Its there because of its amazing history! LONG BUT FUNNY!
The complete history of Rockall
You couldn't make this stuff up
by Kieren McCarthy
It may be just 83 feet across, 65 foot high, 100 foot wide and the most isolated island in the world but never has a rock has such a deep and fascinating history. Well, not a rock that no man has ever lived on anyway.
It has been invaded by the SAS, caused the death of hundreds of people, provoked international disputes over ownership, put an Act through Parliament and become one of the richest pieces of land in the Northern Hemisphere.
According to legend, Rockall is the last remnant of Brazil (the Western Land of Eternal Youth), although the Irish reckon it came from a pebble thrown from some no-doubt inebriated compatriot called Finn McCool.
Clearly that's all bollocks. Rockall is, and always will be, a ruddy big lump of rock sticking out the sea about 300 miles from Scotland. Actually, it's the tip of an old volcano made of three-material granite quartz rock that erupted round about 50 million years ago.
It has no soil. Which has put off those that have ever seen it from living there. So no one ever has. Limpets have never been keen on soil anyway so they often hang around playing in the surf, while sea birds occasionally go there for a holiday (usually the depressive types, like gannets).
The first person that decided while it was there he'd get on top of it was back in 1810. He wasn't very impressed so he left. Someone else tried fifty-two years later but he couldn't get up the side of the rock and left in a foul temper. Then an old sea dog, bored with sailing up and down all day, sweating and hauling huge amounts of heavy fish only to go home to his nagging wife in Grimsby (who wasn't half as attractive as she was when he married her – and she was no looker then either) thought he'd liven up his day a bit and he climbed on top. In 1888.
"More people have landed on the moon than have landed on Rockall," Mr William Ross, MP for Kilmarnock, 1971. He was right at the time too.
It was only in the 1900s that Rockall really took off – with eight landings in a whole century. The limpets formed a union to complain – though sadly by that time Margaret Thatcher has brought in new anti-union legislation and it was dismantled before the first meeting was held.
So what has made Rockall such a problem and why do the UK, Ireland, Iceland and Denmark and a mad old Scottish bastard from the Mackay clan all reckon they own it?
Well, the fact that it just sort of pops up unexpected like has been one main problem. A huge number of ships have forgotten about it only to be reminded that volcanoes are not renowned for their rubber-like characteristics. In 1824, the Helen of Dundee hit it by mistake but very hard. The crew managed to survive but the passengers weren't so lucky. Not learning from this lesson, the Norge hit it in 1904 and 600 people, most of whom could swim, drowned.
"There can be no place more desolate, despairing and awful," Lord Kennet, 1971. Silly old bugger, what does he know?
The Queen claimed it for the UK on 18 September 1955. Liz Two formally annexed it "to eliminate the possibility of embarrassing counter-claims once the Hebridean guided missiles project was underway". She always has been a very considerate monarch like that.
The HMS Vidal landed on Rockall, cemented in a brass plaque, hoisted up the Union Jack and Lt Commander Desmond Scott (from Whitstable) claimed it for the UK. He then got back on the boat and fired a 21-gun salute at it. [This was when the limpets decided enough was enough and called for a meeting of the molluscs.]
But when J Abrach Mackay of the Mackay clan heard about it, he went mental and insisted the Admiralty hand it back to him because his father had claimed it in 1846. They wisely ignored him and he shut up.
Then, 15 years later, word got out that Rockall may in fact be sitting on top of billions of pounds worth of natural gas. And would you believe it but suddenly everyone seemed to have a claim on it. The Danish and Icelandics weren't interested in the gas of course, they just wanted fishing rights. You see, a lot of fish hang around Rockall too in the hope that a ship will crash and they'll get the chance to smugly blow bubbles in fishermen's drowning faces (fish are vindictive like that). Oh, and there's some oil as well.
Such was the fuss that the UK government thought it ought to make its ownership claim formal and passed the Rockall Act in 1971, pushed through by Lord Campbell of Croy. The official explanation was that the British Navy used it for target practice. The Queen gave it Royal Assent on 10 February 1972 and it became part of Invernesshire (top left of Scotland).
