Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
October 2003 Issue
Contents of the online version:
MOVES TO BRING UIST FERRY LINK TO MALLAIG
Concerted efforts are being made in Mallaig to re-introduce the ferry links to the Outer Isles. Caledonian MacBrayne plan a new linkspan for Oban to augment the town’s current Outer Isles’ connections but are meeting strong opposition from local fishermen and pier users who are concerned they will lose crucial berthing space if the new linkspan is installed.
Mallaig Community Council Chairman Alistair Gillies said ‘If Oban don’t want the ferry, we’d be very happy for it to come here. With the fishing industry in decline, we need to encourage extra income and this would be a welcome boost to this area.’
Mallaig Community Council has been in contact with Uist businessmen and the island’s Councillor MacKinnon, who are also keen for the ferry link to come to Mallaig, pledging their support for such a move.
Modern loading and unloading facilities are already available in Mallaig and the ferry would provide a more convenient, time-saving service for traffic from the Outer Isles, giving easier access to the east coast and the Central Belt, once the last stretch of the A830 has been upgraded.
An overnight summer-only ferry between Lochboisdale and Mallaig was withdrawn because of lack of use, but it ran at an inconvenient time. The proposed ferry would have a day time-table which would suit both business traffic and tourists.
Councillor King and Mallaig Harbour Authority are fully supportive of the campaign.
MALLAIG VILLAGE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS
People living in the Mallaig area invited to have their say on environmental improvements in their area. To find out more and to voice opinion, locals are invited to attend the Mallaig Environmental Improvements Consultation Evening to be held on Wednesday 8th October from 4-8pm in the Mallaig and Morar Community Centre and aims to invite comments from local people on a series of initial proposals that have developed through consultation with Mallaig Community Council.
The public are invited to come along to view the proposal displays and give their opinions and suggestions. Officers from The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service will be present to discuss any aspects of the project with those who wish to attend. The main aim of the project will be to create a series of accessible and attractive open spaces for both local people and visitors to enjoy and it is hoped that contributions from other agencies will be available to supplement the funds from the Community Council and Highland Council’s Planning & Development Service.
Local Highland Councillor, Charlie King said: ‘This is an exciting development, and a very worthwhile project which will bring colour into the village.’
VEHICLE PERMITS FOR SMALL ISLES
As from Monday 3rd October, 2003, only vehicles displaying a permit, and certain essential vehicles, will be permitted to drive on specified roads on Eigg, Muck and Knoydart. Permits will be available, from the Mallaig Service Point, to residents whose vehicle are registered or ordinarily kept on Muck, Eigg or Knoydart, and single permits will be available to non resident owners of residential accommodation on Knoydart.
The move has been made under the Highland Council Small Isles and Knoydart (Prohibition of Traffic) Order 2003 and has been brought in to place to safeguard the fragile road structure of the roads, which are built on peat and cannot withstand a great deal of traffic. With the new piers accessible by car ferry, there were concerns that numbers of visitors would attempt to take their vehicles to the islands and Knoydart.
The residents will have a permit disk issued annually, while on Knoydart holiday homes will have one permitted vehicle per home, to be kept on Knoydart.
A copy of the Order, together with a copy of the relevant plans can be inspected at the Service Point, Lochaber House, High Street, Fort William, the Service Point, Mallaig on weekdays during office hours and at Eigg Tearoom/General Store, the offices of the Knoydart Foundation and Muck Primary School.
What a day…Coll’s day. The Knoydart community rallied together in a way rarely seen, with everybody involved in one way or another.
Saturday 27th September dawned calm and clear as the four runners gathered outside the Pier House. A projected 0815 start was delayed for an hour, as the transport which had been sent to pick up Toby (Coll’s dad and one of the runners) broke down at Glaschoille Loch, causing Lorna to have to dash down the road to borrow alternative means of travel. Eventually, at 0915, somebody said “I suppose we might as well go then…” – and Toby, Drew, Iain and myself headed off to the first of the 20-mile course incorporating three Munros. A huge support team, then swung into action, with representatives of both Glen Coe and Oban Mountain Rescue Teams, as well as locals, manning various waypoints en route. We have to pick out Drew for keeping us entertained with tunes as varied as Auld Lang Syne and the Portree Kid; Toby for never letting up with the pacesetting, and Iain for wearing the scariest pair of running shorts seen for at least two decades. And next year there’s a distinct possibility of repeating the event with Vaseline as main sponsors…!
By mid-afternoon the swimmers were setting off from Mallaig, in an attempt to swim all the way to Inverie in relay. Grant was the first to dive in (despite everyone taking bets on the size of Bobby’s splash), and set a fine pace for the others. Support was provided by Mark Woombs in his famous RIB (he’s not fussed about being called Dr, apparently), as well as the Spanish John II – many thanks to the Milligans for their time as well as transport. Sandy proved the hero towards the end, gritting his teeth and beating a life-long aversion to the sea.
As the runners were descending Meall Buidhe at the back of 5pm, we could see the Spanish in the middle of Loch Nevis, and quickly got on the radio. On being informed that they were about an hour from home, it was collectively decided to get down as quickly (yet safely) as possible. And what a sight as we entered the village – we could see Bobby being handed a towel, Sandy climbing up the Pier Steps, a crowd of Knoydartians you would not believe lining the road and pier….there was no choice. Despite someone muttering “no…the pub..!”, we turned left and jogged down to meet the swimmers, who couldn’t quite believe that we had all arrived with such perfect timing. Half an hour later, another swimmer was welcomed to the pier – Morag Hughes, who had swum solo from Mallaig – after a morning in Loch Lomond!
