Tuesday, 1 December 2020

December 2020

Welcome to December, the final month of what can only be described as a dismal year. Coronavirus has not affected the Western Isles as badly as many other parts of the country, in terms of numbers of cases. However, its economic impact has been quite severe. On a personal level, I lost one of my best friends in October. At the start of the year, I viewed 2020 with trepidation. Can't say I was wrong to feel that way.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Reichskristallnacht 1938

It is 82 years ago since the Night of Broken Glass [Kristallnacht]. That night, an organised mob of Nazi forces and sympathisers went on the rampage in towns and cities across Germany, smashing and destroying Jewish-owned property and businesses. It was a foretaste of what was to come during World War II. The extermination of anyone deemed sub-human by the warped mind of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. Jews topped their league of the unfit, closely followed by gypsies, the mentally ill and many many others. The Reichskristallnacht was a night of infamy, and not just to Germany. Hitler had already been allowed to get away with murder for several years beforehand. In 1936, he occupied the Rhineland which had been ceded to France at the end of the First World War. The League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, cried wolf but had no bite. On 12 March 1938, Nazi forces marched into Austria to join that country to Germany, an event referred to as the Anschluss. Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with Adolf Hitler on 30 September 1938, returning with the infamous phrase: "Peace for our time". Six weeks later, the Reichskristallnacht took place. Only a few months later, Germany invaded the Sudetenland area of Czecho-Slovakia, and again, nobody moved a finger to stop. In September 1939, Hitler thought he could get away with the invasion of Poland. But this time, it prompted a declaration of war, signalling the outbreak of the Second World War. The lights have gone out in Europe, it was said at the time. The lights in Europe had already been extinguished in 1914, and had not been relit, not even at the end of the First World War. The Versailles Peace Treaty of June 1919 contained all the ingredients for another war, which duly materialised. After the unspeakable atrocities of the Second World War, Germany was divided into four by the victorious allies. The British, French and American sectors became West Germany, whilst the Soviet sector was turned into East Germany, a communist state. Berlin was similarly divided. Until 1961, people from the East fled to the West in droves. A barrier was erected across Berlin in August 1961, later replaced by a high, concrete wall. Similar barriers were put up along the borders between East and West Germany. Anyone trying to flee from East to West was shot on sight, no questions asked. The advent of Mikhail Gorbatchov as leader of the USSR in the 1980s heralded a start of change. And when this wind of change blew across eastern Europe, it blew away all the communist regimes within the space of a few months in 1989.

The Berlin Wall was torn down on 9 November 1989, and you can see the dilemma. Do we remember the Kristallnacht, and not celebrate the reunification of Germany? Do we celebrate the reunification, and ignore the Night of Broken Glass? Maybe the two can be reconciled. The Berliners remember the Kristallnacht in a very low-key but poignant manner. Every year, in the evening of November 9th, candles are left on the doorsteps of houses that were ransacked that night.

The flame, burning at the top of this post, is my candle of remembrance for Kristallnacht.

Sunday, 1 November 2020


On Tuesday 6 October last, I lost one of my closest friends in the Outer Hebrides. To those who have followed my blogs over the years, she was the lady I initially refer to as Mrs B. In November 2019, she had been diagnosed with probable cancer of the bileduct. Over the following 11 months, she wasted away and lost all strength. Everything that she enjoyed doing was gradually taken from her, until she was no longer able to even negotiate the stairs. After spending a month basically bed-bound, she passed away as the sun rose on October 6th. Over the past four weeks, I have attempted to come to terms with the loss of a close friend, who had let me into her life to a surprising extent. She had made me part of her family, allowed me to actively participate in her B&B business (welcoming guests, preparing rooms) and assist her with some private affairs. 

I have consistently said to her that I felt hugely privileged to have been able to help her. Latterly, she required care, which was given by a relative who was living with her. Nurses also called round on a more or less regular basis, and prescribed medication which helped to boost her quality of life for a number of weeks. 

