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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
March 2010 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
MALLAIG HIGH SCHOOL HOSTEL WELCOMES FIRST RESIDENTS
Mallaig High School's new £4 million residential hostel welcomed its first residents on Monday 1st March 2010.
The new hostel enables the Council to meet its longstanding ambition to provide suitable residential accommodation for pupils from Canna, Eigg, Knoydart, Muck and Rum attending Mallaig High School to be accommodated as one group.
The three-storey, 21 bedroom facility, was built by Les Taylor Construction and stands on an elevated site adjacent to the school, which was donated by Sir Cameron Mackintosh. 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 provides 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.
It opens with 12 residents and over the next three to four years will build up to its capacity of 30 residents. Supervising the hostel will be Mrs Mairi Maclean, who has been looking after the children's lodgings over the past five years.
Councillor Michael Foxley, Leader of the Council's Administration, said: 'This is a major investment by the Council and recognises the importance this council attaches to our rural communities. Not only will the hostel provide pupils with a stable environment and certainty as to where they will be staying during their secondary school career it will also be a useful community resource out with school terms for residential workshops and holiday accommodation.'
Councillor Allan Henderson, Caol and Mallaig Ward, added: 'The hostel is a real community asset. The children of Knoydart and the Small Isles will have one of the finest living environments whilst continuing their studies. They will be the envy of 5 star hotels worldwide, with the spectacular views afforded from the hostel.'
Martin Sullivan, head teacher of the 135-pupil school, said: 'The new hostel is very good news for the school and the community. We are very grateful to the families that our pupils have lodged with over the last ten years. They have done an excellent job.
'However, what a benefit it will be having all the children from the Small Isles and Knoydart under one roof, where they can gain support from each other and have professionals on hand to address their individual and common concerns. The hostel will make it easier for pupils to make friends and adapt to life away from home.'
L to r: Councillors Michael Foxley, Allan Henderson, Bill Clark, Eddie Hunter and the first resident pupils Jamie MacEwen (Isle of Muck), Galen Brook-Atkins (Knoydart), Sorcha McEoin, (Rum), & Charlotte and Nicole Johnstone (Eigg).
Photo courtesy of Iain Ferguson, The Write Image
BEST IN THE WORLD - TWICE OVER!
The recently released Time Out Guide to 1000 Great Holidays Ideas states that the Road to the Isles, the A830, has reached 'mythical status' and names it in the Top Ten of the world's best drives! In addition, for the second year running, readers of the travel magazine Wanderlust have voted the West Highland Line as the Top Rail Journey in their 2010 Awards, over the Trans-Siberian Express and rail journeys in Peru, the Rockies and New Zealand. It is described as 'authentic' with welcoming staff, and with scenery unmatched for sheer variety and constant interest.
Don't hardly know how I've got the time to write this what with keeping up to date with the outbreak of Facebook mania on the peninsula. Everybody and their sister seem to be putting pictures on and setting up sites. From Knoydart Festival and Knoydart Pottery to the fabulous Gerry's Pizzas and the odd odd picture of chair surfing Facebook is certainly the place to look. But not every aspect of the Knoydart social whirl gets its own page. Jim and Claire's wedding bash may be online but don't know if it will tell you that Liz Tibbets and Jane Davies were (apart from the happy couple) the stars of the show: playing, singing and dancing the night away until they were the last people standing. Likewise last week's low-key locals ceilidh (where Andy's box didn't fall apart), Jim Hunter and friends' recent visit to the pub and Mark Woombs' talk on the Red Sea at the village hall are all unlikely to have made it online but all were hugely enjoyable nonetheless. The now traditional Pancake Day races are likely to be on a page somewhere but how could mere pictures capture the tensions (and the cheating) during Jim and Tommy's face off.
One aspect of Knoydart life that rarely gets written up is the huge effort that goes into raising money for various charities. Last week we had a book sale for Amnesty along with a soup kitchen for Oxfam which raised £150 and £200 respectively. Earlier on in February there was an auction for Haiti disaster relief, including a bidding war between Victor and Chic (both notably short-haired or less) for a haircut, which raised over £1100. Big thanks to Gwen, Angie, the schoolteachers, all the kids and Isla, Rhona and Rhona for all the organisational efforts there. In the coming month, although as ever much secrecy surrounds the detail, there will be the charity blitz, fun and frolics which is the Knoydart version of International Women's Day. And for the rest of the year one of our home grown charitable organisations - the village hall - will be having a fundraising drive, looking to raise funds towards a future renovation of the current, much loved, building.
And of course work goes on. The Builders have started on the new house on the hill for Ian and Jackie and look to have a massively busy year with the planning permissions starting to come through for the affordable housing that the Foundation is building in Inverie and Airor. The Foresters are gearing up for a big planting splurge in March: the tell tale white boxes were piled high on the back of their pick-up the other day. And all the holiday accommodations are getting ready for what promises, so I'm told, to be another big year. Of course Hydro work and maintenance will continue all year with transformer renovations and line load puzzles to keep everybody busy.
Meetings never end in small communities. A very productive and positive example was one held over at Airor to discuss the new house and possible re-developments centring around crofting and land-tenure. A village-wide mini-hydro scheme was also touched on and since then there has been some positive preparatory investigation done by John Duncanson. Hope it all moves on apace. Talking of developments the architect Neil Sutherland is due to give a community presentation in March on the first draft of the feasibility study for the Forest Trust Workshop. Also in March the Community Land Unit are using Knoydart to host a social enterprise conference.
Add to all of the above the successful funding bid coming in through the Powerdown post for the Market Garden along with the positive look to the end of year accounts for the three community companies and Knoydart stuff seems quite positive at the moment.
Finally just a couple of get wells to Tim Bowyer and David Haynes. We all wish you both speedy recoveries. A happy 60th to Stewart Miller. And a well done you to Fraz for keeping off the fags. Also apologies for the lack of Knoydart column last month.
ISLE OF MUCK
It's open at last - the new school hostel in Mallaig; and it must be good news for the Small Isles parents and children. Provided it is run by competent and caring staff it must be an improvement on at least some of the lodgings which went before and which were increasingly difficult to find as the number of secondary scholars grew. I have not visited the hostel but I am sure that inside it is very fit for purpose. However I must take issue with one aspect - the exterior. I know the site was difficult but surely the architect could have designed a building more in keeping with the others in the complex, not a return to the 60's complete with multi monopitch roof! Architecture and design is very important- what we build today will be with us for a long time. So it was that last September I went to see the new Scottish Parliament. Could it be as bad as it appears on TV. It was worse! A totally uninspiring structure designed to cost one fortune to build and and another to maintain over the next 100 years. Strangely enough if anyone would like to see really excellent vernacular design (not quite on the same scale!) you need go no further than this island where my brother Ewen is building himself one of the most attractive houses you are ever likely to see!.
On the farm it is tree planting time and a team of islanders are on the slopes of Ben Aerean in the sunshine hard at work with spades and mattocks. It is now Monday night but since last Wednesday they have planted nearly 7000 native hardwoods and Scots Pine. Duggie the dyker is now gone - to Canna, leaving behind him a lasting memorial to excellence in the world of dry stone dyking.
ISLE OF RUM
Hi we're Cara Kilpatrick and Nell McEoin from Rum Primary and we are going to be writing the Rum article in the West Word every two months. Hope you enjoy our articles.
