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October 2019 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
NON-LANDING CRUISES - UPDATE
Transport Scotland have held discussions with CalMac on the issue of non-landing cruises to the Small Isles and their impact on local communities' ability to utilise lifeline ferry services. It seems some progress has been made as CalMac have agreed to stop scheduling non-landing cruises on Mondays but will restrict them to Wednesdays instead.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said 'Tourism is vital to Eigg and the other Small Isles, so therefore, in line with requests to cease these cruises on Mondays, all other non-landing cruises have been scheduled on Wednesdays, when the vessel does not berth at Eigg. This will hopefully increase tourism to Eigg on Mondays and, because of the timetabled stopover of two hours and 20 minutes, increase tourism to Canna on Wednesdays as well.'
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
This is the 299th issue of West Word!
Next month is our 25th anniversary edition, and it's looking like it's going to be a special one.
If you'd like to contribute anything to the paper (besides cover art) on this significant occasion, please do - photos, poems, memories, and stories are all welcome!
On the subject of photos thank you to all who have contributed World Wide West Word photos this month! Great to see where West Word has travelled to - please keep sending them in!
I'm very happy to say that Personal Angle is back this month - see page 15.
Thanks to Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes this month and, once again, to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing.
Can't believe another month has flown by. There are a few less visitors about the place now, the village is starting to wind down a bit for the season and haymaking is underway in Airor.
Our village hall refurb and extension is moving forward at a fantastic pace. It's amazing how quickly it's happened after such a long time in the planning. The foundations are set and concrete poured. You can get a real sense of the size it will be now, no more squished in strip the willows! The new oak flooring has been put through the kiln. It is made from a huge Knoydart tree that was felled a few years ago.
There are some great photos and videos online to see the progress that has been made. We are still fundraising for the last push. Search Knoydart Community Hall on Facebook or go to www.knoydarthall.com.
The Tearoom helped the Hall fund by putting on a busy Chinese night with guest chef Julie in September. The beautiful food kept us all going for days.
They also had a Macmillan's coffee morning with a bake off in the afternoon. Cupcakes of all shapes and sizes were entered and decorated and Kitty was our domestic Goddess of the day, winning a Nigella Lawson cookery book.
Farewell to Maddie as she is off for her travels in America and beyond.
Just a wee short account this month,
ISLE OF MUCK
Not quite panic, but close! That's how it feels when you get the monthly "wee nudge" email from Kirsty, West Word's editor, to remind you that your contribution is due so she can commit it to print and you have no idea what to write about. Can't think of anything that's happened this month!
Well that's no quite true. The mercury has reached 20c on several days. This somewhat unseasonal temperature has produced a small flush of red admiral butterflies. Though nowhere near on the scale of this year's Painted Lady population explosion, I still counted 30+ on a walk the other afternoon.
And then there was the encounter with a (possible) rarity. Walking the dogs at dusk the other evening I saw what looked to me a bit like a very small bird of prey. I'm not the best birder by any means but I recognise most common species and this individual looked all wrong. As it was dusk and the bird was in flight I had very little to go on. Perusing the bird book didn't help. However, later in the week I read that a Night Hawk (an American Nightjar) had been seen briefly over Appin one evening but not since. Mystery bird solved? I like to think so, but who knows.
It has been cattle sales time again. I think all involved went with an air of foreboding. Cattle prices have slumped and this was born out in the sale ring. It's desperately difficult to labour all year and then achieve a poor return on all the effort. Being at the mercy of the market price, I guess all one can do is hope that when next year crop reach the ring that things will have improved.
Lewis Maclennan may be the island gamekeeper but he is also a skilled joiner. It has been quite amazing to watch the new shed/ game larder/ staff flat rise from the concrete slab that was laid at Gallanach Lodge last spring. It arrived in kit form (all three artic loads of it!) and has been painstakingly pieced together, roofed and clad in larch over the summer. It is on hold now due to his other commitments but it should be completed by late spring/early summer next year.
Congratulations are the order of the day for Jenny and Lawrence MacEwen who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on 25th. Lawrence has recently had to spend a couple of days in Raigmore. For anyone as active as Lawrence, sitting around comes hard and I know I speak for everyone with a connection to Muck when I wish him a speedy recovery.
