District news, April 15 2022

Ali Duff, perhaps better known as The Hairy Piper.

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Hairy Piper breaks PTSD silence

A Tarbert man known as The Hairy Piper is taking on a 30-day musical challenge to help break the silence around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and mental health among armed forces veterans.

Ali Duff is also raising money for armed forces charity Poppyscotland through his daily piping challenge dubbed ‘Skirlness’.

Each day in April, Ali will play his pipes in a variety of locations, live-streaming his performances on his Facebook page.

Ali Duff, perhaps better known as The Hairy Piper.

Ali spoke honestly and movingly about his reasons for taking on the challenge.

‘I’m a veteran with PTSD from the conflict in Kosovo,’ he explained, ‘where I served as a gunner in 32 Regiment Royal Artillery.

‘A few years ago I became suicidal and my wonderful partner Siobhan and I lost our bed and breakfast business due to my mental health and not being able to work to help with the running costs.

‘We become homeless on Christmas Eve 2017.

‘With the help and support of Poppyscotland, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association and other veterans’ charities, we found a house in Tarbert and we were given the keys on February 14 2018.’

When he moved to Tarbert, Ali started playing the bagpipes again after a 25-year absence and found his mental health improving through the power of music.

With a desire to share that experience, and some encouragement from Siobhan, Ali set up The Hairy Piper Facebook page and played every day for the first month of lockdown.

He then began raising money for Poppyscotland and now wants to reach the £3,000 target on his JustGiving page by Armistice Day, November 11.

The charity Poppyscotland has been supporting Scotland’s ex-servicemen, women and their families since 1921. Whether a veteran is struggling with a life-changing battlefield injury, psychological trauma, financial hardship, homelessness or has turned to substance abuse as a way to cope, Poppyscotland is there to help.

To support Ali and Skirlness, search the JustGiving website for ‘Ali Duff Hairy Piper’ and scroll down to find the page.


£10m boost to Islay’s electricity network

SSEN Distribution’s £10million project to upgrade the electricity network on Islay is to start this month.

The energy supplier says it will make the island’s infrastructure ‘more resilient and less susceptible to power cuts’ as it installs ‘new technology to help restore supplies more quickly should the need arise’.

The project will see SSEN teams and specialist contractors build nearly 30kms of new overhead line, lay 6km of new underground cable and install a raft of new technology at the island’s substations, ‘to boost reliability’.

A SSEN spokesperson said: ‘While the upgrade work will go a long way to reducing the potential for power cuts, there may still be occasions when a fault develops or storms damage infrastructure causing supplies to be affected and so SSEN is installing new technology at its substations at Bowmore, Port Askaig and Knocklearoch which will offer engineers more options to re-route supplies when working to get the power back on.

‘SSEN’s main contractor for the overhead line work, Keltbray, is currently setting up site on the island at Ballygrant Quarry and taking deliveries of materials ahead of construction beginning mid-April.

‘Work on the substations is due to begin in May, with the project due to last 12 months.’

Barry MacTaggart, SSEN’s project manager, added: ‘The work we’re going to be carrying out over the next 12 months is all about improving the reliability of power supplies for homes and businesses on Islay.

‘Working on key areas of our outdoor infrastructure will ensure the equipment is as strong as possible to withstand the challenges of a typical Islay winter, and the new equipment we’re putting into our substations will provide our engineers with more options when they need to restore supplies on the rare occasions the power goes off.’

SSEN’s head of large capital projects Donald MacKinnon said: ‘We want to ensure we can deliver a safe and secure supply of electricity to all our customers on Islay and this £10m investment will see teams working across the island building new lines, installing new cables and, behind the scenes, upgrading kit in our substations.

‘All of this work will help boost the reliability for our current customers and ensure the reliability of power supplies across the island for many years to come.’