Unhappy Easdale Island owner threatens holding of imminent World Stone Skimming Championships

(Updated below) Just as the Slate Island of Easdale is gearing up for its annual and serendipitous World Stone Skimming Championships and following lively publicity for it in a major piece in The Herald magazine yesterday (Saturday 15th September), there seems to be bad news in an open letter to islanders from the island’s owner, Jonathan Feigenbaum.

An island website, Easdale People,  which can be fairly described as characterised by its opposition to what it sees as the undemocratic Eilean Eisdeal Community Trust which runs the imaginative annual contest, has just published this Feigenbaum letter to islanders, at its authors request.

The tenour of the letter suggests that the event may or will not now take place as planned on 23rd September.

The letter makes explicit the owner’s contact with the Chair of the Eilean Eisdeal Community Trust back in April 2012, raising, in good time, issues of concern over the event from the holding company for the property of the island, Easdale Island Company Limited.

It identified the major concern as being whether or not the Public Liability Insurance for the event was adequate to protect the interests of all concerned, including the holding company owning the land used for the championships.

It says that no response was received until, as recently as 6th September, its solicitors got a letter from the Trust’s Chair, simply claiming that the event is ‘fully insured’ and that the “document is not public, and we decline to exhibit it to Mr Feigenbaum’.

The company also apparently asked for a nominal fee in respect of the usage of its land for the event, making it clear that this would be put to the good of the island; and alternatively offered to lease the land in question to the Trust to secure the event into the future.

Mr Feigelbaum alleges that in the letter to the company’s solicitors, the Trust’s Chair ‘refused’ the request for a nominal fee and ignored the offer of leasing the land.

He says that consequently he has informed the Trust that it does not have the owner’s permission for the event and that if it is held regardless of this, court proceedings will be initiated.

Nothing to do with Easdale is straightforward and little is separable from the ongoing and deep division in the island community about which we have published carefully and quite exhaustively.

We are asking the owner to tell us what was the amount of the nominal fee the holding company for the island had requested in respect of the use of its land for the event; and what was the specific deal suggested to the Trust to lease the land in question.

The Herald Magazine’s article yesterday quoted £6,500 as the revenue generated by last years championships – from entrance fees, merchandising, food and drink. What sums were suggested by the owner in the matters noted above would have to be read against this as an indicative annual earning.

The Trust says in the Herald piece that all revenue goes back into the community to fund its art programme and to run the hall. Easdale Island’s arts – and particularly music  – programme is unarguably wonderful. Given the tiny population of the island and its neighbours that is reflected in the small audiences accommodated in the lovely Easdale  Hall – a Trust project recognised even by the Trust’s opponents as hugely successful – this sort of funding from the stone skimming event would plausibly be needed to subsidise such a programme.

It may well be that the Chair of the Trust saw the letter from the island’s owner as somehow part of the ongoing community confrontation and that this may account for the desultory and dismissive response to the communication.

If this is the case it is foolish because an owner has legal rights that must be recognised and respected in a way it seems, on the surface, that the Trust has not.

We are asking the Trust for its position on these events and we profoundly hope that a glorious and imaginative event bringing a spectrum of positive benefits to the island, does not become a casualty of a community too often ready for self-mutilation.

Immediate update – 01.55 17th September: The email we have just sent to the holding company’s email address quoted in the letter for Easdale People to publish does not work. we had emailed the questions noted in the body of the article above and the email came back as undeliverable because of address errors. We would be grateful for information on alternative means of contacting this company or Mr Feigenbaum.

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17 Responses to Unhappy Easdale Island owner threatens holding of imminent World Stone Skimming Championships

  1. I believe that Mr. Feigenbaum would use the income gained from the stone skimming event for ‘the good of the island’. He is a strong supporter of sustainable activities on the island, such as the use of the old walled gardens by residents as allotments.

