Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
April 2003 Issue
Contents of the online version:
The site of Morar Playing Field
BODY BLOW FOR SPORTS FIELDS
Morar and Mallaig Community Councils are counting the cost of the about turn by a major funder to the Playing Fields projects in both villages.
Sportscotland Lottery Fund administrators were due to meet on the 31st March and had given strong intimations that the award of the grant was a mere formality,
But in a letter dated 27th March, Ian MacKenzie, Head of Facilities Development for Sportscotland, informed the hopeful committees that the decision would not be made until their meeting on 30th July 2003.
This decision means that, not only is the expected sums of £107,000 for Morar and £140,000 for Mallaig not yet forthcoming, but the match funding of £47,000 from the Scottish Executive’s Rural Challenge Fund for the Morar field will be lost completely. Their policy is not to roll over grant awards which have not been claimed in the financial year.
The reasons given for the about turn by Sportscotland are that they are stock taking on their current and future commitments in light of the continued fall in Lottery revenue, and, unbelievingly, that they shouldn’t be making any decisions in the run up to the elections to the Scottish Parliament.
Councillor Charlie King is incensed by the decision and has had emergency meetings with Morar Community Council. Communications have gone to Rhoda Grant and Fergus Ewing who have said they will do what they can to reverse the Rural Challenge Fund’s policy. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the Scottish Parliament was disbanded on 31st March in preparation for the forthcoming elections and at present there is no parliament and no MSPs.
If Rural Challenge stand firm, the application process will have to be gone through again and it will be a year before the result of that application will be known. Mallaig face a three month delay until the hearing of the Sportscotland grant.
A spokesperson for Morar Community Council told West Word, ‘This is a bitter pill to swallow after a lot of effort, especially by Willie Inglis, who managed to secure VAT exemption for the project. It’s hard to see the whole project flounder on a political decision.’
Councillor King said ‘Sportscotland had a hand in the tendering process and had intimated the funding was secure. Their behaviour is disgraceful.’ Turn to page 2 for Councillor King’s full comments.
MALLAIG TO MORAR CYCLE AND FOOT PATH
There is some good news for Mallaig and Morar this month however, with the start of the long-fought for path along the new stretch of A830.
Work is due to start on the cycle/foot path at the beginning of April. For some time lorry loads of material have been coming from Polnish to be stored on the helicopter pad and opposite the turn off to Glasnacardoch.
Mallaig Community Council mounted a campaign for a path, enlisting the help of the local doctors and MSP Fergus Ewing as well as West Word, and their perseverance has now paid off.
Fergus Ewing said ‘I welcome this news and am pleased to have played a part in the campaign to see this project realised. This will be a great boost for tourism in the area. The countryside between Mallaig and Morar is some of the most spectacular in the country and this facility will be a boon. I am glad that combined pressure has paid off.
When completed, the path will run from Mallaig to the former roundabout. There will be an underpass there to connect cyclists and walkers with the old road, the Coastal Route, so in effect the cycle path will run from Mallaig to Arisaig.
DOUBLE WHAMMY FACES POSTAL SERVICES
Head of Royal Mail, Allan Leighton, has said that full postal services in the Highlands may be scrapped along with the universal rate of postage for the area. Fergus Ewing said ‘These comments are the starting gun for a campaign.’
NEW WORK BOAT FOR MALLAIG
The Spanish John II, built at Alexander Noble’s Yard in Girvan at a cost of £265,000, sailed into Mallaig Harbour last Friday (28th March) after a 17 hour steam up the West Coast of Scotland. The first-ever cargo boat built for Mallaig handled well and it was a nostalgic trip for Jackie Milligan who was at the helm throughout the journey ~ he was following the same route he took 40 years ago when he was a crew member at the Ringnet fishing!
The Spanish John II, which boasts a 40 tonne carrying capacity (incl. 26,000 litres of fuel) was built for Milligan Transport Ltd., Mallaig, and will be operated by Greig Milligan. ‘It’s a versatile landing craft type vessel’, says Greig, ‘has a 14 tonne Palfinger crane, a 3 tonne capstan wind and twice the carrying capacity of the old Spanish John.