We interviewed Sarah Bentley from SNH and she told us that SNH are going to fix the power system on Rum. They are going to insert a new battery inverter, which will start in April.
There will be a deer hide built at Kilmory to watch the deer especially during the rutting season.
The reserve office is being upgraded. So it should look good when it's done. There will also be a visitor survey to find out what people like about Rum and what would make Rum more exciting. That's also in April.
We have also interviewed Mr Poole from Rum Primary School about glow and future ideas for the school. Glow is an online site, which connects schools, so they can talk and see each other on the computer. This is only a school site but if you are part of a school and you have a username and password for glow, then you can go on at home or at a library. Rum Primary is also taking part in World Maths Day. This is a site, where you can compete against other people in your year all over the world.
Well that's all we have got for this article this month.
Cara Kilpatrick & Nell McEoin
NEW BOUNDARY SHARPENS RUM RESERVE'S FOCUS ON NATURE AND WILDLIFE
The area of land covered by the Isle of Rum's National Nature Reserve (NNR) designation is to be adjusted following a review by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The move is the latest recommendation of the organisation's ongoing national review of all Scotland's NNRs to ensure reserve boundaries match with their nature conservation objectives.
The Rum SSSI and NNR review identified areas around Kinloch Village, including the policy woodlands and the Kinloch fields, which do not support any qualifying natural features. Their removal outwith the Rum SSSI and NNR boundaries now means these areas are no longer governed by these nature conservation designations. However they remain important landscape elements of the Small Isles National Scenic Area and the designed landscape around Kinloch Castle. Kristin Scott, SNH Area Manager for West Highland said:
'Many of these designations date back decades so they need to be reviewed from time to time to consider changing circumstances. On Rum we concluded that the land around Kinloch Village does not host any SSSI features and was of little significance to any of the bird populations protected by the Rum Special Protection Area (SPA). This recommendation was included in our recent consultation on the management plan for Rum NNR.'
The SSSI on the Isle of Rum currently covers the entire island, down to the low water mark, including the solum of Kinloch Castle, land around Kinloch Village and all other buildings. The NNR boundary and that of the SPA (for seabirds, divers and golden eagles) are both coincident with this boundary. The SAC in contrast, does not include the areas around the village and the fields, nor the intertidal zone in front of Kinloch Village.
ISLE OF EIGG
Another dry, freezing sunny month on the island: a month that well deserves its Gaelic name of "wolftimes". Although we could get used to this Scandinavian weather, however, for those whose water has frozen on and off for the past 2 months, it is getting a bit tiresome. It certainly was a bit bothersome for our latest newcomers to the island: Claire Miller and Phil Seddon from Manchester, who managed to settle quite well in Forester's Cottage despite no water since they arrived at the beginning of the month, and no electricity for the first few days. But they have taken it very bravely, rolling up their sleeves and starting on the 40 leaks or so they identified in the plumbing! They got to meet everyone in a oner at Brian Greene's 60th birthday party on the 19th which was a really great night, marking exactly 30 years since Brian's 30th party saw practically the whole island gathered in the Smithy bothy! The shop had run out of red cans, and everyone turned up with a dram or two, so that we started our island life with quite a bang! Thanks a lot to Ben Cormack for providing another bang with his great firework display with 60 stars in it!
The party carried on for another day for Michaela Hunter's 40th! Having volunteered on Eigg a few years ago, Michaela who now lives and works in Argyll and is involved with woodlands and the Dunbeag permaculture centre in Argyll, brought a bevy of pals with her and we all had another great night.
The music scene on Eigg is certainly set to expand, with Phil's guitar playing, and Richard Reason's piano playing, as Richard, an old friend of Eigg, has finally succeeded in buying his dream house on Eigg (the Robertson's house in Cleadale). We are looking forward to seeing a lot more of him and his family and friends.
So Eigg's population is set to change substantially with all these new folks, and this has made us all think a little bit harder about our the review of our Housing policy. One thing which is certain in life is that things never stay the same!
In the meantime, February has also been a exciting month for John Chester who visited our faithful Dutch wildlife volunteers in their now frozen landscape in Arnhem, and even more so for the Carr family as Marie, Colin and Frances flew to Thailand with Amy and Donnie to meet up with Greg who then took them on whistle stop tour of Vietnam so that they would get a good idea of his way of life out there. Everyone had a good time, as can be seen on Facebook! Francis vows she is going back next year! And now it is our turn to fly to the other end of the world, as Brian and I are poised to meet our daughter Felicia in Kerala before she heads up for the Nepalese border and a wee visit to Tamsin and Stu. So there is a positive side to turning 60 after all!
Sin agad e!
GILLE BRIGHDE - ISLE OF CANNA'S NEW CAFÉ / RESTAURANT
The new café/restaurant on Canna will be open for business as the Cal Mac ferry timetable changes around Easter. Amanda McFadden and her partner Aart, who is Dutch, moved to the tiny island at the beginning of the year and have been busy making a few changes to the old tearoom as well as giving it a new name.
The move has increased Canna's resident population to nearly 20. When the opportunity to run the restaurant was advertised last summer, it created huge interest, with more than forty people wishing to apply. The applications were whittled down to nine, then four; and Amanda and Aart were chosen by the islanders to take the business forward. They had never visited Canna before applying but the style of life attracted them.
Both of them have a background in the catering business and most recently were running the kitchen at the Kingairloch Estate, Ardgour.
Although its roots are Scottish the restaurant won't be too themed - just a real taste of the local produce, well presented and fairly priced. The inside décor has a rustic island feel with the emphasis on relaxed informal dining and simple honest hospitality.
Amanda & Aart say 'The aim is really to combine a lifestyle that suits us in the long term, and to be able to integrate the business and ourselves into the island as a whole.
'We genuinely believe Canna is a wonderful wee island, the opportunity to live and run our own business was too good to miss. It is a privilege to live somewhere so unique. We enjoy being part of the 'real' working community and we want the restaurant to provide a memorable experience for the visitors to the island. Our passion is food and we will be serving local, fresh food in a creative but simple and delicious way. The restaurant's new name is Gaelic for the Oystercatcher and we feel this is a good symbol for our hard-working little restaurant, the bird can be found all along the shore and adds a splash of colour to the bay.'
The Gille Brighde will be serving light lunches and homebaking during the day and in the evenings offers a rustic fine dining menu. Sunday lunch will also be available.
Canna has a huge amount to offer, first and foremost a place of great natural beauty with a wonderfully varied wildlife, scenery, intriguing history and heritage and is home to one of the largest collections of Gaelic lore and culture. It has a safe harbour offering good anchorage as well as regular ferry crossings from Mallaig and RIB cruises from smaller independent operators
Accommodation is available on the island for those wanting to stay a little longer, from wild camping through NTS Self Catering Cottages to the lovely Tighard Guest House.
The telephone number of the restaurant is 01687 460164.
Another new house going up on the main street in Arisaig - now there will be buildings all the way from the café up past Strath to the bypass junction! Good luck to Ronnie and Martine now they've moved into their new home with a grandstand view of the bay!
Some freezing people in the Hall last month - there was a blockage in the fuel pipe from the tank to the boiler. It was fixed very quickly - once I knew there was no heating. I wonder why, when people had known for several days that it wasn't working, I wasn't told until Friday afternoon?! I couldn't even ring up to organise a repair until the Monday.
