Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
November 2003 Issue
Contents of the online version:
FERRY LINK FEARS
Moves to end the tolls on the Skye Bridge could have a far reaching effect on the Mallaig - Armadale ferry, Councillor King has warned.
Scottish Executive have recently announced that private consultants were being hired to negotiate a deal with Skye Bridge Ltd to buy out the toll contract. The expectation is that the tolls could end at the beginning of next year.
Local Councillor King, who is Chairman of the Highland Council’s Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee, has warned that the Executive must safeguard the future of the Mallaig-Armadale ferry, with fears that free travel on and off Skye will seriously reduce the amount of traffic wishing to use the ferry.
Councillor King now wants the Council to write to the Executive to get a guarantee from them that they will sustain the ferry service. This would be particularly important if the services ever went out to competitive tender.
He stresses he is in favour of the removing of the tolls, but that it should not be at the expense of Mallaig losing its important ferry link to Skye.
He says: ‘At this moment, there is not a threat to services on the Mallaig - Armadale run, but we should be very mindful that if there was a freezing of tolls on the Skye Bridge there would be an initial drop in traffic, and we must protect the businesses which rely on the ferry tourist traffic’.
Read Councillor King’s column below for more comments.
WEST WORD GOING DIGITAL
Now we are nine - and to celebrate we will shortly be taking delivery of some new printing technology which we hope will revolutionise the way West Word is prepared - and how it looks.
The new printing machine will be a digital copier, which means that the pages will look crisper and photographs recognisable! It will print, collate, fold and staple.
We will still be in black and white as a colour printer is too expensive to run, but we will also have a colour computer printer for those extra special jobs.
West Word’s new equipment will mean the newspaper is more expensive to produce, so we will have to review some charges - but we will do all we can not to raise the cover price.
Our thanks to the Gower Trust for a grant of £3000, and to Lochaber Enterprise and the Community Economic Development programme who have both given us £4565 - a total of £12,130. West Word is adding £1000 to this, from the sales of the telephone books. It will take us a few months to organise - but watch this space!
Council corner - by Councillor Charles King
At this moment there is not a threat to services on the Mallaig - Armadale run, but we should be very mindful that if there was a freezing of tolls on the Skye Bridge there would be an initial drop in traffic, and we must protect the businesses which rely on the ferry tourist traffic. I asked the Council to write to the Scottish Executive to make sure that the ferry service is guaranteed as part of the undertaking of a new tender document. I would hope our MSP would join in, and the community councils and tourist organisations, to lobby the Scottish Executive. We should at least have a guarantee of a ferry for at least the same period as the tolls would have lasted, which is a further 27 years, as I am led to believe.
The reason for the change now is the Scottish election in May; the agreement to look at the tolls was part of the Lib/Lab pact, and the Executive have now asked consultants to look at the tolling regime.
A piece of good news is that the sports field at the High School will be going ahead during November.
It is very important that there is a good turnout from the rural areas next Tuesday 11th November at 8 pm at the Nevis Centre for the public meeting on future provision of health services, i.e. the Belford Hospital, what it will be able to offer, what the future is. It is very important that we have a large show of strength so that the Health Boards understand the public’s concern at any downgrading of services at the Belford.
SAVE THE BELFORD!
Attend the meeting on Tuesday 11th November in the Nevis Centre, Fort William at 8 pm.
Show by sheer weight of numbers that we care about the future of the Belford Hospital, which affects the whole of Lochaber. Organisers are hoping for a thousand people turning up to show support for the retention of 24-hour, seven days a week consultant-led acute provision at the Belford.
The impact of the Belford being downgraded cannot be estimated. Businesses may move away. What of the climbers, the divers, the skiers? Some of the national and international sports events, which add greatly to the local economy, may think twice about locating in the area if high quality medical expertise does not exist as is currently the case.
