Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
July 2004 Issue
Contents of the online version:
CLANRANALD TO OPEN ARISAIG GAMES
Ranald MacDonald, 24th Chief and Captain of Clanranald, has been invited to open this year's Arisaig Games where he will present major prizes to the contestants. The Games will take place at Traigh Farm on Wednesday, 28th July, and will include the traditional events, sideshows and refreshments.
The news of Clanranald's presence has created great interest in the Arisaig Games from all over the world, with folk planning to travel from all parts of the globe to take part or spectate.
Clan Donald, America, will be represented by Ruairidh (Rodney) Allen, Commissioner of Clan Donald, North Carolina. Ruairidh is a descendant of the Kinlochmoidart and Barisdale Dòmhnallach. He hopes to be accompanied by his friend, Canadian Major Bruce MacDonald, Toiseach of the newly reconstituted Council of Finlaggan.
The Clan Cameron will be represented by Bhal Smith, President of Clan Cameron, N.S.W., Australia, Bhal is a Cameron/MacDonald descendant whose Cameron ancestors went from Sunart and Corriebeg, Lochielside, to Australia in the early 19th century.
Clan Donald and Clan Cameron will share a marquee with An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig . Clan history, local history and genealogy will be on display so, "Thig a'stigh, bithidh sibh uaraidh fàilte!"
The dance in the Astley Hall will open at 10 p.m and the band will consist of members of Skipinish and Blazin' Fiddles.
MONARCH OF THE HILL
Cnoc-na-Faire Hotel is to feature in a forthcoming episode of Monarch of the Glen, the popular BBC TV series. The series is usually shot around Loch Laggan, and the surrounding area is promoted as the 'Monarch Trail.' Once filming has finished at the Cnoc, owners David and Jenny Sharpe hope that the location will be added to the Trail. Shooting starts in August.
Patron of the North-West Fishermen's Association since 1993, the Rt. Hon Frances Shand Kydd, who sadly passed away last month, is seen here with officials past and present of the M&NWFA. The present Chairman of the Association, Mr John MacAlister, was one of the pall bearers at her funeral service held in Oban Cathedral.
(With thanks for stylistic inspiration to the Man from Scalpay, The Oban Times).
We had a ceilidh, organised by Drew to raise money for sponsoring his teams entering the Caledonian Challenge. Iain MacFarlane, Duncan Chisholm, and the man who runs the ferry on Loch Shiel arrived in Inverie after a slight delay in a Mallaig hostelry. The ceilidh started around about midnight, and was well attended by locals.
Drew Harris, Alaister Smith, Alan Haynes, Murray Carden and Iain Fleming from Knoydart all took part in the double-marathon walk along the route of the West Highland Way. They were accompanied along the 54 miles (in less than 24 hours) by Knoydart visitors, and were able to enter two full teams. They were aided and abetted by Robert Beveridge and Angela Williams in a support-team role. Money raised by the two teams goes to the Scottish Community Foundation, and should be well into the hundreds of pounds.
There has not been much peat cutting in Knoydart recently.
We have had quite a few yachts recently, as well as some faster boats. There is a big white liner moored offshore just now, but they haven't come ashore yet. The hillwalkers this year all seem to be keen on singing, with some of them able to play musical instruments. Some Glen Elg people came and danced on the tables.
There was a dance in the Village Hall, organised by Nick on the occasion of Sandy's dad's 60th.
There has been an application to run a mussel farm in Inverie Bay. The community had a meeting, with mainly negative reactions to the plan. A letter has been sent to the planning department in Inverness. They may need to employ a marine biologist to interpret parts of it. We have one, if they're interested.
Rumours of a Royal Mail delivery to Barisdale appear to be completely unfounded.
Sandy had his 30th birthday last night (24th June). Unfortunately, he could not find a Portuguese flag in the Mallaig / Knoydart area - nevertheless, a good time was had. His present of a Buffalo jacket means that there should be no more RIB rides in bermuda shirts. He'll be wearing wickable simmets and big clumpy hillwalker boots next.
We have it - and it appears to be working. We have a satellite dish at Scottas, and a wireless network throughout Inverie. Matt Humphrey is on hand to fix any problems should they appear, which is very reassuring.
