His­toric Eigg mile­stone marked

The Oban Times - - News - MON­ICA GIB­SON mgib­son@oban­times.co.uk

RES­I­DENTS of a He­bridean is­land are cel­e­brat­ing the 20th year since its his­toric pur­chase by the com­mu­nity.

Eigg is owned and man­aged by Isle of Eigg Her­itage Trust (EHT), a part­ner­ship of res­i­dents, the High­land Coun­cil (HC) and the Scot­tish Wildlife Trust (SWT). Prior to 1997, the is­land was owned by ‘ab­sen­tee’ Ger­man landowner Dr Maruma.

Un­der the pre­vi­ous land­lord sys­tem, res­i­dents suf­fered from a lack of home and busi­ness se­cu­rity and poor hous­ing con­di­tions. Un­em­ploy­ment on the is­land was high with only sea­sonal work­ing avail­able. The in­fra­struc­ture was also poor and there was no mains elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

The com­mu­nity felt the only way the is­land could de­velop in a sus­tain­able way was through a com­mu­nity buy­out. A ma­jor fundrais­ing cam­paign was launched by EHT with the sup­port of the HC and the SWT. Mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic do­nated the en­tire pur­chase price of £1.5 mil­lion and High- lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise gave the buy­out a grant of £17,000.

The deal of­fi­cially went through on June 12, 1997, but there were cel­e­bra­tions in the Sound of Eigg on April 4 as that was the night the is­land’s then 63 res­i­dents were told the good news.

Mark Foxwell is a trustee of EHT and re­serves man­ager for the High­lands and Is­lands with SWT. He told the Lochaber Times that Eigg is now a shin­ing ex­am­ple of what can be achieved when peo­ple are al­lowed to take con­trol of their own des­tiny.

He added: ‘Eigg re­ally was on its knees with the prob­lems of un­em­ploy­ment and poor in­fra­struc­ture but now it has this en­ergy and is re­ally quite stim­u­lat­ing.

‘Eigg was pre-land re­form and pre- com­mu­nity own­er­ship. At that time (1997) there was no es­tab­lished model of how or if this would work but when you visit you see how com­pelling a place it now is. The pop­u­la­tion has gone up from 60 to 70 to more than 100, the schools have enough chil­dren to make them vi­able and peo­ple are work­ing.’

An­i­mals liv­ing on the is­land have ben­e­fited too. He added: ‘There are three or four pairs of Hen Har­ri­ers which live on the is­land.

‘In the north of Eng­land there are not any, even though the land is suit­able for them. This is be­cause of is­lan­ders’ con­sid­er­a­tion to­wards na­ture. In most other places these birds are per­se­cuted be­cause they are preda­tors and they eat the things you maybe don’t want them to but Eigg has found a way to let them stay in a sus­tain­able fashion. You can sit in the restau­rant and watch them hunt­ing and it re­ally is a joy to watch.’

The com­mu­nity of 2017 will have a ceilidh on the is­land to mark 20 years of own­er­ship on June 17.

Mem­bers of the Eigg com­mu­nity on April 4, 1997, the night they found out their buy­out bid had been suc­cess­ful.

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