WEST WORD
Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

List of Issues online

February 2002 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Eigg, Arisaig
Arisaig Historical Society & Archives
Coastal Ranger Report
Trips Abroard
Mallaig Heritage Centre
Local Genealogy & History

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe
Sign our Guestbook

FISHERY TRAINING CENTRE FOR MALLAIG
An exciting new two year project for Mallaig, which hopes to progress fishery training and provide flexible training opportunities for fishermen in the area, has received the go-ahead.
After the success of the previous project through Shetland Fish Training Association, which gave skippers the chance to undertake the Inshore Skippers Ticket (Level III), it was decided to try and develop these training opportunities further in Mallaig. This will give local fishermen the opportunity to access training and qualifications in the area, some of which may be needed to comply with European regulations to go to sea. In the past, to undertake courses, fishermen would have had to travel to the east coast – or to Glasgow – with considerable time away from sea. The training through the centre will take place in Mallaig and most of it will be undertaken at weekends, or during periods of bad weather. The project also hopes to encourage young people to enter the industry with a recognisable progression route and locally available training opportunities.
In addition, local fishermen, and those in the industry can benefit from training as assessors and mentors for the courses on offer, or in the future as verifiers for fisheries training, and we hope we will also be able to utilise the skills of fishermen who have retired from the industry.
Jill de Fresnes, Study Centre Manager, says ‘The project will give fishermen training opportunities and qualifications which take account of their skills and experience and are at least partly transferable to other industries eg. offshore, supply boats, passenger ferries etc. which is of considerable importance in an industry and workforce which is facing an uncertain future.
The qualification which will be running in Mallaig is the SVQ Marine Vessel Operations (Inshore) – from Level Two to Level Four (Level Four is equivalent to the Class Two Skippers Ticket). The learning centre in Mallaig has a computer room and study facilities and it is also hoped to rent a workshop unit, where practical training can be undertaken.’
At the end of the project, the aim is to have a sustainable centre for fishery training which can provide opportunities for fishermen based along the north west coast of Scotland.
If the project is successful, then the long term impact could be very great. The development of a training facility in Mallaig could lead to other initiatives taking place, the use of the local expertise such as boat building skills, RYA courses and the development of training facilities for the aquaculture industry.
The main funding for the project came from the European Social Fund, while Lochaber Enterprise, Lochaber College and other local concerns – such as Mallaig Harbour Authority, Denholms Fishselling Ltd, M&NWFA, Kilkeel Enterprises and Sunderland Marine all contributed The application was made through Lochaber College.
The official launch of the project will take place in Lochaber College Mallaig Study Centre at 2pm on Friday 15th February. If you would like to find out more, or think you may like to be involved, please come along.
We would also like to congratulate the five fishermen who have completed the Level III qualification and will be presented with certificates at this meeting - Allan Eddie, George Alick Coull, Barry Nolan and David and James MacBeth.
Please contact Jill de Fresnes for any further information : Tel: 01687 460047/ Email: jill.defresnes@lochaber.uhi.ac.uk
(The Project will generate two part-time jobs)


GIVE THE THUMBS UP TO THUMBPRINTS
The Thumbprint Signature Scheme was launched at a presentation in Mallaig at the end of January to a very small audience of business people.
An initiative being promoted by Inverness Crime Prevention Officer PC Fowler, it aims to help reduce the 2000 credit card frauds which cost us the bank customers, through extra charges, £400 million a year.
The program revolves around the provision of a thumbprint by a customer unknown to the shopkeeper or hotelier, in a cheque or credit card transaction, which is a deterrent to offenders. The thumbprint pad leaves no mark on the thumb, being made up of layers of petroleum jelly, but produces a perfect mark on the card slip. This cannot be accessed by the Police or anyone else unless this card transaction turns out to be fraudulent. There will be no database kept. Participating businesses display a notice on their door to state they are operating the scheme. In Inverness, the first town in Scotland to implement the scheme, it has had dramatic results, with the result that Nairn and Elgin are keen to follow suit as all stolen cards are being taken there now! It makes sense to take part if other businesses in the area are because otherwise you are in the position to be targeted by criminals who know where not to go. Several businesses in Mallaig are starting the programme.
Funds have been raised for the scheme, meaning that the pads cost only £5 and last several months. Bed & Breakfast and Hotels would particularly benefit from the scheme.
A number of pads have been left with Mallaig Police so if you want to take part, call in to get more information.


Masts for the Marguerite by Christopher Swan
There can be few more welcoming places than Mallaig, but when we turned up at the turn of the year to make new masts for the Marguerite Explorer the wind and rain made it seem somewhat less inviting.
However, undeterred by a little drizzle we began work on the two trees, which have been lying in Nevis Estates shed. Originally selected from the Forestry Commission Estate on the banks of Loch Ness, the 55ft Douglas Firs have been lying there since late October when they were manoeuvred indoors by Andy, Pimmy and Jackie of the Mallaig Harbour Authority.
It is a good moment to say thanks to all those in Mallaig who have helped in one way or another. From endless visits with forklifts, the loan of a generator, washing our filthy clothes and much else besides, the people of Mallaig have made life so much easier for us. As ever we feel in their debt and would like to say thank you. Hopefully we will have our usual charabanc outing at some point in the summer and can do our bit to give something back to Mallaig. It is, incidentally, my favourite day of the year!
The weight of each tree was around 3 tons to begin with but this has been substantially reduced and they now weigh a mere ton each. As wood fell by the way in great chunks, it became easier to turn them by hand and move them around as required. (The offcuts will have kept one or two homes in Mallaig warm for a week or two!!)

Making the masts were Matt Somerville, a cabinet maker from Devon who helped with the Marguerite’s original refit, Scott Furness, one time skipper of the boat and Swanny. There was additional assistance from Christopher Dyer and Angus Maclean who brought in an exceptional if youthful sanding team one Saturday morning…….. photo

The first job was to square the trees. This was done with old traditional methods, string lines and axes and adzes, with a little help from a 20th C chainsaw. Once they were square the process of turning them into masts could begin. The masts are not a simple taper from one end to the other, but the greatest circumference is about eight feet from the base, before tapering away again. From square they can be eight sided and then sixteen sided and so on. By the time they are 32th sided they are almost round. Indeed to the eye they are.

photo Scott Furnace photo Matt Somerville

(Photos courtesy of Cailean, Isle of Skye)

Then it is a matter of fine planing by hand and the last and most tedious job, rubbing down with sandpaper. This last took about a day and a half per mast. After 3 weeks they were done and will wait now for warmer times when they can be varnished and the metal work fitted. Then, hopefully in May, we shall return and stick everything back in the boat ready for the summer charters. As always, two antique silver coins will be placed under the masts for luck, and, following all the recent rain and wind and memories of the same last summer, we shall take all luck we can get with the weather!


