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Readers comments from our February 2012 edition


I am astonished at the negative coverage in this month’s ‘Arran Voice’ of the Scottish Government’s ‘Draft Plan for Consultation’ on the Scottish Ferry services. This is exactly what it says it is - a consultation, so any negative views will of course be taken into consideration before any final decisions are made. However, for perhaps the very first time, the needs of island and rural communities in Scotland are being thoroughly examined and the prospect of a comprehensive overhaul of ferry services along the lines of Scandinavian models, including the introduction of RET and major financial investment on Arran, is at last in sight.

John Baraclough’s litany of complaint seems to centre on the design and capacity of the proposed two ferries, and the continuation of the use of Ardrossan as the destination port. However, the draft document states quite clearly that the change to a two - vessel system would take place either as part of the CHFS tender or the vessel renewal programme that will be contained within the Final Ferries Plan. By all means raise the difficulties of present vessels, but do not assume that these existing ferries will be the vessels of the future. I would hope that the new vessels will not only be more fit for purpose, but also more environmentally friendly and economical to run. In Scandinavia, more and more ferries are being run on biogas, and the latest Calmac ferries to be commissioned are hybrid vessels, the first low - carbon, battery - powered seagoing passenger ferries in the world. Not only that, but they are being built here on the Clyde, at Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow.

As far as the complaint about Ardrossan is concerned, by all means raise the issues, but it would be a very blinkered approach indeed to assert that the £14 million investment should be spent in Ardrossan or Fairlie instead of Brodick. No one can surely contend that the present situation at the ferry terminal is acceptable or sustainable or even safe, and I for one welcome this major investment in upgrading our ferry terminal, linkspan and surrounding infrastructure in preparation for the further investment in our island economy that RET undoubtedly represents. At last there will be a 21st century approach to island living, tourism and sustainable development.

Where I do agree with John Baraclough is in his comments about the Ferry Committee, and in the interests of democracy, transparency and accountability, I would certainly propose a root and branch overhaul of this organisation, and see no reason why this should not happen in tandem with the improvements being mooted in the consultation document.

I do hope that many Arran residents will respond to the consulation and that many relevant points will be raised. However, we should at least be recognising the very positive developments and financial investments that are taking place and seize the opportunity to improve our ferry services and bring them at long last into the modern age.

John Bruce, Corrie, 1/2/12


Re - John Baraclough's opinion

John is going a bit OTT when he suggests that two Finlaggans are required as our old chum the Saturn can carry 531 passengers. ‘guid gear comes in sma' bulk’

Ian McCallum.


Dazzling Opera Highlights

A packed house in Brodick Hall welcomed four young singers and a brilliant pianist on Saturday, 11th February. Taking part in a whirlwind tour, these representatives of Scottish Opera undertook an incredibly close - packed performance of arias and duets from operas both known and unknown - and didn’t they do well! With glorious voices and tremendous charm, they put over pieces that were by the nature the dramatic height of the opera they came from, so there was no slackening of tension throughout the demanding programme.

OperaHighlights.jpgThere is a particular magic about touring shows. The way they unpack from a van all the ingredients from which to construct a different world is always astonishing. This production required neutral ground in which a wide variety of different places and different moods could be evoked, but this was cunningly staged in a kind of transit situation. A dress - rail provided props and a flip - chart kept pace with the numbers in rather the same way as a station departure board. From the first quartet from La Traviata, we knew we were in safe hands. Anita Watson and Rosie Aldridge, soprano and mezzo, were partnered with Edwardian gravity by Robert Anthony Gardiner, tenor, and Marcus Farnsworth, baritone, and the balance was perfect. They managed to be funny as well as touching, and each one had a glorious, free - ranging voice.

The programme covered a lot of ground, from favourites such as ‘Where e’re you walk’ from Handel’s Semele to a completely new piece by Gareth Williams, who is Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence. This, to my mind, was the highlight of the evening. Sung with great sensitivity by Rosie Aldridge and Robert Anthony Gardiner, this evocation of desperate love packed a tremendous emotional punch. The repeated, helpless entreaty, ‘Hold me,’ thinned to an unrequited end that was deeply moving.

If there was one slight criticism to be made, it was in the costumes worn by the girls. Bunchy, with white spots or white freckles on a dark background, they were both of that fatal knee - length that cuts any figure into three equal chunks and is apt to make ladies look like Henry VIII in drag. A yellow cardigan didn’t help much, and seeing these beautiful young women after the show in their own clothes demonstrated wordlessly how much more elegant they could have looked. But despite this, the evening was a brilliant one, and everyone was saying how much we all hope that Scottish Opera will come to Arran again.


Plain sailing at Ferry meeting - up to a point

On Wednesday, February 22nd, a large number of people came to a meeting to discuss the draft Ferry proposals. Well organised by Arran Community Council and the Ferry Committee, people were grouped round tables to write Post - it notes of their opinions that would be collated and sent to CalMac. First on the agenda was the proposal for two smaller boats rather than a single large one, and the question of which port on the Ayrshire mainland would be the preferred one. Then came discussion of the route from Lochranza to Claonaig and/or Tarbert, coupled with the broad questions of access to Campbeltown. Over everything hung the RET factor (Road Equivalent Tariff).

Opinions were duly amassed, carefully noted by scribes from ACVS, and several themes emerged as prominent. The current unsuitability of Ardrossan as the basic ferry link to the mainland was universally agreed, but choice of a substitute port was blurred by uncertainty about how a rail link could be established. It came as encouraging news when John Inglis, Chair of the Community Council, said a breakwater at Ardrossan was under consideration, with the aim of making the existing port serviceable rather than making a radical change to a new one. There was common agreement that RET would mean increased traffic to Arran, and the effect on the ever - crumbling roads was expected to be detrimental - but those with a major interest in tourism felt that higher visitor numbers would be a good thing, regardless of the effect. The need for better connections with Argyll was defended with some passion in many quarters, pointing out the absurdity of a one - way daily service that did not permit a journey out and back again. In tourism terms, the need for ‘cross - Arran’ connection from the mainland to the further islands was pressing, and both passenger transport and haulage services were considered to be a year - round necessity.

