Island at the Edge

Island at the Edge
The Gathering, Cable Bay, Colonsay

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Where have we been???

It’s been quite a while since I have written my blog, primarily due to the fact that on the morning of Monday 9th December (2013) Our wonderful Homestead, burned to the ground.
Col Na Sithe

At the height of the fire

The aftermath

Kapitein, Sampster, Wolfie and I escaped unharmed (other than a wee bit smoke inhalation) in only the clothes we stood up in and feel truly blessed to be alive.

The fire had started in the Attic, Captain Flack and his team came to the rescue and donned breathing apparatus to source the seat of the fire – which they did, however, they ran out of water (as there isn’t a Hydrant nearby) by the time they returned from filling the tender with water, the fire had spread through the fire wall and the roof was well alight.

Sampster, Wolfie and I had been evacuated to safety with our dear neighbour Anne (whom we will be eternally grateful for everything she did for us) and we watched on as the Homestead was decimated by the fire.

Captain Flack and the Colonsay fire crew did everything in their power to save the Homestead, their determination was amazing, we will never forget what they did for us, and we fully understand their frustrations, but we never doubted their ability. They are truly amazing…Thank you.

I visited the site as they dampened down and each and every one of the fire crew apologised for not being able to save the Homestead, but as we said then, and now, Kapitein, the dogs and I got out and that is the most important aspect.

We cannot stress enough, please, CHECK your smoke alarms regularly and ALWAYS have a practiced fire plan/escape route, as you can’t see anything for thick acrid smoke, but if you know where you are going, this makes your means of escape very effective. The UK Fire Service will offer advice and practical support (ie: fitting smoke alarms etc.) so do it!! If it hadn’t been for the smoke alarm, I wouldn’t be writing this now!!

 What was anticipated to be a short stay with Anne, turned out to be two and a half weeks!! And a better hostess we couldn’t have wished for – we were made to feel so welcome and we did have some laughs. I even found some tools to knit with and produced a wee 'lug muffler' to keep Anne warm whilst walking the dogs with us.
Its amazing what you can do with a wooden spoon and a poker!!

I think Anne looks lovely... Don't you...

 Sampster thoroughly enjoyed being 'de-haired' by Anne!!

Our heartfelt thanks go to those members of the community who helped us in our hour of need, bringing us much needed clothes, toiletries, dog leads/bowls, waterproofs etc. We will be eternally grateful. Also our thanks go out to our families and close friends, they have been fantastic...

We do still have one endearing thought – Gavalus Gavalar (who was on the mainland at the time) shopping for ‘undergarments’ for Kapitein and I, dashing between the Lingerie and Mens Wear departments, it must have been a sight for sore eyes!

As our ‘wardrobe’ was interesting to say the least, we contacted various businesses in and around Oban to restock items such as waterproofs, shirts etc., and low and behold, our ‘shopping’ arrived on the next flight from Oban. We will never forget all that Oban Airport, Hebridean Air and those business outlets that helped us – thank you.

Now it was the onerous task of packing up our few possessions that remained in the shed, primarily, Kapiteins tools – we know how important tools are, don’t we! And thankfully, the Firecrew and Kapitein had managed to rescue some unusual items from my workroom before the roof collapsed. Namely, the original Colonsay Gansey and my Grandmothers circa 1948 sewing machine, a couple of chairs and some books. With everything packed, McQueens from Oban sent over their trusty driver, Gary, on the Friday (before Christmas), with a couple of small containers to store our things. He duly arrived amidst rain, hail, snow and sunshine, we packed everything in double quick time and watched on as he loaded the containers back onto the wagon. Then… News came that the Saturday ferry was cancelled! And the weather wasn’t looking good for the Monday ferry either! Oh dear me… what to do…and how to get Gary home in time for Christmas.

Saturday morning came and Kapitein had a brainwave, he asked me to contact Hebridean Air Services to see if there was any chance of booking a charter flight, poor Gary needed to be with his own family for Christmas, even if this meant leaving the wagon to go on the next ferry unaccompanied.

Andy, at Hebridean Air, said no problem, but we had a tight weather window. As it turned out, there were 3 folks who wanted to get back to Colonsay and a total of 5 wanting to leave – including Gary and another stranded, wagon driver.
At 2.00pm, Sebastian arrived (a perfect landing) with the 3 folk from Oban, and then took off again 15 minutes later with the passengers wishing to leave, so everyone was where they wanted to be for Christmas. Brilliant!!
Sebastian taking everyone home for Christmas.

