Friday, 27 April 2012


I seem to have neglected my blog in recent days not through lack of interest but because of a very busy life out and about the island, and working in garden and workshop. The stories of some of these activities will  surface here, but first I must allocate time to write them!

One of the activities keeping me away from the computer was the day in beautiful sunny weather we joined up with members of the island’s historical society to visit the site of a ruined church and its graveyard that two of the members are in the process of documenting. The day was not just a visit to a heap of old stones down on the Ross of Mull!  First we met for a picnic lunch at the Ross of Mull Heritage Centre. This is based at the old water mill and its miller’s cottage in Bunessan. The heritage centre gives a fascinating insight into life on the Ross of Mull in Victorian times though on this occasion not enough time to look at all the exhibits, so a mental note to visit again. So off to the ruins we went in a convoy of vehicles along a road that turned into a track and progressively was more potholes than track as we wended our way along the shore of Loch Assapol to the site of the old township of Kilvickeon.  The ancients certainly knew where to live in that splendid scenery and bury their dead. When you have to go I cannot think of a nicer place overlooking a beautiful loch.  The church is now no more that an open topped ruin, it was built in the 13th century and dedicated to the son of Eoghan, a nephew of St.Columba of nearby Iona. It was last used as a church in 1804; however, the graveyard has quite recent graves. These are marked with a variety of headstones, ranging from granite, marble and surprisingly cast iron.  The cast iron I thought unusual so I took some notes of the markings to see what I could find out. They were cast at the Etna Foundry in Glasgow some time between 1850 and 1880.  Though the casters name and number were on the back of the marker, strangely it seemed the graves occupant was not mentioned.  Research told me that it would have been painted on and obviously had weathered off.  The ruin has a small carving, quite rare, called a sheela na gig.  These are quasi-erotic carvings usually of a grotesque old woman and are thought to be of pagan origin so strange to find it in a church wall.  The day ended with a meeting back in Bunessan Bakehouse to enjoy homemade scones and jam. A perfect end to the day!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

An Evening at the Theatre

The island may not have theme parks, trendy pubs or funfairs but is well known for its wildlife and scenery. What may not be so well known is the Mull Theatre at Druimfin, near Tobermory. So what could be better than the scenic drive from home along the Sound of Mull in the evening sunshine to the theatre? It is housed in a new building that nestles in a wooded valley just off the main road into town. We were going to see Andy Cannon in a production called Scota-land. Andy wrote, directed and was the storyteller. The production was not on a stage but in a fictitious island museum where we, the audience, sat on chairs, lounged on exhibits, the children attending sitting at the storyteller’s feet, all in fact part of the play. The props were believable as was the story that I will not spoil by relating. An excellent evening’s entertainment and as it was a preview before going on tour it was free!
Mull Theatre, surprisingly, is rated as one of Scotland’s busiest and most successful theatre companies, producing a mixture of drama, new work, revivals, children’s theatre, contemporary and classic Scottish and international plays. The Theatre Company has already created several new productions and hosted around sixty performances by theatre and dance companies from around the world. Though the theatre has conventional tiered seating and a stage, it can be configured for other settings. Last summer we spent an evening watching a play that used acrobats and high wire work, some of it in the open air on the theatre forecourt complete with midges! We are booked for more visits during the coming season and while they won’t free again, the bar is help yourself and make a donation!!! Seriously, I’m sure they make far more profit this way and is all part of the lovely relaxed but professional attitude.
The theatre have a good website so if you want to know more about the theatre, or the production “Scota-land” that we attended go to for more information.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sustainable Timber

