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

Posts tagged ‘Runrig’

Rupert Ponsonby or Donnie Munro.

( I wrote the first part on Saturday evening at the Inn after service with two fairly loud conversations going on on either side but on a reread it is fairly coherent)

The activities diary was full over the last two days, so much so that it is almost hard to believe that I only left the house on Friday morning. Around 8am I left with Dougal for Fort William, Eildh was set for staying at the Big House with Jill and Son No1. Going over the Hill is different every time and above the mist for a while.



A couple of stops for Dougal on the way down


and I was there in plenty of time to meet up with five other like-minded fishermen and a couple of Marine Scotland civil servants. The first thing I would say it is great that these meetings are taking place at all and are due in effect to the formation of the Federation. Another group is being formed on the East coast and joining up. More and more fishermen are realising the only way to get the ear of Government is to come together instead of individuals trying to make their points heard. That said these meetings can be hard work and in this case it was passionate, at times five or six of us talking at the same time. The boys running their organisation are getting more and more frustrated as there is no apparent progress in helping us put conservative steps in place to save our industry. There was a common theme running throughout the meeting and we kept going back to it time and time again Spatial Separation, that is two methods of fishing procuring the same species, it just does not work. Every socio-economic study tells us that the static gear fishery is the main way to help fragile coastal communities survive. Nomadic fishermen  only need ground to give up prawns for a couple of weeks or a month before they move on to other grounds and leave the ground for the “local”boys to scratch a living while the ground recovers enough for the nomads to return again to give it another pasting. No way to run a fishery. And that is what we are trying to change. The static gear boys are wanting to introduce sustainable ways to fish, even more than now, but will not if we see our efforts destroyed on an annual basis. It’s pointless. How many times does Marine Scotland have to be told that the only way to save the west coast inshore fishery is to reintroduce the Three Mile Limit. It has to happen and I honestly think it will, just hope it will not be too late. Meeting up with other fishermen you find out that it is becoming a struggle  just to survive. The last couple of years have been hard. Over the piece all you can do is reiterate time and time again that there is little point in funding powerless talking shops like our IFG and yet more and more consultations and surveys. No lunch and the meeting did not finish until three. We felt we made progress at the end of the Meeting but it may just be a little hiatus. I appreciate that being in Government and listening to both sides of the argument, taking the decision on this basis is far harder than our position of arguing one point of view, but as I keep saying our argument is based on science and social surveys. It is as they say a “No brainer”, hate that phrase but it is so descriptive. Not taking a decision is as bad as taking the wrong one. The only positive about these meetings is that they are taking place and we have to keep going. I want to spend the whole of my useful life on the water, I want to see a more diverse fishery, I want to see a healthier Eco system that can sustain coastal communities up and down the coast. These communities have survived from the harvests reaped over the centuries and to see them decline through the inaction we are seeing today is so sad. Rome fiddling fire and Nero come to mind. If those who have held the whip hand in the past cannot see the fact they are dinosaurs they should not be allowed to take a whole fishery into extinction but should be put into that state themselves and leave us to evolve within a healthy ecosystem. Sometimes I think speaking to Dougal is more constructive, but we will be at the next one and yes we will be calling again and again for the reintroduction of the three-mile limit. You can only do so much with consensus. I fished prior to the 1985 Inshore Fisheries Act and there was little thought of the creel men then. How many creels have been towed away over the last thirty years and how many “beetle” prawns crushed on the decks of draggers?

And so it was away up the road to Inverness with Dougal in the passenger seat. A beautiful drive up the road,


glass calm and a sinking sun so a couple of stops were needed to stop and take in some of the Highlands beauty,


breathtaking in some places and it is little wonder that so many people flock to visit these parts.


