Hebrides: Day 4

After a leisurely breakfast and departure from Sorrel on Day 4 (20 August) we paid a visit to the MacGillivray Centre at Northton in light drizzle, then took a short drive up the coast back to Horgabost and afterwards retraced our steps to ‘Seallam!‘ in Northton to be there when it opened at 10am.

We enjoyed the Hebridean exhibition and particularly the St Kilda special collection which had added poignancy for me because of my long-held desire to visit the archipelago, ideally this year (which did not happen), and of course because 29 August just a few days ahead of our visit would be the 79th anniversary of the evacuation.

We then headed back to Leverburgh to await the ferry to take us across to Berneray and North Uist. As we were in good time we popped into the ‘Butty Bus’ and said hello to Bob. He was delighted to see us and made us very welcome.

The weather cleared as we were waiting for the ferry, with patches of blue sky becoming ever more evident – almost sufficient to make a pair of knickers for the Queen (favourite saying of Craig’s mother, apparently). So eventual departure gave us a splendid backdrop of the south Harris hills around Leverburgh bathed in glorious sunshine and mixed cloud, and thus it was for the entire hour’s crossing to Berneray.

For those who aren’t familiar with this ferry crossing, the Sound of Harris is only a couple of miles across but its very shallow, especially at low tide. The CalMac ferry weaves a tortuous route through navigation channels avoiding reefs and rocks, islands and navigation markers. Goodness know what it must be like for the man at the tiller at nighttime, but in daytime the twists and turns make for a fascinating crossing with new vistas opening all the time.

After we arrived on Berneray we set off north to explore this small and delightful island with wonderful views across the sound back towards Harris, and then crossed over the ‘new’ causeway to North Uist. The weather was glorious, breezy but sunny blue skies and scudding high level cloud occasionally obliterating the sun for a few minutes.

Once we reached the circular island road, we set off in an anticlockwise direction, intent on visiting the Isle of Baleshare before we reached the Isle of Benbecula. Not far along the A865 the most amazing sandy vista opened up in front of us. A truly stunning bay of white sand of seemingly limitless size. We couldn’t see the sea (the tide was out!).

We reached a parking place at the shoreline by Grenitote where several cars were parked and got out for a leg stretch and a Kodak moment.

We immediately spotted a Land Rover whizzing across the bay, headed in our direction, and then it forged a tidal stream and several large puddles and eventually drew up alongside us. The driver’s window was wound down and he said to me “That was great fun!” and with a big smile, drove off.

I should say at this juncture that I’ve often thought my family motto should be “If it’s there, drive up it.” Marion would certainly agree, because that’s what I always seem to be doing when she’s with me…

I said to Craig, “Right, that’s us too then ….!” and off we set for a ‘desert safari’. We forged the river and set off across the beach which must have been about 1-2 miles across, and then on a track through sand dunes beyond which led to a second bay of similar dimension to the first. Oh what a fab time (including more than a few Kodak moments). See video clips here and here!

on the beach

We made it back to dry land without mishap, but wreathed in smiles … A quick stop for comestibles was made at Sollas Co-op and then we enjoyed a lovely alfresco lunch at Malaglate on the machair overlooking another delightful sandy bay to a distant isle with two large and ruined properties on it.

After lunch we made steady progress southwards via Balmartin, Baleshare and Balivanich (Isle of Benbecula) and onto our final island for the day, South Uist.

Getting rather tired by this time we decided to head straight for our hotel, the Borrodale at Daliburgh. It is one of three in the southern isles owned by the same company. I had stayed at the Dark Isles Hotel a few years ago on my first visit to South Uist, it was pretty average – a typical coach tour type hotel. This accommodation had been booked for us by VisitScotland and I rather hoped to find Borrodale an improvement on my memory of Dark Isles!

Well my review of the Borrodale on Trip Advisor will tell you what I thought of the hotel!

After a nap we were ready for something to eat and found a half-decent (not the best but no means the worst – that accolade belongs to Thurso) fish and chip shop nearby. It was remarkable for having a filling station attached to it (rather than the other way about, the pump controls were on the counter of the F&C shop). We drove onto the machair and enjoyed a fish supper looking north with the Atlantic ocean on our left.

