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

Posts tagged ‘Jenny’

Wood, Heritage and Saying Goodbye.

In my usual place on a slightly quieter Saturday evening after a gammon egg and chips. Good day at the hall, a very good day, positive people and good demonstrations with everything to do with wood. Progressing my thermal panel, water heating for use age and heating. Spent around a half hour describing and talking about wood with Amanda along with attempts at identifying. Only three people have ever got them all right and they were all wood turners.


Although they are remarkable similar I could not tell the difference between willow and ash. The weight and burning quality of, where they grow and how it affects colours and bark etc, all fascinating information. Outside the Lochbroom Woodfuels,


a trading arm of Ullapool Community Trust. The unit, once the log was lifted onto the trestle, was shunted up to the cutting chain


and then the cut log pushed onto the splitter,


pushed up the ramp


to get stacked in the corner.


For outside stacking bark side down until you get to the top layer where you turn them bark side up to let the rain run off. Although I did hear that there was a series ,5 episodes, that ran in Sweden about log stacking. It became a national debate for a while. Back inside and there was plenty to see and learn and Gordon was there showing some of the old photos of fishing heritage of Applecross along side the new project of interviewing the older fishermen in their native Gaelic,Sgeul an Iasgaich.


We have come a long way from these days as Gordon was mentioning several drowned fishermen. A wee follow-up to the Tom Devine talk was Gordon pointing out the wall from the Coal Shed to the White Gate was probably made from the stone of the houses of  Ach’ a ‘ Choirce. So not only moving the people of the better land but give them work by dismantling their own homes to build walls for those who moved them out. “The marks on the land are there for those who have eyes to see them”. “Destitution works” or should I say for some. Fine lunch of thick vegetable soup and sandwiches for a pretty good turn out.


Lots of work goes into these events organised by AEE mainly in the form of Val. The conversations continued after the wood chopping outside and the Indy Ref still up there with all the follow-up consequences. Even from up here there are many things going on and it was exciting to hear about possible financial moves based on people and community. An announcement on what is going to emerge will be coming and I am under embargo, but positive and encouraging. Cannot help noticing that a week is an awful long time in politics. Last week the oil was running out, the NHS was completely safe from privatisation and the welfare state was better together. Now the oil has up to 120 years life span , the NHS has to saved from privatisation, more cuts on welfare and now we are back at war. Appears we are going to spend more in the next two weeks bombing the US trained ISIS than we would have done in setting up a new Scottish state. Little wonder people are still discussing what could have been. Talking off older fishing photos here are a couple showing us on the Emma Goody, the previous boat to the Varuna, fished for a while with Andy.


Lots more hair in them days


and a nice photo of the “Guinea” weighing the prawns before taking them to the Amazon factory in Kyle.


Last evening at the Inn was busy again with people waiting for tables but enjoyable and many comments about the exemplary food.

Unfortunately we have a dysfunctional  Filling Station again. Hoping against hope that it can be put down to “teething” problems. We also have had a power cut which has not helped. Not being very literate I can handle rebooting the old system but have to be taught how to deal with the new issues. Locked out of the screen at the moment but hopefully that should be sorted by the afternoon. Since, have found out that I am locked out through technology and not ignorance. Another little development that has happened in the last day is the arrival of the first TESCO van in town. Not good for our local shop but the local pound being worth £6 does not wash if whoever is spending it has the bottom line and nothing else as a reason where to spend his pound. If he spends it local then the shopkeeper spends at the Inn who buys from the craft shop and everyone buys diesel from our Filling Station. Not only that but there are people working in the shop and the Inn and the local craft and food shops. If these people were not working in these expensive to run establishments then it would be a barren place to live. If not we might as well all live outside Inverness. Just remember TESCO’s loyalty is to TESCO and no one else. If they decide that it is not worth their while coming into Applecross sometime in the future and in the meantime we lose our shop and postal service then it may well be that the domino effect will be underway. One service goes down which triggers the next and makes the place viable as a holiday destination and little else. The heart of the community will be lost and the lost value will greatly exceed the current cost of keeping these services alive.

Well it is now with a heavy step I am going down to say goodbye to our lovely Jenny. I still have very, very faint hope but have to be realistic. Not going to be easy.

And back now having had a wee dram in her memory and thought lots of good thoughts, walks and good company that she was. Dougal and Eilidh helped by scampering about in the heather in their never-ending search for rodents, stopped me becoming maudlin. That is the whisky drinking done for a while.