Three options have been put forward by the Clinical Options Group, two of which would leave Lochaber without consultants and junior doctors for emergencies, overnight and at weekends.
A consultant-led option put forward through the Lochaber Medical Community has been rejected as unviable.
We are already threatened with the possibility of GPs being unavailable locally at weekends. Imagine having to drive to the Accident and Emergency Unit in Inverness, if the worst case scenario happens.
Turn up at the Nevis Centre, and contact your MP, David Stewart, and MSP Fergus Ewing, if you feel the Hospital should continue to provide the type of critical trauma care which we have now. .
Just as you think you’re getting to the end of the season, 100 mountain rescuers turn up. Luckily, this wasn’t a catastrophic event, but a training event organised by Mick Tighe and the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland. The entire peninsula was booked up, with food provided by the Old Forge and the Pier House. Various exercises were undertaken, including a night-time rescue of four young locals (suitably made-up with gory scars) who were supposed to have crashed their car off the Airor road. And the cream of Scotland’s mountain rescue teams certainly proved to have a high drinking capability, with the pub’s malt whisky shelf severely depleted by the Monday morning. All in all, a highly successful weekend, with a lot of the further-flung team members commenting that they would love to return (preferably when they had a fighting chance of actually getting to the bar).
A major scrap run was co-ordinated by Toby, with the result that the car park now looks less like a breaker’s yard. None of the vehicles could be driven on to the Spanish John, which meant that Toby’s magic yellow loader thing came in useful – the crunching sound as my wee Citroen had a red van placed on top of it remains with me still.
Stalkers and Foreman’s cottages have now been completed, and have been allocated to Knoydart residents who are no doubt glad to be moving into somewhere warm, dry and secure. When’s the housewarming, Davie?! Hopefully by the time this reaches print Stewart will be recovering well from his major operation and looking forward living with new neighbours in what is a fantastic setting.
The new Knoydart Ranger, Iain Fleming, is settling into his post well, and is looking for plenty of ideas for the way forward for the natural resources of Knoydart. He’s also looking into setting up a more co-ordinated system of mountain rescue for the area – badly needed, as it’s on days like this (when it’s blowing a hooly outside and the ferry may not make it) that you realise just how important it is to have local people who both know the hills and are able to perform rescues on them. It’s unlikely even a helicopter would make it in today (Wednesday 5th Nov). Iain’s also going to be organising activities such as guided walks and navigation exercises – give the Foundation office a ring on 462242 if you’re interested in coming along. Knoydart’s on your doorstep – it would be great to see some folk from the surrounding area across here.
Bernie gave me an update on his ducks a couple of weeks back – it was a bit complicated, but the gist of it was that he reckons some alien ducks are trying to invade his MacDonald/Campbell territory – sounds like some major battle lines are being drawn up over Ridarroch way.
Knoydart venue for Mountain Rescue Teams
Representatives of every Scottish Mountain Rescue Team bar one converged on Knoydart, ‘Britain’s Last Great Wilderness’ at the weekend.
The volunteer personnel were being put through their paces in a highly successful combined exercise and seminar arranged by the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland, in conjunction with Boots and Shell. Members of teams from areas as far apart as Braemar and the Borders, Torridon and Tayside, and Lomond and Leuchars joined up with their various Highland counterparts to form a 90-strong group.
Many of the rescue team members participated in an after-dark exercise on Loch Nevis on Saturday night along with the crew of Mallaig Lifeboat.
On the lighter side at the end of the final sessions on Sunday - the teams were pitted against one another in a ‘Stretcher Bearing Race’ the winners of which are yet to be announced due to a stretcher stewards’ enquiry.
Mick Tighe, training officer for the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland, who co-ordinated the course, said this week: ‘Every team in Scotland, apart from Skye MRT, had members involved in this important exercise. We booked every available bed on Knoydart, the accommodation varying from the luxury home of Lady Craigmyle in Inverie, to the village hall floor. The Old Forge, the UK’s remotest pub, was open for our stay nearly all the time ! but this weekend’s activity was a very serious business nonetheless.’
