The team involved in the successful charity fund-raising swim from St Kilda to the Isle of Harris last August won official recognition for their feat on Thursday January 14th with a special presentation by the Lieutenancy of the Western Isles.
Each of those involved in the swim - whether the swimmers themselves or the support team members – received a personal letter of thanks from the Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles, Sandy Matheson.
Sandy was accompanied by his Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Donald Martin at the presentation to those members of the team who were available to attend the short formal event held at the EVENTS newspaper office in Stornoway, where one of the swimmers, Eilidh Whiteford is a reporter and feature-writer.
Meanwhile the St Kilda Swim Team have been shortlisted for a National Adventure Award. They need your help to scoop the public vote, and Sandy Matheson encouraged Islanders and supporters further away to join in the vote. here
The National Adventure Awards 2016 celebrate the very best of adventure across England, Wales and Scotland; and the St Kilda Team are one of seven adventure groups to battle it out to take the ‘Team of the Year’ title, as well as being entered for the Public Vote award.
The island based team made history in August 2015 when the seven swimmers, swimming in relay formation, successfully completed a 60mile route through the North Atlantic from St Kilda to the Isle of Harris.
Believed to be the first of its kind, the feat received recognition through Early Day Motions tabled in the Scottish Parliament by MSP Rhoda Grant, and in Westminster Parliament by MP Marion Fellows.
Swim Team Captain, Colin Macleod, said: “The St Kilda Swim Team are delighted to be shortlisted for the National Adventure Awards, but we’re definitely feeling like the underdogs when you see what some of the other teams have done.”
Also competing for the National Adventure Awards Team of the Year are the Eiger Paraclimb 2015 – a group of British paraclimbers who tackled the West Flank route of The Eiger in Switzerland; as well as Robbie Phillips and Willis Morris, who became the youngest team to complete the North Face of The Eiger last year.
A team of 11 rugby players who trekked 60miles to the magnetic North Pole to set the Guinness World Record for playing rugby on the northernmost part of the world are also competition; along with a father and son who undertook a canoe expedition down the wild rivers of the Yukon in Canada; a two-man team who completed a 500km run through the Namib Desert; and David Lintern and David Hine who took on the C2C4K challenge of walking and paddling from coast to coast, climbing the nine tallest mountains in the UK on the way.
In his official letter to each of those involved in the St Kilda swim, Sandy wrote: "I am writing to extend my warmest congratulations to you on behalf of our community for your tremendous achievement in completing the St Kilda Swim 2015 in aid of four local charities.
"Your energy and enthusiasm, combined with courage and sheer determination, demonstrate the strong community and sporting spirit which exists within our islands.  The four charities involved are indebted to you and your fellow swimmers, the support vessel crew and the support kayakers in raising the magnificent sum of £21,505.
"You richly deserve our admiration and thanks - well done indeed.
And in his remarks Sandy said: "Apart from the hazards and discomforts of doing the actual swim, it's equally important for me to stress what wonderful ambassadors you have been for the Western Isles.
"To have thought of going to St Kilda, a site of historic international interest , anyway shows a power of imagination, to undertake the swim shows resilience, courage, a whole host of other things."
He added that the lieutenancy could only express thanks as it did not have the resources to organise a proper reception.
The team of seven swimmers, along with three support kayakers and support vessel mv Cuma from Island Cruising, completed the 60 mile swim route from Village Bay, Hirta, to Hushinish in Harris in August last year.
Leaving Hirta at around 4am on Monday, August 17th, the St Kilda Swim team landed on Hushinish slipway just after 3pm on Tuesday, August 18th – taking only 35 hours to finish a swim that had been postponed three times from May to July due to bad weather.
During the challenge, the team were joined by a large pod of dolphins, and swimmer John Dyer encountered a 25ft Minke whale.
Further funds were raised through the St Kilda Swim Song, penned and recorded by young songstress Rosie Sullivan, the proceeds of which were added to the charities' total.
Members of the swim team in Stornoway then had great pleasure in handing over donations of £5,772.14 to the Fishermen's Mission and £5,620.68 to the Leanne Fund.
On the mainland, St Kilda swimmer John Dyer was able to present £7,568.43 to Yorkhill Children's Charity, the fundraising body which aims to improve children's health by providing services and equipment for the Yorkhill NHS Trust Hospitals.
And John also visited the Aberlour Child Care Trust – the largest, solely Scottish, children's charity which provides help to over 6,000 of Scotland's most vulnerable children, young people and families – to present £2,543.77. 

(First printed in the Heb Magazine 2010)

By Deborah Anderson

Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Little Minch, with a coastline of more than two thousand kilometres, the Outer Hebrides have it all: beautiful scenery, big skies, white sandy beaches and turquoise seas, amazing wildlife and fabulous archaeological remains. It is a special place, unrivalled in the extent, variety and preservation of its archaeological sites, and has one of the most visibly historic landscapes in the UK. This has evolved through the interaction of its inhabitants with the environment over the last 9,000 years, and it is not beyond reason to consider the entire landscape archaeological.

