Island celebrates in style
THE STORY of the historic community buyout of the remote Isle of Eigg is global and this was underlined at last week’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
Bob and Louise Giles travelled from Michigan, USA, to join the party and present Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust with a cheque for $1,000 on behalf of the St Andrew’s Society of Detroit.
The 450-strong society has sent annual donations to support Eigg residents with their regeneration plans and Mr and Mrs Giles were thrilled to see the transformation community ownership has delivered.
Mr Giles, a former president of the society, said: ‘Our first visit to Eigg was on July 4 1997 when we organised a beach barbecue to celebrate Eigg’s independence.
‘It was our independence day and it was a great joy to share in the celebration of such a marvellous achievement. The progress we have witnessed this week is truly inspiring and we have such a story to tell when we return to Detroit.’
It was on June 12 1997 that the local community – working with the Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust – celebrated the purchase of the island for £1.5 million.
At that time the population was 64 and more than half of the tenants had no security of tenure over their properties.
Since then the community has grown in confidence and delivered an impressive list of achievements resulting in the population growing to 105.
Amanda Bryan, chair- woman of Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, welcomed residents and guests to the newly-refurbished community hall for the celebration.
She said: ‘Eigg truly embodies what land reform is all about – a synergy between people and place which has resulted in population growth and a balance between young and old that other communities can only dream of.
‘The people here have quietly delivered a huge range of infrastructure and activities without shouting about it. We’re all aware of the big projects such as An Laimrhig, the housing refurbishments, Eigg Electric, broadband, the and so on but it’s what this has enabled that is important.
‘The population now stands at 105 and growing. People can now make a living here in a multitude of ways.
‘There is a vibrant creative economy with musicians, writers, artists and makers.
‘There are around 40 different accommodation options for visitors to the island and some great places to eat which make best use of local produce.
Agriculture and horticulture and increasingly forestry management are undertaken and we even have the world’s smallest island brewery.
‘Community ownership has been truly transformational here in that it has given this community the opportunity to define its own future.
‘There is a confidence and an optimism here that wasn’t here before. It is a fantastic thing to be a part of and I thank you for letting me be a small part of it.’
Bob and Louise Giles toast the Eigg buy- out.