Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
August 2005 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
OPENING OF THE LOVAT GAMES FIELD
Glorious sunshine heralded the opening of the new Lovat Gamesfield in Morar on Sunday 31st July. Lochaber Schools Pipe Band led Lord Lovat and a procession of villagers from Morar Station to the field where Lord Lovat formally opened the Gamesfield before going on to open the local Highland Games, the first event booked on the new field.
Councillor Charlie King thanked all those involved in bringing to fruition the long held hopes and plans for a Gamesfield in Morar. He went on to describe the ten year struggle, with its many dashed hopes and disappointments, for the community and he paid particular tribute to the determined efforts which had been made by the late Irene Stirling, Pat Ritchie and Roy Stewart. He reminded everyone of how, just over two years ago, a nearly complete funding package began to fall apart at the seams when Sportscotland unexpectedly withdrew its support. The situation was narrowly rescued when new funding approaches to the Community Environmental Renewal Scheme and the Fresh Futures fund were approved. From there the project took shape through a truly co-operative approach between Sean Dannaher (Highland Council landscape architect), Les Taylor (contractors), Morar Community Council and the Trustees of the Gamesfield. Such was the goodwill of the architect and contractors that they showed an interest well beyond their remit and, of course, not to be forgotten was the financial acumen of Willie Inglis who waded his way through VAT obstacles and carefully administered the quarter of a million pound budget that the Lovat Gamesfield cost. The size of the field has surprised many people but that, in no small part, is due to Sir Cameron Mackintosh who purchased extra land from Iain MacDonald so that Morar could have a full-sized football pitch….thanks are due to Sir Cameron for his gift and to Iain for his co-operation in agreeing to sell this extra land.
Of course, Charlie King forbore to thank himself but he has worked tirelessly for this project. Of particular benefit to the community is his success in securing Highland Council funding for the ongoing maintenance of the field which will require careful management over the next one to two years.
The Trustees of the Gamesfield are representatives of the following roles in the communities of Morar and Mallaig: Morar Clergyman (currently Father Joe Calleja); Bank of Scotland Manager (currently Willie Inglis); local Highland Councillor (currently Charlie King); Chairperson of the Morar Community Council (currently Mairi Maclean); Secretary of the Morar Community Council (currently Deirdre Roberts); and Chairperson of the Mallaig & Morar Highland games (currently Jackie MacKellaig). At this stage, people wanting to use the field should approach the trustees but it is envisaged that a management committee will be formed by the community.
It is to be hoped that the area will derive much enjoyment and benefit from this new facility. It is no small feat that such a small community managed to create this wonderful new sportsfield and the community of Morar can feel rightly proud of its achievement which was brought about by a truly co-operative village effort.
THE FIRST CLANRANALD GATHERING AND 69th ARISAIG GAMES
How many centuries is it since the people of Clanranald sailed in by birlinn and landed on the coast? This was the scene on Wednesday 27th July when the clans gathered at Traigh. The birlinn was in Arisaig Harbour on Monday 25th July and was then rowed round by a crew of volunteer galley slaves to Traigh. Clanranald led the way up the beach to the field where the Games are held. Before the Games there was a parade through Arisaig of the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band led by the Chief of Clanranald. Photographs courtesy of Chas MacDonald
The clans climb the beach from the birlinn to the field where the Arisaig Games are held, Clanranald in the lead
Arisaig Games cup & trophy winners with (back row left to right) Allan MacDonald, Games Committee, Lt Col Ruaridh Allen of North Carolina, Clanranald's lieutenant, Val Smith, President of the Clan Cameron Australia and Ranald, Chief of Clanranald
A new novel with a local setting
Local readers may be interested to know of a recently published novel, 'A Conspiracy of Ravens', set in the Mallaig - Morar area. The author, Neal Sillars, who has also published a collection of short stories, clearly has a strong feeling for this part of the West Highlands, which colours every page of his book.
It tells the story of how Ruaridh MacBran comes to live in his family's rundown estate house on Loch Morar side and sets about restoring it, assisted by his friend and neighbour, Sandy MacDonald. But it is not only Sandy who helps Ruaridh…family ghosts emerge from the past and play their part too. And who is Brenna, the beautiful, raven-haired girl with a passion for Celtic folklore, who comes so mysteriously into Ruaridh's life?