Over £8000 has been raised so far, with contributors ranging from “home grown,” to regular visitors, to friends of friends of friends. In an excellent speech during the (storming) ceilidh that night, Katherine outlined what the money would be used for, with an emphasis on the intensive tutoring which will help Coll “out of his shell”. If you want to find out more about Coll and his fundraising, you can still visit http://home.clara.net/joinerscroft/index.htm
No such thing as community spirit? Saturday showed that, with the right motivation, it is possible to get every single resident of a community involved in an event – young and old, long- and short-time residents, holiday-home owners and weekend visitors. It also proved that it doesn’t really matter how long you’ve lived in a place, who you get on with, or how sociable you may be – you can still contribute towards making a place a very special area indeed.
Even the Campbells donated a few eggs to the cause…
ISLE OF RUM
September has seen considerable comings and goings. Firstly Richard Talbot, the new mechanic, arrived, his wife Fiona and children Iain and Eilidh will be arriving at half term. Rhodri Evans (the reserve manager), his partner Jud and their daughter Catrin left to go and live on Uist. Rhodri will be sadly missed for many reasons but mostly for the positive contribution he made toward community development here. We believe the post of reserve manager will be advertised soon, anyone interested should seek immediate professional help. In the meantime SNH have sent an interim manager, Peter Voy, to co-ordinate the organised chaos which makes up a usual working week, not an easy job.
The new pier and slipway on Rum has finally been finished and Lochnevis has been over twice to try it out. Everything went relatively smoothly, which is a first, as we were beginning to believe that the whole project was cursed. All things being well the ferry should begin to use the slip from the end of the month which will be a great novelty for passengers to Rum. Unfortunately, the freight arrangements have still not been finalised, and we are currently waiting with baited breath to see what Calmac intend to do.
The Community Association have submitted a planning application (outline) for the new shop, tearoom and adjacent house, this has been much delayed due to various reasons but we’re hoping we can finally begin building next year. This will be the first project to come out of our Village Development Plan, being finalised by Mandy Ketchin of Muck.
This Stalking season has seen stalking guests on Rum for the first time in at least 20 years. Derek Thomson (resident Stalker) has put significant effort into creating the Rum Deer Management Association and is contracted to carry out part of the annual deer cull on Rum. We wish Derek every success with this venture, which is assured of its success assuming, of course, that SNH leave some deer for him to shoot.
We recently heard on the grapevine that the Educational Authority were under the impression that some of the parents on Rum were not fully in support of the proposed hostel for the Small Isles and Knoydart children. We would like to use this column to say that everyone on Rum is completely supportive of the hostel, we will need it as much as everyone else on the islands and are sorry that the education authority got the wrong impression.
Finally, we were all saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Bryan Walters, our thoughts are with Clare and her family during this sad time.
Kinloch Castle was pipped at the post in BBC’s Restoration programme. It is a great pity a larger proportion of the programme was not devoted to the more positive (and accurate) aspects of the Castle's history, such as the magnificent gesture by George Bullough (as he was at the time) of loaning and fully equipping his steam yacht Rhouma as a hospital ship at Cape Town during the Boer War. He even, at his own expense, ensured that the services of a doctor and nursing staff were available on board. The highly coloured tales of life at the Castle are inaccurate but have been fed to visitors and residents of Rum for years.
Many of the deer shot on Rum were sent down to Accrington to help feed poor families and children. The Rum Deer Forest was properly managed, it had to be it is an island. There is nowhere for the animals to go if their numbers are not controlled, the suffering of starvation is not pleasant. Also many rabbits, shot on mainland estates, were likewise sent to feed needy families in Accrington. (Records in the Rum Deer Forest Game Books).
Lady Bullough formed between December 1905 and February 1906 the Accrington Relief Committee which implemented the distribution of "3,401 lbs. of best beef, 5,352 lbs. of bread and fifty pheasants to 3,805 poor, sick and needy persons, besides 450 Christmas presents for the children."
The Howard & Bullough Globe Works employed over 6,000 people and although closed since the early 1990's, what remains of the building is today, as The Globe Centre, is very much a great asset in educating and training young people in hotel management and other careers with its links to the local college through an imaginative scheme with the Borough Council. In Accrington too, Howard & Bullough were responsible for setting up the local Technical College, a breeding ground for many engineers and related trades. Very important and long lasting benefits to this Lancashire town and its area, which sent forth many skilled craftsmen, and no doubt women. 300 of whom were used in the actual construction of Kinloch Castle.
Tom Bullough, Sir George's uncle, owned an estate in the Oban area. He gifted his home overlooking Oban Bay, Benvillin House, to the County of Argyll in 1909 to be used as a local sanatorium for the treatment of hundred of patients suffering from the dreaded sickness, pulmonary tuberculosis, this long before such facilities were more widely available. Sir George and his half-brother John 'Ion', who succeded him, were Masters of the Ledbury Hunt for many years in the early 1900's.
Sir George and Lady Bullough's associations with Newmarket spanned well over fifty years. They had a magnificent house built in the town, (Warren Hill), in 1928, in which Lady Bullough lived until her death in 1967. (Sir George died in 1939). The Bulloughs had over one hundred horses in training during their quarter century as followers of the turf. The principal trainer was Jack (later Sir Jack) Jarvis at Park Lodge Newmarket.
