Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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April 2004 Issue
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THREE DOWN, ONE TO GO
Nicol Stephen, Scottish Executive Transport Minister had good news when he officially opened the £13 million Arisaig By-Pass on Tuesday 23rd March and announced that the Scottish Executive intends to proceed with the fourth and final phase of two-lane carriageway on the A 830 between Fort William and Mallaig, with work scheduled to start in 2005-2006. Orders promoting the 7.5 km route between Arisaig and Loch nan Uamh were published the same day, triggering the start to the planning of the £14 million project.
Our local Councillor Charlie King said 'It is very rewarding to see the Arisaig By-Pass officially opened and to receive news from the Minister that the final phase of single track carriageway is going to be replaced with modern carriageway. This will prove a huge bonus for the local community and local businesses and hopefully persuade many more tourists to visit our corner of the Highlands.'
Highland Council Vice-Convener Councillor Michael Foxley, said the campaign to win improvements on the A 830 dated back more than 20 years. He said: 'We should not forget that this has been a long hard struggle and has involved a huge amount of work by a large number of people. The support of the local community throughout has been crucial in achieving the progress we have now made. I just hope the route identified for the final phase of the road can obtain its statutory approvals quickly so that we can keep to the timetable identified by the Minister.'
David Stewart MP welcomed the announcement, saying it was 'good news indeed for everyone, including local campaigners who have shouted long and hard over many, many years. I appreciate that upgrades have been made, but the final completion will be a great boost for the economic development of the west coast. The notoriously torturous A830 has been a long running sore in the Highlands which desperately needs a final remedy!'
Scottish Transport Minister Nicol Stephen unveils the plaque marking the official opening of the Arisaig-Kinsadel stretch of the A830. the pupils of Arisaig Primary School sang their own version of John Denver's 'Country Roads' - and also 'Happy Birthday' to the Minister, who was celebrating that day.
Photograph courtesy of Iain Ferguson of The Write Image
SCHOOL HOSTEL FOR MALLAIG
A second piece of good news is that a hostel to accommodate children from the Small Isles and Knoydart attending Mallaig High School has at last been given the go ahead by the Highland Council's Education, Culture and Sport Committee. The new hostel is to be built at an estimated cost of £1 million in Mallaig and the target date for opening is August 2005.
Figures just released by the Scottish Executive show that there were 10,000 deer related accidents last year in Scotland. Eight people died and 250 people were injured as a result of the incidents which cost motorists £11 million in repairs. The worst areas were the Highlands and the North East. The Executive report also states that the deer population is booming as culls become smaller and this part of the report is one that local drivers can verify.
As one local driver said: 'It's nice to have a new road but being on the constant look out for deer means you can't relax, enjoy the road, and drive safely at the regular speed of 60 mph. as well as culling, proper and effective deer fencing should be done as a matter of course when any new road building is carried out.' P.S. One thing not highlighted n the report is the pain and suffering that occurs to the deer in the 10,000 accidents!
During March Knoydart has been gearing up to changes and development with protracted meetings and numerous discussions taking place. The Foundation will be breaking new ground in aligning its Constitution with the Land Reform Act. Instead of the Community Association being a member of the Foundation, it will be replaced by a minimum of 20 local residents who have to be on the Electoral Roll and resident in Knoydart for nine months of the year. They will be required to elect 5 directors to the board. There will still be a Community Association with its own separate constitution, presently undergoing revision.
Tenders for construction of the new pier are to be submitted by the 30th March and representatives from five firms interested have visited the site. It is expected that work will commence in June so it would appear that it will be a busy and noisy summer in Inverie.
There have been three talks on "Wildlife Tourism" recently and various moves afoot to encourage visitors to enjoy this aspect of Knoydart. Eight herons were sighted flying over their heronry, despite recent felling activity in the area, probably to assess reinforcement of their nest sites following the high winds.
The MV Knoydart has re-appeared in Inverie bay after an extensive re-fit at Doune, on which Bob has been 'beavering' away throughout the winter months.
