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

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January 2006 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg, Glenfinnan, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago
Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy & History

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GRANT FOR NEW COMMUNITY MINIBUS
Great news for the Mallaig & District Community Transport Association - they heard just before Christmas that they had been awarded 85,371 for a new minibus and paid part-time co-ordinator.
The hard work doesn't stop just yet as this represents 74% of the costs and match funding must be found for the remaining 28,000 before the group can purchase the vehicle and advertise the post.
Just over a year ago the Community Minibus was struggling to survive. A coupe of accidents, several big garage bills, a rise in insurance, a drop in usage - all combined to bring the funds in the kitty at one point to barely enough to fill the tank with fuel. Supporters made a big fund raising effort, through coffee mornings and bring and buy sales, plus over 1000 raised at a High School Bingo, and enough was made to keep the bus on the road and increase the funds a little. But it was obvious, as the minibus aged, that it would be better to try for a new bus which would be cheaper to run and maintain. Moves were begun by the M&DCTA Board towards putting together a lengthy and complex application to the Rural Community Transport Initiative by the September deadline. A user questionnaire was circulated through West Word and a number of articles throughout the year endeavoured to raise awareness and seek support from the community the minibus serves.
Thanks largely to the efforts of June Cairns, the Company Secretary, with the help of Peggy Kourmoulaki, Lochaber Transport Forum Worker, and Sheila Fletcher of the RCTI, the application was successful in the face of stiff competition for the pot of money available. Not only will the grant pay for a new minibus, it will provide a salary for a part-time co-ordinator. First however the match funding must be obtained.
The Board will now be looking at the hiring structure and possible changes to the rules to make it easier and cheaper for groups and individuals to hire the bus. What they need now is the support of the groups, to use the bus and hopefully to provide from their numbers a few new Directors. The Board at present consists of Martin Sullivan, Karen MacDonald, Maria Martin and Kenneth MacKenzie, with June Cairns the Company Secretary and Ann Martin of Voluntary Action Lochaber as an advisor.

ARISAIG SPAR SUCCESS
Congratulations to Manageress Jane Verrall and her staff at the C. J. Lang Spar shop in Arisaig for reaching the finals of the Neighbourhood Shop of the Year Award. The event, sponsored by Robert Wiseman Dairies, was held last month at the St Andrew's Bay Hotel, where representatives from all the shops in contention for the Awards were present.
This was the tenth anniversary of the Awards, but the first truly national Finals with nominations from the Highlands of Scotland down through the UK to the West Coast and South East of England...and the Arisaig Spar Shop was among the finalists! Consumer nominations, Sales Team recommendations, Mystery Shoppers and the ultimate Final Judgement are the Points of Difference that create the unique formula for the Neighbourhood Shop of the Year Awards Programme, and Arisaig Spar had excelled to get this far. Although the winning shop was one from over the border, Jane and her staff can be very proud of their runner-up award.
The following extract is from the official publication prepared especially for the Awards Show: 'They (Arisaig Spar) carry an extensive range of goods for all those looking to enjoy the outdoors from camping equipment to midge spray.'

GAELIC MEDIUM UNIT COULD MOVE TO MALLAIG
Last month Lochaber Councillors backed a proposal to transfer the Gaelic unit at Lady Lovat School, Morar, to Mallaig Primary. The final decision has not been taken but it seems highly likely that the result will be the move of the entire unit of 37 pupils to Mallaig Primary, which has two empty classrooms. Pupils in the Gaelic unit are drawn from Morar (10), Mallaig (25) and Arisaig (2), and some families have children in both the English and Gaelic units. The move would leave a school roll in Morar of 13 pupils, but this leads to obvious fears of the closure of Lady Lovat School in a few years' time when the number falls lower. .
The proposal has been reached after a year of meetings and discussions which has seen the residents of Morar and parents of the pupils divided as to which outcome was preferable. Other options have been to make Lady Lovat a dedicated Gaelic school by transferring the English Medium pupils to Mallaig, or to make Gaelic provision at both schools, for Morar and Arisaig children at Lady Lovat, and for Mallaig pupils in Mallaig. Consultation with local residents resulted in three-quarters of the respondents wanting Lady Lovat to become a dedicated Gaelic school. The final decision will be made at a meeting of the Highland Council's full Education, Culture and Sport Committee in Inverness this month.


