Archive for February 2011

The War Effort

Mike Armstrong has sent a link to a wonderful extract from a Pathé Newsreel made in 1944, which shows Easdale Island and parts of Seil. There’s a bit of confusion about which is Easdale and which is Seil, but Easdale’s cottages are easily recognisable. People shown in the film are Easdale’s senior citizens Charles McPherson, Neil Dewar, Neil Fletcher and Maggie MacKay, plus Donald Dewar and Donald Campbell.

Here’s a tiny still to whet your appetite:

View the film by clicking HERE. (Turn your speakers on!)

Click on the oblong box under the screen (next to where it says “0%”) to see it full screen. If annoying adverts pop up at first, click on “Continue to content” at the top right.

Maps of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland has recently launched a new website featuring over 20,000 historic maps of Scotland, which you can see HERE. The early ones are fascinating, and have a tendency to put places in entirely the wrong location. One from 1654 places Oban on the … er … east coast of Seil! Another has Easdale out to sea among the Garvellachs – where, no doubt, some would wish it was! And the early coastal maps must have given mariners a few unwelcome surprises. On the other hand, some of the 18th century “charts” are remarkably detailed, showing landmarks that could be seen from out at sea, water depths, and rock hazards, including those in Easdale Sound.

Not to be parochial about things, the town maps are equally enthralling. Have a look at the 1795 map of “Glasgow and the country seven miles around”, for instance.

Allow yourself plenty of time, because you’ll be hooked!

Oh dear …

This is what was left of a Proven 6kW wind turbine after two springs broke from one rotor blade and one spring broke from the other two blades. The springs were thrown so far that they couldn’t be found. The same thing has apparently happened before.

Northern Lights

As you may have seen in the news, recent solar activity means that in
the next few days we have the best chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis for
several years. If it looks as though we’re going to get a good view (clear skies permitting) we’ll let you know.

More balloon fun

The wind turbine as it would appear from:

a) Ellenabeich

b) by the museum 'phone box (the fog was caused by Alex burning rubbish!)

Normal Service

Normal service resumes:

Over the last couple of days we’ve been having some technical difficulties with posting your comments. It seems that some people are not very happy with our website and have been up to no good. This has not surprised me as next Friday is the deadline for all submissions to the planners with regard to the wind turbine, air source heat pump and solar pv panels. As you would expect from your online magazine, we will be covering this in great depth, and it’s perhaps not surprising that the website has come under attack prior to this date.


Shadow/flicker data

A) Below is an extract from the report on the quantitative data which was collected on 19th January by Mike Armstrong (a certificated RYA/DoT Yachtmaster Ocean).

“The purpose of this report is to ascertain if there will be any shadow flicker on the above property’s, it is my intention to use the US Naval Observatory Sun’s altitude and Azimuth tables.

Test sun sights were taken with regards these tables for planning application 10/01422/PP (this was the previous wind turbine application which was withdrawn) they were found to be very accurate.

The test Sun Sights will be added to this report.

“Reference datum

The planning application states that the height of the Wind turbine from the base is 17.75Meters and the diameter of the wind turbine is 5.5meters.

“It is therefore proposed to triangulate the angle to the top of the proposed wind turbine from the base of the house, this will be known as ( A), then triangulate from the gutter line of the houses ( this is 2.5Meters above floor level) to the bottom of the proposed turbine blade, the blade being 5.5 meters diameter, this will be dimension (B).

“we also need to get the Horizontal angles from the houses to the proposed turbine blade to complete the shadow flicker window. This is important because these houses face south east, therefore the sun will be rising and also tracking Westerly at the same time.

On the 19th of January datum poles were put at the location of the proposed wind turbine and set 5.5Meters apart, this represents the Wind Turbine blade outside Diameter, by doing this it has enabled me to get the bearings necessary to complete the Shadow flicker windows for the property’s concerned.


Using a hand bearing compass with your back to the house, get the bearing from the left side of the house to the right side of the turbine blade (D), and then the right side of the house to the left side of the turbine blade (C) .

