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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
May 2012 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
REINSTATE OUR ROAD!
Such is the anger in Arisaig over the pavement which has been built along the road to St Mary's Church that petition slips have been put into Arisaig Post Office demanding it be removed.
Residents in the village were bemused to see the pavement being constructed along the B8008 from the junction along to the church, reducing the road to a single track. There had been no consultation, no prior notice, and Councillor Allan Henderson says it 'beggars belief that there was no joined up thinking or discussion.'
A special meeting to discuss it was called in St Mary's Church Hall on Monday, 23rd April between members of the Arisaig and District Community Council, Highland Council officials and Councillors, Fr Andrew Barrett, Mr Martin Jones, Primary school headmaster, and local residents. The minutes are printed below.
As a petition only counts as one signature regardless of how many sign it, individual slips are in the Post Office for signature. They say that the pavement makes the scenic route dangerous and often unusable and the community of Arisaig has been ignored and treated shamefully and calls on the pavement to be removed immediately. Over 160 were signed in the first few days.
The next public meeting on the subject will be at a date to be confirmed, probably week beginning May 14th.
Minutes of the Special Meeting held by Arisaig and District Community Council - with regard to the work being done by Safer Routes for Schools on the B8008
Sam MacNaughton (Head of Transport and Infrastructure - Highland Council); Lisa MacKellaich (Road Safety Officer - Highland Council); Allan Henderson (Highland Council Councillor); Gordon Stewart (Chair of A&DCC); Maureen McColl (Secretary of A&DCC); Fr Andrew Barrett (Parish Priest and A&DCC member); Gerald MacDonald (A&DCC); Martin Jones (Head of Arisaig Primary School); Merac MacDonald (School Driver); Duncan Lee; Colin Lynn; Yvonne MacDonald; Tommy MacEachen
Apologies from Hugh Logan (Highland Council)
Gordon Stewart was asked to Chair the meeting.
This meeting was arranged to discuss the work being done on the B8008, between the junction at Arisaig and St Mary's Church - leading on eventually to Arisaig Primary School. The work is being done under the funding of Safer Routes for Schools - funding set up by the Scottish Government. The work is being carried out by the Highland Council. £30,000 was allotted for this work. The meeting was called because of the outrage in the community and the sheer disbelief that such an ill-conceived scheme was foisted on the community without any apparent need for consultation. The problems it would give to access to St Mary's Church were not even considered. The reduction of the agreed tourist route from double lane to single lane was not acceptable. Mr MacNaughton said that planning for this section of work started over a year ago, but there had been no need for local consultation, as the work being done did not require it by Order. He felt that sufficient negotiation had taken place with the School and that the Church had been approached during the course of the planning. Fr Barrett said all he had been consulted on was the possibility of a gate from church ground to the field beside it, so that a footpath could be added at a later date to the School. He was not aware of the plans for the road.
Mr Henderson said that the local branch of TEC Services (Highland Council) were not aware of the work and Mr MacDonald, who had spoken to Mr MacLelland of TEC Services (Fort William) at a meeting by the Church (to discuss the improvement of the path through the churchyard to the cemetery) said that no mention was made of this work on the road.
It appears that no survey had been taken of the traffic using this road - including coaches, caravans and holiday makers not conversant with the rules of using single track roads. The opinions of local people were not sought in the best way to get children walking and cycling to school, although doing so would have made them keener to see something being done. No consideration had been made of the problems of parking for the Church. He seemed unaware of the Services which take place during the week and the need for additional parking for weddings and funerals etc.
Mr MacNaughton agreed that it would have been better to get the knowledge and opinion of the village before starting work on the road, but refused to remove what has already been done. He said that the green road markings, which have been successful in Morar, would not be considered, because people in the Western Isles, where it was already done, were now asking for it to be replaced by pavements. The path had to be two metres wide in order to be used by children cycling to school as well as walking. The addition of the one passing place was adequate according to the general planning rules for single track roads. He did agree that it could be possible to add more passing places and the height of the kerb might be altered.
While Mr MacNaughton agreed to look at the design of the path again and to resume the meeting within a week with alternatives he would be prepared to make, the community made it clear that the preference was re-instatement with a path along the side bank constructed or a completely different route through the cemetery and the churchyard, which is also being improved.
Well you never know, there just might be a shinty team in Knoydart in the future. Isla has had her baby - young Victor - another boy. Mother, child, father and grandmother are all well, as are auntie Rhona and Grandad Stewart who have been, mostly, holding the Miller fort on the peninsula. Our best wishes go to them all. When a bairn is born here they usually get to be the centre of attention for a fair while, but after the recent run of Oren, Maja, Ruben, Morgan and now Victor they will all have to be happy with a share of the spoils. Oh and I just want to say Granny Rhona Miller! - cos I know she'll love that.
One common part of the whole experience that all the mothers have had is some amount of dissatisfaction with the attitude of a Kyle Court(or an individual or two there) to the problems people experience when they have to live away from home waiting on a birth. It might be worth a discussion.
But never mind the babies - what about the weather. Of course by the time this is seen it will have broke, and while it's sunny it can be cold. But it has been glorious. This time of year, with no midges, there is nowhere you'd rather be. The stayvacationers seem to think that as well with plenty over here right through from Easter - lots of them various family friends and acquaintances. A very social time has been had by all. The Easter ceilidh was a draw in itself with Gary Innes, Allan Henderson and Mike Bryan keeping the crowds with happy feet happy. It never ceases to amaze me though that there are visitors who come to a place like this and there is something going on and they decide that they won't bother enjoying it for the price of a couple of pints. Funny folk folk are sometimes. Easter, along with the ceilidh, had the Bazaar, which was a slightly muted affair this year, and Grant's annual treasure hunt. While there was some dispute from the competing teams as to who should have won this passed off without incident and the hunt was a great success.
As ever community stuff continues. The new shop for community produce/merchandise is going great guns. There have been allocations and consultations and mcu talk about the both of them. The Broadband installations are continuing, the oldest A-frame has had a bit of a makeover and the Garden once again has a fully covered polytunnel. Thanks to all involved in those. The possibility of some redevelopment at the Village Hall moved a bit closer with its legal status and how it can move forward getting a bit of definition from the Law Dept. at the Church of Scotland - thanks to them as well.
Outwith babies, visitors and community the other everyday stuff continues. Kitty has started nursery. The Western Isles is back to summer weekday sailing. Ping Pong continues to be the sport of choice for many. Amy has branched out and has advanced her baking skills (this when she is not having a wee nap in the back of Bob's vehicle). A new calf arrived at the Airor crofts; named by Kitty as Archibald, it was promptly lost. The ensuing search took a few hours and took in a lot of the western reaches of the peninsula. Archibald was found settled calmly in the bracken and brambles exactly where he was last seen - a camouflaged calf. Much work is ongoing: John Murdo is painting at Glaschoille and readying the flat for the return of Mel; Paul Thomson, along with Willie and Steve, is redoing the roof at Torrie; the new houses are having beams added and roof sheets put on.
I started with a birth and must end with a death. April saw the sad and untimely death of Mark Rogers. Mark died of a massive heart attack in Inverie. Despite the efforts of the people round about and the Air Ambulance team there was nothing that could be done. An appreciation of Mark and his talents has been written by Anne Trussell and is included in this edition of West Word.
ISLE OF MUCK
The news that the Lottery has awarded Muck nearly £1,000,000 towards our new power scheme is great news for everyone on Muck. As I write the central diesel generator is out of action with a sheared cylinder head bolt and we are having to manage with two even smaller diesels, one at each end of the island. So small are they that only one washing machine is possible and we all have a washing rota. So well done the power committee. Well done Iain Leaver - surely better times are ahead !
The cost of the new scheme does seem high as there is little cabling involved, but there are six turbines, many photo-voltaic panels and lots of batteries (lack of which was a major failure with the old scheme). Surely when it is finished we will have a power source which is reliable in the long term. Certainly the news from Eigg where their power scheme has many features in common with our proposals, is positive.
