while bringing returning servicemen home to Lewis and Harris after the end of the war. The Scottish Commemorations Panel has indicated that the remembrance of the HMY Iolaire disaster will be the culmination of the official programme of commemorative events, with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar asked to host a civic remembrance event on 31 December 2018 into 1 January 2019. There is a proposal for a new sculpture, a project being led by An Lanntair. There could also be a second sculpture in Stornoway town centre and some communities wish to place a smaller version of the final sculpture in each community which suffered losses. Today’s policy and resources committee is to look at these proposals, and at other works including reinstatement of the path to the existing memorial.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 21st June 2017