The evening classes seem to be going well! Aromatherapy and Geology are on now. One night the computer class 'borrowed' my internet connection, Mark had a wire going out through a window, across the fence and our garden, and up into the little room I grandly call my office (skip is more like it). Unfortunately when he went home my internet connection seemed to go with him. Luckily I worked out how to get it back after a day or two.
I took P1 - 3 round the Land Sea & Islands Centre today (9th March), a whistlestop tour of the various boards and displays. I hope there will be more school trips.
A free standing display on the SOE memorial ceremony is being designed under the direction of Dr Paul Millar, - I'm not sure if it's being done in the Czech Republic but I rather think so. It will go in the Land Sea & Islands Centre when it gets here.
We have been wondering where the fast expanding family of rooks might build nests next. They've been up at the back road crossroads for a few years now. We thought they'd picked a rather whippy ash tree behind Highland but it turns out they, like the hoody crows, are snapping off twigs to build or reinforce their nests. Incidentally, I've just found out that a group of rooks is called 'a building', or sometimes 'a clamour' and they bring good luck if present on your land. So now you know…
TEN YEARS SERVICE HONOURED
Deputy Station Officer Pimmy McLean (right) recently received a Valedictory Certificate from Her Majesty's Coastguard on completion of 10 years in the Coastguard Rescue Service in Mallaig and for dedicated service to Her Majesty's Coastguard and UK Search and Rescue. He was presented with the framed certificate by Station Officer Ian Macnaughton.
West Word takes the biscuit
It was a case of surprise, surprise for Mallaig Harbour Master Pimmy McLean as following on from his 60th birthday party last month and his special birthday cake made up of 60 Tunnock Tea Cakes, the postman came calling with a package from Thomas Tunnock Ltd, Uddingston, Chocolate Biscuit Manufacturer. The letter explains all:
A friend of mine, Ronnie Thomson from Paisley, whose sister lives in Mallaig, gave me the Community Paper with the photograph of your 60th Birthday Cake.
I am glad to know that you like our Chocolate Teacakes and I thought it was a very novel type of birthday cake which was easy to distribute to your friends.
As an expression of my appreciation, enclosed is a crystal glass for you to enjoy a 'wee dram' or orange juice.
NEW FACES AT THE WEST HIGHLAND HOTEL
(l to r): Sine and Gavin receive the keys of the Hotel from Alistair and Ann, with Corra (4), Freya (10 months), Cameron (8) and Fraser (6).
Gavin has actually been featured in West Word before. In December 1999, he found a message in a bottle on Glasnacardoch beach and responded to Newfoundland Captain Keith Penney who had cast it overboard. By coincidence, the reply Gavin received was featured in our March 2000 issue and so is mentioned in this month's 'Ten years ago in West Word'!
News in Brief
- A transformer behind Morar Motors 'exploded' on Monday 8th March, cutting electric power to most of the area. Arisaig's supply was reconnected after only about half an hour but Morar and Mallaig were 'out' for a couple of hours. Power was disrupted briefly later in but only for a short time.
- If you happen to be in New York 4th - 25th March, you can catch the Jon Schueler Exhibition at David Finlay Jnr Fine Art on 41 East 57th Street. The mini brochure advertising the event depicts three of the Jon Schueler's painting including the cover, an oil canvas entitled 'Skye', which Jon completed in 1968. The brochure also lists 31 selected locations where you can see Jon Schueler's work and they include Mallaig Heritage Centre, Clan Donald Centre in Armadale, Skye, and the West Highland Museum, Fort William.
- Ferry fares are set to rise again as the Scottish Government announce a 2% increase across the Clyde and Hebrides ferry network. It will apply to all tickets, other than the multi-journey tickets used by islanders. Commercial vehicles and coaches will be exempt. The rise in in addition to the published fares increase of 2.2% which will be applied to bookings from the beginning of this summer season. The new fares begin on March 26th to coincide with the start of CalMac's summer timetable. Single fare to Skye will be £3.85, £6.55 return, with a vehicle costing £20 for a single journey and £35 return. Single trips to Eigg, £6.20, Rum £9.20, Muck £9.35, and Canna £11.65. the fares are valid at least until 23rd October 2010.
A dolphin cavorting in Mallaig Harbour - thanks to Moe Mathieson for the photo.
On and Off the Rails
Heavy snowfall and landslips block the West Highland Line between Crianlarich and Fort William
With very heavy snowfalls during the last week of February, the line between Crianlarich and Fort William was made impassable to all ScotRail passenger services to and from Glasgow, including the Caledonian sleeper train to and from London and Fort William. The Monday to Friday freight service, operated now by GBRf, was also suspended, and with no snowplough at Fort William a Class 37 diesel electric was hired in from West Coast Railway Company to traverse the line between Bridge of Orchy and Spean Bridge in order to clear the drifts - but on Thursday 25th February a massive avalanche and landslip at County March Summit (1014 feet above sea level) and at Gleann Viaduct (near to the Horseshoe Curve) brought down tons of rock completely burying the line. As the Network Rail engineers were not sure how much rock was on the line under the avalanche, it was decided not to risk sending the snowplough through in case it de-railed. At the time of writing this column it is not known when the line will re-open to any rail traffic. In the meantime a replacement bus service is operating between Fort William and Crianlarich with passengers being transferred onto the Oban/Glasgow train to continue their journey. The ScotRail service between Fort William and Mallaig is unaffected, with trains running to time in both directions.
Statesman Rail have a fully booked land-cruise train operating from Hull to Fort William on Friday 5th March and are hoping that the line will re-open before then, but have made contingency plans for de-training the passengers at Crianlarich and coaching them to Fort William should the line remain closed. The latest information is that the earliest that the line is expected to re-open could be Monday 9th March - but obviously this could change either way!
One benefit of the line closure has been that a fully operational trolley service for catering has been transferred to the Fort William/Mallaig line.
West Highland train journey AND Lochaber's Road to the Isles receive accolades
Too late for the February West Word, but still well worth reporting, comes the great news that for the second year running, the Glasgow-Mallaig train route has been voted 'Top Rail Journey in the World' in a poll co-ordinated by travel magazine Wanderlust, seeing off competition from destinations such as Australia, Peru and Canada. It was clearly in first place, and called 'an iconic journey'. Thank you Wanderlust, for confirming what we, who are lucky enough to call the line our local line, already know.
Then, on February 20th, it was reported that the recently released Time Out Guide to 1000 Great Holiday Ideas says that the Road to the Isles has gained 'mythical status'. All these pats on the back cannot be bad. Let's hope we live up to our reputation.
Club 55 promotion draws to a close
ScotRail's fantastic offer of rail travel anywhere in Scotland (any line above Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed) with any train operator comes to an end shortly. Just to remind you - travel for a return ticket - anywhere on the route - provided you are 55 years of age or over is only £15. you can buy your ticket in advance or on the train. Just quote 'Club 55' and carry proof of age with you. Promotion ends 31st March 2010.
ScotRail Sunday extra trains resume on 28th March
Yes, it's true, from Sunday 28th March, the Sunday sprinter timetable between Mallaig and Fort William and return is as follows: Mallaig depart 10.10, arrive Fort William 11.33, and onwards to Glasgow; Fort William depart 12.12, arriving in Mallaig 13.35 (shops and restaurants in Mallaig please note); Mallaig depart 16.05, arriving Fort William 17.27 and onwards to Glasgow; Fort William depart 16.19, arriving Mallaig 17.43; Mallaig depart 18.15, arriving Fort William 19.37; Fort William depart 22.06, arriving Mallaig 23.35.