That was where I was heading, having been kindly invited by the Boss to attend The Highland Tourism Awards at Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness. Smooth day up till driving along Loch Ness, stopped for a snooze, age thing nowadays, and set off again only to drawn up behind a short queue and wait for the emergency services to clear a serious accident. The state of the car made you wonder…. Late but quick change and only missed a couple of the more boring speeches. As Eilean Donan Castle was there I knew a few guys there and they won their award which was no surprise as it has been turned into a major and well run tourist destination. I was on the Loch Ness Inn table, two short listed and Isla Urquhart, manageress, won Ambassador of the Year. Not bad for a 23-year-old. Cracking meal, one of these arty ones, and for me a very pleasant surprise in a wee interlude which involved Donnie Munro singing a Micheal Marra song and a few Runrig numbers. Chatted to him on the way in and asking after Malcolm’s health which appears to be good, West End Hotel days connection. Liked his little tale of Inverness directness, after saying how much the place meant to him he told us of a meeting in the TESCO carpark. A lady came up to him and pointed the finger while not sure who he was, initialing saying he was a Donnie Macleod but eventually nailing him to Donnie Runrig. Then asked him what he was doing was it being an MP, “no” was the reply, “an MSP?” “no” again, ” a Councillor?” and again “no” priceless response. “So you are a nothing then” and told in the Inversnekie accent it went down well. A fine night and Dougal enjoyed his trips around Kingsmills. Stopped off at Rogie Falls on the way home again Dougal was into the woods


but refused point-blank to go over the bridge


so it was a wander along the west bank. A lot of water about.


And a shift at the Inn to finish off a busy first part of the week-end.

Back to the fishing and the ridiculous news that the 7th Baron de Mauley, Rupert Ponsonby, is representing our fishing interests in the EU negotiations. Should n’t be prejudiced but ex Etonian and ex TA  with a reported interest in Circus animals sounds like a fine choice for a Fishing Rep.

“Every River I try to Cross”

Quite an up and down three days, glad to say that it is finishing on the up. Wednesday morning and I was almost excited about going out fishing. Just too long not being on the water. Did not expect many if any prawns but was under instructions to get some for the Inn and some squats as well. Dave, Ryan’s dad managed to catch one on the shore up the coast so needs must. Lovely start to the day with the sun shinning on the stern on the way out,


an unusual number of gulls on St Island


and Eagle’s Rock looking resplendent under Bienn Clachan.


Surprising day on two counts. There were a few prawns and there were very few snagged gear, considering how long since they had been hauled. Lifted one or two from the south ends and found quite a numbers of this years marine growth.


Always look forward to seeing this regeneration as it tells me that we are not destroying the eco system completely and hopefully there will be a harvest ready for the next year. Unfortunately although I had started the day with a dull headache and thought nothing off it it slowly progressed into a much more severe one to the extent I was for heading home. But displaying a bit of pure Scottish thrawn I kept going to the next fleet, always keeping in mind Dave’s one squat lobster. My misfortune was that I had only about twenty squats on board so I had to head for a 35 fathom fleet of Applecross Head. Very relieved to be rewarded with a basket of squats so kept it together, managed to shoot the fleet back very badly but by this time I was thinking of getting to my couch for a lie down. Tailed and landed the catch and crashed for an hour before heading back to the Inn for a shift. Boss away so knew staff were light on the ground. Still head was not in good shape but no migraine so thought I had worked throughout it not getting one.

Not so. Yesterday morning started bad and deteriorated to just bad. The pain is special, for me it is so bad I cannot lie down as it hurts so much, so the day was spent holding my head throwing up and dozing not always in that order. By 3.20pm I had given up any hope of turning out at the Inn and Caroline stepped in to cover as Judith was not back till half way through. Luckily it was very quiet so did not feel too bad in letting them down, Mind you ten o’clock before I felt slightly human. Bed again with a couple of bananas and a glass of water. Not over yet as a half one and half four painkillers had to be consumed to see the night through and back on the couch. Thinking back it is interesting remembering what you think about, mostly the mundane but in this instance there were two things that came to mind first was a couple of Saturdays ago there were four people in the Inn that night I knew who were in trouble with their health, serious trouble, and they ranged from very young to middle-aged so to some extent that eases the pain as I know in a day or so it is okay for me just a memory. Reading that back sounds really selfish but a migraine is just that it is a migraine. The other thing of comment was I was thinking of the NWMCWCo Ltd having met one of the movers and shakers from the island. Albeit they have good ground and have teen over a well-managed forest but they have taken on a £600,000 debt and paid that off in two-year, established twelve forest crofts, building a Hydro scheme and now are getting stuck into providing affordable housing. Yesterday could not help thinking if only…… They have people in their community who rail against what they do as well as we have. It is just the nature of things, “an armoured back” he said is needed.

