Thanks and Welcome
At our Trust meeting in June, the IEHT board saw several changes. We said a big thank you toCamille Dressler for her 4 years as Director, for which she showed endless enthusiasm. Welcome to Pascal Carr, who has been elected to replace her, and to Neil Robertson who has become alternate Director.
We also said many thanks and a fond farewell to Simon Fraser, who has been Trust Chairman since 1997. Simon has devoted many a long hour of his spare time to guiding & assisting us with the many complexities we have had to face. His commitment, help and advice has been invaluable.
But, as we look to the future, we are delighted to announce that Dr Jim Hunter has agreed to become our new Chairman Designate. Jim, a well-known author and historian, has also worked closely with communities and small business during his time working with the Highlands & Islands Enterprise network ~ we look forward to working with him.
A Tale of Two Ministers & European Networking
After the official opening of the new Pier by Nicol Stephen MSP at the end of August, two weeks later a second Minister, Lewis Macdonald MSP, made a visit to Eigg as part of the 4th European Small Islands Network conference.
24 delegates from Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, France, Ireland and Scotland spent three days comparing experiences, exchanging best practice, and agreeing to work together to develop trans-European projects to stimulate social and economic enterprise.
As well as the talking, the planning, and the eating of fantastic meals (provided by Marie and Karen at the barn and Amber at the tearoom), our visitors also made the most of the mixed weather and climbed the Sgurr, explored the crofting areas, visited the hydro schemes and the Earth Connections Centre at the Lodge. However, Muck’s open day had to be cancelled when the weather turned; more shared reflections on the challenges of island life.
European networking continued in September with a visit from 6 Croatian delegates who came to Eigg to see examples of rural development in Scotland. Later that month Maggie and Ian flew to Lapland to take part in another European seminar called, somewhat long-windedly, ‘Stimulating and Managing New Firm Creation and Entrepreneurship through Local Action in Remote Rural Areas with Dispersed Populations’ –the idea being to look at ways of funding economic enterprise in isolated remote areas in the bigger EU. They even managed to squeeze in a visit on the way home to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth in Wales; organised by the Knoydart Foundation and the Community Energy Unit to see ecological and environmental projects in action.
7th Anniversary… Ceilidhs, Magicians, & Halls!
The 7th Anniversary of the buy-out on June 12th was celebrated in traditional style with a ceilidh of grand proportions. No less than 5 bands played into the wee small hours in the ‘The Green Shed’, which is being used as a temporary hall while the ‘real’ Community Hall is being renovated.
The summer has seen many other musical performances and other events, including; an island-hopping magician who mystified all with card, coin and other slight-of-hand tricks; Dannsa with fantastic music, Gaelic song, and step dancing; and the Lochaber Ceilidh Trailers, a group of highly talented young traditional musicians. In July, Feis Eige once again provided top class tuition for local and visiting children including fiddle, drums, accordion, whistle & guitar (both acoustic & bass) drama & spoons!!
The Community Hall meanwhile is being renovated and extended thanks to a grant from the Community Fund of £101,378. The new Community Hall is scheduled to be ready for next June, just in time for the 8th Anniversary celebrations.
Sarah Watson, Eigg Primary’s Head teacher, is now the proud mum of Gregory George, a 7lb boy, born on 9th October. Congratulations to Sarah and Frank.
In November, new tenants will take over four new crofts created as a part of the on-going croft re-organisation on Eigg. Kathleen Smith, Gwen Sherrif, and Pascal Carr take over three crofts at Howlin in the north of the island, while Angus Kirk takes over chapel croft at Cleadale. We wish them all the best as they bring new ideas, as well as traditional skills, to help revitalise the island's crofting economy.
Iain Campbell makes a welcome return to his croft on Eigg after 25 years absence, and two absentee crofts have made their crofts available for sublet.
Summer 2004 has seen the arrival of seven new faces, bringing the island’s population up to 83 – an increase of 26% since the time of the buy-out.
Bob and Norah Wallace are gradually transforming the Lodge into the Earth Connections Centre, combating the damp and dry rot using a variety of ecological building methods. When complete, the Centre will provide practical ecology and environmental demonstration projects, providing visitors with opportunities to learn about sustainability, whilst experiencing the island life and landscape of Eigg. Their two boys, Murray (2) and Logan (1), are a little young to be involved in the building works, but are already well ensconced in the nursery and playgroup.