Good luck to the Spanish John II and all who sail in her!
SECOND SEA EAGLE POISONED
The Sea Eagle found by a hill walker at the end of February had been deliberately poisoned, it has now been revealed.
Found on in the Morar area, it is believed the bird is the remaining one of a breeding pair, whose mate was found poisoned in the same area last year.
Police are appealing for information to help them with their enquiries, to prevent the unnecessary death of any more animals.
PC John Bryden is the Northern Constabulary’s Wildlife Liaison Officer, and says: 'I’d like to remind the public that poisoned baits are indiscriminate. They can kill other species of wildlife as well as being dangerous to humans.'
Sea Eagles were reintroduced into the area in the 1970s and this is the fifth bird found poisoned since then. Keith Morton of the RSPB said: 'It shows a blatant disregard for wildlife and a contempt for the wider interests of local people. To have both members of a breeding pair killed in this way is a blow felt throughout the community.'
That this kind of indiscriminate poisoning is dangerous is highlighted by the death of a collie dog in Corpach this week, showing that pets and children can be at risk as well as rare wildlife. The poisons are usually left in roosting or foraging areas. Contact Mallaig police station on 462177.
Fishing Ban Puts Strain on Mallaig
Mallaig Harbour is bustling at the moment with boats from all over using the port as a base. But the extra boats are here because the restrictions are making it difficult for them to fish ‘at home’. If this continues, local boats could be displaced and the pressures on local fishing are increased, with stocks and quotas being affected. Good weather and good fishing and more boats could see the prawn quota being used up earlier, with local boats then forced to fish further afield, adding to costs.
Scottish Islands Explorer takes its hat off to West Word contributors!
A lovely magazine recently discovered (but on the go for three years) is the Scottish Islands Explorer. Picked up by your editor because of an article on Eda Frandsen cruising the Small Isles, accompanied by stunning photographs including one of Camusdarrach, I was pleased to see this under ‘Island Web Sites’:
‘There is a nice online community paper...called West Word . It is bang up to date and changes monthly. If one month, for whatever reason, they are a bit late in publishing, they always apologise and explain why ~ I like that! In the edition I read, I found out about a new family moving onto Muck, new businesses opening up on Rum, and the sad death of one of the (only) four barn owls on Eigg. I take my hat off to the people that regularly contribute to the paper. I know how long these articles take to research and write with the added stress of having to meet a deadline each month - it is certainly not easy and can be very time-consuming.’
Scottish Islands Explorer costs £2.95 and comes out every two months. In the March/April issue were articles on Mingulay, otters in Mull, Arran, the food of Orkney and Shetland, the Shetland Bus (World War II) and traditional bird names, plus regular columns on Island Places, book reviews, Island Ventures and Island People. Next month: the Cuillins of Skye, the myth behind the relationship between people and seals, a cruise round the islands of Loch Lomond, and Stronsay.
ISLE OF MUCK
The major news this month is the deferment of the completion of the Muck and Rum slipways again. Another year will pass before Lochnevis docks and the flit boat disappears. The word is that the Scottish Office budget for marine works has been depleted by a massive cost overrun at Scrabster harbour. Not entirely surprising when we hear the cost of completion of Rum and Muck is an incredible £2.9 million. One wonders where all that money is going. The Lochnevis could dock tomorrow - the only problem being the green slime which makes the surface highly dangerous were anyone to try to stand on it.
On the farm all this wonderful weather has been great for the start oflambing, though this so far has only involved the ‘mules’. Lots have had triplets though a higher death rate will mean that the final lambing percentage will not be much different from normal.
The fields are now incredibly green, helped by some really warm days and some nitrogen fertilizer which I was lucky from Bob MacWalter in Corpach. There appears to be a major shortage this spring. Apart from grass the oats and potatoes are in the ground - the earliest for many years.