The meeting was then thrown open to discussion. Kenneth Thorburn spoke on behalf of the Ferry Committee, commenting that some people had tended to see it as secretive but asserting that its minutes were open and accessible. This brought startled stares from Community Council members, who have long complained that although NAC pays a £70 annual fee to allow a CC representative to attend the Ferry Committee, the representative was not permitted to make the minutes available to the body he represented. Alison Prince, though no longer a member of the CC, pointed this out and provoked a storm of protest. Ken Thorburn, in something of a volte face, said that minutes could often contain sensitive or personal material that should not be made public, but it was argued that such matters could be taken in camera. The meeting was declared closed, but as people went out into the rain, a group was still in heated debate.

Consultation on the future of Arran’s ferry provision remains open until March 31st, so if you missed the meeting and have a point to put, there is still ample time.

Postal address - Colin Grieve, Transport Scotland, Ferries Unit, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.

email -


On February 28th we attended the Arran Community Council meeting in the Ormidale Pavilion as observers. The temporary managing director of Caledonian MacBrayne, Gary Robertson, addressed the meeting. He had been supplied with a list of questions resulting from the Brodick meeting mentioned above. Many of the questions related to the manner in which CalMac dealt so abysmally with the situation that arose in Ardrossan when the Caledonian Isles struck the Winton Pier on Valentine’s Day. He admitted that they could have done a lot better and were looking at ways to get it right in the future. There was also a lot of discussion about the suitability of Ardrossan as the mainland terminal and the need for significant improvements in the harbour there. Clydeport, a private company which owns Ardrossan harbour, charge CalMac large sums of money for every passenger and vehicle which uses the facilities and none of it appears to be spent in harbour improvements.

An interesting aside came when the Arran Community Council member who represents the ACC on the Arran Ferry Committee, displayed a total ignorance of the meaning of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET). Luckily, Gary Robertson was very tolerant and, after several interjections, was finally able to correct the misunderstanding. North Ayrshire council tax payers contribute £75 annually for this person to be member of the Arran Ferry Committee. Given that no agendas or minutes are ever made public, we have to ask yet again if that is value for money!


Bitter complaint from Dunoon

The Dunoon - Gourock Ferry Action Group writes to warn that their struggle to secure a ferry service in Cowal has not been a happy one. Although CalMac owns Argyll Ferries, which now operates the Dunoon - Gourock route, no vessel is currently available, and thus the route ‘… has disappeared from CalMac literature. Rover and Hopscotch tickets of course no longer apply.’ The group feels strongly that a Ferry Regulator should be appointed, and the issue of supplying vessels dealt with, as they put it, “up front”.


Fairtrade flourishes on Arran

We’re well used now to the Fairtrade label on bananas, and to the principle that underlies it. The first Fairtrade Fortnight was promoted in the Voice in 2008, and it’s a matter of quiet pride to all of us that Arran declared itself a Fairtrade island. We take it for granted that the people who work so hard to produce the food we eat should earn a proper living from doing so - but there is always more to be done.

This year, Fairtrade Fortnight began on February 27th, so it has a further ten days to run. The theme is ‘Take a Step - Make a Change’ and picks up the fact that every small thing we can do makes a difference. Children will be writing poems, to be displayed on boards at the High School, and there is to be a Fairtrade fashion show at Easter.

The Co - op was the first supermarket to support Fairtrade, and this year, for the fifth time, it will be hosting a Prize Draw, with a massive Fairtrade hamper as a prize, including fairly traded wine and chocolates. The Scouts will be doing their International Awareness badge, and will be present at the Co - op event.

There is quite a history of activity building up behind Arran’s Fairtrade movement now. Nobody will forget the Big Banana that appeared in 2009, or last year’s strings of bunting made by children, or Marvin Elliott’s marvellous chainsaw carving. Much more lies ahead.

The Fairtrade AGM takes place on Thursday 22nd March at 7.30 in the Ormidale Pavilion, and all are welcome. It will be a social event, with cheese and Fairtrade chocolate and wine, and Jan MacGregor will give a talk about her Fairtrade journey to Peru to meet the makers of some of the lovely imported goods that add such colour and flavour to our lives. Please come!

For more about Fairtrade Fortnight, see


Move your money?

If you are weary of the way the banks go romping on despite the mess they’ve landed us in, maybe it’s time to put your money where your heart is. There’s a big campaign afoot to shift funds out of the grubby outfits that played so fast and loose with people’s entrusted funds, and switch to an ethical bank such as the Co - op or Triodos. It’s surprisingly easy. Click on, where there’s a torrent of constructive dissent from people who don’t want to support the arms trade and various nasty international enterprises. They’re a cheerful lot, and will help to make your shift. No cost, no catch. Go for it.


Ayrshire and Arran NHS - obfuscation, concealment and gibberish

John Burns, chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, concealed more than 50 'critical incident and adverse event' reports of things going seriously wrong at a hospital or clinic. When a member of staff asked for a copy of one of these reports, concerning an incident in which he had been involved, the management told him that he was not entitled to read the report and advised him to file a freedom of information request. After much delay and obstruction, he managed at last to access the damning catalogue of failures, and the CEO to explain. This, word for word, reported in the Scottish Review, is Mr Burns’s reply:

‘The reports were going out to managers, they were going out to be actioned but what we didn't have was a proper closure in the system back to evidence that the actions and the learning had been taken from these reports, and that's not right - we needed to have that.’

This illiterate piece of tosh attempts to justify what Kevin Dunion, Scotland's information commissioner, described as the most serious breach of FOI laws he had ever dealt with. Assurances given to Mr Dunion and his colleagues proved to be 'unjustified'. Records of serious incidents were 'missing'. This indictment of a public body is very close to accusing it of lying.

Mr Burns does not officially take over as chief executive until April 1st, which some may feel to be an appropriate date. However, his predecessor left rather abruptly, with a substantial public pension, and Mr Burns is now in the hot seat. It might be assumed that he would strive for an element of candour, but (if one guesses correctly from the mangled syntax) he appears to uphold the story that there was no deliberate policy of concealment. In his previous post with Dumfries and Galloway, he was earning £120,000 a year. Does Arran and Ayrshire have value for money in this man?


