Faith, Hope and Charity burl wildly in the relentless west coast wind, their long arms spinning around at such a rate that when it gets too gusty, they simply have to be calmed down.

“They’re 30 years old now,” explains Andy Clements. “We have to treat them like old ladies.

“When the wind gets up to 55mph, it’s too fast and they could go into over-speed which could cause damage.

“We have to be gentle with them.”

For every person who finds the hypnotic spinning of a wind turbine’s blades soothing to watch, is another who sees a blot on the landscape, particularly when they sprout from the unspoiled scenery of an Inner Hebridean island.

Yet on the Isle of Gigha, three second-hand Vestas V27 turbines brought north from Cumbria in 2004 to form the first community-owned grid connected windfarm in Scotland and dubbed the Dancing Ladies, are a source of remarkable pride.

Bought following the £4 million community buyout of the island, locals nicknamed them Faith, Hope and Charity – appropriate, as they found themselves handling their fair share of angst, disagreement and a lot of fundraising as they frantically tried to pay back a large chunk of debt.

Eventually, perhaps to everyone’s surprise, the Dancing Ladies would emerge as leading characters in a sometimes painful but ultimately successful island rebirth.

For despite their visual impact and the bittersweet fact the electricity they generate flows straight to the National Grid - earning the community a sky-high income thanks to soaring energy prices, while also denying them cheaper bills - the towering turbines have been credited with saving the island’s fortunes.

Earlier this year locals celebrated their annual ‘Independence Day’, a gathering to mark another year as Gigha’s owners. This year’s was different: it is now 20 years since the island’s ownership transferred from its last private landlord, Derek Holt, into community hands.

That saw the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust become Gigha’s new owners, with the bulk of the £4 million cost coming from National Lottery funding, backing from the Scottish Land Fund – almost draining its pot of cash in the process - HIE and public donations.

Today everything from entire islands to village pubs and town halls are being taken into locals’ hands, but in 2002 community ownership supported by public funds sparked fierce debate over whether public funds should line the pockets of private owners.

Some argued too much money was being spent to benefit a small number of people, others claimed it righted historic land ownership wrongs and was a way of safeguarding fragile island life.

On Gigha, islanders were also having heated discussions after finding, to their shock, that they faced a race to repay a £1million loan which had helped drive forward the deal.

“The first vote that was held was against the community buy-out,” recalls Andy, who arrived on Gigha 29 years ago and is now Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust Estates Manager. “A second vote went through but not with a huge majority. “What we didn’t realise at the time was that we would have to pay back £1 million in the space of only two years.

“For 92 people on the island to pay that back… it was a huge worry. There are only so many coffee mornings and so many raffles you can hold.”

Meanwhile, Gigha was in dire need of investment. The primary school had just six pupils and was threatened with closure, most islanders of working age had to travel to the mainland for work, while most of the island’s farms were no longer fully functioning.

Three quarters of the 42 houses on the island’s estate were “below tolerable standard”.

Fixing them had been flagged as a key reason for community ownership, yet with an eye-watering debt to clear, the dream of becoming their own landlords seemed to be turning sour.

The Trust had no alternative but to sell ‘the family silver’. Its prized asset, the Category B Listed whitewashed Achamore House is now in the hands of a Swedish couple as an exclusive holiday home and wedding venue. Other land and properties on the island also had to go.

“We knew how bad the housing was and everyone agreed any money that come in would have to be spent on improvements,” adds Andy.

The community started work on the most in need properties, adding to their debt crisis with more loans.

Bringing labour and material over on the 20-minute ferry journey from the Kintyre peninsula gobbled up cash; most properties were so bad they had to be stripped back to the basics and virtually rebuilt.

“It would have been cheaper knocking everything down and rebuilding, but we couldn’t get grants for that, only for refurbishing,” recalls Andy.

Eventually it cost around £5 million to upgrade just 25 properties. “The plan was to do 33 but we got so far and ran out of money,” he adds.

Debts piled up and tensions grew.

“There were a lot of loans at the time which we are still repaying,” says Jane Miller, the Trust’s Development Manager.

“The debt was massive, £1.2 million at its peak. We had to stop, we couldn’t take on any more loans, we couldn’t afford it.

“The first two years of community ownership was focused on repaying the debts, there wasn’t much else we could do.”

It was, recalls Andy, a tense time and food for thought for community groups considering dipping their toes into land buyout deals.

“It’s not all singing and dancing,” he warns. “There’s a lot of grief and a lot of hard work.

“Not everyone agrees all of the time. You can have 100 people in the room, all with different agendas and trying to come to a decision.”

A turning point came, however, with the arrival of the Dancing Ladies.

The decision to enter the relatively new landscape of renewable energy was passed with a show of hands in the village hall. Despite concerns over another loan – this one for £440,000 – buying the 30m tall turbines turned out to be a very shrewd move indeed.

They were already 12 years old when they were installed at a spot chosen for its uninterrupted exposure to the predominant south westerly winds that bash Gigha.

The benefits were almost immediate.

The Dancing Ladies generate a combined 675kW of electricity. It is sold to the National Grid, returning a profit of around £150,000 a year to the Trust.

The income has helped fund everything from new paths, to electric bikes, wages for Trust staff and, crucially, housing.

More recently, with energy prices through the roof, the Trust’s income from the three turbines and a fourth, larger Enercon E33 turbine installed in 2011, double.

“The turbines are the main vehicle for bringing money to Gigha,” says Andy. “Without them we’d probably be in the hands of the banks.

“There was controversy off the island when they arrived. But when you tell people they are community owned, they understand.

“In some places, you have big companies with these wonderful trusts that communities can apply to for funds. But these businesses are making millions and the communities are getting very little back, yet have huge 150m tall turbines on their landscape.

“These turbines have kept Gigha afloat.”

With Gigha’s population now swelled to 170, two new social housing developments, further home improvements, new businesses, a new campsite, and improved moorings and pontoons, the island is, at last, thriving.

The trouble now, however, is the Dancing Ladies are showing their age.

The Trust is eyeing up two replacements, much larger at 52m tall but able to generate 850Kw of electricity each – potentially doubling what is currently produced by Faith, Hope and Charity.

There’s also talk of supplying electricity via a new cable from the windfarm straight to a halibut fish farm nearby, and whether oxygen waste from hydrogen produced by the turbines can be captured, bottled and sold to the farm, providing more income.

Still, replacing the Dancing Ladies will be bittersweet.

“We’ve taken them further in their lifespan than we imagined – they are good wee turbines, they have coped with the strong winds of Gigha all that time,” adds Andy.

“I can’t see how Gigha would have survived without them.”