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

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March 2005 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg, Canna
Coastal Ranger Report

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LOCAL SCHOOLS UNDER REVIEW
Lady Lovat Primary School was the venue and the subject of a meeting on Monday 21st February when parents and staff met with Highland Council officials to look at options for its future.
The huge success of Gaelic provision at Lady Lovat Primary school has put pressure on the accommodation of the small school, a situation highlighted in the recent otherwise excellent HM inspector's report. And while Morar struggles to cope with overcrowded classrooms and a portacabin, Mallaig Primary School has two spare classrooms and a falling roll. A number of possibilities have been aired but Education chiefs insist that nothing will be done without full consultation with the communities involved.
The suggestions put forward to the Highland Council's Lochaber Area Committee meeting in December included the possibility of Morar's Lady Lovat School becoming an All-Gaelic School. At present there are 40 pupils in the Gaelic Medium unit and 11 in the rest of the school.
Other options put forward were: to turn both primary schools into Gaelic and English Medium; to close Lady Lovat and move all the pupils to Mallaig where an extension to the school could be built; added accommodation at Morar and the Early years moved to Mallaig; and finally to consider one 21st century school for Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig for English and Gaelic Medium pupils. Lady Lovat School is only one of a number of Lochaber Primary Schools under review. A new 'super school' has been discussed to merge Caol and Banavie schools, and Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge were in the spotlight a few months ago. The situation in Morar can be likened to that of Roy Bridge, which has a school in urgent need of renovation with little prospect of available funding to carry out improvements, while nearby the new building at Spean Bridge has room to spare.
Bruce Robertson, Director of Education, Culture and Sport says: 'There has been a necessity to review education provision in a number of locations in Lochaber. The meeting was held in Lady Lovat School with parents from the Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig area to discuss the best way forward.'
A parent commented 'Obviously we are all happier with the status quo, with our children going to the schools which are the nearest to us, or which we have chosen for them to attend. School rolls appear to be falling all over Lochaber, so this is a common problem. But at the end of the day we want what's best for the children.' Discussions will continue with all interested parties.

ARISAIG PRIMARY ONE OF THE FIRST HIGHLAND SCHOOLS TO GET 20MPH SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT
The new speed limit began on 1st March and lights under the signs will flash at certain times during the school day, showing the speed limit is in operation.

Pictured with pupils are headmaster Martin Jones and School Board Chair Jennifer Campbell.

photo

News in Brief…

Fishing Boats for Tsunami Disaster Area
As with many people in this country and beyond, the communities of Arisaig and district felt they had to do something to alleviate, even in a small way, the plight of those who lost everything on 26th December.
One of the villagers in Arisaig, who had been to Sri Lanka and who had a contact there, suggested that, being a fishing village ourselves, we should endeavour to buy a boat, which would be built there, to give to a fishing family/families who had lost their sole means of livelihood as a result of the tsunami.
To that end a Bring and Buy Sale, Raffle and Soup and Sandwich Lunch was held in the Astley Hall on 15th January which, in only 3 hours, raised over £1600. Subsequent to that event gifts and donations amounting to some £900 were received from a wide range of people and geographical areas; the total sum engathered amounting to a magnificent £2503.95. This money has now been sent (without charge - courtesy of the Royal Bank of Scotland) to our contact - Wickrama Jayawardena in Ukuwela, Sri Lanka.
Our original hope was to raise enough money to provide an 18ft fibre glass boat with a 15HP outboard engine and fishing gear,. However we have been told by Mr Jayawardena that the £2503 will be sufficient to buy the fibre glass boat etc. and also 6 - yes six - smaller boats to be used by other fishermen and he is arranging to purchase these. It has been suggested to Mr. Jaywardena that the boats might be named Arisaig, Bracara, Lochailort, Mallaig, Morar, Roshven and Traigh. Thanks are due to all who have contributed and helped with this project.

