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

Posts tagged ‘Applecross Trust’

“Nothing has changed in Applecross since “The Bloody Project””

Typical, just when you want to have a wee chat with a Welsh man you can’t find one anywhere. A lovely shift at the Inn today and while the rain belted down, the fire was on and the food was as good as anywhere in the Highlands, so said the customers, and as you know they are always right. Working my way back and yet another funeral attended, this time on Saturday. Jessie, having passed away earlier, brought memories back from years gone by. Many a visit of a weekend coming from the Inn and stopping off for a late night dram with Angus and Jessie on the way home. Usual chat about fishing from Angus, he first went to sea on the Truelove with my own Dad and I think stayed at sea his whole life. Jessie kept our glasses full and maybe tried to keep us in better shape for the short drive home in the early hours with offers of tea/coffee while Angus gave another rendition of the beautiful Eilidh.. Happy memories. After the internment I went down to the shore to give the dogs a run out and run they did.


This was after watching the rescue of an Inverness taxi of the now not so immaculate verge at the entrance to the VT.  The afternoon was taken up with rugby and as a Scotland supporter found myself in the unusual position of being relatively relaxed during the final ten minutes of the match, having a cushion of two scores ahead. Kept the volume down for Eilidh and she only became concerned hearing me crossing the room when Scotland scored their last try. On Friday evening I was in two minds whether to go out to yet another meeting, this time a continuance of the Trust led “community” consultation. Decided that it was better to go in order to appreciate things first hand. I have spoken to a number of people who were at the meeting since and there is quite frankly a lot of head scratching going on in the community. No one is saying that consulting about the aspirations of the community is a bad thing but honestly spending 45 minutes discussing the minutiae of the process that has been slumbering on for over a year now had people wondering why they had given up their Friday evening. We still have not even finalised setting up a steering group to set up a Forum, which seems to be a direction we are going come hell or High Water. Interestingly if you have a contrary opinion of direction or of outcomes then you are shown to be against the process. There is a very fine line to be walked by the numerous people in the community who are unhappy with the process. One puts one hand up to be part of a process you can hardly be enthusiastic about as if you don’t you are painted into an anti corner. I believe this whole process depends on one factor and only one. Have the Trustees of the Applecross Trust had a change of mind or direction in running the Applecross Estate that is inclusive or is this just a tick box exercise to counter new Community Powers that will enable us to strengthen our capacity showing that the Trust by its actions and obstruction is working against the sustainable development of the Community. We have heard about “The Shared Vision” ad nauseam but it is only “shared” one way. There has not been one iota from the Trust. I have to agree to a certain extent that the running of the Trust is entirely the duty and work of the Trustees but when it becomes a barrier to the survival of the community I live in that is when I have to quell a certain amount of anger, anger I found reciprocated in conversations the following day. Several questions were asked directly of the Trust and several opinions offered from the floor that showed a level of scepticism regarding any change of direction from the Trustees. I specifically asked for any examples of evidence of a change of heart and received absolutely nothing positive in the response. In fact I was told that a couple of people were worried by my reaction to the answer or lack off offered. I no longer react in such a way any more that would cause any discomfort to the room and still wait for any sign of any change of direction from the Trustees. On Saturday I was given the quote of the decade. “Nothing in Applecross has changed since “The Bloody Project”” A “talk shop” changes nothing here, it will keep open communications, but only if we have at least one Trustee on the Forum and even that has been resisted so far. It is a “shared vision” after all. So next Friday and the next and the next and the next we are as a community supposed to turn up to the Hall to form a Forum which may or may not be constituted, have no powers or objectives other than to discuss. One really annoying part to all this process is that any disagreement is used against the Community to show up its divisions. A tactic that is used all the way up to National Politics level these days. I can easily disagree with many members of our community but am actually finding that I am coming across far more agreement than division. It was quite revealing that a member of the community suggested that the Trustees should take part in a “quiz” about Applecross and see the extent of their knowledge of the community that is so affected by their decisions on running the Trust. I will leave you a quote from this year’s accounts, late by the way but not important for some, stating that the Trustees are maintaining the traditional enterprises,buildings and infrastructure of the Estate “as a place of inspiration for the general public and THOSE WHO LIVE AND WORK THERE”.

Extraordinarily who should be staying in Applecross this weekend but Graeme Macrae Burnet, the author of The Bloody Project. For the few of you who do not know this is a novel about a murder in Applecross in the 19th century and accurately putting forward a sense of what residents had to put up with from The Big House. It made the Man Booker Prize shortlist and Graeme was in town with German publisher and journalists to promote the publication of the Bloody Project in German. They had a great time and left extolling the warmth of the welcome from the Inn, the food and the Applecross experience. It is not all sweetness and light here, as last week, watching from the Inn some visitors being admonished by a resident on their driving. Always gets me going as I think the least we can do is welcome those wishing to visit….it is traditional hospitality. We had a bit of banter when they came in and it turns out they were from Tyrone and were not in the least phased by the rudeness, their words, of an individual after spending 40 years living in a war zone. They left after a proper welcome.

