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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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May 2017 Issue
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ROAD TO THE ISLES HALF MARATHON AN OUTSTANDING SUCCESS!
Over 400 competitors took part in this year's Half Marathon, 10K, 5K, and Walk on the Wild Side on 29th April 2017. Arguably Britain's most scenic marathon, the athletes enjoyed racing in perfect running weather, raising funds for the Mallaig Pool and Leisure Centre in the process.
Photo by Moe Mathieson
NEW COUNCILLOR FOR CAOL AND MALLAIG WARD
At the local Council elections on May 4th 2017 Independent Councillors Allan Henderson and Ben Thompson were re-elected and were joined by new councillor Billy MacLachlan (SNP). Based in Spean Bridge, Billy was born at Torlundy, and has family ties with Lochailort, Arisaig, Mallaig and Caol.
He has pledged to support efforts to retain CAP payments and future government subsidies to farming and crofting communities; support the fishing industry; and help progress discussions on the planned Caol-Fort William link road.
Billy's past experiences include six years as a Highland Regional Councillor, military service, and management posts in hotels/catering.
Billy can be contacted by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
What a fantastic spell of weather we've had .. I hope this is a sign of more to come. It's great that it was so perfect for the half marathon, and lovely to hear all the comments from the competitors about how much they enjoyed the race and appreciated the beautiful scenery they were running through. This event will go from strength to strength - well done all!
Once again my thanks go to Ann for her ongoing support with my editorial efforts. Producing West Word really is a community effort and it wouldn't exist at all if it wasn't for everyone's contributions - so thank you to all who have sent submissions in.
My thanks also go to Jane and Miya for sticking labels on envelopes this month and to Morag and Ewen for nursing the printer. Much appreciated!
If you'd like to get in touch, you can email me on email@example.com or call on 07475 255229.
The Jacobite is back on the West Highland Line for its 23rd year of service.
Here it is puffing past the West Word office as this month's edition of the paper was being compiled!
Photo: K Bloom
The month started off with an exciting pizza delivery… Chicago Town Pizzas decided to use Knoydart to show that it is possible to deliver anywhere! A giant wooden crate with a freezer in it was helicoptered in, landed on the beach, then pizzas were cooked in the village hall. Locals even got goodie bags and free frozen pizzas to take home. The Foundation shop has now been licensed and is selling alcohol. There are wines, spirits, bubbles and craft beers available - and there's a lovely wee picnic bench outside where you can enjoy your drink too. It's been quite a nice little social gathering on a Friday afternoon. Veronika is now onto her summer hours, with Fish and Chip nights still happening every Wednesday as well as Curry nights on a Friday. She also has a new deck being built out the front overlooking the bay which will extend the seating capacity. Well, at least until the midgies make sitting outside on those rare balmy nights impossible…. The Tearoom is also now open from 9am and Zoe, who worked here last year, has returned for another season.
There's definitely a much busier feel to the place now, lots of walkers around and it was busy throughout the Easter Holidays too. The Foot Stompin' Ceilidh band played for the Easter Ceilidh and gave us a good dance, then Amie organised the annual Egg hunt for the kids. The big boys (Robbie, Archie and Felix) definitely came out on top, with something like 30 eggs between them!
For the last couple of weeks we have been on generator power, since there was a bit of a dramatic break in the Hydro Pipeline. The break was just below the gorge but still quite high above the turbine shed, and water was spouting quite spectacularly from the break. It's taking a lot of work to fix but the team have been working hard so hopefully it will be back to normal soon. In the meantime we are still on genny, so power is off between 11pm and 7am.
And, finally, for the first two weeks in May, Wilder Ways Trekking have returned and are offering horse riding experiences around the Peninsula.
ISLE OF MUCK
It is now a month past but Eigg had a power outage. Difficult for the inhabitants of that island, the ripples even reached Muck for the internet disappeared. And that made me consider what an important part that new form of communication plays in our lives. Muck is very lucky with broadband speeds which would make many parts of rural Scotland green with envy. And much of this is due to the sterling work of Simon Helliwell in setting up the inter-island network. At this juncture I would like to take the opportunity of saying thank you Simon. You have set up a great system for Muck too.
