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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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March 2014 Issue
Contents of the online version:
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Mallaig's small Bowling Club can now boast two major trophies in Short Mat Bowling. Congratulations to Alan and Dennis Eddie who won the Scottish Pairs in the Scottish Short Mat Championships on Friday 7th February, to add to the British Isles Pairs Trophy won in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, last November. The team also won the Scottish Fours in 2011.
The victorious Eddie brothers, seen here with their trophies, Alan, on the left, with the British Isles Pairs Trophy and Dennis with the Scottish Pairs Trophy.
INVERAILORT CASTLE RE-VAMP?
A charity called Chance for Change is looking into the feasibility of renovating Inverailort Castle to open it as a national vocational training centre.
The charity works with young adults broaden their experience in wilderness environments and also runs programmes in the UK and Nepal.
A Community Open Day was held on Saturday 8th March at the Castle to view a presentation on the proposed plans.
These involve the careful and sympathetic restoration of the old house, which is now in serious disrepair. At an estimated cost of £6 million, the charity aims to retain the façade, internal staircase and the doors which still carry stencilling from when the Castle was used as a training centre for combined operations in World War II.
They would retain a space for the local Post Office which is at present housed there, provide a museum, chapel, youth hostel and conference facility. A public appeal will shortly be launched to raise the money required.
February has to have been the fastest month to pass so far (yes I know it's literally the shortest as well!) but there were so many good things crammed in, it seems to have flown by. The snowdrops and daffodils are adding a good bit of hope and cheer, reminding us that winter might actually be nearly over, especially with the recent appearances of sunshine. We've even had some proper sunsets this month!
The kids had their half term, during which a few of them made the most of the snow on the ski slopes at Nevis range, and Anna and Rachel had a p7 transition trip to Outward Bound (doesn't seem as long as 10 years ago I was their age at Outward Bound!!). Kitty turned 5, and had a lovely wee party in the hall where of course she was a princess. Friday night spent making a gingerbread croft with Isla for her was great fun, though we were slightly hyper after testing a good percentage of the sweeties! Quality control obviously.
Cath's wee anti-valentines (vodka based) party was probably the highlight of the month it has to be said, with a whole lot of alcoholic edibles going on… Bloody Mary pasta, rowan tree randoms gin (what a great idea Rhona!) and an iced whiskey coffee pudding. Highly recommend it. Also on the subject of food, there was a curry cooking course held at Penny and Jamie's at Doune, which was an amazing day all round, thoroughly enjoyed by us all I think. I always thought naan bread was really exotic and would be hard to do but apparently not! Morag's enthusiasm for barbequing our meat should definitely be noted, seeing as it was raining and blowing a gale at the time!
The rangers organised a beach clean on long beach which went well, a lot of debris and seaweed had accumulated since the storms so it's looking much cleaner now! There was also a successful volunteer day sprucing up the school playground, and the kids were busy planting some veg this week so hopefully they will have a nice wee crop come the autumn.
The Northern lights caused quite an excitement; they were quite spectacular (I'd never seen them before!). It's things like that that make you remember just how lucky we are, living where we do!
Finally, there was the Uke concert. A huge success and all their hard work paid off, it was a great night all round! The bookings will be flying in just shortly I'm sure! So yeah, despite it being the shortest month of the year, it's definitely been a busy one. Here's hoping March will fly by just as quickly.
Bye for now folks.
ISLE OF MUCK
The Education Dept are learning. They have to after the fiasco in December when they appointed a new teacher for Muck who hated the sea. As soon as she crossed it she resigned. This time they have chartered Orion so that the candidates (and there are a number) can experience the sea but the island itself. For the successful candidate must not only be able to teach but also be part of the community. And if they make a mistake the whole process will have to start again.
A new month and a new beginning for Gareth Moffat and Mark Johnson. For they were the successful applicants for the Marine Harvest posts on the island. And jobs mean training so on 3rd March they are off to the mainland and other sites in the Marine Harvest empire for several months. We all wish them well. Marine Harvest Building Dept seem to be struggling a little with house building. Not surprising with over four months of unprecedented continuous wet weather. The houses won't be needed till the young stock go into the cages. Plenty of time before August.
The Camas programme for the summer is shaping up well and I should be able to give you details next month. Meanwhile we are all preparing for the big wedding on 17th May.
ISLE OF CANNA
Welcome to our newest residents Chris and Anna Deplano who will be running the cafe on Canna. Good luck with your new venture and we are all looking forward to the opening on 5th April. For more info contact the Cafecanna website at www.cafecanna.co.uk.
The mysterious gull mentioned in last months issue has now been identied as a Franklin's Gull. These small gulls breed on the praries of Canada and the northern states of the USA but would normally winter in the Caribean and South America. All the winter gales have blown it well of course.
ISLE OF RUM
The new bunkhouse build is racing along, with the foundations and concrete pad done and the clever septic tanks (which apparently won't need emptying) in the ground. So that's the heavy plant away and joiners due on site next week.
