WEST WORD

April 2024 Issue

Contents of the online version:

  • Top stories
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Monthly news from Knoydart, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Muck
  • Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
  • Birdwatch

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

MACKINTOSH CENTRE - UPDATE

At the beginning of April, Kate Forbes MSP convened a meeting with representatives of the three local community councils, Friends of the Mackintosh and NHS Highland management to discuss the present situation. This took place in the Mackintosh. To recap, the home was temporarily closed last summer, and since then all parties have been trying to assist with recruitment efforts. To date, two previous rounds of recruitment have not been successful, and therefore there is still not sufficient staff to reopen the Mackintosh.
At the meeting NHS Highland was asked if a day care service could be reopened, which could help encourage prospective candidates to apply. The health board have said there would need to be sufficient referrals from social work before this could be considered, and it would also need to be signed off by senior NHS Highland management to ensure there was sufficient resilience in staffing numbers to run the service.
NHS Highland are now going to advertise the vacancies again this month. Please spread the word and do everything you can to ensure there is a successful outcome.
There will be a further meeting with local NHS Highland management in May, where an update will be provided on recruitment efforts.
All parties say they are committed to doing everything within their power to get the Mackintosh open again


The Crofter's Rest - worth the journey!

Freelance journalist Will Hawkes recently named The Crofter's Rest as one of ten great British pubs worth travelling for. In an article in The Telegraph last month, Will, who lives in London and specialises in writing about 'beer, food and travel' said, 'The prerequisites for a great British holiday, as I see it, are threefold: attractive scenery, decent weather and at least one great pub. Given the rate at which our pubs continue to close, finding the latter is not as easy as it once was, so it's important to support the really good ones - such as these 10 classics in some of Britain's most beautiful regions.'
He went on to describe the Arisaig Hotel's bar as, 'a snug, atmospheric place, which looks out across turquoise waters towards the islands of Eigg, Rum and Skye from its idyllic spot on Scotland's west coast. It's got all the elements you would wish for in this delightful part of the world: seafood, great whisky and cask ale, folk music sessions and regular festivals - and it's attached to the Arisaig Hotel, too, with rooms from around £87, including Scottish breakfast.' The Crofter's was the only Scottish pub to feature on the list. Other pubs included the Lake District's Black Bull Inn, Coniston, the Yorkshire Dale's Craven Arms in Appletreewick, and The Grapes Hotel, Maentwrog, Snowdonia, with the furthest-flung pub from Arisaig being the Rashleigh Arms in Charlestown, Cornwall, over 650 miles away.


Celebrity trainspotter Francis Bourgeois was spotted in Mallaig and Morar this week, sporting his trademark GoPro on his forehead, after he joined passengers on Locomotive Services Limited's special service The West Highlander between Fort William and Mallaig. The train featured LSL's vintage ScotRail 'Push Pull' set of carriages and two diesel locomotives. Francis made the journey from the south especially to join the trip, saying, 'I wouldn't have missed this. You may not know this but the Class 37 is a beautiful engine and lots of people will be interested in seeing it. For some enthusiasts, sitting on a Class 37 pulled carriage is like someone taking a journey in a Ferarri!'


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

When I was finishing editing the paper and writing the Editor's letter last month I was still optimistic that West Coast Railways had come up with a backup plan so they could still run The Jacobite. Hire in some carriages perhaps? Surely they wouldn't cancel the service when there was only two weeks left before it was scheduled to start? But of course they did cancel it, and we still have no idea as to when it might start. Their latest line with the ORR seems to be that they should be granted an exemption 'because other operators have exemptions', but those operators also have plans in place to install central locking which have been approved by the ORR, and that's not something that WCRC have. Yet. Maybe by the time you're reading this, there will be more news . . . hopefully it's good.
Meanwhile, LSL's West Highlander made a lot of people happy earlier this week, and perhaps we'll be seeing the train more regularly on the line!
Bits and Bobs, and World Wide West Word, have gone on to the back cover this month, if you're looking for them!
There's going to be a recruitment afternoon at the Mac on 19th April - see page 35 for details.
Thanks, as always, to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing.
Kirsty Bloom
editor@westword.org.uk


Round & About

KNOYDART

Aye, the days are certainly drawing oot! Some bright spark has messed about with the clocks here on the peninsula and a few of us still seem to be running an hour or so behind. Is this an issue for Mallaig and the Small Isles?
Weather was fantastic for the Easter weekend. The wee bar at the Old Forge is now open to the public; we hope Davie is enjoying his well earned break. Everyone had a great time at the ceilidh in the Community Hall, although tensions were high when we discovered some Shetlanders performing their own version of the Boston two-step. Fras mediated well by striking into a boisterous Strip the Willow. Fras also launched their new album, Flinne. We love having them over to play and they put on another great evening that went into the wee small hours.
The new part time Ranger role has been filled, congratulations to Costa. A big welcome to new chef Kenny at the Old Forge. Also, a big welcome to all the new seasonal staff who have arrived for the summer.
International Women's Day was a major success; £1865 was raised by the community with a female law and order takeover which included fines for unruly behaviour, parking tickets and an auction at the J'Ale house followed by an officers ball in the evening. The money was donated to Save the Children Emergency fund and Lochaber Women's Aid. A huge thank you to the naughty boys who paid their fines. Sarah Wilson also hosted a cacao ceremony in the hall to honour the women of Knoydart.
Harvesting continues and timber will be shipped off to Troon at the end of the month. Freya took the nursery children up the hill to see the forwarder at work. The children wore their personalised high vis jackets, learned about safety signage, and more importantly, had all their questions answered, including where the machine operators go when they need a wee!
New woodland creation at Torr a Bhalbhain is nearing completion: 112,000 native trees, 19 different species; for more information please contact Danny Gorman.
Thanks to the Highland Council for sending their annual supply of tar.
Finally, it was a pleasure to have a visit from MSP Kate Forbes; we hope she enjoyed being suitably schmoozed by our upstanding citizens.
Fingers crossed it will continue to be a splendid spring, the season of renewal, growth and new beginnings.
Oh, and while we have the attention of the west, we may as well tell you we are getting married!
Danni and Brendan