ScotRail/RMT Guards Strike Action
Monday 1st March saw industrial action by ScotRail guards who are members of the RMT Union. It was part of an ongoing dispute between ScotRail management and guards over ScotRail's plan to have ticket examiners rather than conductors on a new £300 million line from Glasgow to Edinburgh via Airdrie and Bathgate. The strike on 1st March was the second of three planned by RMT. The first was on the 20th February and the third is planned for Saturday 13th March. To date a re-placement bus service has operated in this area on strike days, but if you are planning a journey south on 13th March, either call in at your local manned station for an update on services or call 0845 601 5929, or go online to www.scotrail.co.uk/disruption.
All change for freight at Fort William
Monday 22nd February saw a change of freight operator at Fort William. For several years now EWS Railways have operated all freight between Fort William and Mossend. Recently EWS was taken over by DB Schenker with no disruption to the original service, but on 22nd February rail freight operators GBRf took over the contract for all freight on the West Highland Line. GBRf (GBRailfreight) are part of the 'First' group companies who operate all ScotRail services, including the Caledonian sleeper trains from London into Scotland, including the Euston/Fort William sleeper train. The traction used for the sleeper train are still Class 67 hired in from DB Schenker and GBRf will use their own Class 66's for all freight duties in Scotland.
Prior to taking over the freight services to Fort William, GBRf ran a series of 'Test' trains over the West Highland Line. The first trial that was done used a 'Virgin Thunderbird' locomotive Class 57. The second trial was with a GBRf Class 66 locomotive with 2 x Class 325's four car Travelling Post Office sets in tow! Both trials proved successful and made for some superb photographs on the west Highland Line, which are now appearing in many rail-related magazines or can be seen on the online rail magazine www.railwayherald.co.uk or www.scot-rail.co.uk
As both trains were for route learning and training purposes only, the traction (Class 57) and train formations will not be seen again on the West Highland Line. The Class 66's in the GBRf pool of locomotives are an impressive sight in their new livery, and some have nameplates as well as locomotive numbers. The Class 66 used on the second trial was 66728 and named 'Institution of Railway Operators'!
See you on the train
NORMAL SERVICE RESUMED
Rail services between Glasgow and Fort William returned to normal on Tuesday 9th March after four avalanches between Tyndrum and Tulloch blocked the line on February 25th. More than 15,000 cubic metres of snow had to removed and lines and bridges checked for damage.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
We shall soon need a separate publication for the photos of our well travelled readers!
Our world tour this month begins at home. Lady Lovat Primary School pupils write:
'Before going up the hill to ski at Nevis Range, we decided to get our photo taken, reading West Word. Our instructors and Mr Tevendale joined in. We enjoyed four days of skiing lessons at Nevis Range. We would like to say a BIG thank you to Doug, Clara, Daniel and Jason - our instructors. We all moved up a level and would like to go back next year!'
Next down to London (below right), where George MacKay of Inverness read his copy on the legendary 'Wembley Way' on the approach to the new Wembley Stadium during a recent visit. George is the husband of Arisaig's Charlotte MacQueen.
Above left, we're in the Netherlands. Esther Mooij writes: I am Dutch, live and work in The Netherlands but I also am very lucky to call myself owner of a house on one of the many 'most beautiful place' in Mallaig. And I do spent a lot of time there, throughout the year about 3 to 4 month. Here I am, reading the West Word while standing on the frozen canal in front of my house in The Netherlands so I won't miss anything going on there!'
From the cold to warmer climes. Mallaig man Patrick Smith couldn't stay away from fishing boats even in Goa, India
when he took his copy there in January.
We've reached Texas (above left) with Mary and Alex MacDonald, Mallaig, in front of the State Capital building in Austin, while visiting Mary's daughter Angela O'Donnell, who sent us the photo with the comment 'West Word is sure a globe trotter!
Above right, Susan Carstairs packed her issue in Arisaig to take to read on her trip to Chile. In the background is the Villarrica Volcano.
No sitting by the fire with his copy for John McManmon, brother of Knoydart postman/ranger Tommy. John works for the British Antarctic Survey and is pictured at the Halley VI Research Base in the Antarctic, where he was one of only 8 out of 40 on his ship to be allowed to visit for half an hour - after a 45 minute drive in a Snowcat. And West Word went too! Couldn't resist including the photo below - picnic tables!!! We hope we can include some photos of the base next month, space permitting.
West Word - ten years ago - March 2000
- A miniature Mallaig Harbour was on the front page of the 75p, 32 page edition! The model was at HR Wallingford for wave study tests to be carried out. Harbour Authority Chairman Michael Currie said it gave a chance 'not only to test out conditions in the Inner Harbour in relation to the proposed new Yachting Harbour but also to look at several options and ways of reducing the swell in the Outer Basin'. Yes - the yachting harbour was being considered ten years ago. Consultants Halcrow Fox had been commissioned to produce a study and report for proposed yachting harbour facilities for Mallaig. Already hydrographic, acoustic and magnetometry surveys had been carried out.
- Rural Post Offices were under threat as proposals were put forward to change the way benefits were paid, from being collected at a Post Office to being paid directly into bank accounts.
- There was no weather that month! One of the few times (the only time?) that Ian has missed sending in his report. Gremlins in his computer were the problem.
- We learned that Eilidh, the Muck pony due to appear in the documentary series Castaway, had reached Harris on her storm plagued way to Taransay.
- Muck's wind turbines had been erected but had suffered various problems, which seemed to have been resolved. The new slipway was becoming a reality too, after years of planning.
- February had been a very stormy month, causing problems for all. Knoydart had had a lightning strike which took out power for several days.
- The new bollards erected most of the way along the A830 were causing problems and complaints, dazzling motorists - too many and yet dangerous corners ignored.
- Glenuig had an public meeting re the proposed Community Shop and formed a steering group to take it forward.
- There had also been a public meeting with regard to the Mallaig Traffic Management scheme highlighted the month before, with long and divided discussions.
- Reading the birthday column of ten years ago, we realise that a few people haven't 'fessed up to milestone celebrations, so we'll spill the beans! This year (2010) it's happy 50th birthday to Iain Dempster on 22nd February and many happies on her 60th on the 20th February to Maureen Sutherland!!
- The railway turntable intended for Mallaig had reached Fort William - unfortunately it never got any further!!
- West Word office was visited by Australian author Tony Healy, who was interested on Morag the Loch Morar Monster. He sent us an account of a sighting in 1975 by Charles and Donald Simpson with a copy of a painting of the monster as described by Donald Simpson.
- Our occasional feature 'A Sense of Adventure' was this month written by Molly Grigor about her visit to Sri Lanka.
- We featured a letter from Keith Penney, a Newfoundland crab fisherman, who had thrown the bottle overboard the previous July. It was found by Gavin Davis (now the new owner of the West Highland Hotel!) on Glasnacardoch Beach in December 1999, who replied to the letter inside. The skipper said that throughout his career he had thrown away hundreds of bottles with letters in them but had had no other replies.
- Plans were afoot for a Regatta in Arisaig in the summer.
- Vince Mathieson was the owner of his own prawn boat thanks to assistance from The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust.
- Our Ranger Report for March 2000 was written by Jane MacEachen, Arisaig, who was working with Angus as part of her BA in Rural Development which she was studying at Lochaber College.
