It was a very welcome invitation from Lucy Conway of the Island of Eigg History Society, Commun Eachdraidh Eige, to visit to assist the group there to develop plans for a community digital archive. Late October weather and ferry crossings do not always make ideal partners, and in this case, the Loch Nevis, the usual ferry was out of operation. The easiest way from Assynt to Eigg is via Skye, meaning two ferry trips, from Armadale to Mallaig and then on the Small Isles ferry. In one of those delightful connections that bind small communities, the landlady of the B&B at which I stayed on Skye was the mother-in-law of the skipper of the MV Orion, the dolphin spotting boat brought on as a passenger ferry while the Loch Nevis was being repaired.
Not far from Armadale, just as inter-passenger chatting started up, we ran into a huge school of common dolphin, perhaps well over a hundred in the main group, though just a few at a time came to investigate us.
From Mallaig, looking back to Knoydart in the morning light was dreamy.
Once on Eigg, we held long discussion with Camille Dressler and Alex Boden, as well as with Trisha McVarish of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. Later, Alex du Toit from the Highland Archive in Fort William joined us. Bizarrely, Alex, like me, was born in Cape Town, and for two old Capetonians to meet and chat on the island of Eigg 6000+ miles from where we started was surreal.
And on the score of thinking about South Africa, I stayed at Lag Eorna, which, photographed from a particular angle, could easily be mistaken for a farmhouse in the Western Cape mountains.
An eventful night passed, as around 4.00am, the large Coastguard helicopter landed roughly at the spot form which the above picture was taken, to get someone to hospital following a medical emergency. (All turned out fine.) The helicopter landed in driving wind and rain, apart from the pitch blackness of the night. It was a reminder of how fortunate we are with our emergency and medical service in the Highlands and Islands. A subsequent tweet about this drew the response from the coastguard that they come out to attend emergencies at any time of the day or night, and in any weather at all. Such routine courage from people with lives of service.
The discussions with the History Society and Trust developed the ideas they were formulating. Here is hoping for a long and fruitful connection with Eigg and it islanders.
What? The dolphin picture is the most interesting part of this post? Righto, here's another one.
There was a film-maker on board the ferry, going to Eigg for an assignment, to whom I got chatting. When the dolphins appeared, everyone was furiously photographing the delightful event... - except our film-maker, who was filming people's reaction to the dolphins. It was an interesting lesson in perspective, and I think perhaps he understood that the significance of these encounters is their almost mystical effect on us, rather than the sight of the animals themselves.