Before retiring for the night we decided that we’d attempt a side trip the next day to visit Barra and Vatersay if we could get a ferry place. The weather forecast for the following day wasn’t particularly good, rising winds were predicted which didn’t augur well for a smooth crossing, and rain was anticipated also. But neither of us had been to Barra previously and so we decided we’d do it if we could.

to be continued/…

Hebrides: Days 2 & 3

“A description of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland”

240px-OuterhebrideslewisFollowing in the illustrious footsteps of Martin Martin in 1703, two weeks ago I was delighted to undertake on a snap return visit to the Outer Hebrides after an absence of five months, accompanied by friend Craig Stevens. I tweeted the journey with pics and map links.

The weather forecast for our trip did not bode well. Rain, rain and more rain according to Tomasz Schafernaker. And so it turned out on Day 2 as we headed north from Annandale Water in the border to Cairndow at the head of Loch Fyne for a lunchtime dining experience at the famous oyster bar.

After a swift but satisfying lunch we set off for Uig (Isle of Skye) via Inverary, Connel, Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh. The rain sluiced down for most of the journey, and was compounded on Skye by low cloud such that the Cuillins were entirely obscured from view – much to Craig’s annoyance as he had wanted to see them up close!

Time was tight. I knew it would be a long long drive from Cairndow to Uig and we had a deadline, the 6pm ferry sailing. Travelling at sometimes breakneck speeds rather than the gentle bumble we had anticipated, and getting held up at various points by grockles and roadworks, we did however make it to Uig with just five minutes to spare before check-in was due to close. At which point we learned that the ferry was running half an hour late and hadn’t even arrived!

Once we were on board and departed from Uig, we made a beeline for the cafeteria and enjoyed a CalMac macaroni cheese (me) and chicken curry (Craig). These two dishes are legend on CalMac services! Both were scrumptious, although there was a problem with the curry as the chicken hadn’t been properly cooked. This was rectified swiftly and very professionally by the kitchen.

When we arrived at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris the low cloud remained. It was a murky drive over to the west side but once past Luskentyre the cloud lifted somewhat, although drizzle continued until we reached our overnight destination, Leverburgh.

We checked in to Sorrel Cottage for two nights around 9.15pm and took ourselves to bed for an early night. It was lovely to discover several tweets from islanders welcoming me ‘home’.  Next morning was wet again, but with a promise of some improvement (thankfully).

We drove up the Golden Road on the east side of Harris, back to Tarbert and thence headed to Stornoway on Lewis. En route we stopped off for a cup of coffee with SarahMac at Grimshader; it was lovely to catch up with her news though I was disappointed that N wasn’t there!

We met up with former colleague Myra at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and took her to lunch at the Woodland Centre at Lews Castle Park. It was great to see her and to catch up on all the CnES gossip.

After dropping Myra back at her office we set off for Carloway. En route we paid a quick visit to James Smith’s Oiseval Gallery at Brue as I wanted to purchase a copy of his magnificent Achmore photograph to frame as a memento of my six months living there last winter.

Craig had particularly wanted to revisit Dun Carloway Broch and we arrived in glorious sunshine. It was rather breezy (understatement) though. What a difference to the last time we had been there – he’d had the place to himself in January, but not in August!

Reaching Breasclete we dropped in for a flying visit to The Soaplady at Hebridean Soap. Linda was delighted to meet ‘The Blessed Craig’ and proceeded to give him a demonstration of soapmaking and cutting which he enjoyed enormously. Various purchases of soap and knick-knacks were made.

Having decided to give Callanish a miss because of the likely numbers of people to be found there, we headed straight Achmore. It was great to see Sundown again, but more particularly to look across the moor to the mountains of Harris. Oh how I miss that view, though now I have it immortalised on a James Smith picture.

And then it was time to head back to Sorrel Cottage. Stops were made on the way for Kodak moments and a walk on the machair at Seilebost. We had booked to have dinner at The Anchorage at Leverburgh Pier which had been recommended to us.

We feasted on fresh as can be seafood. Five minute lobster at The Anchorage doesn’t just mean its been cooked for five minutes. Five minutes before that it was living in the sea, having been fished out of a creel especially for Craig’s order. For myself I tried whiting for the first time – delicious.

