Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
June 2002 Issue
Contents of the online version:
THE WAVERLEY VISITS MALLAIG
The world’s last ocean-going paddle steamer was in Mallaig on 9th May, in ideal weather for a cruise. The most photographed vessel in the world, after the QE2, she is soon to receive a £4 million facelift to restore her to her 1940’s splendour.
The Jubilee could not pass unnoticed, even here so far from London amongst a nation which believes the Queen should be called Elizabeth I.
A happy and well attended Children’s Party at the Fishermen’s Mission on Saturday 1st June started off the holiday weekend. There was a street party in Mallaig, and in the wonderfully decorated Astley Hall guests shared a ceilidh tea and a wonderful cake and listened to the school and nursery children sing songs.
On the Isle of Muck they had a barbecue on Sunday – in the rain.
Eigg’s Brian Greene was in London, experiencing the Jubilee Parade fist hand. Brian worked backstage in London’s West End before he moved up to Eigg nearly 25 years ago, and his experience was called upon in no small way – he organised and led the Commonwealth Parade on Tuesday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EIGG!
Eigg islanders are gearing up to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their buy-out on the 12th June.
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust is hosting a Open Day packed with opportunities to see the island at its best. At the Pier Centre, An Laimhrig (Gaelic for ‘The Haven’), there will be an archive photographic display.
A choice of activities for the day will suit all comers. A wildlife walk, a forestry walk – to see the Forestry project being carried out , a tractor ride to the bothy of Grulin under the shoulder of the Sgurr, with its ruined villages, or basket weaving, wood turning and a look at an organic garden.
There will be a bus ride to visit the renovated old water mill and a look at the Kildonan Hydro scheme, presently under construction.
Another bus will take visitors to see the museum and recycling centre set up in the old shop, and a look at the Eigg Historical Society archive. An organic croft next on the way to the Singing Sands – and pony rides!
Eigg on June 12th 2002 - Five years on from the buy-out
by Susanna Wade Martins
Seven years ago we were privileged to be able to buy a small croft house on Eigg to which we come regularly four times a year and otherwise available for holiday letting all the year round. We have been made welcome and value the friendship of the islanders. As regular visitors, we feel able stand back and take the long view.
Seven years ago the community was perhaps at its lowest ebb. The Schellenburg era was drawing to a close amidst recriminations and acrimony. Although the ‘reign of his successor, Maruma, opened with high hopes and promises, it soon became clear that no improvements could be expected. It was also obvious that the best future for the island lay in a community buy-out, and plans were put in place for raising the money for a purchase when the time came. The story of the Eigg buy-out and its implications for Scottish land reform have been told many times, and now, five years on, with an anniversary open-day on June 12th, it is worth looking at what has been achieved by the Trust that now holds the island in the name of the community.
First impressions are always important. Seven years ago the visitor was greeted at the pier by some semi-derelict buildings. The tea room has its tubular steel-framed stacking chairs which grated on cold concrete floors. The roof leaked and valiant efforts to make it more hospitable were mostly hopeless. The old estate office housed a craft shop, again with a leaking roof which made the storing of stock difficult. Now there is a modern, well appointed building containing a well-stocked shop with deep freeze storage facilities, and a fine tea room with sliding glass doors onto a terrace with views across the bay. A craft shop, and wash rooms, open onto the large entrance hall used for exhibitions in the summer. All this was built within a year of the buy-out and opened on the first anniversary. Upstairs is the recently completed fully equipped Trust office where a full-time project officer works.
Seven years ago many people, often with young families, were living in caravans while estate houses were empty and derelict. Others, including the elderly, lived in damp, some times rat-infested cottages. All this has ended. Estate houses are being renovated and within a few years all will have been stripped out, re-roofed and damp-proofed with proper water supplies and wired for generators. A housing scheme, providing accommodation primarily for the elderly and a day-care centre containing a library, nursery and meeting place has been built.
Before the buy-out every house had a rubbish dump of bottles and tins near-by. Now there are re-cycling bins at various points across the island and the dumps are a thing of the past. Attempts are being made to introduce composters to reduce further the need for rubbish disposal. Occasional collections from the mainland make the removal of larger items such as cars and machinery easier, but refuse management remains a problem on Eigg as in other emote areas of the Highlands and Islands.
Before the buy-out, the estate side of the island was almost entirely deserted, both by people and stock. Schellenburg sold the sheep and Maruma the cattle and almost all the estate houses were empty. Now there is a viable tenanted farm, three houses have been renovated and three bothies are let to visitors. The land is fully stocked and fenced. Environmentally friendly farming agreements ensure the rich wild-life of the island can be encouraged under sustainable farming systems.
