The Golf Ball (The NATS Radar Station) still sits on top of Ben Hynish. The Ringing Stone is still accessible from Vaul or Balepheterish. The ancient broch at Vaul still looks out over Atlantic waters. And Tiree￼‘s beaches are just as stunning as ever.
Yet, although Tiree is often described as being remote – Tiree is about 4 hours by ferry from the Mainland port of Oban – it is not isolated. Tiree has no natural immunity or immunity as an island from the virus that is described as a worldwide pandemic.
The island has an excellent Medical Practice which is well prepared for the crisis facing us as a nation and specifically as it impacts on the island and its residents. For this we are truly grateful and especially for their care and dedication. We cannot praise enough their service and in the midst of it all they are issuing daily updates for those who wish to receive them.
TAIC: Tiree Action in the Community – Argyll and Bute Council staff on the island, members of Cùram, the Trust and a number of volunteers have come together to create a safety net called TAIC (taic means ‘help or support’ in Gaelic). This is for people on the island who need to isolate themselves at home for whatever reason during the next few months of the corona virus epidemic. Individuals and families with the disease will obviously be self-isolating, and many of those over 70 may choose to stay at home as much as possible. Many will have family or trusty friends and neighbours to call on. But for those who do need messages or a prescription and can’t get out, they can telephone for assistance.
Since Monday the school on the island has been closed to allow for a deep clean because of a suspected case of the virus. Youth clubs have been suspended for the time being as have nearly all group activities for whatever age.
Out of love for one another and the wider community Church gatherings whether on a Sunday or through the week have had to stop for the time being. The church on Tiree still worships albeit not together. Respecting the need for social distancing use is being made of the telephone and social media and where possible practical help.
Tiree’s economy, like most islands, is heavily dependent on tourism and understandably many people are deeply concerned about their livelihoods. However, it has been so encouraging to see the response of some, even those whose livelihoods are most at risk. One guesthouse has taken positive steps in terms of bookings and refunds. The Lodge Hotel is offering what it terms an Uber Take-Away meal service, even offering to deliver it. Another person is seeking to encourage a web based selling platform for island businesses.
Hebridean air Services who provide a once a week flight to and from Oban have indicated that following discussion with all stakeholders in order to minimise the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus to the Islands served by the Inter Island Air Service all non-essential passenger travel is to cease with immediate effect. Airtask shall only accept bookings for the travel from island residents and providers of essential services vital for Island life.
From February 27th to the 14th of March there was no vehicular movement to or from the island due to the replacement of the linkspan at the pier. (The linkspan acts as a bridge that can be raised and lowered according to the tide. It links the ferry to shore, providing the access way for transferring vehicles – and sometimes foot passengers – on and off ‘Roll On – Roll Off’ vessels.) Beforehand there was concern as to how this would impact on the island, its economy and services. Less than a week ago the new linkspan opened, but now we face a completely new situation. CalMac (the ferry operator) have said that they may have to operate a reduce service. There is talk that they may continue with the winter timetable while possible and will seek to maintain a lifeline service. There is even talk that it could become a freight only service or even supplies being brought in by air. Like everything else there is much uncertainty – we got through the linkspan closure and we will get through this.
In the introduction to his book ’Shore Lines’ Donald Meek comments, “My island is not one of glorious sunsets and sunrises of holidays and ‘opt-outs’. It is an island of close contact with the soil, with crofts, horses, tractors, boats, fellow islanders, struggling to live in challenging conditions. It is an island of winds and storms, of rough edges and hard choices.” This past winter we have experienced stormy conditions, with almost relentless winds and rains and now we facing another storm of a different order and magnitude.
Our daughter who lives in the South of London went to one of her local supermarkets. She was almost in tears, not for herself, but for the senior citizens wandering around, who were faced with aisle after isle of empty shelves. It makes us so thankful for the community here on Tiree, where already we have had younger friends offer to fetch our shopping or prescriptions, and where the community is pulling together.
Just today the manger of the Co-Op has said, “With advice from the medical team in the Island . We would strongly advice you that you don’t bring your children, elderly people , or if you have underlying health issues , we recommend that you don’t come Into the shop . Also the amount off people visiting the shop from each household is limited as much as possible. Shopping trips are to be kept brief and large shops are recommended instead of daily trips to the shop , and not to be used as a meeting/briefing point ! We want to preserve the shop being able to stay open and running in a normal manor for as long as possible”. He added, “If you require help with your shopping just ask , or phone as there is a dedicated team on the Island that is set up to help.”
You may have heard on the TV programme ‘Songs of Praise’ the hymn, ‘In Christ alone my hope is found”. The authors Keith and Kristyn Getty have published a new song for Easter 2020, “Christ our hope in Life and death.” Both hymns are a reminder that in troubled times that for the one whose hope is in Jesus Christ there is hope and the promise of peace. Jesus promised his friends, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
God’s Word, the Bible says,
‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’
(1 Peter 5:7)
Jesus is the Master in every storm.