What’s in a name?

Something or nothing. When we asked for suggestions for a name for the Coigach Wind Turbine we got a wide range – some light-hearted, some serious, some rude, some corny – certainly none that everyone would agree on, until one came up which set us back on our heels a bit. A name which for those volunteer directors who gave countless hours of their own time, some for all 14 years of the project’s life, struck a deep chord.
Bringing the wind turbine project to fruition for our community has been a long, demanding and difficult struggle for Coigach Community Development Company and along the way we inevitably fell in step with other, similar communities, fighting the same issues that we were, giving support and advice to one another. Many of these communities are, like CCDC, supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise who pay the wages of a Local Development Officer (LDO) as they do for our job-sharers Julia and Abigail Anne. One community who we have found particular common purpose with is Applecross. This is an extract of what their LDO, Alison Macleod, wrote in her letter to Highland Council planners in support of our turbine’s planning application:
“I am pleased to write in support of the wind turbine proposed for the Coigach. I live and work in a similar small and fragile community (Applecross), where we share many of the problems faced by the community in the Coigach; falling population, aging population, falling school roles, decline in the variety of job opportunities available as traditional industries such as fishing fail and we have become more and more reliant on tourism. House prices are well beyond the reach of local people and there is a shortage of affordable housing…..The community which will live with the wind turbine has voted in favour of it….Many of those who voted in favour are dependent on tourism themselves, and are willing to accept the very small risk that it may discourage some visitors. My guess is that it will actually attract people to Coigach. Visitors like to see a living, working community where people show initiative and enthusiasm and work hard to ensure that it has a future; that is so much better and more interesting than somewhere that has become just a tourist destination and is slowly dying as the majority of young people leave.”
Like his wife, Ali Macleod was a strong supporter of our communities – the points he made in his letter of support to Highland Council in support of our turbine’s planning application echo those of Alison’s. More than that, like many of our own, Ali was a prawn fisherman, creel fishing single-handed out of Applecross, and he actively campaigned for creeling as a sustainable fishery. Ali’s popular online blog, ‘Applecross Life’ speaks of a principled man passionate about his community, the environment, social justice and all those other things many of us find admirable. Just last week Ali was lost at sea, his boat found on rocks, empty. A huge search was conducted. Our own Coastguard team volunteered their time and joined that search for Ali. He has not been found. Ali was known to many in Coigach, not just to CCDC, and he will be a huge loss felt far beyond his own family and community. He was 57 and he and Alison have four sons.
Ali Macleod’s boat was named Varuna, a reference to the majesty of sky and sea, justice and truth, and this was the suggested name that set us back on our heels. Notwithstanding the naming competition, and with apologies for those who made other suggestions, CCDC directors felt after discussion that Varuna would be a very good name for our turbine. Not only is its literal meaning appropriate, but the tribute it would pay to an admirable man and friend of Coigach, and the link with his community, would be particularly fitting. We have asked Alison if she would agree to the suggestion and she is very touched and grateful for this sentiment.

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