Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
June 2008 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
SCHOOL HOSTEL A REALITY
The long awaited School Hostel will start to become a reality when the first turf is cut on Tuesday June 10th. on the site next to Mallaig High School. The Highland Council has agreed to award its construction contract for a £4 million residential hostel at Mallaig High School to Les Taylor Construction.
The new hostel will enable the Council to meet its longstanding ambition to provide suitable residential accommodation for pupils from Canna, Eigg, Rum, Muck and Knoydart attending Mallaig High School to be accommodated as one group. The three-storey, 21 bedroom facility, is being built by Les Taylor Construction adjacent to the school on a site which was donated by Sir Cameron Mackintosh. He has also made provision for an Internet café on the site.
The Mallaig Common Graziers agreed to forego any compensation for the land.
Sponsored by the Council's Education Culture and Sport Service, the building has been designed by architects in the Council's Housing and Property Service. The new facility will provide a comfortable, safe and homely environment for those staying at the facility. The design includes provision for dining, quiet space, social areas and maximises the use of the site through its access and views from the bedrooms.
The hostel was first mooted 15 years ago, but hit problems when a good site could not be found which would not cost an exorbitant sum to develop. Funding also has been hard to find. Two years ago in the May edition of West Word we published an architect's drawing, very similar to the one shown here, with the confident statement that the design had gone forward for planning permission, negotiations were taking place and it was hoped the hostel would be finished in 2007!
Now Sir Cameron Mackintosh has helped make it possible by selling the site to the school for £1.
Former Councillor Charlie King, who was instrumental in campaigning for the hostel for many years, said 'Cameron cares about this place and has taken a huge personal interest in this project. It was his initiative which led to the breakthrough.'
The hostel will bring to an end the years when children from the Small Isles and Knoydart had to find lodgings among the people of Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig.
Congratulations to our editor on her recent marriage, and apologies for the lack of Knoydart news last month. There was so much going on that the end of the month passed me by. This month passed has been a bit of a blur as well, or should that be haze with the weather we've been having. Pitt from Samadalan tells us it's the driest spell since he moved here 23 years ago and some of the water supplies are under severe strain. The odd situation of folk about here crying out for rain is not far away. But the hydro seems to be holding up with still a fair depth above the intake, shouldn't speak too soon though as much of April was taken up with generator duty and hydro shutdowns and thanks are due again to John and Kevin for their efforts in getting us online. Also in April we had the opening of Bob and Morag's B&B, marked by a huge party. Not that we're averse to the odd party over here and in the last wee while we've had (as well as Gary Innes at the aforementioned bash) Damien Helliwell's band and the Squashies playing in the hall, both of which went down a storm. There was also the excursion to the Fort for the Vatersay boys, when Sandy got the prize for handing out Polish chocolate. Oh, and of course there was the small matter of Aaran and Fraz's wedding. Aaran grew up here, lives and works here and has now got married here; that can't be bad for a small community. Congratulations again to the happy couple.
Opening this month has been the pottery and tea room in the old pier store which already feels like a home from home. Best wishes and luck to Isla and Rhona: more locals who have made the decision to stay and work.
Also opening this month, on the Long beach where there has been much planting and re-fencing, is the new compost toilet, which should help us deal with what seems like an ever growing number of campers. Tommy, who was instrumental in sorting out the toilet has also been to the forefront of what amounts to a campaign to save our public telephone, even getting a letter on the subject published in the Herald. Hopefully the phone will stay.
The Foundation office has been busy as usual, apart from the day to day and the ongoing a lot of time has been expended on getting to grips with the intricacies of the Scotland Rural Development Programme, which will hopefully bear fruit. We're also into the last 100 of the Big Green Challenge (along with Eigg), Liz and Angie were off to Inverness to find out about that. Coming up we've got consultant Lorna Campbell's draft review report which will make for interesting reading. The Forest Trust has appointed Danny Gorman to the Community Forester post, congratulations to him, and are looking for an additional chainsaw operator.
The older kids have got the Small Isles week coming up before the holidays, while the younger ones, if the weather holds, have a packed programme with Jim the Ranger and Aaran. Round at Doune, apart from the usual hustle of the season, Alan and Mary's yacht has been dragged up the slip, and Mary's book, 'Gripping Doune' is selling well. Further along the coast at Airor Jim's back from Argentina (although delayed by a volcano in Chile!).
Of course the talk of the steamie centres on the more important matters and the cucumber growing competition heads the list. Just below it though is the shock at the news that the pet weasel at the church at Tarbet had the cheek to ask Frank for beans with its sausage!
ISLE OF MUCK
The last 15 months has seen the arrival on the island of five new families (six if you include Bryan Grieg, our new school teacher), but it has all gone much more smoothly than the arrival of one new family sometimes has in the past. There are absolutely no empty houses but the latest arrivals, Patrick and Gwyneth Murphy, brought their own on the Spanish John. As ex-Taransay Castaways they brought one of the pods, an oak framed turf covered structure that originally provided accommodation on that island and has been in store for seven years. Whit weekend saw the outer shell largely completed, though of course there is plenty to do inside.
June is the month of the Open Day. This year it is on Sunday 22 June, and it is perhaps too much to hope that last month's incredible weather will last till then. Remember that it is also the day for the draw of the Community Hall raffle with its many prizes. Be there if you can, but absent winners will be notified by post, telephone or email. For those who are not so lucky, there will be the usual fine lunch in the Craft Shop and a chance to see and hear about all the changes on the island. Booking on the Sheerwater is essential.