Some of the problems of Eigg are common to all remote communities. These include employment and a modern infrastructure. Both of these are being addressed by the Trust. For the first time in almost fifty years there is work for all who want it. In fact the island could do with a few young energetic families to join the work force and swell the numbers in the school. Fencing, building and forestry teams have been funded through Highland Council, Woodland Grant Schemes, Community Scotland and the Trust. Unsuitable conifer plantations which have been extracting water from valuable wetlands are being removed and footpaths created with the help of lottery grants through the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Tourism is flourishing, keeping self-catering, guest houses and bed and breakfasts fully stretched during the summer and the shop and the tea room busy. The major problem of an electricity supply is being tackled by small hydro and wind turbines which are beginning to appear.
It is certainly true that all this activity would not have been possible without hefty grants and there are those who say that the greatest skill of the islanders has been extracting grants from funding bodies, thus creating a society of grant junkies. However a generation of neglect has left a community devoid of infrastructure and employment opportunities; without this initial help there is no way that it will ever stand on its feet. The total received by the island in the form of external aid pales into insignificance when compared with the £8 million being spent on a pier which few people want, to serve a boat which is too large for the island’s needs.
The security provided by the new ownership has encouraged a spirit of enterprise. More crofting land is farmed, more cattle are kept and new commercial ventures embarked upon by an increasingly vibrant community than would have seemed possible five years ago. An interest in the island’s past has united young and old alike in collecting photographs showing life over the past 120 years and a gaelic class is flourishing. A survey by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland partly funded by the Scottish Wildlife Trust lottery grant is locating many new archaeological sites. This data can be fed into management plans and tourism opportunities for the future.
Problems remain: a use has still to be found for the lodge, but since the roof is sound, it could probably stand for another five to ten years without much further deterioration. The number of privately-owned houses in the crofting area which stand empty or derelict is a sad reflection of the fact that many old Eigg families have had to leave for work elsewhere.
So what changes can we expect over the next five years?
The modernisation of the estate houses will be completed and there will be less need to rely on diesel generators for electricity. The few larger estate houses that are being sold should bring people to the island who are able, through skilled craft or e-commerce-based activities to live and work here. New employment opportunities will have to be found by the time the forestry and fencing work comes to an end. Green tourism will be one of the main-stays of the economy and for this to succeed the immense ecological, archaeological and historical wealth of the island need to be more intellectually and physically accessible through the improving of foot paths and the providing of information for visitors.
It remains to be seen what difference the new pier and roll-on, roll-off boat will make to the island. Certainly it will be easier to get materials on and stock off, but at a dangerously high environmental cost.
The first five years have seen immense and almost unimaginable progress, but the challenges and opportunities of the next five are no less formidable.
Those of us in the vicinity of Inverie have been back on Hydro power for about three weeks now, with one or two ‘teething’ hiccoughs. This makes a big difference to the tranquillity of the village, where for a year the diesel generator has been pounding away all day and every day. To celebrate this and other achievements, e.g. completion of the first of the interim housing projects, clearing of and repair to the forest tracks, opening of the KF display area, creation of a secluded car park, etc., the Knoydart Foundation is holding an Open Day on Thursday 4th July. Chris Brasher has been invited to open the event and visitors will be able to view the various projects.
Residents of and visitors to Knoydart packed the village hall to capacity on 25th May. The occasion was ‘The Wedding’, a riotous Highland Festival production in which the audience donned hats and took the part of guests at the disastrous nuptials between the Duffs and the Pratts.
Eda Fransen has returned to Doune with Alan and Mary Robinson after about eight months in the Caribbean. She will soon be away again sailing the Hebrides.
As ever at this time of year visitors abound in Knoydart an the vegetation is luxuriant. There are various building projects under way, including refurbishment of the school.
Oliver the foal is growing apace and is well socialised, having met many admirers.
Congratulations to the crew of the Eda Fransen! They won the Concourse d'elegance for Working Boats at the Antigua Classics Regatta.
ISLE OF MUCK
Its June and CCG are back – just. Sadly none of the old crowd and so far there ahs been little managerial input but that will have to increase if the work is to be completed this summer.
The big news this month has been the Inter-Island Sports for which Muck were the host island. It could easily have been cancelled due to the weather but on the afternoon th sun suddenly emerged! Only the strong winds hampered those who had to cross the sea, particularly meeting the Lochnevis in the afternoon. On the sports field Muck won the shield with the help of some past residents, particularly Luke Smith and Lucas Chapman.
Rum fielded a strong team and won the hill race to the top of Ben Aerean. The Canna team mostly had to depart on the morning of the event and Eigg mostly arrived after it had finished! Points were (as far as I can discover) Muck 100, Rum 55, Canna 1, Eigg nil.
A Bar-b-que followed and then everyone repaired to the barn (where the machinery had been cleared and the floor laid) to dance the night away to a superb band led by Dougie Hunter and Iain MacFarlane.
Participants in the sports and ceilidh can hardly have missed the corncrakes. There are now four calling males occupying the bogs between Port and Gallanach. And during the evening Miss Pig decided to farrow, producing nine piglets and watched by a large audience!
The Royal Commission are now halfway through their survey and some exciting discoveries are emerging. There will be a presentation for the island as their work draws to a close and dings will be covered in July’s West Word.