The list goes on............................
However, the greatest visible legacy to the world is the island of Rum itself and Kinloch Castle! Sold in 1957 by Lady Bullough at the peppercorn price of £23,000. Some of the geology of the island is found nowhere else on earth, for example Harrisite (or Moonstone), found only on the Moon. (Samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts).
The island has won many accolades and is a world class national nature reserve!
And, of course, Kinloch Castle. A unique time capsule of the late Victorian and Edwardian era. To the larger part intact, untouched and original. Offering a first hand insight into the lifestyle of the Highland Hunting Lodge of the period it represents. Many well known families followed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the acquisition of a Highland estate: Jesse Boot (Boots the Chemists), James Coats (Coats Cotton Thread) and the Wills family (W.D. & H.O. Wills, Tobacco Merchants), who subsequently owned Meggernie Castle and estate in Glen Lyon. (Meggernie was purchased by Sir George Bullough's father prior to his purchase of Rum and left to John 'Ion' Bullough).
George W Randall, Co-founder and Vice Chairman, Kinloch Castle Friends Association.
Stuart Grant MacNaughton
On the 23rd August 2003, Stuart MacNaughton died in Cumbria at the age of 83.
He is survived by his brother Robert, who describes himself as the last remaining native of the Isle of Rum.
In 1914, Stuart’s father Duncan moved with his family to Rum in answer to an advertisement in the Scotsman for a Gamekeeper/Stalker. He and his wife and daughter settled into Bay View Cottage on Rum and began an association with the island which was to last more than fifty years.
Stuart was born on Rum in 1920 and remembered the Bulloughs with much affection.
In an interview with Stephen Frankland and George Randall of the Kinloch Castle Friends Association and printed one of the Association’s newsletters at the end of last year, Stuart shared his memories of what the island was like in his young days.
The roads were in very good condition, and the garden was immaculate, with a walled garden full of vegetables to which the Estate employees had access, and tropical fruits in the greenhouses. Alligators and turtles were kept in tanks in the glasshouses.
One of the regular visitors Stuart recalled as ‘Billy Bass’, who came every year and stalked every day he was on the island, was Sir William Bass, of the Bass brewing family. He was a great racing man and, like Sir George Bullough, was a member of the Jockey Club. The south-west Castle bedroom is named after him. The shop was started during World War II. There had always been a Post Office, since about 1900, but it sold only bread. The shop was run by Jessie Smith, who married Rum’s first Warden/Naturalist, Peter Wormell. One of the island’s boats, the Golden Myth, made two journeys a week to Mallaig for groceries, during the stalking season, skippered by Bob Morrison, who was employed as engineer and blacksmith.
Stuart’s brother George served as Under Keeper to his father and later became Warden for the Nature Conservancy Council when they acquired the island in 1957.
Both Stuart and Robert enjoyed receiving the Friends’ newsletters and keeping in touch with the island.
Our thanks to the Kinloch Castle Friends Association for the above information. There is always plenty of interesting articles and photographs about the Bulloughs and Rum in their regular newsletters. Membership costs £12 per annum and more details can be got from the Secretary, 7 Plewlandcroft, South Queensferry, West Lothian, EH30 9RG, tel. 0131 331 2565.
ISLE OF EIGG
Stacks of bramble jelly and jam are now comfortably lining our shelves, such have been September’s rich pickings in this warm end of summer.
In between picking and jam making, it has also been a busy month for island networking, as I travelled to the Aran Islands in the West of Ireland to attend the European Small Island Network (ESIN) 3rd conference, representing Eigg as part of the Portree based Scottish Island Network. ESIN brings together several island networks from Sweden, Denmark, France (Brittany), Scotland, Finland and now Greece as well.
The conference was a very enjoyable event, which took all participants on a tour of the three Aran islands, which are remarkable by the way their inhabitants turned the infertile limestone ground into a myriad of seaweed and sand patches enclosed by miles of stonewalling. Visits were made to the pioneering Waste recycling plant for the 3 islands (all restaurants and homes food waste is turned into rich compost through an anaerobic digester saving money and landfill space), the wind powered de-salination plant that provides drinking water for Inis Meain, the factory turned into art centre on Inis Oirr and historic sites such as Dun Aonghusa, the largest Bronze age fort in Europe. It was impressive to see how the islanders were using their natural and cultural resources to develop their economy: a lot is done through local Development co-operatives. It was also impressive to be in such a strong Gaeltachd area : a thorough immersion course in Irish Gaelic!
Since my first and last trip to Ireland took place some 25 years ago, the general air of prosperity due to the influx of Objective One money was pretty self-evident, especially in the huge size of newly built houses. One wonders what would have happened to Highland housing in similar amounts of European money had been accessed!
It soon became strikingly obvious that prosperity was also due to the positive attitude of the Irish Government towards its island populations. The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltachd Affairs, Eamon O’Cuiv spelt it out when he recognised that islands had a special way of life but deserved the same rights as mainland areas in respect of electricity, roads, waste disposal, education, social and cultural provisions, so that economic development could take place and island life remain attractive to young people.
The question of electricity provision was a good point, and the Minister stressed that his government would never agree to privatise public utilities the way Britain had. On the contrary, they made a point of providing mainland electricity to all islands close enough to the mainland, and 24 hours generator power to the others, with alternative power feeding in the grid wherever possible. This is a commitment we can only dream of over here!
