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

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November 2005 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
West Word ten years ago
Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy & History

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THE FINAL PIECE
The final stage of improvements to the A830 has been given the green light by Scottish Transport Minister Tavish Scott. At the end of last month the Minister announced that the upgrading of the last stretch of single track, between Arisaig and Loch nan Uamh, will go ahead in 2006. Tenders are expected to go out soon to contractors for the design-and-build construction, with work expected to start in the summer. The task will take two years.
Mr Scott said: 'The A830 is a lifeline route from Fort William to the port and community of Mallaig, the Small Isles and much of Morar. This last section of the route is a single track road with passing places which can all too easily be blocked by minor accidents and essential maintenance. 'The area includes a number of important conservation sites and we have worked hard to ensure that any work will not have any adverse effect on the wildlife and plant life in the area.'
Councillor Charlie King said: 'I would like to thank Tavish Scott for signing the orders on behalf of the community and personally I could not be more pleased to see this road construction project reach its final stages. 'This is the final piece in the jigsaw for the Road to the Isles, completing the upgrading of the entire A830 Fort William to Mallaig road to a two-track standard. It will provide safe, faster and more reliable travel for local residents and visitors alike, and also a welcome boost to the economy of the West Highlands. The Scottish Executive officials and engineers are to be congratulated on their efforts in overcoming the considerable difficulties which faced them in developing the scheme.'
The Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh stretch represents the first construction proposal in Scotland - and one of the first in the UK - where the full upgrade requirements of the European Habitats Directive have had to be met.
Scottish Ministers are happy for the road improvements to proceed on the basis that its construction is essential for public safety and local economic development notwithstanding its unavoidable impact on the Glen Beasdale Special Area of Conservation. The proposed upgrading will widen the road to a 6 metre carriageway with verges 3 to 3.6 metres wide. Special care will be taken through Larrachmore Gardens where the road bridge at the viaduct, a listed structure, will be replaced and some plants and trees moved to another part of the garden.
Travellers will experience considerable disruption due to necessary road closures but the times of these have been carefully agreed with the Emergency Services and the Community Councils. A detailed programme will be published monthly in West Word and reports will be broadcast on Nevis Radio.
As part of the preparations for the major improvement of the A830 Arisaig - Loch Nan Uamh Trunk Road, advance works began in the middle of October to cut and remove an extensive area of rhododendrons between Borrodale and Beasdale Halt. The rhododendron is an invasive non-native species, which is destroying the native ancient oak woodland and the clearance, which has the full support of Scottish Natural Heritage, will help to preserve the adjacent, European-designated Glen Beasdale Special Area of Conservation. The contractor, Tilhill Forestry Limited, will take special care during the phase of work which involves burning the bushes, given the location of the adjacent trunk road, railway and private properties. The work is expected to continue for 20 weeks.
Archaeological digs have been conducted just outside Arisaig which have resulted in a number of interesting finds. The August edition of West Word carried an article on these by archaeologist Ian Suddaby, and once excavation work is complete Ian will give a talk in the Astley Hall.

photo photo


NEW HOUSING TO BE BUILT
Planning permission has been granted to Lochaber Housing Association for houses and flats in Mallaig. The 14 semi-detached houses and block of four flats will be built on land to the east of Coteachan Hill and south of Aird Mhor. Parking spaces will be provided and impact on local traffic has been carefully considered. The site is a difficult one to develop and the project has been made possible by funding from Communities Scotland.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!
Eleven Years old this month!

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It hardly seems a year since we were planning our big 10th birthday issue and ceilidh. In it we had a pull out showing all that has changed over that period. Well, maybe it's the effect of yet another birthday but I feel the old order of things is changing faster than ever and it's not a trend I see slowing down. In the main I personally don't feel they're for the better but then I don't want to sound like my great grandmother when she first saw a car or heard about that new-fangled telephone!
Some things get better. Sonia tells elsewhere of how the railway stations are being improved - well! Sitting here doing West Word this week, I heard some clashing and clattering and for goodness sake! Some railway person was washing the outside of the windows that look out onto the station platform!! Good grief - that's a first in 11 years!
I came out of Mallaig College the other day to be greeted by the sight of 8 or 10 dolphins passing by. How many colleges - or community centres or libraries - can you say that about!
Someone phoned me today to say they were coming up from England at the weekend and had been told the road was shut!! Could they in fact get to Mallaig? I wonder where that rumour came from? The recent temporary railway closure? Has anyone else been put off coming do you think?
Yes, we are a bit late out this month but not as late as some think. No, we are not due out before the end of the month, nor as soon as the month turns. We aim for the first Friday in the month, barring interruptions, which I have had this month.
Best wishes from West Word to Ian Abernethy in his partial retirement - I bet he'll be busier than ever - and I'm glad he's not, as he says, pensioning himself off entirely.
Finally, don't miss the chance to vote for our talented local musicians in the Scottish Trad Music Awards !
Ann Martin, Friday 4th November