ISLE OF RUM
Could it be that we are just beginning another week of glorious, sun-shiny days here on Rum?! The start of the tourist season has certainly been helped by a run of great weather although our hydro could do with a wee drop of rain in order to keep the diesel bills down. Also hoping for a drop of rain are the tree planters who have been out on the east coast. With literally hundreds of thousands of new saplings in the ground, the consistently dry weather will not be helping the new trees establish. Never fear though, this being Rum, when the rain does come, it's bound to do it in style and all will be well.
The wildlife on the reserve has been thriving in the balmy spring conditions with fledgling sightings including song thrushes, blackbirds, finches of many varieties and golden eagles with young. Lots of birds are currently sitting on eggs and it looks at the moment like a successful season for many species. Rhys also spotted a Kingfisher a few days ago, a rare sight on Rum. On the north of the island the research team at Kilmory have been busy with the deer calving; producing the next generation of Percys and Caesars for the 'Autumn Watch' fans!
A pod of dolphins also took up residence in the bay for a couple of days during the middle part of May and kept everyone entertained during ferry arrivals and departures. They now appear to have moved on which is sad news for everyone apart from my husband who is now catching mackerel again!
Finally, the shop on Rum is now under new management with Norman Webber who has been resident on the island for some 6 years now taking the reigns. All the best Norman and here's hoping for a busy summer season!
And really finally…just in case you were wondering - yes it appears that the ubiquitous midge have not all emigrated to the moon as we had hoped. It does seem that they are to remain on Rum and it looks as if the little blighters are intent on maintaining their reputation as being the most voracious on the West Coast. Oh well - you can't have everything…
ISLE OF EIGG
Dolphins leaping and standing on their tail near the pier and in Laig bay a few days later, Mediterranean weather for days on end: summer is here and everybody is going mad with activity on Eigg: Sue and Alistair are finishing their new en-suite luxury B&B and restaurant in Lageorna, Damian's building plot now has an access road, Carl is busy starting on his round house and Ben and Joe have slated their roof. Meanwhile, John is overseeing the last touches to the Eigg grid before the hand over of the contractors to Eigg Electric: everybody is well impressed with the performance of the solar panels which came into their own when there was no wind and no water to run the Laig hydro: the big generator has only had to be on for 4 hours a day to top up the battery bank. The scheme is attracting more and more interest from community groups and a delegation from Shetland and Foula is expected to visit in early June. As to the big official opening ceremony for the Eigg electrification project, it is scheduled for the 6th June, and it will give us an opportunity to thank the funders and especially the contractors who have all done a fantastic job.
The rest of us are trying to catch up with gardens that seem to grow tryfidd like by the day. The newly established Eigg gardening club is helping out by promoting plant and seedlings swop. There is definitely a renewed interest in growing your own veg on Eigg these days and plans are afoot for the Eigg gardeners to join up forces with the rest of the Small Isles to set up a Small Isles producers group affiliated to the Highland Local Food Network.
Increased self-sufficiency is of course one of the ways our community is thinking of cutting on carbon emission as part of the BIG GREEN CHALLENGE (with its Million pound prize!) which we have now embarked on. We made it past the first hurdle, and we are now approaching the second one. There has been a great deal of interest in looking at ways we can cut down on greenhouse gases emissions, and getting involved in the challenge has forced us to rethink quite a lot of assumptions, particularly concerning our car dependency. Lots of calculations have been done, with one that stick to the mind in particular, courtesy of the Centre for Human Ecology students: using an electric kettle to boil water - instead of the gas hob as we all have had to do until now - will save 42kg of CO2 and reduce cost by half. Our thanks go to Lucy for putting much time and effort in coordinating it all!
The spring has seen some more changes on the island, with Ailidh moving to Eigg from Glenfinnan, Kay and Bryony moving to Mallaig, and George moving into Laig with Sarah. We all wish the very best to Kay, Bryony and Abby in their new mainland life. Bryony who was one the stars of the BBC4 documentary shown on 28 May, has now discovered her inner journalist, with a great piece in the Glasgow Herald about her filming experience: well done Bryony! We also welcomed the arrival of Sandra from Cuzco in Peru, who after a lot of tribulations, finally made it to Eigg to meet up with Ben.
But the most astonishing news for all of us of course was the news we heard on Thursday 24 April: the religious painting depicting the descent of the cross put up for sale to finance the restoration of St Donnan's church in Cleadale had fetched a record £243 000 at Sotheby's! Finally attributed to the school of Caravaggio and bought by a French collector, the painting which was donated to St Donnan church in 1911 by R.L. Thomson (Lawrence and Ewen MacEwen's great-uncle), the then proprietor of Eigg, was first valued at a mere £10 000.
This will go a long way to help with the restoration of the B-listed church, which will see the first wedding in 19 years when Tamsin Helliwell and her partner Stuart tie the knot in August! Congratulations to her sister Catriona, on finishing her occupational therapy degree and beating all her competitors in getting her dream job working with children in Livingston. Finally a very happy birthdays to Dean - 42 - and to Joe -25 - whose first birthday on Eigg it was since he was a kid! It was a good one by all accounts…. to Brendan Greene -18 on the 10th June, Tasha Lancaster - 30 on the 11th June, and Stuart Millar - 50 on 17th June.