Regarding access, The Irish Government also has a very different attitude to subsidies for ferry services. Whereas here the subsidy goes to Caledonian MacBraynes exclusively, in Ireland, it goes to a variety of island businesses which provide passenger and cargo services, and are island based. This goes a long way to contributing to the well being of the islands. When I saw the custom built Seacat newly delivered from French shipyards thanks to European subsidy which takes about a thousand passengers daily to Inishmore, I thought of Arisaig Marine and its vain attempts to persuade the powers that be that this type of modern vessels was the way to go: small, fast and reliable. Having access to the mainland twice a day, as happens on all Irish Islands no matter what size or population, would greatly enhance economic opportunities and may certainly help increase population numbers to the level enjoyed by Irish islands: 300 people on Inis Oirr, an island the size of Muck, with its own secondary school and doctor.
Statutory measures taken to reduce cost of living on the islands include cheaper tax and insurance for cars that are island bound, giving a 12.70 euros weekly allowance to island pensioners, and also having a dedicated island fund to be used on a discretionary basis to improve infrastructure for the Islands.
Folks might say :hang on a minute, surely you Small Isles people should not complain after all this government money has been spent on your piers and ferry. Well, yes, but it would have been more satisfying if the money had been spent more wisely to provide a more flexible ferry service that allowed for instance our children to come home every weekend , without having to build enormous piers which will probably not even be usable in certain weather conditions. Cal Mac should learn the lesson of their recent PR disaster and show more willingness in using the result of public consultation instead of disregarding it when it does not fit in their development plans.
It is be hoped with the ESIN network that with the Irish European presidency starting in January, there will be better opportunities to promote islands economic needs and at least obtain a change in the definition of small islands as having a minimum of 50 inhabitants, which would leave out a great many islands in the network!
In the meantime, Eigg is scheduled to be the host for the 4th Esin Conference next September, quite a challenge to meet the level of hospitality we received in Ireland. I am sure we will rise to the challenge, especially with a little help from our Small Isles neighbours. What is going to be particularly interesting is that the network now has its own youth group: it will be great for our young ones in the Small Isles to be able to meet youngsters of their own age and exchange experiences of island life.
At the end of the day, as Eamon O’ Cuiv reminded us all, our biggest challenge is really to make sure that island life remain sufficiently attractive for our youngsters if we want to keep our small islands alive. The tragic accident suffered by Brian Walters, who devoted his life to make the Isle of Muck a good place to live, reminds us all too well that our small island communities are very fragile and need strong, committed people like him to keep them alive. He certainly was an example and an inspiration for the younger generations on his island and beyond. We will miss him very much and offer our deepest heartfelt sympathies to his family and all the Muchanach.
September birthdays on Eigg, Happy 91 birthday to Dougald MacKinnon, Bayview, happy birthday to Colin and Frances Carr, Ewen Kirk.
People have been asking what is happening with the History Society, An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig. The committee have decided to focus on two main projects, which you will be hearing more about over the winter; a collection of old photographs for a book or exhibition, and the recording of the gravestones in the cemetery. The numbers of people attending meetings last year fell drastically and it’s not fair to get speakers to come from far afield to talk to half a dozen folk! So this winter it is planned to mix informal meetings with the talks.
October’s meeting will also be the AGM and will be in Elizabeth and Allan’s house, (unless vast numbers indicate they wish to come!) on Wednesday 15th October. November’s meeting will be in the Hall on Wednesday 12th and there will be a speaker on the Graveyard Recording Project. Recording forms of the stones in Kilmory cemetery are being completed and help has been sought from a few knowledgeable locals on who was who etc. All this information will be discussed at this meeting which should prove very interesting.
The photographic project is more ambitious and will take time to complete. People with old photographs will be asked to lend them to An Comunn for copying and the result will be exhibited and hopefully put into a book. Funding will have to be sought for this.
If anyone wants to come along on the 15th, please let Elizabeth know.
‘Soccer 7’s’ is starting up again at the end of the month. Every week for 6 weeks the Primary School and S1 pupils will get some football training at the Arisaig Pitch, for £1 a session.
By the way, I can support the claims of the Credit Union for providing a loan when needed (Letters page). How else could I have afforded my ‘new’ car?
Many people in Arisaig were shocked by the loss of Bryan Walters. His family, Clare, Ishy, Emma and Marcus, and his wider family of the Muck residents have been much in our thoughts. Bryan was in Arisaig most weeks, landing his catch, and he spent a month here each year to paint the boat, staying at his ’second home’ with Donald and Eileen. We shall greatly miss his quiet, gentlemanly manner and his sense of humour. And all those island ceilidh-goers will attest that he was also a splendid dancer…
Canoeing - Torrin 30th and 31st August 2003
The penultimate club meeting of the Summer season has over the last few years been to Torrin in Skye. The village of Torrin sits on the shores of Loch Slapin in the shadow of Blaven. The Outdoor Centre there provides an ideal venue for a group of kayakers, and being able to sit round a table in convivial companionship to eat our evening meal makes a pleasant change from crouching in tents sheltering from the dreaded midge!
The other villain of the piece in this otherwise idyllic setting is of course the weather! Sitting as it does amidst the Cuillin Mountains, Torrin catches every raindrop that is about, and the gusts of wind which funnel down the deep valleys can make for unsettled conditions on the water.
The weekend before we were due at Torrin was perfect; blue skies, calm sparkling seas and warm. Sod's Law, there couldn't be two consecutive good weekends could there?