NEW HOMES FOR KNOYDART
After many years effort by many people, the Knoydart Foundation has completed its first major refurbishment at Foremans and Stalkers Bothy. The work would not have been completed with out the input of many people and organisations.
The project has resulted in three homes for local residents. They have been refurbished to a high standard and are very energy efficient. The work took seven months.
Key to making the project happen was Lochaber Housing Association who acted as agents for the Foundation in managing the project. Funding of £90,000 came from Communities Scotland’s Rural Empty Property Grant scheme. Further funding came from The Highland Council and the Knoydart Foundation, and Fresh Futures and the New Opportunities Fund Lottery programmes helped towards the heating systems. Local firm Toby Robinson Building Services implemented the works. Toby had played a crucial role in making sure the project was a priority for the Foundation and the funders.
ISLE OF MUCK
On the last day of the month the island said farewell to the Graves family; Simon, Barbera, Katie and Angus. They are leaving for a new life in New Zealand. Ten years ago just before the opening of the present school Barbera came to succeed Norma Lutas as head teacher and soon was able to demonstrate her considerable ability in the classroom. Not many years had passed however when Krones disease struck forcing early retirement. Simon meanwhile had become second boatman and within a few years was coping well with the challenging sea conditions round Muck. The whole family will be greatly missed and we wish them the very best in New Zealand.
Briggs are gone. The pier is finished . The papers have all been signed by Highland Council. The ball is in Cal-Mac’s court but they do not seem to want to play it! Despite perches and leading lights Lochnevis has not even entered Port Mor. Surely after four years we don’t have to wait any longer!
On the farm .the sales are now over and very encouraging they have been too, particularly the calves which went to Fort William on the 25th. Almost the whole consignment were sired by my new Simmental bull Blackford Levi and showed what a better bull can do. Prices were back to the level of seven years ago before BSE struck and possibly even above for the heifers where many made £100 more than their kilo weight. Four bullocks made over £500 and three of them had already had a subsidy claimed!
Creditable prices were also achieved by Sandy Mathers at Fort William on the 18th with his first ever consignment CC of N tups. The best sheep made £100.
While on the subject of sales I am minded to mention an outstanding pen of sheep sold this autumn from Canna by Geraldine MacKinnon. These were strong and well boned and well worth the £65 which they made. This was all the more remarkable because Geraldine does not pay big prices for tups!
Back on the island it is silage feeding again. An unusually cold October has slowed grass growth and this coupled with a surplus of hay and silage has resulted in an extension of the feeding period.
C A M A S
COMMUNITY ACTION ON MUCK FOR ALL SEASONS
CAMAS is now up and running as a voluntary association for providing social, community and environmental benefit for Muck through culture, arts and heritage; lifelong learning; sport, health and wellbeing; environmental protection and improvement; links with the rest of the Small Isles, Lochaber, and other remote or local areas; and other community and social development. Ideas for some of our first year’s activities include singing, storytelling, drama, music and dancing. Watch this space for more information. Membership is open to anyone, not just people living on Muck....we’re hoping that some of the island’s wider circle of friends and visitors might be interested too. If you’d like more details about what we’re hoping to do and how to join, please phone 01687 462828.
We’re incredibly lucky to have received a most generous anonymous donation of £200: this will make a huge difference in helping us get started and helping to attract further funding for our various activities. And thanks to the far reaching influence of West Word, we’ve received another extremely generous donation..... a parcel of arts and crafts books from Richard Owens in Ohio. He visited Muck briefly last year to see where his ancestors had lived and subsequently read about CAMAS starting up whilst reading West Word online. His great great great grandparents were Edward Campbell and Margaret (Peggy) Maclean who had six children... John, Hugh, Angus, Catherine, Mary (Richard’s great great grandmother) and Julia. Five of the children and their mother emigrated to Cape Breton around 1820, and Julia followed later with her husband Duncan MacMillan of Muck and their three children. The books are a wonderful gift and a great community resource for the island.