Since 2005, we have travelled round the island on numerous occasions, by bus and by car, to enjoy its beauty and its people. The last trip was on my birthday, in August, when we were taken by one of her relatives to Laxdale and Newmarket, just north of Stornoway. 

On Thursday 8 October, 2020, we accompanied her to her final resting place in the Old Cemetery at Sandwick, a mile to the east. Her grave is not far from the seawall and not far from the sea. She always wanted to live near the sea, and her home was on the seafront in Stornoway. She brought up four sons, who gave her 11 grandchildren, now varying in ages from 5 to 35. Mrs B also had three great-grandchildren, the last one was born only a few weeks before her death. 

The year 2020 was difficult, as it precluded most visiting and forced her to close down the B&B. But she battled through to the end, even enjoying a new pair of spectacles just ten days before her death. She enjoyed life, right to the very end. 

I missing her, but will carry on. Can't do anything else.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Coronavirus in the Outer Hebrides

For some time, I have not posted about coronavirus. I am doing so now, because it has come close. I'm not worried for myself, but for our small, remote and vulnerable communities. Not just in South Uist and Eriskay, but right across our islands. It brings it into sharp focus that this is not over. Worldwide, one million people have now died of coronavirus, and there is no sign of this slowing down. A large degree of complacency has crept in, including here in the Outer Hebrides, and myself not excluded. We have to REFOCUS, and if necessary, accept another lockdown. 

Friday, 11 September 2020

9/11 - 19 years on

This tribute is published on the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, under the auspices of Project 2996.

Jeffrey Dwayne Collman

Image: Family photograph, via http://guy-at-judson.blogspot.com.

Source: Aurora Beacon News, Aurora IL 9-23-2001
Jeffrey Dwayne Collman, age 41, of Novato, California, formerly of Yorkville, IL, a flight attendant for American Airlines, died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Jeffrey was a 1977 graduate of Yorkville High School in Yorkville, IL. Jeff was formerly employed, for over 10 years, at All-Steel in Montgomery, IL. He had then worked, for a brief time, at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California before attaining his dream of being a flight attendant with American Airlines. Jeffrey loved his job and traveling to other countries around the world. He also loved to play and watch tennis. Jeff was a true people person who enjoyed visiting with and getting to know others. He became a flight attendant in 1997. Two years later, Jeff received the American Professional Flight Attendant Award and was considered a spirited and dedicated flight attendant. He liked to entertain children on his flights, and he was fond of playing tennis and traveling, friends said.

He is survived by his parents, Dwayne and Kay Collman of Yorkville, IL and Beverly Sutton of North Aurora, IL; his close companion, Keith Bradkowski of Novato, Ca; his brothers, Charles Collman of Fort Meyers, FL and Brian Collman of Las Vegas, NV; his sister, Brenda Sorenson of Aurora, IL; his step-brothers, Steve (Linda) Gengler of Yorkville, IL and Chuck (Lakshmi) Gengler of South Orange, NJ; his step-sister, Susan Bohan of California; a god-child, Marlene Wakelin; his half-sisters, Laura Kries of Brooklyn Park, MN, Caroline Sutton of Joliet, IL and Vickie Michel of Aurora, IL; several nieces and nephews, many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Jeffrey will also be missed by 100 other flight attendants.

He is preceded in death by his grandparents and his brother, Mark Allen Collman.
A memorial service was held on Monday, October 1, 2001 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Yorkville, IL with Pastor John Leaf officiating.

Father’s thoughts
Dwayne Collman's imagination gets the best of him when he thinks about the final minutes of his son's life on American Airlines Flight 11. He's filled with horror thinking about what the 41-year-old flight attendant from Yorkville went through as terrorists with knives steered the plane into the first World Trade Center tower. Collman knows his son received safety training in flight school, but he doubts it ever could have prepared him for the challenges he would face on the morning of Sept. 11. The grieving father is sure of one thing about his son, though, even if the details about his death are not certain:
"He would have fought like hell."