KNOYDART
A VERY HAPPY AND HEALTHY YEAR 2006 to all our friends and neighbours far and wide who read this page.
As I write Knoydart is gearing up for New Year festivities having enjoyed a peaceful Christmastide in all respects, whilst there is a lull in work on the Pier. The re-furbished slipway is complete and makes dinghy access so much more convenient. It still awaits a light on the point but at present the Christmas Tree, placed on a new site by Tim and twinkling with lights, guides those coming ashore in the pitch dark evenings. While on the subject of pier happenings etc., the rock armour from the quarry at Glensanda has duly arrived as promised and has been distributed along the beach in front of the village. This should offer some protection if we have a repeat of last January's gales combined with high tides. However, it is not yet in its final position; this will be done when the old pier is demolished and used as foundation balast.
Congratulations to Frazz and Aaran who became engaged at Christmas.
Congratulations to Tommy and his friend Jim (the latter has already published a book on Knoydart) who have secured the shared post of Knoydart Ranger. Tommy will continue to deliver the post but sadly has relinquished the shop.
Jen Ward who was in Knoydart last year and who has in fact been a visitor to Knoydart for most of her life, gave birth to baby Tom on 23rd December; a real Christmas baby. Our very best wishes Jen.
I am going to add a couple of items which were too late for last months publication.
Iain Fleming and Katrina have moved on. We are sorry they have left Knoydart but Katrina is teaching in Fort William and Iain plans to return to a post in the Middle East for a while; no doubt to boost the tan! We wish them well and trust they will return to visit from time to time.
The Forest Trust team, assisted by visiting helpers from Latvia has continued the intensive work of rhododendron clearance, opening up more of the hillside above Inverie. Plans for harvesting and replanting are still under discussion but this is expected to start during 2006.
Calendar girls have sold like hot cheesecake from The Old Forge and coffee, buns and chat with beefcake of varying vintage can be found in Inverie Village Hall between boats on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, courtesy of Morag.

A new and rather stunning sculpture has been taking shape in Airor during the last year. This is the work of Mark Rogers, who is returning to his original talent of working with sculpting materials, clay, stone, wood, concrete, bronze, grp and plaster. Pictured right is a photo of the recent work (larger than life size) and to see further examples of Mark's creations visit www.knoydartsculpture.co.uk photo

I look forward to reading more about the novel discovered by Helen Campbell and Flo Cargill, set in the year 1424 and with Mallaig connections. I shall look at the Internet links.
Best Birthday Wishes to Caitlin who is 6 years old on 5th January.
Anne Trussell

ISLE OF MUCK
Christmas was a quiet period on the island with several families away and few visitors. The previous Monday Alan and Helen Lamb arrived on the island, the first time for many months. Alan very kindly conducted the first Christmas service and it was great to have him and Helen with us again. They were able to stay for the school play and party the following evening. Acting head teacher Morag MacKinnon has not the experience of her predecessors in the field of drama but she achieved a remarkably successful production with some fine acting. Fine acting was also achieved by Rosie Souter in her role as Father Christmas later in the evening when she arrived with her bag of goodies.
By Hogmanay the island had filled up with returned islanders and visitors. Almost everyone made for Port Mor House on the night for an evening of games followed by dancing. Just before the bells some stunning rockets soared into the sky and they were followed by Auld Lang Syne before first footing commenced. Next day the traditional hockey match was well attended and this was followed by some crazy individuals leaping into the sea!
Camille's description of the Eigg Power Scheme sounds absolutely marvellous but to me sounds like a heap of trouble. I hope I am mistaken. Far too many interfaces between different energy sources. Eigg technocrats should visit the real world and discover what is happening on Muck and Foula bearing in mind that Muck at least has a technical wizard in Barnaby Jackson.
On the farm another year is past. 2006 will to some extent be a holding operation pending the arrival of the next generation. But there will be no sitting back! With 55 points I have just scraped through for a second Rural Stewardship Scheme with quite a lot of fencing. Then there is the Land Management Contract Level 2. Some of the prescriptions require little action but the footpath is far from an easy option with a lot of work to be done. On the other hand it will lead to one of Muck's premier visitor attractions - Shell Beach.
The milder winters have been blamed for increasing rat numbers but they are also implicated in the increase of two other pests, liver fluke and ticks. In the case of liver fluke it seems likely that increased numbers of the secondary host, the mud snail, are surviving. With ticks the end of dipping is partly to blame but ticks on the cattle in December is unusual.
Lastly congratulations to Graeme and Eileen Henderson on the birth of their son Duncan.
Lawrence MacEwen