Development officer interviews took place this week and an appointment has been made, more news next month.
After months of fundraising, we have finally raised enough to pay for the much needed woodworm treatment - thanks to the old broadband money, Sunday café's and the Mourning Dove 'twitch' (which brought a lot of birdwatchers to the island, happy to contribute towards the community fund). Work will be carried out in a couple of weeks and the contractors will also fix the hole in the ceiling caused by a burst pipe last winter. With a bit of hard work we should have the hall and surrounding area looking spic and span in time for the first visitors of the season.
Rum Primary held an open day to show off the new smart board, which is particularly smart and an improvement on the last one - think CSI and you'll get the idea! Eve and Jocelyn showed off their spelling skills, 7ft giraffe and innumerable dinosaurs, the visitor's enjoyed a shot of handpainting and a lovely cup of tea from the talented Mrs Julie.
The SNH hostel has a new roof to keep the rain at bay of which there has been plenty and the castle turret repairs are still ongoing, there is no further news on the long term future of the castle, the consultation paper still being in the hands of the minister, Paul Wheelhouse.
We hope to hear something soon.
And a quick word for Ross for the sorry demise of his cat - chin up Ross!
ISLE OF EIGG
February seems to have passed really quickly despite the awful wet weather and spring seems on its way with bird song starting in earnest and daffs coming through everywhere! Crofters' cattle have had a hard time of it though with newborns struggling in the cold wet weather, but there are now plenty of new calves now gambolling about.
Tree planting has been on the agenda with the man who loves trees (aka Wes Fyffe) leading the team of international volunteers who came to Eigg for the week to plant hardwoods in the forestry. Ash from Wes's tree nursery have been added to the mix, which should make a colourful show in autumns to come. Our orchard has also been pruned at the end of the month by community volunteers and the new shed done by Karl was much admired.
On the historic side of things, the panel telling the story of the Kildonnan graveyard and the archaeological dig which led to the identification of where the Early Christian monastery was located is now in place and a leaflet about the project has also been produced, illustrated with a very convincing reconstruction drawing produced by Eigg business, Blastula Designs. The Eigg History Society is now planning to look at funding from Historic Scotland to repair the crumbling walls of this very historical part of our graveyard. Another project in the pipeline is the repairs to the 18th century Clanranald pier and we are looking forward to the visit of maritime archaeologists from Project Samphire later on in the year to help with what will be quite an ambitious project.
Art and craftwise, folks who attended the two needle felt workshops led by Libby at her house in Cleadale were totally delighted with the results of their afternoon's work. Libby plans to do more regular workshops for locals and visitors later on the year. In the meantime, these free workshops were part of the support brought by Eigg Box to the Eigg creative community, with a photoshop workshop coming soon. Eigg Box which is hoping to access more funding to continue this support has also been working with Sweeney's Bothy on Eddie and Lucy's croft in Cleadale. Sweeney's bothy is the third in a series of artist bothies for residencies build by Bobby Niven of The Bothy Project throughout Scotland. With a clean, modern design, it is a very attractive self-sufficient off grid little eco-hut with a breathtaking view over the Rum Cuillin, nesting high up below the Cleadale cliffs. The bothy warming took place on Saturday 15 February and managed to cram an amazing amount of people in such a small space! The bothy is now solidly booked every week until June which shows the amount of interest for such activities in our part of the world!
Many people turned up for the hall spring clean and tidy up of the garden around as the hall is soon going to be used for the wedding of Tasha Lancaster and Gabe McVarish. Our hall is looking beautifully spruced up and we are looking forward to the tying of the knot on 14 March. Needless to say, stags and hens have been busy also this month! Judging by facebook evidence, much fun was had in a wee bothy near Glenuig with some great tunes in Lochailort the following day, despite the predictable hangovers, whilst in Kingussie, the hen party seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed snow, swims and the fun of being together in a congenial environment. Enough said...
Fun, Frocks and Fundraising: Dress Appeal
After a successful charity dress sale in November, Arisaig based business Fuze Ceremonies, are planning a second Fun, Frocks and Fundraising on 26th April at 12pm in the Nevis Centre, Fort William. It's all aid of Lochaber Hope - a well-respected Fort William charity providing support services to people coping with a wide range of sensitive and personal issues.
Fuze are appealing for Dress donations: Any shape, size, colour, accessories and raffle prizes. The more dresses they have, the more money they'll raise.
To kick off the promotion five glamorous members of the Fuze team donned their frocks and made their way up the mountain gondola to Nevis Range Ski Resort for a day of skiing and snowboarding dressed in some very quirky and unusual snowboarding attire - Wedding Dresses. The low temperature at the top of Aonach Mor wasn't enough to scare off the team who posed for photos as passers took a second glance to ensure their eyes weren't playing tricks on them!
Anne Widdop, Founding Director of Fuze Ceremonies, said 'We hope this event will raise thousands of pounds for Lochaber Hope. Both Jodie Fraser and myself live in Lochaber. It's a fantastic charity event we're staging in Fort William.'