In any event, 19 paddlers gathered at Torrin on Friday 29th August with the wind blowing hard from the north east. Members and friends had come from all airts and there was a great mix of age and experience among the assembled company to be considered as plans were made for the next day's paddling. It was decided that, taking account of wind direction and force and in order to accommodate everyone, we would drive to Loch Caroy about 10 km south of Dunvegan and paddle one way to Bracadale at the mouth of Loch Harport, a distance of about 15 km, hopefully sheltered from the north wind! This plan gave us scope to explore the islands of Loch Bracadale if the weather was kind and for those who wanted a more leisurely trip to hug the shore the whole way round. After a lunch eaten on the raised beach separating the Isle of Oronsay from Ullinish Point, we split into two groups, one rounding the point to explore the cliffs on the southern shores of the loch and the other to circumnavigate the island of Wiay. The highlight of being a member of this group was exploring Geodha nan Foachag, an impressive sea cave on the south end of the island. Luckily this coastline of impressive cliffs was sheltered from the freshening wind and we were able to paddle right into the depths of the cave. Tiny starfish clung to the walls among sea anemones of the most amazing colours. It is truly an awesome experience exploring these geodhas in a kayak with every sound echoing back from the cathedral like walls and the sea making unearthly noises as it meets and rebounds from the unseen end of the cave.
After meeting up with the other paddlers at Bracadale, it was back to Torrin (via the Sligahan Hotel!) for spaghetti Bolognaise and a huddle round the maps to make plans for Sunday!
Sunday dawned with more in the way of wind and heavy showers which dampened the spirits somewhat. The plan hatched the night before was to drive to Elgol and paddle round the Isle of Soay. However, conditions made this a non starter, and instead we planned to paddle from Torrin itself round to Heist in Loch Eishort. Some members of the party opted to spend the day walking, so 11 paddlers set off towards Suisnish Point in sunshine, diminishing winds and rising spirits! The plan was to picnic at the first suitable beach on the north shore of Loch Eishort. However when we rounded Suisnish Point, the sun was shining on Ord, a pretty little hamlet on the south shore of the loch, so it was decided to cross the mouth of the loch and lunch there. On leaving the shelter of the Point we encountered a fresh side wind funnelling down Loch Eishort which made the crossing hard work. However, we made landfall in good time to enjoy our lunch by the side of a stream with magnificent views across to the Cuillins. Suitably refreshed, we set off again on the last leg of our trip to Heist, a distance of about 6 km.
Having met up with the walkers at a hostelry in Broadford we chewed over the experiences of the day on land and sea, before setting off either to catch the last ferry to Mallaig or cross the bridge.
No, the weather hadn't been as perfect as the weekend before, but compared to the biblical storms and floods we have encountered in previous years at Torrin, it was positively idyllic! But the real success of the weekend was the companionship experienced among old and new friends sharing in a sport that allows unique access to the beauty and marvels of the Scottish coastline and its wildlife. I am sure that, as Autumn turns to winter, many paddling plans will be hatched over a quiet pint in front of a blazing fire - roll on the Spring!
What the Papers are saying …
The Press & Journal. 1st April, 2009
The Road to no Smiles
From our Community Correspondent Penny Pincher
Following the opening of the final section of the new A830 road from Loch na n Uamh to Arisaig by First Minister of the Scottish Executive, Billy Connolly, last month there have been angry protests in Arisaig over the two collisions and fourteen near-accidents at the Beasdale and Borrodale railway bridges. Harry Oak, of Scottish Natural Heritage, said that he was particularly disturbed by the deaths of two badgers, four otters, a grass snake, a stag, four house sparrows and six hens, caused by the speeding traffic on the straightened sections. In one incident involving a tractor carrying hay and a fish lorry, the road was closed for seven hours and no trains were allowed to pass over the Beasdale Bridge, causing rail chaos between Mallaig and Crianlarich. “Many local residents had of course predicted such problems even before the work on the stretch of road had begun,” Community Council Chairman, Bill Henderson told me, “but we raised our voices in vain. Now we have ended up with a second rate road at the first rate price of £9.5M.” Off the Rails
In a new development yesterday, Scotland’s Network Rail boss, Gillian Golightly, announced that she regretted that the railway service between Fort William and Mallaig would close on the 31st May. She said that with a hundred-year old track in rugged terrain, showing its age and requiring so much expensive maintenance it had become an unviable line, especially in view of the fact that the upgraded road between Fort William and Mallaig meant that the railway had been made redundant. She hoped that a private consortium made up of steam train buffs, LEC and tourism bodies, might be formed to purchase the line and run a summer service for tourists, similar to the Spey Valley Railway, but there was no guarantee that the enormous sum of money required for this would be forthcoming.
So the problems of the A830 seem likely to continue, even after the expenditure of millions of pounds. But this simply continues the pattern established by the new Holyrood Parliament building, which it is now hoped will open in 2011 at a final cost of £800M.
Feis na Mini Mara
Held in Mallaig over Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th October, highlights included Jim Hunter and Jim Michie, Harem Scarem, Zooba, Meantime, Hoogie and Daimh, with day time fun art and music workshops and free afternoon concerts. There is also a Gaelic Fun Day at Mallaig Primary school.
Coastal Ranger Report
I left you last month full of the joys of holidays. Well I’ve had it! Somehow the first week of the month, complete with it’s great weather, disappeared in a flash (as, I must admit, did a few golf balls!) but no doubt Ireland will be the better of it. Anyway, we all had a great time, and are already looking forward to next year’s trip.