ISLE OF EIGG
As usual, December has been a busy month for the Eigg Primary School. The nursery and primary school children rehearsed intensively for "Christingle Rock," their Christmas show, performed to an enthusiastic island audience on Thursday 22 December. The children's play was followed by a surprise panto which teacher Liz Boden put on as a treat for children and adults alike. "The lighthouse-keeper's last Christmas" brilliantly adapted from the familiar children story by nursery assistant Gwen Sheriff who also produced the set, featured school staff and helpers as singing seagulls, Mr and Mrs Grindling, their niece and the cat. The children loved it and the whole evening was a great opening to the festive season on the island, bringing together young and not so young in the new community hall, where soup, mince pies and mulled wine contributed to the convivial atmosphere. The donations at the end of Christingle Rock added to the sale of Christmas decorations and baking by the schoolchildren, went to charity, reminding everyone of what Christmas is about, sharing. A big thank-you goes to Liz Boden for organising all these events and for her hard work in Eigg Primary over the past few months. It was great to have her working at the school and we are sorry that she could not get permanent tenure of the post. We wish her good luck in her future ventures.
Santa came on his annual visit to Eigg on Friday 23rd, piped by new island dweller Stuart Ferguson, taking over from our resident piper who was spending the festivities with her family in Dingwall. Two pipers on one island? Luckily for their neighbours, they live on opposite sides of the island But between the two of them, there are a heap of tunes, as Stuart's bothywarming at the beginning of the month proved it. We are very much looking forward to more such music sessions over the winter.
The beginning of the month also saw an introduction to strategic thinking for social enterprises such as the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. This 2-day course brought to Eigg by Clive Shephard from HISEZ, was fairly stretching for the mind, introducing notions to the community which are more familiar to the world of business, but as Clive remarked, the time has come to develop new ways of generating income now that European funding is coming to an end in our part of the world, and this involves long term planning. Over the next few months, the islanders will have to spend quite a few more sessions to refine their existing strategy and plan for much needed economic growth on the island, but a good start has been made by defining value statements and an overall vision for the future.
For everyone on the island is conscious of the fact that there are hard challenges ahead. Even though steady progress has been made so far, and the prospect of 24 hour electricity looms nearer, the fact remains that the Small Isles economy is very fragile, our populations still too small and the cost of living is still much higher than on the mainland. Agriculture is certainly in danger of becoming a more and more marginal occupation with the disappointment over the environment grant schemes promoted by FWAG: it looks increasingly as if the Scottish Executive has lost touch with the reality on the ground in their treatment of the subsidy system and that there is little interest on their part in maintaining a viable farming and crofting economy in the new post CAP landscape. The proposed "New Crofters' Act" does not bring much reassurance either. Looks like the Eigg crofters and farmers may have a strong message to deliver: current policies are not working!
In the meantime, challenges or not, 2006 started in style with yet another great night in our smart new hall (it is such a treat to be in such a warm, comfortable space) with a good numbers of young folks - visitors, friends and islanders - birling away to a line up fronted by Alister White, the two Alis, Nuala Kennedy, Damian Helliwell and our Eddie Spoon: lovely and lively. So Bliadhna Math r to you all!
Camille Dressler.

ARISAIG
Some absolutely beautiful crisp, clear days over Christmas fooled plants and birds alike into thinking it was Spring, in spite of the freezing snap beforehand. Flirting sparrows, gorse in bloom and garden flowers coming out contrasted oddly with Christmas lights! Speaking of Christmas lights, a wee bit of personal appreciation from me for Alistair and Mary's lights at Beasdale - when you've driven, like me, night after night, all those dark miles from Fort William to Arisaig, the sight of hat wonderful display was so cheering.
Christmas in the Astley Hall saw a lovely concert of carols and songs from local choir Stella Nova, accompanied by musicians from Lochaber Music School and singing from local children. If we'd known they were coming too we could have advertised the event differently!
The children's party went very well, about 60 people gathered to play games, have tea and see Santa. The numbers of children under the age of 11 is falling slowly in Arisaig and Lochailort - 70 in December 2003, 60 in 2004, 54 in 2005. There is a large number in Primary 6 and 7 and few babies, so the numbers will drop at a faster rate in future years.
Tribute was paid (in her absence) to Anne Cameron for the many years she organised the games. We thank her here very much indeed for her invaluable time and efforts for the party. A hard act to follow indeed - but Heather Barton took on the task with Arthur Campbell's help and did it wonderfully well. Many thanks then to Heather and Arthur, to Heather Gillies or being Santa's little helper over the matter of the presents, Sue and Lesley for the sandwiches, Jacquie for help n the kitchen, and to Santa himself for coming along once more.
While thanking folk, I'll include Gerry MacDonald and Malcolm Ross for putting up the Christmas tree and lights in the village ('blue lights on a green tree!!' spluttered Celtic die-hard Gerry).
At the moment I can't decide if to go for an Arts promotion grant for the year beginning May 2006. At the moment we have the new trio Lau coming at Easter, and concerts by the Rumsamadee Singers and by Duncan Chisholm and Ivan Drever. There are a lot of good things on offer this year but it's a lot of hard work and there is very little interest or support.
More importantly, we urgently need a cleaner for the Hall. Many thanks to Jean for a terrific job, which she has been doing since the hall re-opened in 2001. It's 11 a week for two hours, but if you let in accumulate, you could be pocketing over 130 every three months, plus extra for dances, parties etc. And you'd be doing your bit for the community too. If anyone would like to know more about what is involved, give me a ring on 450263.
So Arisaig has joined Mallaig in now having NHS 24 provide out of hours care. Don't forget this is under review and people need to be told if there are problems. At least we have been promised a local answering service based in Fort William. May they act better than Perth and Kinross: my mother was taken ill just after New Year and a neighbour called NHS 24. A doctor and a nurse came out but they didn't explain what was wrong and left the paper prescription with her when it was obvious she couldn't go out to collect it. As soon as I realised how poorly she was and left doing West Word to go to see her, she had lost valuable time in which she could have been taking the medicine. No doctor came to check up on her either, and the neighbour didn't bother to come round. That's why I like living here and not there!
Ann Martin

