Is­land cel­e­brates in style

The Oban Times - - Districts -

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.

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