Despite being on holiday at the start of the month, September has been very busy for me. All the walks have been very well attended, surprisingly so for this time of year, with everyone seemingly enjoying their forays into the unknown (bogs, ticks etc!) with some folk even coming for repeat doses. It is nice to see some visitors extending their stay just to join me in further walks, it makes me feel that the job is worth while, and does in fact do a tiny bit for the local economy. September too saw my first meeting with the new Ranger (Iain Fleming) in Knoydart. Iain is not employed by the Highland Council as I am, but his duties are much the same, or at least that is what we figured when we met, as it seems that his “Job Description” is as vague as mine, and we are just left to get on with it as best we can! As always, any input (constructive only!) from the public is very welcome, and I’m sure that Iain would be as delighted as I am to get some nice new ideas. Already he has come up with the idea of having descriptive informative panels situated at vantage points on each of the estates that our combined areas cover, and although neither of us has yet looked into the possibility of funding for such a project, it would seem to be a worth while exercise.
I had a meeting on the 24th. with the “Area Access Project” Manager (don’t all the capitals make it look really imposing, but it is only my old boss!) to discuss various ways of improving/increasing the local path network in my area. This can be simply by signposting or with panel maps, or in extreme circumstances could even mean construction of new routes (what about a built path all the way to Loch an Nostarie?!?). Although the latter is most unlikely due to cost, nevertheless, should any of you readers know of a path that you think should be developed, please get in touch as soon as you can, because, as ever, the funding is not, or will not be, bottomless, and is likely to be a case of “first come first served”.
For the last week the month, I am joined with a pupil from Mallaig High School for some work experience. At time of writing all is going well, and we have already done some brief map and compass work as well as getting a good soaking on the way to Loch Eireagoraidh whilst marking the sites for the long overdue way-markers (which still remain far too heavy for me to carry!) Tomorrow, the last day of the month sees us embarking on the final walk of the scheduled programme, “Kinlochmoidart and the Plate Rock”, so I’m hoping, but not expecting due to the weather, a final few daring punters. Although this is the last one on the programme, I would still like to see any groups (more than three) that fancy a stroll, getting in touch to arrange something. As always, the friendly voice on the answering machine will be delighted to accept your call, so just get dialling 01687 462 983 and state your fancy!
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) - The Painting: ‘Meeting the Post’
In Arisaig House, there is a beautiful painting done by H. T. Wells of a scene on Loch Eilt of a postman, Donald MacDonald of Achraig, delivering mail to two boats on the shore, at the end of Loch Eilt where the river Ailort flows to the sea. The painting was a present to Gertrude Astley (1849 - 1920) from her sisters Beatrice (Mrs Cheetham) and Conny, on the occasion of her wedding in 1883 to SrArthur Nicholson (1852 - 1932).
Depicted in the scene are 8 people, very recognisable, such is the clarity of the picture. They are:
Donald MacDonald, Achraig, a small Arisaig village between Kinloid and Achnskia which no longer exists. The new section of the A830 Arisaig By-pass runs through the middle of where the village used to be. In 1841 there were 6 families consisting of 26 people, in 1881, 4 families of 11 people, and in the 1891 Census. Achraig is not mentioned. In the picture, Donald is the horseman delivering mail.
Next is a boy, unnamed, with red h air, aged about 11 years, sitting on the bow of the boat, feet in the water.
Next is F. D. P. Astley (1825 - 68), proprietor of Arisaig Estate, sitting.
Sir John Millais, famous Pre-Raphaelite artist, is standing next to F. D. P.
Sitting in the boat with his back to the scene is John MacDonald progenitor of the Tigh na Mara family of Arisaig and my own great-grandfather.
Donald MacDonald is next and he was the Captain of F.D.P.’s steam yacht, which John MacDonald crewed round the world at least once.
Duncan MacRae is sitting holding a magnificent sea-trout, probably about 10-12 lbs (5kg) in weight.
Standing in the boat, holding a landing net is Sir Harry Halford, the founder of the Halford Stores Group.
Wearing a bowler hat is Angus MacDonald, Water Bailiff at Arieniskil and father of Donald the yacht captain.
Sitting in the stern of the boat is Mr Henry Evans, engrossed in a book and not showing any interest in the proceedings. Can anyone identify who Mr Evans was?
Some notes and genealogy:
Donald MacDonald of Achraig’s grand-daughter X, whose name I haven’t yet found, and her sister Y, again nameless, were married and lived in Borrodale. X was married to William Grant, manager of Arisaig Estate before WWII, and their son alex Grant was a teacher in Fort William. Y was married to William Goldsburgh, valet and butler to Sir Arthur Nicholson, proprietor of Arisaig Estate after marriage to Gertrude Astley.
The ‘boy’ could possibly be Colin MacRae, son of Duncan, as they both have red hair, and are in the same boat. Duncan was grandfather to Mary Dempster, née MacPherson, and great grandfather of the Dempster family of Arisaig. It is a family belief that Colin became a Professor and went off to live in France.
Duncan was married to Mary Isabella Gillies of Scammadale, known as ‘Mary Loin Scammadale’ and they had a daughter Isabella Mary, who married John MacPherson from Glenuig, and they had four children:
(1) Donald MacPherson who married Annie MacDonald daughter of Sheamus Ruadh and Sarah Tipping, one time of Beasdale, and they had a son Philip;
(2) William MacPherson who died young;
(3) Mary, who married Findlay Dempster and had ten children; Isabella Mary, Catherine, Donald John, Findlay, Mena, Mary Ellen, Morag Anne, Jean and Robert.
