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Cancelled Ferries, Stranded Visitors, and Funding Woes

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness?  Season of strong winds and fallen trees, generic viagra treatment more like.

The ferries have become suddenly unreliable, which is mildly annoying for island dwellers and extremely frustrating for visitors who find themselves stranded here when the ferry is cancelled.  I’m also a little alarmed to discover the winter ferry timetable makes it impossible to leave the island (or for anyone to visit) just for the weekend – ferries only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (arriving midday after a roundabout tour of the islands).  My most recent trapped visitor was a teacher friend from Stirling, who’s spent some time on Gigha with her fiancé’s crofting family.  She accepted the cancelled ferry with good grace – school holidays – but was shocked at the resigned acceptance of islanders.  Isn’t it just what happens when you live on an island?  Not on all islands: apparently the Gigha ferry runs several times a day, every day, and there’s even been an extra Friday sailing this summer, so weekenders from Glasgow had time to travel down for the ferry after work.  When the weather’s bad the ferry runs before or after the worst of it, but they still run unless there’s a hurricane.  On the day of the cancellation we passed our time gazing out at the calm sea between here and Sleat, wondering what on earth was going on.   It’s going to be difficult to promote Rum as a year-round tourist destination if we can’t guarantee visitors will be able to get here (or away).  The combined population of all four small isles is close to the population of Gigha; should we be seeking a better service?

Kinloch on the isle of RumVotes for the RBS Community Force awards closed at midday on 24th October – I’m not hopeful of winning: as suspected, more populated places have got more votes than us.  Still, we’ll know for sure next month and it was worth a try: it’s raised the profile of the project.  I’ve spent a large part of October putting together a funding application to LEADER for our feasibility study (they don’t make it easy, do they?) ready for the 2nd November deadline, and one to the Bank of Scotland Foundation in case LEADER run out of money.  I’d hoped there would be more to this job than filling out funding applications; I hope that some of them come through so we can get on with the more interesting task of making things happen.

So far we’ve been turned down more than we’ve been successful, to the extent that I wrote a weepily grateful thank you letter when the Robertson Trust agreed to contribute to the cost of our admin post for the next year.  Our application to the Enterprise Growth Fund was declined – we wanted to build a holiday chalet to generate an income so we weren’t constantly scratching around for funding.  They had £4m to give away, and received requests for funding amounting to more than £50m.  This was for a fund with a 9 day window for submissions.  The holiday chalet has a planning application in progress, so we’ll be ready for the next round of funding, or we’ll downscale our plans and look at other ways of financing it.  I’m becoming the resident expert on planning – I had to write a Design Statement and everything.

The other day I used a £10 note with “Weekend Kitty” written on it to buy some things from the shop – originally it belonged to one of our seasonal ghillies who spent it on weekend beer in the shop.  I withdrew it from the Post Office last week.  It got me thinking about how currency circulates on the island, and whether a local currency would work here: one person’s wages become another person’s payment for grass cutting, which is spent on food in the shop and withdrawn from the Post Office by someone else, to pay for wood cut and delivered...  Round and round and never leaving the island.  There’s an interesting article on the Senscot website about a very successful local currency in Germany with an annual turnover of 5.1m Euros.  I suspect that Rum’s population is too small for this level of success, and anyway we don’t have too many worries about corporations snaffling 8 out of every 10 pounds spent here.

Looking ahead, New Year has been cancelled because the hostel’s closed for winter repairs and there’s nowhere else for people to stay: the dangers of being a one-hostel island.  The community can’t afford a band unless we also have paying guests.  Some of my friends have said they might come anyway.  I’m going to suggest a Burns Night Ceilidh instead, if the community can scrape together enough musicians and hardy types, friends and families, to put together a band.  There’s floor space in various houses, there’s always the campsite, and we might just be able to prise the hostel open for one weekend during the roofing works.  Anyone interested?  Assuming you can get here.

On the plus side, many kilos of blackberries have been picked and turned into gin, crumble and wine.  It’s shaping up to be a merry winter.

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