Home of the @HI_Voices rotational Twitter account, which features a new voice each week from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

192 : John Poyner

by handivoices


28th May to 4th June 2017


My name is John Poyner, aged 50 and have worked as a wildlife guide around the Highlands and Islands for the past 17 years. I set up my own independent business “Highland Nature” in 2013 which mainly caters for those looking for day tours and short wildlife breaks based in Strathspey, after working for several Scottish wildlife tour companies as a guide. I’m an active birdwatcher (NB. NOT Twitcher, there is a big difference) as well as having a keen interest in all natural history.

I live in Nethybridge at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park along with my wife and two sons aged 11 and 5 and was raised in the rather different landscape of the industrial Black Country, first coming to live in Scotland in 1992.

I hope my tweets may give you a glimpse of some of the wonderful Natural History of the Highlands and Islands!

191: Cairngorms Music

by handivoices


21st May to 28th May 2017

Hello! Cairngorms Music is a relatively new addition to Highlands cultural life, formed when we – Robin and Emma Versteeg – moved to Strathspey last summer with our young sons. We are classical music performers and teachers, and as outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, living and working in the Cairngorms is the realisation of a long-held dream!

Robin is a pianist, church musician, and conductor with a particular interest in education and leading community groups. He teaches piano at home in Dulnain Bridge and in Inverness, and conducts The Inverness Singers and Ness Sinfonia. He has been obsessed with Scots Pines and blaeberries longer than he can remember, and as a fitness fanatic and mountain-lover is likely to tweet as often about sore legs and heathery singletrack, as he does about music…

Emma is a classically-trained singer, singing teacher and ‘cellist. In addition to singing around Scotland, her Highland activities include private teaching and working for the National Youth Choir of Scotland’s Inverness area choir. Outside music she is interested in alternative health, including Reiki and Mindfulness. While not quite as obsessed with the Cairngorms as Robin, she is delighted to have taken the plunge with a Highland relocation, and is enjoying watching sons Elijah and Ezra grow up amid this spectacular scenery.

We will aim to communicate something of our passion for music and for the Highlands in our week as curators. Hope you enjoy the tweets!

190: John Thomson

by handivoices


14th May to 21st May 2017

I am John Thomson and I primarily work as one of the regions Kodály tutors.  That is to say I visit primary schools and teach primary three classes musicianship through singing.  If your child has ever come home from school singing a silly little song on repeat then it is probably my or my colleagues’ fault. #sorrynotsorry

I am also the choir director of Inverness’ area choir for the National Youth Choir of Scotland, and also Dingwall and District Choral Society.  May is a busy time for both choirs as it is concert season for them.  NYCoS Inverness shall be showcasing what the kids have been doing since January on the 24th May and DDCS shall present their spring concert “Music of the Spheres” on Saturday 20th May.

I shall spend this week talking about music, choirs, music education, and possibly a tiny bit of astronomy.

I live in North Kessock with my wife and toddler son.  When not actively participating in music or parenting I enjoy board games; not monopoly or trivial pursuit, but one of the more recent creations such as Tsuro, Small World, or Fluxx which have formed part of a renaissance of board gaming.

I’ll try to keep it interesting, and hope you enjoy my week as curator!

188: Emma Roddick

by handivoices


30th April to 7th May 2017

Hi, I’m Emma and I work at the Scottish Ambulance Service as a Scheduled Care Coordinator. We deal with patient transport requests, including hospital admissions, discharges and transfers and pre-planned journeys for those who have no other way of making it to a hospital appointment.

I’ve taken two weeks of annual leave from my job to take up the role of being election agent for two candidates in the 2017 Scottish Local Government Elections, one each in the Inverness Central and Inverness Ness-side wards. This means I’m legally responsible for ensuring their election campaign is compliant with legislation; with responsibilities including submitting spending returns for each candidate after the result and organising campaign activity.

I’m 19, live in Hilton, Inverness with my two rats, Noodle and Chew Hendry, and I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. I’ve previously worked for my local MSP as a Parliamentary Assistant and Communications and Press Officer, and my wild hopes for 2017 are to restart my studies and learn to drive.

I’ll try to keep it interesting, and hope you enjoy my week as curator!

187: Claire Wallace-Watson

by handivoices



23rd April to 30th April 2017


I’m Claire Wallace-Watson and along with my husband Ray @ReginaldSpatts and our chocolate Labrador, Henry, I will be spending this week looking at the Highlands and Islands from the perspective of a tourist. We can’t possibly cover the whole area in a week, but we hope you enjoy our travels.

We are staying in a holiday cottage in Foyers, near Inverness and just above the south east shore of Loch Ness. This is our fourth stay here and we now have friends amongst the locals. We are also spending the night of 25th April on the Isle of Skye, which is where we spent our honeymoon 11 years ago.