(4) was Angus MacPherson, Angus ‘Para’ to give him his patronymic, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1973. He attended a cattle sale in Corpach and sold beasts belonging to him and neighbours, left the Auctioneer’s Office and was never seen again.
The latest female to carry the name , Mairi Isabella, is a daughter of Donald John Dempster, five generations of naming tradition.
On a future article we will have a look at this MacPherson family of Glenuig and when West Word gets a new printer I will try to get a picture of the painting into it.
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 )
Return to Active Service, 1916
By February 1916 Charles Lyons had, officially at least, recovered from his wound. He was, by then, serving with the 3rd Camerons at Invergordon and had been warned that he was going to be in the next draft for the front.
However, on 22nd February, he overstayed his leave pass by over 2 days and was sentenced to 7 days Field Punishment No.2 (Drill in full pack and equipment) and deprived of 12 days’ pay. It will never be known what caused him to do this but there was to be no escape from the inevitable: he was posted to France on 28th February, and embarked at Folkestone on 1st. March 1916.
By 10th March, he had rejoined the 5th Camerons but, two days later, he was taken ill with pneumonia. After a period of convalescence and service with an Entrenching Battalion, he returned to active service - but not with the Camerons. On 1st. June 1916, he was posted to the 11th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
The 11th Argylls belonged to the 15th (Scottish) Division, yet there is no clue anywhere in his Soldiers’ Papers to explain why Charles Lyons changed divisions at this time.
He served with the 11th Argylls into August 1916 then, (again for reasons unknown), returned to the 5th Camerons. This happened possibly on 20th August - though this date is difficult to decipher in his papers. What is certain, though, is that he was wounded in action, for a second time, on 21st August 1916. He was admitted to hospital in Rouen with what appears to be a gunshot wound, the next day. Assuming that he was serving with the 5 Camerons when wounded, this battalion was, at that time, in a ‘quiet’ sector, on Vimy Ridge, near Arras.
On 11th October 1916, his Military Medal was gazetted. Exactly a week later, on 18th October - and while definitely serving with the 5th Camerons — he was wounded in action for a third time.
This was the date of his battalion’s attack near Le Sars, north of Eaucourt L’Abbaye - during the Battle of the Somme. There seems no reason to doubt that it was during this attack that he was wounded, by shrapnel in the forearm, and admitted to the Northumbrian Field Ambulance. The wound must have been a light one, though, since he was able to rejoin the 5th Camerons on 23rd October 1916.
Appointment as Lance-Corporal — and a Fresh Start, 1916-17
This period can be seen as a turning point in the army career of Charles Lyons since, on 1st November 1916, he was appointed unpaid Lance-Corporal. Did his officers at this time realise that he was, after all, a brave man who, though ‘a little misunderstood’, deserved the benefit of the doubt?
They certainly gave him this later on in the month. On 26th November 1916, be was charged with ‘Breaking out of camp’ and with being absent from camp for two hours ‘until arrested by the Military Police’. What were his reasons for this: desperation for a drink, perhaps?
Whatever the cause, he was dealt with lightly, only being ‘Reprimanded’. He was not even severely reprimanded. Maybe some sort of deal had been struck with Lance-Corporal Lyons, or at least an understanding reached. Certainly, from this time forth, there is no evidence in his papers of any further crimes or misdemeanours. Better still for him, he was appointed paid Lance-Corporal on 11th February 1917.
After a week’s sickness shortly after this, he rejoined the 5th battalion on 22nd February 1917. From his Soldiers’ Papers, there is no reason to believe that he was not present with the battalion during the battles around Arras on 9th April and on 3rd May (the terrible attack on the Chemical Works at Roeux) 1917.
In August 1917, Charlie Lyons received 10 days’ leave in the U.K., the first time he had been home for nearly a year and a half. On his return, he may then have taken part in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, 20th September 1917.
The First Battle of Passchendaele. 12th October 1917
There is no doubt whatsoever as to his participation in the costly attack on this day, during which his Commanding Officer won the D.S.O.
The attack, south-east of Poelcappelle, began at 5.35am, with the 5th Camerons forming the second wave. Muddy ground made the conditions disastrous, but even worse was the enfilade machine gun fire from the left flank. The advance then became bogged down around an enemy pillbox at Burns House, which resisted repeated assaults.
Charles Lyons was promoted Corporal on 12th October 1917 ‘under Army Council Instruction 288/17’. This regulation must relate to the replacement of casualties amongst N.C.O’s. As shown in Lyons’ Soldiers’ Papers, he took the place of Corporal Robert Lindsay, who had been killed in action on 12th October.
The part he played in the aftermath of this battle is well-known in his local area, even to the present day. The Catholic Chaplain of the 5th Camerons, Father John MacNeil M.C., of Barra, was ‘greatly loved and respected’ in the battalion. Father MacNeil took part in this attack and was subsequently awarded a Bar to his M.C. for his bravery in tending the wounded.
However, Father MacNeil was himself very badly wounded and left for dead on the battlefield. It is recorded that, once the fighting bad died down, Charlie Lyons was walking past a group of dead. He noticed, simultaneously, a flicker of life from one of them and that it was the Padre, Father MacNeil - very, very, severely wounded and on the point of death. Charlie lifted the Padre and carried him to the nearest Field Station, where Father MacNeil was treated - and survived.
