Saturday, June 30, 2007

The East Coast of Harris

Our first day we went all around South Harris and stopped in Leverburgh to visit Malcolm Peters, a retired minister friend from Yorkshire who was supplying the Free Church's pulpit there. Then driving on we were astonished how on a dull day the beaches were still golden and the sea turquoise. This is Northtan. The road is the main spinal route through the islands. Here it has room for two vehicles to pass but in places it is an A class road with single carriageway and passing places. Road signs for place names are bilingual here, Gaelic and English, but no-one has so far translated "passing place". It took us four days on Harris before we heard Gaelic and that was from two ladies employed to promote it in children's nurseries.
The beach at Luskentyre. We drove past one graveyard, now full, and parked by a second one for our walk down to this beautiful big beach. The only problem was the wind. Blowing from the north east it was fine at our backs but facing it walking was difficult and sand was being blown into our faces.
The next day was brighter and West Loch Tarbert looked at its best.
From near Hushinish we saw across to Taransay, the island where in 2000 the BBC but people to see how they would survive a year of isolation on for the programme, Castaway.
The road ends at Hushenish so we walked along a track to see the bay to the north and the island of Scarp which is now inhabited only in the holiday season. The last permanent residents left in 1971.

The East Coast of South Harris

I thought that the isthmus at Tarbet was where Harris separated from Lewis. Not so. They are all one island and the division is to do with ancient division between two ruling MacLeod brothers. South of Tarbet is South Harris, north is North Harris and Lewis.

The Highland Clearances resulted in terrible suffering. Those not forced to emigrate from the good land on the west of the island were forced to resettle on this rocky eastern shore where they complained there was not even enough soil to bury their dead. It is too rocky and bodies has to be carried to cemeteries on the west coast. This landscape was used for Jupiter in 2001 A Space Odyssey. The road here, single track is called The Golden Road due to the expense of construction. I think this is Loch Stockinish.
This is Rodal at the SE tip of Harris. The tower is St Clements Church
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St Clement's Church (Scottish Gaelic: Tur Chliamainn) is a fifteenth century church in Rodel, Harris, Scotland, built for the Chiefs of the MacLeods of Harris, who lived in Dunvegan Castle in Skye. It is dedicated to Pope Clement I and was a Catholic church before falling into disuse in the eighteenth century. The church was built using local Lewisian gneiss rock. It is sometimes known as Eaglais Rodal or Rodal Church

In 1528 Alasdair Crotach Macleod, 8th Chief, prepared for himself a magnificent wall tomb - possibly the finest medieval wall tomb in Scotland.

The church was restored as a Protestant church in 1784. It burned down and in the 19th century it was used as a cow byre before being restored by Catherine Herbert Countess of Dunmore in 1873.

The church is currently under the responsibility of Historic Scotland.

End of quote.

No-one has been able to tell me why it was not used for centuries after the Reformation. In England, the established church took over all the parish churches. The Hebrides appear to be different.

The church has a naughty carving on the south of the tower. I shall not go into details :-)
Harris is synonymous with tweed and this is still very much a cottage industry. Here is a lady at her 100 year old loom made in Yorkshire.

Freedom Ale

Click on the title for details of an excellent new beer from a brewery run by Christians. This is the second such brewer I have found. They are following the tradition of Buxtons, Charringtons and the Guinness family all of whom were evangelicals who brewed, though their aim over 200 years ago was to get people off gin, mothers ruin. This Freedom Ale is in honour of a great Yorkshireman, William Wilberforce. I was given this and some British Bulldog, brewed to honour Churchill, from the same source, as a present from my daughter and son in law. I think it was a belated birthday present or was it belated fathers day too?