NEW MANAGER AT THE COLLEGE
Jane Henderson has taken over the helm of the Mallaig Learning Centre, after a spell as Interim Manager after Marina Muir left. It is a particularly apt appointment as Jane has gone through the whole process of studying her BA in Cultural Studies at the Mallaig Centre. In addition to this she has been a representative on UHI committees, has demonstrated video conferencing techniques at a transnational conference and is currently involved in a research project for the new EQUAL Hi Hopes development partnership, which is looking at barriers to learning for under represented groups. All this means Jane is ideally placed to provide support and encouragement to those who wish to further their education without moving away from home. And it's never too late - Jane didn't start studying until her family had grown up. Jane can be contacted on 01397 874600


KNOYDART
Well, I should start out with a quick précis of January…the main event being, of course, the storm. At its height, the tide was a couple of feet over the pier - amazingly, the pier light situated at the end remained on for at least an hour. Dinghies were moved out of harm's way by a combination of manpower and landrover, and the telegraph poles laid down to stop people parking on the grass in front of the pub were swept right up to the Old Forge walls. Customers sat inside drinking hot toddies as the waves lashed off the windows.
In the morning, the full extent of the devastation became clear. The road was swept away in four places, and several roofs lost tiles. A shed at Scottas House completely lost its roof, and the Long Beach now looked completely different: the grassy area used by campers was now covered with rubble. In fact, the whole beach had completely shifted, as Tommy the Ferry discovered when trying to navigate in with the Western Isles' dinghy - he ended up high and dry on a sand-bar which wasn't there previously! Plastic debris covered all coastal areas - this is slowly being cleared up by locals and visitors (including the army who came to visit on an exercise in north Knoydart).
The Hydro system was hit by lightning that night, which caused a breakdown. Unfortunately, the village generator also broke down a few days later, so we had no power at all for a couple of days while a hired genny was sourced. 24-hour power finally came back on at the end of February, more than a month after the original breakdown. Burns Night in Inverie was as unconventional, hosted with aplomb by MC Iain Wilson. Highlight had to be the Toasts to the Lads and Lasses - supposed to be given by Bob and Morag, they ducked out at the last minute and were replaced by Russians Vasily and his wife, who stood with life-sized photographs of Bob'n'Morag's faces in front of them. Vasily's speech went something like this: "…..I like the Inverie Women….….lovely legs….…." etc. Haggis and Neeps were excellent as always. We were also treated to some great music from Tam, Merv, Steve, Jimmy-Joe and Stephanie Harris. The night continued on, as always, until the wee small hours, with more singing provided by Lynn.
Arrivals / departures: Julie from the bar left for a month in February - haste ye back, Jules. Kate returned to Ireland, and Sheridan arrived from South Australia to visit for three weeks, and hasn't left yet. Quote from Sheridan: "I've been Inverie'd!" And Nick Tokely has finally returned to the rolling hills and sheep of the Borders after nearly three years in Knoydart.
Nick's leaving party this past weekend had the theme of "Pimps and Ho's" - which was enthusiastically taken up by quite a few locals - much to the bemusement of the lone walker who had wandered into the pub. The night was helped along by DJ Jim Brown, who spun his decks for a total of more than 12 hours (the party continued that night and the next day at the Post Office - apologies to Jan and Dave). I've sent a webcam picture of the party (just turned the camera to face inside) to Ann - perhaps she'll reproduce it in these pages if she thinks it's appropriate.
Work at the new pier seems to have slowed somewhat, with design and build changes rumoured to be the cause.
Coming up soon: a community planning day, in which Knoydart Locals have the opportunity to have their say about the future direction of the Foundation - look out for Anne's report of the results in the next edition.
P.S. The Campbells have developed a nasty habit of hiding behind the water tank, as I discovered last night (long term readers may understand that rather obscure sentence!)
Tommy McManmon

ISLE OF MUCK
Congratulations to all those who entered for the Daisy Prize and specifically to Lucy McCalister the overall winner. I've not seen the originals but even from the pages of West Word the high quality of the entries shines through. The Craft Shop is hoping to hold an exhibition during the summer.
After an initial burst of enthusiasm Highland Council seem to have lost interest in making good the storm damage at the new pier. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that they are not being reimbursed by the Scottish Office. However the Muck Roads Dept. (Ewen MacEwen) armed with a shovel and wheelbarrow is gradually returning the road surface to where it belongs.
Lastly I would like to mention that I have been shopping recently - on Eigg. I was very impressed. Neat and tidy with very fresh fruit and vegetables and everything I bought was on special offer. Highly motivated staff too! Well worth a visit if you are passing!
On the farm it has been a challenging winter for the outdoor livestock. January's 'hurricane' changed the colour of the island from various shades of green to a greyish yellow. This is partly due to the island being soaked in a fine mist of sea water. I have rarely seen the fields so bare. All the ewes wherein are being offered hay 'though strangely not all are eating it. The pig department is doing better. Both sows have farrowed and Betty the older managed a record fifteen piglets though later she lay on two.
Lawrence MacEwen