Today’s start was a little confused with dregs of painkillers floating about but after a healthy breakfast and some caffeine things got underway. The offer to work a shift tonight was not needed so it was over the Hill to Shieldaig to Sarah’s for much-needed Thai Massage. Been suffering from a very sore neck muscle pull needing a fair bit off attention. Arrived on time but no sign of Sarah so went to Nanny’s for a fine cappuccino and coffee cake and Sarah arrived twenty minutes late….Lynne backed me up on this so Sarah really confused as she thought she was forty minutes early. Turns out she was, don’t know what Lynne’s excuse was, mine was I was in migraine recovery phase. So for at least a couple of hours Sarah was under the impression she had lost one. Cracking workout and not too painful so made it home through the mist and rain with ease. On the way I had stopped to take a shot off how bleak it looked


but on the way back even on a day like this, dismal and wet, the colours were still there by the roadside.


The water was racing down every hill you passed, the Bealach looking the at its perfect Highland best. White water appearing out of a glowering mist, a good place to drive up and over to home.


Stop off at the Inn, shed building progressing,


to drop off some more calendars, thanks to every one who are buying them, you are helping our community live, and more at the shop before coming in for the dogs and a walk round the Camusterrach/Camusteel circuit. Put the headphones on and for no reason at all stuck Runrig on. Apart from mistiming the walk during the rush hour, must have been passed by more than ten cars in the forty-five minutes, the misty dusk, wind and company of Dougal and Eilidh


were the final part of the recuperation. Felt as I was returning a favour as they knew I was in trouble yesterday and they tried to help, lying beside me, on me in the case of Dougal,


and licking my neck and head. Lovely dogs and Jenny has done well by them. With Runrig playing, this completed the day especially when “Every River” came on “Every river I try to cross” the first line of a powerful chorus took me home in no time in the gloom of the west coast, but it is home. All that was left to do was cook off a couple of Grant’s of Dornoch sirloins via the Inn and watch Martyn Bennet’s Documentary about the album Grit, something I have to buy. Brilliant but so poignant. So as usual nothing much to say and signing off with the sonorous,melodic sounds of Sorley Maclean reciting “Hallaig” on Bothy Culture.

Celtic Wedding.

First post I have started in the Inn. Depends on how many hours one gets during the winter I reckon this may be a good place to post from. Just met an interesting lady from the south coast who was speaking to me in a manner that I would probably  have to know some one for ten years to click like that. Quite amusing how some people can be so open so quickly after meeting you. Chatting about living in the present and a bit of spirituality, stuff you have to be careful about when speaking to some one you know.

That was all I managed in the Inn and it is hard to believe that it is only three days since my last post. The Celtic Wedding was the main feature over a busy weekend of events , work and meetings. Bad weather on Friday meant immediately after posting it was into the van for the first time for a fortnight and off to Shieldaig for a massage. The colours and weather do fill you with a wonder and awe.



You just have to stop the van and get out and then you see even more.The beauty of the environment is supreme and all the hassles and scrapping just fade away when you take time out to just look.


 Came up a little earlier to help the shift go smoothly and was rewarded with another light show.



Although caught a little by surprise the lady chatting to me on Saturday evening was so right in what she was saying about living life, and now. Grand massage, a lot deeper and less painful now, and set up for a busy evening. With the Boss away at Keith’s funeral, it was Jill and I dealing with the influx from The Dingle, Bantry Bay and Tralee. There were others but the west coast of Ireland’s accent is the best and they took over Applecross for the weekend. Superb, food, banter and craic, but  the Inn was under instructions to close at 12am to enable the wedding to commence on time on Saturday.

