COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
December 2006 Issue
Merry Christmas AND A Happy New Year
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
HOUSING JOY IN MALLAIG
Work has commenced on site clearance and site preparation for the construction of sixteen new houses in Mallaig. The site behind Blaven View will, when completed in February 2008, contain seven 3-bedroomed houses, eight two-bedroomed houses and one 5-bedroomed house, all for the total cost of £2.49m.
'This development is long overdue', said Councillor Charlie King, 'and I'm very pleased that after years of hard work by Lochaber Housing, Highland Council and Communities Scotland, we are finally getting sixteen new homes in Mallaig.'
The UBC Group in Inverness are the main contractors on the construction of the housing scheme and they will be hoping for better weather than they have experienced over the last couple of weeks on site, gale force winds and heavy driving rain being the norm for the last two weeks in November.
As well as the UBC group, other companies involved in the scheme are Bruce and Neil, Fort William (Architects); Samuel & Partners, Fort William (Quality Surveyors); and A. F. Cruden Associates, Inverness (Structural Engineers).
FAIRPLAY FOR FAREPAK VICTIMS
The local communities have another opportunity to show how supportive and caring they are as the call goes out for donations to help local families caught up in the Farepak crash. Christmas looks bleak for around 100 families in the Mallaig area who lost an estimated £40,000 when the Christmas Savings scheme collapsed in October. A national fund has been set up to provide some assistance for all Farepak subscribers and Lochaber Credit Union are waiving their usual rules to enable new savers to access some money in time for Christmas. But here in North West Lochaber a plan has been hatched to provide each local Farepak subscriber with a hamper of food at Christmas time provided by the specially formed 'Mallaig Fairplay Fund.'
CLOSURE OF MALLAIG MARINE WORLD
When West Word carried the news last June that the internal ceiling of Mallaig Marine World had collapsed and that the building was temporarily out of action and closed to the public, no-one at that time realised the full consequence of what was to follow. A subsequent inspection by structural engineers cast doubt on the safety of the building and the owner of Marine World. Ross Campbell, has been forced to close the business down.
'This is a big blow to Mallaig,' said Community Council Chairman, Mr John MacMillan, 'as for the past 14 years or so the Marine World has been the major tourist attraction in the village.'
It was back in 1991 that Ross, a Marine Biologist, and local business man, fish merchant Andy Race saw the potential of a Marine World in the port of Mallaig, and when an old cold store in a prime village centre site became available, through hard work and lots of ingenuity Mallaig Marine World became a reality and opened its doors in June 1992.
So many people were involved in its creation that Ross has said: 'As we worked towards opening day, we had so many helping it was more like a community project than a business, just too many to name!' But Ross says that special mention should be made of the local fishermen who kept the Marine World supplied with fish and shellfish of all descriptions, and of course, Sheila Henderson, a real stalwart for 7 years with no task too difficult for her to undertake.
As the Marine World developed and its reputation grew, Ross would play host to schools and other groups from all round the region on a regular basis. Tourists from far and near visited the exhibition, many returning year after year. Ross and his wife Frankie translated the fish names and displays into most European languages (German, Dutch, Danish, Polish, etc, and of course, Gaelic) and Scientific - with lots of help from people locally and internationally.
Around 20,000 people visited the Marine World each year (over 27,000 one busy year), enjoying what was very much a local exhibition; local species and exhibits, the story of fishing locally. Many visitors commented on how nice it was to find an exhibition so dedicated to the area.
Sadly 14 years after its opening, the Marine World is no more and Ross just can't see it being revived. 'No, I'm afraid it's the end of the line,' he says, 'and a big disappointment to my wife Frankie and to me. It was our dream, our vision, a place of work, an income, and now it is gone.'
SANTA - WHERE'S YER TROOSERS?
COASTAL AND MARINE NATIONAL PARK
Senior Councillor Dr Michael Foxley, Vice-Convener of the Highland Council, has issued a statement regarding his thoughts on the contentious issue of Coastal and Marine National Parks. He warned that a 'CMNP is coming like a freight train and despite local opposition it cannot be halted.'
Cllr Foxley said: 'Support for a CMNP appears in the manifestos of three of the main political parties at Holyrood and that means there will be a national park somewhere on the west Highland coast. I have yet to meet anyone on the west Lochaber mainland who wants a CMNP.
'There are many people from local fishermen to people living on the shores of the sea lochs who fear for the future.
