Looking Back on the Natural Life on Luing Weekend 2007

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What do you do when there’s a power cut at the start of your Powerpoint presentation to a large audience in Cullipool Hall on the first morning of the Natural Life on Luing Geopoetics Weekend? If you’re Bill Eddie (not Oddie), ornithologist, botanist and leading member of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, you go with the flow (or lack of it) and take your audience outside to look for birds around the village and in Cullipool Bay.

Apart from a greenfinch sitting on the telephone wire outside the Hall there weren’t many birds around that morning but, thanks to the arrival in the Bay of the fishing boat My Tara, Bill was able to point out the differences between black-backed, herring and common gulls and then resume his wide-ranging illustrated talk.

Next morning Rosy Barlow and Zoë Fleming had to be equally flexible at the end of their joint presentation on the flora and fauna of Luing when the heavens opened and hailstones drummed on the Hall’s velux windows just as they were about to take us on a guided walk. They decided to go with the weather and instead took more questions from a discerning audience who marvelled at their beautiful photographs of celandines, tormentils and many other species, and their knowledgeable explanations of how different habitats and land uses produced variations in the island’s flora and fauna.

The showers having cleared, a crowd of us were soon up on the hillside behind the village peering into gullies and kneeling down to examine the rich variety of wildflowers, grasses and mosses which often go unnoticed beneath our feet as we admire the wonderful views or look up at buzzards or crows cruising in ever-changing skies.

In between these talks and walks the 20 visitors, who had come from as far afield as Newport-on-Tay and Newcastle (on Tyne and under Lyme), joined with members of the Luing History Group and those who had kindly provided accommodation to enjoy a marvellous 3 course buffet provided by the Luing Social Committee. As well as sampling the delights of Luing cuisine, this was a great opportunity for visitors and islanders to get to know each other and to create a basis for future networking.

The buffet was followed by a Grand Ceilidh with dancing to the Seil Ceilidh Band interspersed with moving words and music, including traditional Japanese songs, from Fumiko Miller, former Mod gold medallist Hughie McQueen, some Glasgow and Luing poems from my forthcoming collection Slate, Sea and Sky, two great songs about Belnahua and the Isle of Luing from Fiona Cruikshanks and others by Eleanor Carlingford-Reeves. When the band had to leave to catch the last ferry, The Cast, a professional duo who took part in the Weekend, kept the dancing and singing going in splendid fashion with their own songs and traditional tunes.

A request for an additional discussion about geopoetics led to a very lively session involving both islanders and visitors on the Sunday evening before Alastair Fleming’s talk about the future of Luing. Alastair gave a very enlightening personal view of the challenges and opportunities facing the island and outlined the work of the Community Trust in seeking to provide a heritage centre and interpretation panels on Luing.

This second geopoetics weekend on the island was again highly successful thanks to the warm welcome and generous support it received from the people of Luing.

Norman Bissell