Now to the first 'wedding' of the year in Knoydart, a somewhat surreptitious affair until the day in question, when the happy couple made a pitstop change into their finery and caught 'Western Isles' for a final fling in Mallaig (or were they heading for Gretna Green) only to be returned on the afternoon boat for the nuptials in Inverie. The minister who conducted the 'ceremony' was very scary and severe and had a whiff of "I don't believe it". The 'bridegroom' and family had obviously travelled far from sunnier climes although 'he' wore full highland regalia topped by a 'hitleresque' moustache. It appeared that there had been a debacle during the day, since the fiancee who went to Mallaig sang at the wedding and the 'bride' was a surprise 'catch'. The event was not without last minute noisy intervention, accusations and denials but proceded to the inevitable conclusion, helped by music provided by an orange clad 'Elton' impersonation on a miniscule orange keyboard and genuinely beautiful bridesmaids. The wedding party was conveyed to the reception by the only taxi service with smart chauffeur ever seen in Knoydart. Guests were well provided with 'wedding breakfast' including genuine homemade Knoydart wedding cake, after which wedding presents were auctioned, by a most able auctioneer who was suffering a heavy cold, since by that stage in proceedings the 'happy' couple were obviously in danger of parting and going their separate ways, which is exactly what has happened.
These hilarious shenanigans were all part of the ongoing support for Coll Robinson's 'Son Rise' Programme. Below is a note of thanks from Kath Robinson, Coll's mum.
"Thanks to everyone who has so generously contributed to our 'Son Rise' appeal, Coll's autism treatment programme is now underway! We are really excited about the progress he is making in the playroom. He is beginning to make more eye contact, trying hard to say some words, becoming much more interested in people and generally beginning to have fun! Your fantastic support also means that Toby and I are able to take Coll to the Autism Treatment Centre of America in June. How can we thank you enough for helping us reach out to Coll?"
ISLE OF MUCK
Monday 29th March 2004 , at last Loch Nevis made her first regular call at the new slipway. The previous week Highland Council Divers had aid three buoys in Port Mor to guide her in. Two are totally pointless but the third (the green one) does mark a potential hazard.
The waiting room has been postponed. The two tenders submitted were around £70K and even Highland Council said no. Now it is to be concrete blocks and Iberian slate. Perhaps surprising now that Wave has lost her main reason for existing four islanders are travelling to Mallaig to undertake the advanced power boat certificate with Mark Woombs of Knoydart; after two days' instruction, a sea survival course, radio course, a first aid course, there will be more islanders able to operate wave and other vessels.
On the farm: Unplanned early lambing in benefiting from a surplus of Swedes. After writing about Rural Stewardship last month I mentioned that I got 46 points (since boosted to 48), I then discovered that this was a rather poor score and others have got far more. How did they do it?
ISLE OF RUM
The date of the Small Isles Games, to be held on Rum this year, is the weekend of the 15th/16th May. The Sheerwater will be running on both days, so you've got no excuses for not coming. There will be a ceilidh on the Saturday night followed by the action packed games on the Sunday. The smell of the barbequed breakfast (lunch) is bound to get you out of your tents and ready for te hill race, am I right? And there is still accommodation available in the Castle for those who don't want to wrestle with camping technology or bond with nature. Maybe Knoydart would like to field a team this year?
The Community Shop is buying a Midge Magnet, so we're quite excited by the prospect of actually being able to sit outside the shop this year with a beer without being eaten alive, do we think it will work? well, if it works here and gives ua a midge free zone, it'll be worth it weight in gold.
At the end of March we had a wedding at the castle followed by the first ceilidh of the year, which will be swiftly followed by another at Easter on Saturday 10th April, and also every weekend in May. Ring the shop on 462199 for more details.
March saw a visit from researchers from the Red Deer project who gave us a very interesting talk about the data they had collected from the study on Rum over the last 30 years or so. The detailed family histories and behavioural data which has been collected for five generations of deer, all individually identifiable, is quite astounding and unique.