Wind turbines approved for Hunterston

Three wind turbines are to be installed at Clydeport Hunterston Terminal. Work is to begin this spring, and the first phase of construction should be complete by the summer of 2013. See www.ssecom/hunterston for further details.


£21million for Argyll roads

Last week, Argyll and Bute Council agreed to spend £21m over the next three years on roads capital projects, and a further £18.4m during the same period on roads revenue funding. Councillor Duncan MacIntyre, their spokesperson for transport and infrastructure, did some understandable trumpet - blowing. ‘Despite facing the worst set of economic conditions for a generation, Argyll and Bute Council has been able to agree nearly £40m of spending on roads over the next three years,’ he said.

Yes, yes, we know. Just thought we’d make you jealous.


Ecological art work turns up in Whiting Bay

We were impressed to note that a substantial piece of landscape art has been constructed (or perhaps erected) on the green at the south end of Whiting Bay. We feel it may express political or economic views, and photographed it for posterity in case its presence may turn out to be transitory.

Those readers who have visited Edinburgh Castle may see a resemblance to the One O'clock Gun, others may have a different opinion.


Wave power rocks on …

Two new Oyster wave energy converters are about to be added to the existing device at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) on Orkney. Each of the machines , installed by Aquamarine Power, has a capacity of 800 kilowatts, and together they will feed enough electricity into the National Grid to power more than 1,000 homes.

Dr Dan Barlow, Head of Policy of WWF Scotland, said: ‘Scotland is well ahead of the game in developing wave power.’ He added that the technology offered huge export benefits for Scotland.


… and the investment tide comes in

Scottish Enterprise, which launched a £13 million WATERS fund in 2010, is now to put a further £6 million into WATERS 2, aiming to bring low - cost marine energy devices into affordable commercial application.

The overall aim is to enable Scottish developers and supply chain companies to capture an increased share of the growing global marine energy market. The development costs are high, but the WATERS 2 fund will help to meet them, and the result could release £4 billion for Scotland's economy by 2020.

The fund is now open for applications and full information can be found at the Scottish Enterprise website.


Daphne in the winter garden

by Janet Baraclough

In midwinter I've been enjoying this lovely shrub in George and Judith Baines' garden, where it has been in full flower for almost two months. It's Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'.

What a delight in midwinter! The sweet spicy scent is so intense it perfumes the air for yards around this plant, so plant it where you'll pass it often in winter. The flowers are pinkish on the outside and show white insides as they open to 2cms across.

The species comes from the Himalayas where it is part of a group known as the paper daphnes, as both paper and rope were once made from the sinewy bark. RHS describes it as ‘borderline hardy’ and although some of these daphnes are evergreen, Jacqueline Postill seems to lose most of her leaves, enabling her to show off the full display of flowers.


Lockerbie truth at last

The Scottish Review has been admirably persistent in refusing to accept the codged-up evidence that convicted Abdelbaset al-Megrahi of the Lockerbie bombing. Jim Swires, father of a girl who died in the fated plane, never believed it. Neither did John Ashton, a writer, researcher and TV producer who from 2006 to 2009 was a researcher with Megrahi's legal team. With Ian Ferguson, he wrote a book called Cover-up of Convenience: The hidden scandal of Lockerbie, published by Mainstream 2001, but he did not stop there. His new book, Megrahi: You are my Jury will be published by Birlinn next week.

The evidence against Megrahi rested entirely on the testimony of Majid Gaika, a paid CIA informant since four months before Lockerbie - though the agency considered him so unreliable that it had threatened to stop paying him. That story is now blown, and Megrahi's claim that he worked for a legitimate trading company, dealing mainly in aircraft spares for Libyan Arab Airlines is admitted to be true.

In 2004 the Libyan regime formally accepted responsibility for the bombing and agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' relatives. The Libyan prime minister, Shukri Ghanem, told the BBC later that his government felt ‘it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed on compensation'. Saif al-Islam went further: I admit that we played with words - we had to. What can you do? Without writing that letter we would not be able to get rid of sanctions'.

As John Ashton wryly puts it, ‘If only our own leaders had been so open about the grubby politics that have plagued Megrahi's case.’ But that’s another story.

Photograph of John Ashton by Toby Amies.


Fishy news of sundry sorts

by John Kinsman


Don Staniford, the pro-wild-salmon campaigner, is to be deported from Canada for daring to compare the promotion of farmed salmon to health-risky ads for tobacco products. Don intends to come to Scotland and continue his work here. Canada’s loss, our gain.

Over-fishing - a hard-nosed view

Trawler.jpgThe New Economics Foundation reports that poor management of fish stocks is draining jobs and profits. The report, titled Jobs Lost At Sea, says that 43 European fish stocks are at a low level, and claims that restoring them to their maximum sustainable level would be worth £2.7 billion per year to all countries. It holds that restoring these fish stocks could support 100,790 new jobs in the EU fishing sector.

The author of the report, Rupert Crilly, said: “Over-fishing is bad for the economy. European fisheries ministers are wiping out millions of pounds and thousands of jobs each year by allowing over-fishing to continue.”


A fight in America against genetically engineered (GE) salmon rages on. Three consumer groups have submitted a formal petition asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify and evaluate AquaBounty’s GE salmon and all of its components as a food additive. They point out that Aquabounty’s own study showed that ‘GE salmon may contain increased levels of IGF-1, a hormone that helps accelerate the growth of the transgenic fish and is linked to breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer.’

The groups assert that a proper review process would require GE salmon to undergo comprehensive toxicological studies, specifically those developed to ensure that foods entering the market are safe to consume and are properly labelled.

Meanwhile …

The Fishing and Aquaculture and Fishing Expo 2012 will take place at the SECC in Glasgow on March 22nd-24th. John Kinsman, our Marine Editor, says it will include boat displays, sea food demonstrations, family entertainment ‘and much more’. It will take place from 22nd-24th March 2012 at the SECC in Glasgow from 10am to 5pm Thursday and Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday.