KNOYDART
October seems to have flown by in a haze of gales, wind, rain and occasional sunshine. Our soggy hillwalker and stalker guests have bravely (stupidly?) ventured out in all conditions, though, and the dire warnings of lack of visitors due to the pier construction do not seem to have materialised. Talking of the pier: it's supposed to be finished this month - but I wouldn't hold your breath if you're expecting any imminent opening ceremonies.
The woods have been alive with rhody-cutters-and-burners: BTCV sent up a jolly crew, a group called "The Dirty Weekenders" turned up for, well, a weekend (and lived up to their name, allegedly?!), and we have a Latvian chainsaw crew currently in situe. After transport had been sorted out (the community minibus had been double-booked), the Forest Trust had a fact-finding trip to Fassfern estate, looking at the harvesting operations there. A cold and wet day didn't put people off, and there was much astonishment at the speed with which a tree can be felled, stripped of branches, cut to size and placed in an appropriate pile. A notable factor was the lack of noise: one of these machines being quieter than a chainsaw. Angela would like to thank the local constabulary for helping her, Daniel and Andy eventually join the group at Fassfern!
We had a sudden departure, with our Ranger, Iain Fleming, now working in the Middle East. Iain had lived in Knoydart for quite a few years, and residents wish him the all the best in his new job. We also offer him thanks for all his hard work over the last year or two promoting Knoydart to a range of visitors. Iain should be back in Knoydart for a brief period of time in the coming weeks. The Knoydart Foundation will soon be recruiting for a replacement.
The big news for November is Knoydart Arts Promotions' inaugural concert, with members of Session A9 coming across the water for a concert followed by what promises to be a cracking ceilidh. Saturday 12th November is the date to put in your diaries, with workshops promised for the next day. For more information check out KAP's website: www.knoydartarts.com - if there's not much on it just now I promise to remedy it soon. KAP isn't just about ceilidhs: we're hoping to put on dance, theatre, literature and hopefully Gaelic-medium events.
For those of you missing the updates on goings-on down Riadh-an-Darioch way, I have some sad news to impart. The Campbells (ducks) were recently murdered in their sleep, with chief suspect being (surprisingly) Brock the Badger. I'm just glad it didn't happen when I was house-sitting...
Tommy McManmon

ISLE OF MUCK
Main news this month has been that Morag MacKinnon has taken over as head teacher for this term and next while Eileen Henderson has her baby. Eileen has not been well recently and we all hope that once the baby arrives things will improve. On the farm the sales are now over. The calves departed on the Spanish John three days before the sale on the 8th. October. Slight hiccup when they all would not fit on Bowman's float. I had to dash to Arisaig to borrow a trailer from James Colston. Back in Mallaig just in time to prevent the two calves disappearing up Loch Nevis with a load of fish food! With no subsidies for the buyers, prices for the male calves were away below those of previous years and little different from heifers which never carried a subsidy.
Last to go were the ewes on the 20th. A very small sale with only three buyers at the ringside. My cheviot ewes were the best I have sold but not in the same class as the Canna ewes which made £30 three weeks before. Mine made £22 but they did go for further breeding. So ends a not very encouraging sale season but Rural Stewardship payments should make up a lot of difference from last year.
Rats are in the news and we have them too! Muck doesn't have as many seabirds nesting as in the past, but the decline has been most marked on the rock Eagamol which has no rats. There are rats on Horse Island nearby but the Puffins still manage to nest and the Greylag Geese are certainly not affected; there are nests everywhere! Sea bird decline is much more likely to be caused by Industrial Fishing and its effect on the sand eel population - than rats!
Lawrence MacEwen