Stunning, Sad and a wee bit Devine

Seems like an age since I posted and had to check, but only three days ago. Despite a strong feeling of not achieving anything lately there have been quite a few things on the go. Yesterday I was up at the Inn in the morning after a phone call from the Tokheim installers about the lack of equipment to install. When I arrived the Air Serv guy was there ready to install the compressor so went looking for the key.


The Tokeim guys had it back at the Inn as they were finding out where their “Big Red Box” was. Turns out it was in Dundee and had not been sent north. So a Meet was organised at the Tore Service Station and our two went to meet the van from Dundee. The compressor was installed and Simon turned up to finish off his work, not much but still essential.


And after a chat it was back down the road and out onto the hillside again. I only found out when I was up behind the schoolhouse that there was shooting going on further south going by the rifle shots echoing up the slopes. Just as well I chose another area to wander. I would love to be proven wrong but I have given up seeing Jenny again. Sorrow is a wonderfully descriptive word for how I felt over looking the Sound but you cannot help looking around


and appreciating what a wonderful place we live in. And it was Jenny who took me up here today. The views to the south,




and north


are spectacular and the breeze had died away to nothing. Stayed up for a good two hours before making my way back to the house. Referring to the talk later there is no accident that the hamlets are pushed down onto the shore line


and there are none on the better ground around the Glen.


Only archeological remains there.


Love looking down on the clusters of houses, just observing.


There has been a little bit of rain so the Culduie burn is flowing faster again.


Bit less sad as I am telling myself it was quick. I have said it before, this is so out of character that almost immediately we knew something was wrong. Have to say a huge thanks to everyone who has expressed sincere concern both personally, on fb and on here. It is much appreciated and tells me how liked Jenny was throughout the community…… Not by the postie or one of our neighbours but everyone to their own. Went into the shop and there were tears there as a lot of other places. Everyone has their own story, not least Simon who mentioned his elderly cat, after a visit to the vet, crawling onto his chest, lies there purring and then dies.

However life does go on and Jenny will always be around, the Highland oral history is good for keeping alive past memories. More of that later as I went out to see and hear Tom Devine in the evening. The Filling Station is now looking marvellous and is up and running.

Wednesday night it was a busy shift and as I was going out to the Hall later I came up early and flew solo for quite a while. Just on the edge of what you can do but it is such an adrenalin rush you don’t notice the time. 8pm and it was down the road to hear what Prof Devine had to say and it was fascinating. An event organised by Gordon from the Historical Society.


The Clearances and the Potato Famine  was the theme and his recall was impressive. Talked about the relocation, dipped into the Opium Trade but there were many references to the structures left on the land whether agriculture or ruins. Also reasons why the Famine did not have quite the same effect as it did on Ireland although the western seaboard and islands were badly hit. Gordon mentioned a wee tale passed to him from his uncle about my great-aunt telling him when she was alive there never was a winkle to be found on the shore between Ardhu and Toscaig, a sign of the hunger of the times. Something I have known a little about is the recycling of the stone, Hallaig across the water on Raasay being a classic example. The park walls were built from the houses belonging to the people who were cleared off the land. Such a brutal symbol of how the people were treated can still be seen clearly across the Sound from Applecross. The farm building here has more than likely used stone from the Broch. Had a brief chat with him after as he had gone to Edinburgh ten years after I had left. Told me a couple of salacious stories about one or two people who had taught me. Not for repetition on here. No lights for the way home so it was a shaky cycle from the Hall in the dark. A good turn out of over seventy people.

Yesterday, my first day not going out on the hill but will be heading there many times in the future, A morning of moping around a bit too much, still included another trip to the Filling Station, and then after lunch a trip up the road on the bike to take part in a bit of training. Great to see so many people attending,


the future is looking good here as there seems to be more volunteering as time goes on. the Community Company is getting onto a stronger footing and governance is getting stronger as we put line management and financial systems in place. May well have forgotten it already but instructions have been left and it looks so user-friendly compared to the last system.



A customer under the watchful eye of Jim takes a fuel delivery. Interesting to see if sales increase due to the simplicity if the system.Local cards were thought to be part of the package but it appears not and will be an extra cost. We will have to work out how much and who will bear this. The last system cost the Trading Company money and we tried to balance this out with extra fuel sales through loyalty. May not be enough and fuel cards may have to carry a penny or two to cover operational costs if we go ahead with this. A sideline at the moment and I never thought I would get excited about a Filling Station but it is looking good and simple to use. All these trips are on the bike and it allows you to look around and yesterday afternoon seemed very autumnal. That shared light across the mature reeds on a gloomy backdrop.


