The Island and I

August 15, 2010

The Island and I
by Joe Haydon, August 2010

Everyone comes to Holy Isle for a reason. I came for the first time last year to find the space I needed to confront the turmoil in my life. I stayed for a week. I worked half days and slept in a dorm to knock the price down a little – I was not a rich man. In fact – at twenty one I was barely a man. Holy Isle almost immediately felt like home. I worked in the beautiful gardens, I swept and mopped floors, and I worked in the kitchen with Rob – one of the outstanding cooks and a fellow Geordie. In the afternoons I spent my time soaking up the island’s breath-taking scenery and plundering the library’s books. All this was very rewarding and I found the peace and space that I was after. I left to confront the issues I had waiting for me, vowing to return.

I now find myself sitting in the Holy Island Peace Hall looking back over this year’s visit. On my arrival a week and a half ago I felt like I was returning home. I am here not to work this time but to take part in a course. That course is Qigong, and Meditation led by Sue Weston, learning the Wild Goose Qigong form, of which there are 64 moves. It was soon clear that with Qigong – which runs far deeper into the practitioner’s inner being than I had ever imagined – and the guided meditations, coupled with the island’s palpable natural and spiritual power, this was going to be an incredible week.

Practising out in front of the Centre

For the first few days I and many others found the Wild Goose form difficult. There is a lot to think about, after all. Throughout all of this I must highlight Sue’s gentle guidance and expert teaching. At no point did anyone feel excluded. All questions, however abstract or personal, were welcome and answered very clearly. Soon things began to slot into place. I began to feel the gentle nature of the form come alive and tried to help those who were having difficulty, something which I found immensely rewarding. The course ended with a demonstration for the volunteers led by Sue and – to my surprise – me. It went wonderfully well. This was followed by a ceilidh which was a riot and hugely enjoyable.

The next morning a slight air of sadness hung over breakfast. Bags were packed and at noon the boat arrived to take the first group from the island. Tears were shed all round at the parting of what we now hold to be lifelong friends.

Staying on the island as a volunteer for a few more days I had to bid all but Sue and two others a safe journey. The people I watched leaving the island were not the people who arrived the week previously. They leave walking taller, smiling broader, and above all wiser and happier than the people they were. Bringing the inherent lightness of spirit that Holy Isle instils to the wider world.

After my three extra days of Holy Isle, I think of my imminent departure tomorrow. Like the others I leave a different person: taller, happier and wiser than before. But again, I leave a place that I have grown close to very quickly. I will leave a place that feels like home, vowing to return.


July brings rain and the fruits of labour.

August 15, 2010

July saw some welcome rain to alleviate the dry spell. The west coast of Scotland was reported to be suffering rare drought conditions following a long dry winter. Here on the island, after what seemed like months of beautiful dry and sunny weather, but with chill northerly winds, the grass had turned yellow, the plants were wilting and the pond on the hillside had dried up completely and was being used by the ponies as a dust bath. Our water supply was struggling to cope with the many guests as well as the extra watering demand from the gardens.

There was a certain collective sigh when the rain arrived. The grass soon became lush and green again and the gardens got a second wind and bloomed into colour and fragrance. Soon we were enjoying home grown blackberries and strawberries from the orchard and peas, beans, and tomatoes out of the new poly-tunnel constructed during the Spring Volunteers Week back in March.

At the end of June and into July, the ponies started to give birth and we have ended up with a total of five foals this year. Two of them are part of the main group of fourteen ponies that are often to be seen grazing around the Centre. At first, they were quite comical, unsteady on their feet like they were wearing shoes too big, but they have since grown, weaned from their mothers and have become accepted as part of the group. Their baby coats are growing out and they spend a lot of time grooming and bonding with each other.

New Holy Isle foal 2010

New Holy Isle foal with mum 2010

Having a good roll in the dirt!

Ohhh that's good...!


Summer Solstice 21st June 2010

June 21, 2010

Sunrise from the Holy Isle Plateau

Sunrise on the longest day of the year, from the Plateau

What is a Solstice?

A solstice  is a bi-annual astronomical phenomenon!  It happens when the Earths axis is tilted either most towards or away from the Sun, causing the Sun’s apparent position in the sky to reach its northmost or southernmost extreme point.  The solstices together with the equinoxes are connected with the seasons.  In some cultures they mark the beginning or the separation of the seasons, while in other cultures they fall closer to mid season.

Posted by June


April 10, 2010

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle. Image by: Watson - NPS Photo Source:www.weforanimals.com

A most welcome  contribution from The Obsessive Birder, David Hawker.

Over the past 15 years I’ve recorded various birds of prey on the island, from the frequently seen kestrel, the occasional peregrine, buzzard and sparrowhawk to single records of osprey and hen harrier.  However, the tree planting season at the end of March provided a surprise visitor.  Because the gulls on the south east side of the island were making such an unusual clamour, I glanced up to see a large bird of prey, assuming at first glance a buzzard.  But when a tiny (by comparison) kestrel and three greylag geese appeared beside it, the significance of its huge size and the ends of the wings like fingers dawned.  It was a golden eagle soaring over Mullach Mhor.  It was there for a minute or two circling higher and higher, and seen by all 8 tree-planters, before disappearing over the hill.  However, it re-appeared a few minutes later and then sailed majestically south west towards Whiting Bay and back to Arran, presumably from where it had originally appeared.