I have already written about the times that we spend on our beaches walking, watching wildlife and gathering seaweed, but not about collecting the timber that gets washed up. So a recent find of a good straight birch tree trunk was a bonus, especially as it appeared not to have been in the water too long. It was also reasonably accessible and just about fitted in the Land Rover. Now getting wet timber off a beach on a rainy day is not everyone’s idea of fun, but for me a way to get interesting raw materials for my wood turning. To my way of thinking any piece of native hardwood is of interest if it is reasonably straight, more that more than 30 cm long and 15cm in diameter, and if it has an interesting grain then so much the better. My aim is to always, if possible, use waste timber so I am always looking out for “useful” pieces of timber. My sources are varied, in addition to driftwood, there are discarded chunks lying in forest undergrowth, storm damaged trees on farmland and in friends and neighbours gardens. The island is well wooded with about twenty per cent of its 338 square miles planted and harvested by the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission plantations are mainly spruce and larch that are of little interest to wood turners. Recent and current replanting programmes will bring back native hardwoods but in the main the small woodlands tucked in river valleys and glens are of much more interest to me, being a mixture of oak, ash, hazel, and birch. Beech and sycamore are occasionally available but these species tend to be in plantations near the larger houses of the then gentry. Our own garden in the grounds of what was the manse built in 1798, is typical with a mixture of mature conifer and deciduous trees. So windfall branches are an occasional near to hand source. I cut the timber into pieces easy to handle and then usually store it in the log store to dry out naturally. Some pieces I turn in the “wet” condition usually as a bowl shape and leave to dry out before finishing. Sometimes the blanks dries out without deforming, other times it splits and is condemned to the firewood box along with unusable timber and my mistakes. No wood goes to waste and the trees continue to offer me raw materials.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Happy Easter !!

Happy Easter fellow bloggers. The island is gearing up for visitors! Calmac have changed to summer ferry schedules, which means more crossings to and from Oban each day. This means an increase in the number of cars on the island which can be interesting as visitors unused to the etiquette of single track road driving find locals seemingly on a suicide mission driving straight for them before diving into a passing place to allow the visitor right of way usually with a cheery wave and smile. The campsite in the village has its first hardy campers. An early morning walk from tent to toilet block with the easterly wind and a temperature of 3 degrees C must test the resolve of even the hardened camper.
The Eagle hide is open at its new site at Glen Seilisder with Ranger accompanied trips twice a day. We will find time to go in the quiet period between Easter and Spring Bank Holiday. Mull is a place of eco tourism, so as well as bird hides we have people who specialise in wildlife tours by boat or minibus. The boats for whale, dolphin and sea bird watching, whilst the minibuses tour the island roads looking for birds (eagles and hawks) and mammals (deer and otters). There has in the past been some controversy about the wildlife tour operators blocking passing places and sometimes stopping in the middle of the single tracks when an interesting bird is spotted. But we can all be guilty of a quick “stop and stare” at our wonderful wildlife, so keeping an eye on the rear view mirror usually keeps the traffic flowing.Eating establishments closed for the winter are re-opening giving visitors and islanders a wider choice of menus. So even on this small island there are the opportunities to eat a variety of cuisines from traditional Scottish fare including locally caught fish to Mediterranean menus plus the inevitable Indian and Chinese meals. Many of the restaurants have spectacular views, for example we will probably lunch with our visitors at the Western Isles Hotel on Easter Sunday high up above Tobermory looking out down the Sound of Mull.

Monday, 2 April 2012


It does not take much persuasion for us to go on one of our favourite walks along the banks of the River Lussa. Sunday was, however, a special day as it was the 121st anniversary of the death of the Welsh Pedlar, John Jones. I have already told his story in a previous blog (Memorial to a warm hearted pedlar on 5th February). We had decided that a nice touch would be to plant a few marigold seeds, from our previous Welsh garden, at the grave site near Pedlars Pool. On a cool afternoon we parked the Land Rover at the usual place and walked the old road alongside the river to the grave site. The trees were starting to show their early leaf growth, though the oak trees are still dormant. Under the trees there were violets, primroses and wood anemones in flower with the promise of bluebells to come. We carefully planted a few pockets of seed and reflected on how it came to pass that a Welshman died so far from his native land. We sat on the bluff overlooking the river enjoying the tranquillity and the reflections of a massive oak tree in the almost still river water. An eagle soared above the mountain ridge of An t-Sleaghach to the east of us. Although too far away to positively identify, it was probably a Golden Eagle rather than the White tailed Sea Eagle that we see at home. At the other end of the scale of bird size a tiny but busy wren worked away de-grubbing a nearby tree stump. I have always liked the Latin name for a wren Troglodytes Troglodytes that I believe means cave dweller. The one that we were watching was more likely to be a tree dweller as many of the old trees exhibit suitable holes and hollows just right for a wren’s nest site.