And Muck has had a very special visitor aboard Hebridean Princess. The 85 year old writer, broadcaster and ex-secretary of the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society, Ben Coutts was the last passenger ashore from the ship. It was a pleasure to take him and his daughter Sally round some of the farm. Sally is a noted judge of Highland Ponies and I was able to show her some of the young stock.
Lastly for the Queen we had a bar-b-que on the beach on Sunday night. Islanders, visitors, yachtsmen and CCG joined to celebrate the 50 years. Sadly the weather did not co-operate but the rain was never enough to extinguish the fire.
On the farm ‘marking’ is complete and the crops all in. Lambing was mixed. The Blackface were poor – quite a few dead lambs and some gimmers needing assistance. Some ewes at least were not fed enough. But there were 55 ‘mule’ lambs from a top quality Blue faced Leicester tup kindly given me by James Coulson, and well over half these are ewe lambs, which is great.
Cheviot ewes with cheviot lambs were no bother and lots of twins. In contrast those which had Suffolk cross lambs (the ewes fed on silage) were, as usual, lots of trouble. When the udders are too large the cross lambs have difficulty finding a teat. A number of ewes which had twins had one side of the udder ‘blind’ and the bad weather in the middle did not help. The mule ewes were little trouble but 6 out of the 40 were eild (barren) and the Jacob cross ewes had as usual lots of twins.
The Mull lambs (which have had their first dose for worms) are growing apace and the best of them are big. I have a weigher and I should be able to give you some weights by July.
They can also be seen on the Open Day which is 16th June. Everyone welcome but you should book on the Sheerwater.
ISLE OF RUM
Rum featured a lot in the press this month, mostly for good reasons. I took a lengthy day trip to Edinburgh to attend an SNH main board meeting at which they have agreed to some land in the village and up Kinloch Glen beingmade available for sale for housing and business use. This is a great leap forward for us here as we can set about building more houses and upgrading the infrastructure in order for more folk to come and live on Rum in the foreseeable future. This isn’t going to happen overnight, mind, it’ll take a lot of time and effort to achieve, but in years to come the community will be as diverse as everywhere else and not made up of SNH staff and their families as it mostly is now. On a less positive note there was dodgy journalist from one of the less reputable papers lurking here for a few days looking for some dirt, but, on the whole she didn’t find any; even the boys from the DCS, here to carry out the annual deer count, behaved themselves. They had to leave a day early, though, due to the lack of deer to count , a result of the reduction cull last year. But the strangest visitor we’ve had so far has got to be one of our feral goats which is in the village at the moment. It appears to have lost its bearing and wandered over the hill from Harris to Kinloch and the grass is certainly not greener here. Beware though, it’s got big horns and it stinks...I’m sure I know someone else like that.. At long last, after at least six years of sitting idle by the slip, the Fulmar, an old whaling boat, has a new home. Brig from Eigg came to collect it earlier this month and has grand plans for her, which is a vast improvement on her rotting away to nothing here. The Games in Muck, last Saturday, were a huge success. Rum managed to send an amazing 23 folk over, we were a multicultural contingent too, consisting of Scots, Welsh, Irish, French, Dutch, South African and English (me). And we still didn’t win...The Eigg team had done a bit too much warming up the night before, but as usual, turned up just in time for the ceilidh! Many thanks to everyone on Muck for organising a great day, excellent barbeque and outstanding ceilidh. And a special thanks to Laurence’s pig. Other news. Two of the Rum ponies have just given birth to a pair of lovely wee foals called Willow and Poppy, they’re currently frolicking around the Castle field if anyone wants t see them; the slip is still no nearer completion; the midges are back, big time and Aidan’s still out there fishing.
ISLE OF EIGG
What a disappointment May has been weatherwise, after such a promising start too! The constant wet weather is, according to our wildlife warden , a serious threat to the birds’ breeding season this year. There are already some casualties, and some species may not even succeed at all. Let’s hope the sun comes back to allow swallows for example to get enough food to get them in conditions to lay eggs!
But the rain has not stopped Rj MacLeod from getting on well with their pier terminal: the pier and the bay are a hive of activity at the moment. The tourist season has started in earnest and visitors to the island have been able to use the new "wet weather" facility on Eigg, the Old Shop, situated as its name indicates in the premises occupied by the island shop from 1947 to 1998!
Funded by Network 21 and Lochaber Enterprise Ltd, the Old Shop houses an island interpretation display in the shop-post office part and a Swap Shop in what used to be the back shop. The official opening of the Old Shop will be on the 12th June, Eigg open-day celebrating five years of Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust ownership.
Visitors and islanders alike will be able to look at the history of the shop and post-office on the island, and discover more about the geology, sea-shore and trees of Eigg. The Isle of Eigg Primary school made a colourful contribution to the display, including a scaled 3D map of the island.
