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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
Eigg marks five years of independence
Eigg
The island is home to a 70-strong community

Residents of the Scottish island of Eigg have begun celebrating the fifth year of their land-owing revolution.

Those living in the 70-strong Hebridean community say that the spirit and will which was so strong half a decade ago remains strong today.

Residents of the island - which is located 10 miles off the Scottish mainland, near the fishing port of Mallaig - began a concerted campaign for autonomy in the early 1990s.

They were riled first by owner Keith Schellenberg and then by the absent eccentricity of German artist-proprietor Maruma.

Kildonnan Cross
Events are taking place to mark the anniversary
Their efforts led to a pioneering buy-out by the community, which went ahead in 1997.

Islanders then began work to restore the fortunes of Eigg after many years of neglect.

"It's hard to remember now, just how bad things were," said the island's wildlife warden John Chester, who has made his home on the island since 1986.

"Getting something done has only been possible since the buy-out.

"We had conservation plans but without the consent of the landlord nothing could go forward."

Fight back

That sense of frustration with landlords was common amongst islanders at the time according to Maggie Fyffe, secretary of the island's Heritage Trust.

She said it was a struggle to fight back.

"There was no support. All the work done then, and it was a huge amount of work, was done on a voluntary basis," she recalled.


We don't always agree about things, but we can work it through and hopefully come up with the right decision

Maggie Fyffe
Since the buyout the islanders have repaired their homes, built a tea shop and accommodation for visitors and are even developing their own hydro-electric scheme.

Maggie Fyffe said that was all down to a fantastic sense of community.

"We don't always agree about things, but we can work it through and hopefully come up with the right decision," she said.

She pointed out that a number of full-time jobs had been created, including six in a forestry project.

And while it remained a challenge to keep going, she was still cheerful about the island's prospects.

Islander John Chester said that getting things right would be essential for the long-term prosperity of Eigg.

Island bird
Eigg is located 10 miles off the Scottish mainland
He agreed that the economy had perked up since the landlords left.

"Hopefully it will continue as it is but I don't think anyone can be sure about West Highland economics these days, and obviously Eigg is reliant on such things as tourism," he said.

Islanders are now hoping for a good turnout of tourists and friends of the island for the open day which will celebrate the achievements of the last five years.

The events planned for Wednesday - the anniversary of the deal - include tours of the renovation projects, an exhibition of photographs of island history and a visit to its famous 'singing sands'.

The week's celebrations will culminate with a wild Saturday night ceilidh.

See also:

16 Apr 02 | Scotland
04 Jan 02 | Scotland
30 Oct 01 | Scotland
19 May 99 | UK
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