GLENFINNAN
A very happy and peaceful New Year to you all.
As I write this I haven't even begun to think of New Year Resolutions. In fact, it isn't even Christmas yet! I am spending Christmas in Dublin. There are a few villagers away for Christmas - Duncan, Claudia and Fina and Duncan, Manja and Sine are off to Germany, George and Kitty away to spend Christmas with their families. But, we are all planning back for New Year. Glenfinnan is the place to be to take in the New Year with some first-footing and lots of nonsense.
In December, Cat and Dougie Hunter were finally able to bring their baby daughter Reba home after 3 months of intensive care and special care in Aberdeen and Inverness. Cat and Dougie wish to say a huge 'thank you' to everyone who sent kind words of encouragement and prayer after the loss of Reba's twin sister Kenna and especially to their families and friends and neighbours in Glenfinnan who were all truly, truly amazing. Welcome little Reba and welcome home Cat.
So, did the earth move for you? The night of the earthquake shook everyone, quite literally. I thought my washing machine had gone onto a full spin! Colm looked to see if a lorry had gone off the road. It didn't impress Gail Wandorf who was interviewed on the television news. She lived in South Carolina where it's par for the course and the quakes are bigger. Duncan Gibson also made a television appearance on Landward. I only caught the end of the programme but I gather he was cooking with the Blairs in Roshven.
Blazin' Fiddles did well at the Scottish Trad Music Awards in Edinburgh. They were awarded best album for Magnificent Seven and best event for Blazin' in Beauly. Sadly, local boys Daimh lost out to Back of the Moon in best folk band category. I was there and there were an impressive number of nominees from Lochaber. It was a good night and next year it will be in the Nevis Centre where it will be an even better night.
The children had great fun at the Glenfinnan Community Council Christmas party in Glenfinnan House Hotel. There was lots of laughter and games and a table groaning with party food provided by the parents. The highlight of the party was Santa Claus bringing gifts for every child. We all sang Jingle Bells for him and he wished us a Merry Christmas and then he was off to get on with his preparations for Christmas Eve itself. So you can imagine our surprise when he turned up the next day at the Senior Citizen's party in the Prince's House Hotel bearing gifts for the older ones amongst us.
The Senior Citizens party was a lovely evening. Seven people managed to come and unfortunately some people missed it due to ill-health. The community councillors were waiters for the evening and Eric really cut a dash in full highland dress. They all had a traditional Christmas meal at the Prince's House Hotel, a party game and musical entertainment by Kirsten and Emma Colman. There was a photographer staying in the hotel who took photos of us all then afterwards we had a few drinks a chat and a laugh. The last bit of news is that Joan Robertson got some new chickens and a cockerel after the last lot met untimely deaths. She's just waiting for them to start laying!
And finally, belated Happy Birthday to Charlie MacFarlane, 74 years young.
Bliadhna Mhath Ur!
Eileen O'Rua

CANNA
Canna missed the deadline this month but watch out for the column next month - a welcome return. Humble apologies to Kathryn MacKinnon, who supplied last month's piece - we gave Mum Wendy the credit!