ISLE OF CANNA

Spring is well and truly here despite lulling us into a false sense of sunshine and warmth. We had some bitterly cold winds and some sleet to remind us we are not quite out of Winter just yet. Canna hats remain firmly on Canna heads for the time being. Vicki was cleaning the community shop when an unusual shopper decided to pop in. An otter meandered through the door and plopped itself down on the doormat. They eyeballed each other for a few seconds before the otter turned tail and sauntered up the path towards Tighard. It left an otter shaped imprint on the doormat. We wondered what an otter would shop for in Canna . . . maybe it was looking for a new Canna t-shirt, or a Canna Press Company print for its holt, or a copy of the new Cafe Canna recipe book . . . or maybe it was just after a free ice cream, a packet of crisps or a special otter. Who knows?

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That's right, dear reader, the Cafe Canna recipe book has been launched! You can pick up a copy in numerous shops up and down the west coast, in our community shop or you can order it online. The book has all the delicious Cafe Canna recipes inside with helpful hints and tips on foraging as well as beautiful photographs of the island and community. Cafe Canna will be opening for the season on Saturday 20th April.

The farm has welcomed the first of the calves. The field at Tarbert now has a calf of each colour and a new Beltie calf has appeared in the field behind Caslum. It won't be long until lambing starts and the Zwartbles and Kerryhills are already in the barn . . . who will be first?
The Zwartbles are enjoying all the extra head pats and scratches from passing islanders while the Kerryhills remain in their perpetual state of "what the hell?".

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The renewables maintenance team had some training from SD Wind on how to take down a wind turbine. There are several new members of the team and it was good to get them up to scratch on how all the gear works to enable us to carry out maintenance on the system.

This weekend saw the community do a beach clean. After the winter storms, there is a large amount of marine litter on the shores. We spent Saturday morning doing the main part of the bay and managed to fill numerous bags with small bits of plastic as well as clearing some of the larger pieces. It is a perpetual process with every new tide bringing in more marine litter. If you are coming to Canna for a visit, why not grab a bag and volunteer for an afternoon?

Fergus and Jackson took their owners up to the trig point on Canna. The island looked spectacular in the Spring sunshine and both dogs thought the walk was a great one to do if you are visiting Canna this season.
Margaret Willington

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ISLE OF RUM

Apologies to all, especially the editor for missing last month's West Word; as much as I love writing, this article always seems to get submitted last minute. We'll start with nature news first from resident ornithologist Sean:
Lapwings arrived back in late February and are currently displaying on the croft lands, egg laying expected any time now. An Iceland gull was seen a few times from 3rd March. Goosander seen from 5th March. Migrant Black headed Gull on Loch Scresort 7th March. Common Crossbills and Greenshank have been seen since 9th March. A pair of Bullfinches were about on 17th March. Chiffchaff and Wheatear also back. And stop press… a male House Sparrow as of Friday morning (31st).
The Head Teacher post at Rum primary was recently advertised and on a permanent basis, which was something of a relief to the parents. Interviews are continuing next term and the school hopes to look forward to a new Head for the next school year. Current temporary head teacher William Stephen is fitting in well and his lovely sausage dog, Denis, can be seen daintily trotting around the village.
Over at Rum shop, Jennifer and Stuart are scaling up for the start of the season; soup and chips are now available along with their array of fancy coffees and everything else they sell. Drift, the local craft studio, will be ready to open soon full of locally made art, crafts and woollens and the bunkhouse has more Rum branded kit for sale.
Rum Bunkhouse will also be featured on Scotland's Great Escapes on BBC Scotland Wednesday 3rd April at 8pm, probably too late for publication but you could watch it on the iplayer. Rum also made it onto a list of the 20 most underrated islands in Europe. Well, we know Rum is a treasure and we'd like to keep it that way and we do our best by promoting sustainable travel and tourism, something we work hard to do as the Small Isles through VisitSmallIsles - check out the blog on the website or on instagram.
In slightly less sustainable news, dependent on your point of view that is, Mowi held a community meeting to garner our views on their proposal to site another fish farm, same size as the existing one, just north of it along the coast of Rum. Views are mixed on island between those who have ethical, environmental or political objections to why another fish farm is not a good idea and those who see this as an opportunity for the community to seek more benefits from Mowi. What do you think?
The long awaited residents' consultation about Kinloch Castle is just taking place now. We have been trying to get in touch with RESAS, the government department tasked with carrying it out, since October when the survey was meant to have been done, but have had no luck getting any contact details at all. Despite this, they have had advance meetings with Nature Scot, HIE, Historic Scotland and even the Friends of Kinloch Castle but didn't see fit to contact the Isle of Rum Community Trust for any context whatsoever. So again, lots of off island interest and the actual local representative organisation getting no input into the background of the survey, this despite months of meetings last year after the disastrous sale proposal put forward by NatureScot and Jeremy Hosking. It also seems the advance meetings have decided on what the minimum amount of land should be to go with the castle, again in spite of all our concerns about a small private estate being inserted into the middle of our village. We thought the one takeaway from that chaotic process would have been to keep in touch with us, so the same issues don't keep coming up yet again. Shame. Lets hope the survey actually addresses all the issues. Scottish government may have an asset they wish to dispose of and they may be looking for the right conditions in which to sell, but unfortunately the issue is a bit bigger than that for this community and now that we have engaged in the process we will not allow ourselves to be outmanoeuvred again and pushed into a corner from which there is no alternative but to come out kicking and screaming; we would actually prefer a more dignified approach.
Apart from those two giant issues to deal with, we have just completed our feasibility study and business case for our new hub (shop café, office, doctors space, laundry showers etc.) Now this is much more exciting for us but equally as challenging. Capital projects on islands are hugely expensive compared to their mainland equivalents; we didn't quite anticipate how expensive they have become though. With Rum Bunkhouse and four new houses under our belt, we have done this before but costs have risen significantly in the interim and so we might have to do some significantly creative thinking to bring this into being but it will happen. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Fliss Fraser