The ferry managed to make it into Colonsay on the Monday, McQueens and the other two wagons were on their way to back to the mainland.

So, what next!
We had, through sheer luck, managed to source an available letting property, which was vacant, on the Isle of Skye. And as Christmas Day arrived – which was superb; Kapitein and I had smoked bacon sandwiches for our Christmas dinner, just what we wanted, Kapitein spoke to Cameron and Struan from Coastal Connection, as our only weather window to leave Colonsay, was Boxing Day and sure enough, they were more than happy to come over.

As it turned out, on the morning of Boxing day, the weather was wonderful. We packed our cars with our few possessions, hitched up the sheep handling system and headed to the pier – our vehicles would leave Colonsay on the next available ferry.

Anne came to see us off and off we went on a fabulous journey on the Coastal Connection RIB.Even Sampster and Wolfie enjoyed the ride, they are following in Kapiteins footsteps and becoming salty sea dogs indeed.

Leaving Colonsay

Arriving in Loch Feochan

My 3 salty sea dogs

Coastal Connection - Cameron and Struan

We arrived at Loch Feochan where Cameron and Struan’s father met us to take us onwards to Oban, what kindness, we can’t thank them enough either. We highly recommend Coastal Connection a very professional service indeed.

The following day, the ferry brought our cars over and we headed North to the Isle of Skye to our temporary accommodation - a very warm house, overlooking the sea, what more could we ask for...

So now it is onwards and upwards - working our way through endless lists of things to do, amidst replacing commissions! I managed to complete a Braveheart Waistcoat in double quick time and posted it off to the customer - they are delighted with it.
Back to the knitting needles to finish the next...

We couldn't start our new lives without offering our heartfelt thanks to all those who supported Hebridean Isles Trading Company during our time on Colonsay.
We would like to thank Pauline, owner of Colonsay Cosmetics who supplied us with the most delightful toiletries for our guests. 
Then we needed to think about quality food for our guests, that's when we sourced as much 'local' produce as was possible.
We must thank:
Forteiths -Oban
J.M. Breckenridge - Oban
Booker - Oban
Jackson's Butchers - Oban
D. Watts Fishmongers - Oban
For the best locally sourced produce in Argyll...

Knitting courses took off at an unbelievable pace, we would like to thank all of the participants and our wonderful sheep for adding to the whole 'woolly' experience, including, of course, their wonderful fleeces.

But how to get products to Colonsay?
Helmut & Michelle of Etive Taxis were just the best, they went over and above our expectations, collecting orders from the Oban businesses and taking them up to Oban Airport, we highly recommend them, they even transport people too!!

Oban Airport.
The staff at Oban Airport are the most professional, courteous and obliging group of people I have ever met. Thanks go to them for everything they have done for us. From the delightful Dixie at reception, to the 'big fella' (wor Tom) and all of the fire crew/freight handlers, without whom, all of our hard work would have been in vane. I cannot recommend this establishment highly enough. If and when Skye gets its own Airport - I hope it is as wonderful as Oban, thank you.

Hebridean Air Services.
What can I say, as a 'frustrated' Pilot (or so they say) my first few times flying with Hebridean Air Services had me perplexed! I couldn't understand why no-one was using the plane to bring in freight! That is where it all began, with the first air freight regularly coming into Colonsay...
The three pilots, Julie, Allan and Sebastian are just brilliant, our thanks go to them all, to Andy Jolly, and of course, the owner, George Cormack. It has been a privilege, flying and working with you all - I do miss seeing that lovely yellow plane flying overhead...  

Last, but by no means least, we would like to thank all of our guests, customers and stockists, we have met some lovely people and we do hope to meet customers old and new in the very near future.

So what now...
As the search for our new Homestead continues. Hebridean Isles Trading Company is beginning to 'rise from the ashes' and with new designs hot off the needles very soon, there are very exciting times ahead, I will keep you all posted - watch this space...


  1. I am so sorry to hear this! So thankful you all escaped.

  2. Glad you all got out alright! Hoping life gets back to normal a bit soon

  3. Glad you are all OK and will keep an eye on your site for the future