On the farm lambing is almost over and a good one it has been with great weather and lots of twins. But at a cost. To offset the worst winter in decades and the ever more numerous geese we have fed record quantities of ewe nuts but the much better lamb prices do make this well worthwhile.
Outside the new hall islanders armed with rakes, buckets and barrows have been hard at work lifting stones and preparing the playing field for sowing. Great weather for this task. Many of the hall building team will be back for the opening on Friday 18th together with a smattering of other VIPs such as Charles Kennedy and Michael Foxley. See you then but if you can't make the 18th there is always the Open Day on Sunday 3rd June.
With best wishes,
ISLE OF CANNA
After a long wet, wild and occasionally bitter winter we are most definitely seeing signs of spring, with the daffies, calves and even a fair few cruise visits already behind us.
Thistlecamp Volunteer group came and went after a very busy week including a much welcomed beach clean. We all did our bit but it would be so much more difficult without these guys. Thank you all and especially John for his organisation and morale boosting team building! Easter came and went too, lots of visitors and some old familiar faces… great to see them all. The Gille Brighde was very busy with all our special set menus and I am pleased to say the wild rabbit proved a dining success… still a way to go though before we have tipped the balance in our favour….
The calving has been good this year and lambing is busy… we have had the 'mooternity' and 'eweternity' wards behind our house but I have stopped naming them now… There was an Easter bonnet competition, judged in the restaurant by a slightly bemused but willing yachtie, and the bonnets were gorgeous. Well done to the kiddies and grandmas for joining in!
Mallaig Coastguard rope rescue team came and did an extremely worthwhile training exercise with the Canna Coastguards on Saturday 31st March. By sheer (no pun intended) coincidence one of the sheep had got itself into a bit of a pickle and the rope team were able to actually do a live demonstration…and a very successful rescue. The sheep gave birth to two healthy lambs by the way! Phil Wren, sent his praise to the team and some photos. Brilliant.
Big news for us here on Canna is that we have been selected and awarded a grant from the Big Lottery Fund Village SOS team for our moorings project. This has been an on-going and dedicated project that we are so pleased has been given a boost. We aim to have the moorings installed this year, which will further enhance the facilities for our sailing visitors, and allows us to continue with our plans and future development on the island. It's just great to have been selected for this. A huge thanks to all at the Village SOS team who provided support and assistance with our project!
The Community Association have also opened a wee craft and gift shop. No big fanfare, or grand opening ceremony but a thoroughly good day with the Mallaig Rope Rescue team, Canna Coastguards, guests and islanders. It was sanded, painted, prepped up, cleaned and stocked by all the community, but Julie, Kathryn, Gregor and Caroline deserve a special mention for all their hard work, motivation (bossy boots the lot of them!) and creative direction!! It was well worth the effort though, so make sure you have look for the stunning Canna Wool Creations, beautiful jewellery, yummy jams and preserves, art, postcards, t-shirts and crafty bits - all sourced locally! Aart made another handcrafted wooden sign and we celebrated with one of Winnie's fab cakes!
The waiting room at the pier has also been renovated by Magda & Joaquin, a lovely appley green and white backdrop to a stunning collection of photographs from Canna. This adds to the two other exhibitions on the island for people to have a look at, as well as Canna House, for a wee bit culture.
Kate's bothy has been completely renovated too, inside and out (and I'm sure we must have got a job lot of that apple green paint??) - huge amounts of hard work and volunteer time by Gregor. Probably not what he had in mind when he came back to Canna but he obviously motivated the others because picnic tables, benches, gates and fences have been sorted, built and nailed back together. The GB was given a lick of paint by Aart as well, definitely catching, this painting malarkey…
Fiona J Mackenzie was on the island last weekend and we had a wonderful 'Gaelic weekend', with workshop, buffet and treasure hunt. She performed some of her magical Gaelic songs in the evening ceilidh at the GB for us, as well as some older more traditional pieces. The waulking of the tweed was great fun. Tables surrounded by a very eclectic mix of German tourists, NTS conservation team, a stane dyker and a basket weaver, islanders and guests made for a lively and fun filled Gaelic evening! The treasure hunt was slightly less successful, we very nearly had to call Canna Coastguards back into action or at the very least search and rescue… I thought the clues were quite good really, for a first attempt… ahem.
Fiona is fast becoming a real friend of Canna and will be coming back over in June with the Gaelic, Celtic, Folksy, Roots band, 'The Kimarnock Edition'… This is part of our ongoing Fèis activities which we are delighted to announce have been given funding for by Creative Scotland. We are aiming for another full on Fèis in August so stay tuned!
We also managed to squeeze in a basket weaving workshop with Alison Shaw, never ever again will we complain at the prices of baskets, much trickier and painstaking than first thought but very satisfying, although sadly as this goes to press I have still not finished mine… needed time for my thumb blisters to heal… Alison was a very patient and thorough teacher, and we hope she will come back soon! This will tie in nicely with the woodland management plan for the island - we should be coppicing some of our own willow in the near future. Finally we are taking part in the 'Festival of the Sea' running from 18th - 28h May with guided tours of Canna House on Wednesday and Saturdays (great for your daytrip to Canna) as well as sea themed menus in the Gille Brighde (all week).
For complete updates on what is going on here on Canna and more community news check out www.cannarestaurant.com!
Whew! And it only gets busier from now on.....
The opening of the new village shop
ISLE OF RUM
Busy month as usual, spurred on by the dry, sunny and glorious weather, mind you that chilly northerly wind has given us flashes of the depths of winter especially when you're standing on the pier, which is a bit exposed. However that shouldn't be a problem anymore due to the completion of the new waiting room which is now open to the public to escape the elements. Better still; the waterless (compost) loo is now in place as well. Known as a' Woo Woo loo' we hope everyone embraces our green toilet option.
We welcomed new crofters/residents to Rum this month Nic and Ady Goddard with their kids Scarlett and Davies arrived full of the joys of spring. With a new puppy, hamsters in tow and livestock arriving imminently we wish them all the best.
A beach clean down at Kilmory tidied up the shore for the season and provided handy extra bodies to help move the new Kilmory deer hide onto site. Sandy, Neil and Karl, from Eigg, have been working on it all week and by the time this is published, should be completed and ready to use.
This year's first craft fair and produce market went well, with a steady trickle of customers keen to try Rum's own brand of jams, pickles, muffins, jewellery, woollies etc. Sweet Chilli sauce and Ali's chocolate muffins were best sellers. We're planning on holding one every month.
Did you know it's been three years since the Isle of Rum community Trust (IRCT) took over ownership of Kinloch Village? Well, time flies and we thought it high time to have ourselves an anniversary ceilidh. So on Friday 11th May we're having a bit of a do at the hall. We've got Ross Martin, Gabe McVarish, Murdo Cameron and Tam la Banjo playing - also known as ( for one night only) 'RUM DMC' - that'll be Dancin', Music and Craic to you lot; so polish yer stomping shoes cos you're gonna need them. Looking forward to seeing our neighbours from Eigg, Muck and Canna who can actually make it since the ferry conveniently goes the right way for a ceilidh on Rum on a Friday night - amazing! Also hoping to see our friends from Knoydart. Same weekend we had the festivals so it's bound to be sunny!!