Fishing news by John Hermse (Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association)
Prices still continue to be relatively poor for the main species of nephrops and scallops with only a very small rise in prices for Nephrops. I hear that demand is good for prawns but at a price! It strikes me as a strange paradox that prices remain low with high demand and possibly bulk catchers should look to limiting supply to improve the producers price. There appears to be more nephrops available on the local grounds although not as good as they perhaps should be. There seems to be other climatic factors affecting shellfish stocks on the west this last year as species are in poor supply in some areas but more plentiful than ever in others.
Environmentalism, MPA's and Renewables
The Marine Bill continues on its ponderous way though the parliamentary process. The Bill will introduce various form of Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) to Scottish waters as well as protection to seals. It is not thought that there will be any protection for fishermen inherent in the Bill! Many environmental NGO's will no doubt be waiting with barely contained glee to be given the power to suggest a network of MPA's to protect various features. MNWFA are happy to work with pragmatic and sensible organisations such as WWF in order that we have a working environment which is both protected and usable.
Potential marine Renewables sites for wind, and wave energy are being researched in various offshore sites such as the waters around, Islay, Tiree, Wigtown Bay, Solway Firth, Isle of Man and Bell Rock. We hope that industry is properly consulted upon regarding the proposals and cognisance is taken of the historical fishing grounds and practices of the fishing industry.
Effort & Quota
Vessels have plenty effort and quota with 67 vessels now not affected in any way by Cod Recovery Plan (CRP) effort or gear restrictions as they caught less than 1.5%cod. However, as previously mentioned, earnings are poor for many vessels due to low prices. The Nephrop quota was cut by 15% for 2009 but this will not pose a problem at present catching levels. The principle on which the cut was predicated does however give cause for alarm in future years. Quota for species such as dogs, haddock and whiting have been cut and this poses problems for vessels which depend on some whitefish to balance their books.
A scheme to allow vessels more effort and quota in exchange for having CCTV cameras( also called Remote Electronic Monitoring) is being pursued by Marine Scotland. The vast majority of fishermen and Associations remain opposed to the introduction of the equipment but it appears that "incentives" will ensure some take up by the fleet. It has been suggested that Marine Scotland - in a gesture of good faith - allow the CCTV cameras into Pentland House and the Marine Lab, in a reciprocal measure to counter check Marine Scotland working practices. It has allegedly been impossible to date, to find any member of MS staff willing to take up the offer!
From Personal Angle
The old 'Clinic', a feature of the Mallaig landscape for nigh on 90 years, is now no more. As of Monday 22nd February, the building was consigned to history and memory as it was demolished with a few sweeps of a might JCB Bucket!
Although, eventually, it was to become outdated and more than a bit dowdy looking, in its time with the District Nurse located next door and within easy walking distance of the village, it was extremely well utilised by the local populace. Pre-natal, ante-natal, chiropody and lots of other 'clinics' were organised at The Clinic and it dispensed with the long trek up to the Doctor's Surgery!
It is certainly worthwhile remembering and noting for posterity how and why the Clinic came to be built, and the legend on the plaque which adorned the door of the Cliinc throughout its working life tells the sad story neatly and succinctly:
This hut was presented
to the Morar and Knoydart
District Nursing Association
M.H. Bird and V. Shaw-Stewart
in memory of their brother
Lieutenant J. H. Caldwell
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
and Royal Flying Corps.
Killed on active service in
Mesopotamia January 1918.
However, the present whereabouts of the plaque is a bit of a mystery. I believe it was the intention of the authorities to restore the plaque and display it in a prominent location inside the new Mallaig Health Centre. Indeed I seem to recall that there was a space reserved for it with two spotlights to highlight its message. For whatever reason, this has clearly not been carried out and the current location of the plaque is unknown.
Someone, somewhere, must know where the plaque is and it would be nice to know as it is after all a part of Mallaig's history and heritage!
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald - February's Report
The weather was mainly cold and dry during the month, with many of the smaller lochs remaining ice-covered throughout.
Although still feeling wintry, Spring is in the air. At one local Heronry, a pair of birds were on eggs by the end of the first week of February. Skylarks started to appear back in fields at Back of Keppoch and Gorten by the last week of the month and there has been noticeable increase in early morning birdsong by the month end. On the 10th, a Golden Plover was seen on the hill between Mallaig Beag and Loch an Nosterie, a bit early to be back on the breeding grounds.
Only 2 Whooper Swans seen on Loch nan Eala during the month, although they may also have been using other lochs in the area. Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneyes were seen in good numbers on Loch nan Ceall and the Morar Estuary. A pair of Goosanders were on Loch Morar along with along with a few Goldeneye. Wigeon were on Loch nan Ceall and the Morar Estuary and more Shelduck were onLoch nan Ceall and at Traigh.
Still a Greenshank on the Morar Estuary, with Redshanks also there. Traigh and Loch nan Ceall. Woodcock still being reported from gardens in Morar during the month. At least 2 Dippers present on the River Morar throughout the month. Plenty of Goldfinches reported from garden feeders along with a few more Siskins and also Yellowhammers in Arisaig.
A female Hen Harrier was seen flying over Traigh Golf Course on the 11th and a Kestrel was seen at Cross Farm on the 3rd. Sparrowhawks were frequent visitors to gardens in Morar and Arisaig. A Sea-Eagle was seen on several occasions in Loch Nevis during the month. From mid-month there were 2 Barn Owls at the roost site in Mallaig.
A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: email@example.com)
An Dòmhnallach as a Rubha, Àrasaig - The MacDonalds of Rhu, Arisaig
For some 500 years, Rubha was part of Clanranald's lands of na Garbh Criochan. In 1827 Ranald George, 20th Captain and Chief of Clanranald, heavily in debt, sold Arisaig for the sum of £48,950.00 to his second wife, Lady Ashburton. She bequeathed it to her nephew, Lord Cranston, in 1835. Then in 1843, a few years after clearing the population from Rubha, Cranston sold Arisaig to MacKay of Bighouse, Melvich, Sutherland. In 1848, MacKay sold it to Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley, a Lancashire industrialist, at a profit of £5000.00. By 1853, Astley had turned most of the peninsula into a deer forest comprised of more than 3000 acres, thereby ending the sheep farming era started by Lord Cranston in 1842. The deer forest was let out to rich patrons for sport and in 1883, the Irish peer, Lord Kilcoursie, Viscount Cavan, had the rent of it. Rhu farm and lands was excluded from the deer forest and the farm was suitably protected by deer proof walls and fences.
At the time of the '45, the tacksman of this part of the Arisaig district of Clanranald's lands was, Angus MacDonald, (ca.1680 - 1774) second son of John V of Glenaladale and his wife, who was a daughter of Angus MacDonald of Balivanich. Angus married Catriona MacGregor, alias Graham, of Corriearklet, near Loch Katrine. Catriona was a second cousin, once removed, of Rob Roy MacGregor. They married on 12th November 1712 and had 8 children, including 2 daughters whose names we do not know. The named children were: Alexander, (Alasdair an Oir) Ronald, successor to his father at Borrodale, Lt. John , killed at Culloden, a second Lt. John aka Iain Frangach, Donald of Alisary who emigrated to PEI, and Catherine who married Dr Angus MacEachan of Druim an Daraich, surgeon in the '45.