LOCAL EVENTS

Feis Lochabair 2002
The Feis will take place at Lochaber High School from 1st - 5th April. 5 to 7 year olds will have morning only sessions 7 those aged 8 and over are welcome to attend classes between 9.30am & 3.30pm each day. Master classes will also be available for teenagers & adults.
Tuition is offered in clarsach, accordion, tin whistle, chanter, bagpipes, Gaelic song, fiddle, keyboard, drums, Celtic art, Gaelic language & drama, group work and step dance. As in previous years many of the tutors are from the Lochaber area and will include some of the best traditional musicians in Scotland.
Through the feis we aim to encourage young people to take an active part in enjoying the music, song & dance of the Highlands. All abilities welcome. Musical instruments can be provided. Closing date for registration is 1st March. More information & application forms available from Catriona MacIntyre 01397 703180

Feis Na Mara 2002
The initial meeting was held on Thursday 17 January and was well attended and all present showed great enthusiasm about the possibility of running a Feis this year. Following the second meeting on Thursday 31 January several issues were discussed, including bringing the date forward in the hope of better weather than in previous years! The weekend of 20/21/22 September was proposed but remains unconfirmed at the moment. Other items talked about were the Marquee, site, bands, toilets and bar, which was felt should be run by the local publicans, as before. If anyone wishes to comment on any of these subjects please come along to the next meeting.
And now to fundraising! Of course, in order to put on a festival of such size requires a lot of funding which will mainly come from several funding bodies. However, community effort is also required and we intend to hold a fundraising event in May, but would welcome any other ideas that anyone may have. The next open meeting will be held in the West Highland Hotel on Thursday 14 February at 8.30 pm, so please come along if you have any ideas you would like to share.

Mallaig & Morar Community Centre Association - Film Club
As you may be aware, funding awards from the Scottish International Education Trust, and Network 21 have enabled us to purchase a video projector and big screen. The first films were shown in December - The Grinch and Jurassic Park 3.
At a recent meeting of the film club, ideas were given for films that might be shown in the future. Harry Potter was a favourite, and it was agreed that this film should be booked for a date in the near future. The film club is open to anyone, and if you would like to find out more please visit our web site.


KNOYDART
The men working on the Hydro will have webbed feet if they have to work much longer on the hill with the amount of rain we’ve had this month. Hopefully by the end of next month it should all be finished.
The Burns Supper was held in the village hall on Saturday 26th and a miracle was performed by the team to get 98 places set in comfort at the tables. As usual the speeches were on a par with the bard himself, Ian Wilson giving the good old turnip as good an address as the haggis. The local music was terrific and the school children gave us a good song; Mark and Stephanie on flute and clarsach were excellent.
It was nice to see old friends, I’m sure all the visitors from Turkey were amazed. Thanks to everyone for the good food and organisation.
It’s a year since Aileen died and we all remember her with fondest memories.
Anne and Roger Trussell are away to sunnier climes, as are Ian and Jacky Robertson. Hope they have a good holiday.
Jan Marriott

ISLE OF MUCK
The pier builders are back from their Christmas break and struggling to make progress in the atrocious weather. It has now emerged that in December CCG were running low in funds so Highland Council went to the Scottish Office. A large cash injection followed to keep the project going. This time there was no press release.
On 26th January at a party in the Craft Shop, Muck celebrated Scotland’s National Bard. Organised by Eileen Henderson; the haggis was prepared by Sandra Mathers and enjoyed by most of the islanders and all the pier builders. Some fine speeches followed. ‘The Immortal Memory’ was proposed by Nick Noble, ‘The Lassies’ by Simon Graves and Barbara Graves replied. It was a very pleasant evening.
On the farm it’s another year and with it new plans for the future. Blackford Levi the new Simental bull is now out with the cows after six weeks penned in the byre. The Luing bull Dirnanean van Gogh is going to Arisaig Estate so I need a replacement. The sale at Castle Douglas is a long way away so once again I will try and buy privately. More on that next month.. While on cattle, I am hoping to have the herd blood tested for a number of diseases at the saem time as the bi-annual Brucellosis blood test. The diseases I am particularly interested in are Johnes, Leptospirosis and BVD. The last two are fairly common in dairy herds but none are very likely on Muck. I do however purchase calves from the dairy farm on Mull.
Only a month before lambing starts for the Mull Meat Project (see November’s West Word). Only about 30 ewes are involved and they will lamb on an indoor-outdoor system with the ewes in every night. Soon they will get extra feeding and I do hope the weather improves a little!
For the first time I am feeding silage to ewes. Normal silage is too wet for sheep but this is different being so dry as to be almost hay. Another reason why silage is not recommended for sheep is the danger of Listerosis so there is a risk of losses. I will report in future West Words.
The 44 ha. of land vacated by Helen Harper is available to lease together with her five bedroom house. If no-one is interested in the land I am going to convert it into an organic pilot scheme where some of the problems of organic farming can be sorted out on a small scale. An example of what I mean is in pasture management. Is it possible to get a reasonable yield of silage from a high clover organic pasture with no nitrogen?
Lawrence MacEwen

ISLE OF EIGG
The recent gales have caused surprisingly little damage on Eigg: some trees are down, including some of the more colourful rhododendrons in the Lodge garden, which is a pity. But the damage can be sorted. In any case, the trust is planning to look for funding for Neil to put the gardens back into good order. And the forestry boys are currently undergoing more chainsaw training with Inverness School of Forestry. They'll have plenty fallen trees to try out their skills.
The bad weather was no excuse to stay at home on Burns's night and the community gathered at the tea-room for a Haggis dinner and a sing-song. Funny how songs remind you of people who are gone: we sang all Angus Mac's favourites Burns songs and it was as if you could hear his lovely baritone in your ear! The tea-room girls put a splendid repast and Ian, our new Development co-ordinator did a splendid address to the Haggis. The evening concluded with a toast to fellow Aquarians, myself and Donald the boatman, whose birthday is on the 26th, without forgetting wee Struan, who shares his birthday with the bard.
It is a wonderful thing to celebrate a poet's birthday and hear these sonorous, clever verses, but isn't it sad that the Burns Museum is threatened with closure? Or that the playwright John MacGrath, the founder of the 7/84 company, whose death was announced earlier, never managed to get the funding he needed to make another "Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black oil ," when this play is now universally acclaimed for its contribution to Scottish consciousness-raising? No doubt that Burns if he was alive would find it equally difficult to get SAC grants. And as to our own Moidart classical poet, Alastair MacMhaighstir Alaistair, who is daring enough to perform his verses today?
We never seem to get enough art, poetry or theatre in our lives, and what's on telly is a poor substitute for the power of the spoken word on a stage. I for one still lament the fact that Lochaber is no longer taking part in the Highland Festival when small isolated communities like Eigg got the chance to access performances that would never otherwise get there. My Highland Promoters list shows that there are dozens of theatre groups eagerly waiting to tour the Highlands, yet we seem to have great difficulties in seeing any of them. Is it because we are only interested in Old Firm games, or in our parochial concerns? Still it is heartening to see local poets being published and making a shining debut at Celtic Connections, like Aidan MacEoin from Rum with his new volume of poetry now on sale in every discerning outlet in Lochaber!
I wish you all a year full of poetry, music and performance: we have some of the best facilities around thanks to community effort. Let us then support and encourage all those who work hard in bringing Scottish and world culture to our doorstep!
Camille Dressler.