CANNA PIER
The new slipway in Canna harbour has progressed well since work commenced at the end of May 2005, and the project is now two-thirds of the way through. Contractors R. J. McLeod are carrying out the 3m job on behalf of the National Trust, which owns Canna. The Highland Council Project Design Unit and Wallace Stone & Partners, Glasgow, are the designers and THC Project Design Unit are supervising the site.
A camp has been set up on the island to house the 15 or so workers, with its own generator to provide power. A temporary quarry, which will be landscaped on completion of the project, has been opened next to the site to provide the 12,000 tonnes of rock armour and the rockfill required. The 6000 tonnes of concrete required will come from a batching plant set up on site which is using sand and aggregate from Glensanda Quarry.
The finished job will provide an extension to the existing pier of a 48 metre long slipway, two concrete dolphins (buoys or piles for moorings) containing 1000 tons concrete, and a dredged area which will allow the Lochnevis to come alongside and provide a roll-on roll-off service such as that at Eigg, Rum and Muck. There will also be a new access road, waiting room and storage building.
It is hoped the work will be completed by the end of July 2006. Thanks to Chris Gray for the photographs and for sourcing the information from Kevin Silverton, Senior Resident Engineer, THC


Volunteering on Knoydart with BTCV
I'd booked it on a whim. So the confirmation email for the three night conservation break I'd booked through British Trust for Conservation Volunteers came as something of a shock, with its Monday-of-one-week and Thursday-of-the-next-week dates. "A mistake I was meant to make" I thought and reached for my roadmap to see where I'd actually booked for.
It was raining as we landed at Inverie but only drizzling by the time we walked up the mountainside that afternoon for our introduction to the Knoydart Foundation Trust team and our first taste of the work we'd be doing for the next ten days. Burning rhododendrons is an entirely satisfactory task. Not only did I get to build huge bonfires - loading thirty foot long rangey poles of the buggers onto the pyre - the pleasure is derived from the fact that the results are immediately obvious. From "Good morning Daniel" to morning tea-break, vast tracts of new ground appeared. The sense of achievement at the end of each day was immense, and every next morning we'd be back up the hill again: the challenge of the walk up it getting a little more each day as we chain-sawed and burnt our way up the mountainside.

On the eighth evening - the Monday - as we made our way down again (me, as usual, on my backside: sliding is so much more fun than side-stepping) I was stopped in my tracks by the breath-taking light on the far shore of Loch Nevis. Streaming through the clouds was the most beautiful Turner sun, and I decided to wait and see how it developed, knowing my little Pentax digital was in my rucksack. Squatting with a rhoddy stump under my boot to stop me from slipping, I watched the sky for forty minutes and snapped away, all the while thinking "stop looking through the camera, you're missing it all" but, at the same time, wanting to capture a little piece and take it home to Manchester. So - I stole away a tiny piece of Knoydart, although I've also left a big chunk of me back there. Perhaps I'll go back sometimes and keep it company. Sue Langford photo

JIM'S WORK GIFTED TO COMMUNITY Thanks to his widow, Margaret, a number of prints of paintings by the late Jim Porteous Wood have been gifted in his memory to the community he loved so much.
Jim died in April last year at the age of 85, having lived for the last 25 years in Arisaig, where he and Margaret had honeymooned in 1945. In his long career he produced landscapes, portraits, calligraphy, architecture, and jewellery. He was the youngest artist at the age of 26 to be elected to the Royal Scottish Watercolour Society in 1945, and he became their oldest exhibiting member. He also exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy amongst others as prestigious. His many notable commissions included a gold rose bowl for President Eisenhower and a large centrepiece for the table of the Islamic Conference, at the request of King Hassan II. His was the drawing of the Queen's Coronation in 1953 which adorned the front pages of the following day's national press.
Now prints of some of Jim's paintings may be seen in a number of local buildings: the Astley Hall, Arisaig; Mallaig Health Centre; Arisaig Medical Practice; Mallaig High School and the three primary schools in Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig; the Mackintosh Centre; and the Belford Hospital in Fort William.

photo

Pictured right is Keith Porteous Wood, Jim and Margaret's son, with Ann Martin, Secretary of the Astley Hall, with the three prints which will hang in the Hall. They depict stags on Craigmore, otters in the River Caimbe, and an Edinburgh view, depicting the Castle and George Heriot's School, which Jim attended.

Your opportunity to own a print
If you would like to have a print of Mr Porteous Wood's work, the family have a number, unframed, which they are offering in return for a donation to the Arisaig Senior Citizens' Fund or the Arisaig Children's Christmas Treat. To obtain an unframed print, please send a donation of 10 or more plus 2.50 p&p. Cheques should be made out to either Arisaig Senior Citizens' Fund or Arisaig Children's Christmas Treat. Remember to include your name, address and telephone number and to state whether you want Otters, Stags or an Edinburgh Landscape, and sent them to: JPW Print, c/o West Word, Morar Station Building, Morar Inverness-shire PH40 4PB. They will be sent out after the 19th February.