For me, it was off out to catch a few langoustine for the weekend and with the forecast poor for the afternoon I hoped for a quiet morning. Awkward south-easterly meant a long and tiring day but was ashore before it turned to the north and blew a gale. On the way home met Sarah and Aron on their way home from market, and a quick sale of fresh prawns took place.


Have no traders licence so hope the Cooncil will not come after me. A quick look in the back of the mini revealed some hens and ducks, silver laced Wyandotte hens, no less.


And then it rained and rained and rained. A quieter evening shift at the Inn as all the guests were at the wedding but still busy enough to keep occupied. And then it was off up to the Garden where we went on to driving duty. Started at 12am, admittedly with not that many to take home, but it was rapidly 4.30am when I made it home to sleep on the couch. Before I mention it I really hope that everything turned out for them but, for me anyway, a major domestic erupted and it was just hilariously Celtic. Wincing at the language they were hurling and seemingly it was so insignificant, the cause, but with a few Guinness it rocked on. The Boss spent an hour gathering up their bits and pieces, jackets, fags, glasses etc  before managing to take them home to continue the scrap. I got a potted family history of her uncle as I took the niece home which explained some of his sensitivity. Families….don’t you just love them. Has to be said in no way did it spoil anything and the wedding was a fantastic spectacle in the Teepee set up at the Walled Garden. Hardly any one mentioned the torrential rain driven along by a gusty wind. At the end of the evening the mother of the bride did mention how careful they had been with the dress in the morning, wearing white gloves while handling it, she made this comment as she saw her daughter going into the house still in her wedding dress which now had a brown tide mark two feet up from the base. Last trip of the night went on an hour longer than anticipated as when I drove the bride and groom home the house was locked. I reckon all three of us coped remarkably well for the next hour, trying and failing, to find the key and checking to see if the door was really locked as opposed to jammed….locked. Minor brain wave when I got a spare from the hotel key rack and all ended well with every one’s composure well intact.

Three hours sleep and back into it. The two combatants from the previous night were “together” briefly this morning, he for a few hairs of the dog and she for a tea and bacon roll. He was on table 4 and she was on table 2 with a wall of ice between them and a gentle hurling of abuse before they went their separate ways. They did provide us with much entertainment but I sincerely hope they have made up by now. One advantage of being so drunk is that hopefully they forgot much of what they said to each other. As ever there is always other stuff going on, in this case a Coastguard meet.


Into the afternoon and the Lochcarron musicians played some cracking music, amplified, and the flutes and whistles in particular sounded great. A couple of show stopper songs, one of Runrig’s, Blood Turned to Stone followed by an Edith Piaf classic. Not often you can say that but remember this is Applecross.

Community Company Meeting in the evening, followed by fond farewells and a selection of ice creams, hazelnut, raspberry ripple and rum and raisen, while watching Homeland. No wonder the head was in pain for most of the day, only spotted by one local.

Deep sleep followed by a day at sea. Again a forecast that was not quite up to scratch. the rollers from the weekend were still coming down the Sound and it was hard graft getting the 350 creels up. The light shows over the last wee while are just amazing.


Probably just as well the days are shorter as you would get little done, just watching it change by the minute. It is rainbow season as well.


On the way in, listening to The Culture Show on Radio Scotland and with the sun setting astern, on came The Alexander Brothers singing Nobody’s Child, their biggest “hit”.


It was played as a tribute to the passing of Jack,I think, Alexander….ach you canna beat it. On the way up the road I could not keep my eyes on the road and no wonder.

IMG_6090The abiding memory of the weekend was everyone said again and again how welcome they felt in Applecross and that is a tribute to every one at the Walled Garden, the Inn and everyone who spent time with them. Applecross at its best.

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