Slate Is­land trust hon­ours gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor Iso­belle

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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