West Word - ten years ago
The January 1996 edition of West Word (Issue 3, Volume 2) was priced at 50p and, of course, contained the now traditional free Calendar. Seasonal weather for the Festive Period was the headline on the cover and underneath was a photograph of Glenfinnan Church In The Snow, courtesy of Jim Wilson. The words that accompanied the photograph told that it was the first time in 50 years that west Lochaber had had a real white Christmas.
Inside West Word the Round and About section highlighted the many Children's and Old Folks' Parties and the community dances held over the festive period while Lawrence MacEwen reported on Muck's Winter Sports. But that same weather meant frozen pipes and cut off water supplies to other areas. A topical snippet caught my eye...who pinched Alan Eddie's snowman, 'Parking Attendant George', in Loch Nevis Crescent?...
It was reported on page 2 that Highland Councillor Dr Michael Foxley had officially opened the new 1.2m Mallaig Drainage Scheme, while on page 3 via is Council Corner Councillor Charlie King revealed that two more sections of single track road on the A830 had been given the go-ahead for upgrading to two-lane status. Under the headline 'Good Christmas News for Mallaig Road Campaigners' the news about the road was elaborated on by Dr Foxley (both sections referred to have of course been built and the go-ahead given for the upgrading of the final section, Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh. This is due to start in three months' time).
'1995 Revisited with West Word' was a two page spread of our first full year of publication and there was a report on a recent debate at the Mallaig & District Chamber of Commerce, 'The Future of Fishing', which had Hugh Allan as guest speaker (methinks this would be a pertinent topic to be discussed in 2006!).
The Lifeboat Log informed readers that the Mallaig Lifeboat had been launched on 31st December in an attempt to trace an EPIRB signal transmission but they were home by 19.30 hrs, in good time for taking in the New Year! The passing of Dr Hector MacLean, Eigg, who had been the GP on the island since 1952, was documented via an obituary, while someone else with strong Eigg connections, Arisaig's Iain MacKinnon, explained his role in the BBC documentary series Video Nation.
Birthday pics of Grace Coull (40) and Heather Reid (18) adorned the middle pages and of course they are now 10 years older - there's no secrets with West Word around, is there? And we reported on the splendid exploits of Cameron Downie and Alistair Sinclair, who water-skied from Mallaig to Rhum (that's the way it was spelt 10 years ago!) and raised 1500 for Cancer Relief.
The usual features from Ross Campbell (Environment), Paul Galbraith (Rough Bounds Place Names) and Heather Smith (Guyana) were in situ although Paul's piece on Knoydart place names was augmented by a tale of his (future) wife Mary and the Priest's Goat!!!
On the back page of West Word, among the What's On, there was that rare commodity, a Wanted Ad that was unsuccessful. The ad read: 'Wanted - a wife for Victor Mellis' and as far as I know Victor is still searching.
RMM


The ice house at Borrodale has re-appeared (again) now that the rhoddies have been cut down. Curling is said to have been popular above the Leven at Borrodale.
The ice house dates from around 1906 - 1910.

Anyone got more information on it? Let us know!

