Martin Clarkson in conversation with
Martin’s brother-in-law Ian works for Caledonian MacBrayne, operating 33 passenger and vehicle ferries between the mainland of Scotland and the west coast islands. Their main hub is Oban harbour on the north-west coast of Scotland, Ian’s home.
Note 1: March-May
It kicked off as we were en route to the airport.
The government said we couldn’t go. Can’t even remember where we were going, everything else felt suddenly much more important.
By the time I got back to the harbour, the gateway to the Isles was already closing. Overnight our timetables became simply an emergency lifeline.
There was no traffic to board, no tourists to transport, no time to discuss further.
Harbour masters were retained, but their services severely diminished. Windswept and helmeted, they loyally waited with their ropes, to secure each arrival.
Only islanders may now travel. Ships with a 900 capacity now carry nine, mostly islanders and maybe a visiting dentist.
Freight is a barometer. Whisky distilleries still operate, as the world needs its therapy. They need more barley in Tobermory.
French and Spanish restaurants can’t take the shellfish, so there’s an abundance of scallop and lobster tonight, but only if you’re on Barra or Mull. Looking ahead, quaint waterfront homes on each of the islands need summer tourists to survive the winter. But it’s unlikely they’re coming.