Before he left Borrodale for the outer isles, during his flight after Culloden, Catriona MacDonald gave Prince Charles a suit of clothes in a tartan now known as "Lady Borrodale's Gift". We don't know when Catriona died but, she was alive in 1775, staying in the Glen, which was probably Glenfinnan and intending to return to Borrodale in May of that year. Angus Borrodale died on 2nd June 1774.
We can only speculate, as history does not record, whether Angus Borrodale was at the '15 Rising with the Clanranald Regiment but, given his Jacobite loyalties, it is very likely. Sometime after the '45, Angus' son John, born 1718 and known as Iain Frangach, took over the tacks of Dubh Chamus and Tórr Beithe, In 1768, he is described as John MacDonald, tacksman of Duchamus. (Dubh Chamus) In 1775, he added most of the neighbouring small farms to the tacks he already had. He held these tacks till his death at ca. 1800.
Iain Frangach, was educated at the Scots College in Ratisbon, Germany and was so-called because local people thought that Ratisbon was in France.
Iain is also known in history as, "Old Rhu". He was married to Mary MacDonell of Barisdale, a sister of Coll MacDonell of the '45. They had 3 children: Archie, who succeeded to Rhu, Ann who married Donald MacDonell, younger son of Scotus, and lived in the Morar House, (now Traigh) and one other child who died young.
Iain Frangach, a fervent Jacobite, active in the '45, gave his account of The Young Pretender's movements after Culloden, which can be found in his statement to Bishop Forbes of Culloden, the "Lyon In Mourning".
From the time that he met Prince Charlie in Borrodale on the 10th July 1746, Iain was involved in Teàrlach's protection and wanderings until Teàrlach departed from Loch nan Uamh on 20th September 1746.
Iain's 40 year tack was extended in 1773. The tacksman's house at Rhu was built ca. 1774 by Iain Frangach with Clanranald's permission. Apparently a smaller house than the present-day building, the then Clanranald, Ranald XV111, granted Iain the sum of £10 .00 (£636.90 in today's currency) towards the building. Whilst tacksman of Rhu, Arisaig, Iain became a very successful farmer and cattle drover, droving cattle from surrounding areas, including the Small Isles, to the markets in the south.
History remembers the old Rhu House as a well appointed building of consequence with walled garden and steadings, a fitting abode for a gentleman farmer. Who knows, probably, as his prosperity grew, Iain improved on the original building. Folklore tells us that he planted many daffodils and apple trees at Dubh Camus, - hence the name Dubh Camus an Ubhlan. There were about 15 cottar families living in the vicinity of the Rhu House. One can still see evidence of small ruins here.
When Iain Frangach died in ca. 1800, the lease of the tack then passed to his son, Archie. In 1818, Archie had inherited the Lochshiel estate, including Eilean Shona, from his uncle, Alisadair (an Oir) MacDonald of Glenaladale. However, Archie preferred to remain in Rhu till his death in 1829. His eldest son, Alexander tenanted Dalilea. Archie, or Sandy, is remembered as a progressive and improving tenant, walling, draining and reclaiming land. He it was, who, amongst other innovations, opened the large drain which can still be seen in the field at Rhumach.
In 1822, Clanranald renewed Archie's lease for a further 20 years. When Archie died in 1829, he was buried in the graveyard of St. Maol Ruadh, in Arisaig. However, when the family left Rhu for Dalilea in 1842, Archie's remains were exhumed and re-interred in Eilean Fhianain.
At Archie's death , a younger son, Gregor, took on his father's tack of Rhu. In 1842, some time after Cranston inherited the estate, and probably, at the expiry of Archie's previous lease of 1822, Cranston increased the rent of Rhu to such an extent that Gregor could no longer afford it.
Gregor had no choice but to relinquish Rhu, albeit with understandable acrimony and dispute, and go to live in Dalilea with his brother, Alexander. Their brother, Dr Coll MacDonald, who also lived in Dalilea, seems to have had an investment in Rhu, possibly in the form of stock on the ground. In accordance with custom, Gregor expected the incoming tenant to purchase the livestock at a fair price agreed by an independent valuer. However the new tenant, Major-General Sir Alexander Cameron of Inverailort appears not to have required the stock and Gregor claimed to have lost some £300.00 (£13,230.00 in today's money) as a consequence. Possibly because Gregor's stock was mainly cattle and Cameron intended to farm sheep. In any event, the lands of Rhu were advertised in 1842 as being capable of carrying 1500- 2000 sheep.
It appears, from a letter of the time, that the old Rhu house may have become a bit run down by now but, that may not have been of major concern to Cameron as he had a perfectly good house at Ceann na Creagainn. (Inverailort) To add insult to injury, Cranston obliged Gregor Rhu to dispose of the resident sub-tenantry of his holdings on the peninsula. It is estimated that some 63 families were evicted at that time. (1842). Gregor's sister, Mrs Donald MacDonell, accommodated some of the evicted families around her home at The Morar House (nowTraigh ) and nearly bankrupted herself in the process. Others went to Moidart, to Alexander MacDonald, Gregor's brother in Dalilea. This led to overcrowding and before many years had passed, a number of them, along with indigenous Moidart residents, emigrated to Australia.
It is said that when Gregor and his family were removing from Rhu by sea, a ship carrying family papers sank off Rhu and many records were lost.
As mentioned previously, at Gregor's departure in 1842, Cranston leased Rhu, excluding the Mill House and its portion of land - no subtenants or cottars permitted, to Major General Sir Alexander Cameron of Inverailort. Sir Alexander died in 1850 and we are unsure as to whether his son Duncan then took on Rhu. It seems likely that he did as, his father had taken on a 14 year lease from Whisunday 1843 and the 1851 census records a 5 year old Duncan Cameron, son, there with servants and a visitor.
In 1861, the house is occupied by a Mrs Marion MacMillan from Skye, who farms 30 acres. Perhaps she was the person to whom the author, Alasdair MacLean, a native of Raasay, (1919-1995) referred to when he told Neil MacEachin that a relative of his wife had been in Rhu at one time.
From 1870 till 1875, Rhu and Rhumach were tenanted by Aeneas (Aoghnas) MacDonell of South Morar, younger son of Scotus, Croideart. (Knoydert) The house was occupied in 1871 by a shepherd, Ewan MacLean and his family. Perhaps this family is commemorated by the name of the little bay immediately to the west of Port na h-Eathair, which is known as 'Port mac 'Ill Eathainn'. In 1881, just before Donald MacVarish took on the tenancy, the occupant was another shepherd, John Gillies and dependants. .
From 1875 till 1881, the tenancy is recorded as being in the hand of the proprietor - a term we also find applied to West Glen Beasdale before Angus Macnaughton (Ceann Loch nan Uamh , now Glenmamie leased it in 1895, from Arisaig Estate.
In 1881, Donald MacVarish, from Moss, Arisaig, ancestor of Neil MacEachen, the present owner of Tulachgorm, Arisaig, took over the tenancy. A descendant, Lesley MacEachin, Neil's daughter, along with her husband, Jeremy Benfield, now own and farm Rhu. Lesley's brother, James MacEachin, with his wife and family own the house, at Port na Bathaich, converted from the steadings built in Archie Rhu's time.