The year has seemed to flash by. Seems like it was just yesterday that the Sheerwater arrived for the first trip of the year. I was standing at the foot of Beinn Airein on one of the balmy warm afternoons of late and heard the last hooter blast of the year. With the forecast for the first week of October looking decidedly unsettled, Autumn is upon us, me thinks!
Nothing to write about? Don't be ridiculous! There's always something when you live on an island!
ISLE OF CANNA
Canna House garden produced a good crop of blackcurrants this summer, and the vegetable garden has offered up broad beans, beetroot (ready for pickling), leeks and a 'forest' of kale. Also, I have now officially run out of recipes for using up courgettes.
We hosted a somewhat diminished 'Apple Day' on the 18th, as despite a good fruiting year, we ended up with rather less apples on the day than we had hoped for. Fortunately the schoolchildren from Rum still came over to visit, and learnt fascinating facts (as did we all) about apples and orchards from Kathy, our expert pruner, and also enjoyed a 'bug hunt' session with our Rangers, Gillian and Mike. There was still time for tea and home-made apple cake plus apple and Wensleydale pie - all made, of course, with apples from the Canna House garden.
On the same day, the first of this year's lambs went off island to the Dingwall mart. Gerry was particularly pleased with the quality of the lambs this year, after a good summer - let's hope she was as pleased with the price they fetched at the mart.
Definitely an 'end of season' feel approaching, as the numbers of visiting yachts and cruises diminishes week by week. Cafe Canna officially closed for the winter on the 22nd - Gareth did us all proud however by inviting everyone to 'Pie Night' on the Sunday. In typical Canna fashion we had a rousing evening, making inroads into the remaining kegs of Jack Ale, live music and even a birthday celebration.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
The previous archivist from Canna House, Magda Sagarzazu, has been spending more time in her Basque home town of Hondarribia lately, and Fiona took the opportunity to go and visit her this month to catch up on all matters Canna House, but in the sun for a change! There are always questions for Magda!
John Lorne Campbell's mother, Ethel, had an estate not far from Biarritz and this is where John first met Magda's father, Saturnino Sagarzazu. Saturnino worked on the Estate there. They became firm friends over the years and Sati spent much time on Canna, bringing his two young daughters to the island for the first time in 1961.
On Canna, a Canna House 'Apple day' was planned to celebrate the bumper crop of apples this year and a display was created of material from the Archive, all connected to the apple trees and other fruit trees in the Garden. Owing to unforeseen circumstances, the planned day was cancelled but the exhibition remained up for any visitors to have a look at. It is hoped to repeat the project next year.
ISLE OF EIGG
Eigg Primary are delighted to be writing this month's Eigg column for West Word. We wrote it together, with each of us taking turns to write about different things that have happened this month.
Tadhgan (p4) interviewed our new teacher, Mr Merrick, to find out about his teaching career, why he came to Eigg and what he thinks of it so far. I like having the opportunity to support children with their learning. It is lots of fun. I have taught in lots of schools in Glasgow - as a permanent teacher and also as a supply teacher. I have also been the teacher in Rum and Canna Primary Schools and in Eigg before. This is my fifth year of being a primary school teacher.
I really love being outdoors and Scottish islands. Eigg is a beautiful island with lots of outdoor learning opportunities. There are lots of exciting opportunities like visiting the orchard and doing things in the polytunnel or garden. I like the enthusiastic children at Eigg Primary - they are keen to learn and are very friendly and polite.
Agnes and Freya (P2) are very proud of the jam they made from plums they picked in Eigg's community orchard.
We went to the orchard to pick some apples. Last time we went the apples were not ripe so we picked plums and did pruning. You can tell if apple is ripe when you twist them and they come off. There were lots of apples on the ground so we picked those up and picked some more off the trees. There were four different kinds of apples. Their names are Discovery, Fiesta, James Grieve and Katy. We like the taste of all of the apples.
We cooked the plums we picked last time and made them into jam. We cooked the plums with three bags of sugar and put it into jam jars. The jam went plop plop plop. The jam jars have labels on them. We made the labels. We will eat the jam and also sell it. It tastes like the best jam in the world. We think you should try it.
Betsy (P6) is very proud of all the money Eigg Primary raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust, who came to say thank you to the school for their amazing achievement.