After watching the sun set over the Sound of Harris (only marred to some extent by low cloud), we headed back to Sorrel pretty exhausted after a long but rewarding day, looking forward to crossing to North Uist on the morrow.

to be continued …

You can view a photograph gallery of our trip at http://gallery.me.com/x333xxx/100160.

Latha Hiort (St Kilda Day), 29.08.09

Bidh Latha Hiort a’ comharrachadh falmhachadh deireannach Hiort san 29 Lùnastal 1930.

Bheir e cunntas air beatha is dìleab nan Hiortach tro cheòl, fhacal is ìomhaigh agus togaidh e air soirbheachadh eadar-nàiseanta Opara 2007 Hiort airson sgeulachd nan Hiortach a lorg agus a thoirt dhachaigh.

Tha àrainneachdan talmhaidh is mara Hiort air leth luachmhor agus chaidh an àrainneachd mhìorbhaileach nàdarra seo ainmeachadh mar Làrach Dualchas Nàdarra an t-Saoghail aig UNESCO ann an 1987. Ann an 2005 chaidh inbhe Làrach Dualchas an t-Saoghail a bhuileachadh a-rithist air Hiort. Bha seo air sgàth a dhualchais shònraichte chultarach, ga dhèanamh mar an aon Làrach Dualchas mheasgaichte an t-Saoghail ann am Breatainn agus aon a-mach à 25 san t-saoghal air fad.

Tomorrow, 29th August 2009, the first ever St Kilda Day will celebrate one of the world’s truly spectacular places. It will be the 79th anniversary of the permanent evacuation of the island’s population.

St Kilda

St Kilda

St Kilda lies 65 kilometres out into the Atlantic to the west of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. It emerged from a huge volcano more than 50 million years ago and its cliffs are taller than New York’s Empire State Building.

The archipelago was inhabited for 3,000 years until its evacuation in 1930 and it is now home to more than a million birds.

St Kilda’s terrestrial and marine landscapes are of outstanding value and this magnificent natural environment was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. In 2005 St Kilda was again awarded World Heritage Site status because of its unique cultural heritage, making it the only mixed World Heritage Site in the British Isles and one of only 25 worldwide.

A programme of events across Scotland is marking the anniversary of the evacuation of the last 36 St Kildans on 29th August 1930.

St Kilda Day (Latha Hiort) celebrates the place and the people, their lives and legacy in music and song, words and images, storytelling and film and build on the international success of the 2007 St Kilda Opera to trace the St Kildans’ story and bring it all back home.

If you’d like to find out more about the evacuation story I can thoroughly recommend Tom Steel’s The Life and Death of St Kilda which is widely available.

Homecoming for last surviving St Kilda evacuee

In “An t-Hiortach” or “The St Kildan”, a documentary to be shown on BBC Alba (available on Sky) at 10pm tomorrow evening, the last evacuee still able to tell his story, Norman John Gillies, has been back one final time. video clip

Thwarted ambition to visit St Kilda this year

I set myself a goal to make a first time visit to St Kilda, and pay a long overdue return visit to Shetland.

Since I was living in the Outer Hebrides at the time St Kilda should have been easily achieved but because of my back problems this year it hasn’t happened, not least because the sea crossing from Harris to St Kilda is long and quite arduous, not a good recipe for someone feeling a bit delicate at times.

The closest to St Kilda I’ve managed to get is a very hazy view of it from the Isle of South Uist last Saturday (22nd August) morning!  I’m pleased to say that Shetland has been ticked off the list, but St Kilda must alas await for 2010 when I shall redouble my resolve to make the voyage.

Twittering to Stornoway & back

240px-OuterhebrideslewisI’m really looking forward to returning to the Outer Hebrides tomorrow after a five month absence. Unfortunately it is to be a short visit rather than a permanent return …

After an early appointment in Oxford (which was kindly rearranged for me) Craig and I will be hitting the M40 at the start of a long drive to Uig on the Isle of Skye, and then we’ll cross to Tarbert, on the Isle of Harris, on Tuesday.

We’ll return to the mainland from Lochboisdale, Isle of South Uist, on Saturday afternoon.

I’ll be twittering my way around, subject to mobile reception, complete with pictures and location maps. Look in the righthand column on this page for tweets/links, or follow me at twitter.com/x333xxx.

