Slate Island trust honours generous benefactor Isobelle
VOLUNTEERS and trustees of the Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Trust recently attended a reception to honour a local benefactor.
The Slate Islands visitor centre in Ellena beich, Easdale, created by volunteers 16 years ago, has evolved and developed. Managed and run entirely by volunteers, it has introduced the islands, their people and their history to more than 100,000 visitors from all over the world.
The little white building, a former cottage, has been the focus and the inspiration at the heart of the trust. The premises were occupied in 2000, at an affordable rent, with encouragement from owner Isobelle Smith.
After a couple of years, the trust received an offer from the owner to sell the building at a very reasonable price, to be paid in instalments of such uncommercial proportions that they were affordable, even for a still-fledgling trust.
Improvements to the collections, and rising visitor numbers ensured the instalments were met. Now the final payment has been made and the Scottish Slate Islands Trust is the proud owner of its own building. The trustees arranged a short ceremony to thank Isobelle in person.
In introducing the guest of honour, trust chairman Michael Shaw spoke of Isobelle and of her family’s local significance.
The Smith family has been central to the commercial and agricultural life of Seil island for more than 100 years. In the 1950s, Isobelle’s father, Ian Smith, had the Balvicar store. Mr Smith deployed his skills and his humour in the shop, on his farm, or working with the van and the lorry with which he transported stores, coal and livestock. Deliveries were made to the mainland, to Luing and, via Black mill Bay, to Scarba.
In Ellena beich, Isobelle’s uncle, Billy Smith, ran the bus company and the petrol pump. His wife was a sister of Mr Brown, the baker, thus uniting the Smith/ Brown commercial connection to include the Ellena beich shop, the bakery and the tearoom.
Many years before, an earlier Mr Smith was engineer in the slate quarry and it was also a Smith who had driven the first motor lorry into the village.
Isobelle, a professional artist, is a staunch friend and supporter of sustainable and sensible conservation. She has long been interested in local history and her family has long been the stuff of that history.
The Scottish Slate Islands Heritage Trust and everyone who loves the islands owe Isobelle a debt of gratitude. In recognition, a plaque is fixed to the wall of the Slate Islands Centre: the building acquired through her generosity.
Mary Withall, Easdale Island author and a founding trustee, presented Isobelle with a house plant. In reply to the presentation, Isobelle expressed her satisfaction that the local history was being so well preserved and her thanks to all the trustees and volunteers who were responsible for the centre.
Trustees and volunteers from the Scottish Slate Islands Trust thank Isobelle Smith for her generosity.