Local News for Thursday 22nd June 2017

Somewhere to stay – HebCelt plea
A plea has been made to help accommodate visitors to the 22nd HebCelt, set once again to double the population of Stornoway for a few days in July. Last year’s record-breaking festival increased the population of Stornoway to nearly 18,000 over the four days, and VisitScotland office has made an appeal to residents to accommodate festival-goers arriving from across Europe, Canada, the US and Australia. Alan Mackenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said: “HebCelt’s huge appeal as an international event continues to attract people from all over the world to the islands. The influx of people is great for the town and islands in general, but it does put pressure on the accommodation sector as already there are few beds available during festival week. We would be grateful if any regular accommodation providers that still have vacancies could contact our team at the Stornoway VisitScotland iCentre (01851 703088). Any extra help with good quality accommodation and hospitality in the Stornoway area for the festival week would also be greatly appreciated.

Gateway to Point gets Lottery boost
The ancient church which stands at the gateway to the peninsula of Point is to be made easier to understand for visitors and locals alike, thanks to a £5,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe (the Eye Church Trust) has received the money to develop the project 'Understanding Our Community's Past', part of a wider based around the ancient church and graveyard at Aignish. The work’s to include a geophysical survey, and hosted visits by the community and local school pupils to the church. Archaeologists will try to identify what features lie below the surface of the graveyard and church interior and immediate surrounding area. There will be an open day as the survey starts, and an evening event later, when the archaeologists will present their preliminary findings. The Ui Church is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Isle of Lewis. It is believed that no fewer than 19 members of the chiefly clan of the Macleods of Lewis are buried here and one of the most significant carved grave slabs is that of Roderick Macleod, 7th Chief of that clan, who died in 1498. Other archaeological discoveries indicate a history of occupation since at least the Bronze Age.

Barrathon thank you for St Brendan’s care
Barra man Chris Hall is aiming to repay St Brendan’s hospital in Barra for the excellent care given to his late mother in her final illness, by running the Barrathon on 1st July in aid of the hospital. Chris’s parents moved to Barra 15 years ago, when his mother had already beaten cancer once, but in 2015 the disease returned, and she spent her last weeks receiving palliative care in the five bed local hospital. Chris said: “Mum was transferred to St. Brendan's and placed in the care of its small but ever so dedicated staff of nurses. These ladies looked after Mum as if she were family. Mum died peacefully in her sleep and I know that she held on for so much longer than expected because of the care she received there. I cannot thank the staff enough for their dedication and the love they showed us all during those five weeks.” As a thank you, Chris aims to raise £2,000 by running the Barrathon, a half-marathon covering the whole road route around the island. You can support him by going to his JustGiving page – there’s a link on our own Facebook page.

Death of Gallan Head founder
The Gallan Head Community Trust has announced the death, on Monday, of their co-founder and chair Martin Hayes. Martin was Chair of the trust from its formation right through to the successful completion of the community buyout in January 2016, which saw the trust become the legal custodians of Gallan Head, for the benefit of the community. A trust spokesman said yesterday: “We can walk again on the beautiful Gallan Head largely thanks to the power of work done by Martin. Every time we do so, we will remember him gratefully. We are so lucky to have had Martin as a friend, neighbour and fellow board member. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew and loved Martin, particularly with Elaine, Martin’s beloved wife, and his children, whom he adored.” Martin’s funeral service will take place at 2pm on Saturday at Uig Community Centre.

New convenor should restore crofters’ confidence
Islands MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the appointment of Rod Mackenzie as the Crofting Commission’s new Convenor. Mr Mackenzie’s election should close a period when, said Dr Allan, Internal conflicts had seriously reduced the confidence of many crofters in the isles in the commission itself. Dr Allan said many individual crofters had raised concerns with him about the commissions actions towards the grazing committees in Mangersta and Upper Coll. He said: “I have confidence that we will now see a period of stability and that the Commission will be able to fully concentrate on promoting the interests of crofting and crofters.”