Stayed up and began the shift early at the Inn and it was pretty full on with people waiting for tables and just getting the residents tables when they wanted them, even finding a bit of time to chat to them. A good night with a wee scrap at the start over who was to get the last prawns in the building. Once that was over then it was down to looking after everyone as the Boss was out for a meal and left us to it. From Lewis to Ohio and the Philippines in between it went well.  Really enjoyed it and despite being asked after Jenny managed to lift the spirits for a short time. Never forget her but want to smile when I think of her. Good craic with the Tokheim boys as well as the Lewis connection on table 5 who had been down the previous evening. Asked for lots of info through out the evening on walks, where to see otters and even about the concrete blocks on the shores of Loch Toscaig, but some other time for that. The indy Ref is still a hot topic and I for one hope it does not go away. There are so many aspects that can now be talked about that does not involve fear and if and when the next one comes along these fears will be discussed and worked through and we will no longer be the only country that voted not to be a country. Always a compliment when some seeks you out as they leave to shake your hand in thanks for a good evening. That handshake is for all the staff, everyone who works at the Inn. And to finish again on the kindness surrounding Jenny, had a phone call from Shieldaig and jenny was gong to be on Two Lochs Radio just in case some one may have picked her up and is looking after her. Lovely that guys are spending so much time trying to help. Thank you.


Pretty miserable last couple of days but now trying to convince myself it was quick for Jenny. The excitement and adrenalin rush for her hopefully was too much as she chased off after her yipping offspring. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who have been out on the hill since she went missing. Possibly though daylight hours there have been dogs and people looking for any sign of her but to no avail. Maybe just maybe but I am now reflecting she had a good life and in return gave us lots of pleasure. We looked after a dog called Talisker for good friends as they left Applecross for city life and he was a great dog. After he was gone the big miss I felt was realising that there was no welcoming thump of tail on floor when he heard me coming down in the morning. The silence was heartrendingly sad. With Jenny there are too many triggers and while it is great to have Eilidh and Dougal they are the constant memories. Over time they will be how she will always be around. Looking through a few photos of her and there are one or two despite Dougal being the media tart that he is. Weather has been pretty indifferent allowing me not to bother too much about going to sea. Change from last week complete with temperature, rain and breeze all telling me that autumn is kicked in.


One area that Jenny led me to is Toscaig river.


The last time I was in this area was a trip up the edge with Sam when we were assessing the potential for hydro, this around six years ago. I went up to the bend and walked down to river itself as I knew there was rain forecast and wanted to check before the levels rose. We have had the driest spell and the river is low.


The ground surrounding the river is bleak undulating moorland while the river has cut a beautiful vein through this part of the peninsula.




On a more local level the Filling Station refurbishment is underway….again with DNS Forecourts in the form of Simon and fellow worker.


I went up the road to see what was going on and it was quite noticeable the difference in quality of units.


The installed units looked a decade old. After a few shots it was back down the road, dropping off my last prawns at the Inn on the way, a kip, and then back out for another look for Jenny. This time the weather had closed in and had to stay on the path, not wanting a search and rescue initiated.

Today was the other way around. Up the road in the morning to check out progress of the refurb.  A fine sight to see was the loading up of the old useless units into the back of the wagon never to be seen here again.


Going well although a bit of a panic when Simon drove in and first thing he noticed was the red box was down and unwired ready for taking away by the Gilbarco boys.


No Filling Station reopening without it so “gentle” discussion and it was put back up. the panels for the front of the pumps were”missing”, well they were down at the schoolhouse as some lovely kids art were on them and we had no intention of them going south. Another”gentle” discussion and they are staying here. Have no problem with the workers on the ground but I would find it seriously depressing having to defend or work for such a cr*p company. Do not think our local boys were very impressed by them and that does not bode well for their sales up this way. On schedule to open tomorrow as planned


and the forecast means I will be able to attend training planned for Thursday although hoping more volunteers come forward to take over some tasks. So it was another sad trip down the road to see if there was any signs but nothing. Came back from the river


and quartered the ground where she was last seen, bleak and barren,


reflecting my feelings.


Just calling out her name was heartbreaking and then listening to the silence. I am quite shocked at the depth of emotion. Possibly the long summer, tired, last week’s disappointment have all contributed. I think I said goodbye to a beautiful dog this afternoon. One day I will enjoy looking at these photos but now it hurts so bad.


Walking the Dogs in an Applecross Sunset

Awesome evening going up the Tor Mor with Dougal and Co. Looking to the south-west with the sun still up.


Dougal was on the move digging for rodents and general rushing about so it was left to his gran Jenny and his mum Eildh to pose.



You cannot help but be moved by this place.


The western highlands are quite simply and truely awesome.


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