photo


A language landscape
It is many years since I last went to work by ferry boat - one summer I crossed the Rhine at Drachenfels every morning, and returned every evening. And last summer it was over the sea to Skye, courtesy of Calmac. It was a lovely way to prepare for the day, and in between times it was equally lovely to work in my cottage in Arisaig, overlooking the loch. The work also brings me back at all times of the year, so that I see Lochaber in all its moods.
For the last five years or so I have been collaborating with colleagues in Scottish education on a way of helping and supporting users of a language, in particular anyone drafting something written or preparing a spoken presentation. We have assembled a large collection of language text, called a corpus, and a suite of computer programs that will instantly compile a record of how any word or phrase is typically used. Like many very complicated tasks, it will be successful if it is simple to use when it reaches the classroom. The name we have chosen is PhraseBox.
The project is sponsored by Learning and Teaching Scotland, which is a leading developer and provider of tools and materials in educational technology. This stage of the work is being done by Cnan, which is a part of the Gaelic College, Sabhal Mr Ostaig, on Skye, a few miles north of Armadale. While the main concern of Cnan is the Gaelic language, in this project the language in focus is English; the system, however, is language-independent and will give good results for any language that can be written down in letters.
Here is the way it works. Let us say that you want to express quite strongly that something is absent from someone's life - perhaps affection. You know that there is a word "devoid", but you are not sure exactly how and in what circumstances you might use it. So you insert the word in the program, and discover immediately that it occurs with the word "of" just after it. Then you can check what kind of things one can be "devoid of". You find that "life" and "affection" are the kinds of thing that "devoid of" is used with, while "stones", "sparrows", "mud" are not. So you get immediate confirmation that your choice is OK, or a warning that you are taking a risk if you choose a combination that is untypical or totally absent from the corpus.
A typical instance of this phrase is "We do not want to live our lives totally devoid of emotions". Notice the word "totally", which emphasises the rather extreme nature of "devoidness". The main things that one can be devoid of are ideas, emotion, feeling, expression, passion, and the main things we are talking about are faces, voices and landscapes. The qualities that are noted as missing are things that ordinarily you would expect to be there, and whose absence is undesirable, hence the rather negative and depressing aura surrounding the use of the phrase. It would be unlikely for anyone to observe that the streets were totally devoid of danger, for example, or that their bank account was devoid of overdraft, no matter how true those expressions might be. Exceptions occur, of course, and often are quite dramatic, like a recommendation to drink champagne as a beauty treatment: "Your skin will be devoid of all wrinkles".
This kind of investigation is the central activity of PhraseBox. You, the student, are guided in the way "devoid" is used, and yet you are not pushed into any particular kind of expression, but you are able to weigh up the choices. If you want a conventional kind of expression you can just follow the main patterns that are provided, but if you are interested and have the time you can use this as the starting point of a fascinating exploration into other ways in which we talk about things missing, or into the kinds of qualities that are emphasised by "utterly", or what other phrases are associated with the expression "devoid of".
PhraseBox has remarkable potential as a learning and teaching tool, and the time is about right for its introduction. The big corpus (we are talking here of over a hundred million words) is held centrally in the server so that the job of searching it can be done by a powerful computer, and the results are sent quickly to the classroom over a broadband connection. This technology is now getting into place in schools all over Scotland. Also teachers, pupils and people in general are becoming quite relaxed about the intervention of computers into their lives. In the case of PhraseBox, it is like giving each pupil real-time access to a huge memory of all the different ways in which thousands of people have expressed themselves over several years, all instantly available in a highly organised presentation. Gradually, students are expected to internalise what they need of the resource and gather confidence in their ability to express themselves publicly; but the resource will always be available when it is needed.
For my own part, I am very pleased to be able to give back a little to the country which educated me, and to have a good excuse to spend as much time as I can in Arisaig.
John Sinclair, 3rd December 2005


COASTAL RANGER REPORT
Well, while I try to get my befuddled brain into operating mode, let me wish you all a "Very Happy, Satisfying and Constructive New Year". In saying that, I hope you all had a nice Christmas, with Santa providing you with all the right things, and, of course, no deviating from the normal food intake (I wish!). O.K. so what's an extra couple of inches on the waistline, after all, it only took a couple of lazy weeks to put it on, so surely we can whip it off in no time??? Hmmmm! I just get the funny feeling that that might not be the case, in fact, I think I can vaguely remember thinking something like that last year! Heigh Ho! Here we go! Gym. Swim. Run. Walk! Goodness (or something like that) do I really have to? Can't I just carry on the way I'm going? After all if it's only two inches a year!!???
Right, enough of that! Lets get on to something less sinister! Since I last cobbled my column together (it seems like ages ago) what's been happening? The first thing that springs to mind is the weather - doesn't it always? - but this time it's not a moan. It seems to me that all this global warming has at last started to make itself felt in a big way. I don't think that I can remember such a good spell over the Christmas/New Year period. O.K. so for a while there was a very cold Northerly wind, but it only lasted for a while before we drifted into those lovely bright frosty days over Christmas. As I write this, my wee weather station is showing 8.9 degrees outside with the trend set at steady (barometric pressure) and it even shows a wee sunshine symbol! Altogether not too rubbish for the 2nd of January!!
Oops! That was a mistake! The sharp ones amongst you will have noticed that I am ages late with my offering, as the closing date for articles was several days ago! However, maybe for once, poor Ed. has had such a good time over the holiday that she hasn't noticed, so maybe I can still sneak this in! I do hope nevertheless, that all the rest of you got your stuff in on time, as it must be a nightmare at this time of year trying to collate all the material for the West Word, and I think we should all give Ann a wee clap for the work that she puts into our now Internationally famous magazine! Thanks Ann!
Anyway, have I done anything remotely connected to "rangering" in the past while? Well, truthfully, not very much! What does stick out are the two walks that I have done recently, one most enjoyable, and one to forget! The forgettable one took place on the north shore of Loch Lochy and entailed joining some super fit types on a "drag" up three mountains! Actually, the "up" part wasn't too bad (I just took more rests that most of the others, and was kind of slow!), but the "down" section was absolute purgatory as I tried to favour my bad knee all the way down from over 3000 ft. resulting in great pain in my left thigh for the following few days!! Oh to be fit! Once recovered though, it was nice to look forward to the "Family Walk" on boxing day. This was definitely a success, the weather was beautiful and the ten good souls that came with me seemed very happy. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but was just a tiny wee bid disappointed that a few more folk hadn't joined in. There was only one child with us, where I had hoped for a bigger number, just to show them that it's good fun tramping the hill and seeing their own locality at its winter best. Never mind, there is always next year! I would like to make this an annual event, with maybe even another one on the first or second of January, so if anyone has any ideas?????
To close, last year I had my wonderful group of "Bennies" starting me off at an easy pace! Is there any chance that they might care to start again, perhaps even in greater numbers? I still wait for the day when I get some male support! Anyway, please get in touch, you know the number, 01687 462 983 and the e-mail, a.macintyre@tiscali.co.uk, so you have no excuses. We can sort out days and venues to suit, with almost any difficulty levels catered for! Look forward to hearing from you.
Angus Macintyre


A Little Genealogy - by Allan MacDonald
Canadian Visitors contd.