Roger, Anne and Piers now have some strange woolly residents, who appear to be settling in well. Looking forward to the hand-knitted scarves.
Good to see John and Janet back in Sandaig back after what must have been a difficult week. Our sympathy and thoughts are with you.
Check out the Knoydart Webcam! Tommy has set it up to show the view towards the pier from his window, and it updates every few minutes. Most activity will be around 11 am and 3 pm when the Western Isles arrives.
ISLE OF MUCK
The Open day is past. We were lucky with the weather. The sun may not have shone much, but it was dry and the crossing fairly calm. For the Sheerwater was full with 89 passengers. This is 40 less than her predecessor but it does make catering easier and the tractor tour less crowded.
Broadband is coming! Sitting at a computer is a very unhealthy occupation and alien to our traditions but it is the present and the future. So we are very lucky that the Scottish Office is providing a connection to Broadband at a fraction of its real cost and Muck could be online before the end of July.
The pier waiting room is nearing completion. It is an attractive traditional building, vastly superior to the hideous plastic monstrosities that some islands have had to put up with. It should have a long life unlike our school which requires fairly major external renovation after only 10 years.
On the farm corncrakes are everywhere, certainly more than last year so perhaps it is an appropriate time to join Rural Stewardship, after which two fields will not be cut until 1st August.
On 3rd June 12 stirks departed on Spanish John bound for the Fort William sale. An eventful journey but they arrived in time to make some of the highest prices ever. All the Simental cross heifers were bought by Gordon MacNiven and his sin now at Kingussie but formerly farming on Eigg.
Spanish John also brought over 20 tons of lime. Several fields on the farm have increasing numbers of buttercups growing, a sure sign of a need for lime.
Regular music tuition is now up and running (thanks to Highland Council) although the practicalities of boat travel coupled with a very busy summer so far mean that we've not been able to fit in as many sessions as we'd hoped. Hopefully things will be easier in July and August. Thanks to Calmac for offering us a discount on the children's fares to help them get to the music classes. No news (is good news???) yet of our Awards for All application.
The next date for diaries is 13th/14th July when we have the Waiting for the Calm masked theatre and music group. They're doing a children's show, plus an evening concert, plus a mask-making workshop. For more details ring 01687 462828.
Thanks to everyone who raised a huge wheen of dosh by doing extremely silly things at the party in the tent after Open Day (names and details withheld to protect everyone's reputations, but photos may be circulating!).
ISLE OF CANNA
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), owners and managers of Canna and the adjoining island of Sanday, have plans which echo the story of the popular TV series 'A Thousand Acres of Sky'. They are to convert an existing self-catering property into a guest house and then hope to attract a family to the island to run it. The plans for Canna's future, developed in conjunction with the islanders, also includes the renovation of two derelict cottages to provide self-catering accommodation.
The renovations and also the conservation of artefacts known as 'The Canna Collection' are being supported by the local enterprise company, Lochaber Enterprise, with a financial package worth £75,650. 'The Canna Collection' is currently in the possession of Mrs Margaret Fay Shaw, the widow of John Lorne Campbell, who left the island to The National Trust for Scotland on his death. The collection is based in Canna House, but at the moment is not available for public access. The project will work to conserve and preserve all the archive material within Canna House.
Pete McHugh, area manager with NTS, said: "We strongly believe the Canna Collection should remain and be cared for on the island for future exhibition and this project will ensure that happens."
The NTS are also investigating the feasibility of replacing the existing footbridge from Canna to Sanday with a vehicular bridge. The Highland Council have undertaken a feasibility study with a budget of £5,000.
Lochaber Enterprise will provide £2,500 of assistance for the feasibility study with the other £2,500 coming from LEADER+, which is s a European Union programme, which seeks to promote economic and community development within rural areas. The island school is on Sanday as is St Edward's Chapel, which has recently been renovated to provide tourism facilities. One of the main priorities for the development of the islands will be the provision of vehicular access.
Meanwhile the island's problem with rats, which are eating bird chicks and eggs and depleting the birdlife for which Canna is famous, might be tackled by a New Zealand team of abseiling rodent controllers! The National Trust has used them on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.
However, the quote received for the job may be beyond the national Trust's means, and they are thinking of ways of fund-raising.