“Once we have A,B,C,and D bearings , it’s possible to work out the dates and times shadow flicker will occur on each house (if any)”

The results obtained for number of days that each property would be affected were as follows:

No. 101

28th January to 1st March                –           33 days

12th October to 16th November       –           36 days

= a total of 69 days throughout the year

No. 28

14th January to 11th February        –           28 days

1st November to 28th November    –           28 days

= a total of 56 days throughout the year

No. 13b

20th December to 25th January      –           37 days

18th November to 19th December  –           32 days

= a total of 69 days throughout the year

No. 13a

20th December to 22nd January     –           34 days

21st November to 19th December  –           29 days

= a total of 63 days throughout the year

No. 14a

20th December to 30th January      –           42 days

11th November to 19th December  –           39 days

= a total of 81 days throughout the year

These data, and the calculations from which they were derived, have been submitted to the Argyll & Bute Council and the full report can be viewed HERE.

Document no. 20471257

Note: Quantititative data =  ‘hard’, measurable, verifiable data.


B) Below is an extract from the information submitted to Argyll & Bute Council by Argyle Architecture Ltd.

“The information below presents a qualitative assessment of the potential effects of shadow flicker from the proposed turbine.

“Shadow flicker can be caused by the rotation of the turbine blades when the sun is shining that creates a flickering or strobe effect if viewed through a restricted space such as small or partially curtained windows. It can result in disturbance to people living close to turbines. The likelihood (and duration) of any shadow flicker from turbines is often low as it depends on a number of factors including:

  • the location of any dwellings;
  • their orientation and angles to the sun;
  • the direction of the property relative to the turbine(s). In the UK only properties within 130 degrees either side of north relative to a turbine can be affected as it has been shown that turbines do not cast shadows to their southern side see attached reference document p .176 & 177
  • the proximity of any property to the turbine (typically less than 10 rotor diameters from the proposals see attached reference document p. 176 & 177); and
  • the interactions between the above.

“Shadow flicker does not occur when the sun is obscured by cloud, fog or by intervening objects; when the turbine is not operating; or when the rotor is turned parallel to a line between the receptor and turbine.

“In regard to this turbine in the proposed location, all residential dwelling(s) are out with the specified zone (10 x Rotor Diameter) therefore shadow flicker is not deemed to have a significant impact.”

The full document can be viewed on the Argyll & Bute Council webiste via the link above. Document no. 20473942.

Note: Qualitative data = ‘soft’ descriptive data that approximates but does not measure attributes, properties etc.

What the balloon was for

The wind turbine as it would appear from:

1) across the square

2) from the mountain

Cast Adrift The Facts

There has been much comment about this event, some with knowledge of sea kayaking and the waters around this area, and some with too much knowledge for their own good.

The facts are:

My sea kayak was securely attached to the pontoon by ropes at both bow and stern.

The ropes were cut.

The tides that Thursday / Friday night were, high water 1810 Oban, low water 0033 Oban.

The wind was south westerly.

It has been erroneously claimed that the waves in the harbour were ferocious that night. This is completely fallacious, since the existence of waves depends on “fetch”, that is the distance over which the wind can affect the waves. The greater the fetch, the bigger the waves. In this instance the fetch from the top of the harbour to the pontoon was less than 60yds, so there was no significant fetch at all. In fact, a flat water was disturbed by a strong wind, which would push the kayak into the cul-de-sac so that it could not escape without outside assistance, i.e. a malevolent hand to push or drag the kayak against a strong SW gale and commit it to the vagaries of an outgoing ebb tide, which would ensure that the kayak would leave the harbour and be carried out into Easdale Sound where it would be dashed on the ruined pier or on the rocks at the Ellenabeich side of the Sound. The ebb tide would ensure that there would be southward travel and, as the tide continued to ebb, the SW wind pressed the kayak onto the steep shingle.

The kayak was found above the high water mark (springs) on the beach opposite the school at Ellanabeich at 1130am on Friday the 4th February.

The kayak was then taken away by myself to be repaired.

There are a couple of pieces of information that I have been advised to withhold. They will be published when the investigation is over.

More History.

Until June 2009 my sea kayak had sat happily on the pontoon with not a care shown by the directors of Eilean Eisdeal. Then the news was broken to the community about the hostel, and I started to ask too many awkward questions as to how long they had been talking to the architect and not consulting the community. (Does this ring any bells? Same old EE.) Sandra Melville named me public enemy number one and the fun began. The rest is history.

 At no point have I been asked to pay any fees to have my kayak on the pontoon. No, that would be too engaging and legitimising. EE had a better plan, once again use their assets (that’s how they see them, as “theirs”) as a weapon.