ISLE OF EIGG

Sprucing up Eigg's Woodland
After a busy few weeks in the Eigg Forestry Plantation with phase two of timber felling, we began the second phase of restocking compartments harvested in 2019. Steph, Tamsin, Ritch and Eilidh, under the careful instruction of Tasha, are now on the last compartment with just under 3,000 trees still to go. The mixed native and productive species will create sections of the forestry for recreation, habitat, and wood fuel, replacing the current sitka spruce monoculture with a much more resilient and stable ecosystem that will promote biodiversity by providing habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. Replacing the felled timber with a total of 8,750 Birch, Oak, Hazel, Scots Pine, Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and Sycamore ensures we are looking to the future, where a well managed woodland is key to achieving Eigg's goal of being a carbon neutral island.

Green Shed Opening
The aptly named Green Shed is now open for business! On the ground floor you will find the Coastguard and West Coast Wild, a new Eigg-based enterprise selling locally made seaweed products, from soap to tea and salt. Upstairs there is a co-workers space for locals including graphic designer and signwriter Anna Rothach, as well as an office for The Eigg Guiding Co.

Eigg Guiding Co.
An exciting new enterprise set up by residents Jon and Kat, who both have a background in outdoor pursuits. The Eigg Guiding Co. provides guided tours on land and water for visitors to the island, hoping to create fun and adventurous memories. As well as the unit in The Green Shed, they have a woodland site in The Old Pheasantry offering a sheltered space to learn Bushcraft skills, open fire cooking, and Archery and Axe Throwing.
Offering snorkelling tours, guided walks and stand up paddle boarding tours - with all the equipment required available to rent - they are making it easier to experience Eigg's wildlife, biodiversity, and rich history. All information on hours and booking can be found at eiggguiding.org, as well as on facebook and instagram.

International Women's Day Fundraiser for Medical Aid for Palestine
To celebrate International Women's Day on Friday 8th March, we had an evening of food and cocktails to raise money for Medical Aid for Palestine and stand in solidarity with those in Gaza. Together we raised over £300, with food, drink and sweet treats made or donated by various members of the community. A huge thank you to all those who came along and supported this important cause.

New Composter on Eigg
Eigg Trading were successful with funding for a Ridan composter which is now situated in An Laimhrig. Initially the composter will just be using the shop and tearoom food waste, with sawdust from the forestry, and trialling the compost in the tree nursery. Eventually, once we have tested how the system works, and everything is running smoothly, it will be open for all residents to use. A huge thanks to Colin, Alistair and Shuggie for moving the old Coastguard shed, and to Kat, Greg, Dean, and Jen for managing the project.

Eigg at 27 Survey Workshop
This month we had a visit from Bobby Macauley, a researcher from UHI who has a lot of experience working with small and rural communities. Thanks to a successful application to the Innovation Voucher Scheme, Bobby will be helping us develop the 'Eigg at 27 Survey'.
The purpose of the survey is to build a clear and up-to-date picture of the needs, views, and demographic of our island in order to shape the future work plans of IEHT, and ensure the Island is moving in a direction that fits the desires of the community.
The workshop was an excellent opportunity for islanders to have a say in shaping the survey, ensuring the topics, format and language of the questions was appropriate and relevant in their eyes. A huge thankyou to Bobby and Jen for facilitating this, we look forward to seeing how the survey progresses, and hopefully seeing the final draft in summer.