Catch the Rum Tweets @isleofrum
ISLE OF EIGG
April saw the first ever fell races being run on Eigg, on Easter Saturday and Sunday - 7 And 8 April. About 40 participants took place, with amongst them one Eigg contestant, Gyorgi, Earth Connections' long time volunteer from Hungary. The best time for running from the pier to the trig point on top of the Sgurr and back was an incredible 42 minutes! Gyorgi did very well doing it in 1 hour and 6 minutes. The following day, the race finished with an even more astonishing time, the winner taking 36 minutes to run from Laig beach to the top of the Guala Mor and back down to the Singing Sands, in not such nice weather and after dancing a good bit of the night at the Easter Ceilidh, which saw Leo MacCann returning to Eigg in very good form: good tunes and good craic, and a perfect start to Maggie's birthday, which carried on with more tunes that evening. Easter Monday, which saw a return to the sunshine, featured the first of the Eigg craft-fairs at the hall which will become a weekly event from June onwards. Islanders and tourists alike enjoyed the bazaar and home made goods stalls with the ice-cream and baking stalls selling out in record time. Wait till you try the sachertorte from our newly established "Eiggy bread" duo. It truly deserves the gold medal of chocolate cakes…
Sometimes, a project can take such a long time to reach completion that you need a lot of faith and tenacity to keep it on the rail. Then, all of a sudden, it's time to celebrate! The renovation of St Donnan's Roman Catholic Church appears to have been in this category. After the long, convoluted saga of the sale of our famous church painting, things did take a much faster turn indeed, and on 16 April, St Donnan's feast day, our beautifully renovated church was re-dedicated by Bishop Joseph Toal assisted by Fr Andrew, our parish priest, Fr Jo from Morar and Fr Ian from Skye. It was a really beautiful and moving service, bringing home the full power of the liturgy, and it was great to see our church so full, as many people from the Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig and Glenfinnan congregations came over to join us for this unique celebration. At the end of the mass, the Mallaig choir sang a particularly beautiful and moving modern hymn which was all about the sea that I would love our small Eigg congregation to learn. Certainly many mainland parishioners that had never been to Eigg before were so taken by the island that they promised to come back with Fr Andrew on his monthly visit! The weather was certainly up to the occasion and only broke the following day: it must be a sure indication that St Donnan, who in ancient times was reputed to have much influence over the weather, did have something to do with it! (We now have the 7th century crosses from his monastery on display inside the church and it is a beautiful sight to see the light from the restored stained glass windows fall on his interlaced ringed cross, bearing both Gaelic and Greek inscriptions). Traditional island hospitality followed at Lageorna after the service, and was much enjoyed by all. Plans are now to bring everyone together again to Eigg for the next St Donnan's feast day, as next year is dedicated to St Columba, and of course we have a well dedicated to him in Cleadale.
It will be all the more exciting if the excavations at Kildonnan will reveal the location of St Donnan's monastery and we could certainly involve a visit to the site. (For anyone that is interested the dig will take place from 16 June to 7 July and many volunteer hands are needed, so anyone that fancies a bit of archeological experience over that period, and don't mind camping, please get in touch at www.spanglefish.com/eigghistorysociety.) In the meantime, the Eigg primary school children are conducting their own survey of the site and are doing their bit by working on locating the long lost well of St Donnan's altar. Prof Hunter who will direct the excavation will be doing a talk about early Christian sites in the Hebrides on Tuesday 19 June for those who are interested by the topic and will be conducting tour of the site each Monday of the dig which should allow interested mainlanders a chance to come over for the afternoon!
St Donnan's day was traditionally the day when you would hear the shearwater and the cuckoo, and right enough, our migrating birds are back and the first swallow has been spotted about the 20th April. The weather was so gorgeous they must have thought they were still in Africa with the record temperature that we experienced this month! It certainly allowed wee Maisy to have a memorable birthday party on Laig beach on 26 April which featured the biggest sandcastle city ever. On being asked how old Maisie was on her birthday, her best pal Maggie, still two years old, thought a bit and said : "37, I think"! How wonderful…
But as so often in life, happy days can be followed by sadness, and it was with a very heavy heart indeed that the community on Eigg greeted the news that Rachel Weldon, our dedicated and long serving Small Isles doctor, had tragically passed away on 2 May. Our thoughts are with her husband Eric and Rachel's family in Holland.
A GREAT DAY FOR EIGG
On Monday, 16th April, the little church of St Donan on Eigg was packed, when local people and others who had travelled from the mainland gathered for a Mass of re-dedication.
The chief-celebrant was Bishop Toal, assisted by Fr Andrew Barrett of Arisaig who has the care of the island's Catholics, Fr Joseph Calleja of Morar and Mallaig, and Fr William MacLean of Portree.
We were blessed with a beautiful day and the church looked fine in its new white paint, set beside the sea beneath the cliffs and pinnacles of Cleadale, looking across to Rum's sharp mountains.
Hebridean winters had taken their toll on the hundred year old building and left it in a sorry state, but its make-over had brought it to life again. If the outside looks bonny, the interior is even lovelier, and on Monday - sun-filled and candle-lit, it glowed.
The Mass was spiritual, the singing strong, and the Bishop's homily spoke of the dedication and gratitude that had made the 'new' church possible. We were reminded that the Church is not simply bricks and mortar, but living stones and we were encouraged to re-dedicate ourselves also.
After Mass everyone was treated to a wonderful lunch at Sue's house, to which many families had contributed dishes.
Father Andrew and his island flock are rightly proud of their church, and were determined to make the day special in every way. They had prayed for fine weather, and the forecast rain and high winds held off until the celebrations were over and the visitors had reached the mainland in comfort.
Renovation work was recently completed at St Donan's which celebrated its centenary last year, Bishop Toal said that he was 'very happy to be celebrating the Mass that day in honour of St Donan and his fellow martyr monks.' It is widely believed that the saint and his community of 52 monks were murdered by the female chieftain of Moidart.
'Eigg is an island with a long Christian history and we hope and pray that this will continue, and that the Catholic Faithful on Eigg will benefit from the celebration of Mass in their church as often as possible. The story of St Donan deserves to be better known and people could be encouraged to visit Eigg as a place of pilgrimage. I think we should look at this possibility and work with the whole island community in promoting its Christian significance.' - Bishop Toal.
ROAD TO THE ISLES AGRICULTURAL SHOW 2012
Arrangements are well under way for this year's Road to the Isles Agricultural Show on Saturday 9th June at Camusdarach, Arisaig, by kind permission of the Stuart family. There are livestock classes for Commercial Cattle and Highland Cattle, and Blackface and Non-Blackface Sheep. There are also two classes for 'undressed' cattle and there is a beautiful trophy for the winner of this section, so please do put in your entries! The judging of the livestock classes commences at 10.30a.m. The livestock section is always well supported and we are looking forward to a good turnout again this year. Please telephone Audrey MacDonald on 01687 450267 if you wish to enter any of these classes and have not received a schedule.
The judging of the Baking, Handicrafts and Floral Decoration classes begins at 11a.m. Entries are taken on the day and should be brought to the Handicrafts tent between 9.30 and 11a.m. on the morning of the Show. We are hoping for plenty of support for these classes, so please bring along as many entries as you can. Schedules are available in local Post Offices and shops, or telephone 01687 450655 for information.
The afternoon's entertainment begins at 1.00p.m. with a piping recital by some of our local young pipers. This is followed by 'Riders of the Storm', a group from Perthshire who do trick and stunt riding. This display should be really entertaining and is really worth seeing so please do come along. There will also be a sheep dog demonstration by Mr. Mike MacNally from Invergarry, followed by a parade of Highland cattle with a commentary about the breed. During the afternoon there will be sheep shearing demonstrations, a display of wood-turning, and a demonstration of chain saw carving.
There will also be the ever popular Dog Show, so smarten up your pooch and you could win a prize!
The catering tent is having a Jubilee theme this year and we are looking for any memorabilia relating to former Jubilees or the Coronation which you may have so that we can make a display. Please contact Angela Simpson on 01687 450378 if you can help with this.
There should be something for everyone to enjoy so please come along and support your local Show and we hope that you all enjoy a good day out!
We look forward to seeing you there!
Ann Gillies of Glengarsk, Arisaig, sent us this photo of her black ewe and family. Ann says 'After reading how unusual it is for a black ewe to have one white and one black set of twins, I thought West Word readers might be interested to see this - it's the second time my black ewe has produced such a family!'
