The Year That Was.. 2023!

January 22, 2024

With 2024 now well underway South Islay Development would like to take the opportunity to look back on 2023. Here are some of the highs (and lows) from the past 12 months…

In January 2023 South Islay Development (SID) was delighted to be working in partnership with Ardbeg Distillery to identify and fund projects the length and breadth of Islay over the next 5 years. A £ 1million fund, THE ARDBEG ALL ISLAY FUND, has been established following the sale of a rare Ardbeg 1975 cask sold to a private investor for £16m. The fund will benefit organisations, projects, and enterprising activities across the whole of Islay.

The SID Team welcomed Danielle McKerrell, as Community Engagement Officer, to work closely with the community to build upon SID’s events and enhance community engagement in all SID projects.

During February the Playing Field tenders were scored by the design team, the QS and SID Board, on price and quality. The top three tenders were very strong on quality; however with a limited budget SID had to be mindful of costs.

March ended on a high with SID awarding the Port Ellen Playing Fields contract to Procast, a Hamilton based construction firm. Procast worked with SID to ensure the construction costs were on a par with SID’s secured funding. With a signed contract in place SID also ensured that all funding could be used into the next financial year.

In its first year of funding bids, The Ardbeg All Islay Fund Panel was very pleased to have received 41 submissions from all over Islay. Charitable organisations applied for funding towards projects including intergenerational activities, sporting, heritage and capital purchases.

‘Lunch Club on Tour’ began in April, and ran until October. The Senior’s Lunch Club had a fantastic time touring Islay (and Jura!), sampling all the hotels, cafes and restaurants on offer, visiting distilleries and taking part in mosaic glass crafts, pottery painting, chocolate making and much more. April also saw the start of SID’s monthly family ceilidhs, run in partnership with MYCOS and with brilliant input from local musicians and the Highland dancers.

The Ardbeg All Islay Fund was pleased to award funding to 28 local charities to increase or continue their excellent community work. A full list of awards is published on the South Islay Development website:-

In May SID celebrated the King's Coronation by hosting a weekend of community events; kids arts and crafts, the opening of the bowling green, themed games and home baking, followed by a family ceilidh in partnership with MYCOS, Port Ellen Parent Council and Islay and Jura Senior Citizens.

The official Port Ellen Playing Fields ‘Ground-Breaking’ was held in June. May Carmichael from Port Ellen cut the first turf and the project finally got underway. Fizz and cake followed in the Ramsay Hall for everyone who attended.

SID also assisted with the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships in June. The Opening Ceremony through Port Ellen started with a parade of all Port Ellen Primary School children, and the Kilchoman Islay Pipe Band, ending with the Highland dancers, a BBQ and local stalls on the green.

Port Ellen Sports Day was held in July. It was a huge success again this year with Junior & Adult discos on the Friday night, followed by bouncy castles, a beer tent, heavy events, archery and races (for both children and adults!) on the Saturday. The party continued into the night with live music from Papa Shandy and the Drams in the Ramsay Hall.

In August the first construction meeting was held for the Port Ellen Playing Fields project, with the design and construction teams meeting onsite for the first time. The footprint of the new Pavilion was cleared, the foundations dug and the concrete poured. Progress then slowed due to the disruption of several fields drains, and areas of flooding. The surface water drainage system had to be redesigned to deal with all the Islay rain!

SID also teamed up with Chit Chat to host a beach party for the children, with a BBQ, tea tent, pies, cakes, sand castle competition and races.

The SID Team welcome Kirsty Izzat to the team as Assistant Manager, working closely with Alyson to support the SID projects and staff.

In September work progressed on the motorhome area and part of the play park was closed to allow the site to be levelled and the gabion baskets installed. At this stage three unexpected cables were uncovered, and work was delayed until SSE and Argyll & Bute Council could be onsite to divert them.

The Oban and Strathspey and Reel Society also visited in September. SID held a concert in the Ramsay Hall with them and local performers and musicians.

Following the recent community consultation about the Ramsay Hall, the SID board and staff reviewed the community's comments and how they fit within the wider scope of The Playing Fields. The Sonas Steering Group (Mums and childcare providers) also met with SID in order to discuss the feedback. The NEW plan shows the new location of a potential new childcare/nursery building on The Playing Fields which has it’s own dedicated site and parking. This will complement the potential Ramsay Hall upgrade for large functions/sports/events and the Community Hub building with it’s café, local businesses and smaller function room.

October saw the annual Junior & Adults Halloween discos, with prizes for the scariest and most topical costumes. These were very well attended, with a fantastic display of costumes on show!

Procast continued work on the Playing Fields, clearing an area for car parking beside the Ramsay Hall, as they waited for the cables to be diverted. The installation of the drainage system was also well underway.

In November AMP Transport delivered two spectator’s shelters, and ten bicycle stands to the Playing Fields for installation once construction work is finished. Work on the wider project slowed again due to weather and transport issues, with some building supplies severely delayed.

November the 5th saw the return of the annual Port Ellen Firework display, with the community turning out for the bonfire, fireworks, snacks and hot drinks.

Additional ground workers joined Procast in December and the remainder of the Playpark was closed, and the kit stored safely offsite. The area for the motorhome expansion was levelled and drainage installation began. Elsewhere the septic tank for the new building was installed and glulam and steel for the construction was finally delivered.

SID celebrated Christmas with a lovely afternoon Christmas Fair, with local produce and crafts on sale. The Christmas tree village light switch on took place in early December and included the new Christmas lights for the lamp posts.

The Ardbeg All Islay Fund has opened again on 8th January 2024 for its second year. More information is available on SID's website ( Please do not hesitate to contact Alyson to discuss your projects at the weekly drop-in through out January to March 2024.

A Huge Thank You for all your continued support shown throughout 2023. SID are looking forward to 2024. It promises to be another busy year!

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​​South Islay Development is a registered charity (SC042384)
and company limited by guarantee (SC400320) registered in Scotland.

Registered Address:
The Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7BY.
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