Guests at Fun, Frocks and Fundraising will be welcomed with a glass of champagne and canapés and then treated to a fashion show, dress sale, music and over 20 local exhibitors. The highlight is an auction of the top 10 new designer dresses: An Emma Roy wedding dress worth £1000 is a star buy but they are also offering hundreds of casual dresses, prom dresses, bridesmaids and wedding gowns from as little as £5. They'll be beauty stalls offering makeovers, hair-ups and treatments. It's a great day out. Treat yourself to a make-over, buy a dress off the peg and bid on some beautiful, brilliantly priced dresses in the auction.
Tickets for the dress sale available now!
Jodie Fraser, Business Development Officer, is co-ordinating the event. She said: "We've fabulous brand new dresses donated and we urge the public and local businesses to have a rummage through their wardrobes and dig out your unwanted frocks: a celebrity donation would be superb!"
And watch the press for a great event planned on the 19th April. They're planning a parade in Fort William to raise awareness for the dress sale: featuring the pipe band, a Wedding March, a traditional blackening ritual and a scramble for the kids (any other old wedding traditions you can remember - get in touch, we'd love to hear about them!)
To donate or buy tickets: contact us on
Dress drop-off points across Lochaber, in Arisaig and at Lochaber Hope office in Fort William.
THE NEW LOCAL PHONE DIRECTORY NOW ON SALE!
The new edition of the local phone/address directory is now available in Arisaig and Mallaig Post Offices and at Morar Motors, price still only £3.
The now familiar little yellow book is extremely useful for business addresses and phone numbers, and all those useful numbers we need from time to time - taxi services, the schools, Mackintosh Centre, the Belford and Raigmore Hospitals, Highland Council numbers, etc.
We try to keep it is up to date as possible and to include as many entries as we can. If you are not included, please consider it and let us know for the next issue.
It is the only form of regular fundraising West Word does and we thank all those who have purchased one (or three!) and in doing so support the paper.
It is also available by post from West Word for £4. Please make cheques out to ‘Mallaig & District Newspaper Association’ please and send to West Word, Morar Station Building, Morar, PH40 4PB or pay into our bank account - email for details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Three welcome visitors to a flooded field, says Ann Gillies,
who sent us this photo of Canada Geese at Bunacaimbe.
CELTIC PADDLE FEST
2014 will see the launch of a new event for Lochaber. The Celtic Paddle Fest will be held from the 10th-11th May 2014 in the spectacular setting of Arisaig on the Road to the Isles. The Lochaber Chamber of Commerce have teamed up with a group of local activity providers, Arisaig Sea Kayak Centre, No Fuss Events, Rockhopper Sea Kayaking, Sea-kayak Arisaig and Wilderness Guides Canoeing, to create a two day paddle sports festival.
The festival will cater for all abilities from those who have never been in a canoe or kayak before to those who wish to learn some new skills or try some new equipment such as sit-on-top kayaks. Staged in the Outdoor Capital of the UK the festival base offers stunning vistas of the West Coast of Scotland and provides everyone with the opportunity to get out on the water with an experienced guide.
Arisaig Skerries - Photo Rockhopper Sea Kayaking
The weekend will involve two days of kayaking and canoeing activities, a triathlon, evening BBQ and some entertainment on the Saturday night. Festival goers will have the choice of whether they would like to attend for one day or for the whole weekend and can select a ticket offering two, three or four sessions on the water.
The event will offer a fantastic opportunity to learn some new skills and try something new with a diverse range of activities to suit all abilities and small group sizes with experienced guides. Further information will be released shortly on www.celticpaddlefest.co.uk with tickets available soon.
Arisaig Bay - Photo Mike Kingswood of Arisaig Sea Kayak Centre
Frazer Coupland, Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, says 'If paddling is something you have always fancied then this is a great chance, why not join us for the 2014 Celtic Paddle Fest - this is a unique event to the Outdoor Capital bringing paddlers and those who would like to paddle together in one location.'
For any businesses who would like to get involved in the festival, please get in touch with Cara MacRae via email@example.com or 01397 705765
THE MONASTERY OF ST DONNAN:
SCOTLAND'S ONLY CHRISTIAN MARTYR REVEALED BY EXCAVATIONS ON THE ISLE OF EIGG
The Community Archaeology Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund on the Isle of Eigg in 2012 has unearthed what is believed to be the remains of the monastery of the Celtic monk, St Donnan.
Very little is known about his years on Eigg apart from the records in Irish monastic annals which recorded that the first Christian community in the Small Isles was established on Eigg in about 610 AD and he soon attracted others to join him. Kildonnan, overlooking a sheltered south facing bay, was an ideal base from which to spread Christianity in the pagan lands not yet visited by St Columba and his monks from Iona. However, on the 17th April 617, Donnan and his 52 monks were slain after celebrating Easter mass.