ARISAIG BEACH CLEAN
This is the amazing amount of rubbish collected off the beaches at Back of Keppoch and Bunacaimbe by local children and helpers in March this year.
The terrible storms of last December and January contributed to the amount of flotsam washed up on the coastline, a point missed entirely by the Highland Council Reporter who inflamed local feelings by his comments on the amount of rubbish in his findings on the recent wind turbine appeal.
Pictured are Edward, Christopher and Jamie Lee, Jack Gillies, Kirsty Buick , Thomas Benfield, Roslin Wilkinson, Kyle and Zac Leven and Mathew Mackay, with adult helpers Saskia Vanderplas, Joyce Wilkinson and Jill Lee.
LOCHABER COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH CLINIC
Osteopath Geoff Skrone has opened his new health clinic at Achintee, Fort William and is now offering a full range of treatments from his team of practitioners. Added to osteopathy are physiotherapy, acupuncture, reflexology, Indian head massage, hot stones treatment, massage, herbal medicine and more.
Look at www.lochaberclinic.co.uk or contact the clinic by email email@example.com or phone 01397 702257 for more information.
NEW AUTHOR IN TOWN
Ewen Grimsay Isle Nicholson is launching a new career this month - as an author!
Ewen's first book is entitled New Horizon - Tales of a Hebridean Skipper and it tells the story of the seventy years of his life from the age of six until the present day. Ewen recounts school days on the small island of Grimsay, situated between North Uist and Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides; his years in the merchant navy and how he came to live in Mallaig.
He recalls the 'characters' he has met though his long and varied life, which has seen him battling problems, and how he overcame them and became a Jehovah's Witness.
The book is published at £7.99 by 'For the Right Reasons', a charity based in Inverness which helps people with drugs and alcohol problems, and some of the proceeds will go towards their programme of support. Ewen thanks Allan Henderson for his help in getting the book produced. Ewen will be in Mallaig Heritage Centre - time to be confirmed - on Wednesday 30th May with two pens ('in case one runs out') to sign copies so call in then to see him. And he is already planning his second book!
Residents in the area around Ardtoe, North Ardnamurchan, will have had a few occasions last week when the earth moved for them, literally.
Following the winter storms some items of ordnance were found, mainly mortar shells, in the dunes at Kentra, known locally as the "singing sands".
As a result of this and fears that there could be more in this area which was used as training ground for the D day landings, the Northern Diving Group of the Royal Navy, better known as the Bomb Squad moved into Salen for a week long search of the area assisted by Coastguards from Mallaig, Salen and Kilchoan.
Spearheading the hunt was Lieutenant Justin Wong on secondment from the Royal Canadian Navy. Altogether nearly 50 items of mainly live ordnance were found, some were also found by Coastguards and dealt with the same day by placing them in a hole in the sand, attaching detonators and exploding them after the Coastguard teams had cordoned off the area. The team from Faslane and their Coastguard helpers had a spell of excellent weather for the job.
A training exercise for Mallaig Coastguard on Saturday 31st March 2012 coincided with a request from Canna Coastguard member Gerry MacKinnon to help to rescue a pregnant sheep from a cliff ledge on the island.
A series of sixteen steel holdfasts were deployed allowing for two edge safety Officers plus Gerry and two rope rescue technicians to go over the cliff. New equipment and techniques plus the prior training made the task easier (apart from the sheep not really wanting to be rescued).
The sheep later gave birth to healthy twin lambs.
The rescue in progress
Letters to the Editor
On Saturday, 28 th. April, I was sitting in the reception area of the Grand Azur Hotel in Marmaris, Turkey; patiently waiting for the coach to take us to the airport. My wife had taken a stroll, looking for something to read and pass the time. She came back waving these sheets of paper, "You'll never believe what I have found". It was the April edition of West Word. It really is a small world.
But, who was the original mystery reader? Did our paths often cross without a word spoken? Andy Race had an advert seeking to add to his workforce, but would he go to these extremes to source the perfect employee?
This is one for your best investigative reporter to solve the mystery.
Donald J. Campbell
Warden's Flat, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Isle of Skye
We may have the solution - wait for next month's West Word!.
Arisaig and West Lochaber Lead the Way on 2014 Homecoming
Arisaig, Arisaig Highland Games, and a coalition of Heritage Organisations in West Lochaber (HOWLing Events) have the opportunity to lead the rest of Scotland with their contribution to the 2014 Year of Homecoming, and it is all being launched through Associate Group and media partner, West Word. Howling Events has two main aims:
Firstly, in response to requests from the Scottish diaspora in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, HOWL will combine efforts and resources to create what is hoped to be the single point family history source for people who lived in west Lochaber and their descendants. This includes all of the people who left in the 17th to 19th centuries as a result of clearances, economic migration, or any other reason.
Project Co-ordinator, Chas Mac Donald, said, 'We hope to be able to provide all people researching family histories in west Lochaber with a rich database where they can find their antecedents. Ideally we would like, also, to be able to give as much background information as is possible about the people on the database, such as biographical data about places of living, working, special achievements, and the like. There should be no reason to go anywhere else - we hope!'
The database will be constructed from donated archives of people who are already associated with the scheme. Foremost amongst these is Tearlach MacFarlane of Glenfinnan who has, possibly, the most detailed archive of information in the area.
For readers of West Word, our own genealogy team, Allan and Elizabeth Mac Donald of Arisaig, of A Little Genealogy fame, are also contributing the mass of data they have acquired over a number of years of research. The group is also in discussions with four other important archives, and seeks contributions of family histories from others researchers.
Chas Mac Donald is keen to point out that 'there is a huge amount of information collected in the bigger archives, but there is an even bigger amount of information held in boxes under the stairs, or in the heads of the old folk, and we would really like to hear about it, and have it donated to An Diasporran. Contributors can do this in confidence, if they wish, but it is very important to us that we get the names and human stories of people, so that we can make it easier for researchers to find their forebears, and understand the lives they had here before they left. It's a way for the community here to welcome back cousins seeking their roots.'
Anybody who has information they would like to share should contact Chas. However, he also notes that the thought of being deluged with information right away terrifies him and the team. 'We could find ourselves knee deep in information donated in ways that we cannot make any sense of. So, if anybody is kind enough to donate information, please get in touch with a short email telling what information you think you have, such as family names, time frames, geographic information etc. We can then try to approach the task methodically to ensure that we get data recorded in as accurate a manner as we can.'
One of the most important things it is hoped will come out of the project is that we will be able to provide guiding resources for people who come to the area looking for the places their ancestors came from. People sometimes turn up on doorsteps or in local shops looking for information, and this can be very hit and miss. An Diasporran's Associate Guides will be able to take you to the place, if known, because guides will be local, and will have the knowledge necessary to find that remote wee pile of stones that is the remnant of a life once lived here.
An Tilleadh 2014
Many will have heard of An Tilleadh through Arisaig Highland Games. Arisaig Games has allowed its heritage strand to be extended for 2014. An Tilleadh means The Returning.
Howling Events has spent time in recent weeks looking at the possibilities for events around west Lochaber and there are some exciting ideas being considered. It would be too early to give many details of the different things in view at present, but Howling Events itself will hold a number of signature events throughout the area, possibly over three seasons. A spring season will launch An Diasporran, hopefully with some publishing attached and possibly a bardic festival. Several potential publications are being looked at, especially with bardic and other arts in mind. There is also a very exciting music and drama project being worked up which will involve many people, both young and old, hopefully.
The summer season will be the highlight of the year with possibly two weeks of events around west Lochaber. This will be a mixture of tours, seminars, and music, with the focal event being held alongside Arisaig Games. There is also the possibility of two major clan gatherings in Lochaber which would see some extraordinary spectacles. Amongst all this it is planned to have a series of Roots Days, where visitors will be welcomed into communities, and where they will be able to visit particular sites important to them. It will be important to get a real sense of the local place, people, and culture, rather than just big events which are not always that personal. 'An Tilleadh should be about people', is Chas' firm stance. Autumn will see a winding down of the project, but it is hoped that this will be done with a Homeward Bound event, seeking to bring back people who might be called the 'near diaspora' - those who still live in the British isles. It should aim to be a time when people can bring themselves and their children home to meet wider families, and find out things they might not necessarily be exposed to in ad hoc weekend visits or such like.
