WEST WORD
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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August 2006 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Glenfinnan, Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago

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SUN SHINES FOR ACTION PACKED WEEK
In a week that held the Arisaig Games, the Mission Gala Day and the Mallaig & Morar Games, everyone was a winner with the weather. Thanks to Colin Buchanan, Chas MacDonald and Robert MacMillan for the photos.

Pictured right, Jackie MacKellaig, seen here with wife Jean, was presented with a gold watch by Fergus Ewing MSP, to recognise 60 years of involvement with the Mallaig & Morar Games. His wife Jean was presented with a bouquet by their grand-daughters, Marie and Eilidh, who then danced for them. The Games were held on the 30th July on the Lovat Games Field in Morar.

Pictured below, at the Arisaig Games on 26th July at Traigh, Larry Brock set a new Games record for weight over the bar, while at the Mission Gala Day on 29th July, Neptune Disco finally took to the waves.

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GLENFINNAN
Apologies readers for the absence of the Glenfinnan column in last month's West Word. I had some technical problems! We started June with a successful raft race and gala day. Seven rafts, each with a crew of three, set sail from the monument on Saturday 3rd June at 2pm. Some of the rafts proudly carried flags and from the lawn at the hotel it looked like a pirate invasion was almost upon us. To complete the race they had to disembark then run across the lawn and up a slippery slope. The winning team was Ronnie and Morag Hughes with Lee Brown. After the race the games began. We had a variety of races for the children and the slippery slide was a total hit with the kids. It all turned into a bit of a mud bath which only added to their fun. After a cloudy start to the day it turned out to be a scorcher and soon people were stripping down to sunbathe and compete in the wet, soapy bungee race. We also enjoyed a barbeque cooked by Duncan Gibson. Thanks to Glenfinnan Estate for the venison, John MacMillan for donating meat and Breckenridges for donating the salad. Their supplies were very much appreciated. The afternoon was a great start to the summer and it was lovely to see all the kids running about having so much fun.
There was a recent fishing competiton in Loch Shiel and the results are: Joe Gillies 1st Prize; Emily Grant 2nd; Cameron Ramsay 3rd. My sources tell me that Duncan Gibson, Chairman of Glenfinnan Community Council, went fishing to Loch Morar instead of Glenfinnan, but justice was served. When trying to land a "huge" salmon along with a well known fisherman, the fish was lost (poor netting by the "ghillie"). Duncan jumped ship and so did the fish by gosh!
My grandfather sadly passed away on the 8th July aged 84 years. Mallaig readers may remember him up until the mid-1980s sailing into the harbour on his boat the 'Viking' to land his catch of prawns then sail off again to his home in Kilmory, Ardnamurchan. He was known as Bob but his real name was Olav Robert Karlson Fjortoft. He arrived in Shetland on a fishing boat 'Siglaos' from Norway during World War II. At that time Norway was under German occupation and Olav and a friend helped 6 people escape. Some of them had the death penalty put on them and escape was their only chance of survival. He had been deep-sea fishing since he was 14 years old and continued to fish the sea until he retired. He had salt in his blood and loved fishing, fish and anything connected to the sea. He was at the very heart of family life and I will miss him dearly but he leaves many happy memories. He was young at heart, a true gentleman and a wonderful grandfather.
The population of Glenfinnan increased by 1 in June with the arrival of Annabella Maria; a second child for Duncan MacFarlane and Claudia Hulewicz and a sister for Fina. Congratulations!
The Glenfinnan 07 project has been awarded £5000 funding from Highland 2007. We are now in the process of applying to other sources of funding. Once summer is over we should have a clearer idea of our budget and will start to plan the year in greater detail.
Eileen O'Rua

