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


Waiting blogpost Sunset

It is more than two weeks since the Varuna grounded with no sign of Ali. We are in limbo; we know that he most likely died fairly soon after he fell into the sea, and yet we have no body. We’ve been informed by the police today that there will be an intensive search on 17th December (28 days after he went missing) in a specific area well north of Applecross. The search will involve two police teams, lifeboats and the coastguard. The decision to search this place on that date is based on the advice of a forensic oceanographer based in London. But it makes sense to us; we know John Newsome was found in the Gairloch area after he went missing off his boat in the Inner Sound not long after we started fishing. We know Bruce Fewell was found 28 days after he went missing off Plockton in April. It is good to be in touch with Sheila, Bruce’s partner.

Sad to say, since Ali disappeared, another Applecross fisherman has died, after a long and very stoically borne illness. Donald Cameron (Don to his close family and Taddy to most of the rest of us) was from a family which had fished for many generations, and the extent of his knowledge about fishing and the heritage of Applecross was legendary. He had an astonishing memory and was a mentor and role model for the younger generation and will be very much missed. His funeral was on Saturday and Kenny represented the Macleod family.

We’ve decided that we’ll organise a celebration of Ali’s life here in Applecross, but that we will wait till we know the result of the intensive search before deciding the exact date. We think it will most likely be towards the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018. If he’s found the celebration will also be his funeral. If not, we’ll go ahead with it anyway and if his body is found at a later date we’ll have a private cremation.

Life stops and life goes on. Visitors spend time with us and we have (almost) normal conversations, indulge in local gossip and laugh.The dogs need walked and Dougal bounces along as ever, though his mother seems sad at times, missing cuddles on the couch with Ali. The hydro scheme churns out its 2000 KWh plus each day, earning income for Applecross. Kenny produces warm and comforting meals and nags me to give up caffeine. Calum, called home from New Zealand after five years away from Scotland, adjusts to jet lag as he quietly continues his studying. Ruairidh is back in Dundee where the situational judgement test he sat on Friday went all right, he thinks. His fellow students provide good support as does Mariclau by Skype, from faraway Florence. Niall spent the week on a kayaking course near Ballachullish and then, back home with Rachel in Glasgow, he recognised the flooded slate quarry where the course had taken place in the Landward episode dedicated to his dad.

There have been many very lovely tributes paid to Ali on social media, in blogs, e-mails, letters and cards, a Spotify “Songs for Ali” list and in person; we appreciate every one. Most unusual and surprising of all must be the naming of the wind turbine built by the community in Coigach; it is called Varuna, after Ali’s boat: https://www.facebook.com/CoigachCDC/posts/1546302978768351

Comments on: "Waiting" (12)

  1. We’re all thinking of you daily and send you our inaudible but heartfelt good wishes on the winter breeze.
    Lisa, from Còigach. X

  2. Thank you for posting this Alison. It feels strange in that I feel so affected by the loss of somebody I hardly knew, yet felt I knew so well. I sincerely hope that Limbo ceases soon, allowing you all to grieve for Ali in the time honoured way. Best wishes to you all. X

  3. Alison Macleod said:

    It feels strange to us too, that so many who hardly knew him in person and yet more who did not know him in person at all are so affected by his loss. It’s like we are sharing him with loads and loads of strangers. He told a dream of Applecross, one which I often did not identify with, as life in a remote rural community, working in community development can be stressful and lonely at times. Ali often shared that stress, and had other worries of his own, but the blog was his therapy as he worked through these. I guess we’re kind of using it as therapy too, or trying to.

  4. Ian Sutherland said:

    Like BasketBob, I only spoke to Ali on half a dozen occasions, but from his blogs, I felt that he was a close friend. We have stayed in Applecross several times and Ali’s beautiful photographs, combined with his descriptions of every day events – walking the dogs, solving issues at the filling station, busy days at the Inn – were always delightful reminders of our visits.

    Of course, we were only visitors, with an imperfect picture of daily life in Applecross. Ali’s accounts of tensions with the Estate, dealing with the MoD and the unreliable internet connectivity were a sober counter-balance to our rose tinted view. Yet despite the frustrations, he never resorted to a rant or personal attacks. A very gracious man.

    I am sure that the entire community in Applecross will recognise that your loss is also their loss. I wish you and your sons well over the coming days and weeks as you rebuild your lives.

  5. I feel I’ve lost a friend who I never met. Sincere condolences to the family and fiends of a remarkable man.

  6. Rob Wilkinson said:

    Thanks for the update Alison. We are up over the Xmas and Hogmanay period. Perhaps we will see you then.

  7. endrickwater said:

    I had read about the Coigach wind turbine, and thought it a very fitting tribute. I understand a little about how life can be ordinary and absolutely not normal all at the same time. It would seem that the best advice is being taken, and all there is to do now is to be patient and wait on events. Such a difficult thing to do. My thoughts are with all of you.

  8. Lorna Davidson said:

    Thanks for sharing this, Alison. Know that you are all in our thoughts. Lorna and John

  9. Thank you for posting this. I have never been to Scotland and did not know Ali but I followed his blog for years and was delighted to get this deep insight into a life that is so different to mine here in Austria. I felt really shocked when I read the last post. My deepest condolences and best wishes to you all.

  10. Craig Cathcart said:

    Sincerest condolences to you and your family Alison, in the face of this awful, tragic event. My partner and I (both central belters) met Ali when we were at the Inn in spring 2016, and I still recall fondly the connections we made as we played the very Scottish game of ‘Where you from?’. Applecross, the Inn and Ali all made a great impression, and I began to follow the blog soon after. It gave a real picture of the challenges and rewards of living close to nature in a fragile community. Ali’s voice was so authentic, and wonderfully informative. I will be forever grateful for the small bit of insight I gained into Highland life from his tales and reflections.

    You and yours are in our thoughts.

  11. Janet Lamb said:

    I still have an icon for Ali’s blog on my iPad and so it will remain as a little tribute to him. It’s not quite a wind turbine but I will continue to dip in and out of his previous missives and look at his lovely photos as a reminder of him and Applecross. Thank you Alison for another update, it is so good of you to keep his followers informed at such a difficult time. I do hope that Ali will one day be found for you and your family’s peace of mind. I think it is a sign of the times, in an age of social media, that strangers and those who didn’t know him well viewed Ali as a friend. When someone opens their heart to people in print it is easy to feel that you know them well and to also feel their loss greatly. That is nothing though compared with you, your family and his close friends’ loss. It is sad to hear of yet another life gone in Applecross. I wish the searchers well on the 17th.

  12. Kay Harman said:

    Thank you Alison, it’s good to read your words here and that you can find this therapeutic too. I’m remembering lovely times with you, walking out to Airigh-Drishaig with the dogs and seeing an adder for the first time. I hope to see you soon. Love Kay

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