We started May with a village tidy. Lots of villagers came to help and we split into small groups to cover different areas of the village. Together we filled lots of bags of rubbish. We all gathered at the bridge over the Callop for some well-deserved refreshments and a sausage sizzle.
Most of us walked but Charlie and Isobel made a grand entrance when they rowed up to join us. For the return journey he took an extra passenger, Kitty MacDonald. As the three of them sailed under the bridge we all gathered on the bridge and sang Just one cornetto to much hilarity followed by Fhir a'bhata. We all sang the chorus and as Charlie rowed off into the distance the wind carried his voice singing the verse.
On arriving at the pier Charlie assisted Kitty to dry land. Then it was Isobel's turn to come ashore but somehow she fell into the loch. Rather than try to scramble back aboard she decided the best course of action was to swim ashore. Meanwhile we had all gathered at the hotel for a drink. It must have been, oh, all of five minutes later when we heard about Isobel's splash. Immediately, son Iain phoned with a joke question and then they knew we knew so a dried-off and jolly Isobel arrived at the hotel with Charlie. We had the Loch Shiel Spring Festival recently but I didn't manage to attend any of the concerts and I am afraid I have no news on it. Judging by the cars at the church it was fairly well attended.
Congratulations to Ailsa Powell and Jay on the birth of their son Finn. Congratulations also to Ruth on becoming a Granny! It was great to welcome Ailsa and Finn to the Mums and Babies group. There really has been a population explosion in Glenfinnan. We have 12 children under the age of 5 in the village.
Happy Birthday to Katie MacRae age 6, Ingrid Henderson, Alistair Gibson on turning 50 and to myself who shall remain ageless.
ISLE OF CANNA
Although the recent spell of fine weather has been a boost in most respects, it's been a double edged sword…six weeks of sunshine has left our supplies of fresh water perilously low and a lot of extra work has gone into keeping the tanks topped up. We were heartened briefly this afternoon as the rains fell briefly, and it appeared that our recent pleas to the gods had not gone unheeded…but were discouraged to witness its evaporation almost before it hit the ground. It looks like our rain-dancing technique is destined to remain in the strictly amateur category (at least for a couple more days). Or certainly until the summer holidays when it's guaranteed to persist down with the usual vigour for six weeks non-stop.
The cruising season has begun in earnest, and the number of visiting yachts and small cruise ships is steadily on the increase. Passengers landing at Canna are eager to experience for themselves the informative and entertaining Island Tour. Our resident tour guides, Barbara and Wilma, have been rushed off their feet. Many will be interested to know that none of our soil is imported, contrary to popular belief, and that there might be more than one type of diver to be seen in the bay. There was another new arrival this month, as Star Song arrived from Isle Ornsay. I know precious little about boats; all I can say is she's painted red and very pretty, and perfect for boat trips. We'll all be whisked off for a round of golf on Hyskeir before long.
We played host to another visitor from Eigg; thanks to Camille for her excellent talk on Alexander Macdonald, poet of the Gaelic Enlightenment. Seizing the opportunity, there swiftly followed a briefing on the Outdoor Capital of the UK and a discussion on web marketing. And finally, the coup de grace, a slideshow outlining the Year of Homecoming 2009 (followed by discussion). Typical…we wait ages for a PowerPoint presentation then three come along at once…
Thanks also to Catriona MacEwan who sent us an article from the Caledonian Mercury dated 18th November 1809, which reports sightings of 'the fifh called mermaids'…and has kept the children enthralled for ages, although us grown-ups have known these to exist for some time now, and are getting quite used to witneffing certain 'vifitations'…especially after a dram or two…
Wednesdays on Canna are as hectic as ever. While some are organising visiting trades people, and the occasional priest, there are skips to be collected, freight for delivery, beasts to move and bulls to be met, and inevitably the mad rush for the tearoom. Somehow, in the middle of it all others find the time to get married…congratulations to Neil and Helen (not forgetting wee Joe); regular visitors to Canna who tied the knot this month. And guess what? The sun was shining!
Back over on the mainland, salmon begin their inevitable and persistent progress upriver; chicks emerge resolute in the face of life's adversities. Meanwhile across the bay I hear the chattering chorus of lawnmowers engaged in their tireless but ultimately futile attempts to keep the grass down.
Notice to mariners: the tower recently made visible on the Isle of Sanday is in fact St. Edwards Church not covered in scaffolding.
MERMAIDS - A CORRESPONDENT WRITES AS FOLLOWS
(from the Caledonian Mercury of 18th November 1809 - see Geoff's Canna piece)
Arasaig, 28th Sept 1809. - the following declaration was this day emitted, in prefence of the after fubfcribing witneffes. Neil McIntofh in Sandy Ifland, Canna, ftates that he has heard from different individuals in the ifland of Canna, that they have feen the fifh called Mermaids; that thefe animals had the upper parts refembling the human figure, and the lower extremities refembling a fifh. In particular, about fix years ago, Neil Stewart and Neil McIfaac, both alive in Canna, when walking upon the fea beach on the north end of the ifland, on a Sunday, faw fretched on a rock at a fmall diftance, an animal of the above defcription, having the appearance of a woman in the upper parts and a fifh below; that on feeing them, it fprung into the water, after which they a more diftinct view of its upper parts, which ftrongly refembled a female of the human fpecies.-
That Lachlan McArthur, of the fame ifland, informed McIntofh, that fome years ago, failing from Uift to Skye in a ftormy day, he saw rifing from the water near the ftern of the boat in which he was, a figure refembling a woman in upper parts, which terrified him extremely.