HMS Gannet's Sea King helicopter
For the fifth year running, The Royal Navy Search and Rescue Crew Prestwick-based HMS Gannet has been the UK's busiest team. Crews werecalled out 298 times last year and saved 240 people. Rescues last year included climber Adam Potter, who fell 1,000ft down Sgurr Choinnich Mor in the Ben Nevis range and survived, and seven people and a dog, rescued from the rising waters at the base of cliffs near Fingal’s Cave on Staffa after their small boat capsized.

HMS Gannet stands by to save lives at a moment's notice and often in terrible conditions across an area of 98,000 square miles. This year, their average call out was to a location 53 miles from their base. The longest and farthest was to a medical evacuation at Wick, many miles beyond the unit's coverage area, and involved a round trip of 465 miles. It lasted nearly 12 hours.


Poem of the month

Mouse’s Nest

by John Clare

I found a ball of grass among the hay
And progged it as I passed and went away;
And when I looked I fancied something stirred,
And turned again and hoped to catch the bird -
When out an old mouse bolted in the wheats
With all her young ones hanging at her teats;
She looked so odd and so grotesque to me,
I ran and wondered what the thing could be,
And pushed the knapweed bunches where I stood;
Then the mouse hurried from the craking brood.
The young ones squeaked, and as I went away
She found her nest again among the hay.
The water o’er the pebbles scarce could run
And broad old cesspools glittered in the sun.

John Clare (1793-1864) was the son of a farm labourer who grew up during the Agrarian Revolution in a time of rapid industrialisation. Despite having almost no formal education he began to write in an attempt to stave off his parents’ eviction from their home and enjoyed some early success. Though he was never accepted by the English literary establishment and his work soon became largely ignored, he is now recognised as one of the greatest of all English nature poets. His poor health and bouts of depression led to him spending most of the second half of his life in an asylum.


Robin Hood rides again in America

The vast young nation that has always stood for enterprise and the mighty buck is changing fast. A rapidly growing section of the US is discovering something very close to socialism. It’s not yet known by that name, obviously - the years of ‘Red Terror have ruled that out - but the sense of outrage and need to protect people’s rights are exactly the same. This week the brilliant and ever-restless online news site, Truthout ( quotes an article in Yes! Magazine on the rediscovery of Robin Hood as a hero for our own times. Yes! Magazine has been going since 1997, published in Washington by the Positive Futures Network. It looks as bold as any other glossy, but it packs a hefty political punch and won the Alternate Press Award for Best Cultural Coverage in 2001. But what’s this about Robin Hood?

He’s big stuff in the States again. A cult favourite American cable show, Leverage, begins each with a reminder: “The rich and the powerful take what they want; we steal it back for you.” Paul Buhle, writing in Yes! Magazine, says it is ‘a fitting motto for heroes of the 21st century.’ He admits that resistance to injustice ‘has not as yet returned to the level of the apprentices and craftsmen in Edinburgh, Scotland, who in 1561 chose to come together “efter the auld wikid maner of Robene Hude”. Those Scottish rebels elected a leader as “Lord of Inobedience” and stormed past the magistrates, through the city gates, up to Castle Hill where they made their views plain.

Buhle contends that “We live in something rapidly approaching a Robin Hood era. The rich and powerful now command almost every corner of the planet and, in order to maintain their control, threaten to despoil every natural resource to the point of exhaustion. Meanwhile, billions of people are impoverished below levels of decency … resistance to authority, of one kind or another, continues, and, given worsening conditions, is likely to increase.” This is not Clydeside, but the US of A. The times, they are a-changing.


Mending the bridge

Residents of Whiting Bay were relieved to see work begin on rebuilding Glenashdale Bridge, battered twice this winter by cars skidding on black ice. It had been feared that the historic bridge was beyond repair and might be replaced by some hideous modern structure, but many of the tumbled sandstone blocks were undamaged. Due to skilled work in weather that has often been dreadful, the grand old bridge is retrieving its former beauty, and with any luck, will be with us into the far future.


COAST looks to the future

During a very hands-on day, Gavin Shelton of Fauna and Flora International had the committee of COAST working hard on the future strategy. We looked at the values of COAST, and the way forward for the next few years. Working as a team, with some time for reflection, was helpful for everyone, as we do not often all work together in such a focused way. The output from the event will form a Strategy Plan for 2012-2016.

It was a taxing but enjoyable day, enlivened by delicious home cooking and scones provided by Pat Burns, the wonderful cook at the Arran Education Outdoor Centre.

The COAST AGM, will be held on 21st March.


Arran’s first geologist

Jim Henderson begins a new Voice series on James Hutton (1726 - 1797), the man who put Arran on the map as a place of quite extraordinary geology. His name lives on through ‘Hutton's Unconformity’, the strange outcrop located on the shoreline between Newton and Laggan on the North of the Island.

When Hutton was born in Edinburgh, on June 3rd 1726, the science of geology did not exist. It was still thought that the earth had been created in about 4004 BC, as stated in the Bible, so the planet we live on was assumed to be not more than roughly 6,000 years of age. It is extraordinary to think that, less than 300 years ago, we knew nothing of the structure of the earth’s structure - but James Hutton was to change all that.

The start of his life did not look promising. When he was a young child his father died, leaving young James and his three sisters for their mother to bring up - but all the same, James was educated in the local High School and, from the age of 14, at Edinburgh University. There, he developed a passionate interest in scientific inquiry. Perhaps out of conscience, at 17 he began work as an apprentice to a lawyer, but it did not last long. The lawyer advised him to continue his studies in a field more akin to his scientific mind. Hutton went back to University, and this time chose to study medicine, which had some similarity to chemistry - one of his favourite subjects. After a further 3 years at Edinburgh he completed his medical studies in Paris, gaining a degree in 1749.

