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  • Air An Lot at 8 Port of Ness

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    On January 22, 2017 • By

    I’ve been sitting on this exciting news since last summer; Air An Lot will now offer holiday lets.

    image2 (3)8 Port on a lovely winter’s day

    An offer was made for house & croft last summer and finally went through on the 12th of January.  It’s something that’s been in the pipeline for the past 18 months or so, but only became reality when the right property became available.

    That property is the house and croft at 8 Port of Ness.  I’ll probably sound like an estate agent advert now but hang on in there!  A lovely wee traditional ‘department’ cottage built in the 1950s (there were lots of these homes built here post-war) with two double bedrooms and one single.  As it is just now, I would be more than happy to stay there myself, but it will have a new kitchen and bathroom before it’s let, as well as being redecorated.  Plenty to be getting on with in the next few months!

    Equally as exciting, for me, is the 5 acre croft and barn that come with the house.  I already have my ewe hoggs down there (it’s about 2.5 miles from my house) but I don’t expect to have any other livestock down there – best to keep everything else where I can keep a close eye on them!  As always, I do have a couple of ideas up my sleeve for the croft, watch this space!

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    A panoramic of the croft, barn and view.  Port of Ness Harbour & beach (and Cafe Sonas) are a 5 minute walk away

    I expect the house to be available for let from May onwards.  Prices and how it will tie in with other Air An Lot activities will follow.  I have set up a new Facebook page for the house, where I will keep folk updated on progress.

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  • Crofting

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    On April 27, 2016 • By

    I haven’t blogged in a while, but I feel I have to get some of my thoughts down on paper, following the recent turn of events in the crofting world.  An issue has arisen with the Upper Coll Common Grazings (you can read about it here), which resulted in the committee being “sacked” by the Crofting Commission.  I’m not going to write about specifics here but I will instead point you in the direction of the excellent Crofting Law Blog, which has recently posted about the matter.  My immediate concern is what does this mean for the rest of the crofting world.  As I heard one crofter say, the Commission “want crofters, just no crofting”.

    On Monday of this week, the Commission posted this news article, “reminding” crofters of their rights and the duties of Grazings Committees.  This is what has prompted a mixture of anger and concern amongst numerous crofters.

    My attention was drawn to the section on Financial Management, with particular focus on the following statement:

    “As trustees, any money received by the committee belongs to the shareholders and should be distributed to them as soon as is reasonably practicable.  It is not the township’s or the committee’s money and as such it is the duty of the grazings clerk to distribute any money received from whatever source, but in particular resumptions, according to each individual shareholder’s share entitlement whether or not they are active in the grazings.”

    My understanding of this then is that no Common Grazings Committee should have any funds in reserve, and should operate with zero in their bank account.  This seems nonsensical to me and totally impractical.

    What happens when a village wants to carry out some improvement work, or pay some incidental bills?  Well, all shareholders have to stump up:

    “When the grazings committee require monies to maintain the common grazings and the fixed equipment or to carry out works for improvements, the committee must levy and recover the required monies directly from the shareholders for onward payment to any third parties.”

    According to what I’ve read, these details have been in place since the 1993 Crofter’s Act, but there has obviously been an element of common-sense in place until now.  While I’m sure most shareholders would readily accept their share of any township income, have you ever tried getting money out of people who a) don’t have it, or b) don’t want to part with it?  I think it leads to (totally unnecessary, in my opinion) friction within villages.

    I’m going to give some (hypothetical) examples of why I think this approach is detrimental to crofting, and community life in crofting townships:

    Village A has 20 shareholders, with 10 of those actively using their crofts & common grazing share (half being active is generous, in my experience). The 10 active crofters in the village meet regularly (notifying all shareholders) and decide to enter Village A into a corncrake scheme, which pays £5000 per annum, for 5 years, into village funds.  This money must then be immediately paid out, with each shareholder receiving £250 (lets say they all have equal souming/shares) and they are more than happy to accept the money.  The active crofters then are unable to put the money directly to use for the village, and they also lose out on access to the common grazing for part of the year (as set out by the scheme).

    The Grazings Committee decide to repair the fence at a cost of £10,000.  Each shareholder is notified about the village intentions, and the committee put in time & effort to secure a 60% grant towards the cost of the fence.  This means that the outstanding balance of £4,000 must be paid by each of the shareholders. The 10 active crofters agree to paying their £200 share, but those not using the common grazing refuse to do so, meaning that the active crofters either have to pay £400 each, or the fencing cannot progress.

    The village gets their fence, and the 10 active crofters each put 50 sheep onto the Common Grazing land.  The village charges a levy of £1 per beast, meaning that the active crofters pay £50 each into the township bank account, which is then immediately redistributed amongst the 20 shareholders.  The active ones get £25 back, while the inactive ones also receive £25.

    In the end, the active crofters say stuff this.

    The way I see it, this approach does nothing to encourage active crofting, it actually encourages those who are inactive to hold onto their crofts, particularly if they are in a well-run, well-off village.  It can lead to the breakdown of communal activities, of communities, of traditional working practices. It’s infuriating.  These things might make sense from behind a desk, but absolutely do not when put into a practical context.

