the GM3VLB page

offering informal information on Amateur Radio operation from Scottish Islands
(specifically the SCOTIA, IOTA, WAB, WLH and CIsA programmes - and other schemes involving Scottish Islands)

Published by GM3VLB

The Subject of Donations

André does not activate islands to make money

There is no doubt that considerable income can be made by activating a new or rare country or IOTA island (indeed there are many ‘professional activators’). If one is well-organised, and shops around, there is any amount of sponsorship to be had, either as cash, equipment, travel expenses, QSL cards, literary royalties etc. The only difference between an expedition to, say, Campbell Island and one to a remote Scottish island is one of ‘scale’.

GM3VLB has only once ever asked for sponsorship. This was when the Islands Of Scotland Award committee was approached for help with a very costly Hebridean expedition. The committee promised, and eventually donated UK £100 towards his Boreray (DI17) activation - not without 17 pre-conditions!

He has often received spontaneous donations from many well-wishers (all too often the same people). These range from an extra 2nd class stamp, an extra US$, a Skye Bridge ticket (prior to the removal of tolls), a bottle of midge repellent, a jar of marmalade, a bottle of whisky, a £1 or €1 coin, a £5 note and even, on one occasion, an over-generous £50. André is truly grateful, however large or small the donation, because each one shows that there are hams out there who have had, as they say themselves, “considerable pleasure” from chasing Scottish Islands, and feel that they want to put a little back into it, where it counts. Equally importantly perhaps, is the fact that they have clearly given some thought to what is involved.

These are the people who reflect on what it can be like sometimes, struggling in a tiny tent whose integrity is being threatened by 80 mph winds. But then, there are also those who sit in their comfortable armchairs, in centrally heated shacks, complaining about missing their favourite soap-opera, or about the activator’s method of operating (callsign’s never given of course!).

Sadly, Scottish hams, with a few notable exceptions, do a good job of justifying their comedic reputation for meanness. Many have high island scores. Yes, a 2nd-class stamped addressed envelope is included, but wouldn’t it be nice once in a while to see that they have actually given some thought to what is involved before that precious QSL card drops through the letter box? We feel we understand...they are GM hams as we we are seen as "just another Scottish island"...that's all very well if the operation is from an island frequently served by a Caledonian Macbrayne ferry...but...take a look at the map... A "wee trip" to many of the islands can easily cost (for transport alone) a whole month's old-age pension! Would you send an empty envelope to the first genuine activator of North Korea (who might well be operating from the comfort of his home) or, for that matter, to any activator of Rockall? Andre doesn't request assistance and has sincerely appreciated any sign of recognition of what is involved, be it an extra 2nd class stamp or a Skye Bridge Toll ticket (no longer required!). Prolonged and complete indifference, personal "scores" being all that matters, does get noticed however....

A last-minute activation of Ronay (HI09) in 2000, (to date the only known expedition to this island), only took place because GM3VLB met, by chance, the sister of a previously unknown boatman. She put in a good word and he subsequently went out of his way to take us to the island (and he then also gave us two boxes of prawns the following day!!). In the 12 hours' operation, some 600 people worked Ronay. In André’s book that was worth the box of chocolates which he later took to the boatman's sister. It was really those hams who repeatedly contribute, who effectively paid for those chocolates and who, as a result, were able to ‘get’ Ronay. However, those less thoughtful hams, also got Ronay. Sad but true. That small gesture also ensured that André’s next trip to the MONACHS (DI22) would be free!!

If you wonder why some hams get their QSL cards long before others, see the information on the procedures André adopts for QSL-ing.

Information was passed to André about a German amateur who had apparently referred on the Web to our summer-2000 St Kilda / Hebridean expedition as a 'dollar expedition'. Which planet does this guy live on ? ! Has he the faintest idea of (a.) what the costs were? and (b.) the conditions the team members had to endure? If not, then he (and others like him) should keep quiet and not show their ignorance. Perhaps the individual concerned might like to identify himself - although probably not - his type prefers to hide behind a wall of anonymity.

Some FACTS about the Summer 2000 trip (click here for a full account) :-

Costs - Even before QSL cards were printed, total costs were approaching US $2000 (a normal charter to St Kilda (DI23) alone is likely to cost around US $4000). Because of GM3VLB's many contacts in the island community, costs were kept to a minimum, despite also activating a rare IOTA island and, on the same trip, making nearly 800 QSOs from previously little-activated Taransay (HI20).
Income - The team is (again) deeply indebted to IREF (the Island Radio Expedition Foundation), administered by Mike Crownover (AD5A). IREF have, for the third time, sponsored a GM3VLB Scottish Island expedition, once again to the tune of US $150 (despite their available funds falling, as reported in a recent CDXC magazine). The team is most grateful to those amateurs who support IREF. Coincidentally, there was no support from any UK-based organisation.
Nevertheless, thanks must go to those few amateurs (31 in the UK, and 13 overseas) who contributed the equivalent of  £1.00 or more. Some in fact contributed to more than one member of the team, although all the contributions were pooled together. A few kindly donated £1, most donations were a generous £5, seven people donated a very generous £10, and one an embarrasingly generous £20. . Over the years, SCOTIA has received even larger donations (£50 on one occasion). Team members have always been deeply and sincerely moved by such generosity which always gives a wee boost to morale and keeps us looking at other islands, as well as sometimes enduring pretty horrendous conditions when we get there....Thanks again to all our supporters...

Conditions - To leave St Kilda, the equipment and team members had to be transferred to the Coastal Surveyor from a small motor boat. The small launch was heaving up and down on the 3m swell, repeatedly smashing and literally breaking up against the side of the larger vessel. Before the fishing boat even reached the open sea, there was utter chaos in the galley as crockery and other utensils were smashed on the floor, and many items of the expedition looked certain to be washed overboard before the trip was over. Not until landfall in Lewis, some 10 hours later, could anybody think about all those dollars that would allegedly be received, or whether they might be required to cover the costs of the damage to the dinghy, or to cover the replacement costs of any lost or damaged equipment !!!


As I explained elsewhere, the Summer 2002 expedition to the Flannan Isles EU-118, was both much more costly than originally anticipated, as well as being physically very demanding. My own feeling is that there will not be many more operations from those islands.

Follow these links for a detailed account of the Summer 2002 Flannan Islands expedition, and a brief reprise of the Autumn 2002 Shetland expedition.

My primary concern at this moment in time is to publicly acknowledge the support that we have been given, both prior to and subsequent to the operation. It is not possible to name everyone, nor would I state the precise level of support. Many others have included what could be termed "extra postage" and I would like to assure those concerned that every little helps, from the extra 2nd class stamp, to the bottle of the latest midge deterrent, to the extra IRC or "green stamp". However, a few spontaneously give support beyond the call of duty - I feel that any contribution in excess of $5 is in that category.

I would therefore like to publicly thank the following who have indeed given very generous support, many for the umpteenth time. I also know there are some who perhaps cannot really afford it. Alex GM0DHZ and myself were most touched by the donations of the following (arranged randomly):

Alistair GW0VMZ, Gregg PA9ZZ/VE3ZZ, Gerald G3JQC, Fred DL4BBH, Bob G0YYY, Dick N7RO, Ted G0ASZ, Norton M0BNC, Gou JA1QXY and Norman G0VYR.

Sincere thanks es vy 73 de André GM3VLB (on behalf of the Flannan team)

[Since scribing this piece, we have been fortunate over recent years, to receive generous support from many others, too numerous to mention here. Once again, our sincere thanks to all - André GM3VLB, May 2013]

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