15 August 2020

15 August 2020

Another roasting day in the office.

Great walk yesterday. A repeat with variations. The roads were flowing with cyclists again, but we went as far as the heritage centre and then walked into Balnagown, on to Connel’s croft, once notable boatbuilders of Lismore, and over a rickety stile and eventually turning back onto Killean Farm and croft and across country to the heritage centre. A very hot walk, but I am always grateful for heat and this was certainly bearable. High above Balnagown Loch is one of the great beauty spots with panoramic views in all directions. Oddly the ‘eyesore’ that is Glensanda quarry is part of this circular vision; indeed it is visible from many places. For some it is controversial, although as an employer, supporter, and sponsor of islanders for many years and particularly as a borehole provider, I must say I am grateful.

Foster Yeoman opened the Glensanda super quarry in 1986, and it is now the largest quarry in Europe exporting granite to the world. The site was chosen by John Foster Yeoman when he was sailing by. Perfect for quarrying granite, he must have thought. Miles from anywhere. Although the small sliver of land known as Lismore was probably not uppermost in John Foster Yeoman’s mind, it soon was as they began employing locals in various capacities and, in a place where work is hard to get, locals responded. Likewise as good neighbours, they have always responded to requests for financial support. Mrs Angela Yeoman OBE opened the heritage centre in 2007 after they supplied transport for all the materials needed.

Mrs Angela Yeoman OBE

They also supplied agricultural waste bins, supported the Community bus and much else. Foster Yeoman sold the company to Aggregate Industries in 2006 but support has continued. And many of us have been invited to visit and tour including the schoolchildren. I know this is all PR, but the Yeoman family were genuinely interested in Lismore.

But it was the boreholes that added to the quality of Lismore life as water is surely the number one problem; either we have too much or too little or the pipes fur with the limestone and white goods hate limey water, etc. So in July 2012 a very large machine supplied by Yeoman Glensanda began drilling boreholes in the hope of finding water to supplement the springs which most islanders rely on and which do (for some on a reasonably regular basis) dry up.

Not all drilling found water and not all householders were able to take advantage of the machine as its sheer size and weight meant it couldn’t go far off-road, turn sharp corners without ripping up the road, or go on unsealed roads. Nevertheless, about 35 households benefited, and many now have an additional water supply. And we are one. It is certainly comforting thought, although we have not used it as yet as, so far, our supply has served even when it has been a drip. But that could change as we share the supply with a rental house and some renters who live on the mains have no idea how wondrous water from a fissure in the rock is. Though I know they are told. Foster Yeoman had earlier in the nineties supplied boreholes but with a less gigantic machine I understand.

Dinner was a fish and chip takeaway from the hard-working and astonishingly efficient café. Sarah MacDonald and Daniel Steele took on the café in 2018 after Dan had run it as an employee for two years. When the Heritage Centre and the café opened for the first time in 1 April 2007 it was run by Gill Bridle and her family. And, as you see below, the weather was wonderful.

Due to the great heat in my study my Spanish lesson had to be transferred to the living room downstairs, a first. It is not a lockdown project but the result of a wondrous walking holiday in Northern Spain last Autumn and being dangerously lost at times in every sense. I started on-line and then thought of my Spanish niece Marta who had lost her Spanish teaching job. So now, every week, we have fun together on Face Time in Spanish while I attempt to acquire a new skill. Highly recommended.

The highlight was walking the Garganta del Cares (Cares Gorge) in the Picos de Europa, on a narrow ledge high above the gorge carved by the Cares River. Hard to imagine taking such adventuring for granted now.

This morning H is away to look at the job Mark and Murray Willis have done widening a road at 9 Craignich, his croft. Craignich is one of the resettled areas of Lismore and was divided in the mid-nineteenth century into nine crofts. The Duke of Argyll owned them, and Number 9 came into H’s family and to him via his mother, Morag MacCormick Ross, who was the tenant for many years.

He has worked it boy and man, buying and selling bullocks in the mart at Oban. His roots are deep. Of course its 70 acres could not support him, and when we met and married it had no house, yet was the reason I wanted to live on Lismore. Or one of them. So, as an interim measure we bought this house near Point from what had been a fish farm in the south of the island which blew away in a storm. The manager and his very young wife lived here with a small baby. He had an enormous journey to work, and she must have been lonely. I have no evidence but… it smelt of fish, and sometimes still does, and the plastic yellow bath had a hole in it someone had tried to repair with cement. However, the idea was to build at Craignich, but when we tried to get permission it was refused. There were objections from the Norman family at Kilcheran who share riparian rights to the Kilcheran Loch with us, but we don’t think that swung it as planning thought it would be dangerous pulling out onto the B8045! Lismore’s superhighway. I am now pleased we didn’t build at Craignich but still think the Normans were out of order as they do not live here.

Disappointed last night when BBC Four, which has previously shown concerts on a Friday evening, suddenly offered cricket. A few weeks ago we heard the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in Mahler’s Eighth, ‘Symphony of a Thousand’, conducted by Simon Rattle, with choirs from London, Birmingham, Canada and Australia. It was thrilling, even with our inferior TV sound but … the performers were so white that it looked dated, and then I discovered it was from a 2002 Prom when everyone being white would have been unremarkable as so normal! A previous week we had been thrilled by the Chineke! Orchestra and the cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Chineke! was founded in 2015 by the double bass player, Chi-chi Nwanoku, OBE, to provide career opportunities for young black and minority ethnic musicians, as they were and still are, routinely excluded at every level. It was so moving and wonderful. A tearfest. And the playing was superb, I probably shouldn’t need to say.