The ruins of Northton Chapel

Everywhere you look, you see the remains of blackhouses, duns, sheilings, stone circles, and the like. The islands’ archaeology is an incredibly rich resource, not only for its tourism value but also for its research potential. Most people who visit the Outer Hebrides will want to visit the Callanish Stones and the fantastically preserved remains of Dun Carloway broch; some may even venture out to Village Bay on St Kilda. There are, however, many more sites than these in the islands.
Up and down the island chain, there is archaeological evidence of how, through the ages, people have found their way to the Outer Hebrides, settled here, and made a living from its shores, machairs and moorlands – and it’s waiting to be discovered by those who are interested. So what sorts of evidence do we have about the people who lived here in the past, and what does it tell us about their lives?
Well, the archaeological evidence from a midden at Northton shows us the type of meal which was being consumed by the first Islanders some 9,000 years ago; the ceremonial Chambered Cairns like Barpa Langais tell us how our Neolithic ancestors honoured their dead, and how they divided their roles in ritual practices.
Standing stones like Callanish show us something of their profound relationship with the landscape and the heavens; settlements like Cladh Hallan in South Uist reveal amazing insights into the belief and mummification practices of these Bronze Age farmers. Brochs and Duns like Dun Carloway and Dun Vulan show the shift from building large ceremonial monuments to a landscape dominated by monumental inhabited buildings, reflecting the status of their inhabitants.
Wheelhouses, like the examples excavated at Cnip and Kilpheder, represent monumental building in sandscapes or inside the shells of earlier brochs, adapting current settlement design and construction to the problems caused by high winds, low temperatures and the lack of timber. The arrival of Christianity is testified by the simple crosses and early chapels at sites like Europie, Howmore, and the remote Island of North Rona. 
Also, there is well-documented placename evidence of early Christian settlement in Pabbay (meaning ‘priest’) and the Norse suffix ‘ay’ (meaning ‘island’). Other islands would appear to be associated with saints; the Isle of Taransay, for example, is associated with the Pictish Saint Taran or Ternan.
Midden mounds like the one at Barvas preserve for us the remains of Viking Age buildings. They include a wide range of animal and plant remains, which allow us to construct a picture of the economy of a Norse farm. The succeeding medieval centuries are most easily remembered in the ruined walls of castles and tower houses like Kisimul Castle and the church at Rodel, which reflect the power and prestige of the Clans.
The building of castles on islands appears to echo the long tradition of islet occupation, rather than supporting the theory that these were built simply for defensive purposes. Then there are the ruins and earthworks of deserted blackhouses and shielings, and the lazy bed cultivation, which dominate the Hebridean landscape today and tell us of more recent lives that experienced clearance and emigration - a way of life which has shaped the way we are today. There are, however, other lesser known sites which tell us how people lived, such as Kelp Kilns, the World War II gun emplacements, the modern military installations of the MoD, field boundaries, middens, fish traps, boat noosts, burnt mounds  and clearance cairns , to name just a few. Each period is built, layer upon layer, to create the character of the Western Isles that we know and love.
But archaeology in the Western Isles is more than just these individual monuments. It is the whole of the environment – the entirety of our landscapes, whether they be urban or rural, and anything at all which has been influenced by the day-to-day activities and habits of people right up to today. The grid street pattern in Stornoway, the prehistoric land surfaces at Hornish Point in South Uist , the coffin routes in Harris, the red telephone box sitting lonely at Crulivig in Bernera, the areas of relict peat cuttings at Carloway, the turf gardens at Port nan Giuran in Point,  to the modern football pitch out at Back.
There are also invisible aspects of this historic environment which are just as important: the environmental evidence held in the peat, ceremonial landscapes and their settings, the historic landscape’s character and the local oral tradition attached to many of the sites we have here.
The historic environment of the Outer Hebrides is remarkable in the extent of its survival, and this is mainly due to the lack of land management pressures which you would see in other areas in the UK. There has been little large scale farming, or large scale commercial mineral or peat extraction, and much of the land is now under pasture, protecting our heritage for future generations.
Unlike on the mainland, the main pressure on the archaeological resource has not been, up to press, from development or large scale aggregate extraction - but from climate change. But this is not a new issue for the Hebrides.
Over the last 10,000 years, the landmass of the islands has shrunk considerably - most noticeably from the west, where up to 10km has been submerged by rising tides.
There are considerable areas of prehistoric land surfaces, including likely early settlements, which have been submerged during this inland coastline creep.
The abandonment of machair settlements in South Uist during the Little Ice Age (1500-1750AD) gives us evidence that water was rising then, and it will continue to rise. We believe that the sea is likely to rise by 69cm, or even up to one metre, by the end of the century.  Further increases in storminess will increase wave and wind erosion on coastline sites.
We may lose many more sites in the future – but a concerted effort has been made to record, assess and prioritise further action on coastline sites before they disappear.
The associated rise in temperatures due to global warming is likely have a shrinking effect on the peatlands, which may cover sites predating the growth of peat during the Bronze Age. Peat holds the environmental record of the last 4,000 years, and can preserve organic materials - such as wood and skin - which would perish on dry sites. As up to 90% of human activity is organic in nature, the information held in peat resources can considerably add to our knowledge of past human activity.
The inland peat areas are largely unexplored by archaeologists, but these areas have the potential to tell us a great deal about how our ancestors lived, the crops they grew, and the impact people had on the environment. A survey has been carried out recording the visible archaeological remains for Ness, (Ness Archaeological Landscape Survey) and this is due to be published in 2010/11 alongside the Dun Eistean (stronghold of the Clan Morrison) Archaeology Project report.
More than 200 Outer Hebridean sites – only 1.5% of all listed on the Sites and Monuments Record for the region - are designated as Nationally or Internationally Significant. The remaining sites are no less important to those living in the islands, and local archaeology groups are doing sterling work recording new sites; every month, a few new pieces are added to the islands’ archaeological jigsaw. The preservation and conservation of sites relies on the interest and goodwill of landowners, and support from those who live on the islands. 
Further interpretative information on the archaeology of the Outer Hebrides can be found at  Books on the archaeology of Ancient Lewis and Harris, Ancient Barra and Ancient Uists can be bought from Museum nan Eilean in Stornoway and other outlets throughout the islands.
The Coastal Zone Assessments were funded by Historic Scotland and are available on the SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology Protection from Erosion) website.  A database of all known archaeological sites in the Outer Hebrides can be viewed at

