PEOPLE from around the world are giving support to the islanders of Islay in their fight to prevent deaths from coronavirus.

The island is famous for its whisky and the warmth of the community has captured the hearts of many of the visitors who come to tour the distilleries.

Island afficionados from as far away as Japan have now donated to a fundraising effort to keep the community safe during the crisis.

Messages of support have flooded in along with donations which have reached a total of £7500.

“The Covid-19 virus has hit island life hard with local businesses small and large having to close,” said Gillian Chasemore of Chit Chat, an island-wide charity which looks after people with long-term conditions.

The fund will help the efforts of the community, which was one of the first in the country to rally round to help vulnerable people during the pandemic.

“We realised quite quickly that this was going to be something big so we asked for volunteers,” said Chasemore.

The first request brought in almost 70 people from the 3500 population and there are now over 120, many of whom have been laid off from their jobs, according to retired policeman Douglas McFadzean who is helping to co-ordinate the effort.

“It’s been amazing here – the whole island has come together,” he said. “We set this up over three weeks ago before the lockdown as we could see what was coming.

“Islay is quite isolated as it is. There are houses all over the island and an elderly population and we knew these people were going to be even more isolated.”

As the main local store does not have an online platform, the priority was to get shopping to vulnerable people who were self-isolating.

“It’s been a bit of a logistical nightmare but the volunteers are great,” said McFadzean, who works part-time as a delivery driver for the Co-op. “A lot of them are folk that have been laid off and they are doing four or five shoppings at a time. They get priority in the Co-op and have lanyards for identification.”

Chasemore said the main aims were to keep people fed and in good mental health.

“At the moment we are looking after 300 people and that is rising daily as things progress and people who are self-isolating are starting to run out of food,” she said.

Medicines, locally made hand sanitiser and products from other businesses on the island are also delivered.

“It really is a community effort,” said Chasemore. “Although it seems like a very small island there are distinct districts and we have eight volunteer coordinators in each district who have their own pool of volunteers, and they then have their own clients. That ensures people on the ground have knowledge of the area.”

“Bruichladdich distillery also approached me early on and said they had lots of whisky people that wanted to donate but did not know how,” she added.

“They asked me to set up a Go Fund Me page and we have had donations from places like Germany and Japan, including a family that have been visiting for 13 years.”

One donation came from a well-wisher who said the island was “part of my heart”.

Another donator, David Kuhn, wrote: “Islay and its people are both so lovely and welcoming. I was originally headed there this next week. I hope to return in November, but in the meantime, I am honoured to give what I can to help the people of the island. Please be safe and patient. We can get through this together.”

MANY of the islanders rely on tourism to make an income and face a very lean season. The hotels have closed but Ardbeg distillery on the island has donated £50,000, which is hoped can be used to provide a hot meals service cooked in the hotels and delivered by the volunteers.

“That is going to help prop up the hotels that are shut, as well as folk that are maybe now struggling financially,” said McFadzean. “The tourism industry here is huge and a lot of people have been laid off.”

The Schroder Foundation has also stepped in to provide welfare boxes for those who have run out of funds. South Islay Development is helping to manage the efforts.

“The whole island has united to fight against Covid-19,” said local development officer Alyson MacGillivray. “We couldn’t do it without all the volunteers and businesses coming together. They are so enthusiastic about helping. Some volunteers are even cutting grass as the needs vary.”