    The £6,500 income from the event may be used to run the hall and arts programme but how does this help islanders? Very few attend the events – they attract a much wider audience from Argyll and further afield – and the hall is used for little else. The community ‘trust’ seems to be good at making money but what does it do with it? What benefits do islanders receive? As far as I’m aware, Eilean Eisdeal directors have not discussed securing the use of the allotments with Mr. Feigenbaum. Instead, during his chairmanship of the charity, Donald Melville, who is still a director, wrote a letter stating that the allotment area should be used for housing. Instead of helping islanders who used the land, it appeared to support the wishes of the local builder and his broth-in-law (now MSP) Mike Mackenzie.

    In his letter on the Easdale People website, Mr. Feigenbaum refers to ‘the various businesses that gain from the event’. This would include The Puffer Bar owned by Keren Cafferty, the current chair of the community trust. It seems she has a vested interest to ensure the event goes ahead but do the residents feel the same? How will they benefit?

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    • Lowry asks how the islanders might benefit from the £6,500 income from the stone skimming event. Perhaps it may be required to pay the legal fees arising from the apparent differences of opinion between the community trust directors and the landowner. In which case, who will benefit then?

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  2. Karen Cafferty would appear to be able to contact Mr. Feigenbaum either via snail or e-mail. Having read the Herald article yesterday it appears that the championships attract world-wide interest and it would be a pity if it were not able to be held.

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  3. In my experience, Mr Feigenbaum is easily contacted, responds speedily but, more importantly, supports islanders.
    Organisers of the event must provide evidence that all health and safety issues, along with insurance, are covered and that any contract with the landowner is dealt with. Instead, it seems that the charity directors have the same attitude towards Mr. Feigenbaum as they do to islanders – i.e. ignore them and eventually they will go away.

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  4. 1. The website Easdale People to which you refer is the Easdale Island community website.
    2. The registered company name for Eilean Eisdeal is just “Eilean Eisdeal”. OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator has instructed Eilean Eisdeal to stop using the word trust as it is not part of their title and gives a false impression. Ditto the word community.
    3.The British call it ‘stone skimming’, the Americans call it ‘stone skipping’, the Irish call it ‘stone skiffing’ and the French call it ‘ricochet’. In fact most countries have their own terminology for this ancient game. Confusingly the English also refer to it as ‘Ducks and Drakes’.
    The Guinness World Stone Skipping Record was 38 skips, established by Jerdone, in 1994 in Texas on the Blanco River near Wimberley.
    The official world championships have been held by NASSA since 1989. It was NASSA who were instrumental, in first, defining what is a ‘skip’, and secondly, at the request of Guinness, suggesting verification guidelines. The I.S.S.F., the International Stone Skipping Federation, (NASSA’s ‘parent’), is the Official Guinness Adjudicator for stone skipping records. As far as I am aware Eilean Eisdeal has not applied for membership of the I.S.S.F. and therefore their ‘event’ must be deemed unofficial.

    Additionally, it would now appear that Eilean Eisdeal do not have the land owner’s permission to stage their ‘event’, Eilean Eisdeal may not have adequate insurance coverage and the event is not adequately policed.

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  5. Mr Feiganbaum’s letter seems eminently reasonable. He quite obviously has the interests of the island and it’s residents foremost in his mind, and has stated that any revenue he might receive from the use of his land would be used generally to improve Easdale Island, to the benefit of both residents and visitors. This is in stark contrast to the intransigent and arrogant response he has apparantly received from Eileen Eisdeal directors and their Chair Keren Cafferty, who seem hell bent on ignoring the land owner and making as much money as they can from the use of his land.

    The stone skimming championship being a prime example, Keren Cafferty the Chair of Eileen Eisdeal has apparantly audaciously refused to disclose evidence of any insurance for the event to the island owner, or any one else for that matter. Why is it a secret Keren? But then any question always seems to attract the same answer. Eileen Eisdeal’s claim to put money back in the community is a joke, unless it is a grant from the public purse, ask any islander as long as their name is not Mackenzie or Melville.

