WEST WORD
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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December 2021 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Glenfinnan, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
Birdwatch
World Wide West Word

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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Not to be reproduced without permission.

THE OLD FORGE CBS CROWDFUNDER SMASHED IN EIGHT HOURS!
The Old Forge Community Benefit Society are nearing the end of their Crowdfunding campaign which was launched on 17th November. Within an hour and a half of launching they were halfway to reaching the £40,000 target which was eventually smashed in just under eight hours!
The funds raised will be used to improve the bar and cellar area by moving these back to make more space both behind and in front of the bar, making the Forge more open, welcoming and also more family friendly.
They are seeking £40,000 for this upgrade, and there is also a stretch target which will keep running until the Crowdfunder ends on the 18th December. The stretch will help with the costs of running the Crowdfunder and extra funds will be used for the items on everyone's wish lists - wood burning stove, musical instruments back in the bar, and a bench in front of the iconic sign outside to sit and enjoy a drink and enjoy the view.
There's lots of rewards on offer in the Crowdfunder; you can get your name engraved on the new custom bar, bag a t-shirt or get an invite to join a virtual session. The Crowdfunder runs until 8pm on Saturday 18th December and over £65,000 has been raised already with some of the unique rewards sold out! The team behind the Community Benefit Society have been blown away with the response. To make a bid or just have a look go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-old-forge-knoydart Check out the groups progress, business plans and keep up to date at www.theoldforgecbs.org

NEW GPs FOR MALLAIG AND ARISAIG MEDICAL PRACTICE
Following a recent national recruitment campaign, two salaried GPs have been appointed to the Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice. Dr Sara Broom and Dr Roberta Lindeman have been appointed and will both commence in their contracted posts in September 2022 as Dr Lindeman is currently on Maternity Leave. However Dr Broom is liaising with Morven, the Practice Manager, and will pick up shifts in the Practice from February 2022 onwards.
Both GPs will be living within the local area and will work two days in the Practice. In addition NHS Highland is looking to advertise for an Advanced Practitioner to work as part of the team in Mallaig.
Fiona MacKenzie, Primary Care Manager at NHS Highland said, 'This is a really exciting development for the Practice and will bring continuity to the Practice population. Until both candidates commence employment, the Practice will continue to be covered by locum GPs, and Morven is grateful for the support of the local community with accommodation.'

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. I hope you enjoy this issue! There are Christmas messages to read on page seven and some of the Book Festival's Creative Writing Competition prize winning entries from page eight onwards - and a great picture of the winners on page 29!
If you would like to buy a gift subscription for a friend or family member, there's a form to cut out and send in on page 35.
As always my thanks to Morag and Ewen for their help with the printing, Jane and Anne for labelling the envelopes, and to Ann and Robert for proof reading throughout the year!
Kirsty Bloom
editor@westword.org.uk


KNOYDART
It's been an exciting month hereůfirst off the Old Forge CBS launched its crowdfunder and what an unbelievable resultůthe target of £40,000 was smashed in a mere 7hrs and 38 minutes! The current total as it stands as I write this, with only 7 hrs to go until the end, is a whooping £60,720! It's a truly incredible achievement, so very proud to be part of this. We also had the almighty Shooglenifty gig for the official opening of the community hall which was a truly spectacular night filled with familiar faces who we haven't seen for so long. Unfortunately the weather was awful, which meant there were a few people who were unable to attend due to lack of boats, including support act AMD, who were unable to get across. Luckily we have a host of talented local musicians who were able to sweep in and save the day, so well done to Anna, Lachie and Terra!
Another party followed this, celebrating Morag's 70th with a 70th themed do in the Lodge! Morag's Moments Salon was in operation once again, kitting people out with traditional 70's gear and funky hair styles and cuts. The enthusiasm for dressing up is always great, and there's nothing better on a driech dark winter evening. The cocktails flowed, the people danced and were truly merry. The salon also raised £275 for cancer research.
The new butchery unit has arrived and is in the process of being kitted out, connected to services and will soon be up and running, meaning Knoydart will be able to produce more of its own venison products such as sausages and burgers. And just so everyone knows, these are some of the best sausages you will ever try!
Today saw the first proper winter weather hitting, with a blanket of snow and blue skies which was a welcome relief after weeks of wind and rain. Here's hoping for more of this to come in the run up to Christmas! Crazy to think that it's only a month away. Hope everyone has a good one when it comes.
That's all for now folks,
Heather Robb