Eigg Primary raised £2,788.55 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, which is in Glasgow in a hospital called the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre. We did this before the summer holidays, but Audrey from the Teenage Cancer Trust came to visit us this term to say thank you for raising all that money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Audrey came to give us gifts from Dobbies, a garden centre in Glasgow. She came to the island to see what it's like living here and to see the puffins that she thought lived here. She brought a message from London to say thank you and that they hope the London gang can come up to Eigg to see the puffins. So we sent a video back saying thank YOU London for the message. PS there are no puffins, but there are whales.
We showed her around the school garden and polytunnel. We showed her around the classroom and she had lunch with us. We loved the gifts from Dobbies and right this very minute we are using them in our school garden.
Eigg is half way through a major harvesting project to cut down around 3,300 tonnes of timber from Eigg's Forestry. Eigg Primary went to find out more, as Maggie Carr (P6) reports.
On Monday 9th September Eigg Primary and Nursery went to the forestry to see the trees getting cut down. We put our safety jackets on in the shed and got told the safety rules by Becca. The rules were: stay together, always listen to people, don't climb the wood piles and be kind to others. We left the shed and went to the top compartment to meet Ian Shaw. He cuts down the wood with a cool vehicle called a Harvester. It was really muddy and rainy but it was still really fun.
When we got there we all got a go on the harvester. Ian Shaw cut down the wood, then Tracy picked up the logs and dropped them off at the track end. Finally Ian Dow took them on the tractor to the pier to wait for the boat to come and collect them. We will sell most of the wood to people on the mainland and keep some of it to burn on our fires at home.
At the end of September Eigg Primary went to Mallaig for three days to take part in swimming lessons. We don't have a pool on Eigg, so the opportunity to spend so much time learning to swim is really valuable. Thank you to all of our parents and the community who raised over £500 to help cover our costs to get there.
We did more than just swim! We went to see the Lifeboat, the Jacobite Steam Train, Mallaig Heritage Centre, the Library, and went to the play park, dancing, the toy shop, had fish and chips at the Cabin and spent lots of time at Mallaig Primary. We slept in Mallaig High Hostel with the other children from Eigg and the Small Isles. Some of the Eigg teenagers left Mallaig High at the end of last term or the term before and are doing really interesting things. Struan has gone to Dundee University to do computer science, Mia to Inverness College to do Social Science, Theo to Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design and Murry to UWC (United World Colleges) in Costa Rica!
We're getting ready to say "Goodbye" to Mrs Sue Hollands who is retiring from Eigg Primary in October after 16 years in the school. We will miss her a LOT, but promise to look after the beautiful garden she helped us make and keep our Eco School flag, two things we know she is really proud of. She's still staying on Eigg though, so we hope she will still come in to say hello from time to time. You can keep up with all Eigg Primary and Nursery's news on our website where we blog at www.eiggprimary.com
Eigg Primary School
Road to the Isles Events
A Traigh-athlon Triumph
What an amazing day for Mallaig Pool and Leisure's third Traigh-athlon Series on Saturday 21st September. The sun shone on our 175 triathletes, a record turn-out, and the day was expertly managed by an army of volunteers from the community who came together, worked their socks off, cheered, supported, smiled, encouraged, and helped raise over £4,000 towards our Pool refurbishment project. From everyone at Mallaig Pool, we can't thank you enough. We couldn't do it without you, and our triathletes were bowled over by the sense of community spirit for the day. Here are some of their lovely comments:
"What a great event. Fabulous course, well organized, friendly marshals, lovely community feel . . . and probably some of the best home baking and post-race paella I've ever had. The weather did make it extra special but I'll definitely be back next year and recommend it highly" Maria Dye
"Amazing day…thanks to everyone that made it possible" Joanna Chandler
"A fantastic event, very well organized but also relaxed which is great. Loved the atmosphere and event area. The route was very challenging but the weather made it all that bit nicer. Thanks to everyone involved and who helped out. See you next year" Jack Russell
"Wonderful event! Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it so great. See you next year" Lindsey Alexander
"Absolutely fabulous day and event. Well done to everyone involved in organizing and marshalling. Fabulous hospitality. Lovely friendly atmosphere from organisers and athletes. Best event ever! I can't wait to do it again. I'm still buzzing" Anita Maclean
"Great event again, thanks very much to the organisers and volunteers" Mark Crowe
We were absolutely delighted to see so many from our local community taking part in what's a really challenging Triathlon course. We hope it'll motivate everyone to set goals for their fitness training, to maybe join in next year, and to improve on their times from this year's events. Shout out to Karen Calder, Dawn MacPhie and the Pool's own Jane Bucknell-Denton competing in their first ever mini-sprint triathlon. Next year they'll all be aiming for sub-60 minutes. And just to prove that the Pool team don't just talk the talk, Harry Tulloch completed the Sprint Triathlon, and leading from the front, Brian O'Rourke completed the epic Olympic / Standard Distance finishing in 16th place from a field of 43 with a time of 3:07:34. Great to see Jill Gosney from Acharacle, a popular competitor at our events, Jim Michie from Roshven in his first Sprint Distance event, as well as the Pool's Angus Moss and team member Siobhan Gordon taking first place in the Sprint Distance Team category.