Part love story, part ghost story, 'A Conspiracy of Ravens' is an unusual and enthralling tale which keeps the reader guessing till the last page. It is published by Frontlist Books (www.frontlistbooks.co.uk ISBN 1-84350-086-8)
Exercise Polar - RNLI and Coastguard exercise Mallaig 29th July - photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson
I am a little out of touch with all that has been going on here this month having been away for a week to sample Richard Clay's Putting Party and to visit others in the south. The party was great, starting with smoked salmon/scrambled egg (courtesy Dave) breakfast on the terrace, free flowing champagne all day, fabulous food, good company, serious putting competition, brilliant weather - 90 degrees F when we left Inverness and hotter still when we landed at Luton. Big thank yous to Richard and Jackie, Steve and Jane.
There has been a fair amount of celebration during the last four weeks, Daisy's 4th birthday, Sandy's ??th birthday, Cowboy and Native American 'do' in the pub and Frank's 80th which appeared to incorporate the Tarbet Games and a trip to Glenelg for a selected band of friends. Many Happy Returns to all three.
Aaran graduated a couple of weeks ago on completing her teacher training course. Congratulations Aaran with love from Tim, Hannah, Asher, Koa, Lara and all the Bowyer family. Aaran has secured a placement in Fort William for the school year starting next term along with Katrina who also completed her teacher training year, having graduated a few years ago. We all wish them both success and a strong constitution in their chosen career.
Heriot Watt Music Summer School spent five days rehearsing in Inverie Village Hall at the end of June and on their last evening here gave a performance to the community. The hall was packed and even very young children were absorbed. Heriot Watt is in partnership with COMA (contemporary music for amateurs) Scotland and an on-going special project which has a starting point / inspiration of Celtic plainchant from Inchcolm, an island in the Firth of Forth.
Last Friday another great musical evening was shared with young multi-talented musicians on Lochaber Young People's Ceilidh Trail. Pipes, fiddles, flutes, accordions, harp and voice made splendid sound in Inverie village hall, followed by dancing.
The Sgoth "An Sulaire" from Stornoway has sailed into Knoydart in the last two days. From a distance she looks like a moth on the water and one or two locals were lucky enough to be invited to sail in her. The experience produced praise from the passengers for both her construction and sailing properties. This vessel is modelled on those used in past times for fishing in waters north of Lewis, shallow draught and broad in the beam with single sail and dipping lug, designed to ride big Atlantic swells and crewed by five men and a boy.
I happened to read a comment in a local (Knoydart) bulletin that our contributions to West Word were somewhat sporadic. I took slight exception to that, since I have contributed for ten years from the inception of West Word, with only the odd omission. Tommy and I now alternate to put a varied slant on events and we would welcome contributions from any member of the community either through our pieces or independently. We don't have the monopoly!
No mention of meetings, business or construction matters this month except to say the new pier is beginning to take permanent shape now and coming on apace.
(No, nothing sporadic about Anne's contributions, and now Tommy's as well - West Word can always rely on a monthly input from Knoydart, and our thanks to them and all our regular contributors - Ed.)
ISLE OF MUCK
Two major events dominated the social scene in July - All Singing All Dancing on the weekend of the 9th, and Muck's biggest wedding for 12 years on the 23rd. Christine Kydd is a fine singer but an even finer teacher. She achieved a remarkable standard in a mixed group of visitors and islanders. Mats Melin is not even a Scot but he certainly knows Scottish Dancing and is a top step dancer as well. His class soon acquired a range of dances most of which I had never even heard of. At the final ceilidh on Sunday night participants reached artistic standards never before seen on the island - a memorable event.
After two weeks dominated by mist and drizzle, the sun appeared on cue for the wedding of Sheena Mathers to Richard Walton. Surrounded by island flowers in the community marquee, Richard and Sheena exchanged vows under the guidance of the Reverend Alan Lamb while 130 guests looked on in witness. Then in the barn nearby we sat down to a sumptuous feast, watched the cake cutting ceremony and listened to some interesting speeches. Then it was over to Iain MacFarlane and his band who did us proud with many hours of music. And never a midge in sight or a voice raised in discord.
We are not finished yet! "Summer on Muck" continues with the Small Isles Sports. A wide variety of interesting events on the games field, a barbecue to follow and in the evening the Harris Tweed Brogues on the rostrum in the barn. All are welcome and MV Sheerwater will be coming to Muck on the day in place of her scheduled call at Rum, on Saturday 13th August. On the farm it has been hay time! While others were preparing for the wedding, I was on the tractor turning hay. 60 big bales followed on Monday, some out of our new Class 46 baler.