ISLE OF RUM
Following Kinloch Castle’s appearance in the BBC2/Endemol Restoration Series, Scottish Natural Heritage were contacted by the office of HRH Prince Charles, who had seen the programme and was very interested in helping to find, with the islanders’ involvement, a sustainable future for the Castle and its environs. To find out more about the options for doing do, HRH invited representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Prince of Wales’ Phoenix Trust, the Landmark Trust, Historic Scotland, Scottish Executive and SNH to attend a meeting at Birkhall on Deeside.
The meeting was extremely positive and it was decided the next step would be for representatives of the Phoenix and Landmark Trusts to visit the island on 3rd & 4th November, accompanied by staff from Historic Scotland and SNH. SNH and the Trusts’ representatives have been asked to report back in January with a project plan and mechanism for securing the Castle’s able use.
SNH is welcoming the involvement of the Rum community and have asked them to list the potential benefits and opportunities that they see in taking forward a plan for the Castle, and air any questions or concerns they might have.
Meanwhile the Rum Community Development Plans continue to unroll with the submission by Rum Community Association for an outline planning application for a new shop, tearoom and house for the island. The Association is hopeful that building work will get underway next year – if it does, the new house will be the island’s first for more than 40 years. The new facilities are the first project from the Kinloch Village Development Plan. With the new pier being ready for use later this month and renewed interest in the island’s Kinloch Castle, it is hoped that the number of tourists visiting the island will increase and the community will expand.
ISLE OF EIGG
Migration-wise, it will have been quite a good month on Eigg, with easterly winds bringing a fair collection of interesting if not really rare species to the island: a large passage of Fieldfares, a few Blackcaps and Bramblings , a Stock Dove - the 4th ever recorded on Eigg - which came and went with a large number of Wood Pigeons, a House Sparrow - a rarity here - which stopped briefly in our warden’s garden, some Widgeons and Teals observed swimming in the bay and four Jack Snipe which arrived to winter in the marshes as usual. An exceptional year for flora though as, owing to the sunny October weather, many midsummer flowering species had another go late in the season whilst a feral garden tomato plant managed to flower and fruit on the shore line!
Whether it was the good summer pasture that produced exceptional quality in the beasts sent to market, the fact is that crofters and farmers on Eigg are very pleased with the prices reached by both cattle and sheep at the sales this year, not that usual an occurrence these days!
Rhodo clearance has progressed nicely in the Lodge gardens and should be finished next summer with volunteer help – the trust‘s volunteer programme was very successful this year and we are hoping next year’s will be as good.
Fencing is now completed in the forestry with clearing work ready to resume anytime now, The path to the Massacre Cave has also been done up and with some farm fencing still left to finish, that’s the environmental improvements now carried out according to plans.
As to the environmental improvements around the Pier, everyone has to admit that RG MacLeod have done a fine job of them: the pier area looks very tidy with neat new tarmac and gravel areas. The causeway looks as if it has been there forever and at the pier head, the bilingual signs and the new waiting room provide a nice welcome to Eigg. As work reaches its final phase, the islanders are very grateful for all the help that the contractors have provided to repair the hall road and tidy up the hall area before renovation work starts. Sincere thanks then to RG MacLeod, for all the hard work and professionalism of its engineers and workers, they can all be proud of what has been achieved!
Sadly, just as the island young children were preparing themselves excitedly for Hallow’een and the traditional guising visit to the island elders, the island was brought to a standstill by the news that Dugald MacKinnon had passed away suddenly but very peacefully in his home at Bayview, a few weeks after his 91st birthday, on Tuesday 28 October. Hallow’een on Eigg will never be the same without Dugald’s sense of fun and enthusiasm for guessing the identity of guisers, which had made his house a favourite destination every October for the past decades.