"How many British ministers have visited Rockall in each of the last 10 years?" Mr Corbyn. "None," Mr Fatchett. Hansard, 1 December 1997.
In 1974, the UK decided that no one else was allowed within 50 miles of Rockall and the shit really hit the fan. Brilliantly, the navy installed a temporary sentry box and flag and stuck two Royal Marines in full ceremonial dress next to it to guard it. The picture was only released 10 years later as part of another celebration of the rock's Britishness.
Also, the UK pointed out, quite reasonably, that since Rockall was part of the same land mass as Scotland, all these arguments were academic. Had that been true, it would have been right. On the 10 December, Denmark got diplomatic. The UK ignored it.
Until one year and eight days later when the UK started making noises about just how much it owned Rockall. The Danes became suspicious and, sure enough, very soon after the UK issued petrol drilling licences around the area. The Danes came steaming back claiming 300,000 square kilometres on one side of Rockall – which of course, the UK and Ireland had already put claim to.
Iceland, not to be beaten, started drawing maps of which bits it owned – which, of course, the UK and Ireland already had put claim to. The wind of change was flying against Britain. The Economist magazine – which can sometimes be so right and other times so wrong – said Britain "hoped it had got away with a claim to a swathe of the Atlantic waters by incorporating the far-flung inhabitable island of Rockall into the Scottish county of Invernesshire". It did make up for the blunder though by saying Ireland's claim was "as scientifically unimaginative as it is legally impeccable". The Irish had simply drawn a line 200 miles from its coast and said everything between it belonged to it. They didn't want Rockall though, so sod em.
Denmark began a new argument that Rockall wasn't even an island and so all claims were off. And then, with a stroke of genius, the UK put an end to it all.
They asked former SAS man, survival expert, lone Atlantic sailor and all-round good guy Tom Mclean to go live on the rock. So he did – from 26 May to 4 July. In a shed. Since Tom had lived there for over a month, it was clearly an island. And not only that but one owned by the UK. That shut the Danes up. Ireland also gave up whingeing and came to some kind of agreement. [But that didn't stop a couple of modern-day Finn McCools trying to get on Rockall in 1992 and again in 1994 though. Both attempts failed miserably.]
All the UK had to do now was ignore the international legislation the Law of the Sea – forever – and it was home sailing. It has yet to do it. And long may that treaty remain unsigned.
But just when Liz Two and the Royal Navy thought it was all over, in came the environmentalists. Greenpeace to be exact. What Greenpeace doesn't realise (and it would be hurt if it knew) is that marine life and sea birds as a whole can't stand it. They find the whole organisation rather patronising and would rather be left to sort out their own arguments – but Greenpeace will insist on getting involved.
Anyway, interfering for the umpteenth time, three Greenies landed on Rockall from a helicopter (wimps) on 10 June 1997 and stayed in a capsule for 42 days. But since this was longer than Tom Mclean, they reckoned they now owned Rockall. One of the meddlers said: "By seizing Rockall we claim her seas for the planet and all its peoples. No one has the right to unleash this oil into our threatened climate." Of course, we only have it on their word that they said this.
The transcript of still-classified tape from a bug planted into Rockall several years earlier recorded no such event, merely lots of griping about how cold it was and could you please look away when I'm going to the toilet. Christ, how much longer do I have to sit in a capsule with you? And please put on some deodorant, you smell worse than the gannets.
Anyway, far from sending the Navy in to arrest and detain the Greenies, bods from the Foreign Office had a meeting a few days later when "People sitting on Rockall" came up as item number fourteen to be discussed. A junior minister explained that while having a cigar and brandy in the club last night, he'd come up with rather a funny idea. He told the assembled meeting, they roared with laughter, put a statement out to the press and Greenpeace was suitably chastised.
Of course, that civil servant hadn't thought of it – his rather more witty friend in the Treasury had, but it did his career no end of good. And it was this: "Rockall is British territory. It is part of Scotland and anyone is free to go there and can stay as long as they please."
And so, armed with a couple or blankets, thick woolly coats, a small camping stove and some computer equipment, we took the UK government up on its offer and started an online newspaper to best represent the view of all Rockall's residents (us).
It had to be done over the Internet because the publishers said the paper would get too soggy otherwise.