They will also be able to browse in the Swap Shop, where Eiggachs will at last be able to dispose of clothes and odds and ends. Any donation will go to further the work of the Waste Management Group which set up the Swap Shop. The Waste management Group will also carry out a litter survey on the island beaches this summer and hopes to find a way to deal with plastic refuse by recycling.
The open day promises to be an eventful day with visits to the Kildonnan water mill, the Eigg archive, Eigg forestry and much more. We are also all very much looking forward to a night of Partying and dancing on the 15th with Ja’ma’tha, Harum Scarum and DJ Dolphin Boy! We got in good dancing trim on Muck a few weeks ago at the Small Isles Games ceilidh (8 hours solid dancing after admiring Lawrence’s abundant corncrake population!). And who knows we may have energy left to go back to Muck for their own open day!
A wonderful Jubilee Party in the Astley Hall on 3rd. June - so I hear! I was too involved with West Word’s deadline to be able to go. But I got a glimpse of the splendid decorations.
The good news for the Astley Hall is we got our Arts Promotion grants, from Highland Council and the Scottish Arts Council, though we didn’t quite get what we asked for. However we can now make bookings, starting with some activities for the children during the summer holidays. On the 8th July, as part of HC’s Culture & Leisure’s calendar, we’ve got the Kid’s Ceilidh, a fun dance session involving dancers, music and monsters! On the 20th July, ‘Monsters in my Wardrobe’, a show for all the family on at 2 pm and on 15th August, a magic show in the morning , and a wizard workshop for teenagers in the afternoon.
For the not-so-young, we’ve Cliar in concert on 29th July – billed as the Gaelic Super-Group, Cliar is a six piece band which features Ingrid Henderson , Arthur Cormack, Mary Ann Kennedy, Maggie MacDonald, and Bruce MacGregor.
Later on in the year, all being well – the Mull Theatre is coming in October with ‘A Skull in Connemara’, and Scottish Opera will be in the Hall at the end of January 2003. We have a few other things in the pipeline too. Meanwhile there are the traditional dances, booked by the committees of the Agricultural Show, Games, and the Regatta, and on 13th August the McCalmans have booked themselves for a concert.
Bookings are certainly on the up. A private party last weekend and we’ve two wedding receptions, in the Autumn and next spring!
But we still don’t have the dishwasher! It is being rowed to us by galley slaves from Italy and is due to arrive as West Word hits the shops. A floor polisher is on order, thanks to a grant from Southern & Scottish Electricity.
We also have money in the project account for stage lighting, so we hope to get that under way soon.
The new road works are straightening up a nasty corner and opening up a nice view at Back of Keppoch – and surely it can only start to look better at the east end of the village now it’s beginning to take shape. It’s all so much higher than anyone expected though.
Golden Jubilee Celebrations
To celebrate the Golden Jubilee of H. M. the Queen, there was a Village Tea Party in the Astley Hall, Arisaig on the afternoon of Monday 3rd June 2002.
Nearly 140 people - young and old - enjoyed a magnificent spread in a beautifully decorated Village Hall -- even the sun came out in honour of the great occasion!
|Entertainment followed - excellent pipe playing by Stephanie and Olivia Bridge opened the proceedings, then Arisaig Nursery School performed some action songs from their repertoire. Robbie and Ruaraidh Stewart then sang a funny song, followed by Primaries 1-4 and 5-7 taking the floor and giving a wonderful variety of poems, jokes, recorder and tin whistle playing. Four senior primary girls then performed a modern dance and Stephanie did a step-dance accompanied by her sister playing the violin. Poems by June Cairns and Alex MacEachen were followed by a free raffle.|
The Rev. Alan Lamb then brought the proceedings to a close by asking all present to raise their glasses in a loyal toast to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth . The National Anthem was then sung.
To the wonderful team of people who contributed in so many different ways to make the afternoon such a success I can only say a enormous "thank you". Too many to mention by name here, but YOU all know who YOU are!
I am sure Her Majesty would have approved!
Duncan’s Menu of the Year
Duncan devised his winning gourmet menu to ‘celebrate the Mushroom Weekend’ - an event he introduced to Arisaig House Hotel in 1999. On the last weekend in September, guests are taken far afield on a mushroom hunt with Dick Peebles, an expert mycologist, to hunt for unusual types of edible fungi. On their return to the Hotel, Duncan shows them how to prepare and cook the various kinds. The weekend ends with champagne and the seven course 'mushroom meal' which even features a mushroom ice-cream! The weekend has been a sell-out for the past two years.
This is Duncan’s fifth season at Arisaig House, which is closing as a hotel in the Autumn. He says 'There is a developing trend for people to come to Scotland not only for the atmosphere, scenery and the people but also for the food – 'foodies' come to sample Scottish cooking which uses the freshest of Scottish produce – this is very important to me.'