With Dugald goes a wealth of Eigg traditions and a treasure of Hebridean humour. The last man of his generation, he had reflected philosophically about the many changes he had lived through on the island and had been happy and honoured to take central stage with Dolly Ferguson at the inauguration ceremony for the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust in 1997. His wife of 59 years, Katie, looked after him devotedly as his sight slowly deteriorated whilst his children and grandchildren sought to entertain him by visiting as frequently as possible. All our thoughts are now with her and her family.
The islanders joined Dugald’s children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and relatives from Fort-William, Glasgow, London and Reading to accompany him on his final journey to the Kildonnan graveyard after a moving service conducted in the Church of Scotland by Revd Alan Lamb, which reminded everyone of the qualities that had made his life long, rich and full.
It was also a fitting tribute for a man who had served the island for 38 years as ferryman that the skipper and crew of MV Pioneer made much appreciated efforts to accommodate the ferry time table in order to convey the funeral guests to and from the island on an inclement day. As the Pioneer let out three hoots in salute as it left Eigg for its last journey, it felt as if this final farewell was also for Dugald, the Eigg ferryman: the likes of him will not be seen again.
Eigg October birthdays: Alaistair and Peggy Kirk.
HAPPY 100 th birthday to Margaret Fay Shaw!
The people of Eigg, Muck and Rum would like to join the islanders of Canna in wishing Mrs Campbell all the very best on her 100th birthday, this Sunday 9th November.
We are all looking forward to watching the television tribute to this very special lady which will broadcast on Monday 10th November on BBC 2 at 7.25 pm.
How nice to see Café Rhu open for business ,and busy too - I’m even getting used to the colour. The name was finally chosen and the nearest entry to it in the ‘Name the Café’ competition was Colleen McLean. The suggested list of names provided for voting on included some gems: Arisaig Sound Bite, Eigg and Ships, Hunger @ Bay, Turn O’ The Tide Café, More than just a café-café, Star of the Sea Café, The Waterfront, and - wait for it - The Coffee Shop.
Well done to Malcolm for his 6 day trek of the West Highland Way, 3 dry and 3 wet! The worst day, gales and rain, was when he was struggling up the Devils Staircase. All in a good cause, with money raised going to a bench outside the hotel in memory of Bryan Walters.
Thanks to the efforts of Donal Rua, we have signs outside the Hall again on the gateposts.
I’m delighted to hear that Mallaig’s Jane Henderson wants to do a project on Arisaig’s involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement for her studies this year. I’ve wanted to emphasise the Phillip Webb connection for ages now, but there’s so much more - so many famous people who visited the area.
One of the best attended events at the Hall this year was the children’s drama puppet thingy, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth,’ and we came out of the volcano to find the Northern Lights giving a display outside. So if anyone wondered how about 60 people came to be standing in the road, that was why!
We’re trying something new with our Arts grant now, by demand - some crafts classes. These are subsidised by the Hall to make them affordable so please come and if they’re not to your taste, tell me what is! But please come along and support this venture. All ages welcome. I hope to have some silk painted hangings for the stage out if the classes.
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: email@example.com)
Runavil- Arisaig- New Zealand
In July 2003, a young New Zealander, Rachael Pannet was visiting Arisaig and by coincidence, I was in the local shop when she was making enquiries about her relatives and the old home of her great great grandparents, Robert and Flora MacRaild.
Her local relatives of the present time are E.D and Elsbeth MacMillan but they were away from home and therefore, missed her by two days. Nevertheless, I took Rachael and her fiancé, Mark, home to meet Elizabeth who knew more of the Arisaig connection than I did. Elizabeth has a postcard which shows the old house (now demolished for target practice during WWII) in the far distance. The old house was situated near Achadh na Garbh Uillt, on the road to Rhue and was called “The Trapper’s Cottage”. We took the young couple down to the ruin and they took many photographs of the place and it’s surroundings to take back to their relatives in New Zealand.