The Castle has its complement of staff for the season and are heading for a very busy summer, the publicity from the Restoration programme has bumped up the number of bookings.
Finally, we have to announce the departure of Mick, Alayne and family, including baby Tom. Mick has got another job on the Uist wader project and they'll be moving via Spanish John at Easter. We wish them every success as they join the small but growing number of ex Rum residents who have moved to Uist.
Rum Deer Cull
Scottish Natural Heritage is going to cull two thirds of the 1,000-strong red deer herd on the Isle of Rum. The deer on the island have been studied by ecologists from throughout the world since the1970s, as the herd is thought to be genetically pure as a result of its island location. The cull is being carried out in an attempt to prevent damage to a tree-planting scheme and allow woodland regeneration and the restoration of biodiversity on the island. The cull will take place over a number of years - allowing a sustainable population of deer to be maintained.
ISLE OF EIGG
March started busily for the island farmers and crofters with spring calving well underway and lambing ready to start in mid April: lots of Angus and Limousin cross calves are now gambolling about merrily in the island fields, enjoying early spring sunshine. Sadly this month, the island lost another connection to its past, with the passing of Morag Campbell, who died peacefully at the age of 92 in Invernevis House in Fort William where she lived for the last decade of her life. She was buried at Kildonnan after a lovely mass celebrated by Fr MacKinnon, and a rainbow shone on her grave as the mourners left the graveyard to have a dram in her honour. Morag was a real character, who left Eigg at the age of 14 to make her living in service like so many island girls of her generation. Her first job was with the Runciman family, the then owners of Eigg, who took her with them to London. She came back to Eigg at the age of 70 to life in a small caravan, and then in the family's crofthouse, coping cheerfully with the lack of running water and electricity and immensely enjoying every social occasion. She faithfully attended all the many housing association meetings that took place in the 1990's, but was forced by ill-health to move to Fort William before her dream of a comfortable and secure home could become a reality. However, she really enjoyed her time at Invernevis House and all the attention lavished on her by the staff, regretting only one thing, that she had never married. There again, she was one of fourteen islanders in her generation and the next who were to remain single because of war, religion, or lack of choice and opportunities. Would these fourteen people have married and have had children, we might have a very different Eigg today!
However, today the crofting community can now look forward to a more dynamic future with four new young crofters in Cleadale as part of the re-organisation of crofting in that part of the island. Land formerly used for the upkeep of the priest - chapel croft - and a strip of land formerly part of Hulin farm on the northern part of the island have been made into the four new crofts. The successful applicants who numbered two residents born and bred on the island or with a strong island connection - Angus Kirk and Kathleen Smith and two new and not so new residents - Gwen Sheerrif and Pascal Carr - should all bring new ideas as well as traditional skills to help revitalising the island's crofting economy.
In the meantime, as everyone is getting geared up for the summer season, island food lovers have really enjoyed chef Richard Bunny's return visit to Eigg, with another delicious stock of mouth-watering recipes: all we need to do now is catch that elusive sea-bass! And with Donna's dance lessons, we shall all be more than ready for the first dance of the season (and last dance in the old hall) on Easter Saturday with "Six Foot Ginger" featuring Dougie Hunter, Gabe MacVarish, Angus MacKenzie and possibly some more tall red haired hunks… See you there and Happy Easter!
ISLE OF CANNA
The Hebridean Trust is creating a new home for the John Lorne Campbell Collection, archived material currently held in the library and storage rooms at Canna House. As well as an important collection of manuscripts there are unique sound recordings, film and photographic material. Access will be available to visiting academics and remote access will be developed through the Internet. The project is expected to take the form of an extension of Canna House and will include library, listening and recording areas as well as display areas for other collections and computer terminals and scanning facilities. Additional accommodation will be provided for an archivist which will involve the conversion of the nearby Corrigan Barn. Fund-raising efforts for this project has been ongoing for several years and is expected to cost a total of £3M. Now a grant of £75,650 from Lochaber Enterprise has been awarded to help accommodate and preserve the John Lorne Campbell collection. In 1981, the famous folklorist and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw gifted the island, along with their collection of research into Gaelic culture to The National Trust for Scotland. The Gaelic library is believed to be the largest in the world.