Until recently the exact site of his monastery had been a mystery, although tradition had held that it was near the now-ruined chapel dedicated to him. A three-week excavation in the summer of 2012 took place in an area of the grave yard not yet covered by burials. Led by John Hunter, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham with students from Birmingham, Glasgow and Cranfield universities as well as members of local history societies and children from Eigg Primary School, the team explored an oval ditched enclosure just visible as an earthwork on the southern edge of the grave yard. Here they found a ditch lined with wooden posts inside, typical of Celtic monastic enclosure. Inside, there would have been monastic cells and a church. Outside this enclosure, further cobbled surfaces and burnt building clay dating from the same period showed that there had been settlement outside the monastery boundary.
Artist's impression of what St Donnan's monastery might have looked like by Ben Cormack of Blastula Design
That the site had seen activity long before the time of St Donnan was shown by the discovery by the excavators of a Neolithic cairn not far from the monastery. The ruined chapel, said to date from the sixteenth century, appeared to have been built on the site of an earlier medieval building.
While copies of the full, excavation report have been deposited with Highland Council's Archaeology section and in the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monument's archives, an illustrated 8 page booklet about St Donnan's monastery, the dig and the other Early Christian sites of the Small Isles has been produced as well and will be available on each of the Small Isles from the beginning of the tourist season. For those visiting the island, an App for downloading on smart phones will soon be available to guide visitors from the pier to Kildonnan where a new interpretation panel explains the significance of the site through time.
Interpretive panel of the site by Blastula Design
The project not only increased understanding of early Christianity in the Small Isles, but by involving the community it also raises awareness of the significance of St Donnan and his monastery and provides a further cultural tourist destination on the island. Finally, as one young islander and Aberdeen university student, Helen Maclean said, 'it's my first dig ever and it's been really interesting. I feel I have learnt a lot in just three days. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.'
MALLAIG HARBOUR NEWS March 2014
Marina Facilities Building
The Harbour Authority is pleased that Planning Permission for the Marina Facilities Building was granted on Tuesday 25th February 2014.
It is now up to Nevis Estate to initiate the demolition of the Old Hall and the adjacent Public Toilets and then oversee the erection of the new Marina Facilities Building and Crannog. This new building will house the toilets, showers and laundry facilities for Marina users but it is unfortunate that the delays that have occurred mean that the facilities will not be in place for this coming season.
As revealed in last month's West Word and on our web-site, the Authority has recently lodged plans with the Highland Council seeking permission to construct a new esplanade - connecting the new building with the Marina shorebase.
It is hoped that the Esplanade development which will incorporate seating, interpretive boards, cliff face lighting, parking and road widening will be granted planning permission and if so should be completed later this year.
Age has finally caught up with Bruce Watt's Ticket Office. The wooden building which has been a part of the fabric of Mallaig Harbour for nigh on 60 years was dismantled last month. Aye, many's a ticket for the Western Isles was sold in Brucie's Shed and many's a story told as well.
However the new owner of the Western Isles, Mr Joe Blower who intends to re-introduce cruises to Lochs Nevis, Duich, Scavaig etc with his new acquisition, has already replaced the building with one of similar shape and dimensions.
Antares in Mallaig Harbour
It was nice to see the 75 metre long pelagic trawler Antares LK419 in port last month tho' sadly it wasn't to land her catch!
The Shetland trawler, fishing for mackerel on the west side of Ireland, called at the harbour for engineering repairs.
'There have been many heavy landings of herrings so far this year at Mallaig, on the west coast of Scotland. Now there is a new record. On Wednesday of last week 6,985 crans were discharged beating the previous daily record set in January 1969 by 1,015 crans.
A total of 34 boats discharged, but the bulk of the herring came from six purse seiners. The top shot of 800 crans was landed by Pathfinder.
In spite of the large amount of herring there was no difficulty in disposing of them, although one man said transport was 'a bit tight'.
Prices also kept up, ranging from £18 to £24 a cran.'
Sadly, this is not a story from February 2014 but from February 1974, courtesy of The Fishing News. The purser mentioned is the article in the BA registered Pathfinder, skippered by Bert Andrews and a cran was made up of four baskets!
With Mallaig Harbour Authority looking to improve access to Lovat Beach via improvements and extensions to the Slipway, it's maybe worthwhile looking back to when the Beach was used extensively for the maintenance - scraping and varnishing - of the local Ringnet fleet.
The two boats on the beach are the Margaret Ann OB198 and the Maggie McLean OB156.
West Word recently received this photo from Mr Tony Howard in Hove. Tony was going through some old b & w negatives recently and came across some pictures of Mallaig Harbour. He tells me that the pictures were taken when he was a teenager c1965-1968, probably while waiting for the ferry to Skye for a family holiday in Broadford.
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Heather asked about what dragonflies eat.
In this photo the head of a Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii), with the huge eyes and frontal shield to its mouth clearly visible. It had just eaten a blue damselfly while sitting on a bog myrtle bush.