Eddie and Lucy Scott are taking over the croft tenancy of No. 4 Cleadale from Grace Fergusson. They are busy with plans for building a new house and developing ideas for working the croft. In between, Eddie has been helping plant trees as part of the island’s woodland regeneration scheme, while Lucy is renting a desk in the Trust office at the Pier for her job as Highlands & Islands coordinator forIDEASFACTORY Scotland.
Meanwhile Jim (will fix it) Wilson is proving to be a useful man to know, having spent much of the summer helping Catherine and Pascal finish their Island Craft Workshop and carrying out repairs on the Catholic Church and Garden Cottage; the latter making the life of the many volunteers a lot more comfortable.
Brian & Shirley Gardner and Kenneth & Sheena Kean have been refurbishing Sandavore Farmhouse to provide two new self-catering properties for visitors to Eigg from Easter 2005. When complete, the Farmhouse will have three bedrooms, and Shepherd’s Cottage one. Phone Sheena Kean on 01687 482438 to book.
Courtesy of HI~Wide, August also saw the arrival of satellite broadband to Eigg. After a few teething problems, for the most part, it now seems to be working well. The capital costs of the system’s installation were funded by HI~Wide with the connection subscription charges being payable to the Trust, who now operate the Broadband Connection Service for the 25 subscribers on the island.
Scottish Wildlife Trust – John Chester
As with almost every other coastal site in theUK, the main wildlife story of the summer was the desperately poor breeding season endured by the islands seabirds. A combination of factors, including food shortages & the appalling weather in June created, what has been described as a ‘meltdown’, in the UK's breeding seabirds.
On Eigg, the main sufferers were once again Arctic Terns. 120 prs appeared, only for the entire colony to be washed out by gales & torrential rain. Only two chicks were known to have been reared. Shags also suffered badly, while signs of the problems occurring elsewhere were evident in the pitiful lack of young Kittiwakes in the late summer flocks and the large numbers of sickly and dead Guillemots washed up in July and August.
Away from seabirds, though there were some notable success stories despite the dreadful weather. One pair of Golden Eagles reared two young, Hen Harriers again bred in a newly managed area of the plantation & raised four young, and Barn Owls bred successfully for the first time since the 1970s. Goldfinch bred successfully-only the third confirmed island breeding and a late nesting pair of Red Throated Divers successfully fledged a chick, the first youngster to escape Otter predation for some years. Also of note was possible breeding by Grasshopper Warblers while a Corncrake singing briefly in mid-June gives some hope for the future.
Spring migration was mostly notable for the massive passage of Pomarine Skuas in early May with 389+ logged in four days. Other interesting occurrences included 29 Brent Geese on Apr 23rd, an Iceland Gull on Apr 1st, and two Turtle Doves in late May. Late summer / autumn produced notable sightings in a Grey Phalarope on Sept 29th and the islands second Red Kite on Oct 15th. Other notes included a couple of Sooty Shearwaters in Aug., an unseasonal Glaucous in late July and, that local rarity, a House Sparrow on Sept 2nd.
Mammal sightings produced some interesting records during the summer though it was noticeable that reports of Otters were considerably down on recent years. After a slow start, Minke Whales became numerous offshore in late July-Aug. with a max of 20 on Aug. 5th. Other interesting cetacean sightings included 100+ Common Dolphins on May 22nd and two Killer Whales on Sept 14th. The sighting of the year though, a Humpback Whale that lingered in the Skye-Mallaig area during Aug, sadly failed to add Eigg to its travel itinerary.
‘Other animal’ include a bumper summer for Basking Shark sightings with a max of 10 between Eigg and Muck on July 30th. Less dramatic but moth trapping continued to add species to the islands list at a reasonable rate while butterfly highlights included a continuing increase in sightings of Peacocks and the now annual influx of Red Admirals and Painted Ladys.
Botanically specialist lichen surveys continued to produce interesting finds, whilst among the higher plants orchids, especially Gtr. Butterfly Orchids, seemed to like the wet weather and flowered in large numbers. One further species, Long Bracted Sedge, was added to the islands list, which now stands at over 450 species.