To our knowledge, in days gone by, the Rhu peninsula consisted of at least 14 settlements and was home to some 400 people, mostly cottars. The area was divided into several small farms. Rhu, Rhumach, Doire na Drise, Tor Beithe. The neighbouring farms of Sandaig and Gaoithe Dail, are not, strictly speaking, on the peninsula, being situated slightly further up the coast of Loch nan Uamh. Nevertheless, all of these districts were alike in circumstance. Other small areas came under the umbrella of these farms. e.g. Dubh Chamus, Rhu Breac, Tòrr Mór, Achadh na Garbh Uillt, Ard an Airigh and others.
We start our journey at a little bay, called Port na Muraich, 'Port of the Sand Hill of the Beach' just south of Rhu point, and we will follow a zig-zag path east, taking in all the little districts of the peninsula. A beautiful little bay, facing Ardnamurchan Point, there is an unconfirmed story that Port na Muraich may have been an ancient graveyard. Next we come to Rhu Point which takes in quite a panorama from the entrance of Loch nan Uamh, round to Ceann an Tráigh, the Inner Minch and north to Skye and Knoydart.
Leaving Rhu Point we travel eastwards towards Rhu House. Approaching the house, we pass above a bay on the Loch na Ceall coast, which was known as Dubh Camus an Ubhlan, originally called Dubh Chamus.
This was the port from whence the early, Arisaig and district Clanranald emigrants to North America departed. The Alexander sailed from Arisaig in 1772 with many local people on board. In 1790, the emigrants on the British Queen the Lucy and the Jane departed from Dubh Chamus, and in the case of the Jane, Druim an Daraich also, carrying 418 passengers from Clanranald lands. Almost 200 of the passengers came from the district of Arisaig. The Lucy and the Jane sailed in company and the British Queen sailed one month later. They would have anchored in the deeper water outside the bay and the passengers would have been ferried out on a rowing boat. Emigration from this area continued in 1791 and later, in 1801 the Nora sailed from Druim an Daraich, then Fort William to Pictou, carrying amongst others, senior members of the Morar MacDonald family from Gaoithe Dail. The ship, carrying 500 passengers, took 16 weeks. En route, 65 children died of smallpox. The Dove of Aberdeen, also sailed in 1801 with many Arisaig passengers on board.
Cranston caused 10 families to be evicted from Dubh Camus in 1842. The family names were, Kinnaird, MacIsaac, MacKellaig, MacFarlane, MacDonald, MacEachen, Grant, MacPherson, MacKinnon and MacLean.
As we leave Rhu house, we come to the area above Port na Bathaich. (Port of the Byres), facing Loch nan Uamh. To the north of, and beside the track, we can see the remains of the old byres which Archie Rhu demolished, rebuilding a new steading about 200 yards nearer the Loch nan Uamh shore- hence the name 'Port na Bathaich'. The building is now a house, converted by James & Trish MacEachin. Close by, on the hill, was where 'Am Phortair' Donald MacKinnon, the ferry agent lived beside his daughter Flora and her husband Duncan Moffat from Canna, an agricultural worker.
Continuing along the track we pass the sheep fank on the hillside. It is uncertain when this fank was built as, although Archie Rhu, tacksman from 1800-1829, and a progressive tenant, also leased Glenaladale, for sheep farming, it seems that he continued to farm cattle in Rhu. It is doubtful whether the number of cottars on the ground there at that time, would be compatible with sheep farming. Archie appears to have farmed successfully without the need to banish the native population. However, in 1842, when Archie's son, Gregor was forced into relinquishing the tack, the farm and lands of Rhu were advertised as being capable of carrying a stock of 1500-2000 sheep. Perhaps this is when the fank was built. Of course, the land was to be cleared of all these inconvenient cottars by the time of the sale. Just along the road we come to Port na h-Eithear (port of the small fishing boats) on Loch na Ceall. This was the ancient landing place before the later jetty was built. Prior to the coming of the railway in 1901, Rhu was the major landing place for a wide area and a busy place. The old landing place at Port na h Eithear was frequented by Russian and Latvian boats amongst others, coming to buy cured herring and other goods. Passengers, also, embarked and disembarked from here. Later, MacBrayne's steamers delivered and collected passengers and goods to the area. The ruins of the ferry store can still be seen. The landing place was merely a flat rock and the goods landed there had to be carried up the foreshore to the track.
Eventually, as the traffic increased, and a brisk trade in shellfish was established with the London markets, the flat slab of rock became impracticable so, in 1885 a new jetty was built about half a mile up the loch. A large anchor, embedded in the sand in deeper water, a short distance from the pier, was almost certainly installed to anchor ships whilst smaller craft carried passengers and goods ashore. (Harry Clyne)
There is very little left of the 1885 pier - most of it now having been washed away by time and tide. The ferry store still stands and nowadays, is used as a boat shed. The swallows inhabit it as their Highland nesting place on their return from Africa each spring Tigh a' Phortair, the Porters House house was built in 1887 and 'am Phortair', Donald MacKinnon and his family took up residence there. Donald was married to Mary MacVarish, a sister of Domhnal dubh laidair, Mhingary. Donald served in this capacity for over 40 years and when he retired the position was taken over by his son John or, 'Iain a'Phortair', (Grandfather of Morag MacDonald, Ardfnafuaran, Arisaig.) With the opening of the railway in 1901, Iain's services were no longer required as 'am Phortair' at Rhu. Rejecting the offer of a similar post at MacBrayne's Glasgow depot, he elected to remain at home, running the family croft and bringing up his young family. He died at Rhu in 1938 at the age of 85 years.
Now we cross to the Loch nan Uamh side. As we climb, the hill called Cruach Doire an Dòbhrain loosely translated as (Hill of the Thicket of Anguish) rises in front of us. The tallest hill on the Rhu peninsula, this is where the local people went to watch the emigrant ships carrying friends and family, sail for the New World, never to see their loved ones again. They would watch the ships sail out of sight, either round the Ardnamurchan point if picking up more passengers in Tobermory etc. or disappear round Sleat Point heading north, if sailing directly to America.
Standing on the summit of Cruach Doire an Dòbhrain one can see for miles in every direction. Directly below are the ruins of the scattered township of Doire na Drise, another of the little farms of Rubha. We discovered some 12 ruins there and there are possibly more that we didn't discover. We also found some more of the small stone mounds which are scattered around the area, most notably in the Rhumach district. It is recorded that there was at least one clearance from Doire na Drise in 1842, as part of that large clearance from the Rhu area by Lord Cranston, when 5 tenants were removed. Scrutinising this ancient settlement, and others around us in the peninsula of Rubha, Àrasaig, it is clear, by the archaeology of the area, that people inhabited these places in a long-forgotten time and even up to the 19th century when they were forcibly removed.
Pressing on, we come to Camus Drollaman (the looped bay?) where there is only one ruin to be seen leaning against a rockface. However there were feanagainn (lazybeds) clearly visible on the hillside.
On the hillside between Doire na Drise and Tòrr Beithe, there are several ruins which would have been part of one, or the other, of the little farms. Tòrr Beithe, (Birch Mound) is the area of another little farm. Standing at Tòrr Beithe and looking south, the view is to Loch nan Uamh with Ardnish, Roshven and an Stac in the background. As the eye travels further along the coast we see Glenuig, Smirisary and outwards to Ardnamurchan Point. Turning to the north, we see Saideal Torr Beithe, Loch na Cilltean and Àrasaig in the distance. Beyond that, towering over Àrasaig, is Creag Mòr. Our stance is situated at the narrowest point, or the "waist" of the Rhu Peninsula. At Tòrr Beithe, the ruins are scattered over quite an area. In sight of Loch nan Uamh, there are 8 ruins. Some of these ruins are quite big as ruins go. One building is 44' in length x 14' in breadth, outside dimensions Apparently, it was a communal winnowing barn with an aperture on the opposite wall to the door, in order to the to allow a draught thus assisting the drying of the corn and the dispersion of the chaff. Other ruins seem to be older and less distinct.