Gourmet Menu to celebrate the Mushroom Weekend
Grilled king scallops with wilted rockette leaves
and an oyster cream with aniseed agaric
Roast stuffed quail on a bed of braised root vegetable purée
and scarlet hood (Hygrocybe coccinea) with a Puy lentil and foie gras sauce
Poached fillet of halibut with a green asparagus bouillon
and cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa)
Sorbet of black grape
Loin of new season Lochaber lamb
with goat’s cheese and potato mousseline
dark knight (Tricholoma portentosum) and a rosemary jus
Italian black truffle (Tuber aestivum) cheese served with field salad
Caramelised fig with a dried fruit and pine nut compote,
Autumn berry coulis and a cep (Boletus edulis) ice cream
Arisaig Millennium Scrapbook
Arisaig SWRI have completed their Millennium Scrapbook and it is now on display in the Land, Sea & Islands Centre.
As a follow on to the successful and popular Scrapbook completed in 1967, the Institute members have devoted a considerable amount of time to collecting articles, photographs, and momentoes to illustrate the changes Arisaig has seen in the intervening years, up to the end of 1999. It shows many village events and milestones experienced by Arisaig residents, such as Dyers old shop, parties and celebrations, the WRI’s Teddy Bears’ Picnic, the renovation of the Hall, and the loss of the Silvery Sea, to name a few.
The cover was made and embroidered by Freda Westwood (centre), past President.
Anne Cameron, left, is the retiring President and June Cairns (right) is the new President of Arisaig WRI.
The scrapbook has been made in a looseleaf, polypocket style, so that other articles relevant to 1967-1999 can be included.
Life in Japan - by Allie MacDougal
It’s been a strange month once again. The last time I wrote I was leaving Japan in August and heading for Australia, but at the eleventh hour I decided to see if there was a chance I could stay – the official deadline for re-contracting was back in February so I was a tad late to say the least. It seemed impossible so Italy was on the cards, but by a strange twist of fate a Canadian friend in my city had signed on for another year but dropped out so she could take a place at teaching college (Jordanhill, of all places!), and I asked at just the right time to take her place. So, for better or worse I’m here until 2003!
Last week was our re-contracting conference in Kobe (Ko-beh); famous for the 1996 earthquake which killed over 5,000 people. Kobe is a fantastic city, possibly the most international city in Japan after Tokyo, despite its relatively small population of 1 million. We arrived at 6 am on the Wednesday morning as we had to take the overnight ferry, and after dumping our bags a couple of friends and I went to check out the Modern Art Gallery, possibly just to allow a sliver of cultural enlightenment into what would inevitably be a party-filled junket. The conference didn’t begin until 3 pm so we had plenty of free time to plan our nights out anyway.
Somehow we survived the three days on only 2 or 3 hours sleep a night (the opportunity to go dancing was too hard to resist after being in a city with virtually no clubs) and I even managed to take a lot from the workshops. My favourite was one given by an ALT who was Vietnamese-American. In order to let us understand how our students feel when we teach them, he taught us Vietnamese without any English for the first half of the lecture. And, just like my students, I promptly forgot almost everything he taught us as soon as I left the room. I can still say "cat" though, which perhaps made it a success?
Most of the Matsuyama crowd left for home on the Friday night, but Carla and I being shopaholics and craving real city life stayed on another night in Kobe with her friend Jode, and went shopping in Osaka the next day. The thing that struck me about Osaka was just how cool it was, especially compared with Matsuyama! Here it is risqué to wear a sleeveless top or flash your belly button, which I had imagined was a Japanese issue. However, seeing people my age in Osaka wearing things that I would wear at home, or even more daring, was a complete eye-opener. Ehime is a very conservative prefecture, so much so that one of my friends (Lesley, the Pepsi addict) has described it as "America in the ‘50s". In Osaka I was not an unusual sight and was not given any obvious second glance; the freedom from disapproving looks or simply curious stares was welcome, and I was initially irritated when I returned to Matsuyama where my clothes (not at all revealing but not particularly conservative either) drew attention once more. After a day or two, however, normal life sets back in and you learn to deal with the inevitable "gaijin" (foreigner) problems life here brings. When you are 5 foot 8 inches tall, have blonde hair (they have no idea it’s not real!), blue eyes and very white skin it’s impossible to blend in, so I have to accept that and continue to live my life my way, whilst doing everything I can not to offend. I’m going to re-write the old song – "Sometimes it’s hard to be a gaijin, Living all your life here in Japan…"
And of course there are times when I refuse to even try to fit in. I draw the line, for example, at eating certain Japanese delicacies; octopus tentacles so fresh they have just been cut off the poor creature, struggling around the tank as best he can with his remaining suckers. Natto, fermented soya beans that have a gluey texture and look and smell of rotting mush. Fish that are still alive and well, swimming around the bowl you drink them from. I honestly thought I was at a school with normal people until at my last work enkai (a night out where you pre-pay for 2 hours of food and drink) we were presented with individual ramekin-sized dishes in which swam several little white fish, similar in shape to tadpoles but bigger. I didn’t have time to hide my shock or dismay, which brought much amusement to my colleagues, one of whom pretended to take out his mobile phone and call Greenpeace on my behalf, citing "these crazy Japanese people". How right you are, I thought, but had to pretend that I thought they were still normal people through it all. I was dying to call my friends and tell them the story but restrained myself, and in the meantime had to politely decline the wriggling dish whilst being assured that they are "very good for you". Not so good for the fish I’d imagine. It reminded me of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when Ford Prefect informs Arthur that getting onto the Vortex ship would be an experience rather like being unpleasantly drunk. "What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?" asks an innocent Arthur. "Just ask a glass of water," replies Ford solemnly.
