COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
December 2008 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
REBECCA JENEEN ARRIVES IN PORT
Mallaig's newest trawler arrived at the appointed time on Friday 28th November, after a 650 mile trip from Hull. Skipper Robert Summers and crew were piped into port by Lachie Robertson, to a welcoming crowd of well wishers, and after a short dedication service by Mission Superintendent Stanley Ross, there was a chance to go aboard for a look round. McMinn Marine of Mallaig supplied the boat's wheelhouse electronics package.
MALLAIG VILLAGE PHARMACY REACH FINALS
Congratulations to Gillian Cameron and Ray Mackie on the pharmacy reaching the finals of the Scottish Pharmacy Awards. It was in the final three of the Health Services in the Community Award, receiving recognition for the improved facilities, access and services in the pharmacy.
Gillian said 'We're very pleased to be in the final three. In addition, Marina and Sarah have been working hard to achieve the Dispensary Assistant's qualification which should be awarded in December and both Ray and I commend their hard work throughout the year.'
The awards are run by the Scottish Chemist Review and the Business Development of the Year and is targeted at pharmacies which have endeavoured to enhance their business by driving forward innovative marketing strategies. The award ceremony was held in the Hilton International Hotel, Glasgow, in November.
One of the services on offer in the pharmacy is the weight management scheme. Customers have a weekly weigh in and pay £1 which goes to the funds of the Mallaig & District Swimming Pool. Almost £200 has been raised for the Pool over the year.
DR WHO BRINGS SANTA TO THE CNOC
With a laser light display, the Tardis landed spectacularly at Cnoc na Faire on 7th December - then returned to Gallifrey briefly to fetch Santa Claus to switch-on the Christmas tree lights! He also brought a couple of Daleks...
We hope to have some photographs for next month's issue. However the Daleks have invaded….
Well the month ended as it began with a bang. Bonfire night at the beginning was notable for the flying of fireworks, sometimes too close the heads of spectators, while the weekend past brought Lynne Johnson and her band "Vaguely Cajun" to the pub - the pool table acting as supplementary dance floor while Victor and Terry took centre stage with their very own strictly come dancing. Sunday night and it was to the tea room for a St. Andrew's day special showing of Restless Natives, the odd episode or two of Still Game, irn bru, venison stew and the rare treat of deep fried mars bar?! Much fun.
The rest of the month wasn't without its social events either. Christine's party saw some of the more excitable members of the community taking a turn on the dance floor with the belly dancer, while over at Airor the party at Tommy's saw the usual mix of flaming sambuca, nun's outfits and collage making? There was the Christmas bazaar two weeks ago, where folk stocking up for the coming festivities were treated to the picture of Roger flaunting his long johns and wearing a towel kilt to the benefit of Isla. Well to tell the truth it was to the benefit of as all as it was part of an auction of bits and bobs associated with the recent film-making endeavours of the local kids and the money raised is going to help fund some of next year's events to celebrate 10 years of community ownership on the peninsula. The kids themselves started the ball rolling on this with the penny for the guy money going the same way. The full programme for next year will be finalised soon, but will include a 10K run, a photographic competition, an art exhibition, a film festival, a Friends of Knoydart week and at least three ceilidhs. Oh, that's three ceilidhs outwith the music festival that Knoydart Arts Promotions are running in April. Confirmed for that weekend (I think) are Daimh, Mystery Juice and Bombscare, with more to come. It's nice to live in the country and have a nice restful time of it.
Meanwhile in the everyday world life and work go on. New houses are on the rise at Kilchoan while a suitably impressive extension is coming out of the ground at Creag Ira. All works going smoothly, or almost. The Forest Trust are planting over at the upper fence at Sandaig and wood-mizering some of the logs that were brought in from the Arisaig road. And there is still activity on the hill with the Foundation stalking team working away at the hinds, no matter that the weather hasn't always been in their favour. The ramifications of the review of Foundation operations carried out earlier in the year are still being felt with much thought and energy going into the development of the company's constitution and future direction.
Other things that come to mind for the month past are: Mark's 250 gallon fish tank bursting inside the house (luckily Angie was at a meeting and there were no fish in the tank), Avanti's continuing attempts at providing the internet service they and we aspire to, the flu-jab Wednesday when the pensioners got their yearly fix (eventually), Tommy and Karen's involvement in a Mountain Rescue Exercise and the sad demise of old team-dog Glen. For the month coming there is a spate of birthdays with Isla (30) and Chic (40) being the most notable and the small matter at the end of the month of Christmas and New Year, for which our best wishes go to you all. For us Hogmanay brings the Squashies and Dolphin Boy to the hall, seeing out the old year in style - looking forward to it already.
ISLE OF CANNA
As the winter rain and gales descend, the good people of Canna are thankful for the high cliffs sheltering much of the island from the north. It keeps things growing that little bit longer here than some other places. Mainly weeds in Canna House garden but animals also do well. Could this be why the farm manager came back from recent livestock sales with a contented look on her face? Croft lambs and calves were snapped up at £50 and £400 respectively, whilst Canna lambs made nearly £40 tops, with an average of £32. Gerry was particularly grateful to Calmac for making sure the stock got to the sales in good order despite some choppy seas for the Loch Bhrusda. With there being lots of weather about it's easy to forget the beautiful calm spell in early November. Ideal for firework celebrations. The only hitch being that we forgot to make a bonfire until the day itself, bit of a panic but somehow it came together in time. Thanks to the soup bangers and toffee pudding bashers. Pity about the scorch marks in the guest house grounds. I expect the grass will recover from the explosions in a couple of years. Re. green wavy stuff, the school groundsman was seen wrestling with a hover mower as night fell just last week. Surely the last cut of the year?
British Telecom have been on the island giving the phones a badly needed upgrade. We now have some very fine space age looking dishes gazing skywards from the BT nerve centre. Am I paranoid or are they watching me? Walking towards them from Coroghan beach reminds me of an early James Bond movie, the one where the middle of an island opens out to reveal intercontinental ballistic missiles and dastardly plot to destroy the world. Murdo Jack 007 has quite a ring to it!