KNOYDART
Knoydart residents are finally able to use the new pier! Not quite finished yet, and we're still getting our heads around the complicated roads system (ranger Jim!), but it's great to be able to walk down to the ferry without tripping over concrete slats or squeezing past vehicles. Of course we've also lost our old pier, which was demolished worryingly quickly by Bobby in a digger. The old pier was such a major landmark (watermark?) that people are wandering around the village feeling slightly displaced: it's difficult to tell which mooring is which, and it is quite odd looking along the beach at low tide with nothing except the refurbished slipway jutting out into the water. These developments also mean no more dinghy jobs - previously, at low tide, Tommy on the Western Isles transported passengers, shopping, bags, bikes, dogs and roof tiles from ferry to beach, which involved wet feet (and wet people in inclement weather). Official opening is this month, with Tavish Scott the transport minister doing the honours on the 24th August after visiting Canna. Rumours (spread by a certain postmaster) that Jacques Chirac was going to be cutting the ribbon have therefore been quashed. Highland Council are advertising for a Harbour Master, and the toilet block will soon be under construction.
The social calendar has been busy this month, with a visit from a travelling theatre group, Aidan from Eigg, a couple of impromptu ceilidhs in the pub, and the Lochaber Ceilidh Trail youngsters revisiting. The theatre production, Scott of the Anarchic, was skillfully performed by an experienced cast, with a great ability to morph into various characters at the drop (or don) of a hat. They were followed the same evening by Aidan, who recited a selection of his poetry accompanied by two talented friends on flute and saxophone. About time for another album Aidan? And the Ceilidh Trail youngsters wowed everyone as usual. Their late night wending back to the bunkhouse accompanied by bagpipe music may not have been appreciated by everyone, though! A small group set off to Laggan to experience the thrills and spills of Wolftrax mountain bike centre. We were researching the set-up with a view to installing similar tracks in the forest here. Unfortunately Grant, our Community Forester, injured himself very quickly, and had to be taken to the Belford with a broken collar bone and a couple of cracked ribs. Despite this putting a bit of downer on the day, everyone managed to enjoy themselves, and there was a productive meeting with a representative of Laggan Forest Trust.
The Ranger Service had a beach-clean today, Sunday 30th July, on the beaches past Glaschoille, overlooking Mallaig. The amount of plastic debris was quite disturbing - much of it consisting of material clearly thrown (or fallen) off boats. It all ends up somewhere, and it seems particularly horrible when found on some of our most remote and beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, there was no environmentally-friendly way to dispose of the rubbish - although who knows, in the near future Knoydart may have access to recycling facilities. Thanks to all those who donated their time today.
Tommy McManmon

ISLE OF MUCK
Some fine weather in July and with never a sign of North wind, some high temperatures reached the island at times which was great. So did the whales, dolphins and basking sharks in the second half of the month closely followed by the boats from Mull where sea life watching is now a major activity. Yachts were also present in large numbers and all combined to bring record numbers to the craft shop with Sandra Mathers and Jenny MacEwen working flat out on many days and serving dinners almost every night.
On the social scene, Muck was on the ceilidh trail on Thursday 20th. Eight young local musicians entertained us with a two hour concert and music for dancing after. Their wide range of instruments brought a new dimension to Celtic music. It was great. The only fly in the ointment was next morning when thick fog blanketed the island. Loch Nevis decided not to call despite having bridge equipment reminiscent of Star Ship Enterprise. However Lachie Robertson came to the rescue and soon had them in Knoydart, their next engagement.
On the farm it has been a record month for growth with high temperatures and frequent short spells of rain combining to provide a record crop of silage. The only problem has been the Corncrake fields (not to be cut before 1st August). These have become very over-mature with the grass at seed stage and very poor quality.
Lawrence MacEwen

ISLE OF RUM
It's been pretty quiet here. I've been away for most of July on holiday on Jura, most excellent place, so not sure what's been happening here other than the scorching weather.
Kim Glennie, stand-in castle manager, who has been around for near on a couple of years, left this month for pastures new (good luck with Big Issue Kim!!) and has been replaced by David Frew who, with his wife Stroma and baby Jamie has taken up residence in the castle.
Another recent addition to the community is baby Aaron Jenkins (born in May); congrats to Mark and Amanda. This brings the number of children up to a respectable 8, with 5 in the school.
We have a new highland pony stallion called McTavish (short for something very long winded). He is happily ensconced in Black Park with a few mares, while poor wee Angus the colt had to go off to the equine veterinary hospital in Glasgow for some delicate help in the nether regions. He's back now, but a stone lighter (if you know what I mean).
And for those of you following the queen on hols, we were visited last week by the navy and two police boats, part of the royal escort to the Hebridean Princess on tour with the Windsors. While the navy lads went for a jog, the royals enjoyed a picnic at secluded Shamhnan Insir.
That's about it really, we're just psyching ourselves up for the Small Isles games on Eigg in a couple of weeks. Bring it on !!
Fliss Hough

