WEST WORD
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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January 2013 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Eigg
Railway and harbour news
Birdwatch

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THE FERRIES REVIEW
The Scottish Ferry Services Ferries Plan 2013 - 2022, to give it its full name, has now been published and sets out the future of ferry services for the next ten years.
The Plan has been in the making since 2009. Consultations led to The Draft Ferries Plan being published in December 2011; the consultation process on the draft ran from 21st December 2011 to 30th March 2012 and attracted 2,051 responses. This included 1,415 separate consultation responses (1,213 from individuals and 202 from organisations) and 636 submissions from a campaign calling for a Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry service.
To the huge disappointment to all those who have campaigned steadily to reintroduce the route which was considered vital for the economy of South Uist, the Lochboisdale-Mallaig service has been ruled out in the immediate future, the Plan stating categorically that existing routes will be strengthened and augmented rather than new ones started up.
The additional vessel which would be required for this service would cost between 20m and 40m and the running costs over its lifetime would come to some 100m. However the Scottish Ministers will give the route consideration again at the time of deciding on the specification for the next tendered CHFS contract which will be 2016 at the earliest. Knoydart gets a short mention as at present its service is subsidised by Highland Council and not the Scottish Government. The community has been consulted however and it is possible Knoydart may be incorporated into the medium term plan for the Small Isles.
Proposals for the Small Isles for the coming year include more sailings, with a new Sunday service and two sailings a day at weekends, and a timetable which allows islanders to make a 'meaningful return trip' to the mainland in the course of a weekday. Medium term ideas (to 2016) are to reduce the ro-ro ferry to two days a week and on the other days provide a passenger and small freight service. The Lochnevis would be reassigned to Colonsay to provide an all year round dedicated vessel for the island.
Bizarrely, the provision of two vehicles are 'dependent on the purchase of a new RIB vessel' for passengers!
This seems to be a massive backwards step. Whilst more sailings would be welcome, a two day a week ro-ro service would hamper visits by necessary emergency, repair and service, vehicles. Each island has had new piers, slipways and associated buildings erected as part of a multi-million funding package which included provision of the Lochnevis specifically for the Small Isles and Skye routes.
The Mallaig to Armadale service has been threatened in the Draft Review by the proposal to lower the subsidy for the summer sailings. In answer to the criticism this drew from the local community, it is confirmed that the subsidy will be maintained at current levels. However, what is the impact on the winter service if the Lochnevis is removed.
You can find the Ferries Plan at www.transportscotland.gov.uk/water/ferries/Scottish-Ferries-Review

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A resident in a garden in Mallaig - thanks to Marion Affleck for the photo.

DENTAL PRACTICE LEAVES MALLAIG
After three and a half years, M & S Dental Care is having to leave the Mallaig area due to changes in guidelines relating to the decontamination of instruments and equipment, which came into force on December 31st. From March 1st 2013 the service will be run from the Fort William premises.
Gregor Muir, who runs M & S Dental Care in Fort William and who manages the outreach surgery at Mallaig Health Centre, told West Word 'It's a been a pleasure being in Mallaig for the last 3 years and we are gutted that we have to leave now.
'Unfortunately the days of the single handed practice are over, the demands of conforming to the current standards are too high. The new regulations are all about cross-infection and the intention is that the same standard should apply to every process everywhere, whether it's the operating theatre at Raigmore or the dentist's surgery.'
The changes to the guidelines mean that there is insufficient room at the Mallaig Health Centre for the separate facilities demanded for the decontamination of equipment. A move to the Arisaig Surgery was mooted but the hoped for funding from NHS went elsewhere.
The transition to Fort William will be straightforward. Patients will be registered automatically in Fort William from the 1st March and will be able to access the same routine and emergency care that is available currently. The only difference will be that everything will be provided in the surgery in Fort William.
Every endeavor will be made to provide appointments that suit those who may have travelling constraints, with evening appointments available for those who work during the day.
A spokesperson for NHS Highland said 'For a small number of patients it may not be possible to travel to Fort William. Some examples may be patients with disabilities or other health issues which may make travelling difficult. We also recognize that those with caring roles may be unable to travel and equally, dependent patients relying on carers to take them to the dentist may require local access.
'In acknowledgement of this NHS Highland is planning to provide a two day per week service through its Salaried Dental Service, at the Mallaig Health Centre, with decontamination of the dental instruments taking place at the Camaghael Health Centre, Fort William. A similar model, where instruments are decontaminated off site is in place for other outreach dental services such as Lochinver and is in line with regulations.
'This service will be limited, taking account of staff travel time and the need for the reception function to be completed within the surgery. As a consequence it is proposed that this limited service is available only to those patients for whom travel to Fort William to access dental services is not possible.
'If your circumstances are such that you are unable to travel to Fort William then please contact NHS Highland's Dental Dept on 01463 704635.
Mr Muir says that anyone who has any concerns or queries about the transition is welcome to call the practice to speak to him or a colleague.
M & S Dental Care took over the provision of services in the Mallaig when long serving dentist John Roy retired after thirty years' practice in Mallaig. For many years his surgery was a caravan, parked in East Bay near the old hall, before he moved into the Mallaig Health Centre when it opened in April 2000!