Portrait of James Hutton
by Sir Henry Raeburn
He did not practise as a doctor. On returning to Edinburgh, his position as the only son of the family demanded that he should pay some attention to the small property at Slighthouses in Berwickshire that his father had bequeathed to him. There, his original interest in the earth and its underlying structure arose again, and he resolved to devote himself to agriculture. Never one to do things less than thoroughly, he investigated farming practices in Norfolk then travelled to Holland, Belgium and the North of France, studying the surface of the land. This had a crucial influence on his dawning ideas about the earth’s geology, sparking an interest that would become his legacy for future generations.

In 1754 Hutton returned to his own farm in Berwickshire, where he introduced new farming practices and husbandry. His methods are still in use to this day, and his enlightened management made the farm one of the best and most productive in the area. ‘Enlightenment’ was of course the beacon idea of the age, and farming was never going to be quite enough for Hutton. He never married, and after a period of 14 years, having achieved as much as he could with the farm, he leased the property and returned to Edinburgh, where he spent most of his time in the company of his three sisters. But he often met up with friends, with whom he was able to converse and communicate, expressing the new ideas produced by his ever searching mind.

Arran was yet to come. Its extraordinary geological structure still lay quietly slumbering, undiscovered by anyone. Meanwhile, the ideas being discussed by Hutton and his friends would live on in history. Who were these men? They encompassed a wonderful mixture of interests, and included James Watt (engineer), Adam Smith (philosopher), John Playfair (scientist), David Hume (philosopher and economist) Francis Hutcheson (professor of philosophy), Joseph Black (physician) and Robert Burns (poet). Among their number was also Sir James Hall, perhaps the first researcher to describe himself as a geologist. Hutton’s discoveries on Arran were moving closer.

Jim Henderson will continue this story in the April issue of the Voice.


Transit of Venus - a request

Nothing to do with vans or tennis-players. We are talking of the planet Venus, which is due to travel across the sun at early dawn on June 6th of this year. It will be visible from Arran from 0500 until 0600. There will not be another transit until 2117, over a century hence, so this is your only chance to see the phenomenon. Venus will look like a small black globe travelling across the face of the sun.

© Australian Space Alliance
Neil Gillies puts a request. ‘Is there anyone with an astronomical telescope (or similar) with a solar filter who would be prepared to come to the Mountain Rescue Base at Cladach (I am a member) to allow those with an interest to view the transit in greater detail?’

Neil continues, ‘Early days, but hopefully those interested will meet at the MRT base at 0500, walk over the footbridge and view the event as the sun rises over Hunterston. Tea and bacon rolls etc will be served in the MRT large frame tent. We also hope to set up a pinhole projector and attempt to capture the event on video - any advice welcome!’

If anyone has the above equipment and would be interested in assisting, please contact Neil at or on 600590. Photographers who are interested in getting what would be quite literally ‘the shot of a life-time’ should also get in touch with Neil. He adds that children will of course also be welcome at the event.

Transits of Venus occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart. In between, there are long gaps of more than anyone’s lifetime. The transit that will happen in June 2012 is the second of the current pair, the previous one having taken place in 2004. The pair of transits before that were seen in December 1874 and December 1882.


A message from Katy Clark

Welcome to my email newsletter. I hope to provide a regular email update on what is happening
at Westminster and some of the issues I am involved with.

More information about my activities at Westminster is available on my website.

These are some of the issues I have been involved with:

Benefits for Disabled Young People

During Prime Minister’s Questions this week I asked the Prime Minister about the Government’s proposals to remove the youth condition from contributory Employment and Support Allowance. According to the Government’s own figures this move will mean that an estimated 1,500 disabled young people will end up at £4,900 worse off as a result of this change. Unfortunately I do not believe the Prime Minister addressed my concerns adequately and I will continue to look for ways in Parliament to ensure young disabled people are not unfairly penalised by the Government’s reforms.

Committees on Arms Export Controls

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to question the Foreign Secretary and Business Secretary on the sale of weapons from the United Kingdom. As a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee I am a member of the Committees on Arms Export Controls which monitors the export of weapons out of the country. The meeting questioned the Ministers on the sale of arms to countries with poor human rights records where it might be used for internal repression and on what the Government's negotiation stance is in relation to the current international discussions for a global treaty on the sale of arms.

Health and Social Care Bill

The Government has come under considerable pressure this week as more and more healthcare professionals have voiced their opposition to the proposed reforms to the NHS. The Royal College of GPs and Chartered Society of Physiotherapists are among the latest organisations to announce their opposition to the Government’s proposals. The Bill is currently progressing through the House of Lords and will return to the Commons in due course so that any amendments made can be debated. I previously voted against the Health and Social Care Bill when it was debated in the House of Commons and hope that the Government now withdraws the Bill in the face overwhelming opposition. Because of the Barnet formula funding for Scotland is likely to affected if the Bill becomes law and I am asking Parliamentary questions about what implication to the use of private companies under this legislation will have on Scotland.

Depleted Uranium Weapons

This week I met again with representatives from the Uranium Weapons Network who are campaigning for an end to the use of depleted uranium weapons. Following Parliamentary Questions which I asked the Government has agreed to undertake a legal review of the United Kingdom’s CHARM3 depleted uranium munitions to ensure it is compatible with the Geneva Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. I am now campaigning to ensure that once the review is completed that its findings are made public.

Human Rights in Ethiopia

I have recently questioned the Secretary of State for International Development on support given to the Ethiopian Government, and in particular in relation to its ‘villageization’ programme. A recent report has indicated that this programme has led to up to 70,000 people being forcibly removed from their homes. Those who refused to move have been threatened by the police and security services according to the report. I believe it would be completely unacceptable if UK aid was in any way contributing to these human rights violations. The Government have confirmed that they will be looking into the report’s findings.


