The Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland. They form part of the archipelago of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the Sea of the Hebrides.
Sea transport is crucial, and a variety of ferry services operate between the islands and to mainland Scotland.
Modern navigation systems now minimise the dangers but, in the past, stormy seas have claimed many ships, including the SS Politician which ran aground off Rosinish Point on the Isle of Eriskay in 1941. Hold number 5 held some 260,000 bottles of Scotch Whisky. Much of the whisky was recovered by islanders from the Hebrides, especially Eriskay, Barra, North and South Uist and Lewis. The famous book and film of Whisky Galore were inspired by this.
Lochboisdale Harbour is the ideal port of entry for visitors to the Hebrides, and a stunning location to enjoy the recreational rowing and sailing facilities. Around Lochboisdale you can cruise the Minch and sheltered east coast of South Uist as well as the more open west side.
Lochboisdale Development Limited opened Lochboisdale Harbour and pontoon facilities in May 2015.
RowAround was included as part of this year’s Lochboisdale regatta weekend. Barra & Vatersay RC were to row across to the Eriskay ferry terminal with the baton, and hand it over to us to start our leg. However, Spirit, the RowAround Scotland baton, was not arriving in Barra on the ferry until 4 May. It had been connecting the clubs on the Upper Tay on the east coast over the weekend, as one of RowAround’s Special Sections; Andy Rendle, RowAround’s safety officer, would drive it from Wormit across to Oban to put it on the CalMac ferry.
We decided that we needed our own baton to allow Barra & Vatersay RC to fulfil their own plans. A baton was made especially for the Western Isles, and as soon as it was ready we would get it over to Barra for them to start rowing, log their activity and bring it over with Spirit.
In the spirit of RowAround, we planned an ecological way to transport the baton and tracker the 13 miles from the Eriskay ferry terminal to Lochboisdale harbour in good time for the regatta, using local resources and having FUN! The plan was for Barra & Vatersay RC to row across to Eriskay and deliver the baton to the Eriskay Football Team at the ferry terminal. The team would take the baton the four miles to famous FIFA football pitch – and play.
Refreshments, food, fun and good crack for all the Barra rowers and the football team’s friends and families would be provided at the Politician Pub, of Whisky Galore fame.
The owner of this Eriskay pony, DJ, made the replica panniers himself.
We would then row the one mile across the Sound of Eriskay from Haun on Eriskay to the opposite slipway on South Uist with one of our youngest rowers (aged 12) in the crew, the son of the skipper of our safety boat.
Local cyclists would then transport the baton from the opposite slipway at South Uist over to Daliburgh School, from where the South Uist & Eriskay Amateur Athletics Club would run the baton in relay from the school to the harbour at Lochboisdale, ready for the regatta.
Well-earned refreshments at Lochboisdale harbour would be provided, along with especially made certificates and RowAround Rosettes for all the bikers and runners.
The independent baton design, by Robert Taylor, was passed on to a wood turner at the local school. Hebridean Jewellery sent the plate to be engraved in Inverness.
However, Corona virus affected the whole world and all activities including, of course, RowAround Scotland and the Lochboisdale regatta, after which the baton would have been passed on for its next adventure.
As a surprise for the SCRA’s tenth birthday we commissioned a local artist to make a plaque made from natural resources found on beaches and on the moors. Hope you like it.
We have included our own photographs, photographs donated by folk who would have been involved, and some great relevant video clips taken from YouTube. These all help to show the beauty of Eriskay and South Uist, and the route we would have taken.
Ronald John for the oak to make our own baton; Iain MacLellan for wood turning the baton; Angusina from Hebridean Jewellery for organising baton engraving; Eriskay Football Club for agreeing to take part, even though key players were going to be away on a stag night; The Politician for giving us a good do that we never had (!); Iain Scott for agreeing to skippering our safety boat and allowing his son to be our youngest rower; DJ for pictures and video of his famous Eriskay Pony; the South Uist & Eriskay Amateur Athletics Club for agreeing to run relay legs from the school to the harbour with teachers as escorts; the local bikers who were willing to take the baton from the South Uist causeway to the school at Daliburgh, a distance of six miles and not forgetting a lovely family we met in Haun who agreed to row with us across to South Uist.