The heroes of the Mallaig Lifeboat have been praised in the Press and Journal for saving a woman's life last June.
The woman, Lilian McLean, and her partner David Johnson, both 76, were on a sailing trip on their yacht MV Meridian and had moored at Tarbet, Loch Nevis. During the night Lillian experienced severe chest pains and David summoned help from Mallaig.
Luckily the crew of the Lifeboat that day included paramedic Dennis Eddie, who diagnosed Lilian's pains as a heart attack, and arranged for an air ambulance to meet the Lifeboat on its arrival in Mallaig.
Lilian was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and operated on immediately. She has made a steady recovery.
Photo Moe Mathieson

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KNOYDART
Well, I hope the weather doesn't know the saying 'Start as you mean to go on'! What a wet start to 2013! And it was hardly a white Christmas either!
But what a great New Year! Knoydart was busy busy busy as usual. For most people Hogmanay started at Elaine and Paul's for good ale, numerous pasties and great craic. The crowds then descended on the village hall for a cracking ceilidh. Big thanks to Ross and Eilidh for coming over for the occasion, and big thanks to Mark and Galen for jumping in and saving the day: fab music guys and gal! The bells were then rung in in style with a firework display courtesy of Terry. What a show! I think the whole crowd was mesmerised. Then it was back into the hall for Davie's Democratic Disco. With the amount of folk on the dance floor and the enthusiastic moves being thrown about I'm surprised there weren't more black eyes by the end of the night! Great atmosphere and good fun all round. Then, when energy levels started to drop, everyone made their way to Bob and Morag's for a fantastic breakfast and a well earned seat. Huge thank you to Bob and Morag for the food, many people probably have them to thank for lack of hangovers on the 1st.
A very eventful New Year indeed (for some more than others right enough)! It was also great seeing friends up again, like Steph and JP, Matthew McKay and his family, Alice (who we hope is feeling better), and likely hundreds more folk I can't remember. And sad to say cheerio to a (fairly) newly made friend as Travis from Camusrory heads off to the big smoke (London): good luck in your next endeavour.
I'd just like to say thank you again to everyone and anyone who was involved in some way or another at New Year (like Tommy and Abby stuck on the hall door) and who made it possible: everyone really appreciated it and it was a great success. And also big thanks to everyone who came along, locals and tourists alike!
Colds and flus are spreading like wild fire around Knoydart with practically the whole peninsula either had it, got it or getting it! It was certainly a husky Ukulele practice last Saturday. If I haven't already, welcome Llion, the new Kilchoan ghillie: hope you're settling in. It was also nice to see the boys from the lifeboat making a social call to Knoydart over the festive period and not here because they were needed. A night rapidly approaching that's on all Knoydartian's social calendars is Burns Night (although we'll be celebrating it slightly earlier this year as it seems half the peninsula will be at Celtic Connections on the right weekend - Glasgow watch out!). Doune's been busy making preserves and picnic tables. The pub's Christmas tree looked slightly different on the way out as it did on the way in. We say thank you to John Duncanson for all the help and support with the hydro. And hopefully February will bring better and brighter weather.
Amy Connolly