A bevy of lovely ladies from Canna have been on an eco fact finding mission to Fair Isle and Findhorn, all timed beautifully for some fact finding in the shopping centres of Inverness and Aberdeen (between cancelled flights and ferries of course). The idea is to learn more about reducing Canna's carbon footprint. Bit of a contradiction having to burn all that aviation fuel to learn how to use less fossil fuel! Talking of lovely ladies, 15% of the Canna population will turn 40 in the next few months. The first of the three crosses the threshold in early December. Don't be downhearted girls. For all of us men 40 is just a distant memory, some more distant than others.
And finally…We must note the sad demise of Clyde, faithful friend of Winnie. He arrived from a Glasgow dogs home at the hand of Anne-Marie and has had a good home on Sanday for many years. I know that he will be missed.
Rather less seriously did I hear someone down at the pier suggest that a couple of the Canna House cats be encouraged to go the same way? Shame on you during this festive season…
ISLE OF RUM
The asset transfer from SNH to the Isle of Rum community Trust is progressing well, with an announcement expected early December as to the timetable and mechanism of transfer. Meantime the Trust has received funding for improvements to the campsite and village hall kitchen upgrade.
Halloween was celebrated with a party in the village hall, the costumes were hilarious as ever and everyone looked as scary and/or dead as possible. I can't fail to mention Caroline who made a brilliant Dalek although she did suffer with a slight problem - just how do Daleks go to the toilet?!
Bonfire night was wet and windy (again) but with a fair amount of "accelerant" Jim our mechanic finally got the bonfire going and let off a few fireworks. Dave Birks (castle chef) laid on a terrific BBQ so despite the weather, a good time was had by all. I'll send my husband's dental bill to Sorcha and Nell for his filling replacements, after guzzling their yummy bonfire toffee! On the reserve, Sean reports that there have been a few snow buntings around. Also good numbers of migrant redwing and fieldfare with smaller numbers of blackbirds mixed in and a blackcap seen at Harris. A couple of redshank hanging around Loch Scresort and there was a single male wigeon there too for a day or two.
Kinloch Castle closed to the public on 15th November for 6 weeks worth of repairs and maintenance. The works include a structural repair to the Oriel window on the west side of the castle, as well as an extensive redecoration of the hostel wing. The works are progressing well and we are on schedule to re-open for the New year celebrations. The castle is almost fully booked for New Year but there are a few places left so check out www.isleofrum.com for details of the party plans.
ISLE OF MUCK
After dozens of meetings and hundreds of hours of work our community hall application is at last ready for the lottery. No project officer on Muck so it has required real grit and determination on the part of the all female committee who have also had to oversee fund raising of over £8000 which islanders and friends have contributed. Well done!
2009 has been (as many of you will know) designated by the Scottish Executive as the Year of Homecoming and visitors from all over the world will be coming to see from whence their forebears departed often centuries ago. September 7th to 12th is to be Muck's Week of Homecoming when Catriona White will be on the island and there will be a special programme of events of interest to all those whose ancestors once lived on Muck. Catriona has done massive research on our island story and passionate about genealogy and if you are interested in joining us please see the Isle of Muck History website. If you cant make it that week you are welcome at any time. You wont get Catriona live but if you let me know in advance I will show you round.
Great news that Richard Begg has come to be our minister. We are really looking forward to welcoming you on the island. We hope and pray that you will bring unity where there has been division and help us spread love and caring from a church that is in the heart of the community.
Lastly may I wish all West Word readers a very happy Christmas.
ISLE OF EIGG
Colds and coughs have been rife on Eigg this month, tempting most people to stay by their fireside. But there has been quite a bit of activity nevertheless: the now annual laying of poppy wreath on our world war memorial in Cleadale on Sunday 9 November, Katie Mackinnon's 91st birthday on the Saturday 15th, which she spent surrounded by family and friends - all our best wishes Katie! - and the trip to Edinburgh for the launch of Eigg Big green challenge: Wednesday 12 November saw three Eigg primary school kids, Struan accompanied by his mum Sue, and Erin and Heather with their mum Grace and gran Sheena travel to Edinburgh where they joined John Booth, Lucy Scott and Ben Cormack for the launch of the Big Green Challenge. The Eigg launch took place in the Beach House cafe on the sea front at Portobello - in the company of NESTA's Vicky Costello and Green Party's co-convener
MSP Patrick Harvie. Mr Harvie, who said: "Their 'Build your own Green Island' project is a very welcome part of this project, and should be a great way to share ideas with other communities who are looking for ways to reduce their own carbon footprint," tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating Eigg, the only Scottish finalist out of the 10 contestants for the Million pound prize. As to our young islanders - who brought with them their big green challenge book to which the Eigg children had contributed information on what they do at school to help reduce CO2 emissions and were reporters for the morning, capturing photos and observations to take back to their school - their reward for all this hard work was a visit to Dynamic Earth and a tour of the Scottish Parliament led by David Stewart MSP, which children and adults thoroughly enjoyed. Another highlight of their trip was to be treated to chocolate cake, courtesy of the Cal Mac staff on board MV Loch Nevis, on their way out and a visit to the bridge on their way back!
After beating 350 entries, Eigg's big green challenge is now to reduce CO2 emissions per household to 4 tonnes by November next year and down to a tiny 2.75 tonnes by 2012. This is from a starting point of 9.6 tonnes last year, which we reduced to 6.2 tonnes by using our 'renewable grid' (which is now shortlisted for the Scottish Renewables Green Energy Awards) . To that effect, two part time project managers have been appointed, Tasha Lancaster and Kathleen Millar - well done, girls - to work with the island's Green team and IEHT directors in implementing the steps identified so far: installing solar panels and an anaerobic digester to reduce waste, harvest wood for fuel through a woodland management scheme and setting up a mainland car sharing scheme, as well as events to publicise our Big green challenge milestones and encourage folks on the island and outwith the island in tackling the issue of climate change.