ISLE OF RUM
We were supposed to be hosting the Small Isles Community Council AGM last month, but a combination of bad weather, bad timing and the ferry meant it was postponed twice and then finally cancelled and held on Eigg and ironically none us were able to make it over, so missed it entirely. In light of that, we thought the SICC should try and apply for some specific funding to make it easier for residents to be able to attend inter-island events such as this without being confined to the ferry timetable, which doesn't allow for much of this.
Moving swiftly on… while it's usual for the Loch Nevis to go away for it's annual refit, we thought it would have been more opportune for Calmac to wait just one more week till the end of the summer timetable before doing so. As it was, there were still tourists wishing to travel to the islands for the day, especially as it was the school holidays too and expecting a reasonable ferry to travel on. We thought maybe next year Calmac could wait till the winter timetable before sending Loch Nevis away.
The kids Hallowe'en party was on Friday at the school. Costumes this year were varied and while a few of the adults saw it as an opportunity to dress up as they pleased ( and why not? ) for the most part, a scary theme was adhered to, we even managed two grim reapers and a serial killer and Samuel L Jackson popped in for a cameo appearance, (where did you get that wig Sandy?) We have had two visits from the BBC, one was for a team to go to Kilmory to look and listen to rutting stags, fine as long as they don't get too close and another lot here to do a reccy for possibly filming Autumn Watch on Rum next year. Not much other wildlife news other than Caroline's very friendly seal putting in regular appearances in front of her house and the crazy stag with a death wish wandering round the village while Derek had 5 guest stalkers in tow. Sorcha and Nell tried their hand at stalking it through the playground, but unfortunately their enthusiasm, and the dog, gave the game away.
Lucy Galbraith, the latest in a long line of Kinloch Castle managers has recently left, while she enjoyed being on Rum, she found the facilities at her disposal for running the castle, lacking. She'll definitely be back to visit next summer though; she said she'd be camping…
Kinloch Castle will be open for Hogmanay if folk want to come over for the ceilidh. Book now to avoid disappointment.
Last ceilidh till Hogmanay was held on 15th October. It was a relatively quiet affair till the Danish stalkers arrived and musicians Farquhar, Seamus and Peter (the piper) from Skye decided to turn the night into a stand up comedy show. They were funny right enough and we still got enough rowdy dances to make sure we were covered in bruises all week.
Last thing, we're having the usual bonfire and fireworks on Saturday, all welcome.
Fliss Hough

ISLE OF EIGG
October has been a quietish month on Eigg, a few straggling tourists putting on a brave face as they get buffeted by the weather and some old friends coming for a visit (Emilie and Angela from Holland, West Word subscribers too!), a few mild days to finish the pick of the season, the last brambles and not a bad quantity of chanterelles, although hardly any field mushrooms at all. Eddie and Lucy's house is coming along fine: the wooden structure is about to be erected, that is if the wind stops for five minutes. Our farmers have also been busy with making sure everything was tip top for the quality assurance scheme inspection. Apart from Wes's big 60 party - many happy returns to our iconic island figure! - an entertaining end of summer night at Laig for the island girls, and a full scale 10th birthday party for Bryony, the mood on the island has remained subdued since Joy's untimely death. She was given a poignant farewell as old and young gathered at the top of the pier to see her leave on the ferry for the last time. She could not bear graveyards, but she loved the pipes, and Donna played some fine tunes for her. It is very sad that her son Vernon only survived her by a few days. Our hearts did go to Joy's daughter and her husband when they came back to the island to a wonderful buffet meal in the hall prepared in honour of Joy, following her wish for the community to have a good time in her memory.
I would like to take this opportunity to answer last month's letter in West Word which was so critical of the way we look after our graveyard and church. Readers of this column know that the small RC congregation does what it can to raise funds for St Donnan's Church: the roof has been thoroughly checked, work has been done on the windows on the south side and we are expecting a team of volunteers to help digging the drain. Perhaps our letter writer would like to make a contribution or volunteer to come and help, or make representation to the diocese, as it would appear it is the church, rather than the community or the Trust, which has given up on the building, although there are encouraging signs that attitudes are changing. As to the graveyard, I was told that in the old days, islanders had to scythe a path to the grave before a burial. Today, we use a few sheep to graze the grayeyard, although it would help if some of our council taxes could be directed to the upkeep of the place through the council employing someone to mow the grass. However, we want to retain the privilege of digging our graves and burying our people ourselves. It is one of the last old community rituals that all the island men will take their turn in the digging, sometimes through solid rock, and they take pride in it. And what if it takes a few days before the shovels are put away? We do want people to visit our historic graveyard, and that's why our history society volunteers to tidy it up every year, and why a new fence was put up to make sure that the cattle cannot wander in as it had been able to do in the past. Much remains to be done, as we would like to restore the bottom half of the graveyard with its fine memorial to Revd MacAskill, but it all takes time, funding and lots of volunteer hours.
On a lighter note, the Eigg wildlife club deserves to be congratulated! Bryony, Lachlan, Kirsty Ann and Kathleen have managed to win the second place in the SWT marvellous mobile competition with their sea creatures mobile featuring jelly fish made out of plastic bags and fish made out of juice cans. They have won a £10 book voucher, SWT rucksacks and have also managed to secure some hedging plants for the school garden, Well done!
Camille Dressler.