ISLE OF MUCK
The holidays are almost over and it was quieter than usual on Muck. Several families were away and missed the little party that we laid on in the hall mainly for the builders. KDL are self catering and they really appreciate the fine spread which we usually provide on these occasions. It would have been great to have had Gordon MacKenzie and team as well but unfortunately they had already gone. Next day it looked as if Loch Nevis was going to give us a miss and Sheerwater was quickly chartered and everyone got away. Angus the foreman had a date with Santa Claus in Lapland so it was quite important.
Christmas Eve was notable for carol singing in the byre with baby Tara in the crib. It was fine and warm with ten cows and heifers just across from the singers. All were born at Sgroib Ruadh , the remarkable farm outside Tobermory which makes Isle of Mull cheese.
New Year's Eve saw us back in the hall joined by friends and family who had come to see the New Year in on Muck. Once again Loch Nevis left Muck out and we had to rely on Sheerwater. At this juncture I must point out that Arisaig Marine receives no State funding yet to Muck she also provides a 'lifeline' service. If this was Ireland all ferry operators would be receiving State help. Back to the New Year celebrations.
In the hall we all tucked into a superb haunch of the finest venison, danced and played games before seeing 2013 arrive at Port Mor House.
On the beach next day the tide was low and the usual game of hockey ensued with the ball slowed by the wet sand and no one was seriously injured!
Many of our sticks are past their best so it is good news that we have been awarded a grant for sports equipment by the Communities 2014 Sports Fund. Hockey sticks are included. After the game a quick dip in the sea has often followed. This year only one player was tough enough to take the plunge-Emma Walters!
Lastly I am delighted to announce the engagement of Mary MacEwen to Toby Flichner-Irvine.
Lawrence MacEwen

ISLE OF CANNA
This month we welcomed Colin Irvine and David Marr who have taken on the running of Tighard Guest House. They have been busy setting up and are now open for business. Their website is www.tighard.co.uk
Lucy Conway from Eigg visited to talk through the I-Scape project and we are gathering information to contribute to this.
Contractors AA Young from Fort William arrived to lay the foundations for the rebuild of the New House which was destroyed by fire last winter. It is great to see this rebuild and it is hoped it will be ready for May/June.
We said goodbye to Aart and Amanda Lastdrager who had been running the restaurant for the last 3 years. We are now looking for new folks to take on this great little business and there has been lots of interest so far. It is hoped that it will be open for Easter/early summer.
Farmwise this is a quieter time of year, mainly routine feeding of stock and catching up on maintenance. Murdo and Gerry have been branding Blackface gimmers.
This entails burning a year of birth number onto the horn for aging the animal in future, most farmers have given up this practice as they relay on the compulsory tagging systems and colour coded tags instead.
The community on Canna would like to thank everyone who has supported us through what has been a very difficult year, we hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and enjoy bringing in the New Year.
Geraldine MacKinnon

ISLE OF EIGG
Thankfully, the world did not end on 21 December 2012, otherwise West Word readers would have failed to hear about all the fun things which happened on Eigg this December, starting with the Caribbean Cocktail night on 8 December dreamt up by Katrin Bach of the Eiggy Bread duo. Magically transformed, Eigg hall became a venue for islanders sporting sunshades and hawaian shirts, shell necklaces and other exotic not to say quixotic wear. To the deep percussions of the Brazilica lounge sound system, mistresses of the cocktail bar, Katie and Ailidh dispensed an eclectic assortment of Dark and Stormy, Caipirinho, Pina Colada and such likes, which emboldened each and all to try their skill at limbo dancing. The prize was easily won by Audra Cormack, but it was unanimously (or should it be anonymously) agreed that Ruaridh Kirk should get the prize for most persistent attempter!
The following weekend, Caribbean cooking gave way to Christmas fare, and with everyone contributing to a 3 course festive meal, the Christmas spirit truthfully descended on the island, gathering not quite a hundred folks for a really lovely evening which even saw the Eigg singing group perform hearty renditions of favourite carols.
The stage was then set for Santa to arrive at the hall on Friday 14 followed by the children's nativity play Silent Night on Tuesday 18. Our Primary school experienced thespians proved as excellent and professional as last year, with this year the added twist of contributing majorly to the script, including some Gaelic content! Those not in the know might have believed that the Silent Night Carol was composed in Germany, but they are entirely wrong, for according to the script, it was actually composed on Eigg in Grulin by Murdo McDuff, the island bard aided by his famous piper friend, Donald MacQuarrie! The three dancing mice were a hoot, the solo pennywhistle performance by Mia Lancaster fantastic, and as to Maisie Wiggin's debut as angel, it is a promising start from the Nursery class! As to the Christmas Eve Carol Service in St Donnan's church, it saw enough singers this year to really raise the roof in the refurbished church which proved once again to be so much warmer and cosier than ever before! A big thank you also goes to Mick and Jacky for their hospitality at the Whale's Head later on, with the excellent choice of Christmas anthems that made Cindy and Megan feel quite at home!
John Cormack is the 2012 Eigg Scrabble Champion, taking the crown from last year's winner Brian Greene.
An altogether merry December without the drama of last year's fearful storm although there was enough wind to disturb sailings on a number of occasions, most frustratingly when the large South easterly swell on the 19th prevented the ferry from berthing, giving us a taste of what Muck folks are having to put up with on a regular basis. If the ferry review published this month is to be believed, the Small Isles ferry service is likely to see substantial changes intended to bring more flexibility, although it is difficult to see it happening in the time frame mentioned. So to the hard working crew of the Loch Nevis as well as to everyone else, best wishes from Eigg for a great year in 2013!
Camille Dressler


NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR

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The Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Board Members & Staff at The Mallaig Harbour Authority wish to take this opportunity to wish all harbour customers/users all the best for 2013!
Robert MacMillan
Port Manager/Secretary 01687 462154
www.mallaigharbourauthority.com


Mallaig Lifeboat Log
Two 'shouts' occurred during the last month of the year, bringing the annual total callouts to forty!

Wednesday 26th December: Lifeboat launched at 1530 hrs at the request of the Stornoway Coastguard to investigate a report from a member of the public of flames and smoke on the shoreline at the mouth of Loch Nevis.
The Coastguard Rescue Helicopter was also tasked to carry out a search of the area and, with both rescue services arriving on scene at the same time (15.45 hrs), a co-ordinated search got under way. The Lifeboat commenced to search from Airor into Loch Hourn and the Y- boat was launched to check the foreshore. Meanwhile the Rescue Helicopter had landed and made contact with the occupants of one of the houses there, and it was quickly established that they had set alight a bonfire on the foreshore earlier in the day, so with the source now established and the fire extinguished, both the Rescue Helicopter and the Lifeboat were relieved from their duties and returned to their respective bases.
Mallaig Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 17.10 hrs.

Sunday December 30th: The 40th call out of the year was for a missing horse! Mallaig Lifeboat was launched at 16.15 hrs when tasked by HM Coastguard to search for a horse last observed swimming near the fish farm at Ardintigh, Loch Nevis.
The thoroughbred had been missing from its field for a couple of days as it had been 'spooked by thunder'. The owner had spotted the animal in the water earlier in the day and had seen it make the shore at Ardintigh, but when she went to collect the horse it bolted back into the water and began to swim off in the direction of Stole Point. By this time the horse owner was becoming extremely concerned, hence the call out for Coastguard and Lifeboat assistance. On scene at 16.30 hrs, in the fading light, the Lifeboat commenced a search, even launching the Y-boat to check the lochside. Joined by Inverie based vessel Venturer, the search for the horse along the shoreline continued with the help of searchlights. A white para-flame was used to illuminate the search area but no trace of the animal was found. After three hours the search was abandoned with the Lifeboat returning to its pontoon at Mallaig Harbour.
Post note: The horse has since been reunited with its owner, none the worse for its escapade.

Annual statistics:
The total number of callouts during the calendar year 2012 for Mallaig's Severn Class Lifeboat Henry Alston Hewat numbered forty.
This compares with 32 callouts in 2011 and 31 in 2010.
The busiest month of 2012 was August when the Lifeboat was launched on seven occasions.
RMM


A new footbridge for the Isle of Soay and a farewell to the old
Although this article is essentially about our new footbridge, funded by island residents/crofters, second homeowners and landowners, we would also like it to be a tribute to the old one.

