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

Posts tagged ‘Dr Jim Hunter’

Uair Eile….Another Time Another Place.

I so enjoyed Monday’s day out on so many levels, the experience of the solitude, beauty of the surrounds and the music. Even here some people leave the gates open. This must have been where it all started to go wrong, when people decided they owned it so fenced it for themselves.

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The feedback on both Facebook and Twitter has been enjoyable and the little conversations show that so many people are connected to this part of the world and for so many different reasons. Also it provokes thoughts about what is remote, the policy of rewilding and what that even means when people used to live there. “On the edge”, well Edinburgh is on the edge of the Forth, likewise Glasgow, the Firth. How people used to live in far greater numbers in these now remote parts but had a far less impact on the natural surrounds. Sometimes simple snippets of conversations stay with you and I will always remember Jim Hunter telling us about the large number of bounties paid out for eagles and other “vermin” considered detrimental to the new industry of sheep rearing in the Sutherland Glens. The people who used to live there lived alongside and with nature unlike the introduction of mono cropping, which does not work anywhere far less the fragile uplands of the Scottish Highlands. It carries on today when so much has to be controlled to allow grouse moors to make a profit for a few. And a wee coincidence turns up the Dauntless Star coming into Kyle from the south. Going by the date of Linda Gowans photo on the West Coast Fishing Boats there was a fair chance I was behind the wheelhouse out of sight of the lens. Would have been coming back from a trip up Loch Hourn.

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One of the best though is the couple of stories initiated by the photos of Kinlochourn. Many years ago an Applecross fishing boat was plying the waters of Loch Hourn and as was the case, there was a little extra money to be made by going ashore and controlling the local wild life. Of course the local keepers were aware of this practice and on one occasion, so the story goes, the Applecross fishermen had returned to their boat with their bounty, pursued by the local keeper. Knowing they were at a safe distance and out of range the bounty was tied to the mast and derrick and sailed past the infuriated keeper who by this time had lost it. He was taking harmless potshots at the stag, crew and boat that made a couple of taunting runs past him before making out down the Loch. Another venture, this time in one of the Lewis lochs and again in September. Having gone ashore and enough venison casserole in the hold to do Applecross for the rest of the Autumn they realised they would have to go back ashore for water. By this time the local keeper had been alerted to extraneous activities and was waiting on the shore as the tender came in. He casually asked how long they had been at sea. “Three days” came the innocent reply. At which he leaned forward and picked a chunk of stag’s hair of one of our characters shoulder and quietly said he did not wish to see them on his patch again. Another place another time, Uiar Eile and when you go to these places you are connecting to a rich history of folk living of the sea and land and with just a little humour while they go about it.

So after my wee holiday it was back to bad weather and working at the Inn.

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The weather has been pretty grim

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and no langoustine on the menu board since the weekend, plenty of other good food though. This time of year we really do not know what to expect, Wednesday almost dead, relatively speaking, but Thursday was pretty nippy. Have to take all the ribbing about no prawns but they have hand dived scallops so not all bad.

The weather changed by Friday and two fine days were spent at sea.

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Bright and sunny

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although on Saturday afternoon there was a little breeze from the north, not before hauling 400 creels. Having to haul more just now due to poorer catch and the broken weather. Still it is good to get back out on the water no matter if there is little langoustine to catch. This time of year with the light changing so much

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and so often there is always something to see,

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including the first time I have ever steamed under a rainbow.

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Being a bit lazy the last few days I had to do one of the jobs on the way across the Sound that I should have done earlier in the week.

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Saturday evening was uneventful, leaving before the biker took his clothes off to try on Taneil’s apron. Only other thing of note was having to deal with a resident who did not get to sit at a table she wanted to, “up herself” is the technical term for that. Sunday starts slowly and although the weather is still fine we were not expecting the hordes, they came in numbers, from Barons to plebs they all ended up at the Inn for lunch. It was like a day in July, cyclists, expected, motor bikers, random, locals and day trippers from Inverness to Shropshire. They were served, the dogs were walked

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and Alison was picked up from the train.

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Glad forecast not good for Monday as slightly overworked. Last couple of Sunday’s the food has been stunning. This week was local lamb, wrapped in an exotic cover and served with aubergines amongst other delightful ingredients. Previous Sunday it was a routine venison loin. No wonder we struggle when eating out from Applecross.

Amongst all this is the mundane taking of fuel deliveries,

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rebooting the Filling Station, checking the Hydro for on going glitches and pestering friends to vote in theM&Senergy competition,while trying not to stress about falling behind on the paperwork. Many thanks for all your votes as we seem to have pulled ahead although wary of another push from our closest rivals. Also I do not say it enough, Thank you for taking time out to read the Posts, I will never get used to so many people taking time out to do just that. Cheers.

Changin’ Scotland and It Is.