Adult dragonflies are very efficient predators, feeding on flying insects - up to the size of butterflies and larger insects such as damselflies. Damselflies feed on smaller insects. In both groups the legs are positioned to make it easier to grab prey. Hawker dragonflies can be seen patrolling a stretch of water or bog, whereas darter dragonflies sit on a prominent perch and nip out to catch prey.
Dragonfly nymphs hatch from the eggs which are laid underwater. They are voracious carnivores eating smaller aquatic invertebrates, tadpoles and wee fish. They are referred to as nymphs as they resemble the adults but without wings. (Insect larvae are the young of insects which look different from the adults.) The dragonfly nymphs tend to take at least a year to mature to the adult stage, some species spend several years as nymphs. There is no pupal stage, when ready to emerge the nymph climbs a plant stem to get out of the water and sheds its skin and inflates and dries its wings and becomes an adult. The life span of an adult dragonfly is about a month during the summer.
Dr Mary Elliott
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
The run of windy and often wet weather continued throughout February, with nothing out of the ordinary reported.
The Kumlien's Gull was again present around Mallaig Harbour all month.
The female Tufted Duck reported from Loch nan Eala last month continued its stay throughout February, keeping company with the Wigeon and Whooper Swans there.
Little Auks were seen regularly on Loch nan Ceall and 2 Slavonian Grebes were seen on the loch just off Millburn on the 18th.
Shelduck numbers built up on Loch nan Ceall as the month progressed, with at least 10 seen together during the last week. Shelduck also reported from Gorten, Traigh and the Morar Estuary.
On the 24th, 3 Greenland White-fronted Geese were seen in a field by Achnaskia, Back of Keppoch. They were still around on the 28th, when they were in a field at Traigh golf course along with 9 Canada Geese, a Pink-footed Goose and several Greylags.
At least 30 Golden Plover were feeding in a field by Traigh golf course on the 3rd, while smaller numbers were seen there on other dates along with Curlew and Oystercatchers. A flock of 12 Turnstones were seen on the shore by Traigh golf course on the 24th.
More reports of Siskins and Goldfinches from garden feeders through the month, with Yellowhammers and Bullfinches reported from some Arisaig gardens. Three Bullfinches were seen by the track to Camusdarach Beach on the 22nd.
Several sightings of presumably the same female/immature Hen Harrier from the Rhue peninsula and Back of Keppoch. Numerous reports of Sea Eagles, both adults and immatures, from Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig, mostly along the shoreline.
A sign that Spring is just around the corner, with Skylarks seen at Back of Keppoch during the last week, with an impressive flock of 50+ birds at Gorten on the 28rh.
Tawny Owls were also very vocal around Woodside and Rhubana, Morar, from mid-month.
ON AND OFF THE RAILS
Temporary Road Closure, Morar Level Crossing
In order for Network Rail to install automatic railway level crossing half-barrier safety gates at Morar, a temporary road closure will be in place - see the front page. After that date, no longer will we see the train drivers exit their cab at Morar to depress the plunger, return to their cab and proceed on their way to Fort William and beyond!
BST is coming - it's official
As British Summer Time begins on Sunday March 30th, with it comes the resumption of the Summer Sunday train service to clarify: on Sundays, trains will depart Mallaig at 10.10 all stations to Glasgow Queen Street, 16.05 all stations to Glasgow Queen Street and 18.15 all stations to Fort William.
Trains into Mallaig will be at 13.34, 17.43 and 23.35.
From the same date, on board catering will be available on some Mallaig/Fort William services. For full details pocket timetables are available at staffed booking stations or www.scotrail.co.uk
As in previous summers, commencing Monday March 31st, the stand alone four car train service Monday to Friday from Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig is timed as follows: depart Glasgow Queen Street 9.03, Fort William arrive 12.44. Fort William depart 12.48 arriving Mallaig at 14.10. on Saturdays the train departs Glasgow Queen Street at 08.21 arriving mallaig 13.34, and as previously stated, on Sundays the train departs only from Fort William at 12.12 arriving Mallaig 13.34.
ScotRail Keep Cup
If travelling by train further than Fort William, the 'Hospitality Steward Keep Cup' offer may suit you. This smart, easily handled, blue and white ScotRail branded, re-usable thermal mug is currently on sale for £6 - and it comes with a bargain offer. You are given a card which entitles you to 6 complimentary hot drinks, to be redeemed on any journey. After this, if using your cup, you are entitled to a 20p discount on all hot drinks with no time limit for the offer to end. As the drinks are normally priced at £1.60 this could make you a savvy shopper!
Above: Rail Enthusiast Nick Jones from Banavie purchasing the very first 'ScotRail Keep Cup' from Trolley Dolly Rachel from Glasgow. (In the background looking contemplative is Benny MacDonald, Development Worker for the Lochaber Transport Forum.) Photo Steve Roberts
Wi-Fi boost for rail travellers
Free Wi-Fi is now accessible at Inverness and Fort William Railway Stations. I could say more, but these few lines say it all!
Glasgow bound Class 156 Sprinter leaves Arisaig in the first snow of 2014 on February 1st.
