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After 30 or more years sailing straight past this tiny misshapen island I finally first anchored there one sunny early spring day. It is certainly fascinating — and thought provoking — to wander around the ruined workers' cottages and the flooded quarries in the middle from which the slate roofs of so many Scottish homes came (one cottage seems to be being restored, a bit of a surprise). There are even well-made stone walls to keep the sea out of the quarries. It is difficult to imagine that 150 people once lived here, there was a school and even a shop. Or how they lived and how they sustained themselves, maybe the Christian religion with the hope of better things after death did the trick. Apparently there was not even a reliable source of water, only an artesian well. On occasion water had to be brought over from Lunga, Luing or Eilean Dubh. The working, and living, conditions must have been terrible. No more slate mining now of course, it all vanished from here after the first world war, as did the local population. Instead of wearing out the young slate miners in Scotland we are probably doing much the same to the even younger slate miners in China. Off the slate beach on the east side you will find the very best skimming stones in Scotland. And definitely walk to the top of the hill for the all-round panoramic view, and of the tide swishing boats through the Sound of Luing.
In 1936 a Latvian ship heading from Liverpool to Blythe to pick up coal to take to Riga was wrecked here in a storm, the Helena Faulbaums. Her SOS message was picked up in Northern Ireland but as the telephone lines had been blown down the BBC was asked to broadcast a message for the Islay lifeboat over the radio. Four survivors were eventually found by the lifeboat on the by-then uninhabited island, and later 15 bodies were washed up on Luing. Rather poignantly, a personal connection is still kept up between Luing and Latvia.
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Looking east over the abandoned quarries towards Luing and Fladda from the summit of the island