March kicked off with International Women’s Day, which ranks in importance alongside the Games Weekend and Hogmanay. The week before the event, females huddle together secretively, plotting various dastardly ways of relieving males from their money. This year, the main “street” in Inverie was taken over by hordes of ladies (well, six) enforcing the 2003 Knoydart Congestion Charge. Drew’s 4x4 was wrapped in red and white tape, I was one of many who had the keys removed from my vehicle for parking “illegally”, and Bernie the Post’s deerstalker hat was confiscated for an unnamed traffic violation in his shiny post-van. Tourists emerging from the ferry were confronted by a pier charge, and vigilante traffic wardens roamed the village armed with giant water pistols. That evening in the Old Forge was “Cluedo” night, with the aforementioned ladies now dressed as characters from the board-game, encouraging teams to make idiots of themselves, and to purchase lots in a slave auction – Nick the ghillie has a fair amount of wood-chopping ahead of him. All moneys raised went to – of course – the Fire Brigade.
Building work continues apace throughout the peninsula, with Toby employing a talented workforce for the reconstruction of Stalker’s Cottage. Apparently, Alaister is now able to recognise a retaining wall at a hundred paces…Torrie, Gardener’s Cottage and the Market Garden are other places where hammering intermingles with birdsong.
It’s been a month of bartering and trading, with a yacht being “sold” for a pint of Guinness (the new Knoydart currency), and car batteries and motorbikes changing hands so often your correspondent has lost track of who owns what.
We say farewell to Jamie the Kilchoan ghillie, who’s off to pastures new by Ratagan, and Bobby on the Ferry, who’s Oxford-bound to mess about on the river. We say hello to new staff for both the pub and the restaurant – The Old Forge welcomes Kirstin the Ozzy, who some in Mallaig may know, and The Pier House has been joined by Jacqui, who boasts fire-eating and plate-spinning amongst her talents. I reckon it’s going to be an entertaining summer….
ISLE OF CANNA
ISLE OF EIGG
According to our wildlife warden, the recent good weather has not had a significant influence on breeding birds return such as Pipits, Wagtails etc, yet the sighting of a Wheatear on 15th March was the earliest to date for Eigg. A dozen Whooper Swans were seen on the 17th, St Donnan's day when it is traditional to hear the first Manx Shearwater. It was heard a little later in the Cleadale cliffs on the 21st March, which is pretty close. A Teal also dropped by with some Mallards on the Loch of the Giant's Footstep but was soon off again. Some lambs have appeared early and there are a number of cute brown calves in Cleadale. And all those keen gardeners who were wishing for rain to water their sowings should be amply satisfied: plenty of rain to welcome April in!
The combination of bright spring light and good weather was excellent for sightseeing around the island's archaeological sites and I took the opportunity of a friend's visit to explore the forts newly discovered by the RCAHMS in Grulin and Laig. Time-travel fantasies fuelled by TV programs such as Walking with the Cave Men and the new diorama in Edinburgh 's Royal Museum drove us to try and picture the different ages when lazybeds were in full cultivation, forts were occupied and 300 people lived in 8 townships. To anyone who plans a visit to Edinburgh, I can't recommend highly enough that diorama picturing the different phases of land occupation throughout Scotland! It definitely brings the landscape to life.
I am still hopeful that one day we will be able to present the history of Eigg and the Small Isles in a similarly imaginative way. One day when the powers that be will decide that our children do need museums after all and that artefacts should be kept in the place where they were discovered instead of being collected for the enjoyment of the Central Belt's inhabitants.
Certainly, if the first Lochaber Arts Conference this month was anything to go by, there is enough evidence of talent and will in Lochaber for Fort William to acquire an art venue which would rival exhibition spaces in the south, Skye or Mull. Then at least we would have a chance to see exhibitions such as Calum Colvin’s Ossian or the Big Book of Gaelic and its magnificent illustrations and calligraphy by artists from all over the Gaeltachd. Let's hope that's not time travel fantasy but reality in the not too distant future!
There’s always been a number of tourists who come in to the Centre or shop and ask ‘Where’s the village’ and are told ‘This is it.’ The entrance to Arisaig looks so grand now that I feel these numbers will go up, with travellers following the Coastal Route expecting something the size of Corpach at the very least. There’s a hugely grand turn off to the station too, totally changing the outlook for the houses there. I’m pleased to hear that the lamp standards are going to be reduced in height, the idea of the olde worlde village lamps being totally lost when they’re on motorway height posts. The turning at the Hotel Byre is coming on fast too, with roads sprouting off in all directions.
