Point and Sandwick Trust is bidding a fond farewell to one of its founding members, Jenny Pain, who is retiring to a life in the sun.
Jenny and husband Richard, who have handed over the running of their Tiumpeanhead Kennels business to their daughter and son-in-law, leave for Tenerife at the end of November.
Jenny remembers clearly that initial meeting in the old Bayble school in 2005, when the community decided to form a steering group to pursue the possibility of building a turbine on their land.
Now, of course, they have three, at the award-winning Beinn Ghrideag wind farm on the Pentland Road — but back then it seemed like a pipe dream.
Jenny recalled: “There were a lot of people at that meeting and there wasn’t a lot of opposition. We were asked at that meeting if anyone was interested in joining a steering group.
“I’d only been here a year. I just thought, as a local business owner I should support what was going on in the community and so I put my name forward.
“It was a bit of a dream. I thought initially, ‘it’s a really good idea but this is very ambitious for a small community to set up’ — and then gradually, as the meetings took place and more people came on board, it became real.
“Then the plans expanded. It wasn’t just a turbine anymore; it was a wind farm.”
That expansion was the result of new planning policy, when the Scottish Government increased the size of wind farm applications that could be dealt with by local authorities from 5MW to 10MW. Point and Sandwick Trust promptly increased their plans to just under 10MW.
There were many obstacles that had to be overcome along the way, remarked Jenny, who admitted being “shocked” at some of the difficulties put in their way.
“It was a shock to realise that some groups could be so opposed to something that potentially could do so much good,” she said. Nevertheless, they persisted.
“The board were tenacious, to put it mildly. They fought and fought and never lost sight of what they were trying to do. They are incredible. They worked hard.
“It’s been brilliant. I’ve been in a few groups and I think this is the only board I’ve been involved with where there hasn’t been a falling out. If there was an issue or obstacle to overcome, there was no argument — everybody just worked together to provide a solution.
“The Point and Sandwick board were a very varied group of people. I don’t think you could have got more of a mix, from born and bred on the island to folk who had moved here, male and female, professionals, stay-at-homes… everybody! It’s been really good.
“Remember, all the people on this board are volunteers. They didn’t do it for money — because there wasn’t any!”
She also paid tribute to those who had supported Point and Sandwick Trust externally, including the technical advisers at Sgurr Energy and the finance team at Santander Bank.
It was Santander who provided the breakthrough moment by agreeing to lend most of the money. It was the high point — made all the more memorable because it came immediately after the low point, when talks with the Co-op bank collapsed.
“From that moment on, we knew turbines were going to arrive,” said Jenny.
And arrive they did, landing at Arnish in February 2015. By November 2015, it was operational.
Jenny said: “It’s an incredible achievement, made possible by some amazing people. Not least of whom are Donald John and Calum— who have been, seriously, the two people who have carried it, with the support of Angus McCormack and the board.
“I’m so proud that I’ve been involved in this. I don’t think that anyone outside the steering group thought that we could pull it off. It’s a huge achievement.
“It’s a first. It’s leading the way for other communities and it’s delivering exactly what that original meeting promised, which was income for Point and Sandwick Trust, supporting the community.
“It’s just been amazing. I still can’t quite believe it happened.”
Jenny added: “For me it’s about supporting the smaller groups in Point and Sandwick. The big donations — like Bethesda, the LED project and the Woodlands — are fantastic but when you see a small group that can continue because they received £500… all these wee groups like the Brownies struggle away on nothing and suddenly they are given a lifeline. That means a lot.”
Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Angus McCormack paid tribute to Jenny, who had been “a most assiduous member, attending regularly and contributing positively at all times”.
He said: “In the 10 years up to financial close, Jenny stood firm against all the setbacks that we incurred and was not afraid to take the risks necessary to progress the wind farm project. Her contributions to debate were cogent and valuable.
“Jenny has been an excellent board member; we shall miss her. I wish her many years of happiness in her new home. We hope to see her from time to time.”
Jenny was presented with a picture as a retirement gift during the board’s away day at Talla na Mara in Horgabost on October 25. She is pictured above, with Angus McCormack.
As Jenny leaves for Tenerife, she will keep the sight of the turbines in her mind’s eye.
“Every time I drove from the kennels and came down the hill at Knock, I could see them. They are fantastic to look at from here. They’re just in the best place they could be.
“This isn’t a multi-national company that’s come in and taken our wind. This is a very small group of people who achieved the impossible. Other communities are following on and they will have their own turbines. It’s such a positive thing for the islands.”