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

Posts tagged ‘Plockton School of Excellence’

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.


Culture and Applecross Primary Hydro Share.

A very bad start to the day on Friday morning. Up in plenty of time to put the new outboard on the dinghy and out the Varuna for the diminishing stock of langoustines. Keeping an eye out for next week though as it may turn out to be a busy week at the Inn, but forecast slightly better. Back to this morning and the engine would not start so back to rowing across the bay. Fine in itself but we were on a time limit. The car was leaving at 9.30am. Then discovered the boat batteries dead, no big deal as I was not going out with the day’s forecast. Quickly grabbing the spanner and down below in the dark to disconnect and take two ashore for a recharge. That done and the row back. Langoustine, batteries and engine all ashore when I discover the new model has a fuel line switch. Back onto the dinghy it went and started third pull. Twenty minutes late but Judy had to go down to the house to pickup a contract that needed signing and posting recorded first class and then it was needing scanned and emailed so an hour late she leaves and I go home for a shower and a wee settle down.

Then it was off over the Hill in some dreich weather


to Kyleakin and blood donning, a visit with mates and a stop off to a fine hour and a half of top-notch music. Small audience but that did not affect Fred Morrison’s flawless performance with the highland pipes,


whistle and uillean pipes.


Was pulled into his many stories about the tunes in particular the “Reverend” he met in Washington state. Elderly and had a life long love of the pipes. He visited him at his home when he was quite elderly and had suffered some ill-health. Enjoyed a good ceilidh with him but noticing he was looking tired asked if he was okay and got the reply that he was alright but that life was like a pibroch. Fred went on to explain the pibroch’s make up of starting from the “ground” and then working up through grace notes and ornamentations to a fair speed before returning to the “ground”. The Rev then explained to Fred that he was okay but just at the end of his pibroch, a lovely analogy.  Another stand out description was the workings of the uillean pipes, talk about complicated, as he said only an Irishman would invent an instrument like that.


And one that was in my thoughts as was the Cd I bought when crossing back over the Hill late evening.

Today flew by, with a visit to the Filling Station and the Hall for a lunch and “strupach” organised by the Primary School.


They were very successful in their fund-raising


and are now the proud owners of an Apple Juice share. They all trooped into the Schoolhouse to present the cheque to Alison.


The first photo was retaken when Teacher noticed some one hiding away,


so a retake was in order.


They are a fine bunch and are genuinely enthusiastic about the Hydro Scheme.

Tea and have taken a break from putting together the submission for the BUTEC Range expansion. Late as ever, the closing date being Monday. It was an extended break this evening as we headed out for an evening of intrigue, to see the one man play, 3000 Trees by Andy Paterson. https://www.facebook.com/andy.paterson.549 An evening of thought-provoking conspiracy, unanswered questions, official secret obstructions, and too many things out-of-place to believe it was a simple suicide. Willie Macrae’s character added to all the intrigue, a flamboyant and hard-drinking lawyer who stood up against the establishment and who had lots of rumours swirling about his personal life. All in all a cultural two days of note. Find it tricky to take photos during performances like the ones over the last couple of days so asked Andy to pose at the end. Knew it was a little difficult with the backlight but just got away with a rushed shot.


It continues tomorrow with the School of Excellence, supported by our own Emily Kilbride, playing at the Community Hall. Be missing out on that one as working at the Inn. Tourists often ask what we do in the winter. Meanwhile in the next room the printer has not stopped all day as the share certificates are being put out and will be in the post on time.

Comeback Stalled but Rura Eases the Fretting

The come back has stalled somewhat as we are still waiting for the bell housing to arrive in the Highlands. Apart from moments of frustration I just have to get on with it. The weather has been quiet and settled which does not help the mood and am getting a little fed up with cutting, chopping and stacking wood. One advantage of the situation is that it is pleasant to hear the young voices of the community across the road on the play ground. Take a wee break to take some of the younger ones across the road. They are very traffic aware.

Tuesday evening there were four cars which made their way over the Plockton to hear Rura play some fine, fine music.


Good to see a whole table from Applecross but so easily could have gone on the bus if it was legal. Such a waste of a good asset, but so many people have tried to no avail to get it on the road. The music put on by Lochan and The School of Music was so worth the journey over the Hill. The sunset as we travelled along the Achmore road was spectacular and more so as we saw glimpses of it.


We were early so had time to catch the sun dipping down behind the south end of Skye


and a quick trip down to the back of Frithard was rewarding as the after light softened.



Knew the music well as most of it was from the last album, bought at Cambridge.



Made it up to the Pen stock and saw the concreting had all been poured


with the outlet pipe in place


and most of it buried.


The Share launch is progressing and an evening at the Hall is planned provisionally for the 17th of October. Lots of work going on behind the scenes to get it all in place, comprehensive business plans and worst possible scenarios for the Community has to be worked out to reassure investors of the safety of their investment. Both the investor and the community benefit as well as it being a green renewable resource.