This certainly should keep us going through the winter! Other activities which should keep us well occupied is work on Croft n6 - or Taigh Donnachadh - as it should perhaps be called , to open the building as is a croft house museum by summer 2009, certainly in time for the Small Isles Homecoming scheduled for September 2009. The building will offer visitors the chance to experience what the interior of a croft house would have been like in the 1950's, well before the age of electricity! The project was launched at the AGM of the Eigg History Society on 30th November along with plans for the history society's Eigg Home Coming events, which will include guided walks to the island's Historic sites, an old fashioned ceilidh to swap island and overseas settlers stories with songs and tunes, and turning the community learning room at Eigg Primary School into a genealogy hub. Eigg will share the Highland Legacy grant of £5000 awarded for the Homecoming project with the rest of the Small Isles and hopes to attract a fair proportion of island descendants from the Canadian and American diasporas back to the island.
The History Society members were also able to admire the stone cross found by Karl Harding a few weeks ago on a walk to the islands Lochs. The strong light from the late autumn sun allowed Karl to spot faint markings on a stone lying on a sheep track. On closer examination, the markings revealed to be a simple ringed cross, probably early medieval and perhaps used as a grave marker. This will be one of the "Eigg treasures" that the society hopes to present to our overseas visitors next autumn!
In the meantime, a happy birthday to Felicia Greene who celebrated in Brisbane's pleasant 25 degrees heat, and Joanne Kirk, whose 25th birthday was an occasion for all the Eigg youngsters to meet up for a fun club night in Glasgow. And many happy returns for Alex who was 54 last Saturday!
November Eigg birthday: Lucy Scott, Katie Mackinnon, Felicia Greene, Joanne Kirk, Alex Boden.
December Eigg Birthdays: Angus Kirk, Neil Robertson, Ben Cormack, …
The Big Green Challenge Launch
In Edinburgh there was a launch at the Beach House in Portobello. Struan, Heather and I were playing on the beach next to the Beach House when our photo was taken. The big green challenge is a challenge when you have to be nice to the environment and if you win you get lots of money.
Erin Thomson P3
The way was a long way. The Big Green Challenge launch was great. Vicky was the Big Green Challenge person. I had great great fun. I missed Eigg.
By Heather Thomson P2
On the 14th November there was the Big Green Challenge launch at the Beach Café. Erin, Heather and myself went to represent the school. It took place in Portobello. Eigg is in the last 10, the only one in Scotland with a chance of winning £1,000,000 for reducing our carbon footprint.
Struan Robertson P3
A number of people have asked me about the proposed car park for the Astley Hall and I'd like to describe in a bit more detail what is planned, to avoid confusion. I was going to publish the plan but I don't think it would make it much clearer.
The wall is staying and the cars will park behind it on what is now waste ground. There is room for eleven, including two disabled bays, and the vehicles will park with nose or tail facing the wall. The entrance will be from the Strath View road, through the space already there just to the left of the bellmouth. A lamp post will have to be removed and the kerb altered. The disabled bays will be at the end nearest the entrance, and a footpath will lead from the car park 'through' the wall to the roadside. There's a gap n the wall already, roughly where the path will come out, near the noticeboard.
Of course this is all 'proposed' and we still have to see if we can raise funding!
The Land Sea & Islands Centre will be open on Wednesday 17th December for a couple of hours. Entry to the exhibition is free and you may find an answer to that elusive Christmas present idea in the little shop.
A few Arisaig residents attended the 'Master Composter' day on the 29th November organised by the Lochaber Environmental Group and the Viewfield Garden Collective see them on page 6 - and Gordon Stewart and John Morrison are keen to offer their services as 'Home Compost Advisors' to anyone who would like - well, advice on their compost making. Me for a start. I think my compost bins are duds, right Friday jobs.
Whoever mindlessly broke the glass in the little notice board at the shop should take heed that it has cost the Community Council £80 to repair - money which could have been put to supporting a local effort or providing something useful for the village. We're lucky that there is next to no vandalism in the village which is all to the credit of the residents, so when something does happen we have hurt feelings!
The Christmas tree isn't ready for delivery yet but when it is the lights will be on in Arisaig as they are in Mallaig.
When Mallaig's Jackie Milligan noticed that a seagull on a rock near the Ice Factory hadn't moved on three days, he became sure something was wrong. He climbed a barrier to make his way to it but as he approached it slipped into the water and bobbed there lopsidedly.
Sure now that all was not right, Jackie got a dinghy and rowed out to the hapless bird. He managed to get it into the boat and to his horror, he found that someone had bound the bird's wings and legs with blue tape.
Once he cut the tape free, the bird seemed able to walk and fly and was soon on its way.
Jackie told West Word 'Nobody finds gulls more annoying than us - they take the bait out of the sacks and get in the way - but we would never dream of trying to kill one or harm it in any way. This bird had been condemned to a slow death by starvation by someone who should be made aware of the horrible thing he had done.'
Jackie's reward for the incident was a tetanus injection because his hands had been so badly pecked by the gull while being rescued! Bet he was grateful you were around though Jackie!
CROFTING ROUNDUP - Joyce Wilkinson, SCF Area Representative
Save The Bull Scheme
Support is growing in the Crofting community, Crofting leaders and MSP's to save the Bull scheme from being scrapped. A letter has been sent to MSP's Rhoda Grant and Peter Peacock from the crofters in Arisaig and pre printed cards also sent, I will have some more soon and will distribute them. There is also an online petition you can sign at; http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savethebullhirescheme?e and there is a space for comments, so together Crofters and supporters of the Bull Scheme can maybe make a difference.