An impressive book

James Robertson’s And the Land Lay Still deservedly won the Saltire Society’s Scottish Book of the Year Award. It is a magisterial novel following linked people and events through the decades of Scottish life leading to the present day, and it leaves the reader enlightened, impressed and astonished. Robertson made his mark in 2006 with an extraordinary novel called The Testament of Gideon Mack, in which a secretly wayward minister of the church finds himself in close conversation with the Devil, but his new book keeps in touch with reality, not matter how fantastic it may be. The intricate story is packed with unforgettable characters, centrally including a man who one day walks out of his house in despair at human ravaging of the earth, and never returns. At the same time, Robertson has a mordant and accurate eye for the double dealings that lie behind government and for the fallibility of the powerful. Above all, it looks with compassion and understanding at the lives of people who are unwittingly trapped in the machinations of politics. Historically, it presents a detailed, meticulously researched historical account of what has happened in Scotland in the years from the Red Clyde to the rise of the SNP and the likelihood of independence.

Linking these factors are passages of sheer poetry, watching the man who walked away as he slowly discards all the things thought essential for modern life. A couple will be left to remember him as the half-frozen wanderer who slept for a night in the barn and was gone by dawn. A child keeps forever the small white stone that a quiet man put in his hand. This book is revealing, wise and beautiful. It should be on every civilised bookshelf.

Alison Prince

And the Land Lay Still, by James Robertson. Penguin paperback, £9.99. ISBN 978-0-141-02854-5


Judith Baines

When I was out in March I was drawn to the new leaves of ground ivy. They are so surprisingly colourful and, after photographing them, I celebrated them several different media including the wax crayon and wash and water-colour that you see here. I also painted them on silk to make a scarf.

Later in the month the larch roses seemed to ask for smocking. Do go and see the big larches on the approach to the North Sannox picnic site. Some years they, too, are pink with “blossom”. In my water colour and ink drawing I show the less showy male flowers. They are like tiny shaving brushes of pollen.


Like Water for Chocolate

LikeWater.jpgThis exquisite Mexican comedy is showing at the Corrie Film Club on Sunday March 11th at 8.00 pm in Corrie Hall. Based on a first-time, instantly popular novel by Laura Esquivel, the film is set in the Mexico of a hundred years ago, when tradition dictated that the youngest daughter of the house must never marry but instead devote her life to caring for her mother. Tita, however, falls in love with handsome Pedro, and has the courage to say so. Outrage ensues, and so does retribution.

Elena, Tita’s mother, forces Pedro into marrying her eldest daughter instead, and as an additional punishment, sets Tita the task of providing the wedding feast. Pedro has explained to Tita that the only way to continue their secret love is to accept the façade of his marrying her sister, so rich undertones of secret sexuality run through this unfolding tale of passion, frustration and, above all, of glorious and delectable food.

There’s a strong element of magic realism in the book, and the filmed version is rich in symbolism and metaphors. The title itself is a Spanish idiom based on the fact that water has to reach scalding heat before it can melt chocolate. Tita, an inspired cook, uses her culinary art as the only permitted way to express her inner fire, and the whole film simmers - and sometimes boils over - with exquisite flavours and passions. For an aperitif, have a look at the trailer on YouTube - and have no fears, the showing in Corrie Hall will have English sub-titles.

All are welcome, and there is no charge, though contributions to the upkeep of the hall are always greatly appreciated.



by Dave Payn



 1   Party mode disturbed and condemned (6)
 4   Total break (6)
 9   I have to bend before roll (7)
10   bout to write about groom (5)
11   A toff and a spy (5)
12   Broken limb found in the cap (7)
14   A newspaper to express uncertainty about? Later (5)
16   Nine-piece to recall projection (5)
17   Mad at an alternative firm (7)
19   Somehow bury eastern representative (5)
21   Templar misattributed after dark (5)
23   Tell composer (7)
24   Time to absorb British tonality (6)
25   What usually happens after a tie in a tie! (6)


 1   Princess not in Midwest state (5)
 2   Carthorse replaced band (9)
 3   Order newspaper chief in charge of Times (5)
 5   Name a prick, so it's said (7)
 6   Reminder of what's useful in pool (3)
 7   Corrie's Elsie wandering around after novice gives light (7)
 8   Imprison missing artist? Relax! (4)
13   Angels' favourite comedian? (5,4)
14   Opposed to oven in road (7)
15   Remove trace of gold electric device (7)
18   Bird heard to go off (4)
19   Sailor turns up to set about whip (5)
20   Mostly clever but wet (5)
22   Idiot turns up with glue (3)

Answers to last month's crossword:


1 Ditch, 4 At last, 8 Ill-bred, 9 Ghana, 10 Epiphany, 11 Kent, 13 Sanity, 14 Pinter, 17 Omen, 19 Whippets, 22 Lithe, 23 Shih-tzu, 24 Handel, 25 Theme


1 De-ice, 2 Tolkien, 3 Hard hats, 4 Ardent, 5 Luge, 6 Shake, 7 Easter, 12 Misprint, 13 Should, 15 Theatre, 16 Chisel, 18 Extra, 20 Sauce, 21 Heed


The Nova Scotia Jazz Band

For its final concert of the season, the Arran Music Society is delighted to present this classic Dixieland jazz quartet. On Saturday 17th March in Brodick Hall, the Nova Scotia Jazz Band concert will be at 7.30 pm, reverting to an evening time rather than the afternoon sessions offered during the darkest winter months.

The Nova Scotia Jazz Band comprises John Burgess on clarinet and various saxophones, Mike Daly on cornet, Duncan Findlay on banjo and guitar, and the wonderful Roy Percy on string bass. This multi-instrumental combination provides a wide range of varied sound, and although such numbers as At the Jazz Band Ball and Royal Garden Blues are rooted firmly in the New Orleans tradition, there is much invention and freshness. The four talented players bring the classic jazz themes into our own time and present them as newly enchanting and lively, which is why the old favourites remain so enduringly addictive.

NovaScotiaJazzBand.jpgThese Edinburgh-based players are relaxed, easy, and utterly expert. There is a constantly varying pattern of solo work and duetting, with a rhythm section that takes an equal part in presenting inventive improvisations. If you have loved the old tunes in the hands of such masters as Bix Beiderbecke, Muggsy Spanier and Alex Welsh, here they are again, newly fresh and lively. Samples of the Nova Scotia Jazz Band abound on the Internet, so Google them if you’d like a foretaste of the delights that will be ours on March 17th.