Our thanks to everyone who travelled for the weekend to take part. Triathlon clubs from across Scotland where represented from Glasgow, Inverness, Helensburgh, Stirling, Edinburgh, the Lakes, Cairngorms, Skye, Lothian as well as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Thanks to our Events Team and the Pool Board, thanks to our main sponsor Scottish Sea Farms for supporting some of our costs, but also thanks to Graham Moss for his total expertise, to Eilidh Henderson of Traigh Farm for the use of the Triagh Field and Caravan Club site, to Gavin for everything, to Sarah Winnington-Ingram from Arisaig House for a monster paella, to Ian Stewart, Andy Race and Ian MacKinnon for donating the wonderful fish, to Johnson's, to Rod and Eilidh Barry, to Mallaig Canoe Club and the Lifeboat for safety on the water, to Alison O'Rourke from the Arisaig Eco-project for keeping us plastic free, to Adelphi Distillery for their sponsorship, to the West Highland Hotel for all their support, to Pam MacDonald, to the team who put-up and took down the marquee and managed parking, to Andy Verrall from Highland Spring Water, to legend Ben Gunn, to all our marshals and volunteers, to No Fuss Events, to George Riddell and Dougie Beck for some wonderful photography, and to Brian and Tiina and all the staff at the Pool who have to do their day job amidst all the disruption of running a major event.
We'd be nowhere without our marshals and volunteers, but equally we'd be lost without The Friends of Mallaig Pool and Leisure, so a special thanks for their amazing tea-tent, and to everyone who helped bake and make such a wonderful spread, raising around £500 on the day. If you ever have some free time, join their team, they're a joy to be around - and absolute winners to us.
The Ross and Frankie Campbell Memorial Trophy for winner in the Olympic / Standard Triathlon was won by Jack Troake (below) who completed the grueling 1500m open water swim, 40km cycle and 10km run in 2:30:58, and presented by Neil and Beth Campbell for whom we thank for their support.
The Lanyon Trophy for first woman to complete the Olympic / Standard Triathlon and presented this year by Roger Lanyon went to Kirsty Leese (below) who completed the course in 3:05:39.
Photos by George Riddell and Dougie Beck
A full list of competitors and times can be found at:
So, set your sights on September 2020 to compete or to volunteer and be part of an amazing day. Mallaig Pool is a Social Enterprise run by community. Get involved - it's good for the heart and good for your health.
Arisaig and the Special Operations Executive
There was standing room only last month at the Land, Sea and Islands Centre for Henrik Chart's lively and excellent talk on the history of the Special Operations Executive in the Arisaig area.
Among the packed audience were Gilly Halcrow and Sara Xavier, both descendants of SOE agents. Gilly's father, Ernest van Maurik, was an SOE instructor based at Garramore where he trained French and Czech agents, before himself being sent to Nazi occupied France under the codename Paterson. Sara's grandfather, also an SOE agent, trained in the Arisaig area before being deployed to France under his codename, Xavier. By a remarkable coincidence, agents Paterson and Xavier worked together in occupied France to supply and train members of the French Resistance, in preparation for D-Day.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
24th August 2019
Mallaig lifeboat was tasked to evacuate an elderly casualty from Doune with injuries to head and ribs. The lifeboat launched at 22:30 with two paramedics on board. Arriving on scene at 22:50, the Y Boat was then launched and took the paramedics to the injured person's location where they administered medical care and then walked with the casualty to the jetty. It was decided that the steps at the very small jetty might not be suitable for the casualty but a local resident informed the coxswain that it should be possible for the lifeboat to nose in to the end of jetty, so the coxswain manoeuvred it slowly into this position with the crew standing by forward, and the casualty was then transferred safely over the bow along with the paramedics.