Concrete work is under way again at the pier - in the sunshine. It won't be finished in time for the visit tomorrow of the world head of Marine Harvest who is coming for lunch at Gallanach Lodge. But it will be great for us whenever the weather is wet. Thank you Marine Harvest. Enjoy your lunch!
Sheerwater is back and it is great to see Ronnie fit and well. Sheerwater is coming to Muck at the weekends. too. So now cottage guests can come on her from Arisaig and enjoy an extra three hours on the island at each end of their stay. And on many days she is returning to Arisaig loaded with eggs so the people of Arisaig can enjoy the very freshest!
While on the subject of food, Colin and Ruth are re-erecting Dave Barnden's huge polytunnel at Gallanach. It must be good news for those looking for fresh vegetables!
Lambing is almost over and it has been a good one though slightly back on last year's record. Around 30 orphans again in the pens helping themselves to ad lib milk powder. They do well on it though it is expensive.
And lastly another reminder about the Open Day when all will be welcome. Remember to book at Arisaig Marine. See you then,
ISLE OF CANNA
Well April has certainly seen lots of activity on Canna. Cruise ships are coming in every week. So far we have had the Hebridean Princess, Stockholm and Glen Etive. Whilst we are delighted to see these ships we would prefer if they anchored out of the entrance to the harbour. We have had no conflict with the ferry so far…..
Our newly decorated waiting room is receiving lots of good comments and must be the most interesting on the West Coast. If you are visiting please leave your comments in the visitors' book.
Lambing is well underway and the newbies are springing up everywhere much to the delight of the Guthrie children who spend most days checking up on the new arrivals. Mind you, walking our two collies is proving a challenge with pregnant ewes everywhere!!
We were also delighted to have a visit from four of the CalMac Mallaig staff who came out to explore Canna and Sanday so that they had first-hand experience to pass on to visitors. Thanks to Nancy McLean, Port Manager, for arranging this, and also to Fiona Mackenzie, Canna House Manager, for the coffees and short tour of Canna House.
The second yacht of the year arrived on the 20th April which hopefully heralds the beginning of a good season.
With the Café now open and Hebridean Beauty stocking their pier shop we hope that visitors will have plenty to enjoy (and spend). Donald MacKenzie
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
April has been a busy wee month for Canna House and Garden with gardener Gordon Guthrie preparing the House for the Summer season. It was lovely to see the daffies and primulas coming up then the wild garlic and bluebells beginning to make an appearance.
Denise Guthrie has begun working in the House as an NTS volunteer and is helping Fiona with some important transcribing of Margaret and John's documents and books, especially John's story of their favourite Siamese cat, Pooni!
Pooni was the cat who was famous for once stealing the Sunday gigot from the kitchen table just a Margaret was about to serve it to important guests! He ruled Canna House with a claw of iron and no-one was allowed over the doorstep unless Pooni approved!
April also saw Fiona travel to the Basque Country to visit retired Canna archivist Magda Sagarzazu and record some stories of the Campbells! A visit was made to local ironmongers, 'Rosie's, (a school friend of Magda's) in Hondaribbia and then to Biarritz Airport where The West Word featured prominently! John and Margaret Campbell were frequent visitors to Hondaribbia, the home of Magda's father and John's close friend Saturnino Sagarzazu.
And if anyone is looking for a cure for a stomach ache, why not try an old cure taken from Margaret's Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist?