Last Sunday (31st July) half the island gathered in Cnoc na Curran field to make and lead nearly 400 small bales of super quality - the best for years.
Still reeling from the All Singing All Dancing event a couple of weeks ago.... And still to come to Muck this year - even more dancing, some storytelling in early August with Lilian Ross, and a circus school with Fuzzy and Britta later in September - contact Julie on 01687 462371 for details. And don't forget the Daisy Prize closing date is 12th September. There's a £50 prize for the best poem about seals. The prize is open to everyone anywhere - entries from children are specially welcome. For full details phone 01687 462828.
All Singing All Dancing Weekend on Muck with Christine Kidd and Mats Melin
By the end of this excellent weekend we were all singing and all dancing. As the title of one of the sessions implied, we started off with some Can't Sing, Won't Sing-ers, but very quickly, under the expert and relaxed tuition of Christine, we were all keen to join in. She certainly knew how to bring out the best in us and the harmonies she taught us were wonderful. We had tremendous fun with the dancing, although we couldn't match Mats' fancy footwork. It took a lot of concentration for the more complicated dances but we had lots of laughs and no one minded the mistakes. Christine and Mats were both excellent tutors and we had a great time in the workshops. Then came the ceilidhs, which I'm sure were enjoyed by everyone. (If not, why not?) They combined all that was good from the workshops plus lots of contributions from both locals and visitors, young and not so young. We were treated to piping, singing, guitar and banjo playing, and a recitation (hope I've not missed anyone) plus brilliant performances from Christine with her haunting songs and Mats with his step dancing - a first class traditional ceilidh. Thanks to Mandy and the Camas crew for organising such a great weekend. Please can we have an encore next year?
ISLE OF EIGG
Eigg's reputation as "the" place for a party seemed to have made enough of an impression on the world wide web for a young couple to chose the island as the venue for their wedding reception, making the first of many functions we hope to hold in our brand new hall.
Heather MacKay, a charity worker from Ayr currently living in California, decided it was the ideal venue to bring together her Scottish family and the Finnish relatives of her Helsinki-born husband to be, Totte, a plant scientist at Stanford University. Despite the misty weather conditions which prevented the wedding guests from admiring the island scenery until after the weekend, Heather and Totte were not disappointed. The blessing ceremony for the couple who had tied the knot earlier on in Dallas, Texas, was held in the romantic setting of the lovely church of Scotland on Saturday 6th July. After Donna's piping, the wedding guests repaired to the hall beautifully adorned with greenery and flowers from the Lodge garden and the blue and white flags of both countries, where they sat down to a splendid buffet produced by the Eigg catering team. The band, featuring Eilidh Shaw, Tam the banjo and Rockin' Ross Martin, masterfully led Finnish guests through the intricacies of Scottish country dancing. The islanders, who were also invited to the party, were well impressed by the Finnish songs sang by Totte's uncle. We wish the happy couple all the best in their life together and hope they will come back to see us with their children some day!
Another such happy event was Sheena Mathers' wedding on the isle of Muck at the end of the month. The weather was as best as could be, the Muck boys all looked great in their kilts, and the bride looked absolutely stunning and very happy at the arm of her handsome groom, Northumberland farmer Richard Walton. The reference to our "absent friends," Bruce, David and Brian, who were present in everyone's thoughts was very moving: this happy event has softened the memory of their tragic loss, and by bringing everyone together again, has made it a memorable event for this Small Isles community. As always, the Muck hospitality could not be faulted, the music and the company was great: as the Eigg revellers declared as they boarded the Shearwater in the early morning, it was indeed an occasion to remember! We all wish Sheena and Richard a very happy life together in Northumberland!
The Muck folks have always been reputed for their dancing, and it is nice to see the young ones carrying on the tradition, as was noted at Feis Eige which was held on 15 and 16 July. The new hall was buzzing with activity as 28 youngsters took a turn at various instruments. Glitter sparkled everywhere as treasures, pictures and jewellery were enthusiastically created under TIina MacVarish's expert guidance! As to Karen-Ann Melville, our brilliant Gaelic tutor, she effortlessly managed to engage all the youngsters in learning a bit of the language through a lively assortment of Gaelic games. Meanwhile the Gaelic riddles provided by Meanabh-Chuileag, for Feisean nan Gaidheal, proved an equal challenge to old and young! Solving them should keep us busy for a few Feisean yet! Adult participation was at a record high with fiddle, tin-whistle, guitar and spoons workshops being well attended. (don't worry about competition yet, Eddie, that deft roll of the fingers on the spoon which looks so deceptively easy will take a while to practice…) The ceilidh, which saw a welcome return of Duncan and Angus on the button box was great craic and it was Feis Eige's pleasure to present Ross Martin with a quaich donated by the Bank of Scotland, for being such a stalwart supporter of the Eigg Feis, having tutored at the very first feis, back in 1996! A special mention should be made of Brendan Greene, who having taken his first drumming lessons at the feis so many years ago, was our percussion tutor this year!