No sight of the surgery starting yet although staff have been asked to choose where the phone sockets will go! October is the given date.
We had a busy day at the Community Planning/Lightbulb Amnesty although I hear someone’s everlasting lightbulb ‘went’ within a few days! There are still some kettles available for anyone who didn’t get one, so if you know of someone, especially if they’re elderly or housebound, who didn’t get one, give me a ring.
We were sorry to say farewell this month to Wendy Sinclair, who died after a short spell in hospital. Wendy hadn’t been in Arisaig very long but had joined the Whist Club and the WRI and was a stalwart at the Land. Sea and Islands Centre two seasons ago, where she enjoyed meeting folk. She was brave to make the move to a new place at her age, and was able to enjoy a few years in the peace and quiet of a part of the world she loved.
We had an unusual concert in the Hall, a bassoonist who took us on a trip round the hills and lakes of Britain via music and poetry. Some of the music was specially written, but the poetry was from famous poets. Not a huge attendance but it was good to see half a dozen youngsters there - Laurence did a workshop on music at the school the next day and was very impressed by the enthusiasm and intelligence of the pupils!
We’ve got some good concerts coming up, starting with Dàimh this month launching their new CD. Tickets have sold even before I printed any. We’ve yet to decide what the summer activities will be but I hope both Tricky Ricky (with a new show) and Blue Boat will be back.
The Land, Sea & Islands Centre will be opening for Easter, and there are some exhibitions planned for the summer months. The first will be the Eigg photographical display, the second the Isle of Muck survey by RCAHMS, who wrote West Word an article last month. The by-pass will ‘kick in’ in June so this summer will be an interesting one, to see if folk go by or come in to the village, and everything has a role to play in advertising Arisaig’s attractions - even the Hall. The Centre will be staffed by volunteers again and it really is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours a week, so if you have a bit of time to give to benefit the village, let me or Elizabeth Fleming know.
Life in Japan - by Allie MacDougall
It’s been a while since I last wrote, so I am trying to dredge through my memory as to what I’ve been up to over the last three months! January was soooooooo cold after the heat (and flying-cockroach infestation, yeuch) of Cambodia, and I spent most of that month using my holiday pictures as a lesson in my Junior High classes. By the end of the month I was truly sick of trying to get a reaction out of the second years, who are notoriously unresponsive due to their 14-year old attitude (which stinks big time). Let me take this opportunity to apologise to all those who had the misfortune to teach me at this age too…something I’ve been thinking about since I started working here! A big GOMEN NE (sorry) to you all!! Anyway, we’re not talking about my attitude, we’re talking about my students, ahem. On with the story…
Having sickened myself of the very sight of my holiday pictures, January rolled on steadily towards something we always look forward to; the ALTs mid-year conference (i.e. everyone gets together from all over the prefecture and attend some workshops before we attend the pub) followed by my very own Burns Night. Last year’s was such a success there was quite a bit of anticipation surrounding it, which was great for me, as I didn’t need to apply the thumbscrews to get a good-sized guest list going! I managed to get some haggis from an internet service designed for us gaijin in Japan, the Foreign Buyers Club (its great, I can even get irn bru and Heat magazine through it…the things you miss, honestly) which was pretty well received! There were much more Japanese people there than last year, which was fantastic as it felt like a truly international event. All together we had representatives from Scotland, England, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the States and Canada. My friend Paula, from Canada, treated us to a display of her Highland Dancing and a flash of her Canadian boxer shorts under her kilt (don’t ask). Then of course we had the obligatory ceilidh dancing lesson which went down a treat. I’m telling you, Scotland is taking over this place. (Cue evil laugh, mwahahahahahahaha.)
In February I turned 23, so to celebrate my lovely, lovely friends organized a party for me at our friend Shinsuke’s restaurant. He provided an amazing buffet and gave us nomihodai (this is a very important Japanese word; it means all you can drink) for what should have been 2 hours but he extended it for 4. I walked in to find the place decorated with pictures of me and my friends from various times in our Japan lives…it was wonderful! There’s nothing like a good party to make you feel loved. February was really quiet apart from that, not much to report as I was sick for a few weekends and couldn’t get up to any mischief, sniff.