Green light for Sunday sailings!

calmacI’m delighted to have learnt that Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) have signalled the commencement of Sunday sailings to the Western Isles, despite objections from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) and the Lord’s Day Observance Society.

The development was announced yesterday on Hebrides News.

For those not in the know, Sunday sailings to/from the isles of Harris and Lewis have been an extremely contentious issue for years.

You may agree or disagree with the whole situation but life will go on regardless. Gods can be worshipped by whomever and wherever they choose, a basic freedom of a democracy held dear in this United Kingdom as well as elsewhere.

Personal choice and freedom to choose is so important … parents help their offspring to develop in life with skills that enable them to make informed and good choices. Imposing a will without good reason will likely backfire.

The local authority CnES has always purported to represent the views of the populace but this has never been tested by asking that population whether or not they wanted Sunday sailings. Instead a significant number of councillors, plus the Lord’s Day Observance Society, all with entrenched views about Sabbath observance and island tradition, have prevented the economic development of the islands by stifling any possibility of seven day sailings.  It could all have been resolved so easily by holding a local referendum: ‘do you favour the introduction of Sunday sailings or not?’. A ‘no’ answer would have strengthened the comhairle’s policy position, and a ‘yes’ would have given the comhairle a strong signal that it’s policy was not in line with its residents’ wishes regarding ferries.

The overbearing paternalistic stance of CnES and LDOS has certainly backfired on this occasion, and I – for one – am delighted.

The lack of a Sunday service has meant that, until now, islanders could not get to the mainland for a weekend away without booking additional time off work except if they flew (but flying is not always convenient or suitable), nor could visitors spend a weekend in the islands for the same reason. On the face of it a Sunday ferry appears quite a trivial point, but the economic impact on individuals and the island economy is significant and this decision will bring tangible benefits that far outweigh the entrenched view about sabbath observance (one which is not entirely accurate either).

CalMac said the decision followed extensive consultation.

The new service will initially follow the timetable of the Saturday afternoon sailing – departing Stornoway at 1430 BST to arrive in Ullapool at 1730 BST then leaving at 1815 BST arriving back in Stornoway at 2100 BST.

Chairman Peter Timms said the company had tried to find a way to meet its legal obligations and respect local traditions.

He said: “We believe we can achieve that by operating one return trip a day, departing in the afternoon and returning late in the evening. This will minimise the impact on the culture and amenity of the islands, while at the same time providing economic and social benefits. We remain acutely aware of the sensitivities surrounding Sunday sailings, but we cannot operate unlawfully nor fail to provide lifeline services when there is a growing demonstrable demand from the communities we serve.”

The comhairle said it was dismayed by the decision to sail between Stornoway and Ullapool.

In May, BBC Alba reported that state-owned CalMac viewed Sunday sailings to and from the mainland as “inevitable”. At the time the ferry operator said it had been told it would be unlawful to refuse to run a service because of the religious views of just part of a community. Pro-sailings campaigners sought advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

I look forward to being able to return to Lewis and to take advantage of the new, enlightened ferry service opportunities.

“Destroy [morons] with intellect”

"You're so vain"

"You're so vain"

The BBC has won countless awards for its most excellent website, and quite deservedly so. It is held up as an exemplar right the way around the globe. Covering news, television and radio programmes, help for students taking examinations, gardening, poetry, religious affairs, technology and … well the list is endless.

In 2003 some bright spark at the Beeb had an inspired idea to promote digital literacy in Scotland’s remote island communities setting up Island Blogging. The service grew and grew, indeed it grew so much that it became an unwieldy administrative burden to the moderators involved, and the limitations of the software application used to publish individual blogs was really rather dated by the end of 2008 when a decision was reluctantly made to terminate the service.  

Island Blogging (IB) on the BBC website had run its course, it had certainly served its purpose in bringing communities together in a new and extremely innovative way. Islanders talked to fellow islanders and to the world. Whilst by no means unique, Island Blogging certainly had a following that extended well beyond the waters of the British Isles with comments being left by visitors from a multitude of nations from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe and beyond.

A new ‘IB’ service was set up by an entrepreneur with the right skillset to drive the concept of IB forward and take advantage of advances in software applications that would give IBers more control over their individual blogs, add photographs easily, and a whole gamut of additional features that, unfortunately, the BBC service had been unable to deliver for one reason or another. Whilst everyone lamented the loss of the BBC service, all looked forward to the new service and could see the benefits of making the switch.