The Music Society was very sorry that ferry disruption prevented the Cartha Trio from reaching us for last month’s concert, but will re-book them for next year’s season. Watch out, too, for extra concerts that may become available during the summer.


Latest news on the Carrick

from John Kinsman

Carrick.jpgThe world's oldest surviving clipper, HMS Carrick, is nearer to moving to a new home in Australia. The parts for a huge steel cradle have arrived at Irvine, in Ayrshire, so the old vessel can be carried safely to Adelaide. A 100-tonne steel cradle will be now constructed from these prefabricated sections. Once this is assembled and ready the hull will be jacked up to allow the cradle to slide underneath her.

Originally named the City of Adelaide, the clipper was built in 1864 by William Pile, Hay and Co. in Sunderland, England, and was launched on May 7th, 1864. The ship was commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Carrick between 1923 and 1948 and after decommissioning, continued to be known as Carrick until 2001. At a conference convened by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh in 2001, the ship's name reverted to City of Adelaide. She is one of only three surviving sailing ships to have taken emigrants from the British Isles to any destination in the world. The other two are the Edwin Fox and the Star of India. The Cutty Sark, built in 1869, was a tea clipper, not designed as a passenger vessel.

As a fast sailing ship, the City of Adelaide made 23 annual return voyages between 1864 and 1887, transporting passengers and goods from London and Plymouth to Adelaide, South Australia. On the return voyages, the ship carried passengers, wool and copper from Adelaide and Port Augusta to London. Her remaining hull lay rotting for years on a slip-way in Irvine, and suggestions were made that it should be broken up. Protest began, and a strong plea came in from Sunderland for return of the old ship to the place where she was built - but a bid from Adelaide proved the winner, because of the significant historic connection linking the ship to the Australian city. It is hoped that the great old clipper will be starting her long voyage towards reconstruction and a new life very soon.

The legend to the picture below reads as follows:

CityOfAdelaide.jpgClipper Ship, 'City of Adelaide', 1000 tons, David Bruce, Commander. Hand-coloured lithograph by Thomas Dutton, August 1864. Dedicated "To Messrs. Devitt and Moore Owners, Messrs Wm Pile, Hay & Co. Builders & the Officers of the Ship this print is most respectfully dedicated by their obedient servant, Wm. Foster.

Amazing to look at the elegant lines of that hull and know it is the very same thing that lies just across the water from Arran, rotting on a slip-way in Irvine.


Walking on the Wild Side: The Water of Life

by Lucy Wallace

The footpath to Gleann Easan Biorach climbs up behind the Arran Distillery and passes through the narrow slot of a gorge guarding the entrance to the glen. The name itself, Easan Biorach, means steep or sharp waterfall, and the gorge here is so deep it is impossible to see the water that rushes through the depths below. We clamber up beyond the narrowing, and a hidden valley of mist and moor unfolds itself. We are on the verge of spring, and although the hills still hold the rust red of winter, at our feet green shoots pushing up through the peat. Clouds are hanging low in the valley, hiding the peaks in the south. Streams pour off the hillsides, water rushes over rocks, tumbling down cliff faces. The path wallows in standing water. A little rain is carried on the breeze.

The sound of silence in a Scottish glen is the whisper of running water. Take a rest on a hillside and listen to the quiet roaring of a thousand streamlets descending. The sound pulsates on the breeze, and the song is endless. It ceases only under the hardest frosts, when the water briefly stands still, defying gravity, but it will not be long before a steady drip-dripping thaw brings reverberating life back to the glen.

According to the Met office, six of the ten wettest places in the British Isles are on the west coast of Scotland. While England frets under the threat of hosepipe bans in March, Scottish planners wrestle with landslides and flooding. Scotland is a landscape carved from the rock by ice, but the final flourishes were created by running water.

The wet climate plays a vital part in the balance of life on Arran. Tiny carnivorous wetland plants such as the sundew and the butterwort thrive on blanket bogs and peatlands. These plants feed largely on midges, which depend in turn on standing water to breed. Midges form part of a food chain that supports toads, adders, salmon and trout as well as a number of birds. To understand the importance of water to wildlife here, take a walk up a soggy moorland glen and watch the tiny dipper at work, diving for larvae amongst the rocks of a swift burn, or listen for the mournful call of a golden plover whose breeding success depends on a ready supply of wetland invertebrates.

A wet spring isn’t all good news for wildlife however. Standing water and days of rain can wreak havoc with nesting birds. Ground nesting birds of prey such as the hen harrier find it difficult to hunt in heavy rain, and waterlogged nests lead to hypothermia in undernourished chicks. The female bird may try to shelter the chicks under her wings, but keeping the water off in a Scottish downpour is not easy and many young birds will succumb in a prolonged spell of bad weather.

Given the climate and geography, it is hardly surprising that the culture and legends of the Highlands are steeped in water. Single malt aficionados will know that whisky is called uisge beatha in Gaelic (literally, water of life). The word uisge can be used in Gaelic to describe water in its many forms, from alcohol to rain, lochs and rivers. The wilder parts of the Highlands are populated by legends of reptilian monsters, kelpies and watery spirits. The most terrible of all was the Each Uisge, EachUisge.jpga supernatural water horse that inhabited the deepest freshwater and sea lochs. It was said that the Each Uisge would lure the unwary to the water, either in the form of a man, or a horse, He enticed them to ride on his back, but one touch of his sticky skin was enough and the victim would be unable to free themselves. The Each Uisge dragged people back to the watery depths and devoured them, leaving only their liver to float away. Travellers in the Scottish mountains are warned to give lone animals and men lingering on the shores of lochs a wide berth.