And now it’s coming to the end of March, I can’t believe it. For two weeks we had half days at school in order to take a Japanese intensive course at the international center. It was great to have a lie-in in the morning as I hate getting up at 6.15, but sometimes during the class I wondered if it really was a benefit! I’ve reached level 4 now, which means that instead of learning useful, everyday Japanese I get stuck with studying super polite forms that even the Japanese themselves find difficult. Fabulous. So now I can say “Excuse me, I’m so terribly sorry to bother you but could you possibly consider opening that window if it’s all right with you thank you so very much I’m so sorry to have bothered you thank you I am very humble and much lower than you”. Except that when I try to say it I run out of breath and keel over so I think I’ll stick to the normal level of politeness. Ah well.
It’s always fun doing the intensive courses (there are two a year) as I know all the teachers and most of the students who are in the center so we can always have a laugh. Unlike at my Junior High, where kocho sensei (headmaster) completely ignores me when I say good morning, and several of the other teachers are scared to talk to me because they are “shy”. Grrr. Apart from my five English teachers, who are wonderful, and my friend Yukari who teaches Home Economics, I could count on one hand the number of teachers I’ve had any kind of conversation with. My friend Esteban had my school last year and he said the same thing about it, so I had some kind of forewarning, but sometimes I feel like standing on my desk and screaming “TALK TO ME BEFORE I GO CRAZY”, yet that would only contradict myself, right? Actually somebody spoke to me, unprompted, in English the other day and I nearly fainted.
My third years graduated this week, which I’m so sad about because my favourite girls who I “cleaned” (i.e. read “gossiped”) with have up and left me for high school. They include my cutie Seira (pronounced as Sarah) who can say “nae bother by the way” like a native Glaswegian, I swear it’s uncanny. Perhaps it’s a sign that things are not quite right when my best friends in school have just graduated from it. Hmmm. Well, I still have my wonderful 1st years, two of whom in my favourite class, when asked to make name cards in English, wrote their name as “Ali”. It’s not surprising that class cracks me up every time I see them. Sometimes I have trouble teaching them because I’m just laughing too much. The same boys, after learning “how much it is it” told me,
“Allie, you are 1000 yen” (about 6GBP).
“Hey,” I protested, “I’m expensive!”
“No, so-so.” (They love to say this as “so” is Japanese is roughly equivalent to our own when we say “is that so?” etc.) “You are 1000 yen.”
By the next class I’d depreciated in value to 500 yen. Maybe I should look into giving them more homework.
It’s actually been quite a week of goodbyes as I had my last day at one of my primary schools on Wednesday. I visit there once a week for the whole day so I’ve become really attached to the kids, as well as the teachers who are great fun. This is the bad thing about living in the city as opposed to the countryside in our prefecture; the Board of Education rotates us around schools every year so just as you’ve formed relationships with your co-workers and students, you’re uprooted and shifted to another school. Sometimes it can work in your favour, of course, if you dislike your school, but I was lucky to have had that primary. This week I had the 1st and 2nd years, my absolute favourites along with the 4th years who I’ve had a lot of classes with this year. Every time I visit I eat lunch with a different homeroom class, and as I was teaching the 1st years, I ate lunch with one of their classes. Last time I was with the 2nd years, and I thought that was crazy, trying to cope with five or six little chattering voices asking me a million questions in kiddy Japanese (no amount of study prepares me for that) whilst simultaneously trying not to lose my balance as they climbed all over me and try to eat at the same time. Quite a challenge. The 1st years, as is to be expected, were even more mental. Especially since, being my last day, I brought my camera to get some cute kiddy shots; whenever you produce a camera in a Japanese primary school there is not so much a flurry as an explosion of excitement. Thirty small children all scrambling to get in view and posing with the inevitable peace sign (I don’t know why, but every Japanese person under 50, and sometimes over, does this sign in pictures) may have caused a slight disruption to the normal order of lunchtime. Luckily the teacher was pretty relaxed and announced that since I was there it was a special day and they could dance along to the music that plays over the broadcasting system during lunch. Oh yes it does. And oh yes they did.
