Eigg's biggest party starts here

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The Independent Online
It was, according to islander Maggie Fyffe, "the biggest party Eigg has ever seen".

Mrs Fyffe had helped lead the campaign that yesterday reached fruition: the 68-strong population of the tiny Scottish island were finally able to celebrate their independence, for the first time in generations.

The islanders, as part of a trust which includes Highland Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust, secured control after its owner, the German artist Marlin Eckhard Maruma, was forced to sell up by creditors.

Even before the first boat of the day brought visitors to the island that had for decades been a "rich man's plaything", the party was beginning. A celebration bonfire blazed so brightly that it was said its flames could be seen from the mainland.

After prayers of dedication a plaque was unveiled and a lone piper led guests to a marquee. There they heard speeches from councillors, wildlife experts and the islanders themselves, while children sang songs.

Their population swelled by an unprecedented 400 visitors - and lubricated by beer and whisky - the islanders heard the Government promise it would help them achieve their own form of home rule.

The Scottish Office minister, Brian Wilson, among the VIPs on the island for the celebrations, said he had asked Highlands and Islands Enterprise to form a "support unit" to boost community land ownership.

A donation of pounds 900,000 from a mystery benefactor helped the islanders seal the pounds 1.5m deal and end the island's ownership by outside landlords.

In a prepared statement the islanders said "a huge thank you to the thousands of people who have helped make our dreams come true.