ESIN

European Small Islands Federation

Archive for Eigg

French esprit and Scottish bravery

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Camille Dressler, chairperson of ESIN, lives on the small island of Eigg (30 km2, 80 residents). “I was living in France studying English, and my boyfriend’s mother found us this place on Eigg for a winter let so we came to spend the winter here to study, write and paint!”

The islanders took ownership of Eigg in 1997.  Looking back on her time as a director of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, she said “Before the buyout we were just surviving. After the buyout, we could look ahead and build a solid future. Ten years later, we have put together the first renewable energy system that integrated sun, wind and water and our young people are coming back. This just shows what can be done if you give power to the community.”

Camille is devoted to community empowerment and community energy, as well as heritage and the arts. She is studying energy arts such as qi gong and dao yin yoga, also writing and making arty crafty things. A Gaelic learner, she has established a small croft museum modelled on the Spinster House she visited in the island of Huksara, on one of the ESIN inter island trips to Finland.  She has also created a bilingual crofting trail to go with it. Her first project was a shoe-string presentation of the island’s history, geology and wildlife in the the island’s former shop, involving the island children in creating the artwork as part of the Eigg Primary school Green flags. Having spent much time recording the older inhabitants of Eigg,  she became the island historian, writing the tale of her island: “Eigg. The Story of an island” published in 1998, from which I quote: …”a new sort of Gall has come to the land of the Gaidheal. I am one of them”…

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As a Director she helped build the organisation that owns and runs the Isle of Eigg, experiencing at first hand the benefits of working in a co-operative way. She has seen the role that creative thinking and learning as a group can have in improving community dynamics.

Now, she is the chair of the Scottish Islands Federation, representing the Small Isles Community Council (the islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna) on its board. She was also elected as Chair of the European Small Islands Federation in September 2016 for which we are very happy.

You must be brave to live on such a small, remote island as Eigg, you must be brave to go all the way to Brussels with your propositions, and you need to be witty to overcome the people who disregard such propositions with the ever-prevalent buzzkill phrase, “it can’t be done.”

It can be done. We can do it. Camille and her fellow islanders proved it. On Saturday 21 January, they were marching in solidarity with the US women, the Eigg march being the second smallest in the world wide event!

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Greek TV covers the small islands of Europe

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Greek journalist Kostas Argyros, seconded by Eleni Korovila and a film team, has been island-hopping around Europe, covering some of its small islands. On Sunday evening, the Greek television program “28europe” showed his 45 minute long report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AVzC1LvOCw

Wow!

Such great contributions from islanders Bengt, Lefteris, Tarja, Camille, Christian, Denis, Laurids and Maria. Such beautiful portraits of Skaftö (though Bengt seems a bit mislocated), Prangli in Estonia, Eigg in Scotland, the Åland Islands, Houat and Ouessant in France, Sejerø in Denmark and Tilos in Greece. But not just beauty – Kostas catches some of the important issues regarding life on small islands.

I especially like the interviews with Tarja from Prangli and Maria from Tilos.

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All in all: a fantastic portrait of ESIN (the only thing missing is English subtitles).

Eigg buy-out anniversary

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Eigg is a small island in the Inner Hebrides. It stands out as a model for other islands in many ways and is the home of Camille Dressler, chair of the Scottish Island Federation, well known to all Esiners.

In 1975, Keith Schellenberg, a Yorkshire farmer and sportsman, bought Eigg for £265,000. Following a divorce there was a prolonged court case over the joint ownership which Mr Schellenberg lost in 1992. The island was put up for sale and Schellenberg rebought it for just under £1 million but as, by then, his relationship with the islanders had seriously deteriorated, he sold Eigg in 1995 for about £1.5 million to an elusive German artist who called himself ‘Maruma’.

After extravagant, unfulfilled promises by the new owner, and further acrimony on the island, the residents launched a public appeal for funds to purchase the island for themselves. Their aim was fulfilled on 12 June 1997 when Eigg was bought for £1.5 million from the true owner, a Hong Kong businessman, Hans Reiner Erdhart, by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (a partnership of Highland Council, the Scottish Wildlife Fund and the islanders’ own appeal fund).

They have a beautiful although not recently updated homepage at http://www.isleofeigg.net/visiting_eigg.html. We guess Camille, Eigg and all Eiggers will celebrate their Independence Day in style and wish them all a Happy Anniversary!