"When a patient is in desperation, put a rope around his feet and hang him by the heels from the rafters. Repeat at reasonable intervals. This will undo the knot in his guts"……. Fiona MacKenzie
ISLE OF RUM
The deer are becoming a regular sight in the village now and are often seen relaxing in the castle field and don't seem fussed by the presence of human beings at all. The bluebells are starting to appear and the long-awaited Cuckoo piped up during the last week of April. Sean saw a Turtle Dove at Shamhnan Insir on 21st April, which was the first record in the Highlands this year and five days earlier than the earliest record in the last 10 years! Sadly the next day, there was nothing left but feathers as it had been finished off by a passing raptor! Migrants are flooding into Rum now. Wood Warbler and Whitethroat and Tree Sparrows under the bird feeders. Stonechats and Song Thrushes have young in the nest and Blackbirds already fledged.
We finally got our planning application approved for our community polytunnel, which will be sited in the old tree nursery. We are hoping to create a lovely community garden. The polytunnel was funded by Tesco Bags of Help as part of a village wide regeneration programme, masterminded by Trudi, the ranger. More on the community trust front - the housing project with Rural Homes Scotland is progressing nicely, we have a site lined up and are currently having designs tweaked before putting in for planning consent. The bunkhouse continues to do well and we plan to connect the cabins to the electricity supply to provide lights and power to them as well.
It's good to see the Sheerwater back this last week and so far the Calmac ferry has been quite busy with one Monday when the ferry was actually full, hopefully a sign of a busy summer.
End of the month was Rum 'n' Bass weekend, a lot of familiar faces back and lots of new ones for a weekend of mountainbiking, hill climbing, fishing, BBQ and ceilidh. Tunes provided by John Sommerville and Hamish Napier. Lots of fun and hope to see you all back next year.
We have another ceilidh on the 13th May for the anniversary of our wee community buy out with 'Ghetto Tractor' playing (Sandra MacBeth, Iain Cameron and Hector Henderson). £10 on the door, all welcome!!
ISLE OF EIGG
Didn't April go out like a lion this year? Hailstones and that blast of Arctic wind were most unwelcome for our crofters and farmers as they go through lambing. However the changing jet stream might also be responsible for the arrival of the lone black swan in Kildonnan Bay, right outside John Chester's front door! Our Eigg black swan, probably hailing from a colony in the Netherlands, was feeding very happily off green seaweed and shellfish for a fortnight or so before taking off again, and must take credit for being the most photographed bird in the history of the island, drone and all!
Black swan photo by Greg Carr
We were all busy this month with the start of the visiting season: Easter brought families and friends as well as a bunch of energetic dancers together for a great performance by Fras at the Easter ceilidh, Angus Binnie calling the dances with his customary gusto verging at times on totally whacky: what a laugh…Once again, Peggy Kirk's sister-in-law Chrissie was the star of the floor at 75, free-styling away with all the young ones once the formal dancing stopped! But with no Eightsome Reels, nor Petronellas, the old Eigg favourite, is there a danger that the younger Eigg dancers are losing their skills? Perhaps something that Feis Eige could look into… The Monday market on Easter Monday was also a great success with the visitors, and we do hope that they will continue during the summer months as they have proven so popular with our visitors.
April saw the return of our official island portrait photographer, Danny North, to finish his collection of islanders' portraits, a project that he started last year. We look forward to seeing the whole collection at the end of June, although sadly they will not be available for our official celebrations as was anticipated. But it will be worth the wait, and we hope that many folks will come over to see them.
A big group of Strathclyde university engineering students also came back with their tutors, Brian Garvey and Paul Tuohy (who had brought their Brazilian colleagues here in March) to look at our Green Grid and the way our island works. Fortunately by the time they came, our Green Grid was operational again: only two breakdowns in 10 years is not a bad record at all, and we are very thankful for the dedication and professionalism of our Eigg Electric maintenance team: all hands were on deck to identify the fault which was due to damage occurring to a high voltage cable which then caused problems in the inverters and the Laig turbine. Laig hydro still needs to be sorted out but the other sources of renewables are fine. But we are all being careful with our consumption at the moment.