While in the past, the Each Uisge might lie in wait, these days the most common watery ambush for a traveller is likely to be in the form of a surprise river crossing. For this reason, Hillwalkers may find wet weather to be more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. Well marked paths can become impassable after just a couple of days of rain. Just now, with the water table so high, it takes only a few hours before the main burns running out of the coires become raging torrents. The temptation in these circumstances may be to wade, or even totter across on boulders. A safer option is to continue upstream until a crossing can be made. This can be an unpopular choice after a long day on the hill, and because of this I prefer to plan my routes wherever possible so that the river crossing is early in the day- when a detour seems less onerous. If you absolutely must cross a river in spate, pick a straight section, (the water flows faster around bends), and avoid crossing above hazards such as waterfalls, fallen trees, fences and boulders, that may trap and pin you underwater. Boulder hopping is never the safest option

Top tips for enjoying Arran’s hills in the rain:


Too Posh to Pick Up?

Margaret Kay, whom many will recognise as the author of a Puppy Diary written for the old days when the Voice appeared on paper, has something to say about Dog Walkers Who Don’t.

I walked my dogs in Whiting Bay last week for the first time in a while, and was appalled at the ‘obstacle course’ of dog faeces I had to circumnavigate behind the row of shops in the Village. It was awful, and at this time of the year cannot be put down to visitors - it’s just lazy, inconsiderate locals. The abundance of mess was covering an area where children often walk when accessing the beach or the slip-way. There’s no issue for me about kids stepping in it and trailing it into the house as I don’t have a young family, but for many mums it is a nightmare. And even for me, there was so much mess that my dogs could hardly avoid it and would trail it into the back of the car and on to their rug.

I have spoken to the Banner and to the Local Authority today, and have arranged to be a pick- up point for dog poo bags when the Dog Club is held in Whiting Bay every Wednesday. Meanwhile, I am like the ‘poo police’. If I see someone allowing a dog to defecate and making no move to pick it up, my car screeches to a halt. I ask them what they are going to do about lifting the mess, and if they tell me they have forgotten to bring a bag I give them one - but it’s often obvious by the way they tackle picking the mess up that doing so is totally alien to them. Dog walkers need to remember that it is an offence not to clear up after your dog, and they may be fined for it.

When using Sandbraes Park for the dog agility classes in the summer months, we often have to clear up dog mess before we can put out the agility equipment. The occupants of one particular house in Sandbraes have been seen to just open their door and let their dogs run over to the park unsupervised.

I know they are having similar difficulties in Sliddery, where a few new houses, all with dogs, have been built and in Lochranza. Golf Course Road in Whiting Bay has the same problem - but particularly unforgivable was the person who let a dog leave a festering heap just outside Whiting Bay School, where the kids cross the road. The lollipop lady had to go looking for a poo bag - Barry Miggin to the rescue on that one - but it should not be down to a lollipop lady to pick up someone else's dog mess so that the children can cross the road without stepping in faeces.

I really think we should get a campaign going to take on those who are ‘Too Posh to Pick Up’. I would be delighted to spearhead this and am sure we could get volunteers from each village to assist in enforcing the law and educating people about proper dog management.


CD corner

Andrew Keeling is a multi-faceted composer, whose works have been performed and broadcast throughout the world by musicians such as Dame Evelyn Glennie, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Fretwork, Craig Ogden, Jacob Heringman and many others. His music has been released by DGM, Burning Shed, Metier, Riverrun, UHR and Spaceward. He is also a songwriter and improviser and has written, collaborated and released albums with musicians such as David Cross (King Crimson), Stephen Fellows (Comsat Angels) and Tim Bowness (No-Man). Andrew also has a particular interest in the music of King Crimson and has written three Musical Guides on the band's music as well as orchestrating the music of Robert Fripp. An album of these performed by the Metropole Orchestra of Amsterdam, is projected for release in 2012. He has also been a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Keeling1.jpgBells of Heaven (due for release on Monday 12th March 2012) is the 'shadow' side of Andrew Keeling's activities as a composer. Although known for his contemporary classical music - his album Unquiet Earth (Spaceward Records) is released in June, 2012 - Keeling is also a composer of a quite different kind of music. The title track of this collection, Weak and Helpless and the multi-sectional In the Pages of Mathilda, display a hard edge while Avarice, Otherworld, Neurosis and Twenty Turbines display Keeling's interest in electric folk. The melodic beauty of Narcissus of Decor, The Great Divides and Nostalgia balance the harder-edged tracks. While some may connect Bells of Heaven to the progressive rock genre, particularly as Keeling has arranged the music and, as musicologist, written widely about Robert Fripp and King Crimson, he refuses to acknowledge any connection to that field. And whilst the '& Otherworld' name might suggest a band, Keeling likes to think of the album more as a collaborative effort. Guest appearances from Stephen Fellows (Comsat Angels), Tim Bowness (No-Man), violist Susanna Pell (Fretwork) and lutenist Jacob Heringman, violinist Charlotte Dowding, vocalist Jane Wilkinson and featuring words from poet/author Alison Prince, makes Bells of Heaven something of a diverse musical offering

Keeling2.jpgUnquiet Earth (due for release on Monday 11th June 2012) is scored for piano, violin and cello and is a musical response to the last paragraph of Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights. The work has two almost improvisatory movements. A fragmentary slow introduction leads to a quicker, boisterous section as the movement unwinds into tender introspection. The second movement injects new rhythmic energy in the form of a restless, awkward jig, until a slow, serene lament emerges, which dissolves into deep meditation.

The string quartet Present is a substantial work which shares the grandeur of the great chamber works of Beethoven and Schubert, but does not directly mimic their style. The music was inspired by Alison Prince's poem All This Time. The quartet has a questioning, restless quality, but also a sense that divine presence is close by, even if often revealed in unlikely ways. The quartet is in four movements. The atmospheric Beacon Hill recalls a walk made by the composer to the summit of the wooded hill which rises above the Lake District town of Penrith. The music unfolds like a slow, funereal sarabande over a ground-bass, but gradually rises to an ecstatic climax. At this point, the melancholy mood abruptly returns. Perhaps the most unusual and innovative work on the disc is You Cut the String written for Steve Bingham’s unique five-string electric violin and sound-loops. Commissioned by and dedicated to Steve Bingham, the music is made up from eight multi-tracked sound-loops which are, one by one, hypnotically superimposed to create what the composer calls “a gradually accumulating rhythmic mobile”.