Rachael’s ancestor, Robert MacRaild was married to Flora MacRae of Kinlochhourn and they had six children. Robert died in 1903, followed over some years by three of his children. His widow, Flora and the three surviving children, Hugh, Willie and Jessie, were advised by Dr. de Silva to emigrate to a warmer and drier climate, whereupon they left for Melbourne, Australia in 1922. Jessie MacRaild was Rachel Pannet’s grandmother and her brother Robert, was still alive in 1984, aged 84 years.
The late Murdo MacMillan was, before his retiral, Arisaig Estate manager. He was the son of Ewen MacMillan, Runavil and Ann MacRae, Kinlochhourn. Murdo, with his wife Isabella, came to Arisaig Estate as a shepherd, just after WWI, living for some years at Arnipol. Flora MacRaild was his aunt. Murdo was married to Isabella MacDonald from Glaister, which is situated opposite Leterfinlay Lodge on Loch Lochy, and they had three children, Ewen, Margaret and John.
Peter English, author of “Arnisdale and Lochhourn”, lives in Drumnadrochit. He has compiled a fascinating record of the people of Arnisdale and Loch Hourn. The 484 pages of text and photographs comprise a magnificent book to dip into. There is a lot of information on local families to be found among it’s pages.
In the October issue, I made mention of sisters “X” and “Y” Iain MacQueen has corrected that information in that, these two ladies were not, in fact, sisters. Y was a lady from Wales, married to a Mr Goldsburgh and she returned there after her husband died ca. 1932. The late Johnnie MacQueen, Iain’s father, visited her there in the mid 1940s. Her husband is buried in Arisaig and his name is recorded in the graveyard of St. Mary’s. Their son still lives in England. My apologies.
A further correction.
A member of the family has added a little information to the facts given in last month’s West Word, relating to the MacPhersons. Angus MacPherson, known as ‘Para’ because he had served with distinction in WWII as a Commando and Paratrooper , did not leave the auction mart in 1973 never to be seen again. He went missing on 14th October 1960, after attending a cattle sale where he sold cattle for neighbours and himself. He left the auction mart with a considerable amount of money on him, but after that he visited friends in Caol, who were from Glenuig. It was after this visit that he disappeared.
The article said that Mary and Findlay Dempster had ten children and nine were listed. In fact they had eleven: Isa Mary, Catherine, Donald John, Kenneth, Findlay, Mena, Mary Ellen, John, Morag Anne, Jean and Robert.
An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig
An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig held its A.G.M. on Wed. 15th of October, to elect office bearers and to review our progress so far.
Committee Members Elected:
Chairman: Allan MacDonald, Secretary: Alasdair Roberts, Treasurer: Ann Martin, Vice Chairman and Archivist: Elizabeth MacDonald, Minutes Secretery: Nancy MacDonald.
Associate Members: Tearlach MacFarlane, Deirdre Roberts, Anne Cameron, Jenny Bowman and Jane Henderson.
It was decided that, owing to the paucity of our numbers it is not workable to continue with An Comunn membership. These members who have paid fees up until January 2004 will not, of course, be required to pay to attend any talks until then. From 12th November, an entry fee of £2.00 for non-members, will be collected at the door. This will include tea.
We have acquired a photocopier which will be situated in the Astley hall. A charge of 10p. per sheet will be levied. It is not yet in situ but will be, soon. To gain access to the photocopier, phone Ann Martin at 01687 450 263.
We have decided, with Father Donald’s blessing, to use a photograph taken from the engraving on the ancient gravestone in the cemetery of St. Maol Ruadha , as our logo. The engraving is thought to be of a 14th century Canon of the Church. The Diocese was, at that time, administered from the island of Lismore.
New Road , Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh.