    I have previously been Grazings Clerk of our village and the last time we met to elect a new committee, I was the only person who attended the (advertised) meeting.  I certainly wouldn’t encourage our village to elect a new committee just now; we don’t have a lot of money in the bank, and I really wouldn’t like to go knocking on elderly neighbours’ doors, asking for them to pay their share of any & all bills that come our way.

    I’m going for a lie down now…

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  • The Cat

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    On December 15, 2012 • By

    I’m having a busy morning with the sheep but thought I’d share these two pictures of the cat. He’s been following myself and Bud all morning.

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  • All Quiet on the Western Front

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    On October 23, 2012 • By

    I haven’t posted here in a while as I have been very busy and barely near the croft in the past fortnight!  I’m away at the weekends filming Sgoil nan Cuileanan (Puppy School) for BBC Alba, myself and Bud are going through the classes along with 11 other dogs and owners.  I think it’s due to be shown next April or so. 

    This means that my parents have been keeping an eye on the livestock.  Everything is ok, the chicks are growing so fast (I’ll blog about them soon, with lots of pics) and the eye problem seems to have cleared up from all the sheep.  The Kune-Kunes are off to slaughter soon –  I have to admit that it cannot come soon enough!

    I’ll post later about letting the ram out, update on the sheep eye problem and some pictures (like below) of a glorious morning in Ness!

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  • Northern Lights

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    On October 8, 2012 • By

    They were out in force tonight. These pictures were taken 2 metres from my back door!

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  • Butt of Lewis Lighthouse

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    On September 30, 2012 • By

    I had the chance to go up the lighthouse in Ness for the first time ever – something I have been desperate to do for years! The lighthouse was built in 1862 so it is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. I was there today filming a piece marking this for Gaelic news, which should be broadcast before an event in Ness on 20th October. You can get more info on that event from the Islands Book Trust or Comunn Eachdraidh Nis. More pictures are available on my Flickr site.

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  • New Facebook Page

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    On September 17, 2012 • By

    I made an Air An Lot Facebook page last night and now have enough ‘likes’ to let me post a link! www.facebook.com/airanlot so if you haven’t liked it, please do so!

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  • All Access Pass

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    On September 16, 2012 • By

    So this has nothing to do with crofting life, but I wanted to post it anyway as I don’t really have another outlet for it! I was at Scotland v Macedonia last Tuesday and received a message mid-afternoon asking if I’d like to go trackside before the game – heck yeah! Myself and my brother Murdo were fortunate enough to receive these access all area passes!

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    This was all thanks to Kenny Macleod, a Lochie working for the SFA. Here he is pictured on the right with Craig Levein (Scotland Manager)

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    Of course myself and Murdo wanted in on the action too, here we are with Craig

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    I was actually a little bit star-struck when I met him. I had an idea if what I wanted to say but all I could manage was good luck tonight!

    I’m not mentioning the game because it was depressing but I will say that Levein is the right man for the job!

    Anyway, we took the opportunity for a few more pics before taking our seats. What an experience – delighted! Thanks Kenny!

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  • Minke Whale on Port of Ness Beach

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    On August 27, 2012 • By

    A dead Minke Whale was washed up on Port Beach today. It looks like it was washed up at high tide early this morning, as it wasn’t there yesterday.

    I became aware of it around lunchtime today, when I saw this picture posted on facebook.

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    As you can see, there is a large growth ballooning out of it’s mouth. There was some discussion about what exactly it was but it appears that it’s either its tongue or, less likely, its stomach, which have swollen as part of the decomposition process.

    As soon as I got home from work, I grabbed my camera and went straight down.

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    You can see the whale on the far left of the beach, beside the rocks.

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    There was a crowd of around 20 or so people down while I was there

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    Some media were there too. Mike Skelly, STV cameraman, on the right, and Murdo Maclean STV/Heb News.

    There were several people there from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR)there too. They had written something in the sand warning people to stay away because it was toxic etc but no-one was paying much attention and had walked through it dozens of times!

    They took some details of the whale, including measuring it’s length while I was there.

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    The whale was measured at 24 feet. There was some talk earlier in the day that it may be the same whale that was trapped in Leverburgh earlier this month but the BDMLR folk confirmed that it definitely wasn’t, as the Leverburgh one was a juvenile and only around 15 feet long.

    There appears to be some uncertainty over how it will be disposed of. One of the BDMLR women said their preferred choice would be to get it ashore and into a landfill. Port is inaccessible for any vehicles attempting to reach it from land so they are talking about getting a boat to tow the carcass either out to sea to be dumped or onto the slipway about half a mile away just within the harbour breakwater. I asked if they’d consider blowing it up but that’s the last resort – disappointing! :)

    I’ll leave you with a few other pictures I took around Port while I was there. The wee bird is one of my favourites, a sandpiper.

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  • Ram Lamb For Sale

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    On August 26, 2012 • By

    I have one ram lamb for sale this year. Every lamb off his father has sold for £50+ over the last 2 years (I haven’t checked from before that) and his mother is of pedigree stock. I am looking for £100 for him. You can contact me via phone/email/facebook/twitter or you can even come and speak to me! I also have 2/3 shearling rams to sell too.

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