ARISAIG
I hope there's a good turn-out on Tuesday night for the discussion on the proposals for Arisaig's Local Plan. This is something all areas of the Highlands are having to do, to shape their future for the next few years, so it's better to get as much input from local residents as possible. Do you remember the 'Planning for Real' exercise which preceded the last one?
M Namy seems to have some plans for Larrachmore Gardens, which certainly need a lot of TLC and management but not, we hope, too many changes. Part of its beauty and uniqueness lies in the wildness of it.
The yachts are all out of the water - and this year I didn't even notice it happen!
Last month we said our final sad goodbye to Marie MacPherson, who had been living down in Stockport with her family for some time, where she celebrated her 90th birthday in May this year.
There was a great Hallowe'en Party in the Hall last Saturday for the children, organised by the mums and some dads. I only saw the decorations and they were scary enough! I hear it was a tremendous success-but where are the photos?!
'Katie Morag' was a sell-out and I had to tell over forty people that the tickets had gone. Yet there were four empty seats because in the end four ticket holders didn't turn up. Eighty adults and children sat down to enjoy the songs and riddles and the really excellent acting of the Mull Theatre crew. Such a pity that the Eigg children didn't make it because of bad weather. The next play, on the 14th of this month, uses the Hall itself as the setting and main prop - it's about the caretaker of a run-down hall on the eve of his retirement (does this ring a bell for anyone??!) and is by the extremely funny crowd who did 'Who Bares Wins' last year. I hope a lot of folk who remember the solitary efforts of Tommy to keep the hall going before the renovation will come along to see how true to life it is!
The notice board is up, as I'm sure a lot of you have seen, though we still have teething troubles with condensation - this will be sorted eventually. The Hall Committee thank Derek and Angela Hardman, aka The Good Things of Arisaig, and all those who continue to buy the recipe book which is sold in aid of Hall funds for the latest donation of £800 towards the cost of the notice board.
Well, I'm sure a lot of people are waiting for a write-up of the Quiz held in the Arisaig Hotel last month, the first under its new management, because they've told me so! I wasn't there and have had no feedback as to teams, results, or winners, all of which seem to have faded into insignificance beside the commotion caused by some of the questions! It was no doubt meant as a bit of fun but a number of people were somewhat disconcerted and may be afraid to go back! Meanwhile by popular request there will be a quiz in Café Rhu this month, on Friday 25th - yes, it's the return of Malcy's Quiz Night! Hone those teams, sharpen those wits, and go on down!
Another way to keep the brain sharp is to go along to one of The Word evenings. They are very relaxed social occasions which give a chance to share some favourite things.
Ann Martin

JACOBITE SEASON ENDS IN STYLE
Friends and colleagues from the West Coast Railway Company gathered at Mallaig Railway Station on October 14th to celebrate a successful season of the Jacobite Steam Train Service. Train driver Frank Santrian - closely watched by many a beady-eyed seagull - was presented with a celebratory cake, dedicated to the 'Jacobite Team 2005' by Sonia Cameron from Mallaig. Frank was also presented with a miniature bottle of 'Mallaig Harbour Water' blended whisky by Robert MacMillan, and had a dedication played on Nevis Radio by Robert, which was relayed on to the Mallaig station platform. The song 'Wind Beneath My Wings' was performed by Paula MacAskill, Frank's favourite artist, and an enjoyable cabaret performance ensured that Haste ye Back was echoing around the hills of Mallaig as the Black 5 engine whistled its way from the port to the Fort. It has been a bumper season for the Jacobite steam service.
photo
Frank Santrian, Sonia and the Cake