The MoD have issued their consultation on Thursday and I am not sure what exactly we are consulting on. We now see the new map which Qinetic want to protect the new hydrophones and it is what we were told at Kyle. Little change and although I will put something down as part of the consultation I am not expecting any positive reaction. Such is life, feels like we are being squeezed in every direction. Maybe being broken down does not help the current mood. The shifts at the Inn continue and many regulars are coming in. By the end of the week you get to know who is in what house and expect them in the evening for their meal. A wedding this weekend has meant a little boost as things have dropped off somewhat.

(just a wee note from a very noisy bar) Came in just before six and it was already jumping. The pre wedding drinks party was well under way with the first 30/40 tippling away. There were very few other customers apart from  two groups of regulars. They were seen to with plaice, turbot and monk fish and enjoyed the fairly raucous night. The wedding crew got themselves together around 7.30 and started ordering lots of food and drink. I suppose I approach it the same way as I fish, if you sort of know what you are doing and stay calm, it all takes shape. Several top comments sent to the kitchen and they could not believe how organised we all are. It’s becoming a really good team again after a scrappy sort of summer with too few staff and too many coming and going. Managed to book a band for the share launch in the midst of it all. So hoping most who are invited will be able to come. In amongst it all the Hydro boys came down, an after dark finish for them and will mean another trip with Dougal and Eilidh to take a few shots of the progress. The Lego bricks are taking shape seemingly as well as the paneling coming off the concrete at the intake. The wedding group are pretty “well to do” but it always makes me smile when I see workies in as well and no one gives a toss. Sign of a good bar. Home now and pickup last nights ice cream. Forgot it so strawberry ripple and amoretti biscuit tonight.


Creel Caught Living Sea Life.

Good day for going to sea, tired and late, but still with a little energy left over. It was flat calm


and although I was not out till ten made it in for half four. Would have been in earlier if not for a struggle to get one fleet up and free from its neighbour, more tenement rather than semi-detached, that is over rather than beside. And another that had been cut so went to other end to put it back together. Fishing is quite perky for this time of year although the squat lobsters are very scarce. Lots of bits


and pieces


come up in the creels and there seems to be brighter colours


around for the day.


Should not demean all this life as bits and pieces but it is fantastic sea life that is all part of the ecology of the marine environment and the reason I use creels and do not tow a net or dredge. Most if not all goes back over live.


As the day is quiet and only the two fleets to disrupt the rhythm of the day attention goes to the scenery and the radio. Good to hear John Beattie back on and at lunch time he was asking for definitions of POSH. Best one came from Skye, “there are those who catch salmon and those who catch salmon with a fishing rod.” Another snippet was from the Highland News and it was about Brodie of Brodie putting a gate up denying access to a HC car park beside a beach on the east somewhere. Attention not all there but what did seem strange was agreement reached, gate taken down and HC pays Brodie’s legal fees.

Worth noting some great news I heard on the way up the road on Friday evening. The Scottish Government have decided that dredging and trawling are to be banned in Marine Protected Areas. (MPAs). It was good to hear Bertie moaning on Radio Scotland about it was going to be so detrimental to his members, the SFF. These are the guys who claim they are fishing sustainably while ripping apart seabeds up and down the Scottish coasts. Credit where credit is due, a thumbs up to those in power and especially Richard Lochhead for taking a brave decision in the face of some powerful lobbying from organisations used to getting their own way. This is indeed a victory for the environment and the small sustainable fishing methods used to catching scallops and langoustine. There may be a down side to the MPAs as fishing effort around these areas may have more effort put on them but one has to start somewhere to redress the balance distorted since the 1980s.

And just a wee catch up from Saturday evening when the late light was just beautiful


and a wander along the Street noticed the sunset on Norman’s window.


And then it was on Sunday, lovely bright and clear morning leaving the house,


with most of the guests enjoying the food as usual, some from France and with gusto.


The evening finished with the fine traditional music of Scotland. These guys,


as I have already said, came from The School of Excellence in Plockton,


although the piper is from Austria.


Behind all the headline acts like the Treacherous Orchestra, Rura, Manran, Peatbog Fearies and new ones breaking through such as The Elephant Sessions there are a raft of great young musicians scattered around the country, on tour, playing in local pubs and Festivals. The Feis Movement and the School have contributed greatly to this outstanding scene.

And the emails, phone calls keep coming over the Hydro. There seems to be some puzzling factors around the modelling of the financials but it is creeping forward and site works scheduled to start shortly on the go ahead of the Board and leases being in place. Quite hard to keep concentrating on these aspects and carry on the day-to-day running of a business, my boat and the Inn. I think that is why I am slightly more spontaneous in order to survive these pressures. It seems a lifetime ago that I was in Edinburgh, not just last weekend, but instead of ‘feeling out of it’ it was energizing. We received an email from Cornwall, a pleasant one, pointing out we do make a lot of our community, but that when he visited the toilets they were smelly and he could not get any diesel. Fair point but the toilets are not blocked now and we may be getting to the bottom of the Filling Station problem. A bad connection from the OPT to the router could be the cause of the disruption. Both Zuzu ands Sean spent a lot of mainly volunteer time there yesterday, resulting in no connection breaks today, and an engineer has arrived in town tonight to carry out repairs. It may be a last legacy of the old system. I am way behind in IT but know something else to look out for. The Cornish chappie said he would be back so hoping everything will be working for him then.