Sadly, any hope of sparing the fishes lives was crushed when I checked them 15 minutes later and found they had died anyway, probably of suffocation, as there were too many fish for the amount of liquid in the bowl. Que sera sera. Onwards we go, away from wriggly fish and conferences, towards rainy season and hot, humid summer…why aren’t I going to Italy again? It seems to have slipped my mind…
Coastal Ranger Report
What has happened to the month of May? This, my favourite month when Nature really opens her doors, has slid past me. No doubt many of you will have passed me making limping progress along the local roads, trying to be a good patient, doing as I was told, and trying to regain some semblance of fitness! These "walks" however were not without interest, as I spent a lot of the time marvelling at the amazing number of wild flowers that can be seen growing close to the roadside. Amongst the several different varieties of buttercups, daisies and dandelions, were to be found many of the vetch family, stitchworts, bedstraws, speedwells, primroses, pimpernels, various umbellifers, and one of my very favourites, the wild strawberry! These are just a few of the flowers that I saw, and to save boring the pants off you, suffice to say that that is just a small selection of the May carpet. Walking too is a good way to both see and hear the bird life (wild!), and I was pleased to spot a cuckoo and a tiny treecreeper as well as redshanks, greenshanks, plovers and a selection of ducks. So you see, although I have been very restricted in where I have been able to go, good old Mother Nature hasn’t allowed me to get too bored when I have been out!
Just prior to going into hospital, my final walk was a new one down at Kinlochmoidart, and, despite the extra notices the turnout was very poor with only two souls attending. However, I must say, this walk was one of the most enjoyable that I have tried, it is only little over a mile each way, but with so much to see and enjoy, it took us a full two and a half hours to complete the circle! The weather on the day was beautiful as we strolled through the oakwoods listening to the birdsong whilst searching the shoreline for the elusive otter, (a brief glimpse was all I got). The big find was an ancient charcoal burning pit, with the backing of many coppiced oak trees nearby, and as proof I was able to write my name on paper with a tiny fragment of charcoal dug from below the moss. Included in the walk was a visit to the "Dun" on the "Fairy Hill" and some time spent wondering about the "Plate Rock", and, of course, a leisurely lunch at the "Devil’s Staircase". Well, if that doesn’t whet your appetite for the next time, what must I do!!
If you remember, I told you recently that we were deeply involved in some new map work. Initially we were simply told to highlight all paths that we were aware of (and some that we didn’t know existed) and bung the whole lot off to India for digitisation (putting onto computer). As usual, someone got it wrong at the top, and the maps, instead of going to India, came back to us for "further definition". This involves naming and numbering all of the paths marked, and is a total nightmare, fine where there is a direct line from "a" to "b", but, where there are circular routes with spurs leading to different places with options from the spurs, it is a complete disaster! After only one day working at only this small area of Lochaber, my brain was addled (more than usual) and I ground to a standstill! However I didn’t feel guilty, as all the other Rangers were just as bad! Unfortunately the process is only just started, and looks like it will take many more days to even break the back of the task, why, I ask, can these things not be put forward in the winter when we all have a bit more time, and are less likely to be gazing through the windows at lovely weather??
Well, I’m sorry that I, at the moment can’t add a bit of excitement to your lives by dragging you off to the hills! but hopefully the recovery process won’t take much longer, so keep in touch. Need I repeat the magic number? 01687 462 983
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Question : Is a Slow Worm a kind of snake?
The Slow Worm Anguis fragilis is neither slow, nor a worm, nor a snake; it is a legless lizard. It has the lizard features of eyelids, ear openings, a fleshy tongue, and a lizard-type backbone. It is able to break off its tail to escape predators - and grow a new one. Snakes do not have these characteristics.
Slow Worms live in damp places, feeding mainly on slugs, snails and earthworms. They can grow to 45 cm (18inches) long and may live for 50 years, if not eaten by predators such as hedgehogs or kestrels. In Lochaber during the summer you may spot Slow Worms sun-bathing on rocks, this raises their body temperatures enabling them to be more active. The young are born in August and September. From October through to March Slow Worms hibernate underground or in deep leaf-litter.
In Britain there are 3 species of lizard : the Common Lizard - also called the Viviparous Lizard - as it produces young in sacs rather than eggs; the rare Sand Lizard; and the Slow Worm. There are also 3 species of snake in Britain : the Adder, the Grass Snake and the Smooth Snake. Adders may be seen in moorland in Lochaber.