A little break in the weather meant the langoustines and squats are on the menu with more prospects this week. Another funeral planned next week with a busy day thrown in but with weather settling down mid-week we should keep the visitors well fed. There is still always time to appreciate the beauty of the place both on the sea,





the rivers


and streams,


the company,



wild life



and scenery


watching other people work to keep the community going,






and this makes things so much better.


I am fighting for the place where I live, many may not agree with a lot of what I say but generally I have not found any other alternative for this community. Leave you with these stats I stated on Friday night. 8 primary school children, 10 people in their 20s and 40% of the population over 60 years of age. If the Trustees are going to engage with the community they are going to have help solve our housing crisis instead of putting up more and different reasons why we cannot have more affordable housing in Applecross and far more people living here.

A Long Day’s Fish then Sharon Shannon.

The day started early. For some fishermen a dawn to dusk routine is an everyday occurrence, not for me. So I do not often see 5.15am, 15 mins later than planned as I still have to meet a late afternoon deadline at the Inn. Morning was a bit sticky in the bay getting up fleets shot over and left fleet that is in a bit of a bundle, that’s me shooting over my neighbours…… a calm day’s work with no time pressure for that fleet to be sorted. Glass calm and ethereal sort of day.


Couple of other foul ups meant one over and another under so slight hold ups but by 5. 30pm the langoustine were back on menu. By 6.00pm I was back up at the Inn after shower and slightly dazed starting shift, still busy but don’t notice so much these days. Boss heads off down to the Community Hall to see what the Applecross Trust consultation has progressed to. By the accounts of the meeting I have heard it sounds like a bit of a mixed bag. Boss came back a little flustered from her exit but no one really noticed. The question whether Applecross needed any marketing was met with silence, a few bits and bobs about what the Trust is doing, tarring a road, fencing, growing trees, repairing piers. The pier at the Coal Shed will always be regarded as a missed opportunity for me. Through ALPs it could have been a well armoured, stone faced, solid working pier, but we are where we are and now wondering how to rebuild an unprotected one vulnerable to increasing climate change that won’t be used by anything more than a dinghy. The feeling was that there already is a development plan in place for Applecross and the priority for most, not all, the community is affordable housing and access to land for those who want to build by those who want to live here and have not connections to the land. No one has any problem with the Trust having their own plan but there was uncertainty what the community had to do with it. There was an interesting new “objective”of the Trust called social welfare that interested community members and was questioned. As I was not there these are all subjective comments from the people who were there. But at least channels seem to be opening to the “Big House” and is still awkward for both sides to engage meaningfully, but going in the right direction slowly. Asking for full community consensus is unrealistic though, some people living here do not even want tourists so to get consensus is not going to happen. That is the main failing of the IFGs, the Inshore fishing groups is they are supposed to work on consensus, not reasonable majority. One very gets consensus in any walk of life.

Thursday started off very badly with the migraine of the year. There are always upsides to these. Firstly and least the weather was bad so no missed day at sea, second it gives you an insight to pain and more importantly other people’s pain, but when you come out the other side of it you feel so relieved and have a “good to be alive” feeling after. The timing of this one was crucial as I had negotiated a swap night at the Inn so I could get to see Sharon Shannon. Recovered in plenty of time and it was a superb night of music. Made it to the front row in the corner and was entertained by some superb music played by superb musicians. Began with some set from the School of Excellence,


followed by Nuallan,


great piping, fiddling and a song written by David Francey.


And then for the second half top-notch music, box,




and beat box from Sean,


time just flew by. Finished off with Galway Girl and music from New Found Harmonium.


Amongst the thanks at the end Sharon seemed well taken with the Jannie’s name Crisdean, calling him Creeeshdian Macraw, great night with lots of good chatter in-between times with folks not seen for months. You realise you get a little isolated over here when you are so buried in work. All part of a great day although saying that on a day when you start it with a migraine may sound slightly bizarre.

The weather has turned autumnal


and the wind is blowing steady and strong for first two days of the week and now for the last three days and looks to keep going til after Monday. Work at the Inn and landing the last of Wednesday’s catch, buying my next music ticket, Ullapool, Ceilidh Place, and Ali Hutton and Ross Ainslie next Thursday. See the Whale and Dolphin Trust are about as well so may make an afternoon of it. It is a lovely time of year to see such changeable weather.