Jeffrey Collman, an American Airlines flight attendant for five years who grew up in Yorkville, died Tuesday morning when his hijacked plane, destined for Los Angeles, crashed into New York's famous landmark at 8:45 a.m. Though his body has not been recovered, his parents knew he was gone when he didn't call within a few hours after the tragedy. He had sent his stepmother, Kay, an e-mail the night before, telling her he would be flying from Boston to Los Angeles the next morning.

"I knew he was in that accident because every time there was something going on with airplanes, he would call and say, 'Hey, I'm all right,' " said Kay Collman. "So I knew that, when he didn't call, he was on that plane."

His parents [...] say Jeffrey Collman wanted to be a flight attendant because he loved to travel and meet people around the world. After working for years at Allsteel in Montgomery, he moved to California about five years ago to pursue that dream. Lifelong friend Dolores Humphrey, who went to school with Jeffrey Collman at all grade levels in Yorkville, said she feared he was killed when she heard the news because he often flew early-week flights from Boston to Los Angeles.
She said Collman never lost contact with his friends, even though his job took him around the world.

"Every time he got into town, he would call anyone he knew to meet for breakfast," said Humphrey, who last talked to Collman [5 days before 9/11]. "He would talk for a couple hours, then have to go fly somewhere else."

His stepmother said Jeffrey was the type of person who could "sit down next to someone on a plane and walk away knowing their life story." His father said Jeffrey loved tennis and flew around the world to watch professionals play. Kay Collman says her stepson never went anywhere meekly, and he loved his job so much that she's sure he didn't back down in the face of terror. "He took it seriously," she said, "and he would not have let anyone walk on him."

Humphrey said Jeffrey talked of flying even when he was a child, and his dream came true when American Airlines gave him a job. He was never afraid to fly, she said, always asserting that he was safer in the air than anyone on the ground. Collman's parents have begun to realize how their son died, and that he will always be remembered as a victim on one of the saddest days ever in the United States.

"It's completely different than just someone dying," Kay Collman said. "We'll have the pictures forever. We'll always see where he died. It's part of history."

Seattle Times, 17 September 2001
His partner, Keith Bradkowski, said Collman was courageous and safety-conscious. "He was so focused on safety," Bradkowski said. "If there was a threat, he would have done anything in his power to prevent it." He didn't normally work the Boston-to-Los Angeles route but made an exception to get vacation time at the end of the month. Collman grew up in Yorkville, Ill., and besides Bradkowski left behind four brothers and a sister. (Seattle Times)

Further information: the fate of Flight 11.

Blogger Nathanael V.  found out 5 years after 9/11, that Jeffrey Collman was a neighbour's grandson.


and as attributed above.

9/11 - 19 years on

When this post is published, it will be exactly nineteen years to the minute that the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center in New York. The events of what is now referred to as 9/11 are only too well known.

My thoughts are with all victims, whether identified afterwards, or not. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My thoughts are with the passengers and crew on the four flights destroyed. My thoughts are with the victims killed in the World Trade Center. My thoughts are with those emergency workers who lost their lives trying to save others'.

My thoughts today are with the families of those who perpetrated these atrocities, for they lost too.

But first and foremost, my thoughts are with Norberto Hernandez, whose tribute I first filed on Northern Trip, the predecessor to Atlantic Lines and A Cobbled Road, in 2006. The searches for Norberto on Google are contaminated with references to the Falling Man, who was in fact another victim, Jonathan Briley. This confusion has led to much anger and anguish, something the families of both men could do well without.

Norberto, rest in peace.

This entry, as stated above is dedicated to the memory of

Norberto was a pastry chef from Elmhurst, working in the restaurant Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. After the attacks, he was reported missing for a week until parts of a torso and an arm were found in a collapsed stairwell. DNA testing and finger printing reveiled that these were the remains of Norberto. It also invalidated claims that the image of the Falling Man was that of Norberto; this was another victim of 9/11 who will be the subject of a different tribute.

At the time of the attacks on the WTC, Norberto was aged 42 and had been married for 25 years. He was the fourth of ten children by his parents’ marriage, and also had six half-siblings through his father. His parents separated when he was young. Norberto himself had three daughters, three grandchildren and 37 nephews. He was a man of Puerto Rican origins, and had hoped to spend his final days there. Instead, after 9/11, a funeral service was held and his remains cremated in Puerto Rico.