Last but not least, we must congratulate young Bryony Kirk for having made it to the final short-list for the role of Katie Morag in the forthcoming television series. Bryony was first short-listed to go to Stornoway for regional auditions and emerged as one of the strongest contenders! She was absolutely unfazed by the prospect of auditioning and could not wait to give it a go, tells her proud mother, Kay Kirk of Laig Farm. Bryony who has been holidaying in Uist with "Granny Island" has certainly proved to be the star of many school productions on Eigg and we wish her good luck as we all wait impatiently for the final results.
In the meantime, we welcome back to Eigg Liz and Alec Boden, who have returned to the island after 20 years in Herefordshire. Liz will take up the school teacher's post until a new head teacher is appointed and Alec is going to direct renovation operations for Brae Cottage. No doubt that they will both make a very valuable contribution to our island life!
Now there's dedication for you - Camille e-mailed us her article from a motorway café in France!
Well, the first attempt at a partial 'Arisaig Week' went well, although all we really put on extra was the Craft Fair. It was a busy three days, with the Art Workshop on the Monday - the last of a series of four, all of which proved very popular - and the Craft Fair on the Tuesday, then of course the Games and the dance on the Wednesday.
People dropped into the Craft Fair all day long, and the refreshments organised by Jackie and Daphne and their helpers raised £215 towards next year's 'Arisaig Week'. Alison of the Environmental Group showed how to make paper and decorate it with flowers, leaves and even the contents of fruit tea bags - but where was the elephant poo paper Alison?! Tiina had the wee ones busy with clay and all sorts of things while mums and dads were free to browse the stalls of the varied array of talent organised by John Arnold.
All agreed it was a good day and we will hopefully make it an annual event. The decision must be now whether to have the Craft Fair on the day before the Games next year or to move it to the new intended Arisaig Week date of the end of May/beginning of June.
The Games started off with a parade through the village of the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band led by Ranald, Chief of Clanranald, which brought the spirit and feeling of the Games back into the village for the first time in many years. The Clanranald birlinn had been in the harbour on the Monday and various local residents were press-ganged into rowing it round to Traigh for Wednesday's Games. And yes, of course the sun shone! The Dance was also a big success.
The week before saw a well attended concert of the Lochaber Feisean Ceilidh Trail, which gives young musicians a chance to tour and promote themselves like professional musicians. Everyone enjoyed it so we're expecting a full house on the 9th September when we host a BLAS Festival concert featuring not only the Ceilidh Trailers but also Iain MacDonald, the piper from Glenuig, Iain MacFarlane and Allan Henderson, both of Blazin' Fiddles.
At last we have recognition that Arisaig is the most westerly station in Great Britain - oh yes it is! First Rail have just erected a sign on the wall of the station building at Arisaig Station. The claim was disputed recently in the papers because if you look at the page in an atlas, the country has been straightened up a bit and Penzance does look as if it 'sticks out' a bit further. But on the globe it leans west. Arisaig is on longitude 5'51" , while Penzance, which was argued as the obvious, is only 5'33". The train turns slightly north east to go to Mallaig which is on 5' 50". It's a shame they haven't put the sign on the station itself though, in view of train passengers.
The cutting down of the old plantations is proceeding so fast that I see a big difference every night when I drive home from Fort William. The difference in light is amazing and there must surely be some future change in the growth of plants in Larachmore Gardens now they are getting not only more light but also more air movement. Can't say I'm looking forward to the time when the chestnuts and oaks come down but what can we say - that's progress!
Short list of options identified for Rum's Kinloch Castle
Three contrasting approaches have been identified for further investigation in efforts to find a sustainable future for Kinloch Castle on the island of Rum.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which has ownership responsibilities for the island and the castle, has been working with the Prince of Wales's Phoenix Trust and the Rum Community Association to develop a role for the castle in the island's future. The options were selected to offer SNH and potential funders from both the public and private sectors, comparators of benefits and drawbacks. They were put forward in a report by the Phoenix Trust following a process involving analysis of all past studies commissioned by SNH concerning the castle, and the collation of current ideas, concerns and opinions of others, particularly the Rum community.
