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Applications for dream island post in Wester Ross closed after community trust 'swamped' by hopefuls; Isle Martin lacks mod cons but has 'overwhelming' pulling power

By Mike Merritt

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The prospect of looking after Isle Martin proved a massive lure to would-be applicants.
The prospect of looking after Isle Martin proved a massive lure to would-be applicants.

A WESTER Ross-based community trust has been "swamped" by applications for a caretaker to look after a unique, uninhabited Scottish island with no running hot water and just enough electricity to charge a phone or a laptop.

Applications have now closed for the unpaid job.

Candidates who want to live for the summer on Isle Martin may not have too many mod cons but can instead enjoy natural beauty, bird-watching and archaeology.

Isle Martin is situated at the mouth of Loch Broom, three miles north-west of Ullapool in Wester Ross.

It has been the site of a monastery, a herring curing station and a flour mill. Now recognised as a bird sanctuary, it is owned and managed by a community trust. Tourists visit by ferry in the summer and there are a couple of houses to rent.

The nearest mainland is less than a mile away at Ardmair.

The 400-acre island lies below the towering cliffs of Beinn Mhor Coigach and opposite the ancient Viking Fort of Dun Canna.

The Isle Martin Trust was established in May 1999 as guardian of the island on behalf of the communities of Lochbroom and Coigach after it was gifted by the RSPB.

But after advertising for a "temporary resident" caretaker/housekeeper last month, it admitted the number of applicants was overwhelming. It has now closed to any more candidates.

"We're sorry but due to the publicity we have been swamped with applications and messages," said the trust.

"Thank you all so much for your interest but we are unable to respond to any more communications for the foreseeable future. If you have emailed with an application up to 10.30am Saturday May 29 your application will be considered but if you don't hear from us by June 10 it is not being taken further...we have sufficient high quality applications."

Would-be applicants were disappointed.

Dave Holdsworth wrote on the trust's Facebook:"Maybe a disappointment to read this update, but firstly I'm sure the trust will find among the many a suitable candidate and I wish them all joy and happiness in their new role.

"To those like me, too late to apply and to those who have applied but do not get this post I pray we will all find our places. P.S. If you don't find a suitable candidate, there are many more here who would like to be considered. Best wishes."

Kram Royal said: "Gutted I’d of loved this. Former Royal Marines, and Fire Service currently serving as a Police Officer. Previous experience as a gamekeeper for Lord Lascelles, Harewood House and have a power boat licence."

Yvonne Cervetti wrote:"Shame! We love the outdoors, grow our own veg, love cooking & we are both therapists who could have offered treatments as well as outdoor exercise for people staying in the other properties. Let us know if you reopen!"

Teresa Reeves Carpenter added:"I just saw this! My husband and I were going to apply tomorrow. We live in the deep south of the United States what an experience this could have been. I'm Native American descent and Scottish. I've never visited Scotland and would have loved to learn and see the land of my ancestors. Maybe next year we will see in time!"

Even Katie Tunn, who starred in the TV survival series Eden, wanted to apply.

"Ah, I'm too late. I'll keep following in case you need someone next year," she wrote. "Hope it goes well and good luck to all the applicants!"

Luna Louise said:"My partner and I just saw this and tried to apply before seeing this post. Not surprised this has been heavily applied for. I hope to find another opportunity to visit, care and experience this wonderful place. We are foragers, photographers, bird watchers, hikers and speed boat drivers. We would love the opportunity to help this place grow and care for it."

Libby DeGarmo wrote:"Oh man. I just saw this! I would have loved to apply. Husband is a mechanic and blacksmith. I am into growing herbs, having a garden, and simple loving. Maybe another time. Best of luck and happiness to the lucky person!"

The trust had welcomed "expressions of interest" for the voluntary post "on our community-owned island from June to end September".

"This post is open to one person or two people sharing," said the advert

"The caretaker will manage their own duties drawn up in agreement with the trustees (eg cleaning toilets, supervising/carrying out Covid-compliant sanitising, meeting and greeting visitors, assisting visiting volunteers, cash handling ) equivalent to approximately three hours per day.

"There is scope to enjoy many opportunities the island offers such as ornithology, walking, water sports, art, archaeology, gardening, general care for the land, buildings and environment.

"We welcome volunteers who bring specific skills they may wish to share for the benefit of the community during their time on the island.

"Basic accommodation is provided free and likely to be in the Boa House (see www.islemartin.org). There is running cold water and limited amounts can be heated by wood stove. The only electricity available is sufficient to charge a phone/laptop.

"At least one person applying must have powerboat driving competency.

"Expenses of £150/week available. No further expenses are available for locating to the island although use of the boat is free.

"We would be pleased to hear from people living within the communities of Lochbroom and Coigach and welcome applications from people of under-represented groups."

There is little in the way of documented history of Isle Martin prior to the late 18th century, although the island must have been an important place for many years prior to that. It is probable that the island has been inhabited off and on for several thousand years.

The only specific, but anecdotal, references are to a St. Martin who is reputed to have established a monastery on the Island, probably around 300-400 AD and after whom the island is named.

By the 18th century there was an important and active trade in fish from the island, and a John Woodhouse, from Liverpool, established a herring station and associated customs house. This closed in 1813 after successive years of failing catches. During this period there were probably around a hundred people living on the island.

A flourmill was operated between 1939 and 1948 on the old herring station site. Wheat was imported by ship, and flour supplied to bakeries across the north. Most of the mill workforce was brought by ferry from Ardmair on a daily basis.

The last private owner of the island ceased further sheep grazing in 1969. A small herd of Highland cattle was then maintained until 1979, when Mrs. Monica Goldsmith gifted the island to the RSPB and since then no domestic stock have grazed the island.

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