His sister Luz described Norberto. “He was quiet, kind”, she said. “He was a handsome man. Everybody loved him, you know. Everybody.” Norberto’s nickname was Bible, as he was very dependable. Together Forever was his motto.

Norberto started work in Windows on the World at the age of 17, washing dishes. He was interested in cooking, so a manager paid for his tuition at cooking school. Norberto became pastry chef and worked up to 10 hours a day. His sister Luz said that he made cakes, desserts, cookies and bread. His cakes were fabulous.

Outside work, Norberto loved sports, and was a fan of a Puerto Rican boxer, Felix Trinidad Jr. Four days before the attacks, he rang his mother and asked her to play “I would cry but I have no more tears” four times.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane striking the North Tower, Norberto called his sister Luz. “He said: ‘Yeah, don’t worry, I’m OK”.They were disconnected, and when Luz tried to call back she could not get through. Other accounts from Windows on the World tell that smoke and dust filled the restaurant after the strike, and that people lay on the floor to escape the worst of it. Air was beginning to run out at the time of the last contact.

These are the facts that I have managed to pull together from the Internet.

From the little that I have learned of Norberto, he came through as a gentle giant. Although 6’2” (1.84m) tall, he was always listening, and talked later. His family suffered a double loss, as Claribel Hernandez (his sister-in-law), a secretary working elsewhere in the North Tower, was also killed in the attacks. Norberto was close in the family and responsible, which earned him the nickname Bible. He loved his work, and by the look of one of the images, loved to impart that knowledge to others around him.

September 11th, 2001, dawned as a brilliantly sunny morning in New York. Two planes were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center, leading to their collapse within 2 hours. The destruction of so many lives was brought about by mindless hatred and madness, fuelled by religious zealotry which was not based on any writing in any scriptures in any religion.

Norberto may have heard of that on news reports, but it was probably quite far from him. He was a man that lived for his family, always there for them. A diligent worker, putting in up to 10 hours a day, loving his creations from the oven. Travelling to the WTC on the Subway every morning, his thoughts were probably far from what was to happen not that much later on that fateful Tuesday.

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six are known to have died that day, or in its immediate aftermath. Norberto’s ashes were scattered in his homeland of Puerto Rico. His memory lives on in his family, and in the memory of those that read this. He is deeply missed by those close to him.

To Norberto Hernandez

Rest In Peace

This link is no longer operational

I have attempted to contact the University of Columbia to use the material in this link, but have not received a reply. As it is central to the tribute, I have used it, and acknowledge the writer, Sarah Clemence.


This is a poem by Barbara Phillips, from which I have used some factual references to Norberto. It refers to him being the Falling Man though.


I have been granted permission by UIM to reproduce the commemorative quilt for Norberto.

Link no longer operational
The poster, pictured above, proclaiming Norberto as missing after the attacks, hung on a walkway of Manhattan for more than a week

This is Norberto's inscription on the memorial at Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York.

Thursday, 20 August 2020


Over the past 30 years, I have taken an active interest in the issue of landownership and land use. This first emerged in my support for the Isle of Eigg buy-out, which came to fruition in 1997. Four years earlier, the Crofting Act was put on the statute book for Scotland. One aspect of this, which allows the landowner to veto developments proposed by their tenantry (section 50B in the Act), has been highlighted by the Court of Session (the highest court in Scotland) as needing to be repealed

 Back in 1883, Lord Napier of Ettrick headed up a six man commission who went round the crofting areas of Scotland to gather evidence on the conditions of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands. This resulted in the Crofting Act of 1886, which was the foundation stone to improve the lot of crofters. Security of tenure is an important aspect, but so is the right of a crofter (or his community, as in the case highlighted in the article linked above) to develop the land as he sees fit. The 1993 Crofting Act still allows the landowner a veto, which (to my mind) runs directly contrary to the spirit of the original 1886 Crofting Act.