Press Release

Tiny island takes on marathon

By 2nd July 2018 No Comments

Iona Primary School running club took on a combined marathon on Monday 25th June – a unique achievement on an island only 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide and which only has 3 miles of road.

Eleven children ranging in ages from P4-7 shared out the mileage to achieve their goal with the P7s, in their last week of island schooling before leaving for secondary on the mainland, taking on a slightly greater distance.

Ula Gordon, one of the P5 runners said,

“I was really glad everyone turned up as some people were off school ill last week and the rest of us would have had to run much, much further”.

It was a glorious day and the route was stunning – starting and finishing at the pier and taking in the Nunnery and Abbey as it headed towards the turning points at the North End with views all the way up to Skye.

As the sun beat down at the start line, Cameron MacInnes a P7 runner said,

“We’ve run in all sorts of extreme weather, it’s often blowing a gale, but we’ve not run in this kind of heat before”.

A crowd of well-wishers gathered at the pier and gave the children a great send-off as they headed out in staggered intervals to some raucous fiddle music.

Ian Lain, a Canadian tourist, said,

“This is special, we feel so blessed we came over to Iona today and caught all this, what a great effort from these kids”.

The runners enjoyed tremendous support throughout with tourists and locals cheering them on and waving banners. A group of volunteers working at the Abbey worked on a cheer leadingroutine which they perfected by the home leg.

Another P5 child was heard to say after crossing the finish line

“That was brilliant! Can we do it again at running club next week?”

The children decided to run the marathon to raise money for the new Village Hall project.

Running Club coach Anja Jardine said,

“It seemed a very natural suggestion from these children who’ve grown up on this small island where the idea of working together and community is ingrained. The hall, along with everything else it provides, is their only option for any type of indoor sports and although they’re hardy, there’s a definite need out here for a safe and sound indoor space to keep them active all year round”.

The islanders are in the middle of a fundraising campaign to build a brand-new Village Hall. The project focusses on replacing the 90-year-old Village Hall with a fit-for-purpose, multi-use building to the meet the wider needs of the island community, as the island bucks the trend with a growing population.

It will cost just under £2.2m and is hoped for completion by Summer 2020. The island needs to raise the remaining £1.2m by December 2018.

Notes to Editors

The Village Hall

  • Along with the rest of the island, the children are focussed on their hall, as in a remote setting like Iona, where the hall is the only public building, it plays a crucial role in sustaining the thriving yet vulnerable island community. Not only is it their only indoor running space but all communal activity takes place in the hall from vital public meetings and school PE, to playgroup, winter film nights and the annual music festival. It’s the place where island children grow up, have birthday parties, perform their school plays, dance and get married. It forms the backdrop to the collective memory of a community.
  • The hall project, entirely managed by volunteers, has become a model for community engagement and empowerment. It’s an ambitious project which has been met locally with mettle and graft. The children have participated from the outset. Over the winter months, they organised and ran a soup delivery fundraising scheme using their bikes to transport soup boxes round the island.
  • The current hall, although somewhat dilapidated and no longer fit for purpose, has been much loved on and off-island. The legendary Iona Village Hall discos – FHMs top 10 nights out in the Uk (1996) captured the nostalgic hearts of generations of islanders, visitors and seasonal staff. The Iona Village Hall Music Festival continues in this vein.
  • The new hall will be transformative for the island population, for those who visit and for those for whom the island will be home for the generations to come. Village halls are truly the hearts and engines of remote communities like Iona. In an age of choice and aspiration, they stand for community and commonality. It’s also a well-known fact that wedding suppers are never more enjoyable than when consumed on your local badminton court!

The Island

  • Bucking the trend of the Highlands & Islands, and despite being extremely vulnerable to population decline, Iona is a success story with a growing population – rising from around just under 140 residents in 2012 to almost 170 in 2017 (near 20% increase). The primary school roll has risen from 6 pupils in 2010, to 27 today including Pre5s.
  • 5 island families have just celebrated their first year in new-build, community-led affordable housing.
  • A further drive to create a sustainable future comes in the form of Iona Renewables. A local drive to enable the island to generate its own energy and an income through a heat network – the first project of its kind to be community-led, with such diversity of building and ownership, and in an extremely remote location



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