Neil McIntofh further ftates, that he himfelf, about five year ago, was fteering a boat from Canna to Skye in a ftormy day; that when about one fourth of the paffage from Canna he faw fomething near him of a white colour, and of the human figure, fpring almoft out of the water, which he took for the animal above defcribed; but as it inftantly difappeared again, he had no opportunity of examining it minutely; that he felt confiderable alarm at the fight of it, as a general opinion of prejudice exifts amongft the inhabitants of the Weftern Ifles, that it is extremely unlucky to meet with or look upon fuch animals at fea, or to point them out to the reft of the crew, unlefs the obferve it of themfelves.
Signed, Neil McIntofh; Robert brown, factor for Clanranald, witnefs; William Campbell; W.S., Edinburgh, winefs; James Gillefpie, architect, Edinburgh, witnefs.
PORTREE 2ND Oct 1809 - That what is above written is a true copy of the original.
Attefted MALCOLM WRIGHT, NP.
(from the Caledonian Mercury of 18th November 1809.)
The Canna House garden restoration project
The project continues to move ahead, helped greatly by the recent spell of dry weather and the copious amounts of cake and biscuits fed to the workforce. Starting in February with a period of slash and burn (you'll see the best bonfires in the Small Isles at Canna House) the Gardener and his part time volunteer Fiona have made good inroads into the years of neglect in the sheltered walled garden. Lost paths are beginning to be rediscovered and newly sown vegetables are valiantly fighting against the horror weeds of Ground Elder, Couch grass and Dock. Also the probably unique Escallonia arch is beginning to look more like an arch. However, the big question on everyone's lips is "will Canna become a centre of excellence for the thrills and spills sport of Croquet"? The Croquet lawn has had its brambles decapitated, its turf trimmed, its worst holes filled and a generation of moss raked away. The 40 year old Croquet set has seen the dust removed, its hoops erected and its rule book studied, ignored and then studied again. A number of games have been played with varying levels of success. The sward is far from bowling green or Croquet lawn standard as yet but it is improving. The last 'bunker' has now been cleared. A strong Canna House home team is developing, ready to challenge fearlessly all comers to the island. No incidents of rowdiness from players or spectators have been recorded, although the gardener has been seen near the bottle recycling bin after key matches. Should the Beijing or London Olympics adopt Croquet as an Olympic sport, Canna will come into its own and put the Small isles on the map. Now what is the Gaelic for Beijing here we come..?
Eigg and Knoydart are in the running for a £1m prize to save the planet
The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) have named 10 groups from Scotland on the 100-strong nationwide shortlist competing for a slice of its million-pound Big Green Challenge prize fund, the biggest ever community environment challenge, by coming up with innovative ways to tackle climate change in their communities.
Those on the shortlist have been completing more detailed plans about how their ideas will work and will receive access to a range of experts to help them.
Each group will be hoping to make the cut when the top 100 are whittled down to ten finalists in July, each of whom will receive up to £20,000, plus advice and support to get their green projects up and running over a year. The groups with the most imaginative and successful approach to cutting carbon emissions at the end of the competition will win a share of the £1m prize up for grabs.
Those interested in learning more about groups from Scotland on the Big Green Challenge shortlist should go to www.biggreenchallenge.org.uk.
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust is planning to make the whole Isle carbon neutral with a range of innovative initiatives including community biodiesel use, using excess heat from island electricity generation to heat community buildings and new recycling schemes for paper and oil.
A Carbon Free Knoydart is working with 15 households currently operating on diesel powered generators to transfer to renewables.
Mallaig Oral History Project
This month we began the process of interviewing - writing up a list of people who were willing to be interviewees, and also others who were keen to be involved with the project - as interviewers. We also have a selection of 'themes' including childhood, the area during World War II, the importance of the railway, experience of being a fisherman, fishermen's wives, the Lifeboat - amongst others. This process is far from complete - and we would be more than happy to accept any further offers of help, or advice about people or events or themes which should be included in the project.
Stanley Duncan was one of our first 'victims' - and gave a really interesting account of childhood in Mallaig, his memories of school, happy times in the scouts, and his first experiences in the workplace. I am sure that his reminiscences will strike a chord with others in the area who shared his experiences, and as the project goes on, we will be comparing the experiences and memories of local people to provide a really interesting account of the living history of our communities.
We have a training event coming up in the middle of June, with Professor Paul Thompson coming up from Essex, to talk about oral history, and also to give an account of a similar project in which he was involved in his home town of Wivenhoe. The date for this has yet to be finalised but is likely to culminate in an event on the evening on Friday 20th June at the Heritage Centre. Paul has had many years of experience in this field, having written the book 'Living the Fishing' - one of the seminal texts on the fishing industry and experience of fishermen - and is also committed to the notion of people's history and people's experience and memories being as relevant and important as the formal history of an area. Anyone who is interested in being involved in the project as an interviewer is welcome to attend the training event - please get hold of the project team through Mallaig Heritage Centre - 01687 462085, or email email@example.com
We are also making plans to join the Mallaig Lifeboat 60 Years Celebration with a special weekend event in September. If anyone has any photos, films or memories involving the Mallaig Lifeboat, we would be extremely grateful if you would get in touch. It is one of the themes which the project will be covering - and we look forward to being able to combine our efforts to celebrate the amazing effort and dedication of all those involved in our own local lifeboat service. Again - contact the project on the above number or email - or get in touch with George Lawrie on 01687 462487.