I don’t know the full ins and outs or the whys and wherefores of why the original owner of ‘new’ Island Blogging decided to bow out, though I do recall slow response times were an issue that was getting worse rather than better, but a saviour stepped forward who was prepared to take on the mantle of administering. Everyone was very grateful for the willing volunteer to step into the breach, take on a not inconsiderable workload and drive new development and facilities that genuinely benefitted all, bloggers and visitors alike. And he deserves all due credit for such initiative and commitment.

The new ‘owner’ of Island Blogging (www.islandblogging.co.uk) is not an islander, but rather someone who aspires to move to the Isle of Lewis in retirement. He is not, then, of the islands. An Englishman, non resident. His association with the Western Isles is aspirational rather than real. But I won’t hold that against him … not yet at least.

At first everything was fabulous. It was like Barack Obama taking over from the shambles that was George W Bush.  New features came along, help guides published to assist those exploring blogging for the first time, helping with publishing pictures and lots of handholding exercises to coax new bloggers along.  What a lovely honeymoon.

But then I’m afraid things started to go awry. I became aware of a not-very-nice side to the new site owner. People who I knew (and won’t, I think, object to my referring to them as ‘novice bloggers’) started telling me that they were getting snotty or derisory emails from the site owner, clearly impatient at their inability to learn even basic blogging practices.

I was told that the tone was very much If everyone else manages to do it then why can’t you, you idiot?. This belies impatience, a lack of comprehension that different people learn at different speeds and some will always need a little more help than others. It is the sign of a good website manager that guidance is provided for the lowest common denominator, not the highest.  If you can’t handle the plodders (for want of a better expression) then website management isn’t for you if you want to be successful.

Recently a rich seam of debate was opened by the site owner on his own Island Blog (you’ll remember that he doesn’t actually live on a Scottish island) about what should happen to people who leave an island and return to the mainland, or perhaps weren’t resident on a Scottish island at all. Should they be asked to leave (or exterminated)? Was it right that non-islanders were blogging.  

I was singled out as a good case in point. Due to ongoing ill health I left Lewis at the end of March and returned to the south of England to be cared for by a friend, but I’m here with the full intention of returning to island life as soon as I am able. Someone questioned whether it was right than an ex-islander who was easily the most prolific IBer (since I’ve not been able to work since last Christmas, time is something I have plenty of right now) should be allowed to remain on the site.  

The argument went that surely it was inappropriate to the whole concept of Island Blogging that non-islanders had sites? One of the most vociferous of these was a man born and brought up in Stornoway but now living in Edinburgh. Ironic or what?

I countered that until my enforced exile I was resident and that I fully intend to return, indeed I’m still on the electoral roll for the Western Isles (which is far more than can be  said for the site owner or the Edinburgh exile). But that was poo-pooed as a red herring. Not sufficiently robust, it seemed, to win hearts and minds of the troublemakers who wanted me gone.

I suggested a democratic vote amongst existing Island Blogging bloggers as to whether ex-islanders (for whatever reason they were in exile) should remain or go. And that I’d happily abide by any democratic decision thereof, as I was sure others in my situation would also, but to have a policy determined by autocracy or a wild debate in a blog posting was simply unfair. My suggestion was utterly ignored. Unfortunately it was too straightforward, too simple, and could so easily have gone the wrong way!

Much more fun to have a vicious debate and hurl acidic remarks hither and thither. I’m ashamed to say that I joined in, as much in personal defence as anything else. I realised quickly that it was the wrong thing to do and backed off. Matters got to the stage that I thought “I know when I’m not welcome” and decided to call it a day and leave Island Blogging before I was pushed.

And thus I went about making preparations to depart. I popped a graphic on my blog stating that it was my last blog posting, that I was leaving because I knew when I wasn’t wanted, so I’d go elsewhere and I entered a comment in the particular discussion about this 2009 form of ethnic cleansing that if the site owner would kindly send me an extract of my blog entries, I’d go quietly. I (politely) asked twice to be sent an export file of my blog postings so that I could depart with my intellectual property.