Lizards and snakes are protected by law, thus it is an offence to harm them. The Adder is the only British reptile considered dangerous and is unlikely to bite humans unless provoked. So, it’s as well to watch out for the Adder’s yellow and black markings when walking in the hills on a hot, sunny, summer’s day in Lochaber.
Dr. Mary Elliott
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The MacLeods—a Skye Family
Are the MacLeods Vikings? So goes the question, in 2002, by some intellectual researchers using DNA profiles, to prove or disprove the theory , and what’s the betting the MacLeods are of Viking origin.
Leod, born about 1200, died 1280, was the son of the first wife of thrice married Olaf the Black, King of Man and the Isles. Olaf was by righ the ruler of Man and the Isles, but his older, illegitimate brother Reginald had seized the throne and gave Olaf the smaller and poorer portion of Lewis, which also included North Uist and Harris.
Treachery was never far from Reginald’s mind, and when Leod was about seven years old, Reginald handed Olaf over to William the Lion, King of Scotland as hostage for good behaviour by the tribes in the Isles, a common practice in those days, hard luck for the hostage or his family. Olaf was locked up for seven years and Leod was fostered with his father’s friend, Paul Baalkeson, known as Pal MacBhaic.
Pal was certainly of Viking stock, his ancestors had conquered the three indigenous tribes of Harris, the Clan Mhic Shithich in the forest, the Clan Mhic Murchaidh in the centre, and Clan Mhic Criomain in the south. He was also Sheriff of Skye and held the lands of Sleat, Trotternish, Waternish and Snizort.
Olaf was released from prison and after he married Joan, a sister of Reginald’s wife, the Church insisted this was not permitted in Canon Law and he was forced to divorce her. This infuriated the Queen of the Isles, who urged her son Godred Donn to kill Olaf. Warned by Pal, Olaf escaped and married the daughter of the Earl of Ross.
In the meantime, the Scots had invaded the Isles and King Haakon took his forces into the Hebrides under Husbac the Hebridean, and they won Arran and Bute, and took the castle of Rothesay, albeit losing 400 men in the fighting. Husbac was fatally injured and was buried in Iona. Godred and Olaf, who had resolved their difficulty of the divorce, divided the kingdom between them, Godred receiving Lewis.
In 1231, Godred had Pal murdered in Lewis, but the people rose in support of Olaf and Leod, and Godred was killed. Pal had treated Leod as his own son and left to him his lands on Lewsi and Skye.
Leod married the daughter and heiress of MacRaild Armuin and thereby became the owner of Dunvegan Castle, Duirnish, Bracadale, Minginish, Lynedale and a further part of Trotternish. So began the association of Dunvegan Castle and the MacLeods.
In 1237, Olaf died ad his brothers became the Kings of Man and the Isles. The Scottish Kings tried to buy back the Isles but were refused and consequently in 1263 the Earl of Ross invaded Skye.
Haakon was furious and sailed a fleet from Norway and the result was the Battle of Largs, where a hurricane blew for two days and decimated the fleet. It was a disaster for the Norwegians and the Hebrideans who supported them and Haakon went to Kirkwall where he died.
Leod hung on to his lands but had to give nominal allegiance to the Earl of Ross, who’d become his superior after the Treaty of Perth in 1266, when the Kingdom of Man and the Isles was bought back for a down payment of 4000 marks and 100 marks annually for all time hence.
Leod’s descendants still inhabit Dunvegan Castle, although their lands are greatly reduced over the centuries between the Viking times in the 1200s and now, 800 years later, but it was a new age of Gaelic Culture and the rise of the clans from older tribes, and Leod is the progenitor of the Clan MacLeod.
More on the subject can be found in the book Chiefs of the Caln MacLeod by Alec Morrison.
The Highland Scot in Eastern Nova Scotia - Part 2 by Marlene MacDonald Cheng
The first Highland people to come to Nova Scotia in the late 1700s and early 1800s settled first along the Gulf Shore, the long stretch of land bordering the Northumberland Strait. From Pictou they eventually spread eastward into Antigonish County and Cape Breton. Subsequent arrivals tended to settle close to friends or relatives who had come before them. This led to regionalization in Cape Breton based on the Gaelic dialect spoken where the people originated in Scotland. This grouping is evident today in many Cape Breton and Eastern Nova Scotia communities. In and around Baddeck on the Bras D’Or Lakes, most of the people are MacLeods and Nicholsons from the Isle of Skye, and around Iona there are numerous MacNeils from the Isle of Barra. At St. Ann’s Bay the people are almost all descendents of Gaels from the Isle of Lewis, around Grand Mira and in the Mira River area, the people, mostly MacDonalds and Campbells, hail from South Uist, while in Mira Ferry, the people are from North Uist. In Inverness County we find descendents of people from Lochaber at Mabou and Mabou Ridge, in Judique are MacDonalds, MacEacherns, and Gillieses from Morar and Arisaig, and in Port Hood there are dozens of Chisholms from Strathglass.