ARISAIG
There was a good meeting on 24th January to discuss events we want to see in the Astley Hall – a small but enthusiastic number of people with lots of ideas, including a very young lady – well done Pippa! There was a lot of input from others unable to come so we were able to draw up a comprehensive list. The decision was taken not to form a separate group, as what we really need is helpers to set up, serve refreshments, take admission money, etc, rather than have any more meetings. The main outcome depends on obtaining funding but some things can go ahead anyway. Read about our future plans in future West Words...
The first concert is nothing to do with this programme, but is being put on by John White and the Lochaber Community Wind Band, on Sunday 24th. February. The Hall’s own venture into this medium is on 23rd March, when we will have a double bill of Anne Martin, the Gaelic singer from Skye, accompanied by Ingrid Henderson, whose band Cliar is appearing at the Albert Hall soon, followed by Iain MacFarlane of Blazin’ Fiddles and Iain MacDonald, the world famous piper from Glenuig. There will be a bar for this concert but it will only be open before and after the performance, and in the interval. Tickets will be on sale beforehand.
Arisaig folk and those of the wider community have been very shocked this week by the sudden death of Kath Cameron, who took early retirement a few years ago from being our District Nurse. She will be much missed.
Ann Martin


Arisaig Historical Society - Comumn Eachdraidh Arasaig
The first exploratory meeting in ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ on 16th January was a great success, with the result that the new Arisaig Historical Society is being formed.
Seventeen people turned up to discuss how the Society would proceed, with the result that a committee of ten has been formed and a list of possible future speakers drawn up. Many more people were unable to come that night but have expressed great interest. A Constitution is being drawn up and will be adopted at the next meeting, when office bearers will be elected, so that charitable status and a little start-up funding can be sought.
The group’s first project will be to map and name the old settlements around Arisaig, starting with the Rhue peninsula. The sites and the names are known but some detective work – much of it already undertaken by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald – has been needed to match them. When completed the map will hang in ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and should be of great interest to ‘roots hunters’.
The Society will have something for everyone interested in local history. Those who do not care for the research side are welcome to come along to the proposed talks and the ‘craic and ceilidh’ evenings planned. We will form links with the Moidart Historical Society.
The next meeting is in the Astley Hall on Wednesday 13th February at 8 pm, when Allan MacDonald will talk on a number of subjects. In March we hope to have an illustrated talk from Alasdair Roberts.

Archive for Lochaber
The formation of the new Society came just as a large public meeting was being held in Fort William about the possibility of archives being stored in the town. This would mean such records as the Census could be accessed without a trip to Inverness or even Edinburgh. A Fort William steering group is being formed to undertake a feasibility study and look at funding and a few sites were discussed; space in the latest additions to the Rural Complex and an annexe to the existing West Highland Museum amongst them. The meeting was attended by representatives of local museums and heritage centres, visitor attractions and genealogical interests.
History is being formed every day and bits of paper handled today can be the archives of tomorrow. The Arisaig Historical Society wants to play its part in saving and recording our heritage before it disappears. If Eigg can do it, so can we! We hope you’ll help.

Historical Eigg in photographs
The Eigg Historical Society has undertaken a project to collect, label and arrange photographs showing the social history of the island, and the results are now on show at Inverness City Museum, as well as on Eigg in the day care centre.
Over 2000 pictures have been copied and sorted into collections named after the donors, after local people were encouraged to turn out cupboards and drawers. The project to seek out and preserve pictorial records of life on Eigg as well as oral records was made possible by a grant from the Scottish Millennium Awards For All fund.
The images can be viewed at Inverness Museum by appointment with Jane Petrie on 01463 237114. A selection can also be seen on the island’s web site.
Anyone who has any photos of Eigg they would like to submit - they don’t have to be very old! - please contact Dr Peter Wade-Martins on 01362 668435.


COASTAL RANGER REPORT
This month my report is somewhat different, so before I start, let me thank all those who have volunteered to help with the Loch an Nostarie path. I do not expect to have the money until the end of February, at which point I will be able to set things in motion properly with the purchase of the sleepers and other equipment. Hopefully the weather will have sorted itself out by then, with the hill a little drier, and allow us to make a good start. Here’s hoping!

