Hoist

There’s an extended and at times heated exchange of views filling up the letter column over at Hebrides News just now. The subject is, of course, the Sunday ferry that CalMac will hopefully just get on with introducing as soon as possible – I see a day trip to Ullapool in my future!

A range of individuals have expressed their views in support of a Sunday ferry with a John Macleod seemingly the only voice taking the contrary view.

In his latest letter, said John Macleod writes very colourfully but with little attention to his own outpourings. In the first half of his letter he tells that he has no dislike of incomers, highlighting his magnanimous acceptance by saying:

Well, I am afraid I have not the least aversion to incomers.
After all, I am arguably one myself – though I have lived in this island for many years, and am of impeccable Lewis parentage, I was born and schooled on the mainland. (Admittedly, Partick Highland Free Church was effectively Leodhas-sur-Clyde.)

Well, I am afraid I have not the least aversion to incomers.

After all, I am arguably one myself – though I have lived in this island for many years, and am of impeccable Lewis parentage, I was born and schooled on the mainland. (Admittedly, Partick Highland Free Church was effectively Leodhas-sur-Clyde.)

Fair and honest enough (though the bastardised Gaelic-French-english makes him appear false rather than witty). He then goes on to attack, albeit very subtly, some of the incomers who have written in to express views that are contrary to his own. Not so fair, not entirely honest and very long-winded.

Later in his letter he reveals more of his attitude to incomers with the following:

People on this island are therefore quite entitled to the view that it is imprudent – and, indeed, impolite – to attack local Christians, local religion and the local Lord’s Day when one has not lived here very long, and to put a weight to such arguments on that basis, and to point out (in all courtesy) that such-and-such has only been here for all of ten minutes.

That doesn’t mean we don’t like them; or that we’re gonna run round and torch their house: it means only that their opinings on this subject are of no very great account.

So if you have lived on this island “for all of ten minutes” your “opinings on this subject are of no very great account.”

Well there you have it. By his own smug reasoning, John Macleod should keep his trap shut. He is an incomer (even if he can claim to have been here for more than “ten minutes”) and therefore his opinion on the matter of the Sunday ferry is “of no very great account.”

Make a phrase with the following words:

😉

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4 thoughts on “Hoist

  1. Hi Alex,

    this is more a response to the ‘equality’ issue you posted on earlier – I always hesitate too long, thinking about replying, until the posts disappear off the bottom… So this is going to end up as a collection of random thoughts…

    I should say first that pretty much my only sources on this latest wave of ferry talk are your blog, Angus Nicolson’s and the Free Press.

    I’m very much with the Free Press’s line on the equality legislation argument; on the one hand it’s a misapplication of the legislation that’s never going to stand up, and on the other it just makes CalMac look ridiculous and cowardly; don’t pretend you’re being forced to do it, if you want to do it go through the process and do it.

    I also think that no one who lives even half as far away as I do has an opinion which needs to be taken into account in this matter. But just so you know: I take public transport on Sunday to get to church when I have to; while I would go out of my way to avoid flying or sailing to/from the island on a Sunday, I’d do it if necessary; my main concern (on a case-by-case basis, as they say) would be whether it would upset anyone I loved and who loved me.

    I have always thought that the Angus Nicolson blog would be improved if it didn’t allow anonymous comments. I’m not convinced by those who claim they’re in fear of the mighty power of The Church which holds the island in its deathly grip.

    Whenever John Macleod makes good points (with his journalist hat on) they are almost always lost or overwhelmed because of his controversialist writing style, which is a shame as he can think clearly and write well. People respond to the style and the overstatements rather than the points; he doesn’t help himself. My mother brought me down his book on the Iolaire which I’m looking forward to reading.

    The absence of hard facts has left too much room on both sides for claims and opinions as to what ‘the people’ want and what is best for the island. The elected representatives have never covered themselves in glory in this respect, I think. (There’s always a tension, I think, and not just on the island, between to what extent a politician is supposed to reflect the views of his constituents on every issue and to what extent the politician says they elected me knowing the kind of person I am and the kind of views I hold so I will speak, act and vote accordingly. And also, of course, the question of whether you vote for or against a candidate purely based on their position on one single issue.)

    The economic and tourism argument hasn’t been made sufficiently well by supporters. I don’t remember reading about proper comparisons between the island economy and similar west coast mainland community economies which would demonstrate how the island has suffered because of the Sunday isolation. The fact that holiday lets run Saturday to Saturday isn’t a strong argument to the need for Sunday arrival or departure; the issue of islanders wanting weekends away or at home is a stronger argument. In my experience as a holidaymaker on the island now, I’d say a much greater issue for tourists is the apparent lack of interest in you once you’re there – last summer we were up for ten days and during that time there was one evening event on in the Lanntair, places are still closed for the winter in May and June, another time we went to an event sponsored by the tourist board and it was held entirely in Gaelic.

    I don’t remember where Iain D Campbell was making the comparisons with, but I presume the points would go along the lines of asking whether the southern isles experience a measurable positive impact in their economy and tourism attributable to Sunday sailings, and that improved links with the harder-to-reach parts of Lewis have negative as well as positive impacts on the economy and community – less need for a local school and a local shop when it’s easier to drive to the next school and the bigger shop. I get the impression that it’s much more common now than it was when we were boys for people to go to Inverness for weekend shopping trips; I guess this would increase when an overnight stay is possible.

    Conversely, I’d say fearing that an external change like the introduction of a Sunday ferry is a fatal blow is a poor reflection on the religious community. There should be a desire to show a positive and valuable distinctive through people and the way they live their lives, not primarily infrastructure.

    I think there has been, and will always be, a tension in the island between those who want to be the same as everywhere else and those who want to be different from everywhere else – the issue of religious observance is only one of those dimensions of tension, and people can find themselves on different sides on different issues (eg: windfarms; the response to the arrival of Tesco, which at this distance contrasted sharply with other communities desparate to keep them out; the change from different/odd Outer Hebrides to same/bland Western Isles). Change in all kinds of ways is inevitable, but how do you ensure that they are the best changes for the island, especially when islanders disagree so strongly about them, and how can you predict the impact one change will have on the things you don’t want to change or the other things you want to change? That’s the tricky bit.

    Lunch break well over! Better leave it there,

    best wishes, as ever,
    Iain

  2. Alex,
    hadn’t realised how enormous my reply was till it appeared at the bottom of your original post! And yet still only scraping the surface.
    Iain

  3. Iain,

    Thanks as ever for taking the time to reply and sharing your views. And please keep commenting, however long those comments might be. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

    Regards to you and yours,
    Alex

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