ISLE OF EIGG
July's been a busy month with the hot weather bringing in loads of visitors to the island. The good news is that visitors can now walk to Laig beach on the new track past St Donnan's church without having to wade ankle deep through muddy piddles, thanks to all the draining and re-surfacing carried out by our expert road team… It makes a great difference too to have had a team of Spanish and Mancunian volunteers to tidy up both around St Donnan Church and inside it. They were a nice bunch of lads who enjoyed their week on Eigg. With a few more folks like them, our little church by the beach is certainly more likely to last a bit longer. This kind of help also provides much needed encouragement for those who have devoted already so much time to keep the fundraising going.
As to the trust, as new volunteers turn up to help out with bracken cutting etc, others prepare to leave. And we are sad to say goodbye to Katrine, a 24 year old from Germany who has been on Eigg for 4 months now. She really enjoyed her stay on Eigg, especially the social life and the ceilidh dancing, but for her, what was really special about volunteering with the trust, was exploring the island with John Chester and learning all about the flora and fauna of Eigg. The legendary charm of our reserve manager strikes again!
On the cultural front, west coast humour was very much on the agenda with Scots of the Anarchic, the show by Splinters Theatre based on Iain Chrichton Smith's works. The actors were superb, and the audience - pretty good by Eigg standard - loved it: there's nothing like live theatre… Eigg also had its own thespians when the 25 or so participants in Feis Eige ended the feis with a great bilingual performance. The falling down asleep under the spell of lovely singer Maeve Mackinnon turned Queen of the faieries, was most convincing, and the highland dancers and faiery puppets fantastic, thanks to Tina MacVarish's art workshop. Amy Geddes kept the feis ceilidh going with abounding energy and we are looking forward to seeing her here next year again as she promises to return. We are also looking forward to Maeve's forthcoming CD of Gaelic songs, due in the Autumn. Look out for it for she has the most fantastic alto voice… The feis ceilidh was certainly a great home coming for Felicia Greene after 5 months in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, where the deep tan she acquired made her look just like a native Amazonian! Apparently Brazilians do not have a word for stress, "tranquillo" is the Brazilian way… Her advice is for the whole of Eigg to go and chill out in lovely Bahia… I wonder if this is the kind of things that we can ask Ian Leaver, the new Eigg based aftercare officer for the Community Land Unit, to look into? Surely there must be some transnational funding available to check how they do the eco-tourism thing which everybody in South America seems to go for these days…!
Well, we'd get a better chance to have a crack at it in the Small Isles if the Marine Park was situated here; the debate about this issue is on going at present and it would be nice to think that our opinion will heard as loudly as that of other communities in our area. In the meantime, Eigg is looking forward to being one of the stopping points in the John Muir Trust's Journey for the Wild in early August. The Journey is an epic adventure, raising awareness of wild places by involving people across the country in passing beautiful wooden message batons from wild place to wild place, travelling by foot, sail, wheel or paddle with a minimal environmental footprint, to finally meet on Ben Nevis on 26th August (check it out by following this link - www.jmt.org/journey). And we are also about to have our own transnational cultural exchange with the Canadian group Quebecosse coming to Eigg on the 31st of July. The Eiggaich will have to get their feet warmed up. It's foot tapping stuff!
Camille Dressler.