Sound of Arisaig m.S.A.C. (Marine Special Area of Conservation)
One year on, what can be said about the m.S.A.C. in the Sound of Arisaig? In truth, as far as the general public is concerned, very little has changed, or, to be more correct, the conservation area has had basically no effect on their everyday lives. But what of the fishermen? As the group probably most affected by this type of voluntary legislation, the fishermen have had little or no representation in the course of the last few months, having had their say, either to myself as the Ranger, or to my Project Officer, when things were in the "melting pot" early in the project.
A few minor points, which the local clam dredgers brought up, were easily ironed out pre- publication of the final draft, and since that time, no adverse comments have come to my notice. It should be said at this point, that there still seems to be some dissatisfaction amongst the small number of static gear fishermen, their fear being that this is just the first step in the legislative process. However, as the document stands, there is no restriction on creel fishing, and any changes to the voluntary agreement would have to come through the Management Forum in which they have representation. The final group, the prawn trawlers, as was expected, have been totally unaffected by the S.A.C. and thus have made no comment, although, in the main, there is a solid feeling that conservation measures are now, of necessity, a priority.
During the summer months there was a reported case of dredging on the Maerl beds near Roshven, but when the "culprit" was contacted, he claimed ignorance of the detail restrictions in the area. A satisfactory agreement was easily reached when direct verbal contact was made with the skipper, and as far as I am aware, his dredging for surf clams in the covered area has now ceased. It is to be hoped that any small future breaches of the agreement can be dealt with in a similar manner, but the main difficulty lies in recognising, from the shore, where a boat is in fact working. With the advantages of today’s electronics skippers can position themselves within feet of a specific point for their fishing activities, whilst from the shore, we can but estimate their position.
Prior to the writing of this report, I took the liberty of sponsoring a local public opinion survey, the findings of which were quite remarkable, with the answers being amazingly similar in most cases. It would seem that a mere 55% of the public are actually aware of the Conservation Area, with 25% of the remainder wishing to receive further information. Strangely enough, 30% said that the Area did have an effect on their life/work, with 92% of these saying that the effect had been beneficial, but unfortunately it is unknown as to what the effect has been.
On more general questions on Conservation, the results were almost unanimous, with the majority saying that these areas are a good idea. Most voted for an increase in number/size, whilst, on visitor awareness, only just over half of the returns reckoned that visitor numbers were increased and only 12% thought that visitors were aware of the areas. 95% then suggested more advertising was required in all forms of media and handouts. A brave 23% said that they would attend meetings etc., but only 15% thought that there was enough public consultation prior to the setting up of local conservation areas., although one or two of whom I spoke to, suggested that much of this is down to the public lethargy when meetings are advertised!!CONCLUSION:
Looking specifically at the Sound of Arisaig mS.A.C. it is no longer sufficient that a booklet is circulated or that I, as the Ranger, show visitors Maerl in the rock pools in the course of my guided walks. More avenues of interest must be opened, with a high priority placed on changes to the Admiralty charts to make non-local fishermen more aware of the voluntary restrictions, with educative leaflets placed within all fishermen’s associations/groups/buyers offices.
Overall, it is very obvious that not enough is known about S.A.Cs in general, and if we hope to, not only conserve our stocks and heritage, but also attract more visitors, then we must use all avenues of access to promote the attributes of these areas to the general public, and possibly more so to local people, who can then impart their knowledge to visitors to the area.
Volunteers know the number! Telephone: 01687 462 983
Angus Macintyre


Sam’s off to Kenya!
I’m one of twelve final year Architecture students at the University of Dundee, trying to raise finances to fund this volunteer trip in July 2002. There we will build homes for families in need, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity International. The finance for this project has to be generated by the team, with a cost of £1700 per person, each of whom have made a personal donation of £350 and we are seeking funding for the remaining costs.

(Sam is pictured here fourth from the right
on the back row).

photo

On 15th July we travel to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to spend two months building houses, for people who at present live in seriously substandard conditions (e.g. no running water or sanitation). We will spend three days in Nairobi on orientation before travelling to Kisii, a small town in Western Kenya which is situated about 50km from Lake Victoria.
Kisii will be our base for eight weeks. We will spend two weeks in each of four surrounding villages working as manual labourers on the HFHI building sites under the supervision of the site foreman. Each two-room house is constructed of clay-fired bricks and has a corrugated tin roof therefore we hope to build one house per week. For just £7 per day each team-member will be provided with water, accommodation on the local church or school floor and food prepared by the people of the village. Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian Housing ministry. They seek to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people from all walks of life to work in partnership to help build houses with families in need. Habitat has built more than 80,000 houses around the world providing more than 375,000 people with safe, decent, affordable shelter.
It works through volunteer labour and donations of money and materials in partnership with the homeowner. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving Fund for Humanity that is used to build more houses. Habitat is not a give-away programme. In addition to a down-payment and the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest a certain number of hours of their own labour – sweat equity – into building their house and the houses of others.
We have some fundraising events planned already including a Ball where we’ll hopefully be auctioning one of the sketches by the late Enric Miralles -architect of the Scottish Parliament! However, if you are willing to help us with our funding, cheques can be made payable to "Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland" and marked DUNDEE/KENYA on the back and sent to the address below.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity after completing 6 years of State education to give something back to society. Should you have any questions regarding this project, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your help could make a real difference to a family in need.
Sam Foster, 10 Roshven View. Arisaig, Inverness-shire PH39 4NX.


Life in Japan
This article was held over from last month, so we catch up with Allie MacDougall celebrating Christmas...

If I ever doubted it before, it’s definitely winter now. I had thought that since this is the Land of the Rising Sun this year would see an end to those awful mornings where you have to get up in what seems like the middle of the night and struggle to get ready for work in the cold and dark. Not so. Every morning the alarm goes off at 6.30 and the cold air outside the duvet cruelly dances around my head as I prepare myself for that initial dash across the room to switch it off. I can’t risk having the clock anywhere near the bed as I will either a) switch it off and go back to sleep or b) throw it against the nearest wall. And this is me in the south of Japan. I hate to imagine how cold it is in the north island of Hokkaido right now – apparently they are "enjoying" a foot of snow as we speak, and it is only going to get colder until March, when Spring will finally arrive.
The coldest month is February, and the Hokkaido Snow Festival (famous in Japan) runs over my birthday, which just happens to be on a long weekend! Having thought about the possibility of getting a group together and going, however, it seems much too like celebrating the start of my 22nd year with pneumonia. So perhaps we will go to Kyoto instead – the cultural heart of Japan and it’s ancient capital, the city famous for still having a geisha district when the trade is dying everywhere else.
I’ve been inspired to organize a trip away for February after our jaunt to Kyushu, the next island to us. Twelve of us went in all to Fukuoka to see the sumo wrestling, and it was possibly the best weekend I’ve had since coming to Japan so far. The sumo itself ran from early afternoon to 6pm; having got lost and then delayed on the way there we missed the amateur warm ups but arrived in time to see the professionals. To see these men up close and personal is truly a sight; with cellulite to rival Lisa Riley and dressed in what can only be described as nappies they wow the crowd with their salt-throwing prowess (honestly, one of them is famous for it!) and personal wealth.
Before each fight, which last all of 30 seconds maximum, a group of men displaying sponsorship banners circle the ring. The more sponsorship a wrestler has, the more money and power. The last one to fight, who later went on to win the entire tournament, had so many banners surrounding him he was blocked out while they circled the stage. The custom is, so I was told, that if the number one wrestler doesn’t win his fight, everyone throws their cushion into the arena. The wrestlers fight in a very hierarchical order, so that the number one wrestles number two in the last fight of the day. He won, but we decided we didn’t want to miss out on all the cushion throwing fun and lobbed them away anyway. The Japanese people started it so we figured it would be OK.

The wrestlers might be huge, even more so when you compare them to the rest of Japanese people, but it doesn’t stop them from getting beautiful girlfriends! We saw one wrestler later that night after we had been out for dinner with a stick-thin model-type displayed proudly on his arm. Trying not to make any judgments we also tried not to stare, but we may have failed on both counts. photo

It was a fun-filled night in Fukuoka, dancing and drinking until about 3am when the last of us faded out, despite the occasional conversational break-down with the American marines that were also in the club. Example:

Marine [to Gerry, another ALT from Glasgow]: So, are you in the Marines too?
Gerry: No, I’m not.
Marine [confused]: But then, what do you do?