Thanks to all those who have helped so far! See you next month….
Jill and Bridget
Eigg Painting sold for £288,500
The Catholic Church has finally sold a controversial painting, attributed firstly to the Italian artist, Caravaggio, and then his fellow countryman, Gentileschi. The 16th century painting, The Anointing of the Crucified Christ, was brought to Eigg at the end of the 19th century by Robert Lawrence Thomas MacEwen, then owner of the island, and was left by him to the priest of St Donnan's. it was moved to Oban Cathedral in the 1950's because it was being affected by damp conditions on Eigg. An argument arose over the ownership when it was first suggested it be sold, in 2002 - did it belong to the Church or the island? - but research has proved the Church ownership. St Donnan's Church and the Chapel House has fallen into disrepair over recent years and money from the sale will go towards the renovation.
New Head teacher needed for Muck
Highland Council is recruiting a Head Teacher for a primary school on the Isle of Muck, the smallest and southernmost island of the Small Isles. Muck Primary School, with a school roll of currently 7 pupils and 3 nursery pupils, which serves a population of around 30 people, is seeking a new Head Teacher. The post has a salary of £41,532 , plus remote allowance and distant island allowance, and comes with a 3-bedroomed schoolhouse above the school ~ both built in 1993. The school has a large classroom area and smaller adjoining room which is used by the nursery, island's toddler group, and as a wet area for art, craft and science. In addition to a kitchen, office and toilets the school has a conservatory off the classroom which provides additional space and the public library is located there.
Highland Housing Register Launch
Applying for social rented housing in Highland will be more straightforward following the launch of the Highland Housing Register. The initiative means that people who want to rent a house from the Council or any of the Housing Associations in the Highlands only need to complete a single application form, with housing allocated according to a single policy. Highland will be the 10th council area in Scotland to have teamed up with other social landlords to develop common housing registers. The Highland scheme is one of the most far reaching of these as it involves not just a single application form but also a joint allocation policy and shared computer system.
CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member
The Committee of Inquiry on Crofting released its findings in a 98 page report on 12th May. The report has been widely accepted and applauded as it finally gives hope for the future of crofting, by reducing speculation and bringing all crofts back into work. It will continue to be debated over the summer months and hopefully become legislation by this time next year.
Through implementation of Prof Shucksmiths findings all Crofts will have to be worked. The word 'worked' will no longer be a loose term, unenforced by the Crofters Commission, but will mean actively producing environmentally friendly local produce, utilising Common grazings, apportionments and croft land that has been purchased but is not at present in use. There is much talk these days of a World food shortage and usage of land for bio fuels has meant that the Government has had a change of policy and now wants available land to be used for food production. Croft land not in use will have to be released to the proposed Local Crofting Boards for redistribution. Croft speculation could hopefully end over the next decade through the Inquiry's proposals. Real 'Burdens' would be imposed tying house sales to working Croft land and residency. Another important aspect of the report is the support of crofting through the whole community. Grazing committees will have a name change and be elected from a wider remit, and the crofting townships would work together with the wider community. Examples of this could be a Local food production initiative using unused common grazing soumings to graze locally produced beef to be sold to local participants at cost, or perhaps working together to improve the peat track and establish it on the Local paths network to provide access for walkers.
Crofters as Custodians of the Land and Environment
Much of the Inquiry report emphasised the need for Crofting to be seen more favourably to the wider public . Possibly a change of image from old men and sheep [sic] to caring environmentalists, an example to the rest of the world of how agriculture and food production can be done without damage to the planet.
Reducing Methane Emissions
Balancing the reduction of Methane emissions from cattle without decreasing production has now become another important environmental issue. In a study it was shown that Methane [that nice smell that comes off a cow] can be reduced through efficiency of production by using breeds that convert grass to weight gain more efficiently. Although lower quality grass produced more emissions it can be argued that extensive systems [hill grazing] are more environmentally friendly as they use less fodder [much higher emissions from cattle being fed grain based high protein feed]. The type of cow used on crofts and hill ground [native breeds that need less feeding] are also better energy converters so show reduced methane emissions.
Preserving Carbon Stocks
Peat Bogs are ancient and irreplaceable habitats supporting their own unique range of flora and fauna. They take hundreds of years to develop and in Common grazings crofters have control of large reserves of the country's carbon stocks in the peat bogs that absorb carbon dioxide like a giant sponge. Mangement of the grazings has to be done in a way that prevents the release of carbon into the atmosphere but still meets food production targets and utilization of the grazings. Over stocking causing excessive poaching of peatlands in the wet months and tractor feeding using round feeders are two examples of ways that arbon could be released if grazings weren't managed . Cutting peat by hand for fuel could also be called unfriendly to the environment but I wouldn't agree. If you compare the carbon footprint of extracting peat or coal by machine then hauling it here, or of producing electricity versus cutting peat by hand locally, then it is better alternative. This month has been perfect for drying peat and the ground is dry enough now to take a pony up to bring it home .
