The Western Isles, also known as the Outer Hebrides or the Long Island, is actually a chain of islands running for over 100 miles off the North West coast of Scotland. the winter months see extreme weather fronts and long dark days, whilst the summertime days enjoy many hours of sunlight.
The islands are home to over 200 shellfish trawlers and creel boats. They are also the setting for the Fishermen’s Mission’s work in the Western Isles and the home of Superintendent William Macleod. From his Stornoway Welfare office, William regularly travels a network of ferries, causeways and winding single and double track roads, covering the length and breadth of the islands supporting its fishing community.
William describes the Fishermen’s Mission Outreach work:
“Letting the community know we are there to support them in any way we can is key to our work. This involves regular visits to the seventeen main harbours throughout the islands, talking with fishermen, getting to know the retired fishing community, supporting widows and children, forming relationships with key players and working alongside organisations with similar or supporting goals.
As a direct result of our efforts, we have come across folk needing help with debt management problems, poor housing conditions, fuel poverty and those needing help to navigate the benefits system.
In the past year, we’ve purchased a bed for an injured fisherman who spent the last couple of years sleeping on the floor because he couldn’t afford to buy one, secured grants to make a sick fisherman’s home wind and watertight and assisted an elderly couple on a low income to secure regular financial support”
With the unpredictable weather and transport complexities, William relies on a network of volunteer agents, dotted around the islands should something urgent arise. Local businesses support the work through our ‘Albert’ collection boxes and MacDuff Shellfish have chosen the Fishermen’s Mission as their charity of the year. Planning community fundraising events are vital as William explains:
“Through outreach, we hope to form a closer bond and lasting relationship with our fishing communities in the Western Isles. We want them to know we are there for them should they ever need us. After all, the Fishermen’s Mission is supported by those who love our fishing communities and whose deepest desires are to see our fishermen and their families are taken care of.”