ARISAIG
The village is full of Swedish visitors just now, being welcomed here by the young players of the Lochaber Fiddle Orchestra and their families. The local youngsters went to Sweden in April where they were treated to an action packed time dog sledging, ice fishing, horse riding, and a number of other activities as well as playing in concerts.
The exchange visit lasts from the 29th July to 5th August and the Swedes are being taken to Iona, Eigg and Glencoe amongst other places, and there was a free concert featuring the Lochaber Fiddle Orchestra and Fryle, the Swedish band, in St Cumins, Morar, on 2nd August. There are some photographs on the centre pages and hopefully there will be more about the visit in next month's West Word
An encouraging meeting about the proposed new housing was held on the 31st July. Grass cutting has been a hot topic recently. The big bank at the top of the village was forgotten and then chopped so badly it looked even worse.
A very busy and interesting Craft Fair was held in the Hall on the 25th July, the second Arisaig Craft Fair which looks set to becoming an annual event. Many thanks to John Arnold for all his organising and to the WRI for serving the refreshments. It was great to see the Parade led by the School Pipe Band before the Games on the 26th, it came round past my house and down through the village and certainly provided a much missed 'buzz' with folk gathering to watch it.
Was there too much on at the end of the month? Arisaig Games and dance, Mission Gala Day and dance, Mallaig & Morar Games, Craft Fair, concerts in Arisaig on the 29th and 31st ….there must be a limit to what folk can do and afford! The McCalmans concert on the 31st was very well attended as usual but not as many as previous years. They were very entertaining and fully aware that the A830 song will soon have to change to the past tense!
The Hall has been really busy with storytelling, workshops, computer lessons, and this weekend another wedding reception. Below are a couple of photos from the Art Fun workshops and one of the masks made at the puppet show.. There are two more Art Fun mornings on the 7th and 8th August. Come along and help make a big collage for the hall! All welcome!
Ann Martin


Scrabble Travel
Adrian Keefe from Linlithgow spent July travelling round the coast of Scotland playing a game of Scrabble a day, with the aim of writing a travel book. Adrian left Glasgow on 7th July and cycled anti-clockwise round the country, arriving in Arisaig on the 27th. He had travelled to Eigg that day to play Scrabble with demon-player Eigg postman John Cormack but hadn't realised there was not enough time between ferries. What to do? West Word editor Ann was contacted to see if she knew anyone keen on Scrabble who would give Adrian a game and in the short time available she offered to be his contestant. Adrian was on the last leg home, planning Glenfinnan that night, and back to Glasgow on the 29th July. He said 'Cycling round the country and the Scrabble challenge is an excellent way of meeting people and finding out about the areas they live in. The idea is to write a travel book with a difference.'
Adrian is already an author; in September his book of cartoons about his creation Devil Cat will hit the bookshops. He also sells excellent and vary funny cartoon cards featuring Devil Cat - anyone who has a cat or likes cats will be able to relate to the scenarios depicted! You can see them on his website, www.devil-cat.com
And why does he look so happy? Well, of course, he won his game!