GLENFINNAN
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
The Callop foot bridge is sadly still closed to the public due to structural concerns. There is no time frame, yet, to when works by Land and Forestry Scotland are going to be carried out but we hope that it will be commencing in the New Year. The Community Council are keeping abreast of the situation and will be inviting a representative from LFS to join them in a zoom meeting early in 2022 for a progress update.
We are looking to have a '20's Plenty' sign situated on pier road, Slatach and are hoping that this will be agreed with the Highland Council soon. This would be a great addition to the village as having no pavements means that there can be significant numbers of foot traffic and reducing the speed means reducing potential accidents from occurring. Safety first! Glenfinnan is again going to be slightly quieter than normal this Christmas and New Year with no cŔilidhs on the horizon thanks to Covid. We can though, tune into BBC Alba to listen to a selection of Scotland's finest musicians and bring "The Bells" in with some familiar faces.
It has been a busy wee year in Glenfinnan with the addition of the Car Park, the wee Harry Potter Bridge across the river Finnan and a new community hub that is currently under renovation. Village tidys, fill-a-skip and a socially distanced bash 'n' barbecue were some of the activities that were organised by the Community Council and the SCIO and always very well attended by the many local volunteers. A BIG thank you to everyone who gave up their time to help, it is very much appreciated by all.
From all of us here in the Glen . . .
Nollaig Chrýdheil agus Bliadhna mhath ¨r.
Catriona Hunter

ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . here we are racing headlong towards 2022 and it's been a roller coaster of a year with a lot of uncertainty about how the season would play out, but after a cautious start, visitors began to once again cross the water. . . and even the weather seemed to welcome them with the extended spell of glorious sunshine and calm sailing along with record sightings of Whale and Dolphin. It truly must have looked that we indeed have an idyllic lifestyle, and it is, we constantly told our steady stream of tourists - they would've loved it here during Arwen! Which reminds me - the Moffats are looking for parts of their shed if it turns up on Eigg or Canna!!

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But the year also marked a mini exodus with Lewis, Kelly and family moving back to Drumnadrochit, Ed and Sharon returning to Ireland (not without drama and tantrums and praying to the wind Gods), and more recently Neil, Georgia and the three wee ones leaving for a new adventure in Tasmania, again not without drama including time zone flight mix ups, last minute PCR testing, nail-biting wait for passports and isolating in Sydney due to a track and trace alert from a fellow passenger (early Christmas prezzie). Their departure day along with flat calm water, blue sky and bright sun was quite emotional.

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Which brings us neatly to the appearance of a little red post box for the wee and not so wee darlings to send wishes to Santa. Mine was first in, fingers crossed. The past month also saw Farm and Croft tupps earning their corn and an island full of bright painted ewes looking sheepish dare we say (sorry). With Neil departing one way we have welcomed Clara back to take up the vacant position of fish farm Manager and her renewed energy and character to the job . . . Good to see you back and good luck, Arwen was not kind to the site which just reminds us the power of nature. Well next time we chat it will be 2022 so Muck wishes you all a very Merry Christmas and an even Happier New Year - bring on the Hockey!
Bruce Boyd

ISLE OF CANNA
This month we welcomed a new resident to Canna, Margaret Willington, who has taken up the post of Administrator for the Isle of Canna Community Development Trust. We look forward to working with her and her four-legged companions!
Gerry arrived back from the sales with some new additions to the Sanday crofts. We have another breed of sheep on the island, some very cute Kerry Hills which I'm sure will be an added attraction for next year's visitors.
Work on the compound for the Canna House restoration works is due to be completed in early December with work on Canna House itself due to commence during 2022. A final delivery of aggregate for the compound is expected shortly and will see a return of the 63 metre CEG Cosmos cargo vessel.
Despite the bad weather we have been rewarded with some beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the month and I caught this late afternoon sun at the end of the month.