'They fear additional regulation, bureaucracy or the ability to extend their houses, or build new houses.
'This is coming like a freight train and we are not convinced that it is going to give the area any advantages we don't have already.
'We have to work on preparing a list of things we definitely don't want and the things we do want and ensure that this is delivered.
'We should also be saying as a Council that we need to be convinced about the benefits of a CMNP and draw the Executive's attention that there is strong, vocal and widespread opposition because of the feared impacts on the area's economic viability and the effect it will have on their families - all of which they seem to be ignoring.'
News in Brief
- Local Councillor Charlie King has registered an intention to stand down at next year's local government elections. He is one of three Lochaber Councillors who have applied for severance payment before the revamp of the Highland Council takes effect next May. However this doesn't mean Charlie has definitely decided to retire from the Council. He has until 11th April next year to withdraw from the severance scheme.
- Update on the A830 upgrade Arisaig - Loch nan Uamh: the tendering process will continue until January or February next year, when it is anticipated that the contract will be awarded. Construction is expected to start on site in Summer 2007.
- Looking for that present with a difference for your cat? 'The Garden Factory' catalogue suggests 'Kitty Bubbles' - soap-free catnip scented bubbles fired from a trigger-operated bubble gun.
Looking westward from Knoydart
The weeks just past have been relatively quiet in Knoydart; a few birthdays of which I am aware, Anna and Iain Robertson and Tommy (all very sprightly for their ages). Tommy and Jim (Knoydart Rangers) gave an interesting presentation of their 'sortie' to Iceland with photos, a detailed description of the unique diet imposed on them and much humour.
We wish Pit a speedy and successful recovery from his recent operation and may be referring to him as the bionic man in future. We also send our very best wishes to Iain Wilson, for a successful outcome to the operation he is about to undergo, an enforced pain-free rest and lots of good rugby to follow. Jo says she has a useful programme to occupy the enforced convalescence!
How many shopping days left? Hurrah for Broadband. In the meantime Jasmine and Freya have birthdays - Freya is 6 on 8th December and Jasmine 7 years old on 14th December.
ISLE OF MUCK
Our thoughts and sympathies this month are with Eileen Henderson who lost her father Angus in Raigmore Hospital. Angus, a good man to meet and an even better one to know, was a loser in the health lottery which is our later years. However things were improving in recent months and it was a sad irony that he should depart at this time.
It had to come to an end - I mean the fine weather. November could best be described as a poor month with the Loch Nevis missing many times. Several weeks we have had only one call which reminds me of the situation in the 50s and early 60s when in winter we also had only one mail a week on a Tuesday. In those days it had to be collected from Eigg Post Office. Though Loch Mor called at Eigg at 2.30 on Monday afternoon there was not time to go to the Post Office and get back to Muck before darkness, hence the Tuesday mail.
Lastly I would like to wish West Word readers the very best for Christmas and 2007.
ISLE OF CANNA
The National Trust has received hundreds of applications from all over the world after advertising for two families to move to the island (West Word has received about ten!) and will be making a decision soon.
One of the applications is from a family who beat off competition from over 1000 people in 2001 to move to the remote island of Bardsey Island, off the Llyn peninsula in Wales.
After five years on the Bardsey Island, which has a population of 3½ other people (one a fisherman who spends half the year there, and one a nun), the Barnden family have decided that compared to this and life in a house with a chemical toilet and drinking water gathered off the roof, Canna with its population of 15 sounds a much pleasanter option!
ISLE OF RUM
Moaning about our useless coastguard shed did the trick. We had a visit last Tuesday from Phil Wren, our coastguard sector manager, and various superiors - by helicopter - to inspect the shed in question. They agreed it wasn't up to scratch and will get us a new one, many thanks. New coastguard HQ will be on the site on the old telecom shed, in the Dairy woods.
Sandy Fraser, who has been SNH's joiner/handyman for the past 11 years, has quit his job in order to set up his own joinery business based here on Rum; he's also setting up a website for selling the furniture he makes. We all wish him the best of luck for the future.
A quick tale of woe…Sharon went to Eigg on Saturday 25th November for the weekend and due to the bad weather and inflexible ferry timetable, she has been stranded, and is still there at the time of writing this, 1st December! She plans to return home as soon as the weather abates or the ferry timetable becomes more suited to inter-island travel… and hopefully before Christmas!