RUM PRIMARY SCHOOL
An HM Inspectors' report on the five-pupil Rum Primary School has identified a range of strengths. The primary school was commended for: he very good behaviour and courtesy of the pupils; the very good progress made by some pupils in reading and aspects of mathematics; very supportive parents; links with the wider community and other schools in the area.
In this report, the Inspectors judged that most aspects of the work of the school represented good practice. They recognised the good performance in English language and mathematics and the good quality of teaching. The school accommodation and facilities were judged to be fair and the school and authority have been asked to address accommodation issues relating to staff facilities and playground improvements.
Councillor for the Small Isles area, Charles King, said: "I am delighted to see Rum Primary School getting such a good report and I congratulate all staff, pupils and parents."

HMS Pembroke entered Mallaig Harbour on 4th November to spend a few days in the port. On Saturday 5th November the Lochaber Sea Cadets will be given a tour of the 52 m, 450 tonne ship and on Monday 7th it is the turn of Mallaig High School pupils, who will visit the ship before it sets sail again with its 31 crew and 8 officers. HMS Pembroke

Vote for Dàimh!
This year our local band Dàimh are one of four groups nominated for the title of Scottish Folk Band of the Year Award in the 2005 Scots Trad Music awards. The voting period lasts from 1st November until 25th November and there are two ways you can cast your vote for James Bremner, Gabe MacVarish, Ross Martin, Angus Mackenzie and Colm O'Rua.
You can go to www.bbc.co.uk/celticroots and take part in the online vote. Please note there is only one vote per computer so if anyone else in the household wishes to vote they can download an additional form from the Hands Up For Trad website, www.handsupfortrad.co.uk which you then sent in by post.
There are 16 categories and you're bound to see some familiar names you would like to vote for in the other categories. Cliar is also up for the Folk Band of the Year; Blazin' Fiddles are in for Album of the Year and Blazin' in Beauly is nominated for Event of the Year along with Blas. Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham are up for Live Act of the Year, Skipinnish for Scottish Dance Band and Gary Innes from Spean Bridge is nominated for Up and Coming Artist. Donald Shaw of Capercaillie is in the Composer of the Year category.
The Award Ceremony will be held at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh at 7.30 pm on 3rd December and is quite an event in itself, hosted by Mary Ann Kennedy and Iain Anderson. Acts performing include Blazin' Fiddles, Kirkwall City Pipe Band and all the finalists of Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician Award. Tickets are £15 (£12 concession) available from the Queen's Hall or phone 0131 668 2019. Last year's event was a sell out. Spare a few moments - vote for your favourites!

FISHING NEWS
Robert Stevenson of the West of Scotland Fish Producers Association writes:

The seasonal sprat fishery got off to a flying start at Mallaig with approximately 900 units landed from the first night's work by two pair teams: Ocean Trust & Caralisa, and Margaret Ann II & Ocean Hunter. All the fish went to Scofish's Fraserburgh processing units for canning and freezing. Demand for herring and mackerel is good with the big pelagic vessels having exhausted their quotas for this year; however, there appears to be good marks of herring around the local haunts and quota is being sourced to allow these to be fished by the Mallaig boats. The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) published their annual advice on fish stocks for the coming year at the end of October. The West of Scotland nephrop stock was given a clean bill of health which should lead to an increased Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2006 but warned that effort on this fishery must not increase. At a meeting in Edinburgh on 28th October West Coast fishing representatives discussed several proposals for meeting this requirement with Scottish Executive officials and it was agreed that further consideration should be given to capping the days at sea allocation for vessels prosecuting this fishery.
The first meeting of the North Western Waters Regional Advisory Council took place at Dublin at the end of September and four Working Groups were formed to look at specific sub-areas including the West of Scotland area. The majority of the West of Scotland Working Group members are Scottish interests including the locally-based West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation and Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association. The Working Groups are due to meet on 8 November to discuss the recent ICES advice and set out their priorities for the 2006 fisheries negotiations.