Not much chance of it breeding on the island – there’s too little prey for it and it wouldn’t tolerate the island’s many visitors.  But still, a sight to send the spirits like the eagle soaring.

PS   34 species recorded over the 9 days on the island in poor and wintry weather.

Posted by June


Poetry By Angus Ogilvy

April 1, 2010

Angus Ogilvy visited us recently on Holy Isle and has kindly allowed us to re-print one of his original poems, “On The Island”. Angus originally framed his poem whilst visiting last May and completed it in November 2009.

On The Island
by Angus Ogilvy

Held with me 
between the shock and the wonder,
an oystercatcher strutting
with his hands behind his back
voicing his concerns,
blowing his vexations
through a child’s first piccolo,
charging with a his carrot of alarm.

I watch him conjure
nightmares in the evolutions
of his three stone eggs
to shrivel seaweeds on the shingle bank
that he might dupe a passing crow.

Endless activity and frustration:
always the invention of another thing
to do, another fear, a found distraction,
lest a lurking nothingness confront existence,
reveal itself as certain as a cliff.

Better to be
with the dullness of ignorance
sheltered in conformities of stone.

Better to be
scurrying the greywackes, an anti-hero
screaming decoy presence as a charm.

Caught between the shock
and the wonder,
between the sea and its arc of emptiness,
wind decides the attitude of water,
wipes its moods across a passive sky;
brushes with the linger of a whisper
something that I ache to hear,
but cannot hold,
and ponder why.

©Angus D.H. Ogilvy   November 2009


Poetry by Paul McCarron

March 28, 2010

During our Earth Hour celebrations yesterday, we invited people to bring along poems and jokes. As a budding poet, Paul McCarron brought along several poems; a couple he has kindly allowed us to share with you here.

by Paul McCarron

All that glitters is not always gold
All you hear is not always what it seems
All you see is not always what it appears
White is not always pure as it fades to black
In the hall of mirrors images are forever changing
In the cold dark night the shapes abound
In the cavern deep the sounds rebound
What you see is not me but only Illusion

An Ordinary Man
by Paul McCarron

If I had the courage of the boy David
then what I feel I could say
but I am only an ordinary man

If I had the wisdom of King Solomon
I would solve all your worries in a day
but I am only an ordinary man

If I had the strength of Samson
no harm would ever come your way
but I am only an ordinary man

If I had the patience of Jobe
I would wait forever and a day
but I am only an ordinary man

Wealth and splendour I cannot give
for I am only an ordinary man

But there is one thing I can willingly give
the Love of an ordinary man

 Posted by: Soen


Spring Volunteer Working Holiday

March 28, 2010

Home. That is what returning to Holy Isle feels like for many people, especially so during the Spring Volunteer Working Holiday.

As I’m sat here in the dining room, I am surrounded by Spring-like fervour, as the residents and volunteers scrub, plant, clean and launder their way into the new season, and with a quiet yet pervasive mindfulness, respect and tranquility which seems to seep its way into every soul that visits the island.

This year promises to be another busy year – several courses are fully booked, and the island will again be welcoming new and not-so-new visitors to its shores.

Today, the sun is shining after the wind and rain yesterday, which put a bit of a damper on the tree-planting and prevented the new poly tunnel from being erected – But spirits were not dampened by this; peoples’ flustered red faces laughing about the conditions of their first albeit wet day of work as they returned.

Everywhere you go today on the island, there are smiling faces to be found as people get stuck wholeheartedly into their chosen tasks – And there truly is something for everyone either as part of a practice or simply as a welcome break from their busy lives.

Yesterday evening, we participated in Earth Hour for the second year running; extinguishing our lights for 60 minutes as a sign of respect and solidarity for the earth; and to highlight our continued dependance on it’s natural resources, especially at a time as we strive on the island for it to become a model for self-sufficiency.

Earth Hour was a huge success both this and last year; proving that you don’t always need electricity for entertainment; but instead a comfortable settee, a hot drink and to be surrounded by friends and like minded individuals. This year’s Earth Hour took place in the freshly-reopened Boat House, with a joyeous mixed bag of poetry, jokes and a hearty sing along with music provided by the wonderful David and Alice.

The Peace Blanket for the Wisdom wing stairwell is nearing completion – It has taken almost two years to complete, with many intricate designs and patterns being woven by individuals in little squares which are now ready to be mindfully stiched together to create a beautiful piece of artwork; helping reflect not only the individuals’ creativity, but that they are part of a thriving community here on the island.

Posted by: Soen

Kevins Curtis Photo Gallery

Team Work




"If it wizny fir yer wheel barras where wid ye be!"

.....and time to relax

Big thank you to Kevin Curtis for his professional eye on these photos.

Posted by June in June!