Two good reasons to keep the Bull Scheme
- Over wintering a bull is costly and time consuming , crofters who keep cattle mostly have other jobs as well ,they are not farmers, support from having a Bull over wintered is essential to keep active crofting in the fragile areas [for economic social and environmental reasons]
- Buyers come to the sales looking for the quality calves that come from Department bulls. These Bulls are chosen by recognised experts and delivered to the outlying areas and islands, resulting in uniform quality of calves that attract the buyers. Crofters singly buying or clubbing together to hire a Bull may not have the same result and this would have a knock on effect at the sales.
Cattle numbers in the Highlands are decreasing by 2.5% per year . If the same thing happens in cattle as happened in sheep when the ram scheme was taken away [30% or 6% P.A since 2001) then numbers will drop to a level where recovery will be impossible . When it gets to that stage the infrastructure will collapse , as in feedstuff suppliers, haulage contractors, sale outlets,and abattoirs. Then recovery cannot happen without huge investment. Losing the Bull scheme will bring that day closer.
Update on 1st December ********
A motion has been proposed in Parliament by Peter Peacock MSP see below
*S3M-2986 Peter Peacock: Bull Hire Scheme-That the Parliament recognises the enormous benefits brought to cattle quality and cattle health throughout the Highlands and Islands as a result of the Bull Hire Scheme operated by the Crofters Commission over many years; welcomes the potential for improved markets and prices obtained from good-quality, health-certified stock; notes the practical arrangements that the scheme offers to allow good over-wintering provisions and health checks for the bulls, which might otherwise be beyond the reach of many crofters; regards the scheme as a sensible and practical way that government can support small-scale and remotely-located crofting enterprise; notes the widespread concern of cattle-breeding crofters about the proposal to end the scheme, and urges the Scottish Government to reconsider its decision to end the Bull Hire Scheme and commit to retaining a scheme as a sound and practical way of supporting crofters and quality cattle production in some of our most remote Highlands and Islands areas.
Supported by: Rhoda Grant*, David Stewart*, Sarah Boyack*, Elaine Murray*
Blue Tongue Vaccination
There will be a video conference by the SAC in the Mallaig Learning centre on 2nd Dec at 7.30. Any Blue tongue questions will be answered by a Chief Vet. Forms for ordering the vaccine are available from Chris the vet. There are 100mg in a bottle of the vaccine and it only keeps for 8 hours so Chris has advised us to get together for vaccination. The date set for the 87 cattle in Bunnacaimbe and Back of Keppoch and Keppoch is 1st Feb with the 2nd dose 30 days later.
A number of interesting sightings this month, the most memorable probably the large influx of Waxwings into the area. They were first seen on the 1st when there was a flock in excess of over 100 feeding on berries between St Mary's and the Marina, Arisaig. Over the next few days there were flocks seen throughout Arisaig, and on the 5th there were the first reports of birds in Morar; on the 7th there were birds reported in Mallaig. The birds remained in the area until around the 13th when there seemed to be a clear out. This coincided with increased reports further South in Scotland, England and Ireland. The large flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings that were also present dwindled at the same time, even though there seemed to be plenty of berries left. Single Blackcaps seen in Morar on the 5th and Arisaig on the 9th were probably migrant birds from the Continent.
In stormy weather on the 9th, 22 Brent Geese were seen in a field at Traigh. They were still there the next day, when a late Whimbrel was also present, feeding in the same field along with some Curlews.
A late Storm Petrel was seen from the M.V. Sheerwater on the 22nd near Soay. Even more remarkable was another, which hit a house window at Bracara the same night. The bird was caught and taken into care for a day as it had damaged flight feathers in one wing. After its rest, it was successfully released near Rhue point, Arisaig, the following day.
Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala throughout the month, along with Teal and Wigeon. On the 8th, a female Tufted Duck was seen there, and remained until the end of the month. A single Goosander was seen there on the 2nd, and others were on Loch Morar from mid-month. Greylag Geese were seen in Morar, Traigh and Back of Keppoch.
The first Icelandic Gull of the Winter was a juvenile seen in Mallaig on the 14th.
A male Hen Harrier was seen at Back of Keppoch on the 10th and a Sea Eagle was at Camusdarach on the 23rd. A Barn Owl was seen on several occasions in Mallaig during the month.
COASTAL RANGER REPORT - Angus Macintyre
Well folks, here I go again with nothing to say and a whole column to say it in! But fret not I have express permission from the Editor to skip a month if I want, but really, could I let you all down??! What I have done is to play for space and include a photo, so, depending on how many words I can stretch to, the end result will be a very big copy of the photo or one that is slightly reduced! Whichever way it all turns out you can bet your bottom dollar (they're worth nothing now anyway!) that I'll do my best. The worst of this time of year, apart from this rotten weather, is that I have a fair bit of admin to do. This means that I have to sit looking at the computer and gaily punch away at the keys to satisfy the requests/orders from above. Unfortunately, my superiors obviously suffer from S.A.D. now and again and they, like me, tend to make the odd?? error, as there is obviously a gentle slowing of the grey matter as the temperature tends to drop! They of course have the advantage of me there, as they tend to sit in a temperature controlled office! Anyway what I am getting at is that the templates that arrive by e-mail are sometimes/occasionally/frequently changed, just as one has completed the first to arrive. There are advantages and disadvantages to all this as, firstly, one can correct all the mistakes that one has made in the first draft. Secondly, of course, one can then commence on one's mistakes for the second draft and so on and so on! The disadvantages, as you can no doubt see, are, mainly, the waste of time (what else would I be doing anyway on a miserable wet day) and the ever more rising frustration/stress levels!
Well now that you have got the picture, have I actually been doing anything constructive over the past few weeks? Well yes. Early in the month I met up with the maintenance boys and assisted in clearing the cross drains at the Camusdarach Car Park.