As usual this cannot be done without people! So Howling Events is calling for volunteers to help. Mainly in the immediate future is a need for people who can enter data to the An Diasporran database. These will be working through local organisations, such as An Comunn Eachdraidh Àrasaig, for instance. The ability to use a computer is not necessarily important, as that can be learnt. But an eye for detail, and if possible some local knowledge, would help. There will be training available, and volunteers will only be expected to do what they think they can.
As the project gets closer to 2014, other volunteers will be needed to help with local events. So if you have some time or other skills that you think you can bring to the project, get in touch with Chas Mac Donald, or your local history society / heritage centre or whatever, and volunteer. They'd be really happy to hear from you.
For the time being, any information about the project will appear on the Arisaig Highland Games website, until a dedicated website is created. Anybody with information to donate, ideas to contribute, events they'd like to propose, or volunteering they'd like to do, should email Chas at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07810 603 573.
Currently Howling Events is comprised of the following organisations: Arisaig Highland Games (sponsoring organisation)(Project Co-ordinator) - Chas Mac Donald; An Comunn Eachdraidh Àrasaig - Elizabeth Mac Donald; Land Sea and Islands Centre - June Cairns; West Word - Ann Martin; Mallaig Heritage Centre - Malcolm Poole; West Highland College - Jane Henderson; Clan Donald Centre - Maggie MacDonald; Lochaber and North Argyll Family History Group - Mairi Weir; Clan Cameron Museum - Denis Muir; Lochaber Archives - Alex du Toit; West Highland Museum - Colleen Foggo; Prince Edward Island Scottish Settlers Historical Society - Mary Gallant
BIG LOTTERY LOCAL AWARDS
The Big Lottery's Village SOS Awards have announced that Canna Community Association has been offered an award of £19,786 for its plans to install a number of fixed moorings on the island which will provide safe anchorage all year around. This enterprise will enable more accessibility, provide the island with a constant income source and encourage a higher numbers of visitors to the area.
Spokesperson, Amanda Lastdrager said: 'From all at the Canna Community Association we are delighted to accept the Village SOS award enabling us to proceed with our moorings project. We aim to have the moorings installed in Canna Bay this year, which will enhance the facilities for our sailing visitors, and contribute to the local economy of the island. The success of this project, made possible by this award, allows us to continue with our plans and future development on the island. We are a small community who are very active and hard-working so it's just great to have been selected for this.'
Rum Community Association has been awarded £10,000 to establish a community cooperative to process and sell venison on the island. The enterprise will create employment opportunities and encourage an increase in tourism to generate an income for the community.
Mallaig Harbour News - May 2012
With advertising and subsequent interviews and appointments now completed, (all carried out under the auspices of the new Harbour Revision Order and the Modernisation of Trust Ports) the Non-Executive Board Members of the Authority as of April 2012 are as follows: Michael Currie; Charles King; Allan Henderson; Anthony Kenning; John MacMillan; Andrew Race; Michael Foxley and Jacqueline Wright. Robert MacMillan, as Executive Director, completes the nine person board.
The length of the appointments vary with two members being appointed for one year; three members appointed for two years; and three members appointed for three years.
I would like to thank everyone involved and all who helped make the official opening of the Mallaig Yachting Facility such a fine occasion. Although it was cold the rain stayed away and proceedings progressed according to plan.
Speeches from Michael Currie, Chairman of the Authority and Garry Martin from Sail West in Co Donegal dominated proceedings but a Gaelic song Tigh a Mhalaig from the Primary School Pupils and some fine piping from 16 year old Callan MacBeth introduced some local culture to the ceremony.
The Rev Pamela Gordon and Fr Andrew Barrett brought a touch of gravitas to the occasion which concluded with guests and school children venturing down onto the pontoons to witness their suitability at first hand.
Local yacht owners were fulsome in their praise of the Pontoons some even enjoying a wee tot of whisky dispensed by Seafari's Peter Fowler. A very welcome treat on such a cold day! At the excellent buffet that followed in the West Highland Hotel Mr Garry Martin was presented with a bottle of "Mallaig Harbour Water" by Harbour Chairman Mr Michael Currie. I would also like to thank the hard working staff of the Authority who worked wonders in preparing and decorating the Marina site and preparing the display boards in the Hotel!
Michael Currie, Robert MacMillan and Garry Martin, Sail West, after the opening ceremony
Photo courtesy of Steve Roberts
Head Teacher at the Mallaig Primary School, Ms Morag Martin, was extremely supportive when I approached her about the possibility of pupil involvement in a Design-a-Logo competition for the Mallaig Marina.
Thanks to the school and the teachers 65 pupils (from Primary 1 through to Primary 7) submitted entries with the entry from Shannon Cameron (P 7) being voted the winner. Runner-up was Cian MacVarish (P 7).
Both pupils assisted Mr Garry Martin, Co Donegal, Chairman of the Sail West Project Steering Committee, in the opening ceremony of the Marina on Friday 27th April.
My thanks to all the pupils who submitted entries to the Design-a-Logo competition and congratulations to Shannon and Cian on their success.
All 65 entries were on display in the West Highland Hotel and drew lots of favourable comments from the guests who attended the buffet there after the Opening Ceremony.
First prize went to Shannon Cameron's artwork (left),
The Harbour has remained busy with a return to regular landings of prawns and white fish over the past 6 - 8 weeks.
A total of thirty two visiting boats from the East Coast have provided a boost to the port and three of those boats are pictured in the Outer Harbour: Aquarius BF 89; Reliance BF 803; and Ocean Challenge BF 85.
Three of the visiting east coast boats
The canopy on the Steamer Pier's Highlight Tower blown off into the sea by the storm force winds last December was finally replaced on Wednesday 2nd May.
The Authority has recently extended its CCTV coverage of the Harbour Area to include the Marina so I would urge the person who stole the St Andrews flag from the Marina flag pole to return it to the Authority at earliest!
Flower tributes for Mark Rogers, who died suddenly on 15th April,
have been placed at the feet of the statue he donated to Mallaig.
On and Off the Rails
Where to start my column this month? Let's start with the two most frequently asked questions.
Question 1: 'When does the 'Steam Train' service start?' Answer: The Jacobite ever popular steam train season 2012, operating from Fort William to Mallaig and return, commences Monday 14th May. The morning service (Monday to Friday) operates from Monday 14th May to Friday 26th October. The afternoon service operates from Monday 6th June to Friday 31st August, plus the Saturday and Sunday service will operate from Saturday 23rd June to Sunday 26th August. Timetables are available from Mallaig Information Centre or on The Jacobite, you can book online at www.westcoastrailways.co.uk or telephone 0844 8504680 or 0844 8504681 for helpful assistance. If you are free, come to Mallaig Railway Station on Monday May 14th to welcome the first Jacobite into Mallaig at 12.25. All the Drivers, Guards, on-board staff and support crew are looking forward to a Mallaig welcome. Even the three resident on-line seagull nests are occupied with eggs due to hatch at the start of the season!! Just look along the rails by the Heritage Centre for a true on-line experience!!
Question 2: .When is ScotRail Club 55 coming back?' coupled with 'When does the train get catering back on board?' coupled with 'When does the train extend to four coaches and change timetable at lunchtime?' (That's definitely three questions Sonia - Ed.)