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Isle of Soay fisherman Oliver Davies ferried the timbers for the new bridge over to the island using his trawler Golden Isles and Robert and Anne Cholawo constructed it. The original footbridge spanned the larger of two burns that cross the one track on the South East side of the island. The bridge has been there longer than living memory. Harry Cameron, born on Soay and who left at the time of the evacuation in 1953 at the age of twenty-one, made a visit to the island last summer with his wife to see the home of his childhood. He told us that the bridge had been there since his earliest memories. This makes the original footbridge at least eighty years old. Quite a testimonial to the original builders.

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Having lived here for a significant number of years, we have come to learn how difficult and time-consuming it can be to build anything on an island without a jetty, road or vehicles. Very often compromises have to be made with the type of materials to hand or tools available, and everything has to be manhandled from boat to dinghy, beach to destination. In the days when the people of Soay decided to build the original footbridge, there was no metalled road to Elgol on Skye, no convenient timber merchant, no delivery lorries, nor telephone communication and definitely no power tools. The island was infinitely more remote and inaccessible than it is today. We are not even sure where the original wood for the old bridge came from and wonder if they had been ship's timbers at one time, as some of the wood shows signs of tar and pitch. There is no doubt that the original builders were economic but highly skilful, making the most of the materials available to them, producing something practical and durable for several generations.
Over the last few years it was increasingly obvious that the old footbridge was becoming unsafe. No amount of minor repair work would solve the steady deterioration. Our neighbour Oliver Davies voiced the problem of trying to replace it early in September of 2012. The bridge had been such a permanent feature for so many years, no one had seriously thought about what should happen, or who would be responsible when it actually came to a new footbridge being required.
However, after a few phone calls and emails made by Oliver and us, it transpired that the track is a private, communal right of way. All those who have an active interest in the island were more than willing to contribute an equal share toward the cost of materials.
We would like to thank Scott and Roderick from Elgol who came over on Golden Isles and helped lug twenty-foot joists and planks up the beach to their destination, along with James, a summer resident. Not forgetting those who gave a helping hand at the jetty in Elgol (Jim, Maggie-Anne and Tony). We would also like to thank the manager of Jewsons in Broadford, Martin Philips and his staff for their helpful advice on suitable materials and accurate costing.
It took about two weeks to remove the old bridge and replace it with the new one. Balmy October weather made the task easier and quicker than expected. With some salvaged timbers from the original bridge, Robert made a simple bench placed near the new footbridge. To some, this may seem an insignificant event, as most are used to change and renewal. Here on Soay, we are familiar with slow and steady decline; people leave, houses fall into disrepair and weeds grow where there used to be flourishing vegetables and flowers. So to us, it has real significance. A tiny group of people have co-operated in a small but positive way and achieved something tangible for themselves.

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There are only three full time residents here on Soay at present, Oliver Davies, Robert and myself, Anne. Without the help of all those who willingly and happily 'chipped in' it would not have been impossible, but certainly more costly and time consuming to replace the footbridge. So lastly, a very genuine 'Thank you' to everyone who contributed and have made the project a pleasurable success.
Anne Cholawo, Soay


WIN A COPY OF DAVID CARGILL'S LATEST BOOK!
We are re-running the competition to win a copy of David's new book as there was a hold-up last month with half the subscriptions, and the issue didn't go online until the beginning of January, all due to circumstances outwith our control! So many people didn't have a chance to enter. Entries received already will of course be included in the draw.
In November, local author David Cargill launched his second novel Gauntlet of Fear, a sequel to The Statue of Three Lies.
David excels in the 'locked room' mystery and gives his readers a chance to play detective using the clues which can be found throughout the story.
Main character and 'sleuth' Professor Giles Dawson, historian of magic and the great illusionists, travels from Devon to York and ends up in Lochaber in his attempt to solve a murder so bizarre that supernatural influences might have to be considered.
Two lucky West Word readers have the chance to win a copy of Gauntlet of Fear. Just answer this question:
'What is the title of David's first novel?'
Send it to West Word at Morar Station Building, Morar, Inverness-shire PH39 4NP, or email editor@westword.org.uk by the closing date of Friday February 1st 2013.
The first two entries pulled out of the hat on the 1st will win the books.