Admittedly this was not a major project, but I would challenge anyone to remove all the bolts without any breakages! Ahh, shades of previous employment! Anyway, the covers were removed and the drains cleared allowing the water to no longer erode the lip of the entrance so that no driver can now sue the Council for sump damage! Having spotted a weather window, I then got on the phone and rounded up a few enthusiastic walkers to walk up the south side of Glen Beasdale. Despite the "peching and panting" (thought I had better put that in inverted commas in case anyone from Englandshire happened to get the wrong impression!) it was a wonderful day.
Since then I have had a nasty cold - no not "Man Flu!" - which has kept any violent exercise in the background, but have managed to go to Inverness collect a new van as the lease had run out on the old one. Some of you may have noticed me swanking round in my new one, complete with lovely expansive roof rack, but it was not to be. No sooner had I carpeted the back to deaden the roar inside than I was told I had been given the wrong vehicle. This I doubt as it appears that I was the only Ranger to ask for both a tow bar and a roof rack. However it is now the proud possession of the maintenance lads and I have been downgraded to one with seats in the back and no room behind them! Having a couple of projects in mind (disabled access to the Traigh beach and a vehicle barrier at Morar sands) the lack of the aforementioned ancillaries will be a bit of a bind with carrying space decidedly limited. So grind the wheels of progress??
I have incidentally now sorted out my walking programme for next year (orders!) so if anyone is interested enough to want a copy, just give me a ring or yet another e-mail! The number still hasn't changed: 01687 462 983.
In the meantime, stay well, do Alister Darling a favour and feel free to buy me a Christmas present as well (remember you will be saving 2.5 pennies in every £1.00) and your National Insurance has only gone up half a percent to compensate!) But seriously look after yourselves and wish me some decent weather so that I can get a few walks in.
MALLAIG ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Christmas and New Year at The Point, Mallaig
An Interview with George Lawrie
We had such a good response from our feature last month that we thought we put together another interview, this time one Jill did with George Lawrie. This interview has a festive flavour, as George is reminiscing about Christmas time as a child living on The Point - the area of Mallaig where the kippering sheds were. Huts had been built originally to house the women and other fish workers who came seasonally to Mallaig, but as housing was in short supply over the years, many families started out living in the huts too:
"We went to the huts first in late '42 and were more or less there 'til Cameron Avenue was done in 1951. Well, the first Christmas we had in Mallaig, I came here from Glasgow about seven years old during The Blitz. Nobody had very much then, but I do remember my present - Santa Claus brought me an RAF suit - a uniform. It was on a big piece of cardboard and I remember getting all dressed up in this thing, and the boys were saying 'Oh, you got something really special!' y'know. But I went out in the rain and it was very fine material - like muslin and it kind of melted - it just collapsed. My Christmas present was gone by lunchtime!
I remember things like Sunday School parties. We looked forward to things like that -- no ice cream but we got jelly. The jelly was made from lemonade and gelatine if I remember rightly - all different colours. It was held in the Sunday School up here, below the Church at the side of the road. Later on there was parties in the hall - and Masonic parties. They decorated the hall with bits of bushes and ferns cos there wasn't much in the way of decorations and there was games and stuff. But, it sticks in my mind - at all these parties there was always jelly at them - jelly and cakes! But of course sweets and all that were rationed as well. It was something to look forward to.
When we moved to the Point, one of the things I remember were the dark nights. The Blackout was on and getting in from the huts, even up to Isaac's shop which even had blackout curtains over the door - you'd to go through the curtain even to get in - was a nightmare. My father would say 'Go up to Isaacs' and get a bottle of lemonade' and at that age - well real dark is really dark if there's no lights at all. And I'd come up with a fumble and stumble to get up through the Point to get through the alley and across the road there. And up to Isaac's and you got the bottle of lemonade and then thought 'Gosh, I've got to go back!' Back out into the dark again. There were no lights at all. Even the kipper yards had sacking and that hanging over the doorways so that no light shone out. And - it's quite frightening when you're young - you're always waiting for a Bogeyman somewhere. [laughs]
The decorations we had for Christmas - my mother had them in the bottom of her trunk from pre-war I think. And so they were all carefully put up and at the end of the festivities they were all carefully taken down. And we'd to sit rolling them back up again because you couldn't buy decorations. There was heavy silver paper - like corrugated, just long strips and you could twist it and make like a garland. And holly of course - plenty holly.
And as for Santa - we were a bit ambitious and usually put a pillowcase up. Just hopeful you know! And of course you got all the bits and pieces in it. You got one main present, but you got walnuts and hazelnuts, tangerines or oranges, I even had vegetables in my pillowcase as well! And you always went to bed thinking 'I must watch!' And you're lying with one eye open, but then you'd be exhausted and fall asleep… And you'd get up in the morning - and there it was! That excitement at that thing hanging up! Sometimes some of the toys were handmade. My father would make things and paint them up. But you were happy with it. A couple of guns, a rifle, I remember that rifle was like a broomstick with a wooden butt to it. And the trigger worked with an elastic band, you'd pull the trigger and the thing cracked. It was great - it was all nicely painted, silver and gold. A set of skittles or something like that. And of course you'd go up the road to see what your pals got, and they wanted to see what you'd got. We were just as excited as kids today - but we didn't expect too much compared to what kids get today. We were just glad to get anything - leaping out of bed, see what I've got! And of course there would be clothes - or a pair of shoes, all done to make it look like a lot.
And of course - its funny today - you buy chicken every day of the week. But then you only got chicken at Christmas. And I can remember vividly the postman coming… my grandmother was from Lewis and she would send us two hens through the post. And the hens would be wrapped in newspaper, with their feet tied together and that was it - they were sent through the post like that with a label on them - feathers and everything. The postie would come along the road with the two hens in his hand. Y'know. I remember Jimmy the Post coming along the road with that two hens for Christmas. And the other thing I remember is - a few years later before I left school I got a job with Grigor the butcher, and we used to do people's hens for them. So they brought the hens in live - their head under their wing in a carrier bag - kind of sleeping. I think it was two shillings to get your hen dressed. So we'd to kill it, clean it and truss it. I think a lot of folk, they got close to their hens and they hadn't the heart to kill them, so they brought them in to the butcher to do it. And Nell the Baker - she had the big oven - and a lot of people would put their hen and get them roasted in the hot oven.