A busy weekend ended the month with a really well-attended Bingo night to raise funds for our teenagers' trip to London. Thanks for Ailidh for her hilarious calling and Norah for organizing it, raising well over £100. Sunday 30 April also featured a community lunch organized by Comunn Eachdraidh Eige to gather the islanders around the Eigg buy-out timeline, showing archive slides and photographs of the 1990s. It was very successfully attended and thanks go to all the volunteers who baked cooked and photocopied extensive amounts from our newspaper archive! The latter delighted the two journalist teams that were on the island that week: a German TV crew making a documentary on the Scots take on Brexit for ARTE, and a New York CBS team coming over to check out the island before coming back in June. Quote of the month from our US city slickers: " What time of day do the cows come down on Laig Beach?"
Finally, I must not forget to congratulate our Eigg runners who entered the very well-attended Road to the Isles half-marathon: Larraine, who was very pleased to have improved her own record by 30 minutes, Alastair who excelled himself and Becca whose first running event it was and who thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG by Jim Morton
April 19th 2017 Fouled propeller on Yacht Moshula
Launched at 11:10hrs to the assistance of the yacht Moshula by Stornoway Coastguard. Whilst sailing overnight Moshula crew had decided to bring down their sails. They started their engine to turn the boat head to wind but unawares to them one of their sail ropes was trailing in the water and subsequently fouled the propeller. The crew continued under sail until daylight so as to assess their situation. With light winds and little progress being made off Neist Point, Isle of Skye, they requested assistance via a Pan-Pan Message. On scene at 12:40 hrs, the Lifeboat took the Moshula under tow for Loch Harport, on the West Coast of Skye. Moshula was safely moored at a pontoon at Carbost, Loch Harport at 15:55hrs. Contact details of a local team of divers who would hopefully assist in getting the propeller free of the rope was passed one to the Moshula's crew. Lifeboat returned to Mallaig fueled and ready for service at 17:00hrs
April 20th 2017 Medivac from Inverie
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie, at 16:05hrs. A builder had fallen from a roof and suspected that he may have broken his leg. Arrived at Inverie 18:15hrs. Once alongside, the Paramedics were transported to the scene along with one crewman, should assistance be required. After assessment and a thorough examination by Paramedics the casualty found not to have broken his leg but had sustained heavy bruising. After getting the casualty to stand and walk about it was decided by the Medics to leave him on scene at his lodgings in Inverie. Once medics and crew boarded, the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig berthed and ready for service at 19:25hrs.
April 24th 2017 Medivac from Isle of Eigg
Launched to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg at 12:10hrs by Stornoway Coastguard. A visitor who had been out cycling on the Island had failed to negotiate a corner on a hill and crashed into the embankment sustaining a head injury. Once the Lifeboat reached the pier at Eigg, the Paramedics were taken by locals to the scene where the casualty had fallen. Once prepped and stretchered the casualty, a male, was taken to the pier and brought on-board the lifeboat. The casualty was further prepped before the lifeboat made the passage back to Mallaig. Once back at the pontoon the casualty was disembarked to the Ambulance for transportation to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further treatment. Lifeboat ready for service at 14:35hrs
I start off with a warning posted by the MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) and received by the Harbour Authority on Friday 14th April 2017: "I want to draw your attention to reports received by the MCA over recent months regarding Palm Oil. The substance normally washes ashore in 'lumps' and does range in size and appearance; it also has the potential to cause harm to dogs if they ingest it. Please remain visual and if you do receive / have any reports then please report back to myself and HM Coastguard through the normal reporting channels."
Lisa McAuliffe, Counter Pollution & Salvage Officer (Wales and West & SCOTNI)
Road & Pier Markings
The white (and yellow) lining of the roads around the pier areas was carried out last month - a precursor to the summer tourist season - but what seems to have become a talking point are the double red lines which are now in situ on the road outside the Harbour Office and on the road round by the Industrial Estate. However, there's nothing sinister or untoward to report its just an indication that you are now crossing over or entering Mallaig Harbour owned land. Road signs indicating this will be erected soon.