Spinning Into Spring at the Eigg Easter Ceilidh
We welcomed the warm weather, the summer boat timetable, and plenty of visitors last week for the Easter Ceilidh, which feels like it spun us into spring. A huge thanks to the Skashin Ceilidh Band for some brilliant music, as well as Dougal on sound and plenty of volunteers for cleaning and serving.
Eilidh MacGilp


ISLE OF MUCK

Hello Muck Calling! Well hello to Lambing season and the constant dawn patrols looking for and helping any of the wee darlings, especially in this spell of unsettled stormy weather. . . . hoping for a bit of a warmer climate to keep them toasty.
We had an 'Egg-cellent' Easter hunt with all the children scouring Cairidh Bay for the hidden treats, zig zagging like Gazelles trying to have the fullest buckets (some big kids had to help the younger herd members) followed by al fresco refreshments.
After we had a couple of Electrical Engineers on the Isle helping to find where the break in the line, Dun Ban and Godag were able to be reconnected to the main power but unfortunately Gallanach still has a yet undiscovered fault so will need further work, but looks like a major trench is getting dug to replace that portion . . . shovels needed for sure.
Finally starting to see boats and yachts out and about with a few stopping in for a visit and even the Hebridean Princess is planned so the Green Shed (open 24/7) is all newly painted, dressed and stocked just in time, and it looks fabulous with a real varied selection of handcrafted Artisan products. Well done.
Well folks that's our wee news from the wee Island.
Bruce Boyd

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A Write Highland Hoolie!
8th - 10th November 2024

Announcing the launch of The Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition!
This is the third year of our popular poetry competition which has the magnificent prize of an engraved quaich - the Mary Manson Trophy - £250 cash, plus £250 in book tokens to be spent in the Highland Bookshop, or with them online, and a bottle of malt whisky so the winner can toast their success. Our theme this year is humour.
Held in memory of our former committee member, the late Deirdre Roberts, who gave so much of her time to the community, the competition is very fortunate in having two very generous sponsors, Don & Mary Michie and the Highland Bookshop of Fort William.
Our judge this year is Don Paterson, a prolific poet and winner of many awards - and he is also a jazz musician and composer. Don will open the Festival on Friday 8th November this year and present the prize at the end of his event. Last year's judge was the very entertaining poet Hugh McMillan, and the winner was Charlie Gracie.
The competition is now open to entries. The closing date is 11pm on Wednesday 31st July 2024 and no late entries will be considered. The winner will be announced on our website and social media on 1st September 2024. There is a fee of £10 for submission of an entry of up to three poems per person and strictly only one entry per person.
We're looking for humorous poems of up to 40 lines (excluding title and line spacing). The competition is open to all over the age of 18 writing in English. Poems must be original and not have been published before or won any prizes.
Full rules and the entry form can be found on our website, www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com, where you can also pay for your entries.
Any queries please contact us on info@a-write-highland-hoolie.com We're looking forward to lots of entries this year and hope you will have a go!


MALLAIG FISHERMEN'S MISSION TO CLOSE

National charity, the Fishermen's Mission, announced on 4th April that it will not be renewing the lease on their centre in Mallaig.
Marc Evans, Chief Executive of the Fishermen's Mission explained, 'We leased our current centre in Mallaig in 2011. At that time, we had experienced a significant reduction in the demand for our own centre and so we opted to lease rather than to own. Over more recent years we have observed a continuing decline in the number of fishermen requiring use of the facilities in the leased centre, making its retention impractical.'
The charity adds that the number of boats that still fish out of Mallaig has reduced significantly, and this, along with the new visa requirements for migrant fishermen, has meant that there are even fewer visitors to their centre.
Marc continued, 'Raising funds for our work is never easy and has become much more challenging over the past few years with COVID and the cost-of-living crisis really impacting our income while our costs have increased with inflation, and in some instances considerably more so. Over the past three years alone, the centre and the facilities we have provided have cost us over £40,000 each year, and fewer and fewer fishermen have made use of what we have had to offer. We remain fully committed to supporting fishermen in Mallaig, but the centre is simply not being used to the level necessary for us to continue with the current provision. We must ensure that services which are no longer required do not consume our reserves, and prevent us from responding to changing needs, so we can develop and offer new and innovative services to our fishermen, now and into the future. The simple reality is that we help most fishermen in different ways these days. We meet with them in their environment, in the ports and harbours around the coast, and in their homes.
'The Fishermen's Mission remains the only national charity that works solely to support active and former fishermen, and their families, plus the international fishermen working in our fleet all around the UK. During their 142-year history we have met a continually changing demand by evolving and keeping up with the changes in the fishing industry and the lives of our fishermen. It is our responsibility to ensure that we continue to fund services that make a significant difference to as many fishermen as possible.
'I can assure all fishermen in the Mallaig area that they will still be able to access support, be it financial, practical, healthcare related or pastoral, whenever they need us. I strongly urge those who might need our services to contact us.'
The Fishermen's Mission says it will continue to provide services to all fishermen, both active and former, along with their dependents, to the whole of the West Scotland area. They confirmed that all their active clients in the area are still in regular contact with Port Staff and they encourage fishermen to contact them if they need support.


News in Brief

  • Police Scotland are seeking information regarding the theft of numerous road signs along the A830 between Glenfinnan and Arisaig over the weekend of 15th March 2024. If you have seen any suspicious activity or have dash cam footage that could assist enquiries, please contact 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting incident CR/0101488/24.
  • What is good about the place where you live and what could be done differently? Answers on your experience will help Highland Council plan for the future. The 'Highland Place Standard' survey can be found here: www.highland.gov.uk/yourplacehighland
  • Regional Screen Scotland (RSS) have received £350,000 funding from Screen Scotland, enabling them to extend the lease of the current Screen Machine vehicle until April 2026. RSS are continuing to raise funds to build a tailor-made Screen Machine.
  • Dangerous parking near Arieniskill as tourists visit 'Dumbledore's grave' is causing fears of a serious accident.

