Constant challenge of seas for lifeboat volunteers

The Stornoway RNLI volunteer crew in action as they set off on a shout.

By Eilidh Whiteford

Thursday, December 14th, 2017, saw the volunteer crews at the Outer Hebrides’ oldest and newest Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) stations drop everything to head out to rough seas in gale force winds to the aid of those in danger.

Stornoway RNLI, established in the islands in 1887, and Leverburgh RNLI, founded in 2013, launched at 6pm that night in response to a Pan Pan call – one level down from a full distress Mayday – sent from 54m cargo vessel ‘MV Fame’.

With five persons on-board, the ship found itself in difficulties having lost propulsion power and was drifting 1.2nm offshore west of Scarp, on the west side of Harris.

For the volunteer crew of Stornoway RNLI, it was a shout that would see them at sea for 21 hours; and for two of the newly established Leverburgh RNLI volunteer crew, it was to be their first ever shout.

Drifting towards a rocky shoreline with no means of power amid Force 8-10 winds and a sea swell of up to 6-8metres, the ‘MV Fame’, which had five persons on-board, had anchored in a bid to slow the rate of drift and stop the vessel from grounding.

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Natural enthusiasm for colour and scent

By Eilidh Whiteford

To walk into the Hebridean Soap Company is to walk into a delicious bubble of colours and scents.

Established by owner Linda Sutherland in 2002, the Hebridean Soap Company shop and workshop are based in a renovated century-old stone barn in Breasclete, Isle of Lewis.

Linda and her team deliver a world of all natural ingredients and fragrances, producing not only soap bars and liquid soaps, but also the company’s unique ‘Gaia’ body and face cream range and, most recently introduced, a selection of beautiful island-scented candles, available to both visitors to the shop and via website

“Each year you have people coming into the shop and then you find they come back on the website,” said Linda. “I used to do the website orders in the evening after work, but they’ve become a permanent job now. We’ve a lot of repeat customers and it is just so great to see.”

All-natural, produced where possible with local ingredients, and mixed, poured and moulded by hand, the Hebridean Soap Company products certainly offer something different to their mass-produced contemporaries.

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Gaelic to forefront…and top of the world!  


By Katie Macleod

When it comes to Gaelic education, Lews Castle College UHI has a unique offering.  “We are situated in what is the strongest Gaelic-speaking community in the world,” says lecturer Angela Weir.  “Nowhere else are there as many Gaelic speakers as there are in the Western Isles.”

This location in the heart of the Gaidhealtachd gives Gaelic students at Lews Castle College various advantages, from access to a faculty of fluent Gaelic speakers and a wide range of courses, to the ability to use Gaelic in the community on an everyday basis – not to mention exposure to multiple island-based Gaelic organisations. 

For those students with an interest in studying Gaelic, there’s something to suit every language level, with options ranging from Masters degrees to summer short courses.  The Gaelic department at Lews Castle College offers four Higher Education options: BA Gaelic Language and Culture, BA Gaelic and Development, BA Gaelic Scotland, and MA Gaelic with Education, as well as a plethora of other classes.

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Uist Wool…spinning a new Island future 

By Elly Welch  

On a quiet croft on the island of Grimsay, North Uist, there’s a purr of machinery spinning through the spring breeze.  But this is no unwanted 21st century intrusion.  This is the quiet song of century old pistons, brought out of retirement to hum new hope for a place that the wool industry forgot – but whose people never did.   

As you travel the single track circling Grimsay you can’t miss the cheerful green roof of Uist Wool, a community-managed spinning mill and brand new visitor facility including a shop, viewing area, and workshop and training space. 

And travel to it you must this summer, for this place, now open to the public for the first time, is exciting.  It’s not just immensely creative, it’s practical too - like a good friend, which it looks set to be for the crofting, artistic and visitor communities of the Outer Hebrides.     

The idea for a new woolen mill based in Uist emerged in 2008 when it became clear that native wool had little or no value.  Fleeces were being burnt, or thrown away – no longer worth the cost of transport to mainland markets.  Concerned locals began to investigate ways to bring the industry back and, soon, the idea for a new mill was formed.  Among its hard working volunteers was Uist Wool’s current director, Dana MacPhee.  

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Linda’s soap salves the skin with natural goodness!

By Eilidh Whiteford

Celebrating 15 years of business this year, the Hebridean Soap Company has sumptuous new products on the shelves for visitors and islanders alike to treat themselves this summer.

Established in 2002 as the first commercial soap producing company in the Western Isles, owner Linda Sutherland delivers a world of all natural ingredients and fragrances when customers step into the company shop and workspace in Breasclete, Lewis.

“I'm amazed already this year how many people have been in so far,” Linda said in March. “And we're looking forward to welcoming many more with a busy summer ahead.”

A former IBM systems programmer, Linda was working in Germany and travelling to and from the UK every two weeks prior to embarking upon her 'new challenge in life'.

Read more: Linda’s soap salves the skin with natural goodness!