Marine Scotland has issued new regulations which apply from Monday 17th April 2017. That is when SSI No 57/2017 The Shellfish (Restrictions on taking by unlicensed fishing boats) (Scotland) Order 2017 came into force so if you are a hobby or unlicensed fishermen the following daily catch limits now apply:
Crab Edible/Green/Spider/Velvet - 5 of any combination
Lobster - 1
Nephrops - 10
Scallop King/Queen - 6 of any combination
The Norwegian salmon well boat Oysund - on contract to Marine Harvest - replaced the Ronja Challenger for a spell last month with her initial visit to Mallaig Harbour being on Friday 21st April 2017.
The vital statistics of the 3 year old Oysund are 69.9m length; 12m breadth; 5.1m draught.
01687 462154 firstname.lastname@example.org
ON AND OFF THE RAILS
After commencing on Good Friday, the morning steam train service has completed three weeks of Monday to Friday operation. Two Stanier Black 5 locomotives have been alternated, 45407 Lancashire Fusilier and 45212, driven by the owner of both locomotives Ian Riley and West Coast Railways driver Alex Iain MacDonald. Monday May 8th may see NELPG owned locomotive KI 62005 brought into service. It is currently stabled at the yard at Fort William. On Monday May 15th the afternoon Monday to Friday service will commence. This will be into Mallaig approximately 16.40 and depart at 18.38. That will confuse the seagulls, but be welcomed by local shops, services, bars, restaurants, hotels and B&B's. In the first three weeks it has been utilised twice for filming TV programmes and commercials with more to follow in May and June.
The lunch time service into Mallaig is very well used by other railway touring companies and coach party tours, all of whom pre-reserve seats for their guests. I know it is usually a four-car train, but now is the time to remind locals to also pre-book your seat when purchasing your tickets to travel in either direction. Seat reservations are free, and if booked in advance will give you a seat to travel home on.
We have been visited three times this year so far by the luxury touring train The Royal Scotsman. On the first one filming was taking place for a champagne commercial. This year an extra carriage has been added (10 in total) to incorporate a beauty salon with three trained staff to pamper guests. With eleven more visits to come, the next one will be on Saturday May 20th. SRPS Railtours visit us in Mallaig on Saturday May 13th - but not for long! They will be using the Jacobite steam stock from Fort William having been diesel hauled using their own coaches from Glenrothes and other pick-up points. They will be in Mallaig early afternoon, probably for half an hour only, to fit in with returning schedules later.
Friends of the West Highland Lines AGM 2017
The Society's AGM will take place on Friday May 12th at the Alexandra Hotel, Fort William. The speakers will be from the ScotRail Alliance and Network Rail Scotland. Coffee/tea will be available from 12 noon. Society business will commence at 12.30 followed by pre-booked lunch at 13.45. Speakers presentations will be from 14.45 to 16.30. The pre-booked two-course lunch is available @ £15 per person. If attending please contact the secretary, Fraser McDonald, in advance by email - email@example.com or telephone on 0141 885 0069.
Lochaber Transport Forum
The next planned open-to-the-public meeting of the above is on Thursday May 23rd at 11am in the Highland Council Chamber, Lochaber House, Fort William. This forum is attended by representatives of most public transport forms, i.e. ferries, buses and coaches, rail, community transport, cycling and walking groups. If you would like to attend or raise an issue on transport of any kind please notify in advance the current secretary Bennie MacDonald on 07789 517990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The forum usually finishes around 2pm.
See you on the train,
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Fiona MacKenzie took her copy of West Word to the Basque Country when she went to visit retired Canna archivist Magda Sagarzazu. They went together to visit Magda's friend Rosie Berrotaran at her Ironmongers shop in Hondaribbia. L-R Fiona, Rosie and Magda.