The three options are:
1. To maintain the existing use of the castle with major restoration and a maintenance and repair strategy and budget in place;
2. Conversion to residential use to create eight apartment/houses varying in sizes from one to six bedrooms, education areas and limited access to principal rooms. These two options represent two extremes of ownership and accessibility.
3. An optimum combination of different kinds of residential lettings, educational and entertainment facilities, commercial and public access to principal rooms.
Each of these proposals will now go forward for more detailed studies to identify the option that will be the most sustainable in the long term and the most likely to attract the necessary funding. After completion of this feasibility stage, a recommendation will be made to the Board of SNH.
The report was welcomed by SNH area manager, David Maclennan, who said: "It's really encouraging to see real progress in finding a long term sustainable solution to Kinloch Castle's restoration. The castle has a key role to play in the island's future. It is a major visitor attraction and it offers visitor accommodation and catering facilities. But as well as an asset it is also a liability in terms of the funding requirements that go beyond SNH's normal remit. We therefore very much welcome the Phoenix Trust's involvement as well as that of the community on Rum. Only by working together on this will we secure a solution for the castle that will make a positive contribution to the island's social and economic development."
Fliss Hough of Rum Community Association said: "In working together, the Rum community, the Phoenix Trust and SNH have identified options that are likely to offer a sustainable future for Kinloch Castle and complement the Kinloch Village Development plan. This in turn would enhance the island for the community and visitors alike and could well lead to a whole range of further opportunities."
Phoenix Trust director, Jill Channer, added: "We were delighted to have been commissioned to undertake this challenging task, and have created an exceptionally experienced team to respond to this extraordinary building, its contents and context. With the positive collaboration of the community and the expertise of SNH, we are convinced the time has come to find the sustainable future for the castle that everyone is seeking."
The island of Rum is owned by SNH on behalf of the nation, and managed as a National Nature Reserve. The presence of Kinloch Castle and the high cost of its maintenance has presented SNH with challenges beyond its normal remit. The castle is currently used as a hostel for visitor accommodation, with catering facilities, and the front of house operates as a museum, with tours of the rooms and artifacts provided for visitors.
The building however is now 105 years old, and materials and services are nearing the end of their natural lives. The SNH budget of £65,000 a year for maintaining the castle has helped with small scale repairs and maintenance, but major works of repair and conservation are now required if the building and its collections are to be preserved for future generations. The cost of this work has been estimated at around £6m and will require external funding. Before that can be secured, a feasible and sustainable proposal for the castle' future has to be produced.
The castle featured on BBC2's Restoration Series last year, where it polled 143,000 votes in telephone support narrowly missing out on the £3m plus prize money. The plight of the building stimulated widespread interest, including that of His Royal Highness, The Duke of Rothesay who convened a meeting of interested parties to catalyse a solution for the castle. This resulted in his Phoenix Trust bringing together a team of specialists who were commissioned by SNH to produce the options report.
This move was welcomed by Douglas King, honorary secretary of the Kinloch Castle Friends Association, who said: "Kinloch Castle Friends Association have become increasingly concerned about the deteriorating state of the castle since the Association was founded in 1996. We were very pleased when the Phoenix Trust was appointed to help find a sustainable future for the castle. It is pivotal to the island's future. Properly developed, it has enormous potential to boost tourism and employment on the island. This development must complement, not conflict with community enterprise.
"Kinloch Castle Friends Association fully support the Rum Community in their ambition to create a viable community on the island. For that reason, while not discounting any of the three options for restoration of the castle, at least until we have more details; we do much prefer option 3 - An optimum combination of different kinds of uses."
Congratulations to Richie Munro (20), seen here showing off his Silver medal won at the Special Olympics held in Glasgow last month. Richie plays in goal for team Highland FC - a team coached and trained by ex-Inverness Caley stalwart, now Highland Councillor, Peter Corbett - and they did so well getting through to the final of the football tournament. Aside from the obvious thrill of winning and being presented with an Olympic Silver medal, Richie thoroughly enjoyed the closing ceremony of the Games on Glasgow Green - it was very, very special, said Richie.
English Channel Sponsored Swim
The daughter of Scotland's top cartoonist Malky McCormick safely negotiated the choppy waters of the English Channel on Friday 15th July to raise funds (and awareness) for the charity 'Headway' - a group supporting and improving the life of people who have suffered head injuries.