Answer: Club 55 (forms, leaflets and full details available at staffed Railway booking offices) recommences Monday 14th May to Saturday 30th June. This is a flat fare promotion for persons 55 years of age and over, offering return travel anywhere in Scotland (not on the Caledonian Sleeper Service) from most stations to and from Carlisle or Berwick-on-Tweed. There are a few restrictions but all is explained in the leaflet. You can start booking now for travel after the 14th May. Free seat reservations (i.e. table, window, forward or backward facing, near or far away from the toilet, etc.) are offered when booking. I believe there is great value to be had with this offer. Find out more details online or at your nearest staffed station. The catering service on the Fort William/Mallaig extension recommences on Monday 7th May, initially on the lunchtime and mid-afternoon service. The (badly-needed) extra two coaches will be in service at the end of May, and the lunchtime train into Mallaig changes time all the way from Glasgow. Arriving into Mallaig at 14.10 (not 13.35) on Mondays to Fridays starting on Monday 21st May. Please pick up a pocket sized free timetable for all details!! from manned stations.
Highland Railcard - Customer Information
From Sunday 20th May, new Highland Railcard applications (leaflet available at manned stations) will need to be accompanied by a passport size photograph when purchasing one. The price of a ScotRail/Highland railcard is £8.50 and it entitles Highland residents to 50% off local rail travel for 12 months from the date of issue. You are also required to show qualifying proof of permanent residence in the area. These railcards can be purchased locally at Mallaig and Fort William Station Booking Offices. The application form is contained in the leaflet. This half-price, all year round discount is a true saving on the cost of ScotRail travel.
Extra May Special Trains into Mallaig
Saturday 12th May - SRPS The West Highlander, diesel hauled by West Coast Railways, SRPS coaches, North Berwick to Mallaig and return. Very popular day out, with very pleasant, well turned out stewards on board.
Saturday 26th May - The Royal Scotsman Luxury Touring Train, diesel hauled by West Coast Railways. Day two of a four day tour from Edinburgh called 'The Western Journey - the line for true landscape lovers.'
Quick look back at last month
On ScotRail services, the Daily Record/Sunday Mail offer has been very popular. Great Railway Journeys are using ScotRail to transport holiday guests to Morar Hotel and the West Highland Hotel, Mallaig, for three night stays with courier escorts. Treyn Holidays are using ScotRail for escorted tours at the same hotels, with couriers. Coach companies galore are booking seats between Fort William and Mallaig. On Monday April 23rd, The Railway Touring Company Great Britain V tour, using John Cameron's steam train K4 61994 The Grand Marquess was in Mallaig from 10.45 until 14.10. Two parties of passengers 'swapped over' using CalMac and another steam train at the Kyle of Lochalsh to full advantage. Connectivity at its best!!
On Thursday May 3rd, Compass Tours' The Nevis and Glenfinnan Highlander was initially booked to come to Mallaig from Wemyss Bay for a day excursion - but after an hour's booked stop at Fort William and with pathing times for the return journey dictated by Network Rail, it only came to Arisaig! The day trippers loved it. Arisaig was suddenly unexpectedly descended upon - toilets etc! and Mallaig was disappointed. Connectivity at its worst!! Lots of postcards were despatched from Arisaig, and many photographs taken of Arisaig Station. During the month we also had into Mallaig Network Rail's permanent way working, a weedkiller train, an engineer's inspection train - crammed with IT equipment, very high tech, etc. etc. All to provide us with safe travel, now and in the future.
For a chance to win a pair of Fort William/Mallaig return tickets on the West Coast Railway's Jacobite Steam Train during June 2012, have a go at answering the following question: What day and date does the afternoon Jacobite commence in June 2012?
Answers on a postcard to Sonia Cameron, 'Fasgadh', Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD, by the closing date of Saturday May 26th 2012. Good luck.
See you on the train.
CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson
Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
Looking for ways to make more use of common grazings
A recent report by Gwyn Jones highlighted that common grazings are underused and undersupported, and the effect of this is highlighted in another report by SNH who have reported a decline in diversity of birds and species due to the lack of grazing by cattle and to some extent sheep. The only way to encourage use of common grazing is to provide financial incentive for crofters to put stock on the grazings, and this is provided at the moment through Less favoured Areas support payments. Each crofter who claims on his IACS form every year receives a payment for his share of the common grazings , but in return for receiving this he has to use his share by putting stock out onto it. With the new Crofting Commission promising to take a much firmer stance on regulating the use of crofts and common grazings each crofter will be required to respond every 5 years to questions on how they are using their croft and to tie in with this the Grazing committee have to submit an annual report on the grazings stating the numbers of animals grazed on it, and the state of crofting in their township.
There are a large number of unused shares on the common grazings at Bunnacaimbe and these could all be receiving a payment if they were in use.
With this in mind the idea of stock clubs came to mind, where all the spare shares are used by a club of people within the crofting township and they employ a stockman or shepherd to run and take care of the club. The stock club uses the unused shares and receives the payment from LFA plus the sale of any beasts or sheep and deducts the costs then the sum is divided out. A recent report by the SCF which hasn't been published yet highlights the various good and bad aspects of keeping a stock club and has all the regulations and advice needed to start one up.
If anyone in the township has an interest in the idea of a small stock club let me know and I will give you a copy of the report and it can be an idea for the future.
With the recent good weather I took a walk out onto the hill to the far end of the common grazing where the burning in March got rid of all the dead grass and heather and there is very good green growth there now.
Hopefully next year with some help the same good can be done on the west side of the road.
THE WILD WOODLAND GARDEN OF LARACHMHOR & its Jubilee Celebration
In May 1962 a small group of staff from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh contracted to take on the lease of an abandoned woodland garden near Arisaig in Lochaber. For the past 50 years a diverse array of volunteers drawn from current and former RBGE staff, and a host of friends and families have part cleared, sustained and continue to enhance, the rich plant collections of this 28 acre site.
Living in charmingly basic bothies in the heart of this romantic landscape, they have battled the elements, the fallen timber and the encroaching undergrowth and occasional deer, to not merely keep significant tracts of the garden alive, but also to reinforce the collections with new (often wild origin) material.
In 2012 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this unique arrangement, by which a wonderful garden of a private estate (which might well otherwise have lain neglected and overgrown) - in a beautiful part of the West Highlands - has been maintained and developed by a team of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (and beyond) volunteers.
Larachmhor sits just outside and to the east of Arisaig village, nestling beneath an encircling arc of both the Road to the Isles (the recently upgraded A830, whose works added some 5 acres to the garden ground) and the fabled West Highland Railway Line (also of Harry Potter steam train fame), on their routes from Fort William to Mallaig. Barely a mile from the sea, it enjoys the benefits of the Gulf Stream and witnesses much of the wilder west coast weather being drawn past it to the Mountains that lie a few miles further east. This balmy, well-sheltered and irrigated location is cloaked in semi-natural woodland, dominated by native birch oak and alder and mature planted beech, especially across the rugged ground that rises on three sides of the site. Extensive phalanxes of protective conifers (mostly hemlocks) provide additional protection sheltering the low, largely flat portions of ground in the fertile valley floor.
A number of burns ripple off the hillside, including the Larachmhor Burn, with its overarching vegetation that is a feature of the heart of the Garden. Within this shelter a fabulous collection of flowering trees and shrubs, especially some 150 species of rhododendrons, flourish and attain dramatic (true rose-tree) stature.
A Brief History
The Garden forms part of the Rhu estate, that once stretched from Lochailort in the east to Morar in the West, and includes the beautiful, but rugged Rhu peninsula, with its farming, fish farming and partial afforestation.
Originally Clan Ranald territory (the factor/farmer's house is a fragment of an original mansion nearby), it became an active shooting estate in Victoria times, and part of the low garden may have served as a kitchen garden to the House, as selected tree planting took place around it. But the truly exotic character of Larachmhor was instigated by the redoubtable John Holmes, Renfrewshire businessman, entrepreneur, art collector, and above all maniacal 'Rhodoholic'. Tired of the limitation of building a fine collection of rhododendrons on his estate at Formakin, near Houston, he scoured the west coast for 8 years, until he settled on the favoured ground of Larachmhor, with its valuable adjacent railway link (Arisaig station is a few hundred metres away). From 1927 until his death in 1938 he planted extensively around the site, shipping in great collections he amassed from fellow landowners around the UK, from seminal collecting trips (incl. George Forrest form RBGE) and from specialist nurseries. Alas his Robert Lorimer designed house overlooking part of the garden was never completed, and remains as an eerie ruin.