ISLE OF RUM
A fairly quiet February really. Liz the schoolteacher left for a job in Aberdeen, which leaves us without a permanent teacher until one is appointed, possibly after the Easter holidays. However, we have had the refreshing Heather Smith from Mallaig filling in for two weeks and Chrissie for one week and Morag from Eigg doing the rest till the new teacher arrives. The school is also under repair at the moment, however the contractors have scarpered mid job, leaving scaffolding and loads of loose tiles, meaning the schoolchildren can't play outside as it's too dangerous. We hope that they will be back soon to finish the job.
Last week we were overwhelmed with stalkers (the deer kind), 21 of them, to carry out the annual deer count. They also count the amount of deer droppings they encounter, which is apparently an accurate indicator of population size, sounds dodgy to me but there you go. Since there was so many extra people, we threw a ceilidh on Friday night, top tunes provided by '6ft Ginger', the girls on the island were put through their paces as they were outnumbered 3:1, everyone's dance card was full and only one case of concussion.
We have also had a visit from the Scottish School of Forestry, who are here for two weeks putting their students through their paces thinning a lot of the woodland and clearing all the windblown trees from the big storm, it's been a constructive exercise as the products of their labour will be used to construct a new bridge for the Kilmory river, which was also washed away during the bad weather.
The only other event for the month was myself and Sean travelling to Dunkeld for a meeting with the Phoenix Trust, among others, to be presented with their proposed options for Kinloch Castle. It has been agreed that the current situation at the Castle is not sustainable and the Phoenix Trust came up with some interesting ideas for us to think about. It was a constructive session, the results of which will be considered by the SNH main Board before things go any further.
Tickets and info for the Music Festival (13th to 15th May inc) will be available soon, tickets are to be £35 for the weekend, children under 12 go free. Fliss Hough