Father MacNeil later served for many years as Parish Priest in Morar, where he is known as Canon MacNeil and where his memory is still honoured by all. He must have told this story locally many times, about how Charlie Lyons had saved his life. This can be contrasted with the fact that no-one in the area knows now about Charlie’s M.M. and Bar: Charlie himself seems never to have mentioned this.
The Last Year of the War — and a Bar to his Military Medal
Corporal Lyons suffered another period of illness between December 1917 and March 19 18. This was most fortunate as far as he was concerned, since it caused him to miss the terrible retreat, and battles, of the great German Offensive, which started on 21st March 1918. Indeed, Charles Lyons rejoined the 5th Camerons on 27th March —the very day the battalion had been withdrawn from the March retreat fighting.
He was ill once more in April and May 1918, rejoining the battalion on 12th July 1918. This means that he most possibly took part in the successful attack which ended in the capture of Meteren, on 19th July 1918. In August, after a few days in hospital, he rejoined the 5th Camerons on 26th August and thereafter, went on leave in the U.K. from 7th to 21st September 1918.
By now he had completed much service on the front line and could have been forgiven if he had become worried that his luck might, after all, begin to run out.
The 5th Camerons took part in the Battle of Ypres, of 1918. This battle lasted for three days. from 28th to 30th September, and resulted in the re-capture of Passchendaele Ridge. Once more, it can be assumed that Corporal Lyons fought in, and survived, this action. Although it was rainy and muddy like the year before, a steady advance was made, showing that the German army was close to being completely beaten.
Charlie Lyons took part in the final advance to victory. In ‘the last active operation of the battalion’, he was wounded in action for the fourth time, on 25th October 1918, in fighting near the Rivr Scheldt. He suffered a shrapnel wound, possibly to the scalp. As a result, he was admitted to the East Lancs Field Ambulance that same day and to hospital, two days later. On 11th November 1918 – the very day of the Armistice – he was admitted to the 7th Convalescent Depot.
On 13th November 1918, the award of a Bar to his Military Medal was announced. It has not been possible, unfortunately, to identify the action for which this was given. It could well be for Meteren, 19th July, or for the Passchendaele Ridge, 28th to 30th September 1918. Perhaps this will never be known for certain.
Corporal Charles Lyons left France for good on 1st December 1918, aboard the Hospital Ship Pieter de Connick. Presumably, he made it back to Morar well in time to spend Christmas with his family and friends.
Next month: After the war.
An article on Canon MacNeil sent to us some time ago by Rev George Baird.
Canon MacNeil was parish priest while I stayed in Mallaig in the 1920-30s; the chapel was at Morar. He would greet me or my parents and ask how I was getting on, in the studying for the ministry. My minister, Rev R.P. Aitchison, gave me great support, not only then, but in all my charges. They died only a week or so from each other in April 1958. Tributes to both were carried in the “Oban Times”, on the same page. From Motherwell I went to Mallaig to share in my minister’s memorial service. I looked up the Catholic Directory in our local library and learned more about Canon MacNeil.
In the First World War, he served as a chaplain with the Cameron Highlanders. The men loved him for his happy nature, and they respected him for his personal bravery. Through the terrible carnage of 1915-17 he was always to the front in battle. His name became a legend among the Camerons. Twice mentioned in dispatches, he received the Military Cross, and later, a Bar. In 1917, he was severely wounded and invalided home. The circumstances are these: -
It was on 13th October 1917, and the 9th Division had launched an attack on Passchendaele Ridge. In torrential rain, their plans had miscarried, their casualties were very high. A soldier ploughing through the mud found lying among the dead, the priest who had been in the thick of the fighting. Scarce knowing if he was still alive, he dragged him to safety. The “London Gazette” of 23rd April 1918 published the award of the Bar to the M.C. for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, in going out in front of our lines under intense machine-gun fire to dress the wounded and bring them in. He saved many lives and only gave up when wounded in the lung, left leg and right arm.”
When Father MacNeil was invalided home, he was greatly missed by the whole battalion. The history of the 5th Camerons records: - “He would go over the top with the front line, usually with “A” or “B” company, in which were to be found most of his own flock, and there he would remain day and night until they were relieved.”
In 1942-43, I was padre of a Church-Hut and Canteen in Lerwick. May, my recently-wed wife, served with me, with local help. Lads of the 2nd Cameron Highlanders came in every day to enjoy a warm “cuppa,” a sing-song round the piano, the warm hospitality.
In 1966 we were holidaying in Mallaig with our student son—David. But who did we meet but Regimental Sergeant Major (R.S.M.) Paterson, also on holiday from Paisley! How the tongues wagged as we talked of our time together at Lerwick! Once he took over our canteen for band practice (I couldn’t say no! when asked by an R.S.M.) Our quiet Sunday afternoon was shattered by the skirl of the pipes and the beat of the drums. These lads were to face the foe in battle in N.Africa and Normandy.
We went out and looked round the churchyard at Morar. There I saw the memorial to Canon MacNeil of happy memory. Nearby, somewhere, lies the soldier who pulled his half-dead padre to safety at Passchendaele. I think he should have got a M.C. as well.
P.S. Canon MacNeil was our county councillor for many years. He rendered quiet diligent service to all the people.
In one of my papers I see the name of that soldier was John MacDonald. There is a fine stain-glassed window in the Chapel at Morar to Father John MacNeil. In that paper it says that the decoration he received was the D.S.M.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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