Jane (23) took 15 hours 11 minutes to complete her marathon swim and deserves great praise for her courage, stamina and resourcefulness in raising funds for 'Headway' - a charity that has been extremely supportive in helping her brother Sean, who suffered severe head injuries when an unprovoked attack left him near death two years ago.
The McCormick family have been regular visitors to the area for many years, with Camusdarach Camping Site their favoured holiday location. Indeed the placid and tranquil waters of Camusdarach Bay was where Jane developed her swimming technique, a technique that was to enable her to complete her cross channel swim.
Any West Word reader interested in assisting Headway can do so by contacting them at Headway, Beresford Court, Ayr, KA7 or c/o Astley Ainslie Hospital, Morningside, Edinburgh EH10.
THE ARISAIG POST OFFICE PETITION OF 1803
Dukla Pumpherston returned to Mallaig on Sunday July 17th to defend the Caledonian MacBrayne/Davie Armour Memorial Trophy against the local Mallaig football team. In terrible weather conditions both sides provided an entertaining match for the brave souls who turned up to watch Mallaig overturn last year's result to emerge victorious, by 8 goals to 4.
Mallaig goalscorers were Norman McLean (3), James Fearns, Brian Ferguson, Chris Bamber, Neil Cameron and Steven Jamieson. Match officials were Andy Grant (referee) and Ally Russell (assistant) from Fort William.
Due to their busy schedules, Dukla were missing many of their top names, but those that were here showed they still possess the skill. Some of them on display were Dougie Bell (Aberdeen 7 Rangers), John MacDonald (Rangers), Gerry Collins (Partick Thistle), Bobby Russell (Morton), Robbie Baxter (Morton), Chick Young (BBC Sports Pundit) and Bill McMurdo (one of Britain's top sports agents).
The hard work of match organiser Arthur Cowie was recognised and thanks expressed to Geo. Walker & Sons, Johnston Bros, Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association, Andy Race and the Cromag Shop for their sponsorship of the after match buffet in the Steam Inn.
As a precursor to the main event, two youth events were held. Arisaig under 13's won the Cromag Cup, defeating Mallaig by 5 goals to 1, but two Mallaig under 9 teams couldn't be separated even after a penalty shoot out - so the match was declared a draw and both captains asked to come forward and be presented with the Andy Race Cup.
At the final whistle, the Caledonian MacBrayne/Davie Armour Memorial Trophy was presented to the victorious Mallaig team by Mr Seumas MacDonald of match sponsor Caledonian MacBrayne. All monies raised were in aid of the RNLI Mallaig Lifeboat.
50 years of service - the story of Wave
It was 26th July 1955, a bright sunny day with a northerly force 4 blowing. Wave left Mallaig pier with Hugh MacKinnon, Charlie Henderson and father aboard as well as the rest of the family. We were bound for Sleat Point and sea trials. As there was no ballast aboard Wave was very lively and I felt somewhat seasick! But the story of Wave really began two years before when father placed the order with Charlie Henderson and construction commenced. Wave was largely built by Charlie's uncle Archie, though Ian MacEachen then a youthful apprentice was allowed to saw some of the timbers- they were all cut by hand. Progress was slow and in the large open airy shed these timbers dried out and had to be doubled before launching. The planking was larch and in the engine house was (for Muck) a real innovation-a 13 hp Petter deisel engine! Hand started - there was nothing electrical aboard. She cost £1950!
To return to '55. The trials were successful and back in Mallaig stones were collected from the beach for ballast and we set off for Muck. In those days no mail steamers called at the island - contact with the outside world was mainly via Eigg but it was not to last. Within 10 years the original Loch Mor was gone and Loch Arkaig took over the Small Isles steamer service and she started calling at Muck, with Wave as a flit boat. She was not good news for Wave with her heavy horizontal belting and it is remarkable and a tribute to her solid construction that more damage was not inflicted . After Loch Arkaig came the new Loch Mor and then Loch Nevis, These steamers were not met in a sheltered harbour either but out in the open sea. And there were stormy days crossing to Eigg and Arisaig. Twice I personally have been out in force 9 but both times the wind was well aft. And there have been bad times too!. Three times Wave came ashore in Port Mor but strangely enough never in a gale - which saved her. Once she was damaged enough to need new planking, she was high and dry on the rocks but Charlie Henderson slid her down the shore on timbers. The only major structural change was around 12 years ago when Ross Carr built a smart new wheelhouse and installed hydraulic steering. By then Wave was on her third engine. Before that it could be a cold journey in winter in the open stern with the tiller to steer by.