Note the coupling cover fitted to stop snow getting into the electrics!
Photo Steve Roberts
First Touring Train to Mallaig 2014
Covered in last month's West Word, Statesman Rail will be in Mallaig on Saturday March 8th and Saturday March 22nd. In Mallaig for two hours between 11am - 1pm and hauled by West Coast Railways, it will be a welcome sight. The first touring train brings visitors from Holyhead, via Chester and Preston, the second from Derby via Tamworth, Crewe and Preston. Statesman Rail are the tour operators .
Discount bike hire scheme
Did you know that ScotRail runs an award winning bike hire scheme in conjunction with Fort William based Nevis Cycles? Well, you do now! Nevis Cycles Ltd., based at Lochy Crescent, Inverlochy, Fort William PH33 6NG, www.neviscycles.com can offer 10% cycle hire discount to ScotRail ticket holders and 15% discounts to people using the Freedom of Scotland Travelpass. Call them on 01397 705555 for more details. There is now an off road cycle track from Fort William as far as Corrour, or cycle up to Glenfinnan, Arisaig or Mallaig and book in advance for free cycle carriage on the train for the journey back.
February Competition Results
The winners of the competition tickets to attend Model Rail Scotland were Rhona Miller, Knoydart, Pete Barrett, Morar, and David Bird, Mallaig. All were able to attend and a good time was had by all. Apologies for the short notice for entering the competition! Sorry you couldn't all go.
The winners of the West Coast Railways Calendar competition were John Vogel, Dundee, and Sally Ferguson, Birmingham - again, lots of entries. Thanks to you all. Hopefully another competition next month.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail now open
Thanks in no small part to Glenfinnan Station Museum's Viaduct Trail volunteers and determined fund raising by John Barnes and his wife Hege Hermes for the materials needed and the logistics and planning required, you now have access to the whole vista of Glenfinnan Viaduct and Loch Shiel as never viewed before. Added to that, the view of Ben Nevis and Glenfinnan Monument and you have a walk to be proud of.
At Glenfinnan Station, walk through the signposted woodland below the Dining Car and take the sheep creep under the railway line onto the hill. You will be walking through Glenfinnan Estate's Caledonian Pine regeneration area, so please make sure to close the gates. The Station Circular Walk takes approximately 30 minutes. The Viaduct Circular Walk takes approximately 90 minutes, and from the Station to the Viaduct and back approximately 60 minutes.
Please go to www.glenfinnanstationmuseum.co.uk for more details or telephone 01397 722295. I believe John Barnes will be writing a piece about Community Rail Partnerships in this month's issue, so I will simply end by saying as always -
See you on the train
Arisaig and South Morar Record of Service 1914-1919
In 1920, Sir Arthur and Lady Gertrude Nicholson, then owners of the Arisaig Estate, commissioned a book in memory of their sons, William Dukinfield Nicholson and Arthur Stuart Nicholson, who were killed in battle in World War I.
Arthur, their youngest son, died in the battle of Aisne on September 14th 1914. War had been declared only six weeks earlier and he had been in France for just over four weeks. He was four days short of his 25th birthday.
The illustrated frontispiece of the book
William, their second son, went to the Front on January 5th 1915 and was killed on February 23rd 1915 near Dickebusch in Belgium while trying to bring in a wounded comrade. He was 26 years old.
Lady Nicholson in particular channelled her grief into arranging the collection of an amazing record of those who answered the call from Arisaig and the result is the 'Arisaig and South Morar Record of Service 1914-1919', over 100 pages of photographs, postcards, pictures of the battle front and carefully typed out accounts from diaries and letters home, chronicling nearly 100 men and two women who went to war, 23 of whom did not return. She had it bound in red leather with gold tooling and lettering and commissioned Annie MacDonald Clark of Edinburgh who added illuminated pages for the introduction and list of the names.
The book was locked into a specially made lectern type case and given to the community, placed into the care of the Astley Hall where for many years some remember seeing the case attached to the old club room wall. No-one knew what was in it. No-one had the key. We don't know when it was taken down and stored in a cupboard. But there it remained until the Hall was renovated in 2000 and it was discovered again.
Although it is a huge pity that it was never looked at in all these years, it is also a blessing as it is pretty certain we wouldn't have it now if it had been handled. It is not a robust book, made up of thick scrapbook pages and the pictures and postcards are glued in (the words on the reverse having been carefully typed out and added underneath). This pristine untouched condition gives it priceless value - and also presents a problem.