I asked Marcel, the stalker, for any interesting stalking info for this month's West Word and he told me that he'd shot the biggest hind he's come across yet on Rum, a substantial lady of 80kg, found in the woods, reckoned she was 10 years old and a few days before that shot one at 60kg over at Guirdil. There you go.
And we finally got hold of the consultation document for the proposed marine national park, (it was couriered over from Eigg, where it had been resting). The list of consultees was very lengthy and included almost everyone but I didn't notice the Small Isles Community Council among them, which was surprising since it would kinda affect us if they chose this area.
Did you know that it's the 50th anniversary of Rum National Nature Reserve next year? That's 50 years since Monica Bullough, the last owner of Rum, gave it to the nation and it was designated as a nature reserve.
Along with the festival and various Highland 2007 events, there are to be events held to celebrate this occasion, Chris Rodger at the Reserve Office here is co-ordinating, so if you have any appropriate suggestions, please forward them to Chris.
Hogmanay Ceilidh, Isle of Rum
Live Music from Ceilidh Cailinan Craicte
Tickets and space at Kinloch Castle still available!!
ISLE OF EIGG
It's good to see winter back again looking like winter: wind, rain, sleat, just like winter should be: big debates are ongoing on Eigg between those who believe in climate change and those who don't. It livens up our week-end nights. There is also the debate about the marine park: it was quite annoying to read in last week's Oban Times that Cllr Foxley could not find one person 'on the West Lochaber mainland who wanted a CMNP.' I guess our IEHT director having not set foot on Eigg for a while, he would not have been able to gauge public opinion here. Even though there is by no means a consensus in favour of the Marine Park, quite a few islanders do actually share the opinion expressed by David Woodhouse on Mull that 'anyone who thinks such beautiful areas can stay as they are in the future with no proper environmental protection or the right sort of promotion are very naïve'. However, the fact is that no-one wants another crippling layer of bureaucracy imposed on them, which is the way the Marine park is perceived, no doubt because SNH is involved in the whole consultation effort, and we know from experience that SNH 'speaks with a forked tongue'.
The issue of the Marine park was brought up at the European Small Islands Conference which took place on Islay on 21 and 22 November. The Italians said the bureaucracy surrounded the park in Elba was terrible and the Finns were not impressed by the way planning permission became very restricted in their own Marine national park: they did get a good marine interpretation centre, but none of the jobs which were promised. There is also a lot of local resistance to a marine park in Brittany although there, they have to face a far greater threat from tourism than we do here in our Scottish islands. A bit more tourism would do a lot for the marginal economies of the Small Isles and make the difference between survival and viability, and to that extent, the mainland does not have to address the same problem that we, the small islands, have.
The conference concluded that conservations aims in any country must take the islands' economic survival into account. 'Restrictions regarding the use of environmental resources need to be examined to ensure that they achieve their aims of conservation in a balanced way. Islanders are central to the sustainability of their environment and to the guardianship of their islands. Environmental policies should be formed in a way that creates opportunities for islanders and does not threaten their survival. Directives and policies at national and European level should know that small islands are micro communities with valuable cultural and social capital. Regulations should be subject to a proofing procedure to ensure that they do not impact adversely on the sustainability of these extremely fragile communities.' These are points which the government here should definitely should take on board, and that we should repeatedly make in the consultation process. The European Small Islands Federation will also be looking into the Green paper on the European Maritime policy, which is scheduled for debate in the Scottish Parliament on 4 December.
Luckily there are also the far simpler things in life, like going to the bonfire night: on Eigg, everyone gathering around the fire, with the many younger members of our community ouhhing and ahhing at the fireworks display.
|Another event which brought the community together was the Commemorative ceremony held on 11 November at the cairn built by Wes at Cul nam Pairc. Robert, wearing his paratrooper's beret deposited the poppy wreath organised by Liz Lyon and gave a military salute, after which various people contributed a variety of moving poems. A heartfelt thank you to Roddy MacKinnon for initiating this monument which is now a well visited feature in the crofting township. Ian Campbell who went to visit Donald MacKinnon's grave at Naples this summer, passed his photos round: he was the first Eiggach to visit the grave after Katie Mackinnon's sister Morag who visited the grave during the war as she served as a QA nurse in the field hospital at Monte Casino, where Donald was mortally wounded.|
Finally, we all wish a very happy birthday to our oldest islander: Katie MacKinnon , who was 89 on the 15th. Happy birthday wishes too to Joanne Kirk, who has now being promoted to a permanent position as furniture restorer in Ayr, and dealt with the refit of the Loch Nevis's internal furnishing as part of her new job: well done, Joanne! Good luck too to Felicia, another November birthday girl, who is embarking on her Scottish tour with 'The Big Face,' an up and coming new Glasgow band, in which she plays the keyboards…A very happy 18th to Jodie, we miss her! Good luck also to Aidan on his poetry debut in Oxford at the famous QI club: we've all got a vision of Stephen Fry and Hugh Lawrie doing "baked beans on toast" with him on the stage!