Or there was the one who tried to guess where I was from. After starting from New Zealand and going through various countries, including Sweden (?) he eventually hit on "Britain!" Well done, I said, but which country in Britain? The triumphant look on his face fell a little as he said "huh?" So I explained that there were four countries that made up Britain, and which one was I from? "Em, England?" At which I let it be as Madonna was blasting and it would have been rude not to rejoin my friends that had never left the dancefloor.
The next day we moved on to Nagasaki, a beautiful coastal city that feels very European, a sign of it’s Dutch and Portuguese historical links. I would highly recommend a visit there. Its beautiful scenery and friendly atmosphere make you think it is a million years from what in reality is only just over 50 since the atomic disaster. We didn’t have time to make it to the Peace Park, although I hear it is a bit strange and not as good as Hiroshima’s, but I think that an afternoon and evening just soaking up the city in the setting sun was a perfect way to appreciate the significance of its survival. It was especially poignant at a time of what seems to be the third World War. Yet although this new war rages everywhere, in Japan we don’t really feel it. It doesn’t seem real to us, only pictures on a TV screen, and when CNN is your only English news coverage, you soon give up trying to watch as trying to distinguish news from propaganda is like trying to separate ice and snow.
Thinking back to that weekend, at the end of November, it was so warm! Now I’m cycling with two jumpers and a jacket on my way to work. However all this will be no more for a couple of weeks as tonight I am catching the ferry to Osaka for a flight to Australia tomorrow morning! I’m off to see the wizard, or at least a koala and a couple of kangaroos, and staying with my friend in Adelaide for the Christmas and New Year period. It’s been quite hard to concentrate on work this week knowing I’m going, and today after my piano lesson I actually leave. I’ve even been promised a barbeque (of course!) and champagne on Christmas Day. The beach is calling…oh it’s a hard life.


Mallaig Heritage Centre News - by Denis Rixson
January was a quiet month in the Centre, although we still had over 100 visits, which allowed us to make good progress with the collections audit and cataloguing. This is already proving to be well worth the effort going into it as, in addition to making it easier to show what we have in the collection and to find it when necessary, we are discovering a few items we had forgotten we had.
At the end of December we received the welcome news that the Centre has been awarded Registered Museum status. This is a quality control system for museums in Britain which provides a guarantee to the public and to funding bodies that Registered Museums are being managed properly and taking proper care of the items in their care.
During February the Centre will once again open on a basis of FREE ADMISSION for all, so don't miss this chance to pop in and have a look round before we start charging again in March.
Changing the theme of things a bit, the Noticeboard on the Heritage Centre website doesn't attract the same amount of traffic as the West Word one, but I thought some readers might be interested in or able to help with these:

gees I'd love a kipper! - Hi from downunder
Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of my youth in Mallaig is going to my grandad's (George May) kippering shed after school and asking him to wrap a fresh kipper in cellophane and cook it in the slow burning smoke fires...Never in my whole life have my senses been so alive - the aroma and taste of that wonderful juicy package just could not be described.
I left Mallaig at age 15 in 1962. My mother is Sadie May who now lives in Melbourne ( I am just north of Sydney) I went to school with Albert Cunnell who was my best mate. Victor Cruden is my cousin. There is not a day goes by that I don't think of Mallaig and the joys I knew there - I have lived all over Australia and the USA and I don't think I will ever seen anything as beautiful as a sunset over Skye. I would be most pleased to hear from anyone from Mallaig.
all the best.
George May george@noblemay.com.au

hello mallaig
I checked this site several months ago and was excited to read Veronica nee Gilles message I see she received 4 replies (ok 1 was mine) but since then nothing. I do remember her as a most energetic and attractive young girl with lots of personality.
Still I really thought Mallaig would have more excitement by now than I read in the email version of the WEST WORD. (no disrespect Mrs Martin, I think you do a great job!)
Living in a backwater in the Bahamas I remember Mallaig as being an exciting place, maybe its just the usual case of the grass being greener elsewhere.
If there is anyone out there who remembers the Duncan of 15 Lovat Terrace I would like to hear from them. Insults accepted too
dwduncan@hotmail.com

Even more Mallaig connections
Well what a lovely way to spend an evening in rainy Auckland, New Zealand. I too am an ex-Mallaig man, but unlike Veronica and yourself, I try to get back there often. My connection is with the MacKellaig's of Glasnacardoch. My father Dougie worked on the railway and his brother ran the haulage business. I am 44 now and been living here 16 years. I regularly keep up to date with the well-written West Word magazine. I occasionally here from Archie Gillies, another x-Mallaig man but now in Gisborne, Veronica's brother. We enjoy receiving visitors that venture out this far, and only too happy to show them "highland hospitality". Having just come back one month ago from a visit home, I too found the place looking tidier. It was my first time back during the summer months and really enjoyed fly fishing up the Lochs, also I'd forgotten how bright the evenings were. Well back to reality, drop a line if you feel like it.
Regards Donnie MacKellaig, robertamackellaig@hotmail.com

Hello from New Zealand
To all my old friends in Mallaig,
It's been nearly 40 years since I left for New Zealand, but I am still a Mallaig village girl at heart. When I left home for the final time I was 19 years of age, but am now the mother of 5 children (four daughters - Marie, Angela, Jacqui, and Roni-Anne, and a son Robert (named after Robert Hannah), and am married to Maurice.
My regards to my friends - the Smith family, the Johnson family, Bunty McDougall (nee Muir) and family, and all the other friends I knew in the village. To the friends left in Mallaig a hello from New Zealand.
I am staying for a week at Angela's home in Auckland, helping her with her twins - Hannah (named after May Hannah) and Keegan. Angela has been reading me an excerpt from her diary of her and Michael's travels and their 4 days spent in Mallaig with you all in '93; with Bunty, Christine King, Charlie and 'old Charlie', Alan Johnson and people they met, and how welcoming everybody was to them. It brought back lots of memories for me. As old Rogie Gillies would say "the Mallaig people are the salt of the earth". If anyone would like to drop us a line please send a message to my daughter's email address.
"Haere Ra" from New Zealand, Veronica Gillies, thesprotties@zfree.co.nz

Lochailort wartime
My father Ernest Dale was stationed in Lochailort in the early 1940s. He loved the place, and played saxophone and violin in a band that played in Mallaig and Arisaig. I am putting together some of his writings about the period. He knew very well a family named McCrae, especially their two sons Farquar and Urquhart. I remember visiting Mallaig in the early 1970s and staying in a bed and breakfast run by another member of the family, whose name was Madge, I think.
Does anybody (or their parents/grandparents) remember my father up there? Can anyone give me news of the McCrae family? Sadly both Farquar and Urqhart had died young. Can anybody refer me to any other websites that may be of help? Many thanks
Andrew Dale Divonne-les-Bains, France, andrew.dale@free.fr