Aye, but we had wonderful Christmases. My mother was a good baker and a good cook, she would do - the favourite was pressed ox tongue and things like that - she would do them all herself - loads of stuff ready. Of course we always had duff for the festivities as well. I think we celebrated Christmas better then for the reason of Christmas rather than today. We didn't need much to be happy.
Later on as I got older, I remember we used to walk to Morar to Midnight Mass and it was kind of a tradition - half the community walked out and walked back. Not that it was my religion but I enjoyed going to it just because it was a nice service and all my friends went. Particularly if it was a good frosty night it was nice to walk to Morar for Midnight Mass. It was a bit of an adventure, and of course there was girls walked as well, maybe that was part of it! It never mattered what religion you were in Mallaig, best friends were friends, and they probably thought the same about me. It was great.
When I was a kid they had a Christmas tree at Sunday School and in the hall. The first Christmas tree I remember they had in front of the bank, well just along from Buchans. It was put up for the Lifeboat and it was wired into Mr Saints house - above the bank, he was the banker. And he would put on records around Christmas and that - carols and what not. It was there for a few years. I always remember when we put up that tree, the rest of the boys - David McMinn would remember, the tree would no sooner be up than Nell the Baker, old Nell Duncan would come across the road with an envelope and stick it in the Lifeboat box in front of the tree. She always came over to give to the Lifeboat, and she would be first. That would be in the 50s, late 50s.
There wasn't a lot of money about to buy anything at that time. Mind you, I remember the shops - Duthies' I particularly remember used to decorate the windows for Christmas with gift boxes and perfumes and things people could buy for girlfriends or wives. That would be probably more after the war, in the late 40s - all beautifully done, the windows, and Buchans' was the same.
Most of the people at the Point or at the fishing went home for Christmas. But New Year was different. Christmas was quiet on the Point, there wasn't that many left there, but New Year a lot of people, my parents had a lot of folk come First Footing to us, so we would get quite a run of people coming down to the huts to see us. Yes, New Year was exciting. And then you went round the village with your gang, your friends. In those days when midnight came the lights came on and people opened their front door, and everything was ready, food and drinks. And you'd meet lots of groups round the houses. Wonderful memories of singsongs - aye, great! You'd always meet up with crowds of people wandering about.
Mother had a way that you always changed to bring in the New Year. So as kids we always had to have a bath and of course we didn't have a bath - we'd a big tin bath up the end room, so the fire would be blazing to get the hot water. And we'd all have a bit of a plunge about 9 o'clock at night. And mother would have all the clean shifts laid out, so we'd all to change into our clean shifts. And all the dirt from the old year was tipped out and away and then mum put all the stuff ready for First Footers coming. Then the old man might have a wee dram before 6, but he wouldn't touch it after that. He'd open a bottle at midnight, after the bells. And as soon as the bells came, it was hugs and kisses all round and the lights on in the kitchen and the door open, and we'd wait for folk coming round. She always looked for the First Foot to come in with a piece of coal. In fact she put a piece of coal outside in front of the door so someone would pick it up bring it in with them, just to make sure… Happy days!" -
We would like to thank George for taking part, and for giving his time and memories.
If you want more information about the project - please visit our website - at www.mallaigoralhistory.org.uk You can also phone us on 01687 462085.
BORN INOWROCLAW, POLAND…DIED MORAR.
Julian Kozlowski was born on the 11/11/1904 in Inowroclaw, Poland and would, therefore, have reached his fourteenth birthday on Armistice Day 1918. This would have been a day of much celebration in Poland since it marked the first day of independence for the modern Republic of Poland after more than 100 years of occupation.
It cannot be said that peace ensued for, almost immediately, the new Republic came under attack from the Soviet Union in a war which was to last until 1921 when the Soviets withdrew.
The 1919 Treaty of Versailles which had delineated the national borders of the new Europe, following the 1st World War, has been blamed for creating the conditions that led to the rise of Nazism and thereby the second World War but this is not wholly fair as the Versailles Treaty did try to address national issues within the newly emerging states.
The great mistake of the Versailles Treaty was that it delivered harsh treatment for the new German Democratic Republic. The carnage of WW1 was so immense that feelings in Western Europe, fuelled by the popular press, were running high and the raw emotion of revenge prevailed over reason so that the subsequent vindictive humiliation of Germany gave Adolf Hitler his golden opportunity to unleash his sadistic strivings on battle-scarred Europe. As Albert Speer's father commented to his son, after meeting Hitler, "You've all gone crazy" and the German ambassador to Italy accused Hitler and Ribbentrop of "criminal recklessness" when the two madmen marched their war machine east towards Poland on September 1st 1939. It did not take long for Hitler's ally (at the time) to give his support and on 17th September 1939 Stalin invaded Poland's Eastern boundary. Europe was, once again, at war, and for Poland it was to be a very harsh experience caught between Hitler and Stalin.
Thus the thirty five year old lawyer, by now practising in Torun, Poland, found himself as a 2nd lieutenant in the Free Polish Army. Julian was the third and youngest child of Maria and Stanislaw Kozlowski and was, himself, as yet unmarried. By the outbreak of war, both his parents had died as had his older sister, Maria, but his brother Stanislaw was living in Chelmza near Torun along with Stanislaw's second wife, Adela, his son, Tadeusz and daughter Maria. Stanislaw's first wife, Franciska, had died a few days after giving birth to Maria. Stanislaw was fourteen years older than Julian and he was named as Julian's next of kin.