ISLE OF EIGG
As usual, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust's 12th June Anniversary was a very special occasion, bringing back old friends and introducing new faces to the friendly Eigg vibe: great dancing, great music and great sessions. The barbeque was pretty good too, so thanks to all those who contributed to the event's organisation. The weather was not quite what it could have been, with many campers experiencing extremely wet conditions on the following Monday morning, but nevertheless it was still a cracking weekend, with the Eiggach winning the Saturday football friendly over the young Glasgow posse! Well done, ye old timers! It must be all those boules tournaments that give you such stamina…
If the weather was a bit disappointing for the Eigg June painting holiday led by Lake watercolourist Jill Aldersley, it was even worse for the island farmers who have started shearing in earnest: mumbles about emigrating to sunnier climes have been heard! However the rain was good news for the island hydro-systems which were grinding to a halt beforehand. Other good news are that the island is to have a full scale survey by alternative energy company Econnect to determine how they can build a system to provide power for the whole island into which existing hydro and wind power systems can feed. 24 hours power for all will be a significant breakthrough and should provide a wealth of hitherto undreamt of opportunities.
News that broadband was to reach Eigg by early July - ie well before mainland communities - was welcomed at the Trust's quarterly board meeting! It is sometimes an advantage to be a remote, isolated community…. The resignation of trust chairman, Simon Fraser, was also announced: Simon who chaired IEHT for 7 years, decided to step down for health reasons: his wisdom and experience will be sadly missed, making him a very hard act to follow. Our sincere, warmest heartfelt thanks go to him for all the hard work he put in the creation of the trust and its nurturing during our fledgling years. John Hutchison, the Lochaber Area manager, will take over as interim chairperson until elections are carried out. In the meantime, we congratulate Pascal Carr for his election as new Trust director for the next 4 years. Good luck, Pascal!
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to Feis Eige from Thursday 15th to Sunday 19th July, with a sterling tutors cast: Eilidh Shaw for the fiddle, Kenny Knowles on percussion , Kenn Clark on guitar (the last two from Hoogie!), Donna MacCulloch on the whistle and Leo MacCann for the button box. We may also prevail on Lucy Conway to let Eddie do a spoons workshop, as she does wonder how many spoons players a small island can take! In this case do bring your best set of silver spoons, nothing else will do!
The Victorian type lamp posts now march through the village and in some cases the awful orange old ones have even been taken down! The light from the new ones is much softer and less intrusive so it's a great improvement. Meanwhile Arisaig takes a step nearer being Lochaber's Tobermory with the painting of the Spar shop in a warm shade of terracotta. I could see Tommy thinking about going green…
Thank you to the gentleman who wrote to me after last month's column when I asked for pieces on the SOE, I will be replying; also to the young woman at BBC Radio who read it too and who then emailed me a piece from their archives.
For those who have been wondering about the World War I records which were found in the Hall and which received a lot of publicity at the time - we are about to put an application together for the Heritage Lottery, to have them copied digitally and become available for all to look at. There were various reasons for the delay, one of which was the case which they will be displayed in - the chosen wood had to dry out and season for a year. Hopefully the grant and copying process won't take too long, so watch this space…
If you came to the excellent Dochas concert you will probably have been accosted by ladies with clipboards, asking a few questions about how far you'd come, how you'd heard about the concert, etc. This was part of an Audience Development project for which the Promoters Art Network (PAN) sought funding; Arisaig, Mallaig and Glenuig are joining together as a pilot for the project and this was the first piece of work the team have done. Reading the feedback was interesting and perhaps surprising - for example, most holidaymakers had come because they'd seen it advertised in West Word. Both visitors and locals said there was poor support from locals. Part of the project is to find out why people don't attend as much as why they do and you might find yourself being asked that over the next few weeks. That too should make interesting reading.
This month we've tried to provide things for the younger residents to do while the schools are on holiday, so I hope they prove popular.
The Agricultural Show Dance was a great success and Eriskay Lilt seem to have gone down very well, so much so that they have been booked for next year too I believe!
Thanks to those who have given me used ink cartridges for Hall funds, I'm ready to send off another boxful. The last raised £42.