We are going through a sad time here with the passing of another long time resident. Mary from Camusteel passed gently away at the end of last week, joining quite a few with connections to the community, my mum, Dr Alexander, Margaret, who when she came up to Toscaig watched our boys grow up. What with Morag from Culduie and Uisdean leaving for the east it seems we are reflecting on the passing of a generation. Mary, although in a wheel chair, was at my mum’s funeral and seems there was no stopping her, so although I will be at the Inn letting some go to the service I will be thinking of her on Thursday.

“Jock Thompson’s Bairns”

Got the must do list done by 2.00pm. There was only “Wash 100 creels” on it, so it was not too bad.


The weather was not nearly so bad as the forecast made out and it was good not to have any midges about. Wind at the Pier was West to South West and nice and safe on the moorings. Strong on the Sound.


It was a Lochcarron Musician weekend as many of them stayed the night at the Inn on Saturday evening, started playing when I left around 10.00pm, and played again on Sunday afternoon. Every now and again you come across a theme at the Inn and these couple of days there seemed to be a universality about with a strong sense of community. Reasons behind this was meeting our Room 8 couple, Zeno and his partner, and chatting to them about our hydro scheme, specifically about the excess power that will be produced and cannot go onto the grid. Turns out that is their speciality and after the chat last night I have to do a fair bit of reading to catch up on some of the technicals before this weekend. Another example of the small world is they have done work with Highlandeco and have got nothing but good to say about Jamie/Mick and co. Although we had the same opinion it is always good to get a wee confirmation on the way. Met again this morning and got a genuine offer of help on the basis of the community side of the conversation. A couple I hope to meet again.

Called to the Filling Station twice over the two days and it was working first time but needed till roll the second call out but both times there people making the mistake of not selecting the pump. We are going to have to change the instructions to help people in fuelling up. Annie and Sean still working away at trouble shooting the system and have had 2×9 days of it being trouble-free. Here’s hoping.

On Friday evening the Inn was host to a group of Malawians who came in to eat. Seems a fine time was had by everyone and there was an exchange of culture second to none. Ruairidh, playing the pipes, and a response of singing and dancing by the Africans.https://www.facebook.com/applecross.inn?fref=ts. Ruairidh, standing at the back but the pipes in view beside Greg. Love the idea of the pipes getting together with a bit of Malawian song at the Inn in Applecross. Always maintained that Applecross is the centre of the world.

Over the day there were the full range of visitors from across the world, good craic guys from Canberra who immediately were pulling the mickey out of the “Ballarat girls” calling them Mexicans, Mystified them a bit until they were told they were “south of the Border!!” Response was all they do is “drive around in circles” Seems all Canberra’s roads do tend to be circular so it was honours even. Two tables down there were a couple from Melbourne and they got together. As morning went into afternoon the All Blacks arrived with their friends from Beauly, joy to serve, appreciative, friendly and generous about everything we did. The Italian family arrived mid afternoon and sat at the table next to the German couple, had “scampo” and loved everything.  The lady from Singapore noticed that we did not have a pin on the world map on her country. I suspect we have had but some one may have used it to put it on their one. Met the couple from New York as evening drew in, so pleasant to chat to people from all over the world. Turned out his partner was from Sweden and they were living an hour’s commute from NY city in a small place in the sticks and, like so many , were blown away by the Scottish West Coast and Applecross. Ended up relating my NY adventure of 30+ years ago when I got a lift to the Queens’ turnoff and started walking down the 6+ lane highway towards Harlem, well I did not know at the time. A flower delivery man took pity on me and took me south past Harlem on to the subway and safety. I can only shake my head in disbelief at how naive I was then. Luckily I still am and it feels good. And in amongst all this were the families and couples from Gairloch, Contin and Coulin, not forgetting the regulars from Tornapress and Achintrad.  From just after 3 the music kept every one enthralled and happy. Made it to the back of six with the help of a fish and chips and still have the excitement of a raspberry ripple and strawberry and cream ice cream to come….the joys of living in Applecross are endless.

On the way home I was listening to the repeat of Bruce MacGregor’s Travelling Folk, just in the background, on the two miles back home. Suddenly I zeroed in on a story related by Fergus Muirhead who has just written a book called Piper’s Tales. Coming to Plockton to launch the book with the intention of raising money for the School of Excellence next Thursday. The story was a piper called Jack Lee who won a competition at The Braemar Gathering and found that Prince Philip refused to present him with the prize because he was not from this country. You could feel Bruce’s shock at that wee story and I honestly could hardly believe it. He was given his prize round the back of a shed out of sight of the public. Afterwards I thought wow and people actually look up to our royal family admiringly and feel they are fine symbols of our country. How sad. What a contrast from what I enjoyed over the last couple of days at the Inn. “Jock Thompson’s Bairns” rules. “King and Country” becomes meaningless when you hear stories like that. Fancy going to war to support that kind of prejudice. I suppose one has to be amused.

All that was left to do this evening  was to take the Dougal family out for a wander, noticed the rowan tree just down the road must have had a blast of salt air earlier in it’s berry production.


And now all is quiet


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