By way of Plymouth, Crawford Camp Brechin, Dundee, Kinghorn and Burntisland Julian finally arrived to work in the Morar Forest some time after 1943…possibly even in 1945…and there he remained until he died in 1959. He lived, very humbly, in one of the woodcutter's "dormitory style" huts opposite present day Shilo and, while the hut was often shared with other woodcutters, it was known as Julian's hut and he was known to us children in the village as Mr. Julian.
Quite a few Polish people worked in the woods at that time and amongst them was another displaced young man who stayed...Josef Yuroscek. Joe the Pole, as he was known, was just a teenager when he arrived and Julian soon appointed himself as Joe's guardian; probably fortuitous for Joe as not everyone who worked in the forest and lived in the huts was as well behaved as Julian.
It was then a momentous occasion for Julian when Joe married a local girl, Marjory MacDonald. He was exuberant on the day of the wedding but, the very next day he became ill with 'flu and died of a coronary embolism the following Sunday. He is buried in the old cemetery in Morar, a rugged wooden cross with no inscription marks his grave.
I was ten years old when Julian died and my older sister and I have many happy memories of him. He had an area of decking outside his hut and, each evening, he would be sitting there as we came home from school so we'd stop off for a while and sit with him as all sorts of topics would be discussed and he tried to improve our general knowledge; but he never referred to his own life in Poland or to the war… except, that is, in the most general terms .
Nobody in the area knew what his past was and it wasn't until he died and Joe went through his papers that we all discovered from where he had come and what his occupation had been. The only significant reference that he made to his family in Poland was on one occasion when visiting our house he brought with him a few photographs and asked us to keep them so that if anyone ever came looking for his grave they would know we had been his friends. He knew that his brother had died in 1956, he thought that his niece was in Czechoslovakia (I may have confused this with Jugoslavia) and that his nephew had not survived the war.
Any letters which he received were heavily censored with large chunks "blacked out" and the story about his niece and nephew had obviously been distorted in this process because, as it turns out, his niece married and lived her life out in the family home in Chelmza and his nephew arrived back from the war, via Yugoslavia, and settled on the Baltic Coast until he died.
I kept the photographs but, but over the years nobody did come looking for his grave; then after reading a book by a Polish journalist, earlier this year, I made the decision to go on a short reconnaissance trip to Poland, myself. Incidentally I have Malcolm and Bob Poole to thank for reminding me about the exact location of Julian's grave.
At this stage I did not know that both Maria and Tadeusz had survived the war and its aftermath so I really didn't expect to make much progress but hoped I could identify some leads for further research.
I stayed in the city of Torun and arranged for an interpreter to accompany me on a visit to Chelmza to try and locate Julian's brother's last known address . I was extremely lucky to be given the help of the intrepid seventy five year old Magdalena who went well beyond the call of duty in our searches. We found the house, intact on Paderewskiego Street, and Magdalena was all for knocking on the door but I couldn't bring myself to do so; I think because I was afraid of discovering a disappointing dead end.
Instead we went to the cathedral in the hope of finding some information through the clergy and the Parish records. However we knew this could all take some time so we arranged that any information would be relayed to Magdalena who would contact me so, with that, I returned home.
On the following Sunday the priest asked from the pulpit if anyone could identify the family and the organist in the Cathedral came forward to say that he could and from his information Magdalena discovered that a Mrs. Sadowska lived in the house in Chelmza; so off she went on the bus to Chelmza but this time, knocked the door as she had wanted to do, in the first place. Mrs. Sadowska told her that she had taken care of the late Mrs. Maria Glowacka (nee Kozlowski)….Julian's niece. Furthermore the house now belonged to one of Maria's three sons who lived in Torun. Magdalena had originally intended to take a photograph of Stanislaw's tomb but, with this information and the fact that her bus back to Torun was due, she instead arranged to meet, Maria's son, Zdzislaw Glowacki. He was very interested in all that she had to say as he had been researching the family tree and building a website giving genealogical information and family biographies but he had never been able to find a trace of Julian. Zdzislaw has now included his great uncle Julian in the family website and if anyone has any memories of Julian I'd be happy to pass them on to the family.
Torun is a very beautiful city on the Vistula River with some astounding examples of Gothic architecture. Apart from some of Stanislaw's brothers-in-law who died in Dauchau and Sachsenhausen, Julian's immediate family (possibly due to their respective ages) survived and prospered in Chelmza, Torun and nearby areas. So why did Julian not feel he could go back? Perhaps the answer lies back in the time, in the early part of WW2, when Stalin and Hitler were allies and Soviet forces invaded Poland. In their zeal, the Soviets rounded up government officials, officers of the Polish army, police, intellectuals and other cultural elites and took them as prisoners; they were never seen again. In due course Hitler turned the tables on Stalin and that meant the Polish Government in Exile which was based in London had then to negotiate official relations with the Soviet Union as allies; but it was an uneasy relationship as the Soviet Union refused to provide information about the Polish "disappeared", blaming it all on the Nazis. In the summer of 1943 the Nazis , by some quirk of fate, discovered one of the mass graves which clearly evidenced that the Soviets had indeed conducted mass executions. The Soviet Union still denied any knowledge and broke off relations with the Polish Government in Exile. As a serving officer of the Free Polish Army in exile Julian, who didn't relinquish his commission until 1949, probably did not have a way back to Poland.
In the early nineties a group of Russian historians went in search of the truth and gave an honest appraisal of the crimes having researched documents, signed by Stalin, giving the orders.
My regret is that I didn't go to Poland sooner, myself, as Maria (Kozlowski) Glowacka did not die until 2006 at the age of 76. The poignant message on the back of the photograph I have of her says, "Do not forget me, uncle". It would have been nice for her to know that he had not.