Mallaig Lifeboat Log

10th March 2024
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard at 14:23 to transfer a team of Firefighters to an estate at the head of Loch Nevis. A shed containing hay and other feed stuffs had caught fire on the estate. A worker had managed to retrieve gas containers and other combustibles from the shed before the fire took hold. On-scene at 15:35, the Lifeboat was met by a local workboat that was operating in the area and transferred the Fire Brigade to the shore near to the location of the Fire. The worker sustained a burn to his hand but was able to pilot one of the estate's craft back to Mallaig to have the burn attended to by local Ambulance crew. As expected the fire had died down due to the time between raising the alarm and transfer to the location. It was now up to the Fire Brigade to dampen down smouldering bales of hay and feed stuffs that were stored in the building. Owing to a scarcity of water at scene this took longer than usual as they had to wait for a head of water to build up again before resuming dampening down. Once satisfied that the situation was under control the Leading Fireman handed over control of the scene to other estate staff. Once equipment and Fire personnel were boarded the Lifeboat left the scene at 19:25. Lifeboat berthed at pontoon and ready for service at 20:15.

1st April 2024
Requested to convey Medics to Inverie at 19:48. A 84 year old male had sustained a head injury after his vehicle had left the road between Inverie and Airor. Rescue 151 from Inverness was also tasked to the location. Alongside the pier at 20:30, the Medics were transferred to the scene by local Coastguards. Rescue 151 was able to land at the scene and after assessing the casualty he was transferred into the Helicopter and onward to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for further treatment. The Medics were brought back to Inverie by the Coastguards and once boarded the lifeboat departed for Mallaig at 21:50. Back at the Pontoon at 22:10 and ready for service.


Special Awards for Mallaig Lifeboat Crew

On 12th March 2024 Mallaig's ALM (Area Lifesaving Manager) Gio Ciccarelli presented our volunteer crew, along with our full-time mechanic Tony and duty Coxswain Mark Scott from Oban, with a letter of commendation from the head of lifeboat operations John Payne for their bravery during the rescue in August last year of a group of kayakers who had entered the water in rough conditions at the mouth of Loch Nevis.
The citation, to every member of the crew involved, states: 'Throughout the service you demonstrated exceptional professionalism, teamwork and casualty care. Your ongoing determination and commitment to saving lives at sea is greatly appreciated.'
Colin Biddulph received a special letter from Mark Dowey, the Chief Executive, as he had entered the water to assist in the casualties' rescue.

RNLI Senior Lead for Scotland, Jill Hepburn, wrote a personal letter of thanks to Inverie resident Struan Robertson. Struan was transiting back to Inverie in a RIB when the MAYDAY was issued and diverted to the area, recovered two casualties from the water and then transferred them to the Lifeboat which was by then on-scene.
All nine of the casualties were taken to Mallaig by the Lifeboat and up to the Lifeboat station to dry off and get warmed up.
Struan remained in the area and recovered a canoe and other bits of kit floating in the mouth of Loch Nevis until the Lifeboat returned to the scene to recover the other canoes and kit on the shore line.
MIC

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Pictured left to right:
RNLI Mechanic, Tony Skea; Volunteer crew, Calum King; Navigator, Stuart Griffin; Second Coxswain, Kevin MacDonnell; Volunteer crew, Colin Biddulph; Area ALM, Giordano Ceccarelli; Hugo Martin, Volunteer crew.
Photo by MOE MATHIESON