Scottish Space School 2006 - Space Camp in Houston
Jeff Lawrie, a S5 student of Mallaig High School, is reaching for the stars with the news that he has been chosen to attend a once in a lifetime experience at the Scottish Space School 2006. The School will take place at the NASA Space Camp, Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas next year.
Jeff is a student of Careers Scotland Space School; a world-leading programme managed by Careers Scotland, the Scottish Executive and NASA. It is designed to increase participation and motivation of school students in science and technology and to help young people to understand how the subjects apply to real career choices.
50 pupils from schools across Scotland will attend one of two space camps in January and September 2006. The students have all successfully completed a programme of distance learning developed by NASA and summer workshops devised by Careers Scotland. The programme is designed to supplement studies in Higher Grade physics, chemistry, biology and maths. The camp aims to further develop the students' skills and knowledge in science, technology and enterprise.
The young people will spend ten days involved in a full timetable of space related learning activities including lectures and group work with NASA space cadets, astronauts and scientists. They will have the opportunity to visit the space shuttle, NASA laboratories and get a behind the scenes view of the world of space exploration.
Alex Blackwood, Head of Enterprise in Education at Careers Scotland - Scottish Enterprise said "The Scottish Space School is a unique programme for young people that gives them an extraordinary appreciation of the importance of science and education and a taste of the diverse career opportunities available to them. We look forward to Jeff joining us at the Scottish Space School 2006."
You can obtain further information by contacting the Careers Scotland Headquarters office in Inverness on 01463 244 547.
Adrian Stace and Becky McGhee are also students of the Space School and although they were not fortunate enough to get to NASA they will both be attending a residential workshop at Strathclyde and Glasgow University in June.


West Word - ten years ago
The first birthday edition of West Word - November 1995 - found Editor Jill de Fresnes seeking responses from West Word readers regarding the content of the paper. Her statement is as pertinent today (our 11th birthday) as it was back then: 'As a community paper it is essential that we try to make the paper open to your ideas or criticism and would therefore welcome any suggestions for change or content.'
Editor Jill 'went to town' on the front page story - Glasgow Herald's Jill Crawshaw's trip to the countryside, which was extremely critical of the area and how it welcomed tourists.
Cllr Charlie King informed that the pan-Highland Council would officially start up in April 1996 with John Hutchison as Lochaber's Area Manager, while Marine Harvest McConnel's new Hi-Tec fish farm in Lochailort was highlighted by Frances Murray. The same Frances Murray and fellow biologist Douglas Runcieman discussed global warming on the Environmental/Wildlife page and there was a page devoted to the new Ambulance Service.
Yon east coast chiel Robbie Shepherd recalled 'me old fruit' James Hepburn and the herring industry of the 70's in an article headed Mallaig Revisited, and a snippet that caught my eye was that...the Mayor of Morar was over in New York on a cultural visit…!!
Newlyweds James Henderson (Traigh) and Vicky Green were pictured after their wedding in Wigan and there was a profile of local muso Jim Hunter plus a review of his album 'Crack O'Noon Club' which was recorded at Lochaber's Watercolour Studio. Police Sergeant Andy McLean issued a timely warning on the danger of fireworks, and the Fine Art of Windsurfing off the Isle of Tiree was described by Roshven's Andrew Blackburn and Donald MacAuley (Dalilea).
As you would expect for the time of year the Hallowe'en Parades at various venues throughout the area were reported on. Fraser Coates as a 'Traffic Cone' won the Funniest Prize in the Under 5's at Mallaig, the Funniest in the 5-7 year old was Kelly Coull as 'Mystic Meg', while the Funniest in the 8+ were Lisa McLean and Catherine Young aka 'The All Weather Pitch Kids'. Mallaig's Heather Smith provided the first of a series of 'Letters from Guyana' explaining the background to the Raleigh International inspired trip to South America.
Sport was well represented by reports on Athletics, School Football, Fishing, Swimming Pool activities, Golf, Canoe Club and Gymnastics. Paul Galbraith , with more than a little help from David MacDonald, managed to explain the derivation of 'Tougal' - 'white side of the river estuary' -in his Place Names in the Rough Bounds series of articles.
Finally a question from a wee quiz headed What Do You Know… 'What is a fumarole?' I know you know it's 'the hole at the top of a volcano.'
Robert MacMillan