Language was a very important cultural identifier for the early Gaels in Nova Scotia. It was a link to the music and poetry of the homeland. It allowed them, in exile, to bond more closely with each other, even if they hailed from different regions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Today there are still communities in Cape Breton, though few and far between, where the Gaelic language is spoken on a day to day basis. A small village called Egypt at the head of Piper’s Glen in the Margaree River Valley still conducts some of its business in Gaelic. At North River Bridge in the St. Ann’s Bay area, some Presbyterian parishes still hold worship services in Gaelic and the precenting and singing of psalms in Gaelic is experiencing a revival. At Marion Bridge, Cape Breton, a small Church choir sings some of the old Gaelic hymns, including precenting of psalms. At Wreck Cove, just south of Cape Smokey on the Cabot Trail, Gaelic is still very much a part of the everyday lives of the people. If you walk into a shop in the town of Inverness, Cape Breton, you are likely to hear the clerks speaking to each other in Gaelic. In Judique, where my mother’s people come from, there are quite a few people who still "have the Gaidhlig". In fact, when I visited there last February, I asked directions from a Mrs. MacPhee, a fluent Gaelic speaker, and she was unable to give them to me in English because English was her second language and she wasn’t comfortable in it. She was only about 60 years old, so I was quite surprised. Later I asked a relative about her, and he told me that she had grown up on the Hillsdale Road, back of Judique, where most of the neighbours also spoke Gaelic as their first language. She had dropped out of school at a young age and had little need to speak English. One of my friends, Malcolm MacEachern from Judique, is very fluent in Gaelic. In fact, his English is so heavily accented that he is difficult to understand unless one is familiar with the burr of the Highland speech. He tells wonderful stories in both Gaelic and English, and is often called upon to do his "bit" at concerts and ceilidhs. He and his wife still speak the old language at home. In Antigonish County, especially in the St. Andrew’s area of Upper South River, one can still hear Gaelic spoken in greetings each day.
The Gaelic language, though still cherished by some in Eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, is in grave danger of disappearing. There have been several reasons for this. For centuries, the Celtic people have valued education highly. The first settlers did not have schools, of course, but as the land was slowly cleared and the business of living became somewhat less arduous, they turned their attention to providing schools for their children. At first, a young person of the community would serve as teacher. However, few of the settlers were well educated and it was difficult to find teachers, not to mention ones whose mother tongue was Gaelic. Before long the Celtic people (both Scottish and Irish) were forced to accept English as the language of instruction, feeling that their children’s future in the new country would be jeopardized without a decent education. There was a time in Eastern Nova Scotia when parents actively discouraged children from speaking their native tongue, feeling there was a stigma on children who spoke it, that they would be considered backward. They were, in effect, their own worst enemies, and responsible to a great extent for the near extinct state of the language today.
Today people realize the importance of language as a cultural identifier. They also remember the musicality of the language and they miss it. Children are being taught the language now in some schools and in some homes, but it is not used in schools for instruction in all subjects, it is not spoken by children as they play, and often it is not spoken at home. Until these things begin to happen, there is little hope of resurgence in the speaking of Gaelic on a daily basis. Much more emphasis must be placed on learning the language as a primary mode of communication. We must invest money and energy into training teachers of Gaelic. How can we learn without competent teachers? Cape Bretoners go to Scotland every year to teach the Highlanders and Islanders about Cape Breton step dancing and fiddle music. Should we not be bringing native Gaelic speakers to Nova Scotia to teach children the language and to encourage more native speakers on this side of the Atlantic? Scotland is doing better than we are, with television and radio programming in the Gaelic language. Slowly, but surely, the Scottish people are beginning to get a ‘taste’ for the language. Let us learn from them. Let us chase down politicians and convince them to invest in this culturally worthwhile enterprise. The leadership must come from all of us. If we all act together to bring about change, who knows what the future will bring!
Certainly the music of the Highland Gael is alive and well in Eastern Nova Scotia. It remains our main link with the past, a cultural identifier recognized throughout North America and abroad. The Celtic Colours Festival, which takes place every October in Cape Breton, provides a venue for local and outside talent to compare notes and share the music of their ancestors. Performers from Celtic nations and groups around the world come together in harmony at this special event. It is a spectacular showcase for the beauty and passion of Celtic music.
The culture, language and music of our ancestors beckons us. It is our heritage and we must nurture it. The Cape Breton bard, Alexander MacDonald "The Big Painter", exhorts us not to forsake the culture and virtues of our ancestors in his Duanag Do Cheap Breatuinn (Song to Cape Breton).
Bha seasmhach, direach ‘s gach ni bu choir dhaibh,
‘S a lean an fhirinn le sith gun do-bheart;
B’ e sud an dileab fhuair sibh mar storas,
Nach treig gu dilinn is silean beo dhibh.
So fair and honest in all their doings,
They lived with just and calm devotion;
That’s the gift they left their children,
Who’ll not forsake it while there’s one living.
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