Nostalgia: Bute pair’s RNLI ‘island hop’ of 1990

Andrew McMaster and George McKenzie, on the right of this group, undertook an epic 23-island, seven-day 'island hop' in aid of the RNLI 25 years ago.
Andrew McMaster and George McKenzie, on the right of this group, undertook an epic 23-island, seven-day 'island hop' in aid of the RNLI 25 years ago.

Our latest trip down memory lane sees us turn back the clock 25 years to an epic ‘island hop’ undertaken by Bute resident George McKenzie and his brother-in-law Andrew McMaster in the summer of 1990.

George - who still lives in Rothesay today - and Andrew set themselves the task of visiting, in the shortest possible time, all of the 23 islands served at the time by Caledonian MacBrayne, and raising as much money as they could for the RNLI in the process.

And to make it even more of a challenge they did so without once resorting to the use of their own transport.

Here’s how The Buteman’s edition of September 14, 1990 reported the successful completion of their mission:

George McKenzie and Andrew McMaster returned to Bute at 6.40pm on Tuesday, August 28, setting a record time of seven days, 12 hours and 15 minutes for their Hebridean Island Hop to the 23 islands served by Caledonian MacBrayne’s ferries.

During the journey, the RNLI fund-raisers in fact visited 26 islands, involving 47 ferry crossings.

The last island to be visited was Lismore, off Oban, where they arrived seven days, nine hours and ten minutes after setting off, and their final arrival time back on Bute was only five minutes later than had been estimated.

There were two nail-biting, car-rally type type journeys along single track roads to catch ferries: in one instance the pier was reached two minutes before the departure of the last boat, only to find the boat was late, and on the other trip, transport by courtesy of the Coastguards, a demonstration of the American type siren and blue flashing lights must have shocked one or two passing cars.

A nice touch was the round of applause from the passengers on the Iona ferry when the skipper announced over the loudspeaker what the Island Hoppers were trying to achieve.

Between the ferry collections and personal sponsorship raised by the particpants, more than £1,500 has been raised so far. When all the other sponsorship money has been collected, it is hoped that this amount will be increased to about £2,000.

George reckons it’s possible to do the trip in even less time today, thanks to changes in CalMac’s timetables over the years: any volunteers out there fancy taking up the challenge?

* The picture above shows Andrew and George, on the right of the picture, with crew members from the RNLI’s Oban lifeboat.