On and Off The Rails
Jacobite steam season starts again
May 19th saw the first Jacobite steam train into Mallaig. The train was hauled by K1 No. 62005, with seven coaches in tow. However, on Wednesday 21st the locomotive used was Ian Riley's Black 5 No. 45407 The Lancashire Fuselier as the K1 was suffering from a 'hot axle box'. As it was a last minute decision to swap locomotives, there was no time to turn the Black 5 at Fort William so it arrived in Mallaig tender first, which delighted photographers as this meant it was chimney first on leaving Mallaig, a rare sight these days! Also it was sporting a headboard, The Cotton Mill Express, not the usual Jacobite one. This headboard is used on the Black 5 when it works around the Lancashire area, the home of the locomotive. The Riley boys are renowned for their boyish sense of humour!
On Monday May 26th the K1 returned to duty on the Jacobite, but due to extremely hot weather conditions a decision was made to diesel haul the train on Wednesday 28th in order to reduce the risks of lineside fire. The day the diesel ran it poured with rain all day, so steam could have been used!
On Thursday after a heavy deluge of rain it was again the K1 in charge. Unfortunately on Friday 30th the K1 failed at Glenfinnan with a recurring 'hot axle box'. The engine returned light to Fort William, leaving 7 carriages and 350 passengers at Glenfinnan. A Class 37 Diesel (No. 37248) was despatched from Fort William Yard and made its way to Glenfinnan to rescue the carriages and passengers. Although the train crew made every effort to take the train to Arisaig, a decision was made by Network Rail to return the train to Fort William. In all, a disappointing start to the Jacobite season. Let's hope from now in all goes well.
Dectic arrives in Mallaig
After several attempts at coming to Mallaig with Preserved Class 55 Dectic English Electric Diesel, SRPS finally made it on May 24th. Royal Scots Grey as she is named made a splendid sight as she 'smoked' into Mallaig Station! These locomotives are fitted with English Electric 'Napier Dectic' two stroke engines and are famous for the cloud of smoke that emerges from their exhausts. They were introduced in 1961 on BR to replace the aging Gresley A4s. They in turn were eventually replaced by the Class 43 HSTs and at this moment in time Royal Scots Grey is the only remaining class of its kind certificated to run on the main line, so to see it standing at the buffer stops in Mallaig was a rare treat. SRPS had planned to take it to Oban and the Kyle of Lochalsh but both these trips has to be cancelled due to operating difficulties. Mallaig was the only place in Scotland that the locomotive made a successful trip to.
Thanks must go to Beaver Sports in York, and the hard working volunteers at SRPS for bringing it all the way from North Berwick to Mallaig for us to enjoy. Also thanks for West Coast Railways (the operators of the Jacobite) for supplying the train crew.
Railway Track Diagrams of Scotland Competition
Many thanks to all of you who entered the competition to win a copy of the above book. I was surprised at the large amount of entries, but only one winner I'm afraid. The winner was Mr A MacLennan from Spean Bridge. Well done! And sorry to all of you who didn't win this time. The book can be purchased from 'Trackmaps', Little Court, Upper South Wraxall, Bradford on Avon, BA15 2SE. Tel. 0845 300 1370, www.trackmaps.co.uk Price £11.95.
Mainline Timetable Summer Revision by Middleton Press
In West Word December 07 I reviewed the new mainline train timetable published by Middleton Press. They have now just published the 'Revised Summer Edition'. It is to be used in conjunction with the December 07 winter 'revision'. Costing £14.95, it is a valuable addition to your travelling requirements and can be obtained direct from Middleton Press at www.middletonpress.co.uk or by telephoning 01730 813169.
For one lucky West Word reader I have a copy of the 'Revised Summer Edition' to give away. Just put your name and telephone number on a post card and send to me no later than June 14th, and the first name out of the hat on that date will receive the timetable. Send your entries to me at 'Fasgadh', Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD. Good luck!
'Network Rail Specials'
May saw two interesting arrivals into Mallaig Station. Firstly, on Tuesday May 20th, a 'weedkilling' train was stabled in the down siding overnight, an unusual occurrence, as it usually comes in early morning and returns straight away. Due to the booked steam train on the Wednesday, it was 'blocked' in Mallaig until 12.30 on Wednesday.
Secondly, in the early hours of May 28th, a 'tamping machine' worked out of Mallaig. It started at 4am, no doubt most people living near to the lineside would have been awoken by it. They move very slowly and make an incredible amount of noise! Their purpose is to relocate and compress the sleeper ballast, in order that the line sits evenly. I can't remember the last time one of these machines was in Mallaig, the last 'ballast' working was a few years ago, but only to deposit new ballast either side of the track bed.
That's all for this month, see you on the train!
FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association
An emergency meeting of around 80 representatives from the UK fishing industry in Inverness, has decided to begin a series of co-ordinated days of action at ports around the UK, to highlight the desperate plight of the industry caused by high fuel prices. At the moment, the action may stop short of blockading ports but that has not been ruled out in future. Presently the format and timing of the days of action have yet to be decided but it is thought that they will be modified to take account of local port practices throughout the UK.