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West Word - ten years ago
The departure of Father Wynne from St Mary's Church in Arisaig was the main cover story of the August 1996 edition of West Word. Fr Wynne who had helped create the award winning community newspaper (sounds good, doesn't it?) was heading off to Roy Bridge after 11 years at St Mary's. His picture adorned the front page and there was also a page 3 tribute to him by Rosemary Bridge entitled 'A Fond farewell…' and he also contributed the Christian Message alongside the Fishermen's Mission News on page 29.
Arisaig was mentioned quite a bit in this issue with coverage of the Games (of which Fr Wynne was Secretary), a photograph of veteran Heavyweight Athlete Tommy MacEachen in action, and a photo of The Arisaig Drama Club a là 1950s. Another Arisaig story on the cover concerned the loss and subsequent re-appearance of Shona Devine's cat O'Malley, while an article headed 'An Island is for life, not just for Christmas' told of Maruma putting the Isle of Eigg back on the market.
The editorial contained the news of the impending increase to 75p (from 50p) for West Word and something else on the increase was the family of West Word committee member Alison McLean (and of course hubby Willie John) with the arrival of twin boys. Proud Mum Alison was pictured with her two boys on page 2, while on page 10 Morar's Ewen MacDonald was pictured at Loch Morar with news of his new Lochaber Ltd assisted boat hiring venture.
Carol & Bob, the new owners of the Glasnacardoch Hotel announced their arrival via an advert and the letters page contained comment on the Mallaig CCTV plans, and a letter from one of the East Bay Watch Babes.(featured on the front cover of the July 1996 issue) and also some reminiscences from ex-Mallaigite Ronnie Gillies (Wellington, New Zealand), recalling swimming at East Bay and across to the pier, taking a rest on the way across on the anchor chains of the boats in the bay. A humorous yet touching story entitled 'A Sassenach Piper' was penned by Eric Snow while I myself told of Alistair MacDonald (Lovat Terrace) in an article entitled 'Just An Old Newspaper'. My Personal Angle column told of a meeting of minds when John Alick Campbell and Arthur Cowie joined SFA Secretary Jim Farry in a local hostelry - a think tank for Scottish Football!!! In the same column there was a mention of Morar Hotel's Alastair 'Skoosh' MacLeod and his kiddies' TV appearance re the Loch Morar Monster while Editor Jill turned the tables and interviewed BBC TV's Eric Robson who was up in Mallaig making a TV documentary on the fishing industry.
Three call-outs for the Mallaig Lifeboat in July were described as was the 16th anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous celebrated via an open meeting in the Fishermen's Mission. Someone under the pseudonym of Camperanon provided a humorous (?) ode describing the 'horrors' of a Loch Morar Camping Trip and Councillor Charles King, via his Council Corner, praised Fr Wynne's leadership of the Lochaber Housing Association, stating that the new Arisaig housing scheme will be a lasting testament of his leadership.
Regular features included Bramble's 'Sweet Tooth Corner', 'Down To Earth' with Eigg's Neil Robertson, 'Astrological Advice Lines' by Aunt Prudence, and Auntie Mary's 'Creepy Crawly Corner' (on the life cycle of a sheep tick!).
Two whole pages, one in Gaelic, the other not, were given over to, I think, Paul Galbraith (no author's credit) telling the tale of 'At The Churchyard Road End' while Joe, Tracey and Susan described their life as New Age Travellers and the reasons they came to 'pitch camp' at Lochailort.
In the Wanted Ads, Mallaig's Betty MacPhie was after a budgie cage (in good condition) and among the What's On's was an advert for a fund raising Fun Day on Mallaig Pier in aid of Yorkhill Hospital.
Congratulations were afforded to badminton player/coach Kenneth MacKenzie in the sports pages as he was awarded the Lochaber Sports Council Award for services to sport. An award well deserved. Local athlete Douglas Runcieman was pictured as winner of the Arisaig - Mallaig Fishermen's Force 10 Race. Tamsin Helliwell from Eigg described her upcoming 5 month conservation and environmental project in Zimbabwe while congratulations were in order to newlyweds Derek Johnston and Tracie Lanyon (Mallaig) pictured at Conlongon Castle in Dumfries.
So just in case there hasn't been enough mentions of Arisaig I may as well finish on an Arisaig snippet - happy 25th wedding anniversary to Gep and Marion MacMillan - well, it's now 10 years further on - a happy 35th anniversary to Postman Gep and Marion!
RMM


Mallaig Deer Shunters' Great East European Challenge 2006
On the 13th June, seven bikers were waved off from Mallaig High School on the start of a 4200 mile, 17 day journey through ten countries. The bikers are Tony Austin (ex-Army), John Bryden (Police), Mike Whelan (Transport Police), Alasdair Sinclair (Leading Fireman), Neil MacKellaig (Firefighter) Alan Knox (Motorcycle Paramedic), and Bertie McMinn (Lifeboat Coxswain). The journey was to raise money and awareness for Save the Children. Oh, and teddy went too.
After leaving Mallaig to the most beautiful send off, we stayed the first night in Glasgow, then on to Newcastle the next day. We had a great night on the ferry, a very calm crossing, a few beers and a good night's sleep. At last on foreign soil our great adventure really begins with John leading the way. We promptly got lost in Amsterdam (won't be asking him for directions). After a few hours we finally found the right road and set off for Germany. Day four and we finally arrive at the Polish border, change some money and our flags and ride onto the worst road we have ever encountered, we all look at each other and wonder if our bikes will stand up to it, but 20 miles on it turns into a brand new dual carriageway and we are all smiling again. All the people here wave at us as we go through the countryside, it is very reassuring and every time we stop people ask where we are from and want pictures of us and our bikes.

