I READ the article by Martin Williams ("Islanders hit out at ferry switches as port shuts for 'rope' repairs", The Herald, September 19) with growing concern regarding the competency of the management of the organisations that are involved in delivering Calmac services.

I found it incredible that the condition of the link span hoist ropes at Lochboisdale had deteriorated to a dangerous condition in the space of 12 months from the previous annual inspection. During my engineering career in the coal and railway industries I was involved in wire rope maintenance, inspection and renewal. Whilst the affected ropes at Lochboisdale operate in a harsh marine environment I would have expected that deterioration on individual wires and groups of wires would have been detected during PPM (Planned Preventative Maintenance) examinations of the link span. The law requires a Duty Holder to have schemes of maintenance in place and being implemented. Therefore what maintenance does CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited) actually carry out between the annual inspections? Also for consideration are the assurance arrangements that Calmac should have in place to make sure that the port and terminal facilities that CMAL is responsible for are safe and compliant. Are similar linkspans in the CMAL and local authority asset registers being subjected to additional inspections?

My other concern is the adverse impact on the residents and visitors to South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist, and the local economy which relies heavily on the Calmac services at Lochboisdale and Lochmaddy. Transport Scotland appears to wring its hands and lay blame on either or both CalMac and CMAL. It is the funding provider on behalf of the Scottish taxpayers and needs to step up to the mark and take positive action, not impose fines as has been done recently. The Transport Minister at Holyrood also needs to take action to resolve the wider issues that currently surround Calmac and CMAL. It is not acceptable to keep talking about the delayed Glen Sannox and the still-to-be-launched Hull 802 as “coming soon”; additional second-hand tonnage is required now.

If service reliability is not improved soon, then the economy of the Western Isles and Arran will decline with job losses and potentially depopulation.

I can only hope that things improve soon.

Kevin A McCallum, Glasgow.


I HAVE now received my appointment for a Coronavirus booster vaccination. I understand there is no choice as to which vaccine will be given, and specifically that AstraZeneca will not be on offer.

I believe that the booster vaccines are targeted for the original and Omicron variants of Coronavirus. To my mind, this is illogical if the aim is to protect against the next variant. For this reason, I would prefer to receive the original AstraZeneca product.

I have no medical qualification (but I am a lawyer). It seems to me that any medical treatment or intervention requires informed consent by the patient. I am therefore disturbed that the state appears to be imposing its will with no regard to the views of the citizen. I am writing to my MSP. Do any other readers share my concerns about this affront to the rights of the individual?

Scott Simpson, Glasgow.


RECENT articles and correspondence on the subject of Kelvingrove museum's treasures ("Sell Glasgow’s very own Dali? Not on your life!", The Herald, September 16, and Letters, September 17 & 19) gave me reason to ponder on the life of John Fulton, born in 1803 the son of a shoemaker in the Ayrshire village of Fenwick.

Many people bandy the word "genius" around willy-nilly these days, but there can be no doubt that the epithet fits Fenwick's finest perfectly.

John Fulton left the local school at 13 and, to be kind, did not present any real indication of his brilliance – in fact, the school master at the time, a Mr Fairley, decided not to charge Fulton's father for his arithmetic lessons, saying "that there had been little done in that way." However, inspired by another great Scot, James Ferguson (himself an autodidact who had little formal education), Fulton set out to educate himself and became "a most successful inventor and practical machinist".

As well as becoming a knowledgeable botanist and an expert gardener, Fulton carved sundials from stone, and he experimented with the utilisation of coal gas which he used to heat the family home, Spoutmouth. In addition, he built a bicycle for a local lad who could not get about as well as his friends due to a disability.

Fulton's magnanimity and ingenuity did not stop there. A local lass who had one leg shorter than the other and who could not get around without a crutch was the recipient of a leg brace engineered by Fulton which allowed her to throw away the crutch and get around as ably as her friends.

These were only recreational pursuits, though, and after teaching himself mathematical calculations, he created his own crude versions of Ferguson's lunarium, a machine which shows the motions and the phases of the moon. Buoyed by this success, Fulton set to work on building his orrery, a clockwork model of the solar system and its movements including the rotations of the planets and their moons.

Of the three orreries Fulton is known to have created, the one which is on display in Kelvingrove is widely considered as being one of the finest ever, consisting, as it does, of 15 concentric shafts, 175 wheels and cogs, and more than 200 moving parts. Some of the parts are so small (1/54th of an inch) that Fulton had to make the tools to fashion these components himself.

John Fulton was rightly lauded across Great Britain and the boy who had left school able only to read and write rose to work as an instrument maker to King William IV, assigned to work with a Mr Bates in London.

After an illness which necessitated treatment at St Bartholomew's Hospital, Fulton returned to Fenwick in 1851 and this is where he died in 1853. His grave can be found in the local kirkyard, and the local public meetings hall bears his name.

If any readers have not taken a trip to Kelvingrove to see Fulton's Orrery, then I urge them to do so.

Gordon Fisher, Stewarton.


MY enthusiastic support for Alexander McKay's views on the SNP's top economic guru,Tim Rideout (Letters, September 19), was tempered by a quotation attributed to George Bernard Shaw: "If all the economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."

Unfortunately, interpreting economic data is both an art and a science.

David Miller, Milngavie.