That was some three days, even for here the variety was something. Had made it to bed after a shift on Thursday coming back from Contin and was shattered but in a good way. Friday was taken at a run although part of that was making sure I had finished a post for putting out on Saturday. Contin did look good and it was thanks to the pooches that I made time to see above and over the mists. Lovely weather  on Friday morning

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and managed everything, all the menial stuff, the washing, dishes etc, in time for making it up to the Bealach summit

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to watch the sun dip behind the Cuillin.

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One of the jobs I had earmarked for the day was to feed the bees but when I went over to see how they were doing they were busy flying and saw some pollen coming in as well.

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Extra ordinary in the last days of November how pleasant and warm it is. So although I had forgotten a couple of things in the rush it was worth it for the scenes taking place out west. After catching up with Alison at Garve we all made our way to Leckmelm to get the nest ready for later and then off into Ullapool to grab something to eat and get into another Changin’ Scotland. Calling in at the Ceilidh Place we were immediately chatting to all sorts of revolutionaries and as a result missed the start of the evening. Finding the right venue and not reading the programme did not help.

Back to Leckmelm and a night spent trying to keep Dougal off the bed. It was at floor level due to a big relative’s recent visit and Dougal thinking he was still on his Contin holidays made the most of it. Another late arrival at the Village Hall, this time due to fishing, bee and wood chat at the lodgings. Missed the start of Matt Qvortrup’s talk on Referendums. Really interesting and then it was Prof Adam Tomkins, some one who I had followed on twitter to see and read about another view. Had to stop after the Vote as I found him just a bit too harsh. Fair play for him coming up this way as he was in a definite minority view. There really was some good behind the scenes descriptions of how the Smith Commission has worked to get its proposals out but he did appear to lose it somewhat when he described all Glasgow’s secondary state schools as not fit for purpose and dipped even deeper into tribal party politics saying the English education system was wonderful alongside his eulogy of Mr Gove. Got a brilliant rant from a retired Glasgow teacher at the coffee break. Sent by his wife to apologise for his language later in the morning, unnecessary but great to chat with people from around the country. Although the afternoon was absorbing and thought-provoking, listening to the likes of Jeane Freeman, David Greig and Kathy Galloway among others, the evening was beckoning with Tom Smith, Lateral North, Andy Wightman and Dr Jim Hunter.

Kathy Galloway began her talk with an extra ordinary tale. Bill going through Parliament on Friday with cross party support to prevent revenge evictions. That is, tenants, who complain to their landlords about housing conditions being evicted for their troubles. the Bill failed to go onto the books because it was talked out of time…..by two Tory MPs ……and you felt the room already knew what she was going to say next…..two Tory MPs who were landlords. If I did not declare an interest at a CC meeting and did not leave the room I would be out on my ear. The point I take from this they are now so arrogant they do not seem to care who sees or knows what they do now.

Tom Smith showed a power point full of imagination of what could happen in Scotland in the future…..nothing was deemed impossible, an example being that Scapa Flow could be the maritime hub for the whole of western Europe. A cracking example put forward by Tom was of a Danish architect who decided it would be a good idea to build a swimming pool above a supermarket using the wasted heat to warm the pool. Not only that he put in a diving board that allowed the divers into the supermarket. So shoppers in the fruit and veg aisle were passed by divers inside the glass enclosed pool. Got me thinking about lots of seagoing ventures that could be feasible in the scheme of things. It is not long since the western seaboard was connected by sea routes and that brought to mind an earlier discussion about remoteness. Remote is a relative term and where you are determines how remote you are. London is remote from Applecross. The world map on the wall of the Inn shows Applecross as the centre and threads from all across the world coming to Applecross. Millennium ago the first settlers inhabited the centres of “civilisation” and these were the coastal fringes of an impenetrable and wild hinterland. Stopped for dinner at the Ceilidh Place where we had the good fortune to sit with Jim Hunter and as the meal went on great exchanges of stories took place.

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He is now working on a book about the Sutherland Clearances and was telling us about the bounties paid out to “hunters” for eagles heads etc. Showing how the people lived on the land alongside the natural inhabitants and the diversity of wildlife that existed then. Not rosy by any means for the people but far better the denuding and degradation of the Highlands that took place over the last 200 years. The Scottish Govt’s programme has poor landlords in its sights and rightly so. Why should so few people hold sway over so many in a modern democracy? Why should the amount of land any one person can hold not be capped? Why can individual wealth not be kept under control. All these accumulations of power, wealth and property are ultimately detrimental to the surrounding environment. I equate these actions to my own life style, the constant striving for growth in the fishing industry inevitably leads to stock extinctions and a degraded eco system and as such should be controlled for the benefit for everyone. At Leckmelm the right of fishermen to fish to extinction was decried as it affects the non fishing community. As regards the degrading of the land and sea we are all in it together. Feels good to be amongst the revolutionaries. Meanwhile Dougal and Eilidh were given frequent walks and he, in particular had his moments meeting Douglas Fraser’s Sam and had a great wee mess about. One not so good moment nipping off in the dark to roll in the foulest rotten fish he could find. Result of that was a swim in Loch Broom. The end of the evening was interspersed with lots of chat about potential future opportunities for people and communities across the Highlands, but there was a wee stop for a snap.