Skye to Harris

The Raasay ferry on Skye goes 11 times a day from here, Sconser. Sundays only twice though. By now you will see the weather had brightened. This is 30 miles from Armadale and we had 24 more miles to go to Uig and the next ferry.
The Harris ferry comes into Uig stern first. We crossed on this boat, a once or twice a day, hour and 40 minutes crossing, never on Sunday. I saw five porpoises together en route. Katy missed their brief appearance. I asked a crew member how many days a year the weather in The Minch prevented sailing. He said only perhaps five times a year and that not because of the weather at sea but the problem of berthing at Uig which is not such a sheltered anchorage as Tarbet.
Approaching Tarbet on Harris. We had been advised by a friend that we did not need to book bed and breakfast accommodation in advance. We quickly found this to be poor advice and so reverted to the tourist office to find us B&B. This was on Scalpay for three nights. Scalpay formerly the island where Sharlie hid after Culloden, is now connected to Harris by a bridge. Our hosts were members of the Free Church of Scotland Continuing. Most of the Hebridean Free Church congregations have not gone with this sad split.

Shame on them

Today London suffers its annual day of homosexual exhibitionism. Those listed on their website as sponsors of this include British Airways, Lloyds TSB and Ford as well as the mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police. One cannot do much about the last one but one can at least boycott the three businesses as a sign of disapproval. I will be asking that our deacons change the church's bank. I now await having my collar felt by the police accused of a hate crime. And one can vote against Red Ken next time, please. Christian Voice have a counter demonstration against the parade.

Over the sea to Skye

The song quote was I thought a reference to Charlie's escape from the mainland to the island but I find it refers to his departure from Scalpay off Harris in the Hebrides from where he failed to find a boat for France. This was him disguised as Flora Macdonald's maid. I also read that it is questionable whether the authorities really wanted to capture him. It would be easier to have him in exile, a failed pretender, than imprisoned or executed in England as a second Stuart "martyr".Our ferry with Skye beyond. This was the first of four different ferries we travelled on and we saw many more as you to will see. Caledonian MacBrayne ferries go eight times a day at this time of year taking half an hour to Armadale on Skye from where we drove the length of the island to Uig and the boat to Harris. My photo shows our roro ferry entering Mallaig the night before.
The Small Isles ferry left just after us bound for Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna daily except Sundays, a 7 and a half hour round trip. Where sabbatarianism rules, ferries do not sail on Sundays in the Hebrides.
Our Mondeo estate in the bows. It did over 2000 miles on the trip, only fault in the fortnight, the failure of the central locking. This was the only ferry where we were first on and first off.
From the ferry, Loch Nevis with the Knoydart Peninsula on the left. This area is only accessible by sea or helicopter. There are no roads.
The Sound of Sleat which separates Skye form the mainland.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


We did 420 miles in 9 and a half hours to find a bed and breakfast here. I parked and went to the house only to find a local complaining I was blocking him driving out. I asked what was he driving, a tractor, lorry or bus as anyone could easily get a car through the space I had left. He said he could not get his cat through the gap and would call the police if I did not move. Katy told me not to argue so I moved. Welcome to Scotland! Actually my welcome was £5 for two cappuccinos at Costa Coffee Gretna Green. They should be renamed High Cost of Coffee! They will get no more business from me. The B&B was £50 for the two of us and produced the best porridge I have ever had. I was told it was made with honey and cream not the traditional water and salt. Here are photos from Mallaig, the end of the Road to The Isles.Mallaig harbour with Skye beyond at about 8pm.
A fishing boat enters the harbour.
The Small Isles ferry boat and the Skye ferry berthed in the harbour.
About 10.30pm Sunset showing Eig, Rhum and Skye.
Monday morning a smal fishing boat is unloading its catch.

Blair to Brown

I was really miserable watching yesterday's coverage of events. All those MPs congratulating Mt Cheesy Smile on a job allegedly well done. More tax, more rules, more spin. What else has he done except stay there ten years?

I was cheered up by a visit from my best friend. He thinks I was too harsh giving Blair 2/10 previously on my blog. Well I think I was too generous by half.

Will Brown be any better? We have to wait and see but the cynic in me has no optimism whatsoever. If he promised to tackle the West Lothian question now that would be a start. But Scots turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

As for Blair being a Middle East peace envoy, what chance has he got? Apart from an intractable problem he is hated by Muslims because of Iraq. His peacemaker reputation stems from n Ireland where he achieved what he did by liberally distributing "Get Out Of Jail Free" cards to murderers and other terrorists. Blessed are the peacemakers but real peace only comes if justice is established. Where is that when the Brighton Bomber is a free man? But the job gives Tony a fat salary I presume and at least it is not completely an E.U. sinecure, the usual reward of pensioned off politicians.