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News from Mallaig Harbour

It's been another mixed month of weather, but a bit more activity on the fishing side. On Thursday 21st March we had gales which brought 11 visiting fishing vessels as well as three local boats into the Harbour (pictured). It's the busiest we have seen it for a good few years, and as I write this quite a few of them are back in, having landed again. There are more gales forecast for the weekend, so the Harbour will be full again.
Seafish are undertaking a series of consultation events on the current and future management of Nephrops fisheries in the North Sea and waters around the west coast of Scotland. These are to support the development of Fisheries Management Plans for these areas. An event will be held in the Harbour Building meeting room on Friday 12th April from 6pm-8pm. Seafish want to hear from anyone with an interest in Nephrops fisheries and their management, and no prior registration is required - just come along to the meeting.
The congestion in the Harbour is compounded by having the Loch Fyne and Loch Bhrusda back, and berthing overnight in the Outer Harbour. It's great to see the ferries operational again, although a bit disappointing that we have once again started the season without the Coruisk. We are expecting the Coruisk back on Friday 5th April, but then she is being redeployed from the 14th April until the 11th May to cover the Oban-Craignure run. During this period, we will also lose the Lochboisdale sailing, as the service will be running to Oban instead. This has already generated some negative press, as many local businesses are having bookings cancelled as potential visitors to the area have to rearrange their holiday plans. The consultation on The Islands Connectivity Plan and Vessels and Ports Plan is still open for another month - until 3rd May, so this is a good opportunity to make your voice heard if you have strong views about the ferry services. To access the consultation, search for Islands Connectivity Plan on www.transport.gov.scot.
Some of our Board Members accompanied me to Portree on 19th March to attend an event organised by HIE and Lochaber Chamber of Commerce bringing people together to discuss their vision for the west coast, including Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross. It was an interesting day, and great to see how other businesses such as Kishorn Port Limited are trying to put the area on the map. As usual, affordable housing was top of the list of concerns for people, and the impact that the lack of housing has on attracting new staff to the area. One of the speakers was Catherine MacLeod, who is originally from Mallaig and who has been a political journalist and political Advisor, most notably to Alistair Darling in the Treasury during the financial crash. She was urging businesses to make Westminster aware of the issues and challenges faced in the west coast, so hopefully this event will be the start of a process to do this with a united voice. There was a lot of discussion in the afternoon about the opportunities that could arise from the Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, and how the west coast can benefit from these, as well as how to harness the benefits from offshore wind licences. As a Harbour, we need to be able to recognise opportunities and be able to maximise any benefits, which feeds into the work we wanted to do in developing the Outer Harbour.
I had hoped last month to be able to introduce you to our new Deputy Harbour Master. Unfortunately, his start date was delayed, so this will have to wait until next month.
We also received notice this week that the Fishermen's Mission has taken the decision not to renew the lease on the Mallaig Centre, which will result in there not being facilities available for visiting fishermen. A press release explaining why is published elsewhere in West Word. This is not entirely unexpected, given the loss of their local staff member at the end of November, a post which has not been readvertised. As with many other organisations, the RNMDSF is having to make tough decisions about how to use limited funds, and has moved away from providing similar centres in other Harbours. In anticipation of this announcement, we have already had a look at whether we might be able to improve the facilities within the Prawn Market, and at least install a shower, and we will work with local fishermen's organisations over the coming months to establish what demand there is for facilities locally.
This month we also met with MOWI in Fort William after the announcement of changes to the way that the Harvest Station will be operated, which will result in a reduction to the staff employed there. Whilst the consultation period between MOWI and their staff is still ongoing, and they were not able to share details of this, MOWI were able to give reassurances that they remain committed to Mallaig as a base for harvesting salmon in the future.
Finally this month, after the launch of 'Mallaig Clean' last month, I was invited back to talk to the children of Mallaig Primary at their assembly, about how the Harbour manages and tries to reduce waste. The children were very knowledgeable about the impact litter can have on the marine environment, and what can be done to help, and are very enthusiastic about the part that they can play in reducing this impact. We are hoping at the Harbour to support the Small Isles with more recycling of beach waste towards the end of the month. The sailing yacht Selkie is going to help access some of the trickier areas of shore around the Small Isles and this waste will then be brought to Mallaig for sorting and recycling.
Jacqueline McDonell


On and Off the Rails

Hello, it's me again!
Following a curious weekend of trying to get my head around what day of the week each day was - let alone the combined events of Easter, change the clocks to BST, change the calendars, followed by 'All Fools Day' and a bout of 'the bug' that rampaged through Mallaig - and me - I surfaced to process the news that the TV licence had increased, along with the water rates, postage stamps, council tax, combined with the shocking news that 'tweet-of-the-day' had been removed from my wireless (how dare you Radio 4!) Honestly it's a wonder that I am calm enough to start my column! Is nothing sacred ha! ha! However, having 'hugged a mug' (or ten) of tea, here I am with so much information to process that I have to now calm down and start. So here we go.

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The West Highlander passing Loch Eil. KB

The headline 'West Highlander day trips to run on Scotland's Jacobite Line' spewed out from my fax machine on Wednesday 3rd April - and by the time this West Word issue is in print it will have happened! After waiting for good news here it was. Locomotive Services Limited (LSL) will be operating two one-day trips on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th April, as day return rail journeys from Fort William to Mallaig, on a 'pay on the day' basis priced at £40 per adult and £20 for under 16's.
An LSL spokesperson said, 'We are delighted to present a day return journey over the world-famous West Highland Jacobite line, featuring some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland as we cross magnificent bridges and viaducts offering views of tumbling waterfalls, peaceful lochs, and the Isle of Skye.' (I should add at this juncture that the same scenery is available on ScotRail's service trains, seven days a week, four times a day in each direction - except on Sundays when it is three!)
True to LSL's word, That very evening - 3rd April - the following empty coaching stock pathed as a diesel locomotive trailing a load of 455 tonnes, arrived at Tom Na Faire Depot, Fort William, having departed from Crewe at 06.43 that day, and consisting of diesel locomotives 37409 Loch Awe and 37667 Flopsie with LSL's vintage ScotRail 'Push Pull' set of carriages (which have toilet retention tanks and central door locking) and will feature an on board buffet, and stewards. Departing Fort William on both of the two days at 08.52, arriving in to Mallaig at 10.50, departing Mallaig at 11.34 and arriving back in Fort William at 13.20, there will no doubt be many photographers following it by road as it traverses the line! It will be top-and-tailed so will not require any run-round/shunting duties at Mallaig. The reason for the pathing/timing is that the timing route is as used by the Royal Scotsman touring train, which will start later in the season.