With all on board and the Y Boat recovered the lifeboat set off for Mallaig at 23:40 where the casualty was transferred to an ambulance and taken to the Belford Hospital. Lifeboat ready for service at 23:59.
26th August 2019
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to investigate a possible missing kayaker in the area of Loch Brittle and Loch Eynort (Isle of Skye). The kayaker, a 31 year old male and in a white kayak with a black stripe, had become separated from a group of five kayakers. Information was received that he was an experienced kayaker with vhf, flares etc and was well equipped. Lifeboat departed at 19:50, arriving on scene at 20:30 to commence coastal search from head of Loch Brittle to Loch Aynort where the group of kayakers were intending to arrive together on completion of their trip. Portree Coastguard were in attendance on the mainland and a helicopter was also going to be tasked to proceed to scene.
Just as the lifeboat was about to commence their coastal search of the area, Stornoway Coastguard reported that the kayaker had made it to shore and had set up camp, informing the other members of the group that he was safe and well. After a period of time of ensuring that the missing kayaker was indeed safe and well, the lifeboat was "stood down" by Stornoway Coastguard at 20:40 and commenced passage back to Mallaig. Refuelled and ready for service at 21:40.
29th August 2019
The lifeboat was requested to investigate the possible activation of a PLB [Personal Locator Beacon] 3nm East of Armadale, Isle of Skye. Lifeboat departed Mallaig at 15:35, and ten minutes later when just clear of the Harbour the Coastguard informed the lifeboat to stand down as the PLB had been falsely activated and no further assistance was required. Lifeboat returned to harbour, ready for service at 15:55.
7th September 2019
Minutes after arriving at Kyle of Lochalsh to take part in their Maritime day celebrations the Lifeboat was requested to return to Mallaig for a medivac from Inverie at 11:40. The Scottish Ambulance service requested the assistance of the Lifeboat to convey Paramedics to Inverie where a gentleman was experiencing chest pains. Arriving at Mallaig at 12:30 the lifeboat boarded the Medics and proceeded to Inverie. Once alongside the Medics proceeded to the casualty's location to carry out their assessments. Meanwhile Helimed 1 had touched down at the Longfield ready to transfer the casualty to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. Once the Medics had finished with their assessment the Patient was driven to Helimed 1 and soon after airlifted to Inverness. Lifeboat returned to Mallaig berthing at 13:45 and made ready for service.
18th September 2019
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 19:30 to investigate a report from a member of the public that three kayakers were in difficulty at Roshven, Lochailort. Whilst on passage to the scene the Lifeboat was informed that the party were now safely ashore and loading their kayaks onto nearby transport. Lifeboat and Local Coastguards stood down at 19:45 and told to return to base. False alarm with good intent. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 20:20.
21st September 2019
Whilst attending as safety boat at a local sporting event the Lifeboat was tasked to Eilean Shona at 11:30. Another yacht in the area reported that there was a yacht ashore in the North Channel of Eilean Shona but they could not see If there was anyone about the vessel. When the Lifeboat arrived on scene at 12:00 the casualty was located aground in the Channel. Two crew went across in the Y-Boat to investigate and found that the casualty was occupied by two crew who were in the process of setting anchors to kedge the vessel off later when the tide flooded in the evening. With the situation under control and the Coastguard made aware of the casualty's plans the Lifeboat was stood down. The crew recovered the Y-Boat and the Lifeboat returned to base berthing at 13:30.
Mallaig Harbour News
September has been a quieter month in lots of ways, which has given me a chance to catch my breath! The Marina is much quieter, and the demand from fishing boats for ice has also slowed down a bit. We had trialled automatic access to the ice plant at the start of September, but there are still some issues with the delivery so this hasn't been entirely successful. We're still working with TRS to resolve the ongoing issues but it is causing quite a bit of frustration for us and the fishing fleet.