Spring has sprung and the daffodils everywhere look cheerful in the warm sunshine. The balmy days and spring flowers always make losses even more poignant and Arisaig has suffered two more in the last two weeks with the sad passing of Patsy Dyer, and of Helen Grant.
Hopefully our own Marie Curie Field of Hope will soon become a reality when the site has been secured.
We enjoyed a super little pantomime from the Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig Brownies last month, with a funny and topical script by Heather Barton and some excellent acting and singing from the Brownies. They raised over £150 for the Mallaig & District Minibus.
And to end the Hall's year of concerts etc we had Blazin' Fiddles in a blazin' sell out concert- fresh from Buckingham Palace the night before! Buck House to the Astley Hall - definitely a step up the ladder! Iain Macfarlane quipped that they've been asked to play there every Thursday now…. The new 'season' of arts promotions is starting in the Hall with shadow puppet workshops and a puppet performance in the evening - not just for children.
The Land, Sea & Islands Centre will be opening again around abut Easter - don't the seasons spin round! There are the yachts going in at Arisaig Marine again, when it only feels like a few weeks since they came out. Anyway, back to the Centre - we have our stalwart group of volunteers but are always looking for more, so each has less days to do. If you have a few hours to spare in a week or month, let us know, it's enjoyable work down there meeting very nice visitors and helping them with their queries.
Coastal Ranger Report
Well, bingo! Just like that and we are into "Summer Time". Did I miss something? In the dim and distant past (when I was young!) there used to be another beautiful season. Remember Spring!! You know the one when we all sort of wakened up after our Winter slumbers and were greeted with happy birdsong and hundreds of lovely wild flowers! What has happened? Well stuff the authorities! I'm going to have Spring one way or another and just let "B.S.T." give me more time to enjoy Nature's re-awakening. Have you seen the signs? The odd bunch of brilliant yellow Primroses, the silky look of the Lesser Celandine, the delicate shaking of the Hazel catkins and the always recognisable "Pussy Willow" with it's delicate furry catkin flowers. Yes, there is no doubt that if it's not Spring, then there is definitely something been drastically overlooked by the "powers that be"! I mean I'm not political, but hang on a minute, surely one of these over-paid politicians should realise that you can't just dump a season! Na! The more I see of it, I reckon the next step has to be the Revolution. Ban politics and the new parliament building! Oops, maybe I go too far! (But then maybe not - all those in favour say "aye"!!!!!)
I did of course get the usual "reminder" from dear sweet Ed. as to the fact that it was the end of the month and to please urge my brain into action and get the fingers on the keyboard, but hey! don't she realise that a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do! After all I need time to appreciate this special time of year!!
Shut up, and "cut to the chase" (see, I get to use these wee professional sayings too!) I hear her say under her breath. O.K. So what have I achieved in the past few weeks? Truthfully not a great deal, but at least I can now see some light at the end of what has been an extremely long tunnel. Do you remember my wee walks booklet? (first drafted almost two years ago!) well, I think it is soon to "hit the streets". I have a final meeting with the printers on the 8th. April to finalise the format and that should then see the ink hitting the paper. To back it up, I have managed to get the new walks panels (I hope you all have noticed and approved!) up. One on the "bandstand" in Mallaig, and the other in front of the station in Morar. I earnestly hope that after all my travails these panels will not be tampered with and will remain in good "nick" for many years. Lest any Arisaig folk feel left out, be assured that I am in process of trying to get funding for a similar matching panel for your area, and have the draft ready to go should my application get the "green light" in the new financial year.