Chairman of the meeting, John Macalister of MNWFA said " the mood is one of anger and desperation. Once again, little is being done to help our industry in our time of need. We have met with politicians at EU, UK and Scottish level and whilst they offered sympathy they could offer little in the way of industry sustaining, short term support. The time for speaking is over and we now need action." Hector Stewart, a fish processor in Uist said "We receive the same price for top quality lobster and scallops as we did fifteen years ago but our operating costs have nearly doubled in the last 6 months".
The meeting formed a committee to be representative of all the UK and this committee will co-ordinate the days of action. It is expected that Europe wide support will be found and French and Belgian interests have already pledged to join in the co-ordinated actions.
It was also decided that a meeting be demanded with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and First Minister Alex Salmond to re-enforce the message of the stark reality of total melt down facing the industry, as it feared that the message was not being conveyed with enough strength. John Hermse of MNWFA said " Vessels and businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy and already tying up due to high operating costs. This will escalate in the next few months. We need to look at short term help such as accessing the Government Emergency fund, tax breaks for the industry, minimising third country shellfish imports and direct fuel focused application of de-minimus aid."
The Fuel Action Group Committee is expected to start the action planning process in the next day or so with action days following closely thereafter.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A number of interesting records this month, as Summer visitors continued to arrive, while some Winter visitors lingered till the month's end. Star bird and most exotic looking must surely be the Hoopoe seen and photographed at Airor, Knoydart, on the 9th. Nearer to home, a Nuthatch was reported from a garden in Morar on the 6th. Another nice bird was a Turtle Dove seen and photographed in a Mallaig garden, feeding along with the local Collared Doves on the 17th. Near the end of the month a Corncrake was heard and also seen in Arisaig from the 29th. Also on the 29th a Long Eared Owl was found dead after it collided with a window of a house near Camus an't Allen, Arisaig.
A couple of Iceland Gulls were still around Mallaig during the month and an Immature Glaucous Gull appeared on the 27th and stayed till the month end at least.
Great Northern Divers, most in Summer plumage, were scattered round the coast from Loch Nevis to Loch nan Ceall the highest count was of at least 15 off Traigh on the 8th, along with a Black-Throated Diver and 2 Red-Throats. An interesting incident occurred on the 28th, when a pair of Shelduck were observed escorting a brood of recently hatched ducklings across Glasnacardoch Bay near Mallaig. Suddenly the adult birds were frantic as they attempted to drive something away that appeared to be attacking the ducklings from below the surface. After much splashing and squawking, an adult Great Northern Diver surfaced a few yards away from the Shelduck family. Whether it was a deliberate attack or the diver had inadvertently attempted to surface amongst the ducklings, I'm not sure!
Many Summer migrants made their appearance during the month. A male Blackcap was at Rhubana View on the 1st. Sedge Warblers were at Silver Sands by the 5th, Common Whitethroats were noted at Rhubana View on the 8th. Wood Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers were on the North side of Loch Morar by the 21st. A male Common Redstart was seen at Rhubana View on the same day.
Good numbers of Common and Arctic Terns were back at Traigh and Arisaig from the 7th.
A few migrant Whimbrel were seen at Back of Keppoch and Traigh until the 8th at least. Other migrant waders included a single Bar-Tailed Godwit on the golf course, 50+ Dunlin and a solitary Sanderling on the shore at Traigh, all on the 4th. Up to 22 Golden Plovers were at Back of Keppoch during the first week while a party of 5 were to the North of Invercaimbe on the 24th. Lapwing chicks were first seen on the 8th at Back of Keppoch, while Grey Wagtail and Dippers were seen feeding young on the Morar River by the 13th. Also on the 13th, Shelduck were seen at Traigh with 9 new ducklings. On the 21st a pair of Greylags had 4 Goslings on Loch Morar by Rhubana.
Arctic Skuas were seen in the Sound of Sleat from the 20th, but none close inshore until the last day of the month, when 1 was seen at the entrance to Loch nan Ceall.
Lesser Redpolls were reported on nyger seed feeders from a couple of gardens in Morar during the month, along with Goldfinches and the first broods of Siskins appearing mid-month. Bullfinches were seen on fruit trees in the Morar area, and also in woodland by Morar Lodge and at Kinsadel. A single Linnet was seen in a garden at Kinigarry on the 8th.
A pair of House Martins appeared at Rhubana View on the 20th and were attempting to build nests on several of the houses there until the month end, and another pair were reported trying to build at James Jarvie Row, Mallaig.
Up to 5 Rock Doves were seen near the roadside and shore between Glasnacardoch and Mallaig on several occasions during the month.
Inverie Bird list - Jim, Knoydart Ranger
Treecreeper seen at Inverie on 15th April
Goldfinch - Inverie - 15th April
2 male reed buntings seen at Long Beach, Inverie, also on 15th April.
Greenshank - Beinn na Caillich, Knoydart - 20th April
Ring ouzel - Beinn na Caillich, Knoydart - 20th April
1st cuckoo heard - Inverie - 22nd April
Whitethroat - Inverie - 5th May
Sea eagle - Inverguserein, Knoydart - 7th May
3 tufted duck - Inverguserein, Knoydart - 7th May
5 Shelduck - Inverguserein, Knoydart - 7th May
Snipe drumming - Inverie - 7th May
Hoopoe! - Airor, Knoydart - 9th May. Pit Klemm.