Congratulations to Kieron Kelly at the Prince's House Hotel on winning a Scottish Thistle Award in the category Flavour of Scotland. Kieron works hard to offer a fantastic menu with a focus on using local produce. Clearly the judges were impressed. There's been plenty happening in November despite the stormy weather and relentless rain. The village tidy was well-attended and several bags of rubbish collected. Most of it came from the grit bin at the church car park. Daffodil bulbs were planted at the Slatach Road end so we can hope for a blooming good display in the spring.
The adult and children Halloween parties were well-attended. I was at the children's one and they all had good fun. Joan kept them busy with lots of party games including the traditional dooking for apples. The costumes were excellent and very spooky. To celebrate Guy Fawkes Night the village had a bonfire and fireworks. Iain Banks kindly supplied the fireworks and paid for half of them himself. Iain and Les's pyrotechnic wizardry ensured a fantastic display. I think almost the whole village was there but it was so dark I could barely see anyone.
Charlie and Isobel had a big surprise when they went to Glenfinnan House Hotel for a family meal and were greeted by a large crowd of friends and family. The surprise party was organised to celebrate three big events this year. Charlie's 75th birthday, Isobel's 70th and their 40th wedding anniversary. That's a ruby, Charlie, in case you are planning a special gift. Duncan and Manja prepared a lavish feast, the ceilidh continued through the night and they had a wonderful time.
The Glenfinnan 07 group has been busy preparing a programme of events for next year. The gaelic lessons and music tuition will be starting in January. Look out for further information coming through your door. We will need to know numbers for the gaelic classes and what music tuition people want and we will be contacting you soon. All events will be advertised locally.
The Community Council AGM took place on the 26th November. A handful of villagers attended. The issue of schooling for the children of Glenfinnan came up and we decided that a specially arranged meeting of parents, future parents and other interested parties needs to take place. There is debate about where the catchment boundary should lie and also about the need for a school in Glenfinnan. There are almost 30 primary and pre-school children in the Glenfinnan area and no education or childcare services. I'd like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year.
Christmas decorations are beginning to go up and I do like to see the lights - Mallaig has some splendid displays while here in the village the shop front brightens a dreich day. I'm not travelling to Fort William daily as I used to but I know travellers really appreciate Alastair and Mary's efforts at Beasdale - a cheering and welcome sight after the long, dark miles.
The Children's Party is planned for Wednesday 27th December and there are now 44 children in Arisaig & Lochailort aged 0 to Primary 7 whereas a few years ago there were 70. The school roll is larger, because children from Roshven and Glenfinnan also attend. For the first time I can remember there are no babies under 1 - but I don't think we'll say the same next year!
Some very varied things in the Hall. First we had Cliar, a world class performance, with an audience of about 60. The India Alba who were so different from anything we've had, and we were lucky enough to have not only the Scots musicians (Fraser Fifield on whistle and pipes and Nigel Richard on cittern) and the Indian players (Sharat Shrivastava, fiddle and Gyan Singh on tabla (drums) but their friends from Slovenia, Jazz guitarist Igor Bezget and a chap whose name I can't recall on drums. Wow!! To end the month we had Fergie marking his 50 years in the musical business - his first gig was in the Astley Hall, with Farquhar MacRae, and fittingly the first performance in his 50th year of playing was also in the Hall, at the New Year Dance on January 1st this year. A very entertaining evening with Fergie reminiscing under interview by Allan Henderson! However for the first time in 20 years or so, Fergie will not be playing at the New Year Dance in Arisaig - he's on the BBC instead.
We now have a Clavinova in the Hall, thanks to Fiona MacDonald and her Music in Arisaig opera group. It's there for the using so don't forget it just because it's out if sight. You should see it in use at the Carol Singing on the 18th.