Road to the Isles Agricultural Show
The Road to the Isles Agricultural Show was held on Saturday 12 June at Camusdarach, Arisaig, by kind permission of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Simpson and after all the wet weather we had had it was great to have a pleasant dry day and no midges! There was an excellent turn-out of exhibitors, both in the livestock and industrial sections, and the committee would like to thank everyone for supporting the show so well, especially those who travelled a long distance. There were exhibitors from as far apart as the Isle of Mull and Inverness. Although the livestock classes are confined to the Ardnamurchan and Morvern peninsulas, and Knoydart, the Small isles and Mull, the Highland cattle classes are open to all of Scotland. This helped to give an excellent turn-out of Highlanders and the competition was keen, with some of the animals there already entered for the Highland Show at Ingliston later in the month.
A good crowd of spectators in the afternoon enjoyed a full programme of events including a falconry display by Euan Naylor and Jenny Sandiford from Skye. Tullochville Working Horses gave a demonstration of how farm-work was tackled before the advent of tractors and Iain McConnell from Garvan, Locheilside gave an excellent display of sheep-dog handling. There were also sheep-shearing and woodcarving demonstrations. For the more sport-minded there was a sheaf-tossing competition and a junior shinty match.
D Campbell, Overall Cattle Champion
Musical interludes were provided by Stephanie and Olivia Bridge of Arisaig and the Lochaber Wind Band. The Band started off the afternoon's entertainment followed by the girls playing the bagpipes to herald the start of the events in the ring. They both later played at intervals throughout the afternoon.
In the end, a great day was had by all concerned and we look forward to another great show next year.
BRYAN WALTERS (BRYAN'S BENCH)
Dear Calmac Employees and Employers
I am a tourist student, as part of my course I have to do a research programme. I have chosen to do mine on Calmac. The reason that I picked Calmac is when I was in the Mallaig Heritage Centre during the summer; a man came in with books about the boats of Calmac that sailed out of Mallaig. I decided to look up the Calmac website to get more information on them and to see if there were any crew members that had their stories on their website. The name and dates of employees and employers went back as far as the 1940 and was the last entry for those who worked on Calmac boats. So I thought I would try and bring it up to the present day.
What I need help with is getting information from past and present employees and employers. In doing this I am looking at where you were based, the memories and tales you have and any photographs you might have. All photographs will be returned, and will only be used with the sender's permission.
At one time the railway had something to do with Calmac ferries that sailed from Mallaig. I would be interested to find out if this was the case elsewhere and what their involvement was.
I hope that by the back end of the year I have enough information about Calmac to have an exhibition in the Mallaig Heritage Centre.
You can contact me by writing to me at:
Mrs Theresa Skea, 2 Columba Road, Morar, Nr Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH40 4PH
By Telephone on 01687 462390 Or by e-mail at Theresa.email@example.com
Alternately you can contact Malcolm Poole the curator at:
Mallaig Heritage Centre, Station Rd, Mallaig, Inverness-shire
By Telephone on 01687 462085 Or by going on line at www.mallaigheritage.org.uk
Thank you for your help and look forwards to hearing from you soon
Our new Forest Green paint meets approval! This Sitka deer was seen outside the West Word office by the editor.
Coastal Ranger Report
Well I don't know! Here I am sitting, alert, at the computer, gazing hopelessly at the screen, wondering where on earth has June gone? I just can't believe it, after all, the weather has been ………… (you may here insert your own choice of words or descriptive phrases) such that I should know what I've been doing as I'm sure I must have been confined most days! Anyway, much more of this wet stuff and I will have to be properly confined - and I mean the whole works!! Surely with the onset of the summer holidays (oh you lucky schoolchildren!) we will all be bathed in sunlight from the crack of dawn until at least midnight! I hang on in hope!!
Anyway, to the nitty-gritty. What's been happening? Well, for a start, the walks have been ……… (you may use the same word as chosen above!) with numbers drastically down on last year. I ask myself "Why?" but when I delivered the posters round the camp sites it began to dawn on me that I wasn't the only one to be suffering from a people drought. On second thoughts, maybe the use of the word "drought" should be, for the moment, totally banned! Given the weather we had last year I fully expected droves of visitors to cash in on what we have to offer! I know that Fort William has christened itself "The Outdoor of Capital of the U.K.", a grand title, but where would that claim be without our offerings of sun, sea and sand!!???
