On more than one occasion recently we have been asked what has happened to ‘Life on Tiree’. The explanation is that we were off island for 10 days and it is difficult to write about life on Tiree when you are in another part of the country. An additional factor in the lack of posts is the present pandemic.
On the day that we left on the LoganAir flight to Glasgow International Airport, we were surprised at the number of people queuing up to check in. We soon discovered the explanation for the number of passengers. Several of the passengers were twitchers who were making their way home having come to photograph a very rare visitor to the island – a young Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. On our return we discovered that around 300 twitchers had made their way to Tiree by regular flight, charter flights, ferry and charter boats.
The River Tay, Dundee
Since The first week in March neither of us had been off island other than Mrs ‘Life-on-Tiree had been off island once, about 4 weeks prior to our flight, for an appointment in Glasgow. In the Airport social distancing was possible but in the 14 seater Twin Otter plane it was an impossibility. Other than wearing a full hazmat suit, we took every precaution to avoid catching the virus. Glasgow was not our final destination and so the following day we caught the train to Dundee.
Now Dundee was not our final destination either, but it was from here that we were meeting up with relatives to head up to Findochty (pronounced ‘Finechty)on the Moray Coast. Our home for the week was a cottage situated by the harbour. The view was out across the harbour mouth to “Morven’ in Caithness. We were on the Mainland, but in many ways it was like a home from home, being so close to the sea, with stunning sunsets and with some windy weather. Our first few days away felt like a return to summer but by the end of the week it was definitely autumnal.
Autumn at Elgin’s Country Park
Tiree has many sandy beaches of all shapes and sizes, but there are very few trees. It was therefore a real treat to see for ourselves the trees taking on their autumnal colours. It was a memory to take home with us to Tiree. Thankfully our return flight was not nearly so busy as our flight to Glasgow.
Now another reason for the lack of posts is the fact of the pandemic. Much of our effort has been invested in helping the church gather on a Sunday on the ‘Zoom’ platform and later making it available by YouTube and Facebook. Additionally, until recently we rarely ventured far from home, sticking most to the Scarinish and Gott Bay areas. Since returning home we have been under similar constraints.
With very few trees on the island Autumn is much less pronounced. There are a few signs that we are in Autumn, for a start daylight hours are getting much shorter. The weather has been fairly mild. On two occasions the TV weather presenter indicated that the following day Tiree would be the warmest place in Scotland! There have been some real sunny days, but often it has been a case of sunshine and showers.
The sky this morning was a picture. One minute there was a sudden downpour and a few minutes later it was as if the tap had been turned off. As we took our morning walk we looked out over the Passage of Tiree and were aware of just how dramatic the view was – sun, black clouds and dark skies. The plane from Glasgow came out of the dark clouds and into the sunshine overhead.
Last year work began on bringing the old pier in Gott Bay back into service. Among other things the metal supports for the concrete deck were badly corroded. The work had to be suspended over winter and only recommenced as lockdown was being eased. Real progress has been made. The former concrete store has been demolished making the pier look so different.
At the same time work has been slowly progressing on replacing the foot passenger walkway. After several weeks the footway is nearing completion. The former walkway could be very slippy in wet weather, so we look forward to a more sure footed approach to and from the ferry.
Where the historic approach to the two piers ends, and the supported concrete decking begins, has been a problem area for several years. In stormy conditions the waves break with some force in this area and even after numerous attempts at repairing the damage, the concrete continues to break up. The hope is that a more permanent solution will be found this time round.
The five times a week, once a day ferry service continues. Many of the businesses on the island will be pleased to see that there are still people coming to Tiree on holiday. Today Scottish Water had at least two trucks on board. Yesterday we were told not to drink the island’s water supply unless boiling it first. Even brushing teeth had to be performed using bottled or boiled water. Arriving back home it became clear what at least one the trucks was carrying – bottled water. Each household has received a 12 pack!
We look out on a what is now a familiar landscape, having lived here over seven years. However, what has changed are the familiar landmarks. This has been and continues to be a year like no other. The normal island cultural and community landmarks have almost all disappeared. There has been no Tiree Music Festival, no Tiree Fèis, no Tiree Show, no Tiree 10k and Half Marathon, no Ultra Marathon, and no Tiree Wave Classic – the list could go on. Yet, amidst it all there is still a real sense of community and the church has continued to gather – albeit on line. Sunday by Sunday the Baptist Church has hosted the ‘Sunday Gathering’ and for the foreseeable future will continue to do so.
Sorry for the absence and time permitting further posts will be forth coming.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’.