Re-visitng Mallaig en route from the Isle of Eriskay to Brighton, Sussex, were Michael Ian Cross and his wife Pat. Michael lived in a boat at Mallaig Harbour for several years and rowed ashore in a small dinghy hence his local nickname 'Michael row the boat ashore'! They will be returning from Mallaig to Eriskay on the afternoon sailing of the Lochboisdale ferry on May 25th if anyone wants to meet them at the pier. Michael has fond memories of time spent with Ewen Nicholson. Sonia Cameron
I think this may be the last pic of Tom MacKinnon on his travels for the time being as he's heading home - but here he is with his well-photographed West Word on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Has West Word ever been there before?? Thank you Tom for all the great pics!
BIRDWATCH April 2017 by Stephen MacDonald
Many more of our summer visitors arrived this month albeit some were a week to a fortnight later than usual for this area.
The first Wheatear was reported from Millburn, Rhue on the 2nd, usually around the 3rd week of March.
The first Swallows were 3 seen by Camusdarrach boatshed on the 14th, followed by several feeding with Sand Martins over Loch nan Eala on the 17th. Two House Martins visiting an old nest site at Loch Ailort early on the 22nd were the first sightings.
Willow Warblers were first heard on the 8th near Woodside, Morar and there were widespread reports over the next 2 days. A Blackcap was singing in Larach Mor gardens, Arisaig on the 20th.
A common Sandpiper appeared at Loch Ailort on the 22nd and the first reported Whimbrel came on the 27th, with 13 at Traigh and 5 at Portnadoran. Cuckoos were first reported from Morar on the 27th.
Two Iceland Gulls, an adult and a juvenile, were reported from Mallaig on several occasions mid-month. Still up to 10 Goldeneye on the west end of Loch Morar til the month end. Two Black-throated Divers were also at the west end of the loch on the 17th along with several Red-breasted Mergansers. Four Canada Geese were seen on the Morar River upstream of the Hydro dam several times from mid-month. The male Mandarin was also seen upstream of the dam, in company of several drake Mallards on the 3rd.
Twite were reported using seed feeders in several Mallaig and Morar gardens and there were several reports of Yellowhammers at feeders in Arisaig. Bullfinches were feeding on fruit trees in gardens in Morar. The Barn Owls appeared to be occupying the usual nest site in Mallaig and there were several sightings from Camusdarrach and Back of Keppoch.
A Siskin ringed as a juvenile in a Morar garden on the 26th June 2015, then re-caught twice in late September 2015 near Brandon, Co Durham, was trapped by a ringer in Shebster, Caithness on the 11th March 2017!! Remarkable to get multiple recoveries in different locations from such a small bird; it just shows how well travelled some of our smaller garden visitors are.
Centenary of the sinking of the Coniston Water
West Word received a letter recently from Peter Jones, whose father Ivor was in the Merchant Service during WW1. Ivor survived the sinking of the Coniston Water off the Butt of Lewis in July 1917 and was looked after by the people of Mallaig after his rescue.
The Coniston Water, a 10,000 ton tramp steamer owned by Reardon Smith of Cardiff, was bound for the Russian port of Archangel on the White Sea with war supplies for the Eastern Front - army stores, coal and foodstuffs. The route north was heavily patrolled by German U boats and many ships were lost en route to the Russian ports. Ivor, who was 15 at the time, left accounts of the journey and writes that on the 21st July 1917, some 70 nautical miles northwest of the Butt of Lewis "in almost a flat calm the look-out in the crows-nest reported a periscope abeam to port. The alarm was sounded and the guns crew alerted but all too late as the submarine must have fixed us in his sights much earlier. The torpedo was probably aimed amidships for the engine room but, as we were then on a zig-zag to port it struck an even more vital spot aft into the propeller shaft tunnel. Our engines were immediately immobilized and even the gun on the poop was torn from is mounting." The captain was thrown on to the deck by the impact and fractured his leg but the rest of the crew were unharmed. Realising the boat was sinking they quickly boarded the lifeboats and pulled away.