On and Off the Rails

Special Award for ScotRail Employee
ScotRail's External Manager, John Yellowlees, received a well deserved award for 'Outstanding Contribution to the Railway' at the 'Your Recognition Awards' Ball held in November 2012 in Glasgow.
John has been solely responsible for building ScotRail's 'Adopt a Station' scheme since 2005 to the point that more than 150 stations have now been adopted by local groups or individuals. Stations adopted in our area include Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Glenfinnan, Corpach, Banavie and Fort William. In 2012 Mallaig was awarded Gold status in the Keep Scotland Beautiful Award Scheme, and all the other stations awarded Bronze status. John said 'My work wouldn't be possible without the help of many other colleagues and I would like to thank them all.'
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail's Managing Director, said 'As a business, recognising our people and developing strong engagement levels are some of our top priorities. John is a true Ambassador for ScotRail, spending a great deal of time out in the local communities that we serve. He is a deserving winner and I am pleased that we have had the chance to say thank you.'
I would like to thank John personally for all his encouragement, help and support for me when I adopted the three railway stations that I look after - Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig. Without his encouragement and the back up and tolerance of local ScotRail employees, including the maintenance staff, it would not be possible to keep all three stations decked out with flowers each year.

Corrour Station Restaurant
August 1st 2012 saw the re-opening of the Station Restaurant at Corrour Station. Previously operated by SYHA, it is now leased by Lizzie MacKenzie and Ollie Bennett. Since its reopening, they have worked hard at building a good reputation, and it is proving to be very popular for walking groups, backpackers staying at Loch Ossian SYHA, parties, special occasions and Corrour Estate staff and friends. As it can only be reached by rail (or walking) it has a special magic all of its own.
On December 15th I met up with friends from Roy Bridge, Edinburgh and Annan for a pre-Christmas meal, and was made to feel very welcome. We stepped off the train into deep snow and were rewarded by the warmth of a huge log-burning stove, leather settees, a birthday party also taking place, two impromptu female guitarists and an excellent meal, with a wide choice of real ales and wine.
Lizzie and Ollie are hoping by March 2013 to have the overnight accommodation facilities refurbished and open for business. This means that from our area you could travel down on the sitting up part of the Caledonian Sleeper train in the evening, have a good meal and stay overnight before returning on the next morning's sleeper train to Fort William, connection to Mallaig at lunchtime on The Jacobite or ScotRail service. We wish them all the very best for 2013, and I am looking forward to an overnight stop at Corrour in March!
A lunchtime or an evening meal can be enjoyed by using the regular daily service between Mallaig and Glasgow. I highly recommend it.
Before travelling I would advise you to telephone the restaurant in advance, to find out opening times and book a space, as seating is limited to about 30 persons - but well used - and cosy! The telephone number for Corrour Station House Restaurant is 01397 732236 and they are opening through January to March.

ScotRail Club 55 returns
Once again ScotRail has come up trumps with their value for money return ticket offer in Scotland for persons aged 55 and over. It will run from January 14th to March 28th (the return ticket being valid for one month after your departure date) at a flat fare of 19, or 17 if you hold a Senior Citizen Railcard or a Disabled Persons Railcard. Unfortunately, this time round, due to operating conditions between train operating companies, there are certain conditions.
1. Club 55 is not valid on East Coast services
2. Club 55 is now not valid for travel to and from Berwick-upon-Tweed.
3. Club 55 is now not valid on the cross country services from Edinburgh to Aberdeen at 18.11 on Saturdays and 18.13 on Sundays.
However, it is available for travel from most stations in Scotland to and from Carlisle, is available for advance booking (with free seat reservation, i.e. window seat, forward or back facing, near the toilet - or away from it!) but advance booking is not compulsory. Tickets can be booked now from any staffed railway station, by telephone or website. The advantage of advance booking is, of course, that you know you have a seat. You may find that your return journey is full if you have not booked in advance, especially as it gets nearer to early Easter. You must carry proof of age/valid ID when using Club 55.
I hope that explains it all clearly!