We've received the UK Sea Fisheries Statistics this month, which show the importance of the fishing industry in Scotland. In 2018, UK vessels landed 698 thousand tonnes of sea fish (including shellfish) into the UK and abroad with a value of £989 million. Landings by Scottish vessels were well over 400 thousand tonnes in each of the last four years, a result of increased mackerel landings. In 2018, the Scottish fleet's share of total landings was 64 per cent, compared with 27 per cent for the English fleet. If anyone is interested, you can access the full report at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-sea-fisheries-annual-statistics-report-2018
The picture for Mallaig is not quite so rosy, and indeed, in July's monthly report to the Board Members, I had to report that White fish landings in July 2019 were only 3% of the landings in 2018, mainly due to far fewer visiting boats this summer. In July 2018, 105,000 units of fish were landed by visiting boats, whereas the figure for this year was 212 units! Hopefully this was an exceptionally low year, and won't be repeated next summer!
We had a Board meeting on 13th September, and as part of this, Donna Manson, the Chief Executive of The Highland Council came along to meet the Board and learn a bit about the Authority's plans for development, whilst she was undertaking visits in the area anyway.
After the Board Meeting, the Directors had a farewell dinner for Robert MacMillan in the West Highland Hotel. Robert was presented with an aerial print of the Harbour, looking up to Loch Nevis, and hospitality at a Rangers Football match - now that he has time to enjoy a trip away! The road at Westbay is progressing well, although there might be a slight delay before the tar can be laid - due to other demands on the tarring company.
We had two film crews around the Harbour this month. The BBC sent a cameraman from Autumnwatch to follow Martin Carty on his annual Shearwater rescue. Unfortunately, it was calm and there was a full moon on the days of filming, and the Shearwaters are less inclined to fledge in a full moon, so despite there having been plenty of activity the previous week, the Shearwaters were a bit more shy when the camera crew were here!
On 24th September, Young Films came over from Skye to film a scene for the Gaelic drama 'Bannan'. They were filming over lunchtime on the 'bandstand' in the centre of the village, and on the 'Lord of the Isles' on their way back to Skye.
Mallaig Harbour Authority has received a final draft of the STAG appraisal, which has been ongoing all year. STAG is short for Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance, and this one has been looking at the options for ferry infrastructure in both Mallaig and Armadale. There were initially five options identified for Mallaig, but the final draft recognises that three of these are not realistic, and so has recommended that only two options go forward for further investigation. One of these two options closely aligns with the Harbour's own Masterplan. We have a final meeting to agree the draft on the 8th October, so more information will be available next month.
As part of my previous role with HIE, I was invited to sit on the Highland and Moray Fisheries Local Action Group, www.highlandmorayflag.co.uk, and I have been able to continue this role representing the Harbour Authority. Although the programme is coming to an end, there is still some funding left for projects led by community organisations or small businesses which provide a benefit to fisheries communities. You can find all the details on the website.
On and Off the Rails
West Highland main rail line to be closed for repair work. Buses to replace trains during closure.
The West Highland main line between Crianlarich and Fort William will be closed for a period of 10 days this month (October). From Saturday October 5th until Monday October 14th Network Rail will have full possession of the line night and day. Bustitution will replace trains between Crianlarich and Fort William during this time to convey rail passengers and will call at the majority of stations along the route, apart from Corrour and Rannoch where there is no suitable road access.
Bridges near Spean Bridge and Corrour will be refurnished and repainted, while the timber deck and metalwork at Auch (Horseshoe) viaduct near Bridge of Orchy will be renewed and repainted.
Drainage culverts beneath the railway track between Tyndrum upper and Bridge of Orchy will also be upgraded. The heavy machinery involved in this and the complexity and volume of the engineering work and the safety of the workers is paramount, a Network Rail spokesperson said, and I agree. Elsewhere in the area they will be renewing and rebuilding drainage culverts under the railway lines. "It is all complex work and we do apologise to anyone whose plans are impacted by this closure," said Lindsay Saddler, head of maintenance for Network Rail, "but we need to carry out this vital work."
ScotRail, which will be hiring in the replacement buses to join passengers to their (hopefully) waiting trains at Crianlarich and Fort William for onward journeys towards Glasgow or Mallaig said "we will do everything we can to keep people moving whilst Network Rail carry out these vital improvement works."