ISLE OF EIGG
February saw the return of Karen Johnstone to Eigg Primary School after Heather Cameron's spell at the helm. New Zealander Heather, who is from Auckland, enjoyed this opportunity to come back to the land of her ancestors (Great grand-pa was from Plockton) but was not so keen on Highland winters! The thing is that she will have missed summer altogether when she goes back home! However, it was "an experience not to be missed to work in such a small school" The Eigg children enjoyed discovering all about Kiwis and raising money with Heather for the Big Heart Day. By washing cars and selling their home-baking, the 4 children managed to raise £ 40 for the Tsunami and £47.15 for Ethiopia. Good luck to Heather for the rest of her travels in Scotland and mainland Europe! Sarah Watson, still on maternity leave, came to Eigg during the February break to introduce baby Gregory and check on the progress of the school conversion: work was scheduled to start in the late spring. but as tenders have not been put out yet, it is likely to be delayed which is quite frustrating as the recent school inspection has agreed that nursery provision on Eigg is really inadequate space-wise. We sincerely hope that the improvement to the school will be ready for the next batch of nursery school kids!
Still on the education front, Grace Fergusson, Eigg classroom assistant, has just been attending a Gaelic course at Sabhal Mor Ostaig in order to provide Gaelic in the Primary school. She will also be joining Feis Eige to help us increase the Gaelic content of the Feis which will take place this year on the weekend of the 24th of July. Meanwhile, Sue Kirk and Sue Hollands went for a visit to Jura and Islay as part of their Rural Voices project on distance learning. They were impressed with the way the community on Jura utilised their remote link for a variety of things from providing Gaelic evening classes to accessing specialist 'medical advice and will be reporting on their findings in the next round of community consultation due to take place soon throughout the Small Isles.
As to the members of the Eigg History Society, they were treated to a slide show on the little known Nepalese kingdom of Mustang, by Peter and Susanna Wade Martins who travelled there last Autumn: amazing views of the High Himalayas and villages with a way of life which has not changed for centuries, but which maybe very much under threat because of the climate changes brought on by Global Warming. With glaciers predicted to melt within the next 50 years, these people whose entire eco-system depends on the little water they get every spring to grow their scant crops, may very well found themselves deprived of water altogether! I guess we should not complain about the copious amount of rainfall we experience then…
February also brought the departure of a much loved elderly member of our community, Dolly Ferguson, who passed away peacefully on 9 February at the age of 94, at Invernevis House in Fort William with her daughter Annabel at her side. Dolly had been proud to unveil the Community Buy-out Commemorative plaque on 12 June 1996 alongside Dougald Mackinnon, as our Community Elders. Born in Cliat, Barra, on 3 July 1911, she came to Eigg in 1946 to be the priest's housekeeper after a spell working in the ammunition factory in Glasgow during the war. She married Duncan Ferguson in 1947 and set up home on the croft at first and then in various estate houses as Duncan resumed work on the estate, retiring at the Chapel House which had been her first home on the island. Dolly, who came from a long line of midwives, had a knack for helping injured animals and was famous for the treacle scones and oatcakes which she baked on the stove. They were invariably part of the strupag she offered visitors: visiting her was like taking part in a Japanese tea-ceremony as she transformed a simple cup of tea into a precise, slow and lovely ritual. I enjoyed many of these as she told me her tales of Hebridean life and traditions which taught me so much about the Gaelic view of life that she and her husband - a great Eigg tradition bearer and fiddle player - did their best to uphold. In her later years, she became very popular with the island children who loved to come and watch her cuckoo clock strike the hour and never departed without a few sweeties in their pocket. and cuddling one of her cats. On Friday 11 February, the community gathered around her children Duncan and Annabel and her many grandchildren to bid farewell to a gentle, soft-spoken woman, whose demeanour embodied the qualities of island women of a bygone age.
Camille Dressler.

ISLE OF CANNA
160 schools took part in the Big Heart Highland Day' on 9th February, and raised £58,000 for the tsunami appeal. Outstanding in this effort was Canna Primary school, whose two pupils raised £455 by hosting a fun lunch for the 14 islanders, two visitors and road workers.
Canna School has been closed since the January storms which washed away the bridge connecting it to the main island. The lunch was made easier to prepare because the temporary school is the island's tea room!

Eigg Regenerated!
Four new crofts have been registered by the Crofters commission on the isle of Eigg following a reorganisation scheme aimed at helping the island's regeneration. The reorganisation was an initiative by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (IEHT), which owns and manages the island, and members of the crofting community. The scheme has increased the number of crofts on the island from 19 to 23 and increased the area of land under crofting tenure from 250 to nearly 350 hectares. The four new crofters have an average age of well under 40 and it is hoped that their introduction will benefit the wider island community. For more information about the reorganisation scheme, contact the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust - email ian@isleofeigg.org or phone 01687 482476.