And then all of a sudden I discovered that my blog had been archived, taken off line, and as far as I could tell, deleted completely. I didn’t receive any form of communication from the site owner, nothing at all (and this has been repeated several times since with others relating the same experience). All my postings over the past six months had gone, vamoosh! I asked again in the site owner’s blog comments list what had happened to my content, nothing. Zilch. Zippo.

About three days later I received a vicious email from the site owner accusing me of fabricating a tale about being on death’s door some weeks previously. That was his interpretation, and wrong at that. The people closest to me were (and are) aware of the particular circumstances. The words that I wrote at the time were completely true, but I never said that I had only ‘months to live’ (fact: if I have surgery on my back then that outcome would become the case, but since that is not now likely to ever happen for exactly that reason the point is no longer material).

I was informed that if I ever wrote anything derogatory or criticised the individual on the Island Blogging site I would be banned permanently, thus preventing me from participating in the bloggings of friends I had made across the Scottish isles, not just the Outer Hebrides. I certainly did not want that to happen, and so I backed off. I preferred to avoid further confrontation.

The email I received also attached files purportedly containing all my blog postings from the previous six months. But can I import them into my new blog? NO. So that’s six months’ creative work down the drain, my diary of the anguish I’ve gone through since my accident in January lost to some disk storage system in the ether. Well, I’ve put it behind me, I’ve moved on.  

Or so I thought.

Seven days ago, entirely out of the blue, I received a notification from PayPal of a reimbursement of £25 from a named individual. It was the donation I had made early in the year for the new IB website. I didn’t ask for the money to be refunded. I was quite happy to have left it in the ‘fund’ for the benefit of all. I have to say I was consternated to receive the money back, I couldn’t see the point, except if it were intended as some kind of two finger gesture telling me to f&%k off.

And then, in the past seven days I’ve received numerous emails from current or former ‘new’ IBers who expressed their own dissatisfaction with the way that my own departure had been treated, and relating their own experiences of poor site administration. One had had his blog archived without notice when he published a posting saying that he was going to leave IB because he was fed up with the autocratic site management and a nasty publication of his personal financial status when he queried the matter of donations for site maintenance. He now can’t even access the site, let alone leave comments.

Another lamented the dictatorial attitude of the site owner over the question of ex-islanders or people not resident on a Scottish island, and highlighted the material point that the site owner himself is not such a resident and so was hardly qualified to rule arbitarily that non islanders should be forcibly exiled from Island Blogging.

And yet another, fed up with the constant references to people who were out to cause trouble (but who were actually trying to have a factual discussion on the whole question of this abhorrent ethnic cleansing), were deciding to leave.  I know of five IBers who have deliberately left Island Blogging directly as a result of the site owner’s behaviour towards themselves or directed at other individuals which they considered highly inappropriate.

Another blogger elsewhere in the blogosphere wrote some time ago a post on why one should or shouldn’t blog. One of the reasons he gave not to blog related to adverse comments. He said:

“You can’t handle the trolls. If you can’t handle the odd jerk showing up uninvited, then blogging may be less appealing to you. Once in a while someone logs on and starts a fight. It’s a little like someone arriving at your home, walking in, and lighting the sofa on fire. You can either ban them, delete them, put up with it, or stop blogging. I don’t think this is a good reason not to blog – but it’s a reality. Fortunately photographers tend to be a civil lot and if you fill your blog with big words, the jerks tend to stay away.” 

The IB site owner followed up that quote with the following statement:

“One of the keys to dealing with the morons is that mention of ‘big words’. Someone wrote to me recently and said that [name of another IBer] had the best way of dealing with bad comments and that was to simply publish them and then destroy them with a superior intellect. That really is the answer but not everyone has that ability. We do all, however, have the ability to publish comments and let our friends draw their own conclusions. It does require a certain amount of courage but you should know that your enemies will never prosper in the company of your friends. In the bad times simply turn to your friends, even those you have never met. Above all, don’t give up.”

Morons? Destroy with superior intellect? In this hypocritical and insulting statement he destroyed any rationale he may have had for his numerous site administration faux pas. Instead of allowing people to publish comments and permit friends and others to drawn their own conclusions, he started deleting the blogs of dissenters or banning individuals from accessing the site. In doing so he has contradicted himself terribly. 