The "glitch", as I see it - and it has happened before - is at Crianlarich, whether you are travelling towards us from Glasgow Queen Street or heading from Fort William to Glasgow. At Crianlarich you have to haul luggage, pushchairs, shopping trolleys and even yourself up or down to the waiting train or bus. The most recent closure a few weeks ago resulted in 38 elderly travellers with host, who are travelling to the Morar Hotel from Glasgow, who could hardly convey themselves let alone their "Great Railway Journeys" luggage and were very tired and stressed. The next day an extra coach was laid on to give passengers the choice of travelling the whole journey from Glasgow to Fort William and vice versa by bus, instead of via the bus/train combination. Maybe this will happen again this time?
In the meantime, ahead of the line closure, trees are being cleared, and lots of investment is being secured in the whole line's future - which is positive. The autumn colours are coming in and the leaves are starting to fall. The line looks great at this time of year. Engineers are working through the night and day between the trains; equipment is being stored in the siding alongside the Heritage Centre at Mallaig and it is a very busy time.
The Jacobite steam train continues until and including Friday October 25th. We owe a debt of gratitude to WC Railway, the locomotive owners, West Coast employees, Ian Riley, John Hunt and their crews, the drivers, and the fitters and cleaners in the Fort William yard; the catering crews (this season the contract was operated by the Light Bite Cafeteria associated with the Nevis Centre) - it is to their credit that guests on board are always politely treated and served at their seats very efficiently; the staff of the on-board souvenir shop - always well stocked and organised by the owner of the Haggard Alley shop in Mallaig; and finally, the "Go To", "she who must be obeyed", on the ground decision-maker/train manager/guard, the fragrant Florence MacLean.
Caledonian/Serco sleeper train staff update
The Union RMT - following a ballot poll amongst members of the above - have announced that staff were instructed to not be available to work any overtime or rest days, and from midnight on October 2nd they have been told to avoid higher grade duties and only work to their original job description. This follows strike action and picket line action protests outside the railway stations at Aberdeen, Fort William and Inverness on 29th and 30th September. RMT state that "RMT members have been put under intolerable personal stress as a result of the company's mismanagement of the sleeper service". RMT and Serco met for talks on Monday September 29th but no progress was made. RMT have also claimed that "poor staffing levels and insufficient training were among issues that Serco had failed to address."
Serco described the strike and other planned strikes as "completely unnecessary" and said it was ready to hold further meetings with the union. This follows on from problems during daytime trials - between Edinburgh and Fort William - on new stock to be introduced on the line, whilst being hauled by GB Rail Freight as empty coaching stock.
The latest transfer date to replace the ailing stock with the "new" stock once the "glitches" are sorted out at Polmadie is expected to be early November. Sometimes we have to look back to see how far we've come . . This is the poignant title page of an impact report produced by Motor Neurone disease charity, MND Scotland, with whom I am particularly proud to be associated, along with my involvement with the ScotRail Alliance. Looking back to April 2018 I was at a Station Adopters event in Glasgow when it was announced that ScotRail were making MND Scotland their "charity of the year". I was handing out packets of cornflower seeds (the emblem of the charity) to over 200 Station Adopters in Scotland urging them to plant seeds at their stations, take photos, and send them to MND's Facebook page - which we all did, in order to raise awareness of the charity and power the cause, which is to join the journey to find a cure. Your donations have funded the first MND treatment trial in Scotland and the building of new facilities for families to make precious memories. Since that day MND Scotland and ScotRail's involvement has progressed in leaps and bounds. Every staffed railway station (including Mallaig) displays a donation can on its booking office counter (see photo); three weeks ago £13,000 was fundraised by a dedicated (and hardy!) group from ScotRail HQ at Glasgow, when 24 staff skydived from 15,000 feet! £15,764 has been raised from 359 collecting cans, and since 2017 £198,324 is the "make a real difference" total raised. ScotRail say "with your support, we have raised this sum and thanks go to all the staff and customers for making a real difference to the lives of people affected by MND". Way to go!
Following on, many more awareness events are planned, including the unveiling of a train carrying the MND Scotland logo, as part of its ongoing support.