In the 1718 Clanranald Rentals the tenants are Ronald, John and Donald MacEachen.
Report of the Royal Commission 1892
Excerpt of statement given by Aeneas MacDonell.
"Torr Beithe was cleared of 4 tenants by Cranston about 1842. Their names were: Angus Smith, L MacKinnon, J. MacDonald and John MacIsaac"
Achadh a' Garbh Uillt (Field of the Rough Burn) is another little township adjoining Tòrr Beithe and was cleared of 3 tenants in 1842. There is a ruined house with an outhouse, on its own, to the left of the upper field
We now double back to Rhumach. This was another neighbouring farm of Rhu, comprising the area of Rhumach Hill, Rhu Breac and Tórr Mór. This district bordered both sides of the road which runs parallel with Loch na Ceall The substantial steading, in good condition, which remains today at Rhumach, was built by Archie MacDonald, (1756 -1829) although it may have been renovated at a later date. In the clearance of 1842, 20 families were evicted from here. The field to the north of the road, which is now in a neglected, boggy state, was, in living memory, a fertile place which yielded a good hay harvest. In this area, both north and south of the road, we have found 20 or more little stone circular cairns, use unknown, but almost certainly of prehistoric origin also, what we have been advised, is probably the remains of a Bronze Age round house. There are only 4 comparatively modern ruins to be seen. Probably because, it was customary to use the stone of ruins for the construction of new walls, fanks and dwellings.
Allt a' Mhuilean or, Millburn was, as the name suggests, the site of the mill but in the 19th century and even more modern times, was occupied by the estate gamekeepers. In 1763, Ranald Macdonald, Younger of Clanranald gave Robert Fraser a 17 year tack for a mill at Ardnafuaran and a "tigh seinnse" or change house,(inn) at Ardnafuaran, with croft and others (buildings) at a rent of £23.00 per annum. I think that, though Fraser may have been in Ardnafuaran, the mill was probably situated at the present Port a' Mhuilean. In 1892, the "London Times" reports that "the corn mill at Arisaig had been closed by "a previous owner" and that corn had to be sent to Eigg to be ground."
Round the corner from Millburn there is an area, south of the road, which is a hill park, part of Millburn pastures, and on this area there are the ruins of 8 dwellings and 6 little buildings.
Also at this site, there are what look like like 6 burial mounds or ciste - 5 small and 1 large - similar to the robbed Bronze Age cairn situated below Roshven View, Arisaig, in 2001, excavated when preparations were being made for a for the new road through the village.
Coming along the road we come to Ard an Airidh ( Ardgaserie or, the High Shieling) An area above and below the road between Saideal Tòrr Beithe and Allt a' Mhuillein. There are two ruins on the point, below the road and six above the road. (Two of which may have been byres.)
Ardgaserie, was cleared of 12 tenants in 1842
They were: Lachlan MacKinnon, Donald Roy MacInnes, John MacIntyre, John MacKinnon, Patrick MacCormack, Neil MacKinnon, Ronald MacDonald, Mrs MacDonald, Donald MacVarish, Duncan MacInnes, John MacDonald and Allan MacKinnon. These people were moved to Loch Sheil in Moidart and some of their descendants emigrated to Australia in the 1850s. Baile Ùr (New Village) is the little settlement above the road near Achadh a' Garbh Uillt and above Saideal Torr Beithe Here are 8 ruins and it was possibly cleared in 1842. The name, Blaile Ùr suggests that it was a later settlement.
We now cross to Sandaig, on the Loch nan Uamh coast.. This was where Alasdair MacMhaighster Alasdair, the warrior bard of the '45, died ca. 1770. Alasdair was to have been buried in Eilean Fhianain but the weather was too stormy for the boat journey so he was buried in Arisaig with a plan to bring him to Eilean Fhianan at a later date. However this was not done and he lies in the graveyard of St. Maol Ruadh, in Arisaig.
In earlier folklore, the little island, Car an Daimh, (turn, or bend, of the stags or, stranger) just off the shore of Sandaig, is said to be the birthplace of Ossian. There are 5 or 6 ruins at Sandaig, one of them the tacksman's house which is possibly where AMA spent his last years.
Sandaig was cleared of 1 tenant in 1829and again, in 1842, when Ronald MacEachen, grand nephew of Neil MacEachin of the '45 and g.g. grandfather of Neil MacEachin, Tullochgorm, Arisaig.was cleared and Sandaig was added to the tack of Mains farm. The direct descendants of this family are still in Arisaig today as are other descendants. Ronald MacEachin is said to have had an annuity from his cousin, the Duke of Tarentum, son of Neil MacEachin, Prince Charlie's guide after the '45.
This 1829 eviction was enforced by Lady Ashburton, second wife of Ranald George, 20th Chief and Captain of Clanranald. Lady Ashburton bought Arisaig in 1827 when the then Clanranald's profligcy forced him to sell off his inheritance, piece by piece.
Gaoithe Dail (Windy Field)
In 1731, the farm of Gaoithe Dail was part of the seven merklands of Arisaig then still possessed by the MacDonalds of Morar, a Clanranald sept, descended from Dugald V1 of Clanranald who was murdered by Ailean nan Coirc ca.1520 at Coire Dhugaill, Polnish. There are 6 ruins to be seen in Gaoithe Dail. One of them is the remains of the Catholic Seminary - 1738 - 1746, in the time of Bishop Hugh MacDonald, (1699- 1773) a younger son of Alexander MacDonald of Morar. This seminary housed eight young boys training for the priesthood. Bishop Hugh became the first Catholic bishop of the Highland Vicariate in 1731. The seminary was destroyed by the redcoats after the '45 and after some time had elapsed, was moved to Glenfinnan then, Bourblach in Morar before moving again to Samalaman, in Moidart and later, Lismore.
Gaoithe Dail was cleared of 10 families in 1829 by Lady Ashburton and this farm was also added to the tack, or tenancy, of Mains Farm. Some of the evicted people emigrated and some sought shelter in Ardnish. In 1842, Angus MacEachin, brother of Ronald who was evicted from Sandaig, and his daughter, Catherine, were cleared from Gaoithe Dail. The only shelter they could find, was in Uaimh an t- Siabuin, (the Soap Cave) near the old Rhu Pier until Mrs MacDonell came to their rescue and they went to stay at am Bàs a little community near Traigh. Others went to Moidart, to Alexander MacDonald, Gregor's elder brother, on the Loch Shiel estate.
Near the hill track over to Gaoithe Dail can be seen a cup marked stone. It has 72 little cup marks in it with one larger than the rest.
The markings on the stone are thought to date back to 3000 years B.C. to the Bronze Age. The oak woods in the vicinity are significant as the oak and mistletoe were sacred plants in the ancient worship of the "Old Religion". The well here would have been of great importance too as, well water was considered to be sacred and used in their rituals.
Note: The number of ruins found on the ground is not necessarily an accurate indication of the earlier population. Many ruined houses were later used in the building of field walls, fanks and new dwellings.
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