We will be tweeting about the places we visit and our observations in general this week, but will also tweet about some of the places we have been to previously and would recommend to visitors.

I am a Yorkshireman (we have very similar traits to Scotsmen apparently), having been born in Leeds. Ray comes from Lewisham in South London. We now live in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I am an administrator for the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre, which manages the Clinical Research Network on behalf of the Department of Health and allows patients and health professionals to participate in clinical research studies in NHS England. Ray works in IT (yawn!).

I left school and went to the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London and graduated with the Grand Diplôme after a year. I then worked in the hotel and wine trades for a few years. All aspects of food, cooking and wine remain a central part of my life, indeed of both our lives. I have an embryonic blog No One Cooks Alone if you are interested. Some of my tweets will be on the subject of food.

My other main hobbies are gardening (still at the novice stage after 5 years), photography, reading and walking. I am also a member of the Whey Aye Women’s Institute.


P.S. Ray took the profile picture this morning (24th April) and it is only the second photograph of me in 8 years that I like!

186: Nicole Varwell

by handivoices


16th April to 23rd April 2017

I’m Nicole, I live in Inverness and I work in IT. I love the outdoors and exploring the Highlands, so this week I’ll be mainly tweeting pictures from my adventures around the region!

185: Andrea Johnson

by handivoices


9th April to 16th April 2017

I am Andrea Johnson. I’ve lived in The Highlands since 1996 though I had a couple years in Glasgow too with the great experience of going to Glasgow School of Art.

I’m currently mostly being a writer and artist.  I’m very inspired by the Highland landscape in my writing. My art is more surreal and figurative.  Though there are occasions when the Highland landscape is pretty surreal.

I will share some of my work this week. And hopefully you will enjoy it.

184: Luke Humberstone

by handivoices


2nd April – 9th April 2017

Hi, I’m Luke and I am the President of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, owner of Tartan Disco, coin collector, Ultimate Frisbee player, casual gamer and NUS Scotland President (elect).

I’ve lived in Dingwall since 2003 and was made so welcome by the community. I became Chair of Dingwall Business Association and a Community Councillor before starting a HNC in Business at Inverness College UHI. I wanted all of my class mates to make the most of their university experience so encouraged them to attend the Freshers Fayre. As soon as I got there I saw that I could use my experience to help develop Inverness College Students’ Association and luckily there was a vacancy.

Four years later we have developed a university wide students’ association that is award winning and I was elected in March to lead all 500,000 students in Scotland. I will never forget that the University of the Highlands and Islands has changed my life and given me the opportunities to develop my skills. It has been an incredible journey involving literally thousands of miles visiting the communities of learners right across the North and West of Scotland. Ours truly is a diverse and exciting wee country and I can’t wait to see what the next few years might bring for our identity, culture and politics in an ever increasingly changing world.

183: Lorna Gillies

by handivoices


26th March – 2nd April 2017

Hello, I’m Lorna and I was born and bred in Moidart, in the Lochaber area.  I moved away for several years studying and working – Orkney, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Melbourne Australia and decided to come back home to my homeland to start my own business.  I design and make women’s wear specialising in tweed and local fabrics.  My inspiration is Moidart and the area surrounding (along with history and Theatre Costume, which I studied many years ago)
I enjoy living in the rural highlands, since spending time in cities I realised how Moidart was such a big part of me.  Apart from designing, I work in a local art gallery and spend spare time walking, taking photos, and finding new music.  I look forward to showing you what my life is like in Ardnamurchan.

182: Debbie Mathews

by handivoices



19th March – 26th March 2017

Hi there!
I’m Debbie. I was born in London, but now live on the North Sutor overlooking the Cromarty Firth, on the Fearn peninsula.  I’ve lived in the highlands 9 years this year and have been visiting for over 35.  It’s the only place I’ve ever felt truly at home.
Over the last 13 years I’ve worked in the third sector, supporting disadvantaged young people in self-advocacy groups, training volunteers in supported friendships with vulnerable adults, and working as a community outreach worker in Sutherland.  In 2015 I took the big step of becoming self-employed and have joined the myriad of small businesses and entrepreneurs who help make the Highlands an exciting place to live and work. Trading as Highland Home Cook, I enjoy making food for markets and friends.  Working part-time, I have the space to indulge my other main love – writing.  I am close to finishing my first novel this year and have had various articles, stories and poems published.  I’m an enthusiastic blogger, and you will see me tweeting about my other loves this week including photography, arts and crafts, gardening, and everything ‘green’.  I’ll also be re-tweeting everything ‘Highlands and Islands’ and look forward to engaging with you.