Angus Thom, ScotRail's Chief Operating Officer, recently visited Mallaig along with Gerry Skelton, HR Director. They travelled on the Jacobite steam train. I met them at Mallaig railway station and found them to be inspirational with their good intentions - including next time they visit to book themselves and their hire car and driver onto the CalMac ferry in advance!
John Barnes has now offered to have a fundraising collecting can attach to their traditional weighing scales at Glenfinnan station to raise funds for MND Scotland.
If you want to help find a cure and help build a movement to defeat MND and have a world without this rapidly progressing terminal illness (on average almost 200 people are diagnosed in Scotland each year) drop some change in the can when purchasing your train ticket. To understand more or to offer support go to mndscotland.org.uk, facebook MNDScotland, or contact myself Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, 5 Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD.
They have Royal Patronage from HRH Princess Royal, Princess Anne, who has visited Mallaig by train and boat and cares deeply. She also named our lifeboat and supports them and is involved in the history, transformation and care of Scottish lighthouses. That will do for me! Thank you.
See you on the train,
BIRDWATCH August 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical August birdwise, with a few more passage waders appearing as the month progressed. Nothing out of the ordinary confirmed, but on the 23rd an Albatross species was seen from the MV Loch Nevis between Rum and Mallaig. The experienced observer only had a fleeting view as it cut across the bow, heading in the Arisaig-Ardnamurchan direction. From the description possibly a Black-browed Albatross.
Waders continued to pass through the area, with small groups stopping briefly to feed or rest.
A single juvenile Knot feeding near Traigh boat shed on the 3rd was the first report of the autumn. On the morning of the 18th there were 14 Black-tailed Godwits and one juvenile Ruff feeding in a flooded field at Back of Keppoch. By mid-morning they were seen flying on south. On the same day at Traigh there were several groups of Sanderling, Dunlin and Turnstone feeding on the shoreline. Later in the evening two Black-tailed Godwits and a Ruff were feeding on the golf course. One the 31st there were nine Black-tailed Godwits and a Ruff on the golf course and at least 27 Sanderling feeding on the shoreline there. Apart from at Traigh, Turnstone were also reported from West Bay, Mallaig and Rhue point, where seven were seen on the 26th.
Storm Petrels were seen regularly in the Sound of Sleat, along with numerous Manx Shearwaters, Common Guillemots, Razorbills and Gannets. Both Great and Arctic Skuas were also sighted. On the 24th a Little Gull was spotted feeding along with Kittiwakes at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall.
On the 13th several Blackcaps were seen feeding on Rowan Berries at Rhubana, Morar and Camusdarroch. A Spotted Flycatcher was at Mallaig Vaig on the 24th.
Some good sized finch flocks reported from Morar and Arisaig areas, which contained Goldfinches, Linnets and Twite.
Several reports of Sea Eagles, including an adult harassing gulls at the head of Loch Ailort on the 27th. Tawny Owls were heard on several occasions around the Woodside area, Morar.
A Great Black-backed Gull which had been ringed as a chick on 'Green Island', Sandaig on the 30th June 2018 was found dead, entangled in fishing line in Toome Bay, Londonderry on the 2nd August 2019.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
After a World Wide West Word drought last month we're very happy to have received lots of pictures this month -thank you all, and keep them coming!
Heather took a copy to read when visiting Jersey to play golf with Sandra, Ann and Donalda from Skye Golf Club. (L-R Ann, Donalda, Sandra and Heather.)
Rum Primary visited Canna for APPLE DAY! and took the opportunity to peruse the West Word. ( me = Joss and mum = Fliss)
West Word went all the way to Skagway in Alaska with Liz Mclean in September!
Here's Norah, obligingly reading her copy of West Word outside the Shearing Shed on the Isle of Canna. Babette says "She actually tends to read hers in her chair at home but I thought it would be fun to have the picture of Kirsty Martin's sheep in front of the Shearing Shed."
The Shearing Shed sign is a piece of a fishbox with OB41 on it and the boat it had come from was a mystery the islanders wanted to solve - until Daimh went to play at a ceilidh in the shed and a delighted Ross Martin recognised it instantly as coming from the boat he had crewed while still at school - Barry Austin's The Dalesman, operating out of Eigg. It was money earned fishing that enabled Ross to buy his first guitar.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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