A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)

The MacDonalds of Morar
Notes taken from a paper by R. MacKay of Inverness, and some local lore.
In October’s West Word I made mention of the Chieftainship of Clanranald and how it passed out of the line of Dhugaill after the murder at Polnish, to John of Moidart.
The line of Dhugaill became known as the MacDonalds of Morar and had their house at Cross Farm. The estate of South Morar composed of all the land between the Caimbe River on the south and Morar River to the north, all the lands on the south shore of Loch Morar including Rhubana, Suinsletter, Scamadale, Lettermorar, Rhetland, Meoble, Loch Beoraid and Oban Beg at the head of Loch Morar. The mountain ridge was the other natural boundary, and all the waters which flowed into the loch, including the headwaters of Glen Pean and Loch Beoraid was deemed at source to be the farthest most point of the boundary.
Dougald 1st of Morar was followed in succession by his son Allan (2) first noted around 1566. He in turn was followed by Alexander (3) who in 1620 got a crown charter for his lands. He also feued 10 pennies of land on Eigg to his brother Ranald and Ranald’s son Angus in 1618 and this was the beginning of the MacDonalds of Knockeiltaig in Eigg who ultimately emigrated during the Clearances of the 1800s.
Besides Eigg they also owned Rum, Canna, Barra, Benbecula and a chunk of South Uist.
Alexander (3) was followed by Allan Mor (IV) who had 3 sons; Allan Oig, John and Alexander, who was the progenitor of the Gerinish family from whence came Ronald XIV of Morar. A daughter of Allan Mor, Katherine, married Alexander of Kinlochmoidart. Allan Oig (V) was succeeded by his son, Alexander (VI) who had been out with Bonnie Dundee during his campaigns, and had among others a successor, Allan Roy (VII), Bishop Hugh MacDonald of Eilean Ban who also blessed the Banner at Glenfinnan and John, the progenitor of the Guidale family.
Allan Roy married Marjory, daughter of Cameron of Locheil and had 5 sons, four of whom died without issue, and had a very easy going disposition, causing debts to mount up. He had to sell the lands in South Uist and Benbecula to MacDonald of Boisdale and feued Rhetland to Angus MacDonald and his son Allan of Rhetland, which feu was ultimately purchased by the sagacious John MacDonald of Borrodale.
Allan Roy VII was followed by his son John (VIII) who inherited an embarrassed estate and made matters worse by contesting his father’s sales to Boisdale and lost the case in the House of Lords. He had to part with the lands in Eigg to Clanranald and joined the British Army. After the American Wars he retired to Cross, and sold all of the Meoble Estate including Loch Beoraid to Ewen Cameron of Fassifern. He died at ‘Sunnyside’, Bunacaimbe, in 1809.
John was succeeded my his son, Simon IX, who was given his inheritance on his marriage to Amelia, only child of Captain James MacDonell of Glenmeadal and Jean Gordon, daughter of ‘Old Glenbucket’.
A local story told about Colonel Simon, who had a distinguished career in the Napoleonic wars, was of a veteran soldier living at Camusdarach who had been with Simon during those wars and in Egypt and Ireland. After they had retired and come back home, Simon contracted a fever and died. Some years later, the old soldier was being evicted and had nowhere to go. On the morning of the eviction he made his way to Arisaig Graveyard and knelt at Simon’s grave, beating it with his hands and calling on Simon: ‘Arise out of there Colonel Simon, many a day I followed you in Egypt and Ireland, you were my protector then and today I am in dire need, come out of your grave and help me.’
The Bailiff was passing by at this precise time, heard the pleadings of the old man, and turned on his heel and went back the way he came, in great fear from what he witnessed, and the old soldier was left in peace for the remainder of his life.
The Morar family, who had built Traigh, was then succeeded by James (X), the eldest son, another soldier who had fought at the battle of Corunna and returned home a Major. However he too succumbed to illness and only held the Estate for two or three years and his brother Simon (XI) of Morar inherited. Six months later, in 1812, at Irin where he had spent a night, he picked up his gun to go shooting , it went off and he was fatally injured.
The next in succession was his brother John (XII) who had a severe head injury at 11 years old and was not able to comprehend, so the Estate was administered by his mother Amelia and her only daughter Elizabeth, known as ‘Betsy Morar’. They were a formidable pair who dragged the estate up by its bootlaces and it became free of debt and viable.
Alas, Betsy dies about two and a half years later from some sort of fever and Amelia herself did not long survive, dying in 1817.
However, in the short time they were in control they had turned the Estate round and left considerable means in trusteeship for John, who dies in 1832.
He was succeeded by his cousin James who died in 1853. The claimant to the Estate was Ranald (XIV) of Morar who claimed through Alexander, 3rd son of Allan Mor and progenitor of the Gerinish family He sold out very smartly to Aeneas MacDonell and beat a hasty retreat back to America.
So ended the long history of the MacDonalds of Morar.
Incidentally, our new correspondent from Canada, Mhairi Eilidh (Marlene) MacDonald Cheng, is a direct descendant of John of Guidale, son of Alexander VI of Morar.