(First printed in the Heb Magazine 2010)

By Eileen Bell

Champagne. Roquefort, Gorgon-zola, Stilton. Parma ham, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Arbroath Smokies.
All of these have in common a certain status, tying each product firmly to its own geography and history – legally. And soon enough, Stornoway Black Pudding could be next on the list.
Of course, black pudding is not strictly a Lewis invention, or even a Scottish one. Kitchens all over the world have been used to manufacture and cook up some form of blood sausage; French, Spanish, Finnish, Russian and Thai versions exist. There is even a mention of blood sausage in Homer’s Odyssey, humanity’s oldest known literary work.
The Stornoway version, however, is the best. At least, that’s what the town’s butchers say. And if popularity and sales figures are any kind of indication, the public agrees with them.   
Stornoway is lucky to have four quite distinct black puddings. Just as two fans of Girls Aloud can have a bitter falling out over whether Nadine or Cheryl is more talented, two random Stornoway townies will have their different opinions on which is the best Stornoway Black Pudding.
While relations among the butchers themselves remain cordial, there is a long-lived competitiveness bubbling under the surface; but in the name of marketing, they have clubbed together for the common good.
The four butchers - Alex France and Sons on Westview Terrace, Macleod and Macleod on Church Street, WJ Macdonald on Francis Street, and Charles Macleod Butchers at Ropework Park - want to keep membership of the Stornoway Black Pudding Club as exclusive as possible; so they’re taking their case to Brussels.
The process may take two or three years, but in the end, Stornoway’s butchers will be able to rest easy in the knowledge that black pudding lovers will accept no imitations. The journey towards making Stornoway Black Pudding an exclusive brand protected by law has begun.
This is a tidewater mark in the history of black pudding. While the recipe and method have changed little in a hundred years, it is not all that long ago that black puddings were being made from scratch in kitchens throughout the Isles.
In his book ‘The Guga Hunters’, Donald S Murray describes the experience of, as a small boy, watching his Aunt Bella perform this most necessary culinary ritual.
She would have the sheep’s intestines curled up in front of her in an earthenware bowl, a few other ingredients, too, set out and ready to play their own part in this recipe. Sheep’s blood, rich and crimson. Oatmeal. Some coarse salt. Pepper. Five or six onions.
And I’d watch with gory fascination as my aunt spooned that red mixture into the intestines, slowly and precisely, taking care not to spill or waste a drop. She’d squeeze it occasionally with arthritic fingers, ensuring it was all finely and evenly spread out, trying to prevent, too, any clots from forming in the blood. And then when it was three-quarters full, she would take a piece of string, and tighten a knot fast around it. It would be plunged into a large pan of boiling water bubbling on the stove, a witch’s brew prepared with love and kindness.
That’s the traditional view of black pudding: nutrition and thrift, all rolled into one tightly-packed cylindrical package. In recent years however, the world’s top chefs have been helping the maragan dubh find its very own echelon of cool: it’s no longer just for breakfast.
Gordon Ramsay has been known to serve it as a filling lunch, sautéed and served with Jersey Royal potatoes, sage and balsamic cherry tomatoes, and a few crisp salad leaves.
Some chefs take it a step further, finding the spicy dark matter to be complemented by the sweetest fruits. Pop some black pudding on the griddle or the George Foreman along with nice, thick slices of mango or apple. Layer them on the plate, and serve with something simple.
Or, simply pop them into a salad with a few other fine yet simple ingredients: rocket leaves, bacon, buffalo mozzarella, and walnuts. Add a bit of French dressing, or keep it super-simple with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Once you’ve tried all four of the Stornoway versions, have a go at two other island incarnations, also made to an ancient Hebridean recipe. The one and only Harris Black Pudding is made by AD Munro in Tarbert, and a Ness version is produced by Cross Stores.