...here are some notes from Toni Sinclair's recent visit to Islay!
Well, Islay is just as beautiful as ever! Even though
the weather was pretty horrible, Sandy and I had a fantastic time!
We arrived last Friday morning, quickly rented a car at the airport and raced down to Port Ellen harbour to meet up with a Manx friend on his boat . Originally, we were to cruise around the island, but rough weather delayed his arrival, we couldn't get the evening flight, so we only had a couple of hours together,in port. After he sailed off for the Isle of Man, we drove up to Bowmore to look for accomodation, which was more difficult than we thought. However, we finally found a room, and a delicious meal (its a little known fact that Islay has the best food in the UK!), followed by a misty walk around the town, and down to the pier. For those of you who have never been there, standing down at the pier, looking up the hill to the round church is one of the loveliest views imaginable, but try to picture it with mist curling around it. Its like an image from Brigadoon.
The town was already bustling in preparation for the Islay Show (similar to our
fall fairs in Canada), which is a big event. Unfortunately, with the demise of the Cheese Factory, the sale of cattle is indeed a sad follow up. Speaking with many locals, they think the economic downside hasn't even been realized yet.
We spent Sunday driving around Kilchoman, and trying to read gravestone inscriptions
in the churchyard there. I had no idea that the village had originally been so large. We also searched through the Kilarrow cemetery at Bridgend. It is unfortunately going very rapidly downhill. Several tombstone slabs we found three years ago, are now totally covered in moss and grass and we couldn't find them.
On a happier note, I did spend an afternoon talking with some of the volunteers at the
Family History Society. They were delighted with the disks of the Bowmore and Kildalton OPRs, which Mr. Puttenham has generously produced, and totally overwhelmed that we had decided at Guelph that as a group, we should try to help them out, however possible. As Eric reported, Robert McKenzie told everyone at the Home Gathering about our Guelph reunion, plus Susan Visser's report, with the group photo, was in the Ileach. Everyone of the Island seemed to know about Guelph! I was careful to point out that we were not trying to be critical, we just realized that they were limited by time, space, and funding. They count on donations from people who come in to do research to pay their expenses - the major one being the rent for one room, which is 20 pounds a week. I really don't know how they manage because some people don't donate anything, even if they've been there all afternoon!
So here is my suggestion, (which I also ran by them to make sure they didn't object). Those of us who have a complete individual family history combine theminto one book. Since photocopying is much cheaper to do here, we can make several copies, bind them with one of those plastic spine things (I have access to one), sell them from here to save on postage, and send a stack of them to Islay for sale there. As soon as we compile more family histories, that could become Volume II, which can also include updates and/or corrections of Volume I. The profits will go to the Family History Society. Because the books can be sold all year round, they will hopefully have some income during the slack time of year, when visitors to Islay are scarce. That's one idea. Anyone have any others?
I also did a little shopping - finally found "The History of Islay" by CN Jupp, which we will donate to the University of Guelph, as a thank you for hosting our first gathering ( that was what the collection was for). I just had to buy a copy for myself, because its out of print, and there are few or none left. I also bought three little booklets at the Museum of Islay Life - Nerabus, Place Names of Islay, and Descriptive and Historical Sketches of Islay by William MacDonald and John Murdoch. There is a beautiful mural in the Bowmore Distillery of Fair Day, 1832, by Wm. Heath, and I found a copy of it at Roy's, as well as a copy of a map dated 1654 by Timothy Pont. I'll frame them both, and bring them to the 2001 Gathering!
The last two days of our holiday we spent in Glasgow, and we were totally amazed at
the beauty of this city. The architecture of the old buildings is incredible! We had a city tour with Eric, and a terrific lunch and conversation with both him and Robert McKenzie. You can imagine what the topic of conversation was! Their enthusiasm for Islay is infectious, and The Glasgow-Islay Association is in very good hands.