Last month I wrote about one of our Canadian visitors, Marlene Cheng and her ban ancestors. This month I will continue with Bernie Chisholm's sloinntearachd. Bernie's Chisholm roots lie in Strathglass but it is to Bohuntin, Roybridge that we go today. Bernie is descended from a family of Burkes who came to the area from Ireland. The Burkes came as retainers of one of the five wives of Alasdair nan Cleas (Alasdair of the Tricks) 10th Chieften of the MacDonalds of Keppoch. Alasdair, having a superior knowledge of cards, which he learned during his education in Italy, was also known as "the man with no shadow" because he had tricked Satan into grabbing his shadow and so, evermore, even in the brightest sunshine, he cast no shadow. The Burkes were on the land until most of them emigrated to Canada in the early 1800s but, I will let Bernie tell the story.
"First I am going to deal with the MacDonald side. I will leave the Chisholms for another day.
The first of the MacDonalds we have here on file is Donald "Gorm" MacDonald who made his fame in the attack on MacLeod castle. He was the one that shot the arrow that wounded and killed the attacking Chief ?. His great grandson Angus "The Carpenter " was in the direct line of Donald "Gorm" MacDonald, son of John, fourth in the decent from "Iain Dubh" of Bohuntin. Angus "Carpenter" MacDonald had a daughter Anne. Anne married Archibald "Diolladair" (Saddler) in Lochaber, Scotland. Archibald died in Scotland. Anne came to Canada in 1816. She had a family of eight. The first year they stayed with her daughter Mary in Arisaig , Nova Scotia. Mary was married to Hugh MacDonald. In 1818 she moved on to Black River, Inverness County in Cape Breton where she claimed 400 hundred acres of land. Family history says that she kept coming east in Cape Breton till she found good land to grow potatoes. She needles to say, she found the good land where her family still lives and thrives today. In 1826 her daughter Margaret came to Black River, Cape Breton and took up a large acreage of land one mile away from her mother. She was married to John "Iain Mr" MacDonald. He was my GG grandfather. In the History of Inverness County he is shown as MacDonald (Burke). He was from Bohuntin. From what I have read the Burkes were servants of a lady from Ireland that came to marry Alexander ( Alisdair nan Cleas) MacDonald in the mid 1600's. He was a 10th Chief of the Keppochs. The Burkes later changed their name to MacDonald.
John "Iain Mr" MacDonald had a family of six. One son was Archibald "Gilleasbuig Mac Iain Mr " and was my Great Grandfather. He married Marcella "Cross " MacDonald from Mabou. Her people came from Glenturret, Scotland .They had a family of seven. One of them, my grandfather Alexander, was born in 1865. He married my grandmother, Mary MacDonald, born in 1873. Now I will go back to the family of Anne " Dhiolladair" MacDonald.
Anne " Dhiolladair" MacDonald had a brother Donald "Domhnuill Diolladair" MacDonald .He was my Great Great Grandfather. He had a son John " Iain Dhomhnuill", my Great grandfather. Who had a daughter Mary, my Grandmother, who was born in 1873. She married Alexander MacDonald my Grandfather.
They were second cousins this way. I will not get into how they were third cousins another way. Needless to say they had to get a dispensation from the Catholic Church before they got married. Our forbearers kept a very close eye on how closely they were related before their children could marry. Needless to say my mother told me that her father spent his time on his knees praying that his children would be healthy when my grandmother was pregnant. I hope for all of us his prayers were answered. Their daughter Marcella married John A. Chisholm from Port Hood, Cape Breton and that is why I am here today.
I want to add a note of thanks to you, Allan, for taking me to Roy Bridge on that Sunday, October 9th, 2005. You made my trip to Scotland. Also, I add a word of thanks to Alasdair MacLeod for suggesting that I find Ronnie Campbell. And I want to thank Ronnie Campbell for showing me the outline of the stones where my MacDonald (Burke) ancestors lived. I am most likely the first of my family to see these since 1826."
Bernie Chisholm. Mabou, Nova Scotia


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