This is a very sad state of affairs. The concept of Island Blogging, started in 2003 by the BBC, and continued in late 2008 and then 2009 by a new administration, has now descended into an anarchical state of the highest order. It serves no useful purpose to alienate island residents, particularly those of the island that the site owner himself aspires to retire to in a year or so’s time. Certainly no way to influence friends, rather more successful at engendering enemies I should’ve thought.

In terms of the original concept of promoting digital literacy Island Blogging still has a role to play. It is a useful vehicle for helping non-islanders learn about island life, common interests in the extreme weather conditions, problems with ferries, shortages in shops during bad weather, difficulty in accessing personal healthcare (written with feeling), and life in general. But that doesn’t mean the collective community needs to exist any longer as it stands.

Unfortunately I think the concept of Island Blogging has been irreparably damaged by the recent debacle and peoples’ direct experiences of it. It didn’t need to happen in the first place, and the original discussion – started by the site owner himself – was very poorly moderated from the start and quickly got out of hand certainly did not help matters.

If the current management policy continues I can’t help but feel that it would be better for people to break away from the IB site and establish their own independent WordPress.com blogs (or any other blogging software such as Google’s Blogger). To that end I’d be pleased to help you get started, but be assured of one thing on this point, I will get you started and support you as best and sensitively as I can, but it will be you who are in charge of your editorial policy and destiny, not the other way about.

I’ve deliberately wanted to let the dust settle and my personal anger abate. Indeed I’d decided I wouldn’t write anything at all, and told people that. But I received two emails today asking me to speak out, to put my point of view across, and after reading of how they themselves had been treated by the same person I decided enough is enough.

I anticipate two things will now happen:

  1. I will probably get banned from accessing islandblogging.co.uk or from leaving comments on blogger’s postings. Having made some extremely good friends on IB, particularly individuals in Lewis, Orkney and Shetland (they know who they are), that would be a hardship indeed
  2. A barrage of criticism from the site owner and other cronies in his pocket regarding my own departure or about my supposedly feigned death’s door episode (which I categorically did not state).  

In the case of 1) above then that is something I shall, with sincere regret, have to live with and hope that my IB friends will communicate with me in other ways beyond IB. As for 2), then I will not enter into further debate and discussion on whys and wherefores, for I don’t see how it will serve any positive benefit, plus (to be frank) I’m sickened by the abuse and vile behaviour of individuals that I am refraining from identifying specifically.  I’d rather just move on and forget the thing.

But that said, and this is the reason for my posting now, I do think all existing IBers must reflect upon whether autocratic management of the IB service is in the long term interests of both the individual IBer and the wider IB community if such autocratic behaviour results in alienation and expulsion, not to mention considerable anger amongst users and visitors alike.

In conclusion, supposing that 1) above does come to pass, and since I was not permitted the opportunity to publish the following sentiment on my own IB blog before the rug was pulled without notice, I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to my Island Blog for their comments, kind remarks, good wishes, sympathies, etc., and general support of me at a time when I truly valued the Island Blogging community experience.  I’d still be there now if it weren’t for the present unpleasantness.

To misquote Carly Simon “you probably think this [blog] is about you” (you know who you are). If you do, then you’ve missed the point. There will always be differences of opinion, heated discussions need to be carefully and actively moderated with impartiality rather than by an individual who stands back and watches an entirely unnecessary bloodbath unfold, apart from throwing in the odd unhelpful comment or gesture to keep the blood spurting around. But guillotining disagreement or dissent does not fix the fundamental problem.

The reputation of the whole enterprise has been irreparably damaged by such irresponsibility. Considerable goodwill has been destroyed and online friendships broken up. The fallout has been extensive and far-reaching, and continues to wreak havoc and mutterings across the ether.

So, not statesman-like Barack Obama then. More like Gordon Brown who has made such a bloody mess of things himself and has caused the rehabilitation of both presidential Tony Blair and dictatorial Margaret Thatcher by his current bungling administration which lurches from crisis to crisis.  

If my access to Island Blogging is barred and/or I’m prevented from commenting on peoples’ IB blogs it will be proof positive of my argument that you can’t disagree with the big man or you get the chop, rather more akin to a junta where dissent is subdued by violence and other unwarranted interference in peoples’ lives. 

That would not be a positive development … for anyone.