181: Linda Ross

by handivoices


12th March – 19th March 2017

Hi all,

I’m Linda, a Tain native and PhD student with the University of the Highlands and Islands / Historic Environment Scotland. Although I live in Glasgow I’m up north a fair bit for my research, and will be between Tain and Thurso this week. I’m so glad that my research allows me to spend more time at what will forever be ‘home’, no matter where I live.

I’m looking at the impact of Dounreay Nuclear Research Establishment on the far north of Scotland. How Thurso changed between 1954-1965 is my main focus: the population rose from 3000 to 9000 within a few years, and the area had to accommodate this influx and its opportunities and challenges.

This week I’ll be tweeting about my research, as well as some of my other loves. Within the space of a few days I will have been in the west, east and north highlands, spending time in some of my favourite places in the country. Expect photos from this and other trips, and me occasionally weeping at the beauty of it all 😉

I adore concrete and architecture and when these come together with incredible scenery in the hydro schemes I’m in my element. I’m a Polaroid photographer so some of my shots of structures in the highlands will sneak in too.


180: Sarah Norquoy

by handivoices



5th March – 12th March 2017

Hello from Orkney!

I’m Sarah and was delighted to be handed the baton for running HiVoices this week. I moved to Orkney in 2008 and love living here with my husband who I refer to as Orkney Beef.  We have 5 kids between us and a little dog called Hope. I write a regular blog about my life here and the rest of my life is spent trying to squash in work and a too busy social life.  I once dreamed of moving to a remote island off the top of Scotland for a quieter life, but I did that and now I’m busier than ever. Life is never dull. Say hi over on Twitter this week.

On Twitter this week I hope to be sharing with you some pictures from around Orkney as well as talking about a writing event I’m going to this week. I hope to keep you all entertained, come over to Twitter and say hi.


179: Lydia Crow

by handivoices



27th February – 5th March 2017

Greetings and salutations!

I grew up in Orkney, before returning to England many years ago. I have worked in Higher Education for coming on for twelve years now, at universities in Sheffield, Essex, and currently Edinburgh. I’m an all-round education geek and, as well as having held various student representation roles over the years, am about a year or so away from submitting my PhD in folklore and online expressions of identity relating to Orkney (studying with the Centre for Nordic Studies, at the University of the Highlands and Islands). Most of the last several years have been spent trying to make my peace with not managing to fit in as many additional creative projects alongside a full-time job and a part-time research degree as I would like.

I live in Edinburgh during the week, but spend most weekends with my husband and the world’s most neurotic dog in Inverness. Most of my family still live in Caithness, so I take any excuse to head ever further north; and jump at every opportunity going to head over the Pentland Firth back to Orkney.

178: Strontian Community School Building Ltd

by handivoices



19th – 26th February 2017

Hello Everyone

We are Strontian Community School Building Ltd (SCSB), a Community Benefit Society, which was set up in early 2016 to take forward community proposals to build a new primary school in Strontian.

We think this will be Scotland’s first community-owned school building.

Strontian is a small village at the head of Loch Sunart which separates the Ardnamurchan and Morvern peninsulas, roughly 20 miles west of Fort William.

Our project came into being because the current primary school was assessed to be inadequate by Highland Council but their proposed solution to the issue – building temporary modular units – did not meet the aspirations of local parents, who wanted a high-quality, permanent solution for their children.

So the parents instead proposed that the community should build the school, and lease it to Highland Council (HC), in much the same way that Private Finance Initiative schools have been built. In this case however, the community finances and owns the building, such that any future profits are reinvested in the community rather than going to external interests – we are calling this a Community Finance Initiative. To their credit, HC have agreed to this and have supported the project since.

The estimated cost of £850,000 is challenging but nothing new to our community – two years ago another local group, Sunart Community Renewables, built a community hydro scheme in the village costing a similar amount.

During our week curating HI Voices we hope to tell your more about our community, the wider area – and of course our own rather unique project!

177: Lisa Davies

by handivoices



12th-19th February 2017

Hello, I’m a Childcare practitioner based at Inverness College at the UHI Campus in the heart of the Highland capital.

When I’m not looking after two year olds I have a passion for History and Archeology which can be found all over the Highlands.

I am also one of the admins of the Inverness Outlanders Twitter account @InverOutlanders We are a small group who are big fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series. As a group we have met many fans who are now visiting Scotland to see for themselves where the books and the TV show takes place.We have written blogs about our Outlander adventures that we share with fans all over the world.