It was agreed to submit a formal request to Arisaig Community Council, that there be a thoroughly comprehensive Archaeological Survey take place along the proposed route of the next section of the A830. It is important that a proper survey takes place as, the road will pass through historically important areas. It is also important that the community is advised of any discoveries in time to be consulted about them before irrevocable decisions are taken, as was the case of the “Ciste” found near Achadh na Tulaich, beside Roshven View.
Our Photographic Project is getting underway and we hope soon, to circulate envelopes to local residents, requesting old photographs. We are at present investigating ways to copy photos’ with a view to holding an exhibition and afterwards, archiving them. Forms and procedures have been drawn up to ensure that the greatest care will be taken to return precious old ‘photos safely to their owners, after copying.
The Graveyard Project is progressing. All the graves in the old graveyard have been given a number and the Memorial Inscriptions recorded. We are indebted to Angus Cameron, Moss of Keppoch and Alistair MacDonald, Portnadoran for their invaluable help in identifying families, connections and historical anecdotes. The original plan was merely to record the memorial inscriptions but now, we think that it may be possible to enlarge on the subject. If we could identify people and families, where they lived , to whom they were related, to whom they were married, patronymics and any anecdotal material, we could build up wonderful genealogical history of the area. To anyone with such knowledge, please do come to the next meeting and tell us, or , alternatively, we can arrange to visit you at home.
Jane Henderson from Mallaig joined us at our meeting. Jane is commencing her third year of study with Orkney College, U.H.I. As part of her final year, she has to compile a project based on the subjects she has studied so far. She has chosen to write about Arisaig’s involvement with the Arts and Crafts Movement.. She will be researching the Enlightenment and the Arts and Crafts Movement and how they affected this area and society in general. Many of the luminaries of this Movement were known to the Astleys in Arisaig House and Professor Hugh and Jemima Blackburn in Roshven House. These included, Ruskin, Millais, Rosetti, and Phillip Webb the great architect, who designed The Astley Hall, this being the only building in Scotland to remain as Webb designed it. Jane and An Comunn will collaborate over the next year, to our mutual, benefit and we wish Jane well in her studies.
The next meeting of An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig will be on 12th November when Dr Susan Buckham will be talking to us on the subject of Graveyard Recording and Preservation. After the talk by Dr. Buckham, An Comunn Eachdraidh will have charts, booklets etc. on display and you will be able to see our progress to date, on the memorial inscriptions, graveyard plan, etc.
‘Se ur beatha a h-uile duine.
Corporal Charles Lyons M.M. & Bar, S-9937 (Lochiel’s) Cameron Highlanders (1891 - 1941)
(We continue the serialisation of the life of Charlie Lyons as researched by Tony Leszczuk)
Reflections on His War Service
How could Charlie Lyons not have been affected by his war service?
He had served throughout the whole time his battalion had been on active service. In all, he had come through at least three major engagements — Loos, Somme and First Passchendaele - and, perhaps, two more – Arras and The Battle of Ypres, 1918. He had most likely taken part in the smaller-scale action at Meteren and definitely in the fighting towards the River Scheldt, at the very end of the war.
Charlie Lyons had been wounded in action no less than four times. In addition to all this, who knows what experiences he must have had during all the ‘routine’ trench warfare he endured and what awful sights he must have seen?
Not forgetting, of course, his two awards of the Military Medal (the first for a V.C. action) and the saving of Father MacNeil.
In the first half of his army career, Charlie Lyons had - for whatever reasons – displayed indifferent conduct, notwithstanding his bravery at Los. He had ended the war, however, as a corporal and a twice-decorated veteran and survivor, who must have borne the rewards and scars of his service with pride.
How easy would it have been for men such as him to return to civilian life? Or was he just able to blank out his experiences, or - better still - simply put them behind him?