Day five and we are in the Polish Slovakia border area and it is stunning. We climb about 2 or 3 thousand feet to cross the mountains and stop for lunch in Slovakia with local bikers. Into Hungary now, a bit flatter but still friendly and beautiful. We stay one night in Hungary with a totally drunk but lovely lady who looks after us very well but scares Neil with the only English she knew, she grabs him and says 'me no man' and smiles. We all of course think this is hilarious, much to Neil's annoyance. Off to Romania today and once across the border it is obvious that this is the poorest country so far but the people all smile and treat us very well. Bertie wakes up next morning with a cauliflower ear that looks like he'd done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and can't get his helmet on.
After a quick meeting it's decided that Alan, John and I will head for Bulgaria and the meeting in Sofia with Save the Children staff, while the others stay with Bertie and we will meet two days later in Budapest. Bertie has to take the lining out of his helmet to get it on but despite the pain (mostly of our laughing at his huge purple ear) he grins and carries on.
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Alan, Tony and John with Save the Children helpers in Sofia.

Back in Hungary Neil is getting nervous as Mike says he gave the drunk landlady with no man Neil's phone number and she's coming to see him again in Budapest.
Next day we go to Bratislava in Slovakia, it is very beautiful, and stay just outside the city in the mountains. Alan and I want to go to Brno and Prague, the others are going to Vienna and meeting up in Prague that evening.
Back into Germany now and the realisation that our trip is nearly over, it seems to have gone so quickly. Amsterdam and on the ferry again, another good crossing and then into England and the ride home to Mallaig. It starts raining at the Scottish border (we now know we are back home) and we all get soaked for the first time in 17 days. Were we all glad to get back? Yes, in our own beds again, there is nothing quite like it. Would we do it again? Yes, I think we would, maybe not so far and Neil says not Hungary.
We have raised over £8000, mostly from the kind people of this area, so a big thank you to all who donated and helped us in our big adventure.
Tony Austin, The Deer Shunters, Mallaig Motor Cycle Club.
P.S. Let's get planning for next year Bertie, watch this space.
(For more on the trip and lots of photos, visit www.mallaigdeershunters.co.uk)


Ships named after the local area
Following the article on the vessels bought by the Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig area for the fishermen who lost their boats in the tsunami, as an ex-seafarer I decided to do a little research into ships named after the main towns and villages in Lochaber. A brief history of the vessels I found are as follows:

SS ARISAIG
Built 1882 by Blackwood & Gordon, Paisley and Port Glasgow. Further information is scant apart from it was a steamship owned by Furness Withy, the tonnage was 1,328 and the ship was sold to Italian owners in 1895 and renamed LIVIETTA.

MV ARISAIG
Built in 1957 by Lithgows Port Glasgow, 6,872 gross tons. The owners were Scottish Ore Carriers Ltd. and the ship was registered in Greenock. The ship sailed out of Port Talbot, Wales, with Iron Ore. On 1st May 1972 the Arisaig arrived at Faslane for demolition by Shipbreaking Industries Ltd.

MALLAIG
The only information I could find on a vessel named after Mallaig was an Aberdare Class minesweeper built for the Royal Navy in 1917 by Fleming & Ferguson, Paisley. I can only assume that it was steam driven. The vessel was sold in 1927

MV MORAR
Built in 1958 by Lithgows Port Glasgow, 6,584 gross tons. The owners were Scottish Ore Carriers Ltd. and the ship,was registered in Greenock. The ship was sold on to overseas buyers and had two names before she was scrapped - MAHONI & CLARI-67. The Morar was scrapped at Kaohsiung (Taiwan) in 1980 after it grounded off the coast of Tiawan.