Ivor continues "We were now clear of the sinking vessel and it was sad to see her slowly sinking with the bows rising as if in final salute. Both lifeboats in company were now some distance away and Captain Smith (though in a good deal of pain) discussed with the chief officer plans for a course to the nearest land. Then, to our horror, the submarine surfaced close to and their crew quickly trained their gun unto our boats and hailed us in English to pull alongside them. This we did with some fear and I noticed an officer taking photographs from the conning tower. The submarine commander, in excellent English, now asked our Captain for his confidential code books which, according to the usual practice had already been thrown overboard in a weighted bag.
"A request was then made for our royal Marine gunner who, respectfully addressing the commander as Sir, answered that he was a Merchant Seaman gunner which answer seemed to give satisfaction. However on calling our other lifeboat the young gunner there admitted to being a Royal Marine and was ordered on the submarine to soon disappear down the conning tower.
"Now, to our amazement and great relief the submarine commander gave our Captain a course to the Butt of Lewis and we were ordered to pull away. As we shipped oars we were between our sinking vessel and the submarine and noticed that their gun was still trained on us. However our fears were unfounded and within minutes several rounds were fired amidships in Coniston Water and she sank slowly as the submarine also submerged.
"We were now on our own and a long way from land but we also realised our luck in having had no loss, but for the gunner as prison, also that the weather had been in our favour. It was decided that, weather permitting, our two boats should keep company and we hoisted our square lugsails and made for the small uninhabited island of Sule Skerry.
"We were a motley crew but morale was remarkably high. Our Chief Engineer, prepared for any eventuality was in full best uniform plus gold braid looking rather out of place in a lifeboat but he was soon reminded in no uncertain terms by our chief officer that he was no longer a chief engineer and would take his turn in rowing when required. In this the engineer wisely agreed and pulled with the best when called on.
"The wind was light and, making little headway we lowered the lugsail and all took turns pulling on the heavy oars. Before dusk at the end of that exciting and tiring day, we sighted land and again hoisted sail in a stronger breeze. To our great relief and a little before nightfall we approached the small island of Sule Skerry finding a small sheltered inlet where both boats moored. We were very grateful to lie exhausted on the ground of this rocky haven which appeared to be quite covered with thousands of sea-birds. I clearly remember curling up between the legs of our large American donkeyman and was soon asleep though it was a cold and restless night. Owing to his broken leg our Captain remained in his boat uncomplaining, cared for by the chief steward. Early the following morning we again set out in the hope of gaining the mainland and late in the afternoon sighted smoke on the horizon which raised hopes of an early rescue but we were to suffer a shock and near disaster. Later we were told by the lieutenant R.N.R. commanding the armed trawler that eventually picked us up that as we lowered our lugsail, it seemed through his glasses that a conning tower had submerged leaving the periscope (our mast) visible. The trawler therefore, taking no chances, commenced firing on us with dangerously accurate aim. I was ordered to stand in the bows of our lifeboat with a smoke flare and this was barely in time as shells were far too close for comfort. Shortly after this we were picked up by the trawler to join the crews of two other vessels sunk in the same area and we were all eventually landed at Stornoway. It would have been ironic to have survived a torpedo attack only to have been sunk by our own forces. "After a short and welcome rest we arrived at the little fishing village of Mallaig where we were treated as heroes rather than shipwrecked seamen and telegrams were sent to parents assuring them of our safety. The dear old gentlewoman who cared for me and [shipmate] Mac provided us with a wonderful meal and clothes."
The Captain of the U boat, Rudolf Schneider, died later that same year: on October 13th in stormy weather he was swept overboard from the conning tower of his submarine. He was brought back on board by a crewmember but had drowned and was buried at sea between the Shetlands and Norway. The U boat - U87 - was rammed by HMS Buttercup, depth charged and sunk on Christmas day, 1917 in the Irish Sea, with all hands lost.
Peter will be visiting Mallaig on 24/25th July in memory of this event and says he would love to meet or hear from any relatives of those who might have greeted his father and the crew. If anyone recalls any stories of this event or has information to share with Peter, please contact the Editor at email@example.com
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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