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With the Festive Season almost upon us may I wish everyone a Happy Christmas from all of us on Canna and we look forward to seeing many of you in 2022.
Donald MacKenzie

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
November is usually a quiet month in Canna House but at the moment, the House is alive with the Collections packing exercise continuing. Imagine trying to pack up your own entire House contents, down to the last pen in the last drawer! Conservation treatments continue on some of the Collections and Library contents which require treatments before they can be packed. This includes the freezing of any item which may have any woodworm or other pests - this is the best way of getting rid of them. Of course we do not have a freezer that is big enough to freeze an object like a spinning wheel for example, and so a standalone freezer unit has been brought to the island. Objects are removed after a week or so in the freezer.
Margaret Fay Shaw spent her first Christmas in Britain in 1920, when she was 'freed' from St Bride's School in Helensburgh for a few days, to go to London with her uncle. You can read about her Christmas adventures as a teenager in London at https://bit.ly/2WH3k6U
Margaret collected "TÓladh Ar SlÓnair" or "TÓladh Chriosda" in her time in North Glendale. This Christmas hymn is sung at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in South Uist and Eriskay with words written by Father Ranald Rankin and given to him by children of his congregation in Moidart when he left them for Australia in 1855.
"My love, my dear, my darling Thou,
My new treasure and my joy art Thou.
My beautiful fair son art Thou,
I am unworthy to be near you"
Nollaig Chridheil Dhuibh Uile agus Bliadhna Mhath ┘r! Fiona MacKenzie

Fiona MacKenzie

ISLE OF RUM
Usually a quite month but we have been buzzing with activity.
Rob, Paul and Emily, our very skilled volunteers at Rum Bunkhouse, have been working far and above our expectations to paint, fix, restyle and make new things for the bunkhouse and cabins. We can't thank them enough for all their hard work. To add to the buzz, local builder Gary Burton was here for 10 days constructing our new little shower block. He'll be back in the new year to put new doors on the Visitors Centre and build a potwash for the campsite.
It's very exciting; anyone who follows @rumbunkhouse on instagram will be able to follow progress.
We had so much rain this month. I'm not sure if the river reached a new high but the north side nature trail flowed pretty much all the way around which made for an interesting walk/wade and inevitably parts of the deteriorating track in the village got washed away too.
Ali has organised the Rum runners into the Rumrunners; there is a semantic difference. As we have so many digital workers here at their desk all day, Ali has got us all (six of us) running in the dusk/dark with head torches which is both challenging and more challenging - no broken ankles to report yet.
There has also been a bit of first light swimming in the sea, also challenging and a bit bonkers.
Bird sightings this month included Bramblings seen regularly at the bird feeders, an Iceland Gull on Loch Scresort on the 16th and 25th November, and a male Hen Harrier spotted at Kilmory on the 27th. Jack Snipe were seen in Kinloch on 2nd December, Snow Bunting on the 10th and 13th November and there are lots of Woodcock around.
We managed to resume a community get together in the village hall for a curry night. We haven't had a decent get together for . . . don't know how long, and it was great to see how many people cooked interesting dishes including several types of chapatis and naan, and Colin made goat curry - or is it curried goat?
We are now just into December, houses are displaying twinkly lights and Christmas trees and festivities for Yule are commencing, maybe a couple of months after the mainland but we like to keep Christmas to December.
Merry Christmas to everyone and have a lovely Hogmanay, I hope someone gets a good Ceilidh, we'll be there in spirit, though it might be another roller disco for us!!
Fliss Fraser

ISLE OF EIGG
As the winter nights creep upon us ever earlier each evening, the Eigg social calendar shows no sign of slowing down and we Eiggachs continue to make the most of each opportunity to connect with community.
Eigg Running Club regrouped this month and have enjoyed some really lovely winter sunshine runs. An informal affair, all abilities are welcome and it's a great opportunity to get up and out on a Sunday morning to cure whatever ails you! We meet at 10am most Sundays, so if you fancy joining us, please do.
Dougal has been instrumental in creating a lovely Wednesday lunchtime tradition at the hall - soup and a bun. A delicious warm lunch, a warm atmosphere and warm company for those who fancy it. Many thanks Dougal for your time, energy and dedication.
The Church of Scotland congregation were more than happy that all boats were running smoothly so that Rev. Stuart Goudie could preach his annual Christmas Service earlier this month. The children of Eigg Primary sang their favourite carols, and everyone agreed it was a lovely beginning to the holiday season.
Hugely exciting news from the Isle of Eigg Brewery this month, as Stu travelled through snow and wind, braving Storm Arwen, to collect the brewkit and bring it to its new home on Eigg. The first brew has taken place and we are *this close* to having the first sup of Isle of Eigg Brewery beer. There have been lots of trusty helpers, community members and friends. Well done to everyone who has supported and helped Stu get to this stage. Next month I might just be telling you about how it tastes!