But let me end on a positive note. One is happy that we will be hearing much less of Cherie and the fat fool Prescott.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Before we reached Mallaig we needed a pit stop, not for refuelling but the opposite, and found one at the National Trust for Scotland, Glenfinnan. This is the view from the doorstep. The monument was erected in 1815 by the descendant of a wealthy Jacobite to commemorate the site where Charles Edward Stuart raised his standard on the mainland in 1745. This was the last invasion of the make headway on our soil. His army got as far as Derby when he listened to bad advice and turned back from his march on London.
I am amazed that only 70 years after the event the government allowed this rebellion to be commemorated in such a fine way. The statue is not of Charlie but a kilted highlander. The other mystery to me is how this drunken failure became a romantic hero. People think it was a Scots versus English conflict when at Culloden there were more Scots in the victorious army than Charlie's losing forces. Was Sir Walter Scott's writings a major factor in misunderstanding and rewriting history?

Ben Nevis from Corpach

When I was a child my parents had a picture of Britain's highest peak from this location. On Sunday 10 June 2007, Katy and i had driven 380 miles from Eccleshall, Staffordshire, when I stopped to take this. We still had 40 more miles to drive to Mallaig.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


The first Saturday in June is the annual meeting of the synod of the International Presbyterian Church. We meet in Kingston upon Thames at the Korean Church.
Our moderator is Kim Buk Kyong from Korea, our clerk, Roy Kunar, originally from Guyana. We have two presbyteries, English and Korean. The former has three congregations in England,one in Romania, with church plants progressing in England, France, Belgium, Italy and Azerbaijan. The Koreans have seven congregations in England.
A highlight of the day for many of us is lunch provided by the Korean ladies. This is always a feast. I love the kimchi which is the sine qua non of Korean food. Katy complains that after Korean lunch I ooze garlic from ever pore. Little does she know I was given some kimchi to bring home. It is so far undetected in our freezer.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Another public holiday?

One favours another public holiday as we have fewer than most Western countries but the idea of a Britain Day sounds really inappropriate to me. Other countries have dates to commemorate their independence. Since the Normans in 1066, we, the English, have had no need for such a commemoration. We also knew who we were and did not need to shout about it. It was a quiet, understated identity in which we took pride. Now since widespread political correctness, victim culture and immigration, it appears that many have no pride in country, do not know who they are or are perceived to be other than British. Of course the Welsh and Scots have continued down their own roads of late. But if we are to have a new public holiday it should fit better with practical considerations, namely when to have it; then, what to commemorate.

At present we have New Year's day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day ( a socialist festival introduced by Harold Wilson which I would gladly swap for another commemoration), Spring Bank Holiday (Formerly Whit Monday but now fixed by old Harold), August Bank Holiday (moved form beginning to end of the month and commemorating nothing), Christmas and Boxing Days. The gap is from the end of August to late December. We should have a holiday in October before the bad weather sets in. 21st October is Trafalgar Day. I think it fits the bill as it also may coincide with school half term holidays. It is one in the eye for the French too. Never a bad thing.

London's Olympic Logo

The world's most expensive graffito....and bad graffito at that. Ugh. In the interests of decency I will not say what I think it looks like.
Online petition - Change The London 2012 Logo

Monday, June 04, 2007

The varied voices of Islam

Last Wednesday it was reported that the court in Malaysia refused to let a woman who converted to Christianity have Islam removed as her religion on her national ID card.

Friday Mona Siddiqi told Thought for the day that Islam supported freedom of conscience so by implication the RC archbishop was wrong to discipline pro-abortion politicians. Tell that to the Christian woman in Malysia.