Early in his planting he had recruited as gardener, John Brennan, a first world war veteran, originally from Ulster and who had worked at Arduaine garden in Argyll. Brennan was set up in a basic two room bothy, with a fire and using water from the burn. Residing in 'Brennan's Hut' he continued to maintain the garden and undertake other work locally, where he was a well-liked character, until his demise in 1958. During his later years and thereafter the garden became neglected and overgrown.
By the early 1960's the estate owner, Miss Becher began to rationalise the holdings, selling off Arisaig House and its fine gardens, and developing an estate base in the coastal hamlet of Drimindarroch. She also advertised the garden at Larachmhor for sale or rent. The road to the Isles was a frequent early summer expedition for RBGE plant enthusiasts who would take in the exclusive site of the Alpine Diapensia lapponica, on the summit of Fraoch Bheinn, above Glenfinnan, some 10 miles back along the road. Thus in late 1961 a group of RBGE staff became aware of and initiated enquiries about the prospect of taking on the garden. On 17th May 1962 a seven year lease was signed (for just 10 shillings (50p) per annum!), and Larachmhor Garden came into the care of the RBGE team, coordinated by Ian Hedge (RBGE SW Asian botanist, Herbarium Curator, and now - in his 80's) active RBGE research associate. Ever since, a progressively evolving group of current and former staff and their collaborators have enjoyed the privilege of escaping to the sanctuary of this enchanting place to work the garden and savour its unique setting and thoroughly wild plantings. By the beginning of the 1990's the mantle passed to a new generation of enthusiasts, coordinated by Alan Bennell (RBGE sometime mycologist, and Head of Visitor Services) who with Curator, Ian Sinclair (ex Benmore Botanic Garden Supervisor) and Technical Adviser, Neil Claughan (Ex EBG Arbor team supervisor, and latterly, until invalided, head gardener NTS Fyvie Castle) who continue to keep the dream alive.
The vital RBGE connection remains, and was essential in persuading the new estate owner in 1997 (Rhu Estate is now the property of Monsieur and Mme Namy, of Perthes near Paris), to continue the unique relationship by which the garden is sustained. It was also seminally important in diverting the upgraded A830, that might otherwise have carved a course through the heart of the site.
Brennan's Hut was in need of considerable restoration, with work planned on the holey floor, the loosening walls and the leaking roof; indeed replacement roof sheets were already on site. However when a team arrived in mid September 2007 one evening, they were appalled to find it burned to the ground. Despite police investigations and information from the local community, no malicious cause, nor evidence for it, could be determined. The last garden team occupants had left over a week prior to this in what was a pretty wet period. Whether somehow a stray spark from the open fire had smouldered among 90 years of debris beneath the floor boards, we will never know.
A tragic loss that has, however, after great endeavours, led to the creation of an even better, more durable but nonetheless rather faithful, replacement.
In spite of storm, floods, fire, roadworks and the ongoing incursions of deer, dogs and the occasional rogue human, Larachmhor Garden is growing strongly into the 21st century, as we start to look towards involving another new generation taking up its splendidly rewarding challenges.
April Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A few more summer visitors made an appearance this month, although some species were a bit later than usual and/or in smaller numbers initially.
The first Sand Martins reported were two at Loch Morar on the 11th (usually appear by the end of March here), three Swallows were noted flying around farm buildings near Loch nan Eala, Arisaig, on the 20th.
Willow Warblers were first noted at both Morar and Camusdarach on the 14th. Two male Blackcaps were seen and heard singing to the west of Morar Lodge on the 24th. A Common Whitethroat heard the same day near Morar Church was the first record of the year. The first report of the Cuckoo was at Rhu, Arisaig, on the 23rd, with another heard at Beoraid, Mortar, on the 25th. Common Sandpiper were first reported from Traigh on the 23rd and from Loch Morar the following day.
Migrant waders passing through included eight Whimbrel at West Bay, Mallaig, on the 16th, and another two there on the 23rd. Five Whimbrel and four Curlew were seen feeding in fields by Traigh Golf Course on the 29th or 30th. Eleven Golden Plover at Back of Keppoch on the 15th were the first of several small groups recorded in the area. Two Bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore Traigh boatshed on the 28th.
A single Glaucous Gull lingered in Mallaig until at least the 5th, when there were also three Iceland Gulls present. At the month end only one Immature Iceland Gull remained. On the 13th, three adult Whooper Swans were resting on Loch nan Eala, where a Mallard with a brood of seven ducklings was also seen. A single Goldeneye was still on Loch Morar on the 24th. There were still three Purple Sandpipers at West Bay, Mallaig, on the 24th.
Several flocks of Geese were seen flying over mid-month and a single Pink-footed Goose was seen along with two Greylags in a field at Back of Keppoch on the 17th.
A male Merlin was seen hunting Meadow Pipits at Achnaskia on the 15th.
Several interesting reports of both Linnets and Twites feeding on or below seed feeders in a couple of Mallaig gardens. A male Yellowhammer seen in a garden at Rhubana View is the first report for several years of this species north of the Morar river.
A female Lapland Bunting seen near Invercaimbe on the 28th may have been one of several 'unusual' buntings reported from that area during the last week of the month. Several reports of Bullfinches from both Morar and Mallaig, nearly always feeding on apple trees!
Finally, an interesting report of a Nuthatch at a bird table in a Bracara garden on the 17th. A scarce bird in the Highlands, this is the first sighting in this area since the Arisaig bird which was seen regularly from September 2010 to April 2011.
COASTAL RANGER REPORT
Well, I suppose that you could say that I got more feedback than usual from my report of last month! Now don't tell me that you have forgotten already what challenge I presented you with? Remember? The "bird"? Yea, the photo requesting answers as to what it was! Well, I did get one phone call suggesting a Capercaillie and one smart person telling me that it was obviously a *****, but you have to admit that with failing eyesight at a distance of over a hundred yards it did look like something! Having studied the three photos that I took, I can clearly see why I was fooled into thinking that that beautifully shaped rock so carefully positioned on a boulder was a bird! After all it had a beak and wings and legs!!
So what's been happening in the wonderfully non varied life of a ranger? I was going to say that as usual there was nothing exciting, but that is not quite true this month, at least there is something on the go that I find at least a little exciting (I'm easily pleased!) What I am referring to is the fact that the possibility of extending the "West Highland Way" on into Mallaig. I am sure that I have mentioned this in passing many times over the years, but it now is beginning to look like that at last it may finally get some flesh on the bones. I have recently had meetings with some locals and a Councillor to try and finalise a route - there are several options - and things are looking quite promising. Obviously this is something that will not happen overnight as it would involve a great deal of not only physical work but also lots of paperwork to get clearances. However long it takes to come to fruition, I have no doubts that it would, in time, be of huge benefit to all the communities between Mallaig and Fort William. Even if only a small percentage of the thousands that "do" the West Highland Way were to complete the walk on the "Road to the Isles" then the spin-off would be substantial. Obviously this can only happen with the good will and great effort from our local public, so I hope that all of you out there will be prepared to assist as far as possible, even if only vocal support is all you can manage! (You can tell that I'm excited can't you!!)
Well, what else? I started the month full of enthusiasm, fully expecting the walking programme to get off to a flying start, and to be fair, it did with three families joining me for the opening "Dukes Walk". Unfortunately, that was it for the rest of the month with only one other couple seeing fit to join me for a wee stroll to "Egnaig" on a beautiful day! I certainly can't blame the weather this past while, so what am I doing wrong? I see so many folk now walking in the area, some on the road and some on the paths that I wonder is it the fact that my posters are not being seen, or is it that I now have to charge a small fee? This year I have even put on some extra days that are more or less "request" days to see if I can capture more interest, but, so far, no response! Any suggestions?