Finally, with the most necessary assistance from Arisaig Estate, the little bridge over the Borrodale burn should be just about completed by the time you read this, which will make the most enjoyable "Duke's Walk" once more possible with dry feet! Well that's about it for this month. Don't forget that my walking season is now started, and the walks are of sufficient variation that almost anyone should be able to find one that suits their level of fitness. Get in touch, usual number 01687 462 983.
David does 'bird'
David Sharpe of Cnoc-na-Faire hotel, Arisaig, did a spell behind bars in Mallaig nick on Wednesday 10th March, and spent his 'time' phoning round on his mobile to raise sponsorship in aid of Rural Watch. Better than a guard dog was PC John's Harris Hawk Jenny, because David had Ornithophobia - the fear of birds (below). Wearing chains and handcuffs and a suit covered in arrows, David raised more than £500. Buckets were in place in the villages and even the train passengers got frisked for £150. The Marine Hotel sent round bread and water (swiftly followed by haddock and chips!) and the Ambulance crews sent in a cake with a file in it via Dennis the paramedic.
John with Terry Nutkin and Alan Douglas
with Alan's barn owl Boy, at the launch of the signs.
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: email@example.com) - The White Cockade
The story of Ranald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart taking the white cockade from his bonnet and pinning it to the breast of a newborn baby girl as his guarantee that her home would be protected from Highland soldiers during the siege of Carlisle, has been handed down the generations to the present Blackburn family of Roshven.
In 1745, Mary Dacre's father, Governer of Carlisle Castle was a prisoner of the Jacobites there. His wife was staying in Rose Castle where she was delivered of a daughter, Mary. As the newly born baby was about to be baptised, a company of Highlanders, bent on plunder under the command of Ranald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, arrived at the castle. Captain MacDonald was informed of the recent birth of the infant and her imminent baptism and was begged for the safety of mother and child. It is said that Ranald took off his cockade and handing it over, requested that the baby be baptised with the cockade in her bonnet, thus affording the family protection from any future Jacobite attacks.
Mary Dacre was that child and the daughter of Joseph Dacre of Kirklinton and his wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir George le Fleming, Bishop of Carlisle. In later years Mary received from Donald MacDonald V11 of Kinlochmoidart, a dress of the old Kinlochmoidart tartan and the right of the family to wear that tartan has come down to the present generation, especially the Roshven family.
Mary Dacre married Sir John Clerk of Penicuik. One of their daughters, Isabella, known as the "Daisy of Pentland", married Sir James Wedderburn. Sir James was the Solicitor General of Scotland and the family lived in Edinburgh with their children, James, Janet, George, Jean, John, Andrew and Jemima b. 1823
Jemima became an artist of great renown and was a pupil and friend of Ruskin. She was also involved with the other great artists of the Enlightenment who included Landseer, Millais, and Webb In 1822 she was presented to George 1V on his visit to Edinburgh, the first reigning monarch to set foot in Scotland for almost 200 years.
In 1848 Jemima married Hugh Blackburn, youngest son of John Blackburn and Rebecca Gillies of Killearn House and in 1854 Hugh and Jemima bought Roshven Estate and came to live there with their two children, William b. 1850 and Margaret b. 1852. Hugh and Alan were born in 1856 and 1865..
Alan married Esther MacLaren of Samalaman and they emigrated to Canada taking with them, Rachael MacKenzie (dau. of Donnachaidh Thomais) from Roshven. Rachael stayed with them for many years. The family returned to Scotland when Alan died. Their son, Peter Blackburn, who eventually inherited Roshven, was in Edinburgh University at that time. Peter married Miss Pauline Post and they lived on Roshven Estate with their family, Elizabeth, Veronica, Alan, Felicity, Antonia, Jamie, Nigel and Ninian.
Roshven House was sold a few years ago but, the present Alan Blackburn with his wife Mary Anne Boddy and family live in Irine, on the Roshven Estate, not far from Kinlochmoidart, the ancestral home of Ranald MacDonald with whom the story began.
Mary Dacre, the 'White Cockade Baby' - a painting by her grand-daughter Jemima Blackburn
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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