Contact us on 01851 705743 or
email info@welovestornoway.com

Shockwaves are reverberating around the district of Pairc – and far beyond – after news on Monday (1 April) of the passing of broadcaster, journalist and community champion Ishbel Maclennan of Marvig in South Lochs. She was 57.

A torrent of tributes have flowed, led by her colleagues at the BBC, where a full tribute in Gaelic was published yesterday at www.bbc.co.uk/naidheachdan/sgeulachdan

Ishbel was described by those reacting to the news as ‘one special lady,’ ‘a beautiful soul’ and ‘a leading light in the community.’

Author and ecologist Alastair McIntosh said: “This early passing of Ishbel Maclennan is terribly sad, a bright light of Pairc Trust too.

“She would tell visitors: ‘People want big solutions to the community’s problems, but there are no big solutions. Big solutions don’t work. It’s the little things that make the difference.’”

Ishbel was well-known throughout Lewis and the islands as a familiar voice over the airwaves, joining BBC Radio nan Gàidheal in 1987. The BBC’s online tribute recounts the landmarks and achievements of her life.

She was born in Stornoway in 1966, one of Donald and Dolina MacLennan’s family of four, and became one of the last pupils at Planasker primary school, which served the villages of Marvig and Calbost until 1973.

After completing her schooling at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, Ishbel left Lewis and took a degree in English and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow.

She started work at the BBC in Inverness in 1987, as a news anchor for Radio nan Gàidheal.

Moving to the station’s Stornoway base at Rosebank on Church Street, she showed what the BBC describes as ‘her special flair for broadcasting’ when, at the time of the BCCI scandal, she reported on the £23m lost by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, fearlessly questioning councillors and officials about how the authority handled the case.

Ishbel became head of news and later editor at Radio nan Gàidheal, managing the station's schedule and becoming involved in many successful programmes.

She was part of the team that started BBC ALBA in 2008 and was the executive producer of the first Gaelic feature film, Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle.

Margaret Mary Murray, Head of BBC Gaelic Broadcasting said: "Ishbel was a brilliant broadcaster – she was passionate about live radio and was exceptionally good at it. This came from her innate ability for and love of debate and discussion – she had an incredibly sharp mind and always had something to contribute to a discussion, always offering an alternative point of view and broadening the debate.

"She was strong and fair, dedicated and trusted – characteristics which she also put to such good use in her beloved home community in Lochs on the Isle of Lewis, where she was such an enthusiastic crofter, tireless community worker and faithful member of her church."

Despite her national reputation, Ishbel was firmly rooted in her home district of South Lochs, living in Marvig with her husband John, whom she married in 2016.

She was involved in the campaign to buy the Pairc Estate for the community in 2003 and with the Ravenspoint Community Centre, Pairc Historical Society and the Free Church Communications Group.

A Pairc Trust spokesperson said: “The directors and staff at the Pairc Trust are extremely saddened at the passing of Ishbel, who served on the board for many years and gave of her time and talent to many events held by the trust.

“Her knowledge of the community and its people, history and culture were a priceless benefit as the trust bought the land and navigated its new purpose.

“Her positive outlook and seemingly never-ending energy and inspiration brought a welcome lift to whatever she was involved with and whomever she worked alongside.”

Fellow members of Pairc Historical Society said her passing was ‘Difficult to comprehend’ and added: “Ishbel gave so much, not least her commitment but her creativity which we will all sorely miss. We will certainly miss her vibrant energy.”

At the Ravenspoint Centre, a spokesperson said: “We at Co Chomunn na Pairc are extremely saddened at the loss of Ishbel, a member of our board and former chairperson.

“Ishbel was devoted to Ravenspoint. Her skills, knowledge and commitment to CCnP over many years was immense. Along with John, her husband, she worked tirelessly for Ravenspoint Centre ensuring it continued to serve the community of Pairc.

“We will deeply miss her cheerful and energetic presence and contributions.”

Rev Alasdair Macaulay, chair of the Free Church Communications Group, said: “Ishbel was my boss when I took a job as a trainee journalist in the Gaelic News department in Inverness in 1993.

“Her great skill set and the ability to pass on pearls of wisdom were a huge help to me. Little did she or I know that the skills that she helped to teach and refine would later be used to communicate the greatest news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“It was a delight then, decades later, to reconnect on the Communications Group of the Free Church. Ishbel possessed a sharp mind and, being a wonderful communicator, she was a great asset to our work.

“Her passing is a huge loss to her family, the church, her colleagues, and many friends far and wide.”

Isabel is mourned by her husband, John, sister Morag and brothers Angus Ian and Donnie, as well as by a wide circle of colleagues, friends and neighbours.

The pictures show Ishbel (front row left) at Planasker School in 1971 (Comunn Eachdraidh Pairc), at a church event (Free Church of Scotland) and at work (BBC).