Politics, petitions and an appreciation of life.

Life goes on amidst the swirl of rumour, opinions and now petitions. The petitions, I think there are two, are curious in that one seems to be aimed at older folk asking them to sign for a status quo and another that appears fine . I did laugh at the comment that he could not sign that one as they he was more a Rolling Stones man.There is a strange covering note on both saying that no one has been consulted by the Community Company or the Community Council on ” the activity orchestrated in the press about the management of Applecross Estate.” I say strange because the ACC has issued a statement to the community and The Council met on Tuesday and only 8 members of the public turned out and there was a reasonable discussion that involved “if necessary there will be a public meeting if there is a known demand for it”. There should be clear knowledge within the community that both the ACC and Council could not consult with the community as they had not prior indication of the campaign, which was orchestrated outside Applecross, and once the campaign became public knowledge both have reacted. Personally speaking their reaction has been very measured in comparison to others. Understandably there is a huge amount of emotion and feeling of an outside threat to the community in some quarters but in most of my conversations many people do not realise that the problem has not been created for the community but for the Trust. I have been involved in stramashes in the past and think that ,for me , the best and sensible way to look at all this is put it in a timeless perspective. What will people be talking about in 20/30 years time? If this fades away or even if there is momentous change I do not think there will be any statues erected on what is happening at present.That does not mean to say that I am immune to stressing out and have missed a couple of breakfasts over all this, but I could do with losing a few pounds anyway. The land court case in Toscaig of yester year comes to mind when Alec “s horse was accused of eating Tormod Mor’s grass on his croft. It brings a smile now but there must have been a lot of angst and taking sides at the time. The beauty of this campaign is that it is directed at the Trust and they, with or without the support or consultation of the community, do have to act. They either accept or dismiss the applications. The main thing I like about the campaign is that it has shown that Applecross, although in decline over decades, still has a vibrant and active, thinking community. The slightly worrying aspect is that the campaign has been misunderstood locally. While there are calls out with the Council and ACC to put more local representation on the Board that is not what it is about. I asked for that over 6 months ago and similar calls have been made over the previous decade. Mine was simply to improve communication during the negotiations for the Hydro scheme as Trustees were saying they did not have the information that we had provided then with 6 months previously. I thought having a local rep would improve communications but it did not cross my mind that any influence would be gained. Anyway we have moved on and the request was turned down flat. I always have believed you work with what you have. Going back to the petition I will have to find out if I am allowed to sign it as it seems to be selective and confidential. The wording of one of them is fine by me and I am happy to sign it. It was pointed out a little mischeviously that it is only confidential until the Trustees see the names but of course that should not influence any one’s decision in signing. The over-riding factor in all of this Applecross is not divorced from the outside world, in the past with fewer means of communications and transport outside influences took longer to arrive here and now whether we like it or not we have to deal with, learn and grasp our opportunities in a way that was not necessary in the past. Wishing for the status quo is just that a wish.

Friday saw some torrential rain, both overnight, and during the day, this coupled with a difficult breezy but not windy day meant that I only put a fleet of creels together and went out to shoot it back on the grounds. Thought of hauling a few creels but decided on an easier day of visiting neighbours and chewing the fat. these days are as important to me as making lots of dosh, in some ways more so, because if you have not got the companionship of your fellow-man…. The streams were full and I cannot help thinking about all this electricity that can be harnessed for the good of the community. We will.

Yesterday I went out fishing and find it therapeutic. You are never completely remote for all the storms that swirl around you but apart from meditation I do find being on the water is the next best process for achieving a better sense of equilibrium. The process of hauling creels is very mechanical and not need a lot of conscious decision-making so you can let your mind wander and eventually settle down to a nice rhythm. The creels keep coming on board, the few prawns and squats are dealt with and 450 creels later and a little tired but content this part of the day draws to an end. No matter what day there is always something new, some new light on a part of the land you love. Just something that makes you stop and confirm that there is something good out there.

Off to the Inn after a quick shower and staff tea it was a shift at the Inn. All quiet until 6.45pm when Chris behind the bar mentioned how quiet it was. for the next 4 hours it was full on with customers waiting for tables but almost all happy and i think all were by the end of the night. Working here constantly shows the two sides to everything. A couple were celebrating and wanted to sit on a certain table, but although arranged we lost “control” for two minutes as another customer told Judith about a personal tragedy, another group automatically thought it was their table and sat down at it. So we have this expectant couple booked 6 months ahead, disappointed, this other couple who were leaving, distraught and this other  group blissfully unaware of the drama surrounding them simply loving their night out ,food and company. But again when you looked out of the window and saw this scene these little dramas do rather pale.

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