Growing Up A Highland Scot in Nova Scotia - by Marlene MacDonald Cheng
I look back with the fondest memories on my childhood. It was truly a wonderful experience, and provided me with a strong sense of my roots and an appreciation of the oral traditions of the Highland Gael. I was born in a town populated by MacDonalds (comprising about half the population), and almost every other clan name beginning with "Mac", with a few Gillises, Frasers, Camerons, Grants, Cunninghams, Chisholms, and Forbeses thrown in for good measure. From the time I was born I was surrounded by the traditions of the Celtic people. Fiddle and Pipe music played non-stop on our radio. Every morning my Dad made breakfast while step dancing around our kitchen stirring the porridge and whistling or diddling along to the lilting sounds of the old airs. The tunes of Johnny Cope, the Marquis of Huntley, the Devil in the Kitchen, the Killiecrankie March, Clach na Cùdain, Sleepy Maggie, Inverary Castle, Gow’s Lament for James Moray of Abercairney, the King’s Reel, and the Rev. John Rankin of Glendale March are forever fixed in my head and in my heart.
My parents gave me Highland Dancing lessons when I was five, and I was hooked. My dancing teacher, quiet but demanding of excellence, was Florence MacMillan. She worked hard to teach us the dances of our ancestors, preparing us every winter for the many Highland Games held each summer in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. She also accompanied some of us each summer to St. Ann’s Gaelic College in Cape Breton. There we learned more about dancing, speaking Gaelic, Scottish pageantry, piping, and singing, and spent valuable time with other young people steeped in the culture and traditions of our ancestors. We were taken to Scottish concerts in Antigonish County and Cape Breton where we saw milling frolics (waulking the homespun wool), step dancing, and ceilidhs in the evenings. It was a wonderful way to spend my summer holidays and I was never bored.
During school months I belonged to a Gaelic Choir. Our teacher, Sister Veronica MacDonald, was born in Cape Breton to a Gaelic-speaking family. She gave of herself in passing along her knowledge to the young women of the community. The name of our choir was Na Caileagan (the Highland Lasses). We worked very hard, cutting two records. Most of all we enjoyed the discipline of learning the songs of our ancestors and sharing our songs with others.
My Father’s parents lived a few doors away from us. Grandpa MacDonald, known by all as ‘Jack the Piper’, was a fluent Gaelic speaker and played the bagpipes. My grandparents’ home was my home-away-from-home. On my way to and from school I wouldn’t dream of passing by without dropping in to say "hello". There was a small little room, about 8 ft by 6 ft, where Grandpa spent his relaxing time. For hours I sat mesmerized at his knee on a hand-made footstool listening to him spin the yarns of his forefathers. Oh how I loved that man, and he taught me so much about my culture. He told me the ancient stories of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, Cormac’s Cup of Gold and the Love Story of Diarmaid and Grainne. I learned how the Celtic people had come to Scotland and about their heroes Cúchulainn and Fionn. He told me the stories of "How Conan Got His Name", "The Amhas Òrmanach", and "Great Brìd of the Horses". My favourite tales were "The Woman Who Was Rewarded by the Devil With a Pair of Shoes", "Monday, Tuesday", and "The Night It Rained Porridge".
Grandpa taught me the stories of the Clans and their Chieftains, especially about our own Clan, MacDonald Clan Ranald. I learned about the great battles, how our ancestors had been forbidden to practice their religion, and why our family had left their homeland to come to America. He described in great detail the country from whence they had come, the family home, and the family stories. Years later, on a trip to Scotland, I visited the family homestead. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I got shivers down my spine as I stood on a hill looking across the glen at our home in the distance. Every detail was just as he had described to me. What was so amazing was that he himself had never visited the old country. The mental picture he had painted for me had been passed down through four generations, over one hundred and fifty years.
My grandmother MacDonald was a quiet woman, half Scottish (MacDonald) and half Irish (Sutton). She taught me how to knit and do needlework, how to make bannock and the greatest gingerbread in the world. A real treat was to find, on my way home from school, that she had made doughnuts. These were not the overly sweet, tasteless things of today, but rich, warm, buttery delicacies dipped in the finest of sugar, accompanied by a freshly brewed cup of strong tea.
Old bodachs, cronies of my grandfather, visited him regularly at the end of the work day or on weekends. I wanted to be right in the middle of the fracas caused by their arrival, but Granny insisted I sit quietly in the corner so as not to disturb them. The men told stories, teased each other, called each other names, and played cards while they sang Gaelic songs. They thought it great sport to place the spittoon over beside the wood stove, so that when one of them sent a gob flying, it would inevitably land on the hot stove with a loud hiss. They would all bust a gut laughing, especially if Granny tutted and appeared aggravated by the proceedings. I was in my glory. If I was really good, sometimes Grandpa would invite me to sit on his knee to watch them play cribbage, and that was the highlight of my week.
(Part One of Marlene’s story was in December’s West Word. To be continued next month....)


