Photo by Jamie-James Medina. Click here for footage of us landing on the beach. It was like an Indiana Jones film.
Unless you want to travel by a ferry which often sails through scenes not unlike the opening 30 minutes of The Day After Tomorrow, the only way to get to Barra Island is by a small propeller plane chartered by British Airways.
Trouble is, British Airways and the government are thinking about stopping the plane as the one they’ve got is past its sell-by-date and the runway that they have (which is the beach) isn’t up to new EU rules. The problem is raising the money to build a new plane and a new runway. If you combined the monthly rent and salaries of the Amnesty International offices in East London who campaign to help political prisoners in countries nobody’s ever heard of, then it’d be around that.
The plane brings in the daily papers, the post and tourists to the island. Tourism is the island’s second biggest source of income after fishing so if they cancelled the plane that’d be the end of that. It’d also affect the working lives of the men who live on Barra and who spend most of their working lives away at sea working on rigs.
A young man who works at sea called Ian Ruairidh told us: “We feel very strongly about talking about cancelling the plane because it would affect everybody’s life so much. We depend on it a lot.
The post comes on the plane. There’s a lot of people on this island, a lot of whom work at sea on boats and oil rigs and if they cancel the plane it wouldn’t be any good to anybody.
They’re talking about doing a new runway and the runway they’re talking about doing there’s cross winds so they’re talking about it not being able to land. The beach they can land anywhere.
It’d be like cutting off the island from the rest of the world.
Last year, one week the weather was really bad but the plane came in every single day. Because the seas were so rough, not one ferry could make it over. There was a story recently where a ferry was tossed and turned so much by the sea that the cars that were in it were being crashed into each other, their windows being smashed and that. The wind was like 40 to 60 knots so the boats couldn’t get here at all. That’s how badly we depend on the plane.
I think the plane started here over 40 years ago. They started it because it used to take people from Glasgow two days to get to Barra. They decided themselves they should run a plane to Barra because there’d be some money out of it. That worked. It’s even got more popular over the days. Next year during June and July the plane brings all the tourists in and that’s one of the island’s main financial incomes. If they cancel it then all that won’t happen and we’ll be even more cut off from the mainland and from any real money. It’s frightening.”