    The hall which E,E use as a hub for fund raising and charges handsomely for entry to one and all for any events it chooses to put on is locked on a daily basis and therefore excludes both residents and visitors from entry. Some Community Hall EH!!!!! The monies accrured from the music hall are swelled with monies from what used to be called “The Regatta” but is now renamed “Atlantic Fun Day” the change of name seems to have coincided with a new policy of non disclosure of how much the event made.Presumably it makes it more difficult for people to estimate how much money they have aquired for their coffers!
    Now lastly but not least E,E, make around £5,000 from the Stone Skimming possibly excluding the bar takings, quite a lot. But the Community would be hard pressed to identify any benefit whatsoever for Easdale Island, it’s residents or the Community in general. How is this acummulated money spent? Some think it is spent on Q.Cs, others think it is spent on Architects and still more think it is spent on Planning advisors.
    But Islanders are concened, just what is it spent on?????

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  6. Pingback: Argyll News: Easdale World Stone Skimming Championships: landowner’s response | For Argyll

  7. Obanites are sick to death of hearing about this infighting on Easdale. It’s an utter disgrace. And now we are in the national news again with a negative report. Well done Donald Melville on putting across a completely innacurate account on the radio this morning. Did no one think to ask the landowner for comment? They would do well to take care that the national press don’t decide to dig deeper into what really ails the island of Easdale. What a shame such a lovely place has been ruined for so many by so few.

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  8. Newsroom,
    Have Eilean Eisdeal deemed to respond to your request for an explanation for their extraordinary actions in this matter or are they adopting their usual stance of keeping quite and hoping the issue will go away?

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    • Surely now it’s second news story on the Scottish BBC they can’t ignore it Maurice? I know they’re brazen but come on……I just wish some decent investigative journalist would dig a bit deeper about the whole thing and find out what’s really going on over there in the name of “all” the islanders. Always wanted to live on Easdale when I was younger. You couldn’t pay me to now.

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  9. BBC Scotland tele/text states at this moment that the organiser has told them that the event will go ahead as planned, and that the dispute was caused by the landowner wanting to charge a land use fee for the first time in 15 years. Not what I read in the very polite and clear E-Mail sent from the owner to the people of this troubled island!.Is it true that Bear Grylls and Ranulph Fiennes were talking about a joint expedition to Easdale island but Bear said he didn’t feel fully equipped and Sir Ranulph decided to walk to the South pole instead :)

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    • Well done the daily record, what idiot chose that photograph to accompany a one sided ill informed biased article lambasting a landlord for showing concern over public lability insurance covering an obviously very precarious event (for spectators, participants et al) on his land at his quarry. Did the reporter or event organiser read the E-mail and who told the organiser that she didn’t have to show the landlord the insurance papers? and why didn’t she, out of common courtesy, show them anyway? something to hide or nothing to show? Why did she, the organiser not show or mention them when interviewed on BBC TV this evening as they seem to be the crux of this matter, but instead tried to discredit the land lord as one who hasn’t spent a penny on the island (unfortunate term for a pub landlady to use?)and painted a much darker picture of him than one would imagine from his E-mail and other posts on here. P.S. in my three score plus a few years in this area we went Skiffing and Skiffed with Skiffers

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  10. Now you have really touched on a sore point. Apologies for going slightly off topic, but there are no public loos on Easdale Island, so folk either resort to using the outdoors or find themselves having to go into the Puffer Bar. When the hall was originally opened Eilean Eisdeal declared that it would be open for the toilets to be used but that has never been the case. Folk can only use the hall loos when it’s open for events – not very often.

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  11. Bit of a hatchet job by BBC Scotland; interview two people about the issue who both think the same thing. Does the owner not deserve the right to reply? No mention of his public statement either. 0/10 BBC.

    The landlady of the pub deserves an award for brassneck; appearing on the telly criticising the landowner for having the temerity to want a (modest and below market rate)return on his investment, while her bar will be doing a roaring trade! Will she be spending that profit for the benefit of the populace?

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