Working with schools is really what has taken up the bulk of this working month. As the end of term approaches, "strung out" teachers, and other staff, juggle budgets and time to try to offer suitable "outings" to the children. Aye! Call in the Ranger! At least that's what happened with a couple of Fort William schools, and I found myself (with the appropriate help) on the beach at Camusdarach struggling to amuse, first of all, 50 primary school pupils from Achintore Primary in gales of wind and rain, - and to cap it all their "City Link" bus ran out of diesel! Following that debacle I entertained, over two days, some Lochaber High scholars of botany/biology with my impression of marine science! Ah, 'twas a grand learning curve for all involved! But they all went away happy (if a little wet and salty).
The one outing that seems to have been the greatest success was the second annual camping trip undertaken by the older pupils from Lady Lovat Primary. Ably assisted by Misses Wells and MacKinnon, the barbeque queens, the chosen sixteen trekked to the pebbly beach on Loch Morar side where they took to the outdoor life with a will! (sausages never tasted like this at home! and who wants "wee willie winkies" anyway!). I suspect that the highlight of the trip (for some!) was the "sprint" up the hill ( Monadh na Sròine Duibhe - as I understand it, The Hill/Mountain of the Black Nose!) that's good enough for me, as, on occasion, it fitted! but no doubt the Gaelic scholars will correct me I due course! Suffice to say that all, well nearly all, enjoyed themselves, and are quite willing to have another go next year!
Finally, I'm pleased to report that I have had my first guided walk on the "All Abilities" path at Kinlochmoidart and that all concerned almost managed to navigate their way round without major problems. I have to admit that I did have to point out a couple of the signs, but I think it was just lack of concentration (blethering) on the part of the leading group! Anyway you are all welcome to use the path now, and I'm sure you will find it most enjoyable.
As usual, send your queries/complaints/orders to the answering machine (still can't figure out why it's so clever) on the same old number 01687 462 983.
Keith Verrall snapped this pine marten in his garden at Roshven View where it was eating bird nuts.
A pine marten - the same one? - has been seen in gardens in Arisaig at Roshven View, Highland, the Avenue and Smiddy Flats.
THE LIFEBOAT'S IONA CROSS
Tobermory received her first Lifeboat, the Sir Arthur Rose, in 1937 and when she arrived there George MacLeod, later Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, placed an Iona Cross aboard her. George MacLeod was, of course, honoured for his work in creating the Iona Community which he envisaged as an ecumenical body.
After the war Tobermory had trouble in raising a crew for their boat so, in 1948, she was removed and sent to Mallaig - the first Lifeboat to be stationed there. The late brothers, Bob Watt and Bruce Watt, were appointed Honorary Secretary and Coxswain, respectively.
The Iona Cross remained with the boat and when the Sir Arthur Rose was replaced by the E.M.M. Gordon Cubbin in 1958, the cross was transferred to her. In time, it was placed on the Arun class Lifeboat, the Davina and Charles Matthews Hunter when she was assigned to Mallaig in 1982. It is now on board the Henry Alston Hewitt, a Severn class.
The cross came to be regarded almost as a guardian icon by successive crews and when the station boat was taken away for survey, it was always among the first things to be transferred to the boat that was temporarily assigned to Mallaig to cover her absence.
In 1977, Tobermory Lifeboat station was reopened. With the help of Archie MacLellan, then Hon Sec at Mallaig, I sent the Iona Cross away to be copied. When it - and its twin - returned, we presented one to Tobermory. We were unable to tell which was which, so there is a chance that Tobermory received the original back again!
I discovered just a few weeks ago that our old Arun, now replaced in Mallaig by the Severn, had been sold to the Icelandic Rescue Service to be used there as a Lifeboat so, after a deal of thought, I decided to visit my old boat in her new country. I made contact on the internet with the relevant people - who were all very helpful and welcoming - and booked a flight for the following week.
What to take to them? I eventually resolved that they too should have an Iona Cross; I'd get one 'nae bother' in a local jeweller. So I thought! After about ten abortive telephone calls, I contacted the Church of Scotland. They suggested that I try the shop on Iona. That worked so, a few days later, a cross arrived here. Unfortunately it was mounted on a base of cairngorm stone. Fine for sitting on your desk, but not much use on a Lifeboat!