Now Blair says "The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use, in times gone by, of torture to force conversion to Christianity, represents the true teaching of Christ." But the Salafi extremist tradition is as old and long lasting as Islam whereas forced conversion has never been other than a temporary blot on the Christian landscape. There is no significant proportion of Christians urging it today unlike the continuing jihadist Islamists all to numerous in our world.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Books read in June 2007 (11)

1. The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

I was surprised to see recent Amazon reviewers giving this book the thumbs down. I found it an excellent gripping period thriller which stretches the intellect of the reader far more than popular fiction. I am still not certain where we finished up analysing Hamlet (an unusual sub-plot) but one certainly learns a lot about Freudian psycho-analysis and Jungian deviation from this sex obsessed view of life. I particularly liked the author's notes at the end of the book telling us which parts are factual, which fiction. The author seemed to have a lot more sympathy with Freud's views than this reviewer, but this does not spoil enjoyment of the story. The setting in New York a hundred years ago is well related. As a murder mystery, one has to say the plot twists so much you will never guess the end from when you start with the first murder. I really enjoyed it and may even re-read it to see if I can understand Hamlet any better. It confirms my distrust of Freudian psychiatry. But, even with scepticism about psychiatry, one realised the neurologists were not the ones qualified to cure "nervous complaints".

2. Recoil by Andy McNab

The only McNab I had read before this was his first biographical book which I enjoyed as the story of a very brave if not an attractive man. Stone, Mcnab's hero has his unattractive side too but beneath the tough soldier's exterior it seems there is a soft heart too. I think what you get with McNab is very much a reflection of the author himself. You sense he has used all these weapons.he is an expert in the field not in mere theory. he is not though an expert in personal relationships, except for soldier to soldier.

It is a gripping read set in the darkest heart of Africa. It is one long battle to survive against the odds and not many do. There is much blood and more use of the f word than I like to read but I guess that is the language of the ex-S.A.S. and their ilk. A happy if unrealistic ending. The romantic comes out in the author in the end.

3. The Bible (NIV)

What I wrote this time last year is still true.

It is over 30 years since i started to use M'Cheyne's daily Bible reading schedule which aims to cover the whole bible in a year. Since then I have changed to two OT chapters, one NT and a Psalm daily. This gets on through the whole Bible in a year and through Psalms twice. I confess it is only in recent years that I have really been disciplined enough to do this every day. Previously there were times missed then passages to catch up with.

4. False Impression by Jeffrey Archer

Archer at his best. Great descriptions of English aristocratic living, Japanese customs and the great drama of New York on 9/11. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of murder, detection, romance and financial chicanery to say nothing of the art interest. Once started it is very hard to put down. Why do the media pan Archer? I think it is envy. He writes and makes millions while the hacks merely criticise unfairly

5. The Highland Clearances Trail by Rob Gibson

The Highland Clearances are one of the great blots on British history. I have often wonder why there is such a Scottish antipathy to the Conservative party. Reading of the Clearances shows why any group associated with the Establishment would not be esteemed in Scotland, especially in the Highlands and Islands which suffered from a hundred years when unfeeling landowners evicted their tenants for sheep or deer. I read this account while on holiday in the Hebrides. Driving down the Golden Road on Harris, seeing where the crofters complained they had been given land with not even enough soil to bury their dead, one shudders at the inhumanity of it all. The Highlands have for me a sad, empty beauty. Read this and see why. It is a great guide for travelling the sites of man's inhumanity to man.

6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I thoroughly enjoyed The Kite Runner and the author's second novel does not disappoint. He is a fine writer whose plots are not predictable. Once again we have a novel set over the recent history of Afghanistan from the last days of monarchy through to the overthrow of the Taliban. This time the story is mainly through the eyes of two women.

I recall an old Jewish prayer thanking God for not being born a Gentile, slave or a woman. Reading this, one will be thankful not to have been born an Afghan, Muslim or woman and certainly not all three. One is not spared the horror of life in Kabul as it is destroyed by the Mujahdeeen's civil war then gripped by the fanaticism of the Taliban. For women in general, life was better under the Russians. Nothing though ever prevented the mistreatment of the women in the story by hypocritical or brutal husbands and fathers. This is in many ways a horror story. There is some happiness at the end but along the way is unspeakable cruelty, especially to women, which makes for very unpleasant reading at times. But this is a skilled author. There are good caring men portrayed too and I think his portrayal if Islam and its effects is fair and non-judgmental. One of the good men portrayed is a Muslim cleric. Read it and you will be moved by the plight of women under Islam and of the country of Afghanistan with such violent recent history.