Never having seen a camera, Katie Ann could not understand why a fine lady should want to look at her through a wooden box.
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Katie Ann MacDonald, Bourblach, Morar.
Recently, I picked up a brochure in Fort William, which detailed amongst others, our venerable local Countryside Ranger's activities. Accompanying one of the articles was a very familiar face which is also featured on page sixty five of MEM Donaldson's book, "Herself". The photo portrays Katie Ann MacDonald, Bourblach and is one of these striking photos in which MEM so cleverly captured the occasion. Part of the caption says "A welcoming smile for the Duchess as the young lass was convinced that this was MEMD's correct title."
Katie Ann's ancestry was thus. Her g.grandparents, John MacDonald, b. 1789 and his wife, Catherine, b. 1799, lived at Ardintigh, North Morar and in the 1841 census they had at least two children. Donald b.1821 and Flora, b. 1826. With them in the house were four Cameron children - William 15, Sarah, 14, Alexander 12 and John 10. I wonder, were these Cameron children close relatives?
Donald MacDonald, b. 1821, married Catherine Gillies, Stoule, b. 1828 a daughter of Angus, b.1795 and Catherine Gillies b. 1811. Donald and Catherine had four children. John b. 1852, Ann b. 1854, Donald, b. 1855 and Angus, b. 1858. In the 1861 census, Catherine (Gillies) MacDonald is a widow and living in Shenagate with her children. In an article in West Word on Feb/March 2004 entitled "MacKellaigs", I detailed Ann MacDonald, b. 1854, and her marriage to Alexander MacKellaig son of Alasdair na Slatach, Glenfinnan, and his wife, Janet MacAdam, Moidart. In 1861 Alasdair na Slatach and Janet MacAdam were sheepfarming three thousand acres at East and West Stoule.
To revise, the children of Ann and Alexander MacKellaig were all born in Suinsleitir, South Morar. These children were, Sandy (Park Mór, Mallaig), Donald, (1) (Heatherlea, Mallaig) John, (Sunset, Morar) Dugald (Glasnacardoch, Mallaig), Archie (Shore Cottage, Mallaig) and Donald (2), (Mallaig).
Angus MacDonald, b. 1858, an uncle of the MacKellaig children, married Ann MacLellan, Bourblach, b. 1866, the youngest of four children whose parents were Donald MacLellan and Catherine ? In 1871, Catherine MacLellan was a widow aged 31 years and her birthplace is given as South Uist. She is described as a farmer of four hundred acres.
Angus MacDonald b. 1858 and Ann MacLellan were married ca.1886 and set up home in Bourblach where they had a shop for many years. They had at least four children. Mary, b.1888, Catherine, b.1890, Donald and Katie Ann, of the photograph, b.after1891.
The family left Bourblach ca. 1940 and moved to Morar village and Fraser descendants remain in the area to the present day.
A Complaint from Inverailort
Iain Thornber's introduction to The Cameron Collection (old local photos) includes a car journey from Inverailort to Mallaig and back which attracted 'the wild amazement of the natives of the district'. Mallaig had just acquired a railway station, and Christian Cameron - who took the photos - had tried to prevent the line going through her land. The compiler observes:
'Her attempt to halt the railway's progress smacks more of pique than common sense and inevitably she failed. Lochailort railway station opened in 1901 and the only concession she managed to wrest for herself was a right (granted in perpetuity) to stop the train at her own private halt near the estate's eastern boundary.' Iain Thornber - who knows a bit about shooting - adds that it was 'extremely useful for stalking parties going to and from the hill in the days when the public road was little more than a river bed.' He writes frankly about the forceful woman who was descended from one of Wellington's best officers, and who married into shipping wealth as Mrs James Head: 'Regrettably, Christian inherited more than a tincture of the soldier's blood that ran in her family - and it showed. Her near neighbours, the Blackburns of Roshven, the Astley-Nicholsons of Arisaig and the MacDonalds of Glenaladale must all have wished she had much less of it. Their long childhood association with Christian gave them no protection against her mercurial eruptions - or her penchant for disputing estate borders that (as often as not) ran through tracts of ill-defined and worthless bog.'
Having developed an interest of my own in Christian Cameron-Head (as she became, after a good deal of lobbying for a coat-of-arms) I went along to the new Lochaber Archive Centre in Fort William. Boxes of Inverailort Estate papers have recently been transferred there from Inverness. Personal letters include several from Christian's mother, then at Arisaig House, about Frank Astley's body being brought back after a canoe accident in Canada - paddlers please note! But my favourite for sharing with West Word readers is an official one dated 16 January 1933. By then the road was fit for large vehicles even at night, and one of them seems to have made a comfort stop near the Castle. Inspector Mackenzie's letter, typed on blue ribbon, came from Fort William:
I have to acknowledge receipt of yours of 10th instant re Motor Lorry seen opposite Inverailort, and beg to inform you that I had enquiries made and it has been ascertained that on the night in question the telegraph linesmen employed at Morar passed up that way very late with a van which had very powerful head lights. The men were returning from the Christmas and New Year holidays, and were singing passing Glenfinnan.'
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook
List of Issues online
Copyright © 2002-2008 West Word
Site designed by
Page last updated: June 2008
The Internet Guide to Scotland
Copyright © 2002-2008 West Word
Site designed by