When it was first discovered, it was thought originally that we could display it carefully, under lock and key in a glass topped case, with two pages on show at a time and a cloth to cover the glass in between viewing. This was never going to be satisfactory and all the advice we have had from archivists is that we could copy it rather than attempt to display it as this would damage it irrevocably. Light, temperature, handling (there is an acid on fingers which can corrode old paper), the fact that if it is open damage is caused to the spine and the binding - even the type of case it should be in are specified in a British Standard document re exhibition of archival material given to us by the Highland Council archivist at the start of the project. The answer, as he suggested, had to be to copy it in such a way that everyone could see and handle a copy-and even own one. We could have had it photographed sensitively and a rough copy made but we felt it deserved more than that. It was impossible in the early years to achieve what we envisaged, and it is only recently that technology has caught up with what we desired. We found the only firm in Scotland, MccPherson Document Solutions Ltd, who could handle the scanning and the copies of the book, and could put the virtual book onto CDs and even so it took the whole of last year to organise.
The late Jack Shaw Stewart saw the book and, like the Hall Trustees, was also firmly of the opinion it should not itself go on display if it could be copied. He suggested we apply to the Gower Trust for enough for five copies plus the CDs, which we did, and we are very grateful to the Gower Trust for a grant of £860 towards this end. Unfortunately this wasn't so easy, the first publisher decided that after all they couldn't do the job to the standard required, and the second kept raising the price. In the end we could only afford to buy two books and even so the Hall put in another £400 to cover the difference.
One of the facsimile books will be available to look through at the Hall, where the original book in its case will be kept, back in what was its home for over 80 years. CDs will be going on sale at £10 from the Hall and from Mallaig Heritage Centre in April.
During the four year commemoration of the First World War, West Word will be publishing extracts and photos from the book.
McPhersons of Paisley have a special top of the range scanner that can handle fragile documents, the documents supported on different thicknesses of foam to protect the spine and this book took practically the whole day to scan. They also provided page turning software so that when you access the book on the CD it is similar to reading a book on a Kindle. The Hall Trust is very grateful to Steven McPherson for all his help and support on the project.
The 99 million pixel scanner copying the book at McPhersons
Steven, who runs the family firm with his father, said of the project: 'We were initially contacted by the Trust and were intrigued by the sound of the project. When we first had sight of the original scrapbook, saw the amazing detail in the book and heard the history behind it, we knew immediately that here there was something very special. With over 40 years experience in working with archivists throughout Scotland, we have worked with some fascinating pieces of history, but knew this was something different. We were therefore delighted to work with the Astley Hall Trust to scan and produce a digital version of this amazing book. In addition, we produced several hard copy duplicates of this fascinating piece of WW1 history. The book was digitally captured using our specialist 99 mega pixel book scanner to high quality pdf version. We then produced digital versions within a digital page turning software of the book on to CDs. Finally we worked with a local book binding partner to add the finishing touches to the project by producing leather bound duplicates of the original book. We feel the finished products complement the original book, which is a wonderful piece of history in the run up to the 100 year anniversary of World War 1.'
There will be more details in next month's West Word of the book and how you can purchase a CD.
World War I Memorial Project at Mallaig Heritage Centre
At the beginning of August 1914 the soldiers of Britain's small regular army were hastily mobilised and sent to France to help defend Belgium against the might of the German Empire. Other men flocked to the recruiting stations to be armed, trained and sent to support them. Many men from the communities along what is now the A830 'Road to the Isles' were among them and, inevitably, many did not return. Today war memorials in Glenfinnan, Arisaig, Morar and Eigg bear the names of 44 men and one woman who were killed or who died as a result of the Great War. Others returned with wounds or disabilities which would affect them for the rest of their lives.
Over half the local casualties joined the Cameron Highlanders or the Lovat Scouts and fought alongside many other men from the area. A small number of local men were regular soldiers in the 1st or 2nd Battalions of the Cameron Highlanders and fought in the first battles of the war in 1914 and early 1918. One man from Arisaig was unfortunate enough to be the first Cameron Highlander to die on French soil. Men from the district died in places whose names would become synonymous with the First World War - Gallipoli, Ypres, Cambrai and the Somme. They died all through the war, with four losing their lives in the last month, when peace was finally in sight.
However, for Lochaber the most tragic day of the war must be the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915, a day on which the 5th Cameron Highlanders suffered heavy losses. This battalion had been raised personally by its Commanding Officer, Cameron of Locheil, and a large number of its men were from Lochaber. At Loos, one man from Arisaig, two from North Morar and one from Eigg were killed on the same day.
Lt Cpl Angus McDonell
To mark the centenary of the conflict and to help recognise and remember their sacrifice and that of their families, Mallaig Heritage Centre has been researching the lives of the men and woman on the war memorials and of a small number of others who died, and for reasons now forgotten, were not added to the memorials. We are also trying to collect as much information as possible about those who served in the armed forces and survived to return to civilian life.
To see what work has been done so far, and help if you can, visit the Heritage Centre website at www.mallaigheritage.org.uk/ww1
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
Visiting the river Ganges, Varanasi (India) with a copy of West Word are Maree Campbell (Fort William), Natalie Cunnell (Mallaig), Joe Macleod (Morar) and Rona MacKinnon, Inverness)
Glenda Green took her copy from Roshven to Les Chaux, Verbier, Switzerland, at the beginning of February.
We left chilly Mallaig last October to go to the Blue Mountains in Australia, with Noreen and Robert Summers and Anna and Robert Morrison.