I think it is important to reiterate that the harbour was bought with public money for the benefit of the entire community. The £147,500 was NOT given to EE directors and their associates to use against any member of the community who happpens to disagree with their latest self-interested schemes.

Julian Penney

Memories of Easdale Ferry (part 2)

A turning point in the history of the Easdale ferry came in 1961. In March of that year, the base of the service was firmly established on the Easdale side of the channel. A new house was provided there for the redoubtable ferryman, Dugald, and it is thought that a horn was also then placed at Ellanbeich pier to call the ferryman from across the Sound. The wooden Dorran prefabricated house was transported to the island in sections by helicopter. In the course of that operation, the roof section of Dugald’s new home plummeted into the Sound only yards from the ferry boat. In the end, the construction team fished the roof out of the channel using Dugald’s own boat, and within weeks the MacCorquodales were able to move into their new home. It cost the county council all of £2,400.

Setting up the ferry base on the island committed the council to a recurring dredging expenditure to keep Easdale’s little harbour clear of slate waste, which is estimated to encroach at the rate of 7 ft per year. Local critics maintained that the wiser course would have been to build on the Sell side, and to lower the sill of the quarry on that side to create a safe harbour there for the ferry boat. While the ferryman was well housed, in effect nothing was done by the council, the providers of the service, to maintain the island’s harbour. Apparently, no contractor could be found who was willing to dredge for the money offered by the council, while money must have been spent from time to time on repairs to Easdale pier, although it did not belong to the council, and it could not be reached by the ferry, which had to be moored precariously in the channel.

The controversy over the safety of the ferry landings burst into the open in the autumn of 1961, when Donald Dewar, the local councillor and owner of Ellanbeich pier and most of Easdale island, lost his life while going across. Lord Kilbrandon of Kilbrandon House, Balvicar on Sell, an eminent judge, blamed the council for indirectly causing the fatality by failing to maintain the landings on both sides of the channel. The county council convener retorted that the council, having provided a ferry and a competent ferryman, was reluctant to carry out costly engineering repairs to facilities it did not own tor an island population then amounting to fifteen. While the controversy raged, ferry passengers landing on Easdale had to scramble out on to steep and uneven stones. In adverse weather conditions, the island was virtually cut off, and hospital cases would have had to be carried by helicopter.

In September 1978, the 18-ft, outboard-driven open ferry boat was still liable to make landfall on the rocky shore of Easdale Island, although the pier on the Seil side had been improved. On one night that month, the boat got into trouble while crossing in a south-easterly gale. The outboard’s shear-pin broke when the propeller struck a rock, so the outboard was out of action. Although the boat had oars, there were no rowlocks, crutches or thole hence rowing was impossible. The ferry was being swept out of Easdale into the open Sound of Insh, but before she cleared Easdale Sound, two of the three on board, a man and a girl, either fell or were swept overboard. The man managed to swim ashore and raise the alarm, as a result of which the girl was found lying exhausted on one of the rocks. It was thought that the third person was still aboard the drifting boat. With the direction of drift being towards Insh Island, the Oban inshore lifeboat was launched to search in that area. The missing man was eventually spotted on an islet off the east side of Insh Island and picked up by helicopter.

The next crisis occurred in 1989, when Strathclyde Regional Council decided to replace the 18-ft glass fibre boat with an 18-ft flat-bottomed steel barge. The English-built craft was described by the head ferryman, Ian MacFarlane, as ‘a skip with an engine in it, fine for an inland loch but useless for Easdale Sound’. Ian and his assistant, Bert Baker, gave the barge a five-week trial before sending it back to the Council’s yard at Lochgilphead. The islanders claimed that at 2.5—3 knots top speed, the barge was barely capable of coping with the tidal current in the Sound, and christened it ‘The Pig’. It was returned once again as the ‘standby’ boat and has become Easdale’s land-based monument to the ‘landlubber folly’ of the Regional Council. The slowly-growing population of Easdale has since been provided with a Scottish-built, conventional 22 ft long craft as the principal ferry.

In 1992, Bert Baker, who had become head ferryman, retired, and the area engineer in Oban had to look hard once again for someone to take on this, not the easiest of ferrying jobs, before finding the present ferryman.