The Reverend George Baird 1917 - 2005
The death has occurred of the Reverend George Baird.
The Rev. Baird was a good friend to Mallaig, where he spent his formative years, and indeed to West Word as, over the past ten years or so he shared his recollections in his writings for the paper. He was a West Word subscriber and so looked forward to getting the monthly news.
The Rev Baird, who suffered from angina, passed away at his home in Motherwell on the 1st October at the grand age of 87, and I am grateful to his family who sent on the information to allow me to pen this small tribute to a remarkable man.
Born on the 14th December 1917 at Peterhead, George Wilson Baird was the second youngest of a family of four, and moved with his family to Mallaig where he completed his early schooling. Fort William was the scene of his Secondary Education and he had to take lodgings there during the week because it too far to travel on a daily basis. Graduating Master of Arts from Glasgow University in 1942, George married May Watt, and the newly weds were accepted by the Church of Scotland 'Huts and Canteens' organisation with George serving as a Chaplain in Shetland.
A period as Assistant Minister at Cromdale (Abernethy) preceded his ordination and induction to a first charge at Kirkmichael in February 1944. In the early 50's George was called to minister at St Mungo's Church near Lockerbie, and it was during this time that George hired a whole train to transport several hundred people to the Billy Graham rallies in Glasgow. It must have been an incredible sight as the train left Lockerbie - George Baird in the midst of the crowds, mouth organ in hand, leading the singing of hymns and choruses!
Five years later George was translated to Motherwell, St Andrew's, and then from 1972, he spent twelve years as Minister at Crimond (linked with St Fergus) before his retrial back to Motherwell in May 1984 to be near his family. However he continued to be active in the Church via Locum Work and Pulpit Supply, and also visiting Residential Care Homes and the likes bringing God's Words and Works wherever he went.
There was sadness in the year 2000 when his wife May died, but two events last year especially cheered George's heart. In February 2004, the Presbytery of Motherwell/St Andrew's recognised the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament; then twelve months ago George was honoured at a special dinner to mark the Centenary celebrations of St Andrew's Church being opened for Christian worship.
The Rev. Baird visited Mallaig this past summer and I was pleased to meet him as he talked so enthusiastically about the area. His recollections of growing up in Mallaig were so vivid. I never talked to him again, although I did receive a letter from him dated 30th September - the day before his unexpected death - the last ever letter of a lifetime of writings by the Rev. George Wilson Baird.
He penned a personal memoir, printed here, following what turned out to be his last ever visit - the concluding chapter in the Rev. Baird story!
The sympathy of the community is extended to his family; George, Mary, Alex and David, their spouses, children and grandchildren, in their sad loss.
Robert MacMillan

By Ailort and Loch Morar
A holiday in Locheilside this summer (2005) brought all back to mind. For 20 of my earliest years, my home was in Mallaig. I had been many times along the way by rail and road. I had been 3 years in Fort William High School, with lodgings there, then 7 years at Glasgow University in Arts and Divinity. In more recent years, my wife May and I, with family members, holidayed in Mallaig. The herring trade and the white fish trade were booming in the 20's and early 30's. A train of kipper-wagons left in the early morning, but there were a few coaches added for passengers. The engine puffed and groaned, pulling this great weight up the gradient at Beasdale and Lochailort. Sometimes it stopped to get up steam, sometimes it had the help of another engine.
Going home, the sights along the way never ceased to bring delight. On one side high mountains, on the other foaming burns. Majestic was the sweeping curve of the viaduct at Glenfinnan. Prince Charlie's monument marking the site where he landed in 1745, seeking to regain the British throne for the Stuarts. In schools and at Mods we sang our Jacobite songs in praise of the prince. In half a dozen tunnels, we were plunged into darkness. How thrilling the first glimpse of the sea, with the isles of Eigg, Rum and then Skye.
Borrodale has memories for me. In May 1936, I failed my French for my MA degree. There was a French teacher, Alistair Grant, at Borrodale, and Dad arranged for me to get tuition from him. I cycled 9 miles out there all summer, on a Monday. I passed my resit in Glasgow in the autumn. A more recent memory of that part. My wife May and I, with a son and his wife, were on the way home from a holiday at Mallaig. At Borrodale, the road goes under the railway. A high van had got stuck there. With other cars, we were held up a good while, until the recovery truck came and pulled the van out.
We loitered by the white sands of Morar when we were motoring, and later went for picnics. We glimpsed the Morar Falls to which, as children, we had walked with our folks, getting a glass of milk at a farm nearby. Everybody went to Morar Highland Games on the first Monday in August. It was great watching the competitions, racing, jumping, tug-of-war, tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, piping and dancing. Along the line-side to Morar, I picked up many a basket of brambles for my mother to make her jam.
And so to Mallaig, smelly, smoky, busy, as it was then, a dear home town to me, where I spent many happy days.
George W. Baird


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