Peter Murray, ex Coxswain of the Anstruther Lifeboat and a joiner by trade, very kindly came to the rescue. I had taken a small piece of the very hard and beautiful Remu wood home with me from New Zealand a few years ago and from it, Peter carved a lovely holder for the cross. Six coats of varnish later, it was all ready.
I had also, thanks to Mallaig Harbour Authority, managed to get a bottle of 'Mallaig Harbour Water' for the crew in Iceland.
En route to Iceland, Ina and I flew over the east end of Loch Morar and had a very clear view of Mallaig, Morar and all of the islands to the west, basking in the sunshine.
We arrived at Reykjavik in the early afternoon and, thanks to one of the Icelandic Rescue people, had a tour of the town. Following that, he took us to Hafnarfjordur, a town about 25 miles south of Reykjavik where I saw my old boat, now renamed the Einar Sigurjonsson, once more.
The following evening we were taken again to the boat and went out to sea in her for around an hour, accompanied by another of their boats, a very fast and most impressive water jet driven, rigid inflatable.
Back in the harbour, I gave them the whisky and the cross, together with a potted version of its history. They, in turn, gave me a book of photographs of the rugged Icelandic scenery.
Tommy Ralston, left, presents the Iona Cross
The financial set up of the rescue services there was most interesting. They get a very small grant from the government, the rest they must raise themselves. The mountain rescue arm is expected to supply their own skis. One man on the lifeboat side of the rescue service gets a 'half-week's pay', the others get no money at all, not even when the boat is at sea. Each man is tasked with attending training and fund-raising events. Non-attendance is dealt with by his peers. One man showed me 'his' skidoo, used in the mountain rescue arm of the service and explained to me that it was his only as long as he looked after it properly. If he failed to do this, it was passed to the next in line!
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip although the cost of living there amazed us. £6 for a pint of beer, kept me sober! The most pleasing part of the exercise was seeing that my old boat is in very good hands indeed. They have not had her for very long, but already they have carried out several missions and are justly very proud of her.
From Morar To Margaree by Margaret E Gillis
My Story of My Grandfather, Malcolm Hugh Gillis
Malcolm H Gillis, my grandfather, was a Gaelic poet known as 'The Margaree Bard'. He was born, grew up and raised his own family, in the so very beautiful 'Margarees' - a part of Canada's Cape Breton Island, known for its scenic and tranquil beauty. His father, Hugh Gillis,was 3 years old when he came to Canada from Morar, Scotland and settled with his parents Angus and Margaret Gillis in South West Margaree on Cape Breton Island's west side.
Malcolm wrote both Gaelic and English poetry and songs. He is, however, more well known for his Gaelic Songs than his English ones - which I think are very beautiful also, because I have a great love of poetry. I am told that some of his Gaelic songs are known in Scotland - especially the islands where Gaelic is still spoken. Malcolm Gillis had a great love for everything that was 'Scottish'.
A beautiful love song, 'Nighean Donn A Chuil Reidh', was written by him in praise of a lady who he much admired, but did not marry. Her ancestors were also from Scotland. I have a tape of my father singing this song, accompanied by my mother on piano, at a Gaelic Concert called 'Oidhche Leis Na Baird' on Cape Breton Island, in 1974. My father explains to the audience that he had recently met Calum Kennedy at a Rebecca Cohn concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mr Kennedy had told him that he had won a medal singing this same song.
'Am Braighe', another composition, was in praise of the scenic and tranquil beauty surrounding him, in the picturesque countryside where he lived.
Totally inspired, deep from within, by the power of the nature around him, he expresses the sincere and true love that he felt for his beloved 'Braes' of Margaree. It was a gaelic song that I heard often, sung by my father in my own home as my mother accompanied him on piano - or as he often did, accompanied himself. That has left a musical memory and a musical memory is a beautiful memory.
A collection of my grandfather's work was published in 'Smeorach Nan Cnoc's Nan Gleann' in 1939 by Alexander MacLaren & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland.
A pipe tune by him, named The New Year, was published in The David Glen Piping Collection in Scotland at the turn of the last century. He played various instruments - organ, pipes, and violin. During a trip to the United States to visit family, he entered a violin competition, where he won two silver cups.