Friends of Glenfinnan Station
The FOGS December 2012 newsletter has just been printed, no. 36 in the series, edited by Hege Hernaes. If you wish to join FOGS and receive the newsletter, please contact Hege on 01397 722295 or email glenfinnanstn@btconnect.com or fax 01397 722334.
Obviously I cannot reproduce the whole newsletter here (I wish I could!) but salient points are:
Volunteers are requested for the final 300 metres of hand pathbuilding still needed to finish 'The Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail'.
The Grand Opening of the Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail is on Saturday May 4th 2013, in association with the Loch Shiel Spring Festival, with pop-up concerts, guided tours and family events at Glenfinnan Station and throughout the village. Full details on www.shielfestival.com in early February.
The FOGS AGM will be held on Saturday March 2nd 2013 in Glenfinnan Sleeping Car. Soup & sandwiches. 1pm. Please let John or Hege know if you intend to be present at the AGM.
The Glenfinnan Station Museum is looking for a Business Development Manager, a full time position managing small scale retail outlets at the mueum heritage site and aboard The Jacobite. Start date 1st April 2013. Closing date for applications 16th January 2013. For job description and application details contact 01397 722295.

ScotRail price increases for 2013
We are lucky that ScotRail has probably the lowest price increase compared with other train operating companies. As from January 1st 2013, these increases have commenced. For your information and guidance, I have listed train fares in our region. Fare examples are as follows:
Mallaig - Glasgow was 30.70, now 31.90 return.
Mallaig - Fort William was 13.70, now 14.20 return.
As above, single was 11, now 11.40.
The above prices are all without any concessionary card, so they becomer cheaper if you have a valid discount card.
Also there are discounted sleeper tickets for travel between Fort William and London. See www.scotrail.co.uk for information about these travel tickets, or for a closer look at the Caledonian Sleeper, go to scotrail.co.uk/sleeper for an online virtual tour! Well worth a look at!

See you on the train!
Sonia Cameron


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Was it a stag party? No, he was listening to the Songs for Dawn fundraising concert in the Astley Hall, Arisaig on 2nd January! Thanks to Colleen MacLean for the photo - check out this and more of her photos on the Arisaig Games facebook page.


WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
A quick trip this month - couldn't we have gone somewhere warm? Brr!

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Liz McLean of Mallaig took us to Neko Harbour in Antarctica. We notice she kept her gloves on while reading!

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Heather and Willie Simpson left Mallaig for the delights of Bergen, Norway, last year and made sure they took us with them.

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The Mallaig Sewing Group took us on a trip to Berlin, where they found just the shop for them!

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Sarah and Laura (Heather Simpson's Grand daughters) made sure we were with them in Nairn on their October holidays.

Dig out those snaps of yourselves with West Word that you took on last year's holiday and send them in - we don't mind when it was!


Birdwatch report to 20th December 2012 by Stephen MacDonald
Overall a fairly quiet month with most of the usual winter visitors reported, but still no sign of either Iceland or Glaucous Gulls despite the fact that there has been a huge number of other gull species around Mallaig this month, taking advantage of the easy pickings from the successful sprat fishery.
There was a belated report of a fairly large white Owl seen perched on a rock on the open hillside in the Mallaig Vaig - Mallaig Mhor area on the 14th. Possible Snowy Owl? Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala throughout, sometimes accompanied by Wigeon and Teal.
There were at least 2 male Goosanders along with several Goldeneye at the west end of Loch Morar, near Rhubana on the 12th.
At Traigh on the 1st the local Greylags were joined by a couple of Canada Geese. On Loch nan Uamh, by Druimindarroch, there were at least 10 Great Northern Divers feeding close inshore on the 12th.
Jays were seen and heard around Loch nan Eala, Arisaig, and also around Morar Lodge on numerous occasions during the month. A single Jay was seen between Rhubana View and the Morar Dam on the 2nd.
Small flocks of Siskins were seen feeding on Alder in Arisaig on several occasions during the month. Up to 4 Lesser Redpolls appeared back on garden feeders at Rhubana View from the 12th, plus 2 Reed Buntings were seen there also.
There were a couple of reported Sea Eagles in the Morar area and a Barn Owl was seen at Rhubana on the 19th, while a bird was present at the cliff-roost in Mallaig most days. I hope all readers and those who send in their sightings had a Marry Christmas - Happy New Year!