'the boat'
As we thought, the old boat featured in our centre page spread of storm damage last month did indeed bring back memories to a number of people - thankfully, all happier than the dash through the storm to rescue the whelkers recounted by Tommy MacEachen.
The Boat - that was its name - belonged to Barbara Matheson. Her sister- in-law Dorothy, who still visits Arisaig regularly, recalls its history.
She tells us it was built by Hendersons in Mallaig in the 1930s. The Matheson family used to own Arisaig Stores - now Spar - and when they left the shop in 1944-45 they went to live at Keppoch House for a few years. The boat was first moored below Keppoch House.
Around 1947 the family moved to Faire na Scurr off the Rhue road and the boat was kept first in the boathouse at Camus an t'Salainn and then at Camusdarach.
Dorothy first came to Arisaig around the time of her marriage to Barbara's brother Farquhar in 1942. About that time she caught her first fish, a mackerel, from the boat, and was very excited and proud of it. She also learnt to row in the boat and the whole faily used it a lot, for trips to the islands in the bay, picnics, rowing the children from Rhue Point to the bay… Barbara herself was very skilled at handling it and Johnny Duncan took great care of it.
From Bruce Lees:
We have just received the February edition of the West Word, and have been dismayed by the photographs and accounts of the damage produced by the storm of the 11th January. In particular we were saddened by the photo of the battered remains of Barbara Matheson's old dinghy. You recount how it was used in 1947 to rescue whelkers, and ask for nay other particular memories of the boat.
In 1963, I and my family were staying with our friends John and Gillian King as Camusantallan cottage which was then lived in by Gillian's mother Mrs Ella Knight. (She left Arisaig to live on Mull in 1973). There was a 3 day westerly gale from 25th to 27th September, which caused problems for Johnny and Barbara Stirling who were living on board their Atalanta yacht moored in the bay. Their rubber dinghy became detached and blew ashore at the height of the gale. They had a really miserable time of it until I and John king rowed out to them as soon as the wind had eased a bit, and brought them ashore for hot baths etc. The boat that we used was of course that dinghy. It rowed very easily and was stable and roomy enough to enable us to get the Stirlings aboard and ashore without much difficulty in what was still a stiff breeze.
This remains vividly in my memory!
From Christopher Spicer:
I and my family have enjoyed wonderful holidays at Arisaig every year since 1954 and we are keen readers of west Word which keeps us in touch between our visits. My wife, Joanna, and I were very shocked by the pictures and reports of the storm in January.
I well remember a trip in Barbara Matheson's boat in the mid-50s to the islands (or 'Sandy Bay' as my family know it). The boat was well maintained by Johnnie Duncan and the engine always worked! It was kept n the boathouse at Camusantsalainn next to Faire na Sgurr where Barbara was then living. I went on the outing with my parents (Esther and MacGregor Spicer) and Barbara's much revered Uncle Willy.
It was one of those calm, magical days when the highlands and islands look their best. We bade farewell to the single yacht at anchor at Camusantsalainn which was an ex wartime commando boat. There were no yachts in Arisaig Bay in those days. I was allowed to take the tiller having learned navigation of the south channel from Charlie MacDonald (Rosemary and Lillian's father). We spent an hour or so on the sands looking for clams and collecting coral. We then went on to Luinga Mhor for a picnic tea of pancakes and fudge before returning safely to Arisaig.
50 years later my family still enjoy this trip that I first did with Barbara in her very special boat.
Thank you very much to Bruce, Christopher and Dorothy for their reminiscences.
We hope to have a photo of The Boat in its heyday in next month's issue. It hasn't completely disappeared… Mary Stanning, now living at The Old Post Office, preserved the bows from the funeral pyre and at present is using them to store logs.
If anyone has any photographs of the storm damage they would like to see in West Word, please send them in - it's a valuable archive.