Charles Lyons was posted to the Army Reserve on 23rd April 1919. On that same day, he responded to an official letter saying that he wished his Military Medal & Bar to be sent to Morar by registered post, rather than being presented to him personally. He acknowledged receipt of the M.M. & Bar on 1st May 1919. His war service with Lochiel’s Camerons was, to all intents and purposes, over... The rest of his life was about to begin.
Later Life, 1919-1941
He resumed his work as a Railway Surfaceman and began to take an interest in things other than military life. On 1st October 1919 at Fort William, he married Mary Gilles, a Fish Worker and widow, from Barra. Her mother was a ‘McNeil’, and it has been suggested that she was in some way related to Father John MacNeil. In the marriage certificate, Charlie Lyons’ mother is described as being ‘deceased’. He was never to know that she had re-married, and died in Glasgow in 1931.
On 8th December 1921, he attested into the 4th Territorial Battalion Cameron Highlanders, giving his address as ‘East Bay, Mallaig’. He reached the rank of Sergeant in 1924 and served with the Territorials until 1928.
Thereafter, his life went by in a routine of work and, by all accounts, a busy social calendar — or at least as busy as it could get in such a small community. Charlie and his wife, however, had no children of their own.
When war was declared in September 1939, he was still working on the railway. However, the war caused a shortage of labour and this resulted in problems locally, one example being to the Mrs MacLellan of Morar. She had the croft next to the cemetery but no-one to cut the hay in her fields. Charlie was good enough to help her out. Once he had finished his own work, he toiled away with a scythe, until the late evening.
It was at this time that Mrs MacLellan’s son, Ronnie, came to know Charlie Lyons. By then, Charlie enjoyed a drink in his local, the Central Bar in Mallaig and looked forward to the dances in what is now called the Old Tin Hall, in Morar...
His Untimely Death. 24th April 1941
Ronnie MacLellan describes Charlie Lyons as being a big, powerful man – although by then be was, of course, past his prime. Though only 16, Ronnie had started to serve drinks in the Central Bar in Mallaig. Charlie Lyons came in there, he says, ‘periodically, probably on a pay night’ and would ask for his dram and half pint, ‘a half and a half’. At this time, Charlie and his wife were living at 3 Marine Place, Mallaig.
Ronnie saw Charlie Lyons on the very day he died, since Charlie came that evening to the Central Bar. The pubs in Mallaig, however, closed at 9 pm and Charlie and others were then in the habit of walking to the dance in the Old Tin Hall in Morar.
It was a Friday and a lovely early summer’s evening. Anyway, Ronnie MacLellan went home and, though relatively close to what was about to happen, he had no idea when he awoke the next morning that anything of note had occurred.
He soon found out, when he met Angus MacLellan, who called to him ‘if he knew that Charlie Lyons had been killed last night’?
What seems to have happened is this. Charlie Lyons had set out to walk to the dance. In those days, the road to there from Mallaig went up and down hill until it reached Morar, passing Seaview Croft, Morar Cemetery and what is now Morar Motors, as it entered the village. Just before the cemetery, where there is now a junction going up to it, Charlie was struck by a car. The driver of the car was not at fault: Charlie just went in front of it.
He was lifted off the road and put into the car, which sped off to the doctor’s surgery at ‘Winburg’, Mallaig. Canon MacNeil was called for to give Charlie the last rites but he was probably not alive by the time the Canon arrived. The Priest took it very badly, considering that Charlie had saved his life during the war. Charlie’s wife Mary was, however, present at his death, timed at 11.35 pm.
Charlie Lyons is buried in Morar Cemetery, in an unmarked grave, next to the field where he cut the hay and the railway track on which he worked for so much of his life...
It seems that, within the Morar area, Charlie Lyons was not looked upon with any particular affection and was just accepted as being himself However, he had come there originally as a ‘boarded-out’ boy and as a definite outsider in a small community. So, perhaps to be even accepted - and no more than that - may well have given him the greatest happiness of all through what must have been, at times, a troubled life, but one led by a very brave man.
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