In conjunction with the "Active Schools Coordinators" (Pam & Emma) we ran a couple of events at the beginning of the month, both of which attracted over 20 children and some accompanying adults. The first, a simple walk in the Arisaig area went down very well - even with the 2½ year old! And the following day's "Treasure Hunt" saw even the adults entering the fun - and enjoying the little Easter Eggs that constituted the "Treasure"! Both were enjoyable days, and I have a mind to try something similar next year as the venues seemed to suit everyone that came along to support us.
My next date should have been with the "John Muir" group in Glenuig, but unfortunately I had an appointment in Inverness and missed all the fun! A couple of weeks previously we had sited a couple of remote cameras where it was hoped that we might catch some wildlife passing, and I have been told since that there were good pictures of sheep and deer on one camera and great photos of otters on the other! Ah but the skills of the Rangers knowing where to go!! But enough of the self praise, back to business! The 20th of the month saw me in Fort William, or to be more correct at Inverlochy Castle helping with "Mission Impossible". This activity for the children - we did say "aimed at 8 to 12 year olds" but was attended by some as young as five and still was quite a success with around thirty kids coming along. It is not easy to get a lot of children to attend events in Fort William as there always seems to be something else on! However we were delighted with the turnout and it was most rewarding to see the children really enter into the spirit of the "mission", some even coming dressed in camouflage gear and "night vision" goggles! Although it was a fairly simple "search and discover" game it took a fair bit of organising and I was pleased to see that my efforts at manufacturing a "nuclear bomb" were much appreciated!
Since then, apart from the usual Ranger meetings and the "non walks" I have been busy enough doing various odd bits and pieces, and have had the pleasure of my daughter Katie staying with me for a weekend whilst one of the carers got married! At the same time daughter number two had returned from her working holiday in India, so it was nice to hear about all of the adventures, despite the fact that she had actually been riding a scooter on these Indian roads! - gives me the shivers!
Anyway fans, that's it for this month - I'm saying "fans" as I've been recently told that someone actually buys the "West Word" to read my column! What a compliment! (too good to be true??) Well, perhaps some of you will have pity on me on my limited number of walks in May and join me in the undying quest for a level of fitness!? In the meantime I'm off to the glorious Fort to do my annual bit at the "Scottish Six Days", hopefully in this wonderful sunshine that is quietly tanning me as I write this on my laptop in my back garden, in fact i can honestly say that, for once in my typing life, the keys are actually hot!
Enjoy the weather and stay well, the number and e-mail remain the same: 01687 462 983 and email@example.com
Coming Events Cast a Shadow?
As I watch new houses springing up along the line of the old road between Traigh Farm and Morar, I remember an odd experience I had whilst walking home late one evening, some fifty years ago.
Leaving Traigh about 10 pm I was walking past the little cottage known as 'Mary Bheag's'. The house was, at that time, unoccupied and had a corrugated iron roof.
At this point began a whole series of what I can only describe as 'visions' which continued for most of my journey home.
A strange aura surrounded Mary Bheag's house, inasmuch as a light blue cloud enveloped the place and superimposed was the shape of a new building, exactly as it is today.
The vision faded away and I continued my journey as far as Camusdarach wall where on a green patch on the east side of the road and set back to the back of the green patch, was another light blue cloud and superimposed was a new house, one and a half story in height and of a modern design, in that the walls were higher than the traditional one and a half storey traditional croft house of the time and with larger Dormer windows than usual. (This house has not yet been built.)
At that time, Achateilasaig was a holiday home and Camusdarach Lodge was occupied by Martin Bowman.
I continued my journey and coming to the road junction with Garamore House, overlooking Cross Farm, I was confronted with some fifty or sixty of the same blue clouds which are best described as resembling cotton wool balls. These were randomly scattered around the farm and in the surrounding woods and fields. Cross Farm was a this time occupied by "Domhnall Crois" MacDonald and his sister, Jessie.
Garramore had, by that time, become a youth hostel and had caretakers running it. Over in Rhu ach a Mhòr, Charlie MacDonald and his sister, Annie occupied the place and Duncan and Angusina MacLellan and family were in Curtaig.
I continued my journey with the clouds as my constant companions till I came to the point where Penny Nicholls built the house now known as The Falconry. That identical house appeared in one of the 'clouds' but was across the field, against the hillside from where it stands today.
Coming in sight of Tougal, the 'clouds' are still on my right hand side. The hamlet was occupied at that time by the MacEachens - Donald, Sarah and family; Sandy, Kate and Elizabeth Ann; Eddie Hanratty and his mother; Flora MacDougall and old 'Jimack' or Jimmy MacDonald.
There were no clouds around this hamlet until reached the gate to Tougal, and then a new cluster appeared, then disappeared, leaving the whole area free of clouds. This didn't last long as a cloud appeared at the back of the peat bank which supplied Tougal and superimposed therein was a bungalow, the only one I saw on my journey.
Kinigary at the time was occupied by Alex and Christine MacDonald and family in one house and Ronald MacDonald and his wife Mary (Gorstan) and family in the other house. Ronald was a brother of 'Jimack' who lived in Tougal.
Looking back from the top of Kinigary Brae, the clouds were randomly scattered about the hillside, back to Tougal Brae.
Coming down to the Kinsadle house, which was, and still is, occupied by the MacDonalds, a new cloud appeared with a one and a half story house showing - quite close to the cattle-creep under the railway.
When I came to Woodside, another cloud appeared in the waste ground between the road and the railway and that cloud showed two houses which were larger than anything previously seen. I then arrived home - the visions had stopped - and although it was midnight, I discussed the events with my mother and drew a sketch of the first house - Mary Beag's, - which was unusual as it had 'hipped-gables' and a narrow flat roof.
Imagine my surprise, when, some four or five months later, my brother Donnie, a builder to trade, arrived home with a set of drawings for a new build on the site of Mary Bheag's which my rough sketch fairly represented.
That was the first to be built of the seven houses which I 'saw'. The next one was the ''bungalow'" at Tougal, following that were the two at Woodside, not in the waste ground but, above the road. The next was The Falconry, again, not in the position first 'seen'. The house at Kinsadle has not been built yet, nor has the one at Camusdarach wall
There was another intriguing sighting during my journey. This was a thin continuous cloud which stretched a long the top of the hillside and became the new road bypass from Arisaig to Morar.
Below this continuous thin cloud, on the floor of the glen, was a much denser and deeper cloud stretching from opposite The Falconry to the end of the fields nearest to Traigh, in much the same direction as the new road.
In conclusion; between Traigh and Morar River, there were only fourteen houses and from Morar River to Morar Station, only three i.e. River View, Woodside and Achnaluin. This has increased by some forty 'new builds' and one hundred is not inconceivable. The enigma of the dense cloud patches will one day become reality.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
We've been far and wide, home and away, this month.
Mallaig's Jim Morton went on holiday to Krakow in Poland,
where he took the opportunity to make a visit to Oskar Schindler's factory
made famous in Spielberg's film "Schindler's List." Of course he took his West Word!
Yvonne and Donnie MacDonald took theirs all the way from Arisaig to the Alhambra Palace, Granada in Spain.
Richard Lamont, Arisaig, visited Scotland's Secret Bunker in Fife
- taking photographs isn't allowed inside so he had to read his copy outside.
Here is a photo of Harris, age 7, on the Isle of Harris. He reads the West Word and has always wanted to appear in the photo section. Harris' dad, James Gillies, is from Mallaig, and Harris, his mum Dawn and James lived there as a family for just over a year in 2008/9. We're glad you told us Harris wanted to be in the photo, Dawn!
Audrey (Arisaig) and Neilian (Mallaig) took time out of their very busy schedule in New York to look over the West Word.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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