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WCRC's Loch Arkaig and Loch Rannoch in Mallaig - photo by Robert MacMillan

WCRC latest news
The WCRC route timings (which are later in the day) are still held by them, although The Jacobite is currently not running, after WCRC announced on 20th March - just eight days before the start of the 2024 operating season - that it was suspending the start of the service. Their website currently claims it is suspended until 18th April. Refunds to passengers previously booked are being made on a week-by-week basis as WCRC await a response to a request for another temporary exemption from the ORR, to operate on the line without fitting central door locking to their existing stock of Mark 1 coaches.
At this point I feel able to quote from the ORR, through the April edition of Railway Magazine, a national periodical that is very respectful.
The ORR told Railway Magazine, 'We are assessing an application made by WCRC on 8th March for an exemption from Regulation 5', adding that the process could take up to four months. They continued, 'All heritage operators were told several years ago that in order to operate after 31st March 2023 they either needed to fit central door locking or obtain an exemption from us […] West Coast Railway's application failed and they made a claim for judicial review. A temporary exemption was granted in order to maintain the status quo, enabling WCRC to operate whilst the litigation reached a conclusion. […] Despite this, WCRC chose to sell tickets when it was far from certain that a new application for an exemption would be granted, either in time for the commencement of services, or at all.'
The ORR is disappointed that 'WCRC appears not to have made sensible contingency plans for the benefit of their customers.'
As we go to press, WCRC was believed to be trying to source alternative CDL-fitted stock for The Jacobite. Latest news is that the ORR has asked Railway Magazine to clarify that 'Regulation 6 of the RSR permits ORR to grant exemptions from the prohibition of regulation 5. Any such exemption may be i) subject to conditions, ii) subject to a time limit; and iii) revoked by a certificate in writing at any time.'


At this point the pause button was well and truly held down over the weekend. Storm Kathleen arrived from Ireland and we well and truly hunkered down! ScotRail continued to try and run to timetabled times - but with ESRs (Emergency Speed Restrictions) in place; as the gales hit us, it became challenging to continue service - but thanks to the loyal staff all trains ran, just not to time most of the weekend. Network Rail were working between trains to ensure safe passage. So - here we are - today Monday 8th April (sorry to hold up my column, Editor!) and the LSL previously mentioned departed Fort William bathed in sunlight, with a bitter wind. 40 paying passengers were treated to an experience of comfortable, spacious seating, to enjoy the journey to and from Mallaig. Everyone was happy to be taking part in the experience. The staff were extremely attentive and the whole train was very well appointed and opulent. There was a buffet bar, retro posters and lots of attention to detail. It will run again tomorrow (9th April) and I am led to believe the stock will be retained at the Tom na Faire depot, Fort William, for future dates. Following into Mallaig at its previous years' booked timing came the WCRC Mark 1 rake of carriages and guard's van - but hauled into Mallaig by double headed Class 37 diesel locomotives Loch Arkaig and Loch Rannoch. As WCRC currently are not operating as a passenger service it was being used solely for 'driver training'. No passengers were on board and no secondary door locks (magnetic or otherwise) have been fitted: the whole scenario felt surreal. It too is going to be on the line again tomorrow, and I'm sure that many photographers will be present to witness the passenger-carrying The West Highlander and the not-quite Jacobite presenting the sight of four Class 37s crossing at Arisaig at approximately 12 noon! I spoke to the fare paying passengers on the 'ScotRail Express'. Some had driven through the night from Wales to be on the first return visit to Mallaig And they are paying again tomorrow. I understand totally that the booked timings in and out of Mallaig are not ideal. But it is what it is and hopefully will be sorted soon: Mallaig comes alive when we are full of happy tourists!

On that thought, it would be really nice if cars, motor homes etc just drew breath and stopped to spend some time with us when they arrive on the ferry from Skye. I watch as they depart from the harbour and (like a huge convoy) take the main road away from us. If only they took the time to see what a great place Mallaig is to park up and relax before departing. Maybe if there was some signage as they depart the ferry enthusing this fact it would help? Just a thought. Maybe the Road to (or from!) the Isles Facilities Group could develop it!!
So, tomorrow is another day and we will see what it brings - certainly a wee bit of a warmer breeze would be nice. The days of sitting out with a Mallaig Prawn Roll or Fish & Chips are calling!
Things to cover next month! With no space left this month and, I hope room for some photos, I will mention 1) The huge remedial, repair and replacement work that will be starting on Glenfinnan viaduct; 2) a draw to travel on The Aberdonian behind Tornado, later in the year; 3) serial gull invasion (again) at Mallaig Railway Sidings and Platform; 4) musings as to why the upstairs rooms in the station are not being taken up by a community group or 'project'! The 'For Lease' poster in the separate entrance is beginning to fade away! Many a 'MacBeth' family were happily ensconced there, then the rooms became various offices! In fact the purchase of 'Fasgadh' was completed up there - 32 years ago on Friday 26th May 1992 - and I can still barely work out who is related to who in the community! Thank you Mallaig for the journey - which continues! 5) still no catering - not even a depot for it at Fort William now - despite my pleas for it to be outsourced to Mallaig instead of in-house from Glasgow - which departs on the Oban train at Crianlarich! 6) the Cairngorm funicular railway, and HIE . . . and there's more . . .
See you on the train,
Sonia Cameron


Personal Angle

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always!
Robin Williams

40 years ago, 25th March 1984, Mallaig Stars FC commenced the 1984 season in a rather unique fashion - travelling down to Glasgow to play a preseason friendly match against a Barrhead XI.
Unfortunately despite being level 1-1 at the interval, Barrhead would claim victory by three goals to one. Here is the match report and team: Team members of Mallaig Stars FC travelled to Glasgow on Sunday, March 25, to play their opening match of the 1984 summer season, where they competed in a friendly match with a team from Barrhead, and in a sporting encounter they eventually went down by three goals to one.
Iain 'Skimpy' MacDonald was the Stars' marksman with a first time conversion from a right wing cross.

