District News, July 1 2022

Members of Clachan SWI enjoyed a cuppa and blether 'Rural-style' after Starfish Foundation founder Mary Mills gave her presentation.
Members of Clachan SWI enjoyed a cuppa and blether 'Rural-style' after Starfish Foundation founder Mary Mills gave her presentation.

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Clachan

Children’s charity founder enjoys Rural get-together

The founder of a charity that helps orphans and vulnerable children around the world shared her story with members of Clachan Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI) after the group’s recent annual general meeting.

The Rural ladies held the meeting in Clachan Church, where it was revealed that Louise Stanesby won the cup for the most points gained in monthly competitions last year, with Zoe Weir runner-up.

It was also decided the office bearers would remain the same and the programme for the coming session was discussed.

After business concluded, members moved into the vestry where Mary Mills gave a presentation about her work in Uganda with the Starfish Foundation which she created and has worked with for many years.

The charity gets children and young people matched with sponsors in the UK so that they can have a good education, often leading to careers.

There is also a health clinic in a remote village where locals are treated for ailments and handicapped children are taken on to hospital for treatments and physiotherapy.

‘Mary has improved the lives of a great many people over many years with her tireless efforts in Uganda and fundraising in the UK,’ said an SWI spokeswoman.

‘She was thanked for all she does and very generous donations amounted to £172.15.

‘We then went back into the church to sit around the table and have a cup and a blether, Rural-style!’

Jura

Council steps up after Jura pier pressure

A ‘dangerous’ ladder on a Jura pier, which formed a link in the council’s lifeline ferry service, will be replaced by a gangway and pontoon after islanders complained it was ‘unsafe’.

The £100,000 revamp is in a raft of regeneration projects totalling £600,000, approved by Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy and Resource Committee on June 16.

The Crown Estates funding, a council report explains, will provide Jura’s community ‘with the means to safely board and exit the small replacement craft used as a passenger-only link when the larger vessels cannot sail. The access needs to provide a safe sloped access and floating staging area for passengers which can accommodate the small craft alongside’.

Last month it was reported that Jura’s 200 islanders had to use a rusty, 12-foot ladder at Feolin pier to board the council’s ferry service after its ‘ageing’ vehicle ferry MV Eilean Dhiura was replaced by a passenger-only RIB. That time, on Monday June 16, it was not due to a technical issue, but a lack of crew.

‘Anger and despair’ grew among Jurachs, not just about the ladder or their continued calls for a safer replacement, but about the council’s ‘deteriorating’ ferry service to Port Askaig on Islay, which connects to the CalMac ferry to the mainland.

It reached breaking point for Jura Community Council, which ‘lost faith in Argyll and Bute Council as a ferry service provider’.

‘Once again, we are faced with a situation where 80-year-olds, parents with babies and pets must scale an unsafe rusty ladder to embark and disembark from the island,’ wrote Neil Gow, a Jura community councillor, in a plea to MSPs for help.

Argyll and Bute’s SNP MSP Jenni Minto, who lives on Islay, said: ‘As Jura is an island off an island, the reliability of both the council-run Jura ferry and the CalMac services to Islay is essential to support this thriving population. I have raised the concerns over the unsafe ladder with the council.’

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron put the blame higher up the chain.

‘Ultimately, the provision of lifeline ferry services, like the one to Jura, are the responsibility of the Scottish Government,’ he said.

‘That SNP ministers have failed to intervene and allowed the situation to deteriorate to this extent is negligent and a failure of their duty of care to this community.

‘They need to provide proper resources and not rely on the council, which they have underfunded for years, to do the job for them. Local people deserve far better than this.’

Argyll and Bute’s SNP MP Brendan O’Hara blamed council cuts.

‘Argyll and Bute Council should never have allowed this situation to arise,’ he said.

‘The level of disruption that islanders and visitors are facing because of this service is detrimental to everyone and makes island living increasingly difficult.

‘The Jura ferry service has been continually cut back since the council’s takeover of this route and I worry Argyll and Bute Council is not considering or consulting on the community and its needs when making crucial decisions.

‘I hope and expect to see this situation rectified before someone is seriously hurt as a result.’

A council spokesperson responded: ‘We have invested in new engines and major structural works to the Jura ferry.

‘We are also considering applying for funding to install a floating pontoon and gangway and looking to include a new ferry for Jura via the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.’