Presently, I am a member of a committee (started in 2002 by a cousin) that is compiling all Gaelic and English poetry, songs and essays, as well as any music, written by our grandfather. This will include the work previously published in 1939 accompanied by English translation, plus previously unpublished works. We are having a Tribute to him on 1st August 2004 in South West Margaree, Cape Breton Island - the very same place to where his father, Hugh, immigrated in 1821. My cousin's wish is to make all his work available to his descendants in a book . On that day, the book will be available to the descendants and invited guests for $15.00 / book. Any profit made from this book is to be used to create a high school scholarship called, The Malcolm H Gillis Memorial Scholarship For Recognition of Excellence In Any One Of The Following:
Scottish Gaelic, Poetry, Essays, Music, Songs, Dance
I have great interest in other people's opinion of my grandfather, Malcolm. One that I will always remember was written by Norman MacDonald, former Professor of Celtic Studies at University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, Nova Scotia, and presently with BBC Scotland on The Isle of Skye. It reads....
'Gillis deserves wider recognition as by far the best nature poet writing anywhere in Gaelic between 1830 and 1930. I also think that he should have high place among Canadian Literary figures of this century.'
I did not personally know my grandfather, Malcolm...only through my father, uncles and aunts did I know him....and, of course through his poetry. I do believe, however, that he would have felt highly honoured by Norman MacDonald's words. I leave you now with an English verse written by my grandfather, about Margaree Island.
Oh! fall gentle showers that nature empowers
To soothe a young flower in bower and lea
Come sunshine that pleases, blow soft gentle breezes
Around This Green Island That Rests In The Sea
To all I leave this Celtic Wish ........
Slainte Mhath Agus Sonas (Good Health and Happiness)
SENSE OF ADVENTURE - Part 2 of Ranald Coyne's trip to Ethiopia in February with BESO
Up early next morning and went for breakfast at 6:30 then the power went off. Shortly after 7 asked for my bill and when I went to pay it half an hour later he was still adding it up manually. Drove back North for 20kms and then turned off to Bale Mountains. Really bad rough road. At first it wound up through nice hills then a couple of hours over a flat fairly featureless plateau, all intensively farmed for wheat an barley. Then up again very steeply to the Bale mountains. Nice looking hills and shortly before reaching the park entrance saw a herd of Meneliks Bushbuck then a herd of Mountain Nyala. As we were watching the Nyala a Simien Wolf trotted across the road in front of us. Three endemic species in 5 minutes, what could be better. Stopped at Dinsho for a lunch, best forgotten, then went into the park where one of the wardens took us for a couple of hours walk through the woods which were full of Nyala, Bush buck and Reed buck, much more like a National Park. Then another 1.5 hours very bumpy drive to Goba where I am booked into another hotel of the same government owned group. Considerably more sorry looking than the last one.
On Friday morning Aleye picked me up at 7 and we drove up onto the Seneti plateau, at 4,300 metres it was a huge plateau with small peaks rather like Tors the ground was fairly rough and boggy. We saw a further six Simien Wolves, the first was sitting by a pool about 20 metres of the road sunbathing in the morning sun, they are very attractive creatures and quite large. We also saw a lot of lammergeyers. The return trip downhill was a bit easier and the round trip was about 2.5 hours followed by a six hour thrash back to Wondo Genet where I was to spend the night. Another spa resort but much better than Sodore smaller but still very rundown. A dip in the pool was very refreshing but a cold pool would have been better.
Up early next day as we have along way to go. Aleye picked me up at 7 and we were to pick up Ato Abdi, the tourist officer from Awassa who is to accompany us for two days. Aleye knew a short cut through back roads to Awassa or thought he did and it was well after 8 when we picked up Ato Abdi and set off for Arba Minch. After about 1.5 hours we turned off on side tracks to Seneti reserve, a small reserve of 654 sq km on good land and home to almost the only Swaynes Hartebeest (endemic) left in the world. From memory similar to hartebeest but with a very light coloured rump. There are about 250 left and they are reportedly now thriving. Some have been sent to Awash and almost all died, some to Nech Sar where they are not thriving.