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We decide to head down the road as work commitments meant a full on day for Sunday for both of us. On the way down the road Jim Hunter’s mention of Angus Macrae of North Strome reminded me of hearing him in Assynt. I had the good fortune to have been invited up to take part in a Radio programme by Lesley Riddoch and towards the end of the recording Angus stood up to say how proud he was of the Assynt crofters in their buying of the Estate and he hoped this would be the start of a repopulating of the Highlands. He then went on to describe such an evocative picture of driving home in the dark from Inverness across the northern Highlands and seeing the lights back on in the Glens, keeping him company on the way home. So different from now when you can travel for miles in total darkness. Maybe the new reforms that are proposed may help Angus’s vision to be fulfilled.

I can only end by saying it was a privilege to have been in such company and that includes the whole week, ranging from the community leaders in Contin to the politicos, journalists, activists and the good people in Ullapool. One can only hope that the efforts of Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart can be rewarded in the continuing of this great weekend. Today was hard graft, a 10/11 hour stint, but rewarding at the Inn but rest now for a day’s fishing may be on the cards for tomorrow.

Land and Food Craic

Dog walking is great for having a good think about all the ups and downs of life in Applecross. Went out on Saturday afternoon,IMG_4716

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Dougal meeting and shouting at the Ardhu “wild”boar, not really wild, in fact very curious at this loud nuisance

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and again on Sunday evening with them and there is always something new to see and think about.

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Little touch of autumn under way.

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These trips around The Sanctuary help see things from another perspective, at least I give it a go. Talking to people with different persuasions, but who are your friends is a great way to allow ” Two people to look at the same thing and see it differently”. The growing debate about Land Reform falls into this category. Saturday evening’s company threw up some interesting thoughts and I always take comfort in the fact that there has never been such a state as the status quo. Events, developments, people, attitudes will always mean that our environment, economic,political and social, are ever-changing whether positive or not. It sometimes feels a little over the top sometimes when I describe what happens at the Inn, meeting and getting to know people, exchanging opinions, views even compliments, how it all feels so positive. Having learnt so much over the last couple of years from Judith and Jill and feeling a bit more confident about having the ability to deal with most things there you find that you can take this out into the community. You feel that bit more confident that although your views are by no means universally they are mine and can be argued without rancour. Been reading a guest blog by Dr Jim Hunter  on community land ownership and found it really interesting. But as well the blog the comment stream that follows these articles are equally of interest.http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3029 There are the usual comments that come from entrenched positions but these combined with meeting fresh views in the Inn are invaluable in developing one’s own take on the debate. Speaking to Steve about the comparisons with Norway’s land distribution and their land use which seems to be so different to what happens here. There are so many more people involved in rural decisions and a more populous and varied aspect of land use. More locally controlled and better managed forestry coupled with a mature grazing policy. Here we have barren moorlands kept that way for grouse and red deer where there could be a proper native reforesting that could generate fuel, improved soil structures, domestic animal habitats and amenities for the many. It is not as though there never were trees covering the Scottish landscape. Policies that are dependent on grants rather than community benefit will soon belong to the past. Just had a conversation with some one who is not a “land reformer” and even she had to admit all is not well in the hands of those who have the power to let nothing happen. As it was suggested on Saturday evening Patience is a key factor and that was what I was told, I am patient.

The wonder of Applecross allows you to have these “radical” thoughts and still enjoy the walks, the environment you wander through and you arrive back home refreshed and ready for more.

Sunday lunch was a fairly relaxed affair just keeping an eye on the big table groups that were coming in on the hour. One of the nice things was that there were five groups of 7+ in at the same time and 3 of them were local.

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Finished the shift with a fine venison burger and later in the evening had a scoop of Scottish raspberry ripple which, I think, supersedes just about everything that has gone before….that is until you try another one.  A wee bit of tension from the Boss as she knew there was a review coming out this weekend and it turned out ok, with quite a bit of license. 7/10 is a good pass rate on a crazy day,http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/food-drink/features/restaurant-review-applecross-inn-applecross-1-3051022.

Going back to the theme of the “circle of life” it is everywhere. Was speaking to some Americans and found out they wee from Boston and that brought back a memory of my landing in Boston on the first stage of me hitching across The States. Had a contact in Vermont so phoned from The Boston Tea Party Gift Shop. Of course the Tcheuchter from the Highlands could not work the phones and always will remember the girl who not only helped me but put me up on her couch for the night. Not only that but trusted me enough to got out with her boyfriend and left me alone in her flat and the next morning took out to the freeway and from there I set off. Told the Americans this and you could see how pleased they were to be told how I never associate the people with their government. Only once have I come across a no tax paying Republican at the Inn, but left her to it. Really wanted to ask her why were their bridges and roads were now falling apart, maybe because they did not pay taxes…..but I served her the scallops anyway.

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