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A first for Eigg this month as we hosted a Hollywood Premier (of sorts!) My brother, Fra Fee, is starring in the new Marvel series, Hawkeye, showing on Disney Plus. Never one to miss out on an opportunity to throw a party, Fee and I put on a special evening to mark the occasion; Popcorn and Prosecco. We watched Fra in action on the big screen and then had him zoomed in for a special Q and A after the show. A glitzy affair, it was great craic and everyone had a wonderful time. Many thanks to all who came out to support.
A massive congratulations and thank you to everyone involved in organising the Eigg Christmas Fair. There was a huge effort put in which made it one of the best ever! Special thanks to all the stall holders for their beautiful stalls with wonderful Christmas gifts. A special mention must go to Tadhgan McCarthy, who impressed everyone with his beautiful Origami stall. He managed to raise £61 for the school, what a fantastic achievement. Saira raised £300 for Crisis at Christmas with her amazing tapas and cocktails stand and the kitchen raised another £300 to be shared between the school fund and the Church of Scotland project. Well done to Karen and Tamsin who led, and to all those who donated delicious soups, buns and cakes. Thanks also to Katrin and Sue who raised £226.50 for school funds at the school tombola and a big well done to Neil who managed to bag his dream prize - a tin of spam! I'm sure those spam fritters at Eigg Organics tasted delicious on Sunday morning!
I end on a sad note, as this month we said goodbye to Stephen Chapman, aka Ziggy, dearest friend of Brian, Camille, Felicia and Brendan, and indeed of all who knew him. Ziggy loved Eigg and its community and had many, many fun times here. It was his dearest wish to come and live on Eigg where he had so many happy memories, but unfortunately health issues got in his way. He passed away peacefully in London with his daughters by his side. We send our love and condolences to all who knew and loved him.
And finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish all West Word readers a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2022 from all here on Eigg.
Nan Fee


Moidart History Group Comann Eachdraidh Muideart
The Moidart Local History Group is slowly getting back into gear after the problems of Covid 19. We are planning a meeting in the New Year and we have already run the History House for three months in summer 2021 and will be opening again Easter 2022. Planning Permission has been approved to operate the History House for another five years in its present position in Glenuig. As part of getting back to normal, we would like to make the History House more available to local people during the winter months. We would be very happy to show local people our collection if they contact us to arrange a visit - please call Gordon on 01687 470 254 or Jean on 01687 470 268.
At the first meeting in the New Year, possibly February, we are hoping to show some films with a local theme. If anyone has any film of local events, particularly events in Moidart, we would love to share them with a wider audience. Again, do call us on the above numbers or email to ariel@moidart.org.uk
John Dye


A Write Highland Hoolie!
Mallaig Book Festival

Forget Storms Arwen and Barra - the biggest Hoolie recently was the one in the West Highland Hotel! A wonderful programme of musicians and authors and the odd free dram kept everyone warm and entertained over the extended weekend.
Any fears that people would be unsure about coming had already been dispelled by the number of tickets sold beforehand, with several talks being sold out. It is becoming a venue where people from all over the country have become an extended Hoolie family, coming every year to meet as friends.
For lovely photos of the workshops in the High School, see their facebook pages for the School and the Music Department. The Festival ended with a fabulous prize giving event on Sunday afternoon, with hilarious entertainment from the talented Alan Windram, who had judged the competitions. West Word will be printing as many winning entries as they can over the coming months.
We would like to thank our funders and supporters: The Co-op Community Fund; The Robertson Trust; The Logan Charitable Trust; The Lang Foundation; The Highland Bookshop; Mallaig Harbour Authority; Mallaig High School - Kate MacLennan, Valerie Campbell, Colin Masterton; Primary School cluster - Deirdre Beck and all the teachers;
Kenneth MacKenzie; Malcolm Poole & Mallaig Heritage Centre; West Word.
Hope to see you next year!
The Hoolie team - Polly Pullar, Sine Davis, Ann Martin

Mallaig Seniors vs Eastfield United
What a brilliant game of eight a side Football at Paisley Powerleague, Glasgow on Sunday 21st November.
Angus Kennedy brought down a top class team of Seniors from Mallaig to play our Eastfield United side.
What a game! 2 - 1 at half time to Eastfield, but what a lesson in passing and finding a team mate from Mallaig, real quality football and bags of skill and ability from them.
A couple of early second half goals from Eastfield settled them and they grew into the game, but absolutely pressed all the way by Mallaig.

