Friday 20 July
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Argyll MSP Mike Russell together with his wife Cathleen concluded their visit to west Mull on a gloriously sunny Friday afternoon. Iain Munro’s Dory skimmed the waves and the wind was at our backs as we left beautiful Gometra and owner Roc Sandford’s family, friends and tenants for Ulva Ferry.
Earlier that day Mr and Mrs Russell were joined by Bell Ingram’s Paul Nicoll and the Highland RM as we regretfully left the equally attractive Island of Ulva and its hospitable owners Jamie and Tessa Howard to punch the waves and wind towards our next stop. Gometra farmer as well as ferryman, Iain carefully steered us through the rising sea past the site of a proposed fish farm, much opposed by Gometra’s islanders and described the nature of their objections to the Minister before guiding us into a very attractive anchorage on the north end of the Island. There we four were invited to take a standing ticket on the quad cage to Gometra House across the old lava strewn landscape that has worn down to provide the perfect grazing for the island livestock. Views out to Iona, Tiree, Treshnish Islands, Coll and beyond suggested the Caribbean and not West Mull.
We met Roc and family and headed towards the little township near the beach where he introduced us to his tenants, two artists who have embraced the solitude and weather in the search for their muse. Michael Russell, no mean photographer and writer himself, made the most of his tour, much of which can be found on his Twitter page @Feorlean. During lunch, Roc raised more serious matters and gave his own take on the downsides of fish farming so close to the vital approaches to the island’s sole safe haven. He also advised that transport for islanders and visitors who take ill is less than optimum and some arrangements should be put in place by NHS Highland to help resolve this. However he remains very upbeat about island life and was very clear that the few downsides were more than made up for, by the joy of living on the edge of Scotland. None of us could argue with his logic on such a day. The road journey back to Craignure and the Oban Ferry allowed mobile phone networks to be picked up once more and heralded the return to the mundane. Alastair Laing’s helicopter had been passing overhead all day as it attempted to restrict the advance of the Bracken on Ulva, we had the opportunity to make it clear to the Minister that the proposed ban on Asulox would mean the end of grazing on the islands and he was immediately able to contact his Cabinet Secretary colleague Richard Lochhead and lobby on our behalf!