Drive on to Arba Minch a long hot drive on a very badly surfaced tarmac road. We pass through a lot of good farmland with fruit trees and buy some weird fruit which are unripe rough peaches.We get to Arba Minch around four and first check in at Nech Sar National Park where we are expected and we arrange to meet the warden at 6 am tomorrow. This park occupies the isthmus between Lakes Abaya and Chamo and a lot of fairly inaccessible land on the other side. The park is being currently being privatised and taken over by African Parks Ltd which should be very interesting. On in to town where I am booked in at the Bekele Mola Hotel a private chain and this has a stunning situation on the dge of an escarpment looking over both lakes. Nice rooms but run down and the usual awful bathroom. The electricity is " alternating" between light and dark and to avoid trouble have charged up the laptop while switched of and working on battery. Before dinner I have to view the crocodile farm a visitor attraction, fairly ghastly but at dusk we watch the hippos coming ashore. Reasonable dinner with Nile Perch Kebabs. A friend of Tim's, another BESO tourism volunteer is a VSO here so have asked her out to dinner tomorrow. Ato Abdi has just given me a disc with the tourist authority's views on the future. I cannot study a 78 page document on a laptop with flickering 25 watt bulbs.
|Aleyi collected me at 6 and went to Nech Sar National Park. For the first half an hour we saw nothing then once across the isthmus we were onto a flat plain several miles across with quite a lot of plains game. We saw a lot of Burchells Zebra which I had never seen before, one ostrich, a few Swaynes hartebeest and quite a lot of Grants Gazelle, some Dik Dik and warthog and several Bustard and Ground Hornbills. On the way back looking down over a cliff at the lake there were large numbers of very big crocodiles, should see more of them this afternoon., the crocodiles we saw yesterday and the hippo are of course also in this park. After the visit I have a long chat with the warden. After lunch boat trip on lake to "Crocodile market" with a boat you get very close to literally hundreds on the beach. Also very close to hippos and fishermen. Very good trip. Entertained Tims friend Janita VSO to dinner.|
Next morning away at 7.30 as it is 550 kms to Addis via Awassa. Kept on stopping to buy fruit and it was rolling all over the vehicle. Apparently it is so much cheaper than in the towns and they were buying for friends and relations. We had huge bags of mangos, bananas, pineapples, tomatoes and a sack of charcoal. Got to Awassa just after midday and had lunch, I tried Goman Besega a tasty beef and cabbage stew. We then dropped Abdi at work and thrashed up to Addis where only four of the team had arrived, all went out for a good chinese. Apparently their food in Dire Dawa etc had been really awful.
Spend three days in Addis writing up reports, Michael and I entertained Tony Hickey of "Village Ethiopia" to dinner, a very interesting evening and we sat there for three hours, looks good for a holiday organiser. We met with William Rounds, regional Contracts Adviser for Louis Berger SA who have the contract for the whole project. He summarized some of the bureaucratic difficulties he is encountering between the EEC and the Ethiopian Govt. and did confirm that our reports really were going to be useful and to be read. That afternoon we nearly all got into trouble. During our first two weeks in Addis we had eaten all our breakfasts and most lunches in a café round the corner run by a nice girl Rosie who spoke good English and was very helpful. She was given notice and when we got back she was gone. Today she rang and spoke to one of our group and we were all invited to coffee in her new café and we went. At the street corner we were met by two other girls, neither of them did we recognize but one claimed to be her sister so we followed up a side street into a sitting room which appeared to be part of a café and the coffee cups were laid out as is formally done. Then to our surprise about four girls came in and started dancing. We were rather surprised and at that point Petros, our driver who had followed us came in and said that we should get back to the office now for another meeting. Fortunately for us he had followed and realised sooner than we did what was happening, the typical set up.
Friday, report submitted and did a bit of shopping. This evening we are invited/commanded to drinks with HE at the British Embassy. Turned up in jacket and tie and were directed to British Club where Her Excellency and partner turned up half an hour late. Chatted for half an hour and then left. Excellent dinner at Top View Hotel, good meal, marvellous view, we entertained Ato Wollie to dinner.
Sunday, Tim and I went to church, Basically Anglican with a very mixed congregation, many from Sudan who of course are not allowed church. Monday our last day we spent a long time in the morning trying to change Birr into £. It appears we are not allowed to change more than £80 so eventually did that and the remainder got changed somehow into $. Got ourselves organised and spent the afternoon chatting and drinking beer. Early supper and bed for a 3 am rise for the plane home.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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