A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Still feeling the rush experienced last night at Eden Court watching the Dundee Rep’s revival of John McGrath’s The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil. I was fortunate enough to see this play when it went on tour in the 70s with the 7:84 company, seeing it in Dornie. I reckon I am pretty well versed in the history of the Highlands and Scotland for that matter but to see part of this story put on stage with music, anecdotes, brilliant acting and a packed house made this a night of many emotions. Starting with the brutal evictions of the Highland Clearances to make way for the higher rents made from the introduction of the hardy wool bearing Cheviot sheep. Reading directly from accounts of the time you can only barely imagine what it was like to have your house burned down to make sure you were moved on. People who already had so little. The story from Knoydart of the family, six kids, taking shelter in a ruined chapel having their makeshift shelter destroyed four times beggars belief. The move onto the Stag continues the horrendous exploitation of a country to the detriment of its people. As long as there are a few jobs for the native to service the shooters in their pleasures on the Scottish Hills we are told all is well. Lots of humour in characterising the “upper classes” but actually pretty close to the bone, people with incredible amounts of money are perceived to be more important. The Oil sell out next and so damming was a list of countries around the world….Nigeria, Columbia, China, Norway, even Texas University have oil funds. We do not even have a State oil company, ours sold off in ’82. We are told how money, particularly American money, talks making money for select individuals at the expense of a country’s future. The play was also brought up to date with an appearance of an American presidential hopeful and reference to my own situation on the Raasay Sound. A government cabinet minister can glibly state that no the torpedo range will not be doubled in size and eight months later the same range is doubled in size. The music throughout is wonderful, funny, sad and mostly moving, it was a performance that left me so frustrated and angry,portraying exactly what struggling communities are up against that at the end looking for volunteers I, impetuously, volunteered to go on stage to read out a caption. Nine of us went up and mine was “The people do not control the land”. A wee highlight in my life…..sharing the stage with the cast of Dundee Rep. A standing ovation followed the finale and justly deserved. Left the theatre with the strong feeling that we are on a path that will sort out the last 350 years of utter mismanagement of the Highlands by people who only viewed it as an opportunity to cash in or use it as a playground. On the way in we stopped to walk Dougal and Eilidh above Achanalt. I took a couple of snaps which actually show how badly the current mismanagement continues.

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The patchwork of clear felled inappropriate forestry, the distant hydro built so the laird can cash in on more subsidy and not a house in sight in the whole glen. There is so much to change, to improve to make it fairer for all rather than the few that have so much already they spend inordinate amounts of time to get more at everyone’s expense. The view to the south a little better.

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Referring again to the play and the MoD’s role on the Inner Sound we are seeing the start of men playing at War Games off the coast of Scotland.

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Life in the wee smoke of Applecross goes on and it was a week of east winds

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and very poor catches. Cannot complain too much though even if the Hydro is taking a wee break. The light as usual is showing how powerful it can be.

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Although there are still plenty of people about we managed to keep the langoustine and squats on the board at the Inn for most of the week. It is however tiring on the body and mind when you go out knowing there is not much to catch. Thursday evening was nippy enough with some customers waiting almost an hour for a table. Hard to work the tables when 2/3rds are out of action, a 17, a 7 2x5s and all the residents mean you have to find all the others who walk in a table as they are just as important. The weather is always an important feature and the lower light

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on the way to work with the cloud backdrop

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make a softer street light.

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The east wind does not blow all the time, it has a tendency to drop off between strong gusting spells.

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Back onto the theme of land we have been given a timeline for the Trust consultation. I personally am totally confused by the process. Are we being asked to input on the future running of the Trust, deer management, forestry, paths and property? Or are they wanting input on what is already in place, the Community Developement Plan? The one missing link is housing and land, we can play around the edges of “shared community” ambitions or future, but if we do not have access to building affordable housing the future will go down the pan with all the community consultations you want.

The last major event of my week has been the passing of Angus Grant, fiddler of Shooglenifty fame, at the far too early age of 49.

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Like many music lovers I would never claim to know Angus, but his music and his band, will stay around from what they have done over the last 25 years. I think we make really strong connections with each other through music and by inference to musicians. You tend to think you know these musicians really well and it is such a compliment to some one like Angus that there has been so many inspired messages related to his passing. I was fortunate to be at three of their gigs in the last couple of years, The Fruit Market, Cambridge and Applecross Community Hall. When he came to Applecross the band were at the Inn to eat and the only band member I know is Ewen. A quiet evening in the middle of winter and a few people coming in to go to the Hall. As well as the privilege of serving musicians you respect I received a quiet compliment from Angus about how welcome he was made….going even further saying it was a true west coast welcome. His music speaks for itself but he was a fine man as well, different but then we all are.

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A cancelled Community Council Meeting did not prevent me sending a photo to The Highland Council about the deteriorating state of the Bealach….

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Comments on: "The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black Black Oil and Angus Grant." (4)

  1. Thanks for your deep felt thoughts and wonderful photographs

  2. Anne Byars, Glasgow said:

    A particularly thought-provoking post, Ali. Thank you.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Cheers Anne, it was a fine play and ticked many boxes relevant to where we live. Applecross has been involved in all three stages.

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