I have been on many journeys in Wave but perhaps I might mention two of the most memorable in detail. First was the journey back to Muck after my marriage to Jenny on Soay. We left at 6pm on a late September evening and a poor night with frequent showers. I stood up top trying to spot the biggest seas in the gathering darkness and it was very dark after Rum. David White was behind the spray screen and every time he received a tap on the shoulder from me he throttled back. Meanwhile my new wife was doing her best to look after some very seasick wedding guests. A three hour journey soon became four and I need hardly say that we were very relieved to reach Gallanach and safety.
The second journey was also memorable but less hair raising. We left Leverborough in Harris with Eilidh the Castaway Pony and her unexpected son Arnie. At the wheel was Ranald Coyne and holding the ponies in the hold was son Colin and myself. It was blowing north east 5 and as we headed for Neist Point in Skye the wind was on the shoulder and heavy spray poured aboard and down our ill clad necks. The ponies kept their feet well and as we neared the point we got some shelter and later we were off the wind and it was better. An 8am departure from Leverborough became an 8pm arrival in Muck one of Wave's longest journeys. In one way Wave was lucky. For 28 years she was mainly under the command of Bryan Walters whose ability at sea and alongside Cal-Mac steamers was legendary As her second half century commences I have recently returned from her annual overhaul in Arisaig. There Roddie MacKenzie made good damage to her timbers and nailing. It is remarkable how little there was for him to do!
Major General Petrák revisits Arisaig
Regular readers of West Word will be familiar with the name of Anton Petrak, who has made two previous visits to the area. The weekend of the 15th - 17th July saw the third, and probably the last visit the 91 year old General will make to the part of Scotland which holds such particular memories for him.
Czechoslovakian Anton Petrak was a trainer in the Special Operations Executive at Traigh House during World War II , and he also acted as translator for his fellow countrymen. In 2001 he came with a Slovak embassy film crew to make a documentary about his countrymen's involvement in the SOE centres throughout Britain; in 2002 he returned with a small contingent of Slovak soldiers to meet with local veterans and people of the community to take part in a moving ceremony in which he unveiled a plaque dedicated to the SOE, on the wall of Traigh House. West Word reported on this ceremony in full in the July 2002 issue, which can be read online on our website.
This visit was one of pleasure, tinged with sadness, for the General, to say farewell to the area and the people of whom he has such fondness. He came with Lt Colonel Nick Southwood, Defence Attaché in the Slovak Republic, who organised this trip and the last, and Mr Ernest van Maurik. Mr van Maurik was a trainer at Garramore and was the man who trained Slovak partisans Gabcik and Kubis, who went home to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi called 'The Butcher of Prague'. Mr Jack Shaw Stewart was their host during their stay, and on the Saturday night he held a small dinner party to which he invited Rev. Alan and Helen Lamb, Fr Joe Calleja and myself and partner Richard. It was the most amazing evening, where we found ourselves listening to tales of immense bravery which weren't recounted as such, but were casual backgrounds to light-hearted anecdotes.
On Sunday they had another look at the Land, Sea & Islands Centre, meeting up again with Bob Poole of Morar. General Petrák was delighted to see articles and photos of himself on display, and was interested in the further information that has been gathered on the SOE. Then it was back to Slovakia for the General, to home and wife Rudi.
A message from Jimmy Savile
Sir Jimmy Savile pictured in Mallaig during a past Fishermen's Mission Weekend,
West Word - ten years ago by Robert MacMillan
The 250th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Raising of the Standard at Glenfinnan was the lead story on the cover page of Volume 1 Issue 10 of West Word of 10 years ago. Several inside pages also featured aspects and items on Bonnie Prince Charlie - or Not So Bonny as Editor Jill de Fresnes' piece was headed. BBC filmed Capercaillie at Glenfinnan Monument for a future TV broadcast and West Word's middle page spread was given over to the Govan Chairman, John MacLaughlin, describing his self carved Arisaig & Bonnie Prince Charlie Chair - 5'9" in height and 23" wide.
The ongoing heatwave was also commented upon by several agencies and several correspondents throughout the West Word area. It was great weather for iguanas and Jason Weir was pictured with his unusual pet - a Common Green Iguana!
