A look back at 2020 – January to June

Robert MacKay of West Coast Motors was behind the spectacular Convoy for Carers, supported by many Argyll firms

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Cheryl with her beloved Barbie, none the worse for her dook during Storm Brendan.


Storm Brendan battered the region, sparking a near-tragedy when a pet greyhound was blown into the Crinan Canal on January 13. Owners Cheryl and Laurie Ratcliffe-Nye managed to get hold of Barbie’s collar and haul the six-stone pooch to safety, quickly taking her home to warm up. Thankfully Barbie was none the worse of her ordeal.

There was sadness in January when Argyll lost a big personality. Donald Clark, proprietor of the George Hotel in Inveraray, passed away peacefully on January 19.

On a happier note, Fiona Kalache, manager of Mid Argyll Youth Development Services, received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

Hairdresser Lilia Sinclair was on hand to help Tina Holloway brave the shave.

Campaigners were fighting to keep open Knapdale dementia ward in Mid Argyll Hospital (more on this later),

A lorry overturned near Furnace, spilling more than 100 barrels of the water of life across the A83. The road was blocked for nine hours, during which time stranded motorists were treated to fantastic Furnace hospitality, including tea, biscuits and shelter in the village hall.

And crowds gathered at Lochgilphead Co-op to watch Lilia Sinclair shave off the bright red locks of brave staff member Tina Holloway, while the store joker Paul Foster endured a whole afternoon of silence. The pair raised in excess of £1,650 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

Campaigners ignore horrible weather to campaign for the retention of Knapdale dementia ward as part of changes to dementia care. 51_a05KnapdaleWardProtest01

The arrival of coronavirus in Scotland was confirmed on March 4.

By March 23, Scotland was in ‘lockdown’, leading to the cancellation of social events across Mid Argyll. As we came to terms with the harsh realities of the ‘new normal’, volunteers around the region rallied round to help vulnerable people, with support groups in every town and village.

Elsewhere the body overseeing health and social care, Argyll and Bute Integration Joint Board, rubber-stamped a decision by health managers to close Knapdale in-patient dementia ward, with patients later transferred to the Fyne View facility in Lochgilphead. Fyne View itself was closed in November and the patients moved to ‘suitable accommodation elsewhere’.

Knapdale ward was set aside for potential use as a Covid-19 ward.

The Health and Social Care Partnership said: ‘Our Dementia Services Redesign Group has been continuing to develop community specialist dementia care to allow many more people living with the condition to be supported to live longer in their own homes and communities across Argyll and Bute.’

Staff at Mid Argyll Hospital were delighted with their colourful scrubs from ‘Let’s Get Scrubbing for our Mid Argyll NHS’ volunteers.

By April, residents, businesses and charities were adapting to lockdown life.

Lochgilphead firm Midton showed initiative, turning its attention to producing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face visors and protective screens.

A volunter group set up by Nikki Thompson of Ardrishaig began to produce face masks and scrubs (protective clothing).

Called ‘Let’s Get Scrubbing for our Mid Argyll NHS’, a small army of volunteer stitchers from Cairndow to Ardfern manufactured enough kit to supply packages beyond Mid Argyll and also delivered to hospitals in Kintyre, Paisley Glasgow – and even reached a care home in Wick. Many local firms helped, including Premier Laundry and MacLeod Construction, with West Coast Motors leading the delivery arrangements.

Balfour Beatty workers on the SSEN Inveraray-Crossaig pylon upgrade scheme were the focus of controversy after complaints were made about them travelling home around the UK when off shift before returning to Mid Argyll and reportedly failing to socially distance when mixing with the community. The company insisted it was abiding by government guidelines, but agreed to set up on-site catering and worker camps.

Robert MacKay of West Coast Motors was behind the spectacular Convoy for Carers, supported by many Argyll firms.


A new way of paying tribute to the NHS staff, carers and key workers was taken up in style in Mid Argyll. The idea of Clap for Carers was to stand at a window, doorstep or balcony at your own home each Thursday at 8pm and just make a noise, whether through clapping, cheering, banging pots and pans or playing a musical instrument. It also served to bring people closer together in a strange time.

But when Robert MacKay heard about it, he decided to go a step further to show appreciation. Employed by West Coast Motors, he roped in his own buses and managed to get support from other firms to create an impressive 40-vehicle ‘Convoy for Carers’ around Lochgilphead and Ardrishaig.

Coronavirus restrictions meant that planned street parties could not be held, but tributes were paid across the region to remember the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day, which marked the end of the Second World War in Europe.

In a staff survey commissioned by NHS Highland, 68 per cent of respondents said they had experienced bullying and harassment at work. Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership has since been working to improve matters, but the issue rumbles on.

Rising star filmmaker Joe Osborn.

Budding filmmaker Joe Osborn from Carsaig spent lockdown working on a short film, shot using friends and family around his home and titled ‘Alien Bars and Flying Cars’. Joe described it as ‘a western space opera’. Google it. You won’t regret it.

Shock and sadness at the sad and sudden passing of Lochgilphead postmaster Findlay Campbell were felt by the whole community. Though Tarbert Post Office has done a sterling job with its mobile service, the town still awaits a replacement post office.

The trifling matter of a global pandemic failed to stop both Tarbert Academy and Lochgilphead High School from recognising the achievements of their pupils. No public ceremonies were held, but that did not diminish pupils’ achievements in what ended up as a disrupted 2019/20 school year.