The 1st years are just adorable; at an international day at Carla’s primary school, she took Didi and I to her 1st year class that she cleans with at cleaning time (soji). Carla is half Mexican, half Philipino, so she has dark eyes and hair like her students. So one of the children, who reached approximately hip level, craned her neck up to my face and exclaimed “hajimete mita!” “it’s the first time I’ve seen (blue eyes)!” I heard a story the other day from an ALT who had been here for three years; she went to a primary school and one curious student asked her “does everything look blue to you?”
And tomorrow, I leave for Laos! I’m determined to complete my Asian travels while I’m here, and I heard amazing things about it while I was in Vietnam, so six of us are heading into possibly the least traveled country in the Asian mainland for eight days. Let the adventures begin (again)!
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald
The Man with No Shadow
Rev Somerled MacMillan (Sorley) was Minister in the United Free Church in Fort William in the 1960s, and besides writing a number of books on MacMillan History and Genealogy, he also wrote Bygone Lochaber, which started life as a history of the three tribes of Lochaber; the MacMartins, MacGillonies, and the MacSorlies. He then discussed the power of the Camerons in the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries and how those tribes were eventually assimilated into the Clan Cameron.
He also gives a very good genealogy of the Keppoch MacDonalds in Roy Bridge and the story of Alexander, ‘Alasdair na Cleas’, 10th of Keppoch, who was known as ‘Alasdair of the tricks’ because of his prowess at playing cards, learned while studying in Italy.
The card schools which the students organised are said to have been infiltrated by Satan himself, and he made deal that the last student out of the door would be his own prize. As the students were rushing out the door at the end of the game, Alexander was last, and as Satan made to grab him, Alex pointed to his shadow on the wall and said ‘There is one coming after me.’ Satan grabbed the shadow, Alexander escaped , but for the rest of his life, even in the brightest sunshine, never cast a shadow, because Satan had gone off with it.
He married a daughter of MacDougal of Lorn (one of 5 wives), who was mother to his heir Donald Glas, 11th Chief, who inherited about 1850 and had to leave the country after the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645. The direct line of descent eventually petered out about 1795 with the death of Ranald, 17th chief, who had served with Wolfe at the siege of Quebec.
Can you help?
Sheila MacCormack and her son John are visiting Arisaig in June. They live near Dallas, Texas, and are interested in meeting any of her MacDonald relatives out of Tor Beihde who may be living in Arisaig. That area of the Rhu peninsula was cleared in 1843 and the 50-odd families were dispersed around Traigh Farm or Loch Shiel Estate after the evictions. Sheila’s father was corresponding with someone in Arisaig in the 1950s.
An American Request
Bill MacLellan is determined to find relatives, out of Brinacory around 1820, of Allan MacLellan and his two sons Farquhar and Ronald. In 1853 a cousin last in Brinacory, Angus MacLellan wrote to his cousin Ronald in Canada discussing the possibility of emigrating, which he did not do. The East Brinacory farm was taken over by James MacDonell.
Bill is keen to know who Angus’s father and grand father were and relationship to Allan MacLellan.
In Blessed Morar Angus married Catherine MacCormaig of Beoraid and Angus is classed as a tacksman.
The following year, Malcolm MacCormaig, Innkeeper, Beoraid, married Mary Gillies of Kylesmorar. I assume Catherine and Malcolm to be siblings, but do they have any connection to the Eigg MacCormicks with a different spelling. They were born in Canna.
In 1851 Angus and Catherine had as family John, 11; Malcolm 8; Alexander 6, and Anne, 2.
Malcolm MacLellan married Margaret MacDougal and in 1891 has 2 two sons, Angus 10, and Archie 6 and 2 daughters, Chirsty 12, and Katie Mary 6.
If memory serves me right, one of the Malcolm’s daughters married Donald MacKellaig of Heatherlea from where Calum (Morar Hotel) got his name, after his maternal grandfather.
Any more information would be helpful.
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