Fishing trends of 'today and yesterday' were commented on via a piece by Freddie Salmon on his early fishing career and an up to date poem entitled 'Mallaig Pier' written by Tam Gordon of the prawn trawler 'Twa Gordons' of Anstruther. Two Klondykers had arrived with two others expected and it was commented that the hum of their engines could be heard all around Knoydart.
A new series by Paul Galbraith entitled 'Place Names in the Rough Bounds' kicked off and proved to be very popular. Paul explained the derivation of local place names although Bourblach seemed to have him stumped!
There were reports from the Rough Bounds Saddle Club, the Mallaig Swimming Pool, Mallaig Police, and the Shoestring Circus at Glenuig!
The enforced retiral of Ambulance driver Alex MacKenzie after 17 years of unstinting service with hardly a holiday was the Page 3 story with Alex recalling his career.
Congratulations were afforded to Barbara and Freddie Salmon on their 50th wedding anniversary and their wedding photograph was featured, as was that of newly-weds Murdina MacNeil (Barra) and Vincent Mathieson (Mallaig) who were married in Fort William. Angela O'Donnell dropped us a line from 'over the pond', saying that West Word was a better read than the New York Times!!! (That girl has got class!!)
Snippets had grown to almost a page and a couple that caught my eye were… 'are Tam Baillie's vegetables Fank Brae's best? And 'good luck to Arisaig Hotel's Janice and George Stewart on their new venture in Oban!
The back page was headed Wanted Desperately by Lonely Scottish Fisherman - A Wife, with the spoof ad ending with the 'lucky woman' having to send the fisherman a photo, not of herself, but of her boat!! As I recall the spoof ad made the dailies!!! My thanks to Mallaig Heritage centre for providing me with a copy of the August 1995 West Word - I couldn't find one in the West Word archive!!
The A830 Upgrading - An Archaeological Evaluation
In early 2005 CFA Archaeology Ltd were commissioned by Historic Scotland on behalf of The Scottish Executive to conduct fieldwork within the proposed corridor of the upgraded A830 between Loch nan Uamh and Arisaig. A walk-over survey in May was followed in late June and early July by an archaeological evaluation. This aimed to examine known sites, and also to locate unknown, buried remains. This was done by means of both hand and machine excavations at various locations.
At Arisaig a burnt mound was found. These sites often date to the Bronze Age and may be communal cooking places or have many functions but they comprise of a mound of heated and fire-cracked stones, often near to a hearth and a sunken (cooking) trough with a water source nearby. All these elements are present at Arisaig. The nearest previously known burnt mound is at Broadford on Skye, c.40km to the north. Other burnt mound sites at Portree, also on Skye and near Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness are 65km and 100km distant respectively. A cairn containing a cist and a scatter of cremated bone which may also be Bronze Age was found some 300yds to the west of this site and was excavated as part of a previous phase of the A830 upgrading, also funded by The Scottish Executive in around 2001.
At Borrodale to the west of the burn, two areas of buried soil were found. These contained environmental remains in the form of charcoal and artefacts made from Chalcedony, Quartz and Bloodstone. Chalcedony pebbles can be occasionally found on the beach in western Scotland and the Bloodstone comes from the eponymous hill on Rum. As far as dating goes, a fine Thumbnail Scraper clearly dates to the Early Bronze Age, around 2000BC and a Convex Scraper may be contemporary, or slightly more recent.
Two croft houses at Brunary produced ceramics from the early 19th Century. One had a partly paved floor and a paved yard or terrace outside the entrance. An area of black, heavily manured soil may be part of a kale yard or vegetable patch. Other elements of the site include turf and stone field banks, walls and a possible bridge. All of the current evidence suggests a pastoral economy. No lazy beds are apparent and there is no corn-drying kiln although cereal processing may have been done more centrally. Further work will aim to reconstruct economic life at Brunary in the early 19th Century.
The area of Carnach contains several glacially eroded rock basins, which have since been filled with peat. A peat core with a length of 6m was recovered from it and this will allow through pollen analysis a dated record of changes to the vegetation to be examined. Humans have clearly had an impact on these changes and both the date, and nature of this human impact will be established. Correlating the pollen evidence with archaeological evidence from nearby sites (eg Brunary) will be a key aim. Further work will be conducted on the above sites in the autumn and this will include opportunities for community access to the work. A talk, to be conducted in Arisaig will be arranged under the auspices of the Arisaig Historical Society (An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig) at a date to be arranged once the excavations are completed.
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