176: Gillebride/Gilbert MacMillan

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5th – 12th February 2017

Hello, ciamar a tha sibh? ‘S e Gillebrìde a th’orm. I am Gilbert MacMillan or Gillebride MacMillan or Gillebrìde Mac ‘IlleMhaoil – I go by lots of names! I am from South Uist but I live in Glasgow. I have lived in Glasgow for 6 years now but before that I lived in Galicia for 7 years. Gaelic is my first language but I also speak English, Spanish and Galician. I work at Glasgow University and I also do some singing. I had no intention of ever becoming a singer – it just kind of happened and I am still amazed that I have travelled the world singing Gaelic songs. I was lucky to be cast as Gwyllyn the Bard in Outlander a few years ago and that has been a fantastic experience. I have just written an album of original songs and I’ll be recording that soon. This week I’ll be posting about Gaelic music and education, bilingualism, Outlander and Uist. (Picture by Johan Sandberg McGuinne)


175: Rachel Challoner

by handivoices


29th January – 5th February 2017


My name is Rachel and I live on Fair Isle – the UK’s most remote inhabited island.

The island is 3 miles long x 1.5 miles wide, lies halfway between Shetland and Orkney and is home to around 50 residents.

I first came here in 2014 when I worked at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory as Assistant Cook for the season. I moved here permanently in May 2015 with my then partner, when we took on a croft, 27 acres of land, and around 50 sheep. We since separated, but I now run the croft myself alongside six other part-time jobs!

I live here with my sheep, a grumpy ram, three hens, three cats and four dogs. Do check out my Twitter account or blog (www.barklandcroft.wordpress.com) for updates on crofting life and authentic Fair Isle knitwear.

174: Rachel Walker

by handivoices


Enter a caption


15th – 22nd January 2017


I am Rachel Walker, a musician and lecturer working on the West Coast of Scotland.

Born in England, I lived south of the border till I was eight years old when my family moved to Kinlochewe where I was brought up. Fast forward several years, studying at college, getting married and having a couple of kids, I am now based in Gairlochy.

I’m lucky to be able to split my time between my job as a Course Leader of the music courses at West Highland College UHI and working as a musician and composer.

Of course, life in the Highland often means a good bit of travel. I hope to tweet this week about work, travel, life, some lovely scenery and more than likely some pictures of my cat!

173: Cameron Anson

by handivoices



15th – 22nd January 2017

Hello to you all,

My name’s Cameron Anson and I currently have the massive pleasure of living on the Isle of Mull.

Originally from Edinburgh, I took up a seasonal job in the remote village of Fionnphort in the Ross of Mull. Intended to be a fun way to spend the Summer of 2010, I ended up working in the pub/restaurant for two and a half years!

I left to become a crewman on one of the local fishing boats. Admittedly, I did not always enjoy the job but I worked on various fishing boats before taking up my current role as a Steward for Historic Scotland at Iona Abbey. Quite a varied job history since arriving nearly 7 years ago!

Outwith work, I play rugby for the wonderful Isle of Mull rugby club. You would struggle to find a more friendly and hardworking club anywhere. I am also a member of the Mull and Iona Pipe Band and have had some wonderful experiences playing the pipes alongside the young and… Not so young members of this band.

My interest in politics and becoming more involved with helping the local community can be traced back to the lively debates stimulated by the Independence Referendum. As Vice Chairman of the Mull Community Council and a Director for South West Mull and Iona Development, I am actively engaged and passionate about helping the wonderful communities of Mull and Iona in any way I can.

Island communities are diverse, enterprising and provide a wonderful environment to live. Mull and Iona have given me so much and I hope to be able to give something back. This week I plan to show just why I couldn’t ever see me living anywhere else than here!

172: Julie McKenzie

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8th – 15th January 2017


I’m Julie McKenzie. I’m a SNP Councillor in Oban North and Lorn – ward 5. It’s great to have the opportunity to be the Highlands and Islands voice this week!

I originally come from the Isle of Seil, and now live in Oban with my two young sons. I’m passionate about the Highlands and Islands and love living on the West Coast. Although the Isle of Seil is joined to the mainland by a very famous bridge, I’ve always identified as an islander.

Since being elected to Argyll and Bute Council in February 2016, I’ve been on the steepest learning curve of my life. I absolutely love being a Councillor and am one of only nine SNP Councillors who make up the biggest opposition group on our Council.

The next few months are a critical time for Scotland’s Councillors, as we progress towards May’s Local Authority Elections. I’m excited at the prospect of a fresh, invigorated, positive start for Council’s across Scotland. A year really hasn’t been long enough for me, so I’m hoping that I will be fortunate enough to be selected by the SNP to stand again in my ward.

Over the next week I hope to show you a bit more of the things that I love and the things that inspire me about my local area. Please just give me a shout if you want to chat.