A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bishop Elect, Monsignor Joseph Toal, and his connection to the MacIntosh Clergy
On the 8th December 2008, the Rt. Reverend Monsignor Joseph Toal from Roybridge will be anointed as the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. He perpetuates the tradition of an extraordinary family line of priests descended from Donal MacIntosh and his wife, Jessie Stewart of Garth, or Gart. MacIntosh, mac an Tòisich, son of the Leader or Chief, is an ancient family of Lochaber from as far back as c.1160, as well as in the lands of Moy and around Inverness, nowadays more commonly associated with Clan Chattan. Historically the MacIntosh lands in Lochaber and Brae Lochaber included extensive grounds around Lochaber, later encompassing land to the north of the River Spean, extending almost to Glenroy.
Below is the chart documenting the family clergy through the years from 1844 to the present day. The chart is somewhat abridged in that I have concentrated on the clergy of the family rather than a comprehensive genealogy of all the descendants of Donald MacIntosh and Jessie Stewart.
Fr Toal's parents, Patrick Toal and Mary Ann MacInnes, had nine children, six sons and three daughters, all living in Scotland. Below is a short biography of Fr Toal's career, taken from Fr Barrett's Parish Bulletin.
'Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph Anthony Toal STB, b. 13th October 1956 in Roybridge, Inverness-shire, ordained at St Columba's Cathedral, Oban, in July 1980, attended St Vincent's College, Langbank, St Mary's College, Blairs, Royal Scots College Valladolid, Spain and the STB Pontifical University of Comillas, Spain. He served as assistant priest at St Peter's Daliburgh (1980-1983), staff member St Mary's College, Blair's (1983-1986). Priest at St Michael's, Ardkenneth, South Uist (1986-1991). St Kieran's, Campbeltown (1991-1993) and St Mary's, Benbecula (1993-1999). Spiritual Director Royal Scots College, Salamanca (1999-2005) and Rector there from 2005-2008.'
The chart shows us that Fr Toal is descended from James MacIntosh, b.1801 in Murlaggan, beyond Roybridge on the road to Kingussie. James MacIntosh is probably ? Fr Toal's g.g.grandfather.
William MacIntosh (1818-1870) married Grace MacPherson (1817-1874), and their son Canon Sandy MacIntosh (1853-1922) was born at Ceann Loch nan Uamh on the Braes of Arisaig. Canon Sandy was responsible for building the present St Mary's Church in Fort William. Not included in the chart is Angus MacIntosh (1804-1864) and his wife Catherine Grant who were the parents of Archbishop Donald MacIntosh, Glasgow (1844-1919) (not to be confused with a later archbishop also called Donald MacIntosh, a relative of whom more later) and grandparents of Archbishop Donald Campbell, Glasgow (1894-1963).
Angus MacIntosh's sister, Margaret, married Angus Mòr MacDonald of Bohuntin, and had, amongst others, a daughter, Janet MacDonald, who married Dugald Grant and they were the grandparents of the Bishop Grant on the chart. A brother of Archbishop Donald MacIntosh (1844-1919), Alexander MacIntosh married Ann MacArthur b.1848, and they were the parents of Canon Angus MacIntosh, Glasgow (1873-1933).
On the chart Alexander MacIntosh and Ann Campbell were the grandparents of another Archbishop of Glasgow, Donald MacIntosh (1877-1943) and Canon John MacIntosh, Vicar General of Argyll and the Isles, b. Glasnacardoch, Mallaig, d. 1946, by their son Donald and his wife, Christine MacDonald, from Finisgaig, North Morar; also of Monsgr. William MacMaster, through their daughter Jessie, who married Angus MacMaster of Loch Treig. Father William Gillies was the son of a sister of Canon Sandy MacIntosh.
Monsgr Edward Brown is reputedly descended from John MacIntosh, b.1799, and his wife Mary MacDonald. I know that the late Morag MacDonald, nee MacIntosh, visited him in Vancouver c.2000, found him in good health for his years and was very proud of her relationship to him through the MacIntoshes. I neglected to write down the relationship but no doubt someone will fill the gaps. In Bygone Lochaber, the Rev. Somerled MacMillan, one-time minister of the United Free Church in Fort William, mentions on p.158: 'The Most Rev. A. Campbell, Archbishop of Glasgow, died at Lourdes on 22nd July 1963.' This should have read 'the most Rev. Donald Campbell' etc.
Re Canon Archibald MacMaster, I don't know as yet from whom he is descended. In summary, there were three archbishops of the family and Monsgr Toal will be the seventh bishop.
Acknowledgement of information received: Derived from Cille Choirill by Ann MacDonell and Robert MacFarlane, 1986, and correspondence with the late Morag MacDonald, nee MacIntosh, Arisaig and Pitlochry.
Regular readers of West Word may recall that in 2003 we featured the story of Mallaig's Charlie Lyons and his rescue of Fr John MacNeill during the First World War. The whereabouts of his grave in Morar Cemetery was unknown but Morar Community Council placed a memorial plaque in his memory in the cemetery..
Recently however, one of the Heritage Centre's Trustees was contacted by a lady from Barra, who remembered that Canon MacNeill had asked that he should be buried alongside Charlie Lyons, and that this wish was carried out when the Canon died in 1952.
Fr MacNeill, Chaplain to the 5th Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, was severely wounded at Paschendaele on 12th October 1917. Going out in front of the lines to dress the wounded and bring them to safety, he received a bullet through his left lung, another through his foot, and shrapnel injury to his left arm.
Lying in the mud of no man's land among the dead and close to death himself, he was seen by Charlie Lyons, who dragged him to safety.
Charlie Lyons was wounded in action four times, and had already been awarded the Military Medal when he rescued Fr MacNeill, for which he received a second Military Medal. By the time he was wounded, Fr MacNeill had been awarded the Military Cross, and his actions in going out under intense machine gun fire to tend the wounded earned him a bar to his MC. Fr MacNeill served with the Royal Navy after his recovery, and in 1923 he became the Parish Priest at Morar, where he remained until his death in 1952 at the age of 72. Charlie Lyons had died in 1941 and was buried in an unmarked grave; it seemed no-one in the area knew of his war-time decorations.
It is a fitting end to the story that the whereabouts of his grave has now been found.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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