The majority of the information provided was sourced from the website www.clydesite.co.uk and other contributors that contacted me. I have more detailed information on the two Scottish ore carrier vessels if anybody wishes to contact me through West Word.
Brian Bannister


Visit to North Carolina April 2006
In 2004, Arisaig Highland Games and Loch Norman Highland Games entered into a "sistership". The aim was, to create closer bonds between the resident people of the Gàidhealtachd and the emigrant descendants of the people who left these shores in the last several hundred years.
Last year, the committee of the Loch Norman Games extended an invitation for a representative, or representatives, of the Arisaig games, to attend their Games on April 22nd and 23rd, 2006. Allan and I were chosen and, accordingly, set forth for North Carolina on the 18th of April. After a "two hop" plane journey, we landed at Raleigh, Durham airport where we were met by Dr. Ruaridh Allen. Ruaridh and his wife Diane, who live in Fayettville, Cumberland County, put us up with immense hospitality, both before and after the games.
The Loch Norman Highland games are held at Rural Hill Farm in the Catawba River Valley of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Rural Hill Farm was the home of the Davidson family who emigrated from Dundee in the early 1730s and who settled first in Pennsylvania and then, Mecklenburg County. The family descendants held the farm until it passed out of their hands in 1995 after which, it was leased by the Catawba Valley Scottish Society.
On the evening of the 21st April, coincidentally, Allan's birthday, the féisd was commenced by a reception for the Sponsors and afterwards, as the dusk fell, a bonfire was lit and each clan was called whereupon, it's representative came forward and answered the call.
On Saturday morning, the Games were opened by a parade round the field and, as Honoured Guests, we took part. After that, various people addressed the crowd. Allan, in his address, brought a message from the people of Arisaig and South Morar to our American cousins. The Canadian National Anthem, Land of Light, Auld Lang Syne, God Save the Queen and the Star Spangled Banner, were all sung .
There were so many activities over the next two days that we can only mention a few here. Outstanding, was the performance of the massed pipe bands. Over forty pipe bands paraded for us in all their glory, altogether a wonderful spectacle which made the hairs stand up on the back of the neck. On Sunday morning, there was a gathering at the Davidson cemetery where, on a beautiful morning, we had the ceremony of "the Kirkin' o' the Tartan". Quote: "During the "Kirkin" Service, an array of Clan tartans is presented for blessing by the minister. It may be tartan yardage or, small swatches of tartan or, any other such mini Scottish items - even a cross worn round the neck by a clan member. The presentation of the tartan is a re-dedication to God's service, by the family that each tartan symbolizes" Unquote. At the end of the "Kirkin" a baby girl was christened. Her name was Ryane MACKENZY Campbell. (Actual spelling)

The games field was encircled by clan tents (40 plus) to which, we were made very welcome when we visited. Of course, we were guests of the Clan Donald tent which, as well as clan information, provided a smashing buffet lunch with liquid refreshment, if required! I was especially delighted to find "na daoine agam fhèin" the Clan Macnaughton tent where we were welcomed by John and Duncan Macnaughton.
Many of the clanswomen were dressed in traditional garb such as the Arisaidh. I had thought perhaps, I would find the dress rather "over the top" but to my surprise, I found that I liked the women wearing the traditional dress.. These women are proud to wear the costume of their ancestresses with all its historical connotations and, it is a statement that women, too, have a traditional Highland dress and, on ceremonial occasions, the tradition should not necessarily, be reserved exclusively for the men in their kilts. Thoir an aire a' Ghàidhealtachd!
The kindness, warmth and hospitality which we received from the North Carolinians, with whom we share common ancestors, was unsurpassable. Beannachd leotha.
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Dr Ruaridh Allen, Diane Allen, and Elizabeth and Allan MacDonald


Allan and I enjoyed our visit tremendously and are now hoping that the "mogan" will stretch to another visit in the future. Arisaig Games Committee wishes to extend thanks to The Loch Norman Games Committee, The Gower Trust and Arisaig Partners without whose generosity, the trip would not have been possible.
Elizabeth MacDonald


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