Links and linkages or 'An Australian in Arisaig'
Australia is a young/old country with a long memory. So many people have crossed the world to the Lucky Country and dispersed to the vastness of Down Under that one chord only has kept the people connected. That chord is attachment to family. New attachments and links are constantly being forged in Australia. Each new wave brings the stories and traditions of "the old home country". So it is natural in 2012 to visit the place left in 1851 and carry a sense of attachment transmitted by word of mouth across seven generations.
Our mob left the West Highlands in 1851 on Marco Polo. This was part of a group emigration to Port Phillip. The families initially stuck together and settled near each other. A core group - including John MacDonald and Margaret MacIsaac - settled at Little River (between Geelong and Werribee). From there the families scattered in the gold rushes. John, Margaret and their many children found their way to Heathcote (a gold prospecting town) where John died in 1875. I remember as a boy that my family went 'back to Heathcote' in the early 1970s. MacDonalds married MacKenzies married Crowes married Atkins - several generations found their way to Australia Felix - the Western District of Victoria (including Koroit) - and then to Crowes ( with a new railway line) then Irrewarra at Colac and thence to Melbourne.
Many stories were transmitted. Some were so incredible that a sceptical little boy started to 'check the facts'. This didn't help for confidence in one's own perspective because most of the stories turned out to be true.
Further links were found on the wide world web. Michael Murray's excellent treatise Prayers and Pastures gave a specific track to follow. Fortunately the large family paid off as the ages and names could be traced at John's death certificate, the 1851 ship's passenger list (Egnaig), the 1851 census (Acharacle) and the 1841 census (Glenuig). Then the baptism registers were found for six children (Glenuig and Moss) 1831-46. Finally a death record for Ronald 1845. All of this happened due to the accumulated links and published data made by generous individuals over time.
The web struck again. Contact with Tearlach MacDonald for An Tilleadh resulted in a link to Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald at Arisaig. This proved a great boon with generous and gracious hosts fortified by a powerful library and even more powerful memories. We found ourselves at the heart of the Gaeltacht and family history.
At home we have expeditions called 'hub and spoke'. The team gather at the hub and go on day trips. We took trips to Glenuig and were delighted to see Egnaig - hosted by Jean and Ken Bowker and Gordon Barr of An Commun Eachdraid Muidert. This revealed a whole township - abandoned (like many a gold rush town) - but evocative of so much history. We particularly enjoyed seeing the excise house next to a local house. The Egnaig cemetery was peaceful. The steady march of time, entropy, deer and the elements have affected the village site and limited visibility. It was so much more rewarding to stand at and in the houses knowing this was what the family saw before leaving for Australia.
It progressively dawned on us that the family spent twenty years at Glenuig. In 1825 Reginald George Clanranald sought to sell his estates. We found two Ranal MacDonals listed as tenants at Glenuig. 'Asking around' found us locating the old school lochside and a previous school up the glen. It appears the family were at the old old school and may have taught there. More enquiries revealed a close link with Smirisary where the MacIsaacs were base. A loose hint suggested a Forbes connection possibly on the islands north of Morvern. Naturally we took as many photos as we could and found everyone kindly allowed us to visit whenever we asked. Side tracks took us to the Clan Donald Centre Armadale where there is an excellent family history centre a special focus on archaeology. These activities are of special help to us and 0 I imagine - of all the families of diasporan chloinn Domnhuill. This centre appears to have a great opportunity for expansion and action as a hub to link diasporan folk with local history groups.
Another sidetrack led us to Rhu Arisaig with Tearlach MacDonald. It was eerie to see signs of an obvious settlement (and temporary seminary) now an idyllic rural picture.
Everyone we met was generous and courteous. We had especially moving visits with Tearlach MacFarlane and Angus Peter Maclean who made us feel like family and spoke of our common attachments warmly. The charisma of gentlemen such as these is a treasure of the Highlands. With so many snippets and links made, the mind seeks more. The whole remains true whilst the colours and detail of specific information deepens the sense of real attachment. The potential links between the self-grown groups seems obvious to a visitor. The hub and spoke of a clan centre with local history groups offers an elegant mechanism to enhance all our experience of our common humanity. At a very practical level the specific links to homeland enabled by visiting "the very site" cause those emotional moments that are priceless. We will never forget standing at the final resting place of the last who stayed.
Coincidentally, the web has struck again. Whilst in Arisaig and Moidart we received emails representing several families in Australia who wish to share information. Our advance party will now be able to plug them into the local history groups, the Glenuig estate, the extended family and An Tilleadh. Maybe further strengthening and deepening of ties will follow. with thanks and hooroo
Irene and Bill Atkin


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