Team: Graeme MacMillan; Duncan MacKellaig; Archie Henderson; Alex Kennedy; Donald MacDonald; Douglas MacKellaig; James Annett; Johnny MacMillan; Ian MacDonald; Angus Kennedy and Robert MacMillan. Sub - Alastair MacKinnon.
After the mid morning kickoff at Barrhead, the Stars team headed off to Hampden Park - no, not to play, but to watch the Scottish League Cup Final between Rangers and Celtic which Rangers won by three goals to two, courtesy of an Ally McCoist hat trick.

My flashback photograph this month comes, not from 1984 but one year later in 1985. The occasion was The Stars FC end of season Dinner Dance - a highlight of the social calendar back then.
Held in late December, sometime over the Christmas period, it was an eagerly anticipated event with players, wives and girlfriends sitting down for a meal in the Marine Hotel followed by the presentation of trophies and then dancing the night away to the music of Manson Grant and The Dynamos.
1984 had been a good one for The Stars who had proven victorious in the local Mallaig and District League and had also annexed the MacRobert Thistle Cup. Unfortunately a trophy from the Fort William Welfare League eluded them yet again as they were defeated 2-1 by Caol Youth Club FC in the final of the Co-op Cup.

The photograph shows the individual award winners that year with their respective trophies: (left to right) Alex Kennedy; Johnny MacMillan; Robert Summers and Neil MacNeil.

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The way it used to be! Kenneth Macpherson sent me this photo showing the start of a fish auction on Mallaig pier. The picture was taken prior to the tented structures going up, so the fish was laid out for sale starting off just behind the Harbour Building (where the picture was taken) and continued all the way along behind the Prawn Market (itself full of boxes of live prawns and prawn tails) and right on down one side of the fish pier and up the other side. There were thousands of boxes of fish and prawns being landed on a weekly basis back then, with the busiest night of any week being a Thursday, the night when the Avoch/east coast fleet would tend to land after four or five days at sea and this, augmented by landings from the large fleet of local boats, boats from the Isles and the Clyde, would make for a truly busy night on Mallaig pier.
It may have seemed chaotic to the casual onlooker or visitor who came to watch (or more likely get in the way) but there was a system in place, a system of organised chaos!
Fork truck drivers were the key players in the operation. They transported the fish from the boats to the auction site; they would fetch containers of ice from the factory to help keep the fish in good condition; they would deliver empty boxes/pallets down to the boats; and after the auction, load the lorries waiting to take the fish to the processing factories mainly on the east coast.
Fish salesmen Walkers had three fork trucks, MDM one and Irvin's one, and the drivers never got a minute's rest. The pier was a hive of activity with salesmen, buyers, lumpers, fishery officers, fork trucks, engineers, electricians, lorries, vans and fishermen keen to know the price paid for their catch.
The Harbourmaster had the unenviable task of trying to berth 90 plus boats - boats of all shapes and sizes - into the harbour ensuring access to the ice factory was maintained at all times.
Yes folks that was Mallaig pier throughout the 80s and 90s!
RMM


Birdwatch March 2024 by Stephen MacDonald

A fairly cool month overall, with some strong winds at times, although there were several days with calmer clearer conditions and overnight frosts.
It wasn't until the last couple of days of the month that our first proper summer migrants appeared. On the 30th and 31st several Sand Martins were seen around the breeding colony by Rhubana, Morar. On the 31st Chiffchaffs could heard singing by Camusdarroch. However there were no reports of Wheatears in our area, usually our earliest summer migrant, although there were several reports from Skye and the Small Isles.
Whooper Swans were on the move north and several groups were reported, with 25 over Arisaig on the 17th the highest count. There were still two Whoopers on Loch nan Eala until the 12th. The lone Barnacle Goose was still to be seen around Traigh and Back of Keppoch till the month end. Canada Geese were reported from Loch Ailort and Arisaig. During the last week, several small groups of Pink-footed Geese were reported heading north.
Wigeon were seen at Loch Ailort, Loch nan Ceall and the Morar Estuary. Goldeneye were seen on Loch Morar and Loch nan Ceall. Slavonian Grebes and Common Scoter were at the latter site until the month end. Great Northern Divers were scattered offshore from Mallaig to Loch Ailort, with a group of 30 plus just off Camusdarroch on the 24th.
Still the usual wintering waders, with Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones around West Bay, Mallaig and Greenshank on the Morar Estuary. Some locally breeding waders were back on territory, with several Lapwing and Redshank displaying around Invercaimbe and Back of Keppoch.
The number of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits increased rapidly as the month progressed and three male Yellowhammers were singing in the Arisaig area.
Barn Owls were reported from Mallaig and Morar, Tawny Owls from Morar and Arisaig.
A female Merlin was seen between Invercaimbe and Portnadoran during the last week.
Jays were seen around Loch Ailort and Arisaig on several occasions.


World Wide West Word

Ross Martin read his in Scranton, Pennsylvania, American office - during Daimh's month long tour of the eastern USA.

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Here's Charlie Varley and family on the summit of Toubkal (4167m) in the Atlas mountains. Great spot to catch up on the West Word!

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