A BACKWARD GLANCE - by Gordon MacLennan
There are three things which remind you of advancing years - you can have a snooze sitting up - you can watch a Video of Inspector Morse twice and still not remember the ending – and sorry, that's gone. Last week Terry Wogan said he keeps young andfit because his mind ticks over at 25 Years of age! Recently a prominent Mallaig business man showed me a photo of a scene at the pier and asked if I recognised anyone, but thankfully I could not - it was over 100 years old!
Men of the Sea have their own habits, for example why do Merchant Seamen always have a brown strap tied round a perfectly strong suitcase ? Should you be standing in Queen Street or King's Cross and you see a man with a brown strap round his case you can be sure he is a Seaman home from the South China Seas heading for the Highlands. In Mallaig when did you ever see a Fisherman wear a coat, even at any outside gathering in the rain, and you offer shelter under your umbrella you will get the same response, " No you're all right " - umbrellas are for the city gents in Threadneedle Street. Last week during a day of non stop rain here was our own handsome Harbour Master giving orders to someone down the big pier - no coat, no jacket, no hat, with the rain squelching out of his shoes. Fishermen must have some secret oiling system which we poor mortals know nothing about.
Perhaps I am the only one, perhaps I am unfortunate but I have a pet hate and that is trying to give a simple order on the 'phone. A metallic voice orders you to press every button on the instrument then the same voice from outer space tells you the good news – you are 10th in the queue and if you are mad enough to listen to the funeral music while the Telecom bill is mounting you have forgotten what you wanted. Why is there no one capable of answering the 'phone instead of the system now of " This is Marguerite Elizabeth Louise". Who cares. Do you ever get anything remotely close to what you ordered. Yesteryear no home in the Highlands and islands was without one -a J. D. Williams catalogue from Manchester. So, a simple transaction, send the "Poostal Order "- anything from the most intimate personal clothing ( WX ) to a Chest of Drawers and to be sure you received delivery within a week.
The very first Wireless in the village was owned by Mrs MacLean "Seaview" and on the first night of broadcasting she invited my Father and others to come and hear the Magic Box but unfortunately after fifteen minutes it went Kaput so Mrs MacLean decided this was because there were too many in the room! She had a very likeable son nicknamed "Cully" who kept his launch in the Bay and I remember heaving out to Madeira on the Vomiting Venus and when the Captain discovered I came from Mallaig his first question was "How's Cully" and it transpired he came to Mallaig every Summer for a week, spent every day with Cully and he told me the best fishing was every evening in Isle Ornsay!
Robert was wondering if anyone remembers Sammy Mayer, the Gentleman with the two thumbs who lodged every month in Primrose Cottage with Victor Wands - he carted round his entire warehouse in the back of his estate car and he was so short sighted when he was playing Snooker he was almost hitting the cue ball with his nose! Watches from two shillings upwards and anything else you asked for and you would be sure of delivery on his next visit. When Calum was extending Morar Hotel he 'phoned Sammy and asked him to get a quote for a Carpet in Glasgow and after Calum gave him the measurements three times Sammy said "I didn't know you were going to Carpet the Games Field!".
When you look at the Harbour today it is difficult to understand what the scene was like when Mallaig was the busiest Herring port in Europe and during these days it was not unusual for my wife and I to be working at three in the morning making up orders for the Russian klondykers, indeed the place was heaving day and night with James Hepburn at the heart of it all with the telephones red hot ’phoning all over Europe selling thousands of tons of Herring when the word Stress was not known.
We can never forget the Ringnetters and wonder how they ever survived the real horrendous Storms, boats like the Spindrift. Jessie Alice, Mary Manson and only last week Andie Ritchie recalled just one escapade when he was 14 years old, caught in a howling gale and the boat "Fell into a hole "and by a miracle they made it to the beach in Mallaig and next day discovered half the keel was missing. Despite that Andy kept at the sea and he has many stories to tell - corner him on the pier some day. No Tupperware boats in these days.
Apart from herring and fish, Sharks were also landed at the pier courtesy of Gavin Maxwell - excitement at this time and always something happening at the Harbour. Major Maxwell, during the war was based at Garramore in charge of Special Operations Executive teaching various ways of taking out the enemy - not for beer or sandwiches - he was an enthusiastic advocate of the "Double Tap" technique, two swift shots to the body - still used today by professional assassins. Known world wide as a fantastic author Gavin Maxwell wrote many books and he could not hide his great love for Mallaig and in his first book he said, "They will never see you stuck". How true.
After the war he went into the business of harpooning Sharks and I can well remember on one Summer night the Steam crane was in position on the big pier under the command of Angus Cameron, lifting a massive Shark from the boat to the pier when disaster struck - the wire rope cut through the tail and that was left dangling in mid air while the entire Shark minus tail plunged into the harbour. So how do you remove a monster from the sea bed at the big pier. Answer from, " Mr. Henderson of the Yard ". Maxwell bought a huge big hulk of a boat which lay at Lovat pier for years and most people were longing to put a match to it - a wreck, yet he asked Mr Henderson to try and sell it knowing that was nearly impossible. Then it happened. Mr Henderson sent a telegram to Maxwell saying "Have sold the "DOVE " today". The reply telegram was brief "There is one born every minute!". Not that it's the slightest significance to anyone but I have a press cutting saying that Maxwell had taken Princess Margaret out to dinner which gives some indication of what he did in London when he was bored.
Fifty years ago in the village all Pubs and licensed premises closed at 9pm, later despite an outcry extended to 9.30. There were six Swings situated below the Schoolhouse and every Saturday night they were tied together with a chain and a massive padlock and so the tiny tots were prevented from disturbing the fresh air on the Sabbath. Something I cannot accept but I asked a male friend the other day why he walked on the inside of the Pavement while his fragile female was exposed to all the risks and hazards so in reply he said that when he was on a Pedestrian crossing he made sure the women and children were on the outside! Why did I ask.
Very few cars to be seen in these days and the Railway was really the life blood of the village and every night at 5 pm they even supplied Electricity to their own houses - light but never power - two Generators situated near the Station and well looked after by Jinm'y Kelly and Joe Chalmers, indeed the very young children were puzzled as to where this mysterious Electricity came from and they decided it arrived in Mallaig by the train from Fort William – the Wind and Electricity - not easy to see! There was always a strong sense of camaraderie throughout the workforce, almost akin to a large family and all so dedicated even Alastair Munro, the Chief Clerk went off as usual at 9am for his breakfast and returned at exactly 10am as per usual but during that hour he had taken his Lady love up to the Manse where they were married – Irene can give you all the details!
Under the supervision of that gentle Gentleman Donald MacNeil the Mallaig Station was kept in perfect condition, with a roof in these days, and when a newly married couple came down from the West Highland to set off on honeymoon Donald never failed to set the Fog Signals under the appropriate carriage so the happy couple started their married life with a Bang! Prior to owning the West Highland Hotel, Mr MacLellan whose business brain was ticking over continually owned The Saulton Hotel in Fraserburgh where all receptions were held in the Hall but he eventually persuaded one family to try the Hotel and he charged two shillings and sixpence per head so that was the beginning of great success. According to the latest survey the average cost of a Wedding is £12000:00 so does this explain this word "PARTNER" which hits you in the eye with almost every form you receive.
One of the many pleasures of rail travel in the Sixties was sitting in the Dining Car being aware of the luxurious seating enjoying a first class meal while travelling from Glasgow to London having a feeling of well being while looking down on the congested Motorway with the drivers seemingly going mad as if they have had a secret message that the world is going to end at Midnight. The Restaurant Car which operated between Mallaig and Queen Street daily was run by these two very well known worthies Carol and Jimmy Bruce. I had a visit about five years ago from Jimmy Bruce and we enjoyed the laughs especially on the day when they were heading for Glasgow, when passing Roy Bridge when disaster struck - they had left the Food in their steel containers on the platform in Fort William and one blamed the other! Chugging past Rannoch Moor you could say this was recycling at the highest level. It was their longest journey ever but when they arrived in Glasgow everyone had been served and certainly not .to their satisfaction. Paul Daniels would have been proud of theim!. So next time you are having a Dinner party and have forgotten the Tabasco and send wee Maureen to the shops think of our travelling friends!
Many members of the community will have fond memories of that likeable character, Rogie Gillies, who with his wife and family shunted back and forward to New Zealand where they eventually settled. Son lan did so well and became Editor of the Brisbane Herald - don't know where vivacious Veronica is. Rogie had a Hairdressing unit just South of the Cattlebank and he allowed the Railway to use it as a Signal Box but it was a pest when in the middle of a short, back and sides he had to stop and shift the points when they were marshalling the Fish specials!
The Railway workforce worked long hours and often had to obtain sustenance by drinking a special blend of Coffee which contained a massive amount of Caffeine but unfortunately at odd times this affected them as their judgement was impaired as happened when the W.R.I, had their annual outing to Stirling and on arrival at Mallaig on the late train they suddenly became aware that the train had passed the Platform and this was at the time when the rails continued down the big Pier. The driver was alone on this section of the journey and had a slight lapse for a few seconds but soon recovered and reversed to the Platform. What a thrilling end to a day out and it kept the Ladies chattering for months!
There was one particular Guard who was always immaculate in his dress and looked so distinctive with his flowing moustache and he was fond of this Caffeine stuff and one Friday night the Station Master was on hand to check among other things a Cage of hens which were bound for the isle of Eigg. Certainly the cage was there but no hens and when questioned the Guard replied and these were his exact words "I decided they were in captivity long enough so I released them and at this moment in time they are flying over Arisaig!!!"
Remember we must always be polite to our visiting Tourists and never giggle. Standing at the very end of the wee Pier on a day last August three English ladies, dripping in jewelry asked me while pointing across the bay to the Kyber, "Excuse me is that the isle of Skye?"
And the third thing is, hunting everywhere for your Glasses while wearing them!


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