Two members of Mallaig and District Canoe Club read West Word prior to departing on the Watertribe's 62 mile 'Ultra Marathon' along Florida's Gulf Coast. The race started in view of Tampa Bay's iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This was Ed Engel and Joe Mullen's tenth Watertribe event and they finished in second place in their tandem Seda trimiran.
The staff of the Chlachain Inn in Mallaig even remembered to pack a copy when they went to Amsterdam recently!
Kin Connections by Marlene (Màiri Éilidh) MacDonald Cheng (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We continue with MacLellan genealogy, specifically those who came from Morar to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton in the late 1700s and 1800s. The family of whom we spoke last month, Archibald and Angus MacLellan, are from a line called the "Buorblach MacLellans" because their ancestors had lived for many generations on the Buorblach farm, situated on the Morar River, facing out toward the Hebridean isles.
Angus MacLellan (from last month's column) arrived in Nova Scotia in 1815 on the ship "Three Brothers of Hull", and stayed with his family at Glen Road, close to where his brother Archibald lived at South River, Antigonish County. However, five years later, Angus and Catherine petitioned for a grant at Broad Cove Marsh and moved their family to Inverness County, Cape Breton. They had four children when they arrived in Nova Scotia - Archibald (age 6), Donald (age 4), Neil (age 3) and Martha (about 1 year old). When they left for Broad Cove Banks, Martha was not with them; she had died, as many young children did in those very difficult pioneering days. Archibald, the eldest, was 11 years old when they arrived in Cape Breton, his brother Donald was 9 years old, and his brother Neil was 8 years old. In addition to farming, their father Angus continued his trade of tailoring. He was also a bleeder and general doctor to the community for many years.
Archibald was born in Morar, Scotland, on 8 May 1805 and was named after his uncle Archibald (his father's brother). He and his brothers were put to work at their tender ages because their parents needed help in clearing the land for farming and building a home for the family. Archibald was "both intelligent and obedient", according to John L. MacDougall, author of the book, "History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia" (page 372), published in 1922. He loved fishing and seemed to have had quite good luck with that endeavour. Of course he had to help on the farm as well. It must have been hard for his father, Angus, to tear him away from his first love - fishing. It is said that Archibald was the first white man to sleep on Wolfe's Island (now called Margaree Island), a place renowned for its excellent fishing. Archibald was also quite entrepreneurial; he would buy fish from other fishermen and sell them to French schooner captains who would, in turn, sell them to the fish markets of Europe and elsewhere. In addition he managed to build a wharf on the Island to facilitate his fishing endeavours. When it was fishing season, Archibald could not be found. Once fishing season ended, he was back helping his father and brothers on the farm. He made quite a good living from his fishing-related exploits.
Archibald eventually found another love in the person of Mary MacFarlane, daughter of Archibald MacFarlane of South West Margaree. They married on 27 November 1828. They had fifteen children, all of whom stayed in close proximity to their parents for the rest of their lives. The children were: John, Donald, Nancy, Flora, Mary, Janet (Jessie), Catherine Ann (Katie Ann), Angus, Margaret, Catherine, James, Isabel, Joseph, Marian, and Christina.
Archibald was not like most of the early settlers; he was able to read and write. Early generations of MacLellans from Buorblach, North Morar, had a tradition of literacy, promulgated by schools known to have existed in the North and South Morar areas, as well as in the Arisaig area, before the time of emigration. From the early 1700s, Morar and Guidal (Gaoithe Dail) in the Arisaig area were famous for training priests to serve the Gaelic-speaking areas. According to my paternal grandfather, his forefathers who came over from Morar and Guidal in the early 1800s could read and write, and that skill was passed along by teaching their own children, and by building schools as soon as possible after they arrived. Archibald was one of the fortunate emigrants with the skill of reading and writing, an ability that allowed him to be quite successful throughout his life. When Archibald got to old age, he spent much of his time composing songs and hymns in Gaelic, as well as writing in verse and he was very good at it.
Archibald MacLellan died at Dunvegan (AKA Broad Cove Marsh), Cape Breton, in 1900 at the ripe old age of 95. Mary died 14 May 1905 at the age of 97. They left a rich legacy of 15 wonderful children who involved themselves with the wider community in which they lived. In addition, Archibald and Mary enjoyed 72 years of happy marriage together, leaving behind 75 grandchildren and 56 great-grandchildren.
To sum up, MacDougall says, "Gillesburg (Gilleasbaig - Archibald) mac an Tailleir (son of the Tailor) was a good man...!" And so was his wife, by all accounts.
In the next issue we shall have a look at the families of Donald and Neil MacLellan, sons of Angus (Aonghas an Tailleir). We shall also have a look at another person who left an indelible mark on the Cape Breton culture in my own generation - Lauchie MacLellan, a descendant of the MacLellans of Buorblach and MacLellans of Beoraid, Morar. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or suggestions. I enjoy hearing from our readers.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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