Remembrance Day saw a good crowd up at the War Memorial and the weather stayed dry. I'd like to explain why, for the last three years, I have also laid a wreath along with the one provided by the Community Council. For many years the Community Council tried to encourage other people or organisations to consider laying wreaths but no-one has. My father was heavily involved with the British Legion and for a number of years, until his 80th in fact, he organised the Remembrance Day commemoration in Dundee. He died in 2004 and so I lay a wreath. It would be very nice if other people or groups did so too.
History was made at a special Mass in Lochailort on Sunday 26th of November when Fr Andrew Barrett, Parish Priest of Arisaig, along with Fr William Maclean, formerly of Roshven and now of Lochgilphead, Argyll, blessed and dedicated a new chapel in Inverailort Castle to St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony.
The first Roman Catholic church at Lochailort was a small, simple, dry-stone structure with a thatched roof of indeterminate age built on the hillside above Lower Polnish to serve the once heavily populated Ardnish Peninsula. It was replaced in 1874 by a larger church known as "Our Lady of the Braes" made famous by its (apparent) appearance in the film Local Hero and subsequently on many post cards and calendars. Here Mass was said during the summer months until 1980 when it was finally abandoned. Thereafter, thanks to the generosity of the late Mrs Pauline Cameron-Head the chapel in Inverailort Castle, which had served the community during the winter months, was made available for all the year round public worship.
The first chapel in Inverailort Castle was built for private use by the Head (later Cameron-Head) family and was situated in one of the ground floor rooms on the east side of the old house. In 1891, when the castle was being enlarged, it was moved to an upstairs room in the south wing. There it remained providing solace not only to the estate employees but the many troops who were stationed in the castle throughout the Second World War until earlier this year when, due to the ravages of time, military occupation and the weather it too had to be abandoned.
Determined to ensure the Old Faith would continue to be observed in Lochailort the local community, ably led by Miss Barbara Mackintosh, Lochailort's popular postmistress, set about converting and repairing a former dormitory in another part of the castle using many of the furnishings and fittings from the old one. In blessing the new one Fr Andrew paid a glowing tribute to all those who had given freely of their time in preparing a fine and worthy successor.
Following Mass a traditional old-fashioned high tea, provided by many helpers, was served in the castle drawing-room to a large congregation from Lochailort, Arisaig, Glenuig, Roshven and Morvern.
Special thanks for the building of the new chapel go to: David Reynolds, Robert Clow, Ann MacIntyre, Jackie Stanley, Steve MacCann, Sue Cox, Ewen Gillies, Francis Carroll and Colin Logan.
West Word - ten years ago
Public Support Continues For Eigg Trust Appeal; Two Bids In For Mallaig - Fort William Steam Train Operation; and Archbishop Keith O'Brian Visits Canna were the three headlines adorning the front page of the December 1996 West Word (price 75p - 36 pages).
A photograph of the first ever visit to Canna by an Archbishop was somewhat self-explanatory, while the content of the main story told of the Eigg Heritage Trust discussions with the national Lottery Fund to win cash support for their bid to buy the island. It seemed that the West Coast Railway Company would be having opposition from the Manchester based Special Trains International as they vied for the steam train service on the West Highland line for the summer of 1997. Inside the front cover, as well as the editorial from Jill de Fresnes describing her great time in new Zealand, you could see a picture of one of Jemima Blackburn's paintings, one of two which had just been issued as Christmas Cards by Alan Blackburn, Roshven.
On page 3, Councillor King's epistle spoke of his delight that Outline Planning Permission had been granted for a) relocation of Mallaig Boat-yard; b) Health Centre and Sheltered Housing; and c) Mallaig Day Care Centre. His column also revealed the latest news on the upgrade of the Arisaig - Kinsadel section of the A830.
Just like November 2006, there were no Lifeboat callouts in November 1996 and alongside an advert for the Glasnacardoch Hotel was an item on how Carol Sabey, who had earlier bought the 10 room Hotel had just spent £34,000 on its refurbishment with the help of Lochaber Ltd. The Enterprise Company had also assisted fishermen in the area via grants totalling £90,000, while the Fishing Page told of the success of the new pump at Mallaig Harbour and how it had been most effective in the discharging of sprats from the local boats. Landings of herring and mackerel had also occurred at the port (oh, how we would welcome that 10 years on!!). the fishing theme continued with a piece on the Fishing Industry in New Zealand via Alastair MacDonald's Westhaven Fisheries, interviewed by West Word editor Jill de Fresnes.