Coastal Ranger Report
Well, I don’t know! Maybe I’m just getting old – I’m certainly old fashioned – but something tells me that I must be going soft! Well, maybe that’s going a bit far, perhaps I’m just getting a wee bit more emotional or something along these lines. But, hang on here! Has this columnist finally cracked? Has he flipped completely? No! the blame for all this “gibbering” must be laid at the door of “First Scotrail” or whatever they call themselves now. (Seems a name change now and again is the modern cure for a disintegrating service!) Someone, no doubt in the interests of efficiency, has seen fit to mastermind the active clearing of scrub trees from the trackside. “All Hail!” have I not proclaimed for years that some of the trees should be cleared to allow passengers on our famous “West Highland Line” to enjoy the spectacular scenery? Of course I have, and I would applaud anyone who would undertake this task, but “Dear Me!” have you seen it?? Assuming that this is a track clearing exercise rather than an attempt at opening up the various vistas, I suppose you might say that the bottom line has been achieved. So why complain? No doubt whatever wonder mechanical device or attachment has been employed is seen as a time, and therefore money, saving exercise, but I must query the results. Surely the removal of, what I do admit is mainly scrub, could be achieved without the ghastly mess of smashed and shattered timber littering the trackside in full view of not only rail passengers but also those passing along the road. I can appreciate that in this day and age that one man with a bowsaw is out of the question, but surely there is a machine out there that can physically cut the wood and leave things looking as if it was actually meant?? Come on First Scotrail (or whatever!) how about re-assessing the options and find out how the scrub trees were trimmed at Camas Driseach on the Mallaig side of Lochailort and tidy up your act!
Wow! Enough of that before my high horse takes a tumble!
So, what’s doing? Have the past few weeks turned out anything spectacular? Truth to say, not really, but on the other hand it hasn’t just been humdrum either. Taking the weather factor out of things as we’ve all heard enough of that, I have actually been quite busy. Orders have been flooding in from “on high”, so, to keep the peace I’ve been tootling around doing risk assessments, progress reports and site reports, each to be drafted in their own little “Excel” files to be mailed to those in the know. I did have a major complication in this respect as I had a fairly major computer crash, and my thanks for the repair go to my resident wizard who managed to extract the good bits and discard the gremlins! Going back to the files, I often wonder what becomes of them all? I have no doubt that they are all carefully enshrined on CD/DVD and stored for posterity, but do they ever actually get used? I reckon that we are just using these facilities simply because they are there, and that if we had to actually use pencil and paper to fashion all the graphs and tables, common sense would prevail! Oops! There I go again, why can’t I just shut up and do as bid with as much good grace as I can muster!!!!!
The new Bronze Duke of Edinburgh group are progressing well, some having completed most of their sections, and we are now having them in the Community Centre on a Thursday evening to update their various camping cooking and first aid skills. All seem to be happy with this arrangement so far – I suppose lemonade and biscuits help! – so I have booked the hall for a month. I will be contacting all the parents shortly to confirm details regarding the expeditions which we hope we can undertake and complete by the end of April – pre midge!
Once more to close, let me thank all the happy ladies who have been accompanying me on the recent walks (by the way, men are NOT excluded!!) it’s been good fun and the views have been magnificent (don’t know that reads as it is meant!) Sunday 20th was the highlight so far as we caught a brilliant day, saw a couple of Eagles and climbed to 1000ft, well into the snowline and the view from Cruachan Dhùghail was enough to get all the cameras clicking. Where we go next is in the lap of the Gods, but that last outing will be hard to beat. Just remember that it’s not a closed shop, and anyone is more than welcome – if you fancy it just give me a ring on the same old number 01687 462 983 (I do have a new one but that would just confuse you!!)
Look out for the new “Access Code” leaflets that I will be distributing.
Angus Macintyre

Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Thank you to Richard, and Kate, Sandy and wee Jamie from near Huntly, for this month’s question about badgers.
“In Arisaig House gardens there are some old sequoias : the bark of one had been torn out to a height of about two/three feet and a huge wasps’ nest pulled out and torn up. Could this have been done by a badger to eat the grubs ?”
Yes, badgers live in various areas around Arisaig and this description sound like it was the work of badgers. Badgers have very strong front limbs which they use for digging their underground homes, called setts, and for gathering food.
There are other signs of badger activity which you may see when out for a walk. Badgers make scratch marks round the base of some trees where they have cleaned and sharpened their claws, this is often near a sett. In the spring in oakwoods you may find old stores of acorns, buried in the autumn, dug up with the soil spread topsy-turvy over the surrounding vegetation; or snuffle patches in rough grassland where they have been searching for pignut tubers.

photo

You may identify paths used by badgers and deer, and where they cross under fences there may be some straight grey, white or black badger hairs caught on the lowest fencewire. Or you might find a pile of dung on a path containing the indigestible remains of seeds and beetle wingcases. Badger dung is a different shape and of a wetter consistency than fox droppings.
In the West Highlands badgers have to travel further to find enough food and have a more varied diet than badgers living on the richer, farmed soils to the east and south where earthworms form a large part of their diet. Dr Hans Kruuk carried out part of his research on badgers on the Polnish Peninsula. In Lochaber badgers are known to feed on carrion, invertebrates, fungi, mice, frogs, pignuts and various other plant seeds and fruits.
Badgers will also smell a tasty treat and I'm sure they enjoy the muffins and chocolate biscuits Jamie supplies his neighbouring badgers!
Dr. Mary Elliott


Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
February 2005 Bird Report

February had a fairly mild and wet start but high pressure from mid-month brought welcome settled and sunny weather during the daytime and frost at nights. As a result birdsong is much more evident now, with Robins, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Greenfinches etc. in full flow by the end of the month.
As many of our resident birds get ready for the forthcoming breeding season, there are still many winter visitors around.
There were still at least 6 Icelandic Gulls and 1 Glaucous Gull about Mallaig harbour till the end of the month, with an Iceland Gull also seen at Portnadoran, Arisaig, on the 7th. Small numbers of Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were about the West Bay Carpark/New Breakwater area throughout the month.
Whooper Swans were on Loch nan Eala all month, with 2 seen on Loch nan Nosterie, near Mallaig, on the 26th. Goldeneyes were on Loch Morar and Loch nan Ceall, with 2 Common Scoters again reported from the latter site mid-month.
Redwings and Fieldfares were seen till the month end about Arisaig and Traigh.
During the month there were two interesting reports of ‘Northern Bullfinches’ - from Arisaig, the first of a single bird on the 15th and then a week later another report of 3 birds.
These birds are bigger and brighter coloured than our resident Bullfinches and originate from Northern Scandinavia or Siberia. One or two may appear each year in the Northern Isles, but this Winter there was a large influx, many associating with the flocks of Waxwings which also came in large numbers.
Siskins were seen on garden feeders in Morar, Bracara and Arisaig, with up to 4 Goldfinches seen throughout the month on feeders in an Arisaig garden. Two Reed Buntings were seen at Rhubana view on the 15th.
On the 10th a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen on roadside trees between Morar Church and Morar Lodge.
A Dipper was seen several times on the burn that flows into Loch nan Eala, where there were at least 30 Grey Herons roosting around the loch on the 11th.
Barn Owls were seen regularly around Rhubana View and a Golden Eagle was seen east of Loch nan Nostarie on the 26th.
Finally a Little Auk was found dead on Camusdarach beach on the 5th, again probably a casualty of the January storms. I have yet to see a live Little Auk this winter.


West Word - Ten years ago by Robert MacMillan
Although the West Word of March 1995 carried three stories on its front page there's no doubting what the main one was - 'Save Our Sleepers'. The report told how community representations from Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig and Glenfinnan accompanied the organiser of the protest march, Dr. Michael Foxley, from Fort William Station along the high Street carrying banners that proclaimed 'Lochaber Needs the West Highland Line' and 'Save Our West Highland Line.' Letters of protest against possible cuts in the Sleeper and Motorail services were evident on the middle pages and there was also two pages on Save our Services from Glenfinnan's John Barnes and our MP Sir Russell Johnston.
The page 3 story was a report on a two day exhibition showing the proposed line for the Kinsadel - Arisaig section of the A830 and of how 180 people came along to the meeting in the Astley Hall.
On another page of Issue 5, Vol 1, one of the attendees at that road meeting, District Councillor Charles King, highlighted the forthcoming Regional Council elections due 6th April 1995, when new boundaries and new single tier local government would come into operation.
Local fishermen's leader Hugh Allen lamented the fact that the fishing industry was becoming increasingly dominated by politics and wrote of the effort limitation strategy of 'Days at Sea'!
Morar resident (and West Word committee member) Molly Grigor provided a 2 page article on 'Sailing in the Caribbean', while another sporting type, Ally (Muck) MacKinnon was featured in his role as Captain of the Lochaber Rugby First XV.
The MacDonald clan were celebrating, over on Eigg, on the occasion of Marybelle's 80th birthday, and in Morar where Colin celebrated his 30th!
Aunt Prudence (whatever happened to Aunt Prudence?) provided some astrological advice lines, windpower for Muck was again a topic and Irish singer Mary Duff proved a big hit when she performed at Mallaig High School Hall but, as asked in the Snippets, 'did Drew Crocket of the Moorings Guest House serve her breakfast in bed?' Another snippet suggested that a good use for the Old Smiddy in Arisaig would be conversion to a massage parlour!
Now I bet you thought I'd forgotten but no, I haven't. the other two stories on the front page concerned the bad news of the impending closure of the Garramore Youth Hostel at Camusdarach, and the good news that Mallaig Harbour Authority's application for European Objective One money had been successful to the tune of £1.9m.


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