Criomagan: Uist pupils find elderly pen-pals; MSP to stand down; corncrakes and Ceòlas ceilidh…..

Iochdar pupils

Uist pupils keeping people connected

Primary School Pupils in Uist have been writing letters to a number of befriending networks on the island to help support people during lockdown.

The children were also aware of elderly community members and decided to write to them as they knew they would appreciate a friendly letter during the lockdown period.

The pupils of Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath, Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich, Sgoil an Iochdair and Sgoil Dhalabroig were encouraged to write letters to people living in care homes as part of the National Literacy Trust Dear New Friend initiative.

However, as the children have built relationships with a number of inter-generational groups throughout the islands, the schools took the initiative one step further and focused on writing to a number of befriending networks already established in Uist including Caraidean Uibhist, Tagsa and Cuimhne.

One Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich pupil became aware of a Benbecula woman stranded in Australia and wrote a Gaelic letter to her knowing that a letter in her mother tongue would comfort her while away from home.

Veteran Labour MSP to retire

Seasoned campaigner and veteran politician, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, is to retire at the next Scottish Parliament election at the age of 65.

Mr Stewart is one of a small band of Scottish politicians who have served as a councillor, an MP and an MSP.

He became the first Labour MP to represent the previous constituency of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 1997, doubling his majority in 2001 before losing his seat to Lib-Dem Danny Alexander in 2005.

In 2007 he re-entered politics as a Highlands and Islands Labour MSP on the regional list, and was elected for a further two terms, the latest ending next year at the election. In fact, Mr Stewart will be 65 the day before polling day.

For me retiring is a bitter sweet moment,” said Mr Stewart.

“I’ve been dedicated to politics and the Labour Party for most of my life. I’ve met thousands of people, worked cross-party with countless politicians, been on the doorstep with many activists for Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections and I don’t regret a moment of it.

“It’s been a privilege to serve Inverness and the Highlands and Islands throughout my career but it’s time to move over for new blood.”

Virtual Cèilidh for Ceolas

Ceòlas Uibhist will mark the 2020 summer school, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with a virtual An Cèilidh Mòr on Friday, 10 July at 9pm.

The concert, which will feature past and present tutors from the school, will premiere on Facebook and Youtube.

Ceòlas will set up a page for donations.

Throughout June, highlights of past summer school concerts from the Ceòlas archive will be posted on Ceòlas’ social media accounts weekly.

Corncrake survey

Corncrake, Pic, Cliff Redick

RSPB staff have been receiving a large number of reports of corncrakes this year during the lockdown from people in the local community who have been excited to hear the birds from their houses and crofts.

The RSPS are appeal for further sightings and reports from the local community to help us with survey numbers.

Corncrakes have been in decline across Scotland over the last few years, but the Hebrides continue to be the UK stronghold for the species, with a small population also present at Durness on the mainland.

Corncrakes are particularly susceptible to early cutting of silage fields which can destroy nests and chicks.

Please contact one of the following RSPB staff if you hear a corncrake in your area or would like advice on habitat management for the species. Skye: Uist: Lewis and Harris: Durness: