The New Muck Electricity Supply System
The new scheme provides a continuous 24 hour electricity supply using clean, sustainable, renewable sources, reduced diesel consumption and reduced maintenance. This will be a great benefit to the island and the environment allowing the population to stabilise and grow, safeguarding the community on Muck for years to come.
The System has transformed the Islanders lives. Previously the 38 residents of the remote island had to ration their use of power to over just nine hours a day and struggled to share the power from a 25kW generator – with islanders having to give each other slots to use washing machines. "Now that we have power 24 hours a day, I'll never miss the end of a film ever again" said Jenny MacEwen, who runs the island's tea room and craft shop. Ewen MacEwen, who has lived on the island for 60 years and whose family owns the island, said "The situation had made it impossible to run a remote business from here, but that's all going to change. This will make a huge difference to island life".
Life on Eigg
LIFE ON THE SMALL ISLES- EIGG
In answer to the question many people pose to an islander 'Why do you live on such a small island so remote from everything and everyone?' there are a variety of answers. To live on an Island such as Eigg is to be at once intimately connected to one of the last remaining wilderness and unspoilt landscapes in the UK and to be exposed to a host of peoples and characters. At the height of the visitor season the Island population fluctuates from the 100 odd permanent residents to more than double if not triple on occasion, as folk arrive off the CalMac or the Sheerwater from Arisaig to explore for the day or for extended visits our natural open yet intimate landscape.
Much of the Islanders time in the summer season is taken up with catering for these visitors and making sure that their experience is one that is memorable and worth repeating! At this time the farms are at full growth with the animals having calved and lambed through the late spring and now enjoying the abundant food supply of the verdant Island.
Slipping into the autumnal days we find that the Island becomes quieter and the work for the Island come to the fore. With the Island being husbanded by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust there has been a considerable amount of structural work and investment in skills and time by the Islanders who were at the forefront of the buyout, but also by their families who are now grown, and new additions to the wider Eigg community. Which is the only Scottish island to have bucked the trend for Island depopulation, by increasing from 63 to just over 100 full time residents since the buy out in 1997.
The work of road maintenance and forestry management; property maintenance, management of new plots, partnerships with the Highland Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust, require a constant and considerable diligent effort to maintain the cohesion of a community that has undertaken this self determination. The work of the rotating 4 directors and the Islands Resident Association along with permanent secretary Maggie Fyffe, is a year round endeavour, more markedly taxing in the winter as the visitor free time allows for concentration on Eigg Island Housekeeping.
However, one should not understate the impact of the natural environment that the Isle of Eigg has on its population, allowing for a community that is at once forward thinking, environmentally aware and at the forefront of 21st century technology with Eigg's renewable electricity Grid. Coupled with a heritage which engenders close ties, with a people who still cleave to a traditional culture of community and communication. Waking on any morning to the Atlantic at ease or at full spume on the shore is to be at once, without doubt, connected to the landscapes, seascapes and Isle of Eigg.
Much of the Spring and Summer life on Canna, Eigg and Muck revolves round working with sheep. Whether lambing, dosing, shearing or getting sheep ready for the market in Dingwall, there is always plenty to keep us busy. See the video of Lambs being sold at Dingwall mart on the Agriculture/methods page
Main industries - the main industries on each of the islands are tourism, farming, crofting and craft working. Many islanders have two or more jobs; so as well as keeping livestock, a smallholder might also work in the school or tearoom. The local fishing port of Mallaig is still one of the major markets for the sale of Prawns, caught by creel boats or trawlers.
Regional, Local & Island Governance - The Small Isles is part of the Highland Council and is subject to the same laws and regulations as other parts of the Highland Council area. The Small Isles Community Council represents the island group in matters which affect all islands collectively e.g. ferries. Each of the four islands is owned and managed differently; Eigg is owned by a community trust, Rum by a community trust and Scottish Natural Heritage, Cana by the National Trust for Scotland, while the Isle of Muck is owned privately. Each island has its own residents or community association, which looks after day to day matters related to that island specifically.
Broadband - all of the islands have very good broadband connections (up to 10MB), provided by community owned company Hebnet. This means that some islanders work 'remotely' for companies or organisations on the mainland or further afield.
Schooling - There is a primary school on each of the islands. Eigg has 11 children in the primary school and 2 in the nursery, while Muck has seven in the school. Rum and Canna schools are closed at the moment, but will reopen when children there reach primary school age. Secondary education is provided at Mallaig High School on the mainland, with children living in the school hostel and returning home for the weekend, fortnightly.
Electricity - The four islands are not connected to the National Grid, and so each island has had to find its own solution to generating electricity. Eigg has its own renewably powered electricity company (Eigg Electric), which uses the wind, sun and hydro to generate enough power for all its residents. Rum is in the process of setting up something very similar. The Muck system is based around wind and solar, in Rum around hydro. The Isle of Canna is currently powered by diesel generator, but in the long term Canna is planning to convert to renewable generation. Life has recently changed for the better in Muck with the installation of a new system by Wind & Sun and it was switched on for the first time at the end of March 2013. Until then, the diesel generator was the only source of electricity supply on the island and was operated for limited hours from 07.30 to 11.30 and 16.00 to 23.30.
Housing - Finding somewhere to live on the Small Isles can sometimes be difficult. There is a small amount of social housing available on Eigg, but generally houses are either privately owned or owned by the island landowner, in which case they are rented according to their policy.
Water - None of the Small Isles are on mains water or sewage. Each home or business is provided water from a local spring. Sewage is managed using a small treatment plant or septic tank at each property.
Shops and PO - All the islands apart from Muck have a shop and Post office. Eigg and Rum shops and PO are privately run and are open all year round. There is a PO on C as well as a new community shop run on a voluntary basis on in the summer time.
Pubs and restaurants. Each of the islands has one or two licensed premises but no pub as such.
Telephone signal - The Small Isles is served by the Mallaig telephone exchange, with the telephone signal being relayed across the water by radio link. Mobile phone signal on all of the islands is very patchy.
Rubbish - The Highland Council work with islanders to recycle as much of the waste as possible. Paper, glass, tin and some plastics are recycled and many islanders have their own composting systems. Anything that cannot be recycled or composted is taken off to landfill in a skip.
Roads & Transport- There is no public transport on any of the islands, although some islands have a private mini-bus or taxi service operating in the summer months. Some of the roads in the Small Isles are owned and maintained by the Highland Council, others by the island owners themselves. Visitors to the Small Isles are not permitted to bring their car onto the islands.
Doctor - the Small Isles Medical Practice is based on the Isle of Eigg, with the doctor making regular visits to the other islands by speed boat.
Dentist - The Highland Council provides a travelling dental service to the Isle of Eigg. Otherwise, islanders have to travel to Fort William to visit the dentist.
Library - each island has a small library collection, provided by the Highland Council. Books, DVDs and other materials are changed on a semi-regular basis.
Churches - the Church of Scotland is represented on the islands, with a fine 19th century parish church on Eigg in Neo-Gothic style. Services are conducted by the C o S minister in Mallaig who visits the islands on a fairly regular basis. Eigg and Canna are also part of the Roman Catholic Parish of Arisaig and the Isles, and are also served from the mainland. A lay service is conducted on Sundays on Eigg. There is also an Episcopalian minister visiting from time to time.