Glenuig's Billy McKail's minibus aid mission to West Mostar in Bosnia was detailed on page 8, and the formation of the River Fund - a local group of fund raisers raising money for medical/nursing equipment for the area - was revealed.
Acting Police Sergeant A. K. MacDonald took this opportune time to warn against the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol and in the 'Round and About' section Lawrence MacEwen produced an historical half page on 'Muck - 100 years on an island.' Muck's Emma Walters told of her travels in Zimbabwe in Sense of Adventure and Morar's Fraser Grigor continued his descriptive piece on Galicia and the distilling and drinking of a 'weedy' brandy!
Bracara's Hugh Harkins recalled his time (in the early to mid-60s) fiddling with the Roshven Ceilidh Band, while the Personal Angle column told of angler Alan Moffatt catching a sheep in Loch Morar (sounds a bit fishy to me)!
The quiz season had started in Arisaig Hotel and the local anoraks were all comforted to know that Scottish Water was satisfied that the public water supply is adequate and that an upgrade of the sewerage treatment for the village had been designed with work to start on its construction 1997-98!
Whilst Arisaig's sewerage problem was solved (?), the future of the Hi-point (a service contact provider) in Mallaig was up for discussion but pupils of Mallaig Primary School didn't worry because Santa was on his way. Jayne Eddie (P3), Dorothy Coull (P4) and Robert McKnight (P2) being among the festive artists featured on the Schools' Page.
It's congratulations to Lorraine and John Edgar on their 10th wedding anniversary as their wedding photo was featured in the November 1996 edition of West Word and a smiling, happy (and youthful) photo of Ian MacPhie was accompanied by a happy 50th birthday message for the 10th December - so I guess it's congratulations on the big 60 now Ian!!!
On page 24, a photo of Angus J MacDonald, whose parents lived in Arisaig (and father Angus still does) taken beside the road sign Arisaig had the difference that he was in Nova Scotia, while on the sports front there were articles on the Canoe Club, Loch Morar Angling Club and the Mallaig Swimming Pool's It's a Knockout Competition (won by the Geo. Walker Team). A flashback to the Mallaig Stars FC team of the 60's was provided via a photograph sent in by former 'Star' Ronnie Gillies in New Zealand.
And finally…this Back Page What's On caught my eye - I wonder why? Saturday 28th December Arisaig Hotel - Grand Raffle, Robert MacMillan. (Who won him I wonder?)
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
November 2006 Bird Report
Apart from the first week or so, November seemed to be dominated by mild, wet and windy weather. No rarities reported this month, although there were sightings of less common winter visitors to this area. On the 2nd a Little Auk was seen between Soay and Rum, on the 5th a female Hen Harrier was seen just to the West of Arisaig Railway Station, it or another female was seen on two occasions near Millburn, Rhue, during the third week of the month. Also near Millburn, Jack Snipe were seen on two occasions after being flushed out by a dog.
Despite the mild weather, wildfowl numbers gradually increased by the month end. Wigeon were reported from Loch nan Ceall, Silver Sands, Traigh and the Caimbe, with at least 20 by the Caimbe Bridge on the 29th. Small numbers of Mallard were seen throughout the area, but 24 in a flooded field at Cross Farm on the 20th was a good count for round here. There were about 20 Teal on Loch nan Eala throughout the month, with varying numbers of Whooper Swans there also. Other sightings of Whoopers included 8 resting at the mouth of the Caimbe on the 14th, a single adult at Rhubana, Loch Morar on the 20th and a flock of 13 flying South over Traigh on the 22nd. Loch nan Ceall held good numbers of Red Breasted Mergansers along with Goldeneye and Little Grebes, with 2 female Goosanders seen there on the 29th. Mallaig Harbour had a flock of approximately 20 Eiders that afforded good views as they fed close to the piers. Greylag Geese were seen at Traigh and Back of Keppoch, while the 4 Pink-Footed Geese at Traigh last month were last reported on the 2nd. A female Shelduck was seen at Traigh boatshed on the 3rd and it or another seen West of Camus an't Allen on the 8th.
Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones could be seen on the rocks at West Bay Carpark or the new breakwater, Mallaig, throughout the month. At Traigh there were 75 Ringed Plover, 30 Oystercatchers and 3 Dunlin on the 14th. A single Greenshank was again seen on the Morar Estuary, sometimes at Kinigarry and also Bourblach. Nine Lapwing were at Back of Keppoch on the 29th and a few Curlews were seen there and at Cross farm.