7. Travel with William Grimshaw by Perry Fred

Grimshaw is one of the great larger than life characters of English church history. It appears that he was not the only vicar to have the errant whipped into church attendance. This guide gives a good biography and as with others in this series, a helpful guide to visiting the area where Grimshaw lived and preached. I found it to be a fascinating account of a very human man who lived to see the gospel proclaimed. He had a remarkable ministry transforming a parish church with few attenders into one where thousands would come to hear him preach. The book also has fascinating historic insights into such things as a parish posse pursuing the father who has abandoned the mother of his illegitimate child so that she would not be a burden on the parish and of public church penance for fornicators.

8. Travel with Martyn Lloyd Jones: In the Footsteps of the Distinguished Welsh Evangelist,Pastor and Theologian by Philip Eveson

Listening to The Doctor, as he was known by all, was an essential part of my theological education and establishment in the Christian life when I was a student in sixties London. This book brings it all back together with much I had either forgotten or not read in Iain Murray's two volume biography. I had forgotten what a sensation his leaving medicine caused and never read before of the declined C.B.E...This is a good small biography of the man as well as a guide to sites associated with his life. However I think the maps are more diagrammatic than clear guides, and contra to the text, Ealing is in west not north London. As with other books in the series, the lack of an index is a drawback, so I cannot find easily the other mistake I spotted, on mass for en mass. This is not the kind of book to be critical of it's subject but I would from personal experience dissent from the expressed opinion that members of the congregation were encouraged to spend all of Sunday at Westminster Chapel. Church members may have been but as a student, no-one ever invited me to take part in any aspect of church life though I attended the best part of three years. For me the Doctor got top marks for preaching but his chapel none out of ten for welcoming this student.

9.Firewall by Andy McNab

My only previous read of a McNabb novel was one with the same central character but later in his career and set in the heat of the Congo. This one is in Finland and Estonia and will get no prizes from the Estonian Tourist Board. Their country is grimly portrayed as dirty and corrupt. The story is of a British ex-S.A.S man, officially disgraced so prepared to freelance overseas, no questions asked. Kidnap, murder and demolition are all in his repertoire but underneath, a heart of gold. He needs money to privately treat the traumatised child of a former colleague murdered by the Provos. Full of action, twists, turns and great technical detail on arms and surveillance. The language was cleaner that the other volume I read. Not great but good for an escape from one's normal world.

10. Boris: The Rise of Boris Johnson by Andrew Gimson

Boris Johnson is an enigma. One watches him on have I Got News For You and wonders is this man for real? Is it all a big act? Andrew Gimson writes well and gives us the answers. He knows this funny eccentric man very well. He shows us a brilliant scholar and journalist, a man who wants to be liked and is admired by many. It also shows an extremely ambitious politician whose one really dominating principle seems to be the promotion of Boris. He has not treated the women in his life with respect nor has he kept promises to others. Could he ever be entrusted with the leadership of his party? I think not. An entertaining informative book about an amazing man.

11. Littlejohn's Britain by Richard Littlejohn

I read it and laughed out loud but I am still sad to the point of crying about the Britain that New Labour has created so well described by Littlejohn. He is a gifted journalist and humorist giving one an entertaining read. I thought at first this was a compilation of newspaper columns but it is not, though he draws from a lot of his earlier work. I think it is a devastating exposee of where the Guardianistas have taken us. I do not agree with all he writes. I do not know why he approves of the abolition of the rights of hereditary peers, nor am I in agreement with some of his writing on homosexuality, but by and large he hits lots of nails on the head and the book is worth its price just for the chapter on Gordon Brown, the man who stole our pensions, alone.

The Amazon reviews, all 55 of them as I write, seem divided between the lefties who hate it and the fans who go over the top. This man is merely a very good hack not a philosopher. If he was gifted in politics no doubt he would be doing it not writing about how others are doing it wrong. I am pleased he does not exclude Cameron from this category. I missed the bit about the London Eye other reviewers mention but loved his exposees of the Wicked Witch and Two jags. Keep going Richard.