A juvenile Iceland Gull was seen from the 27th in Mallaig, maybe some company for its own kind for the long-staying bird which has been in Mallaig since at least March.
Chaffinches and Greenfinches seem to dominating the garden feeders this month, although 3 Yellowhammers in an Arisaig garden and 3 at another in Morar were good reports. Also, a belated report of 2 Bramblings amongst the Chaffinches in a garden at Bourblach for several days in Late October. Six Bullfinches were seen at Carnoch, Arisaig, mid-month.
Only one report of Blackcaps this November, on the 27th in the same Morar garden that had the Yellowhammer. There was also a hen Pheasant seen in this garden and several other gardens in Morar Village during the month.
Mountain Rescue Exercise in Knoydart - Nov 3/4/5th.
There are 23 volunteer Mountain Rescue Teams (MRT's) in Scotland, these are complemented by two Police Search and Rescue Teams operated by Strathclyde and Tayside Police, and two RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, one at Kinloss in Morayshire the other at Leuchars in Fife. The 'new kids on the mountain' are the Oban team who were formed in 2000, taking over the NW corner of Strathclyde Police's patch.
Rescue teams train on average once a month with a myriad subjects to be covered, and if, as at the beginning of November, the Oban MRT wanted to train in a wild, rugged, coastal environment, where better than the Rough Bounds of Knoydart. Work in the fact that Oban's deputy team leader, Kenny Harris, is the brother of Knoydart gamekeeper Drew Harris, sprinkle in a few of the neighbouring Glenelg MRT, blend with the Mallaig Lifeboat and the Coastguard Helicopter from Stornoway and you have the recipe for an excellent exercise. This culinary analogy would seem to land me with the role of head chef, though as a Mountain Guide who specialises in training rescue teams my job is to provide enough ingredients to create an interesting, informative and challenging exercise with that best of all spices - good fun.
Most Knoydart adventures begin on the Mallaig Pier and it came to pass that on Friday evening Nov 3rd the Oban team embarked on two rigid inflatables heading for Inverie. A call on the radio half way across however meant a diversion to Stoul on the south side of Loch Nevis where a 35 year old male was lying unconscious on the shore, much to the consternation of his hysterical female companion. Black dark and lashing rain lent a certain patina to the occasion and loud were the cries of pain that rent the air - not however from the casualty as one would imagine, but from team members as they leapt from the boats into waist deep water.
Some good lessons were learnt transferring the casualty from shore to boat on the mountain rescue stretcher and we were soon inbound for Inverie where a few drams in the Old Forge soon revived casualty and rescuer alike.
Saturday saw us training with the Mallaig Lifeboat - two highly efficient outfits working in two very different, though equally hostile environments. It's not that often that Mountain Rescue Teams and Lifeboats combine on rescues, but when they do it's nice to know how each other operate. For instance; boats work on charts with latitude and longitude whereas rescue teams use maps and grid references. Casualties transported over water need a life jacket, and interestingly a mountain rescue stretcher doesn't fit through a Lifeboat door!
The Coastguard Helicopter arrived from Stornoway on Sunday morning and after an interesting brief on the aircrafts capabilities and the safety parameter we all practised winching drills before flying off to rescue two climbers who had been crushed under some falling rocks for the occasion.
There remains the usual vote of thanks to Lifeboat and Helicopter crews, boatmen, rescue team members and of course the good folk of Knoydart. Is seems that West Word has become a touch poetical of late, and as no other than John Bunyan seems to have a few words to say on the rescue scene, I can perhaps let him have the' Last word'.
Come hither, you that walk along the way;
See how the pilgrims fare that go astray.
They catched are in an entangled net,
'cause they good counsel lightly did forget;
'Tis true they rescued where, but yet you see,
They're scourged to boot. Let this your caution be.
Mysterious remains on Traigh Beach
Is it a polar bear? Is it a cow? No-one's quite sure of the origin of the (very putrid) remains on Traigh Beach but an educated guess is that it's a piece of blubber which had detached itself from the dead Minke whale which was washing about offshore in the summer.
A few knowledgeable locals bravely dug into the 10 feet long, 3 feet high mass and found no trace of bones, and they are of the opinion that, although at first glance the 'thing' seems covered in hair, this is blubber which has putrefied into strings. The dead Minke, which was bloated and decaying some months ago, seems the obvious source.
Thanks to Moe Mathieson and Stephen MacDonald for the photos.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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