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Huge thanks to Angus for arranging and organising the game.
What a terrific group of players there are in Mallaig. What a great Friendship we have with them all.
From Everyone at Eastfield United FC, Thank you Mallaig. See you again soon.
Well Done!!!!
Andrew Rundell


NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR
Although we were hopeful at the end of last month that the Sprat pump was in place, to date it has not been needed - no Sprats have been landed, and the Caralisa has taken off their Sprat gear and gone back to the prawns for now. This is disappointing as a good Sprat fishery always gives a wee boost at the end of the year, and a bit of obvious activity on the Harbour, which we are missing.
We had 'battened down the hatches' in advance of the storm forecast for Friday 26th November - the school children had all been sent home early (ironically on the Western Isles boat Arwen, given that was the name of the storm), and the vessels had all been moved around the Harbour and pontoons to provide as much shelter as possible. In the end, although it was pretty stormy for a time, we didn't have it nearly as bad as the East Coast, and we are pleased to report no damage was sustained anywhere within the Harbour.
The works to convert the old Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings are ongoing, but they are really starting to take shape now. There has been a bit of disruption as we are taking the chance to upgrade some of the other facilities, so we have been without a ladies' room for the last week or so - thankfully the gents have been very gracious about sharing with us!! We're all telling ourselves that the long term benefits will be worth the short term upheaval!

I attended a virtual meeting of the Northern Lighthouse Board Users Group at the beginning of the month, and one of the topics for discussion was the replacement of one of their vessels, and how this might be powered in the future. This was timely as there was lots of discussion around COP-26 about the development of Hydrogen as a fuel of the future, and Hydrogen is certainly one of the options for vessels. The International Maritime Organisation aims to make shipping 'net-zero' for carbon emissions by 2050. Although this seems like a long way off, any vessels built by 2030 are likely to still be sailing in 2050, so the transition has to start soon! It's interesting how quickly the world can change - in 2016 when we published our Masterplan, there was very limited discussion about alternative ways of fuelling vessels, and what infrastructure this might require. However, this has to be very much at the forefront of any development plans now. COP-26, although it might have felt quite remote to Mallaig, has encouraged us to put some thought into future options for reducing the carbon footprint of the Harbour and our wider users. We have started this process in a small way with the installation of the LED lights, and the shore power points, and I'm glad to say that the upgrade to our power supply mentioned last month is complete and we now have sufficient capacity for all the shore power points to be operational. We're really grateful to HF Group who have been very helpful throughout the process, and who worked alongside SSE to ensure everything went smoothly.

I mentioned last month the plans for the Coruisk to return to Mallaig next season. At the moment, there is still no clarity on this, and the proposed timetables are not due to be published until mid-January. This is causing concern for tourism businesses locally and on Skye, who are fearful that the uncertainty will lead to reduced business, especially from coach parties who like to book well in advance. At the moment, it looks like the season will start with the Loch Bhrusda and Loch Fyne covering the Mallaig/Armadale run, and the Lord of The Isles only sailing between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, but with two sailings a day on three days of the week, allowing those travelling from Lochboisdale to the mainland to make a 'day trip'. There will be some challenges for us as a Harbour in accommodating all these vessels, so we are looking at options for some minor works that can be done to improve berthing and marshalling space in the short term.

By the time West Word is published, we will have had another visit from the Screen Machine, which is due on 3rd and 4th December. One of the films being shown is 'Launch! - On the Seas with Scotland's Lifeboats'. Directed by award-winning curator Shona Thomson, the film has been two years in the making with unprecedented access to the RNLI's own archives. 1920s film is woven with 1960s colour promos and breath-taking digital video captured by RNLI crews' 21st century helmet cameras whilst out on the wild sea. Launch! celebrates the dedication of Scotland's volunteer crews and the communities that support them. If you didn't get the chance to watch it in Mallaig, you can find out more information on the website, https://launchonthesea.com.
Finally, I'd like to thank the Harbour staff who have once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas decorations, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes!
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154
jacqueline@mallaigharbourauthority.com

MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG

11th November 2021
Launched at 16:25 by Stornoway Coastguard to recover three deer stalkers from the south shore of Loch Hourn. Whilst returning to Arnisdale on the north shore of the loch their vessel's engine failed due to a faulty fuel system. After many unsuccessful attempts to restart the engine and darkness falling, they requested assistance from the Coastguard. In the meantime they dropped their anchor to await assistance. On-scene at 17:05 the Lifeboat quickly located the vessel close to shore in a sheltered bay. The lifeboat managed to manoeuvre close enough for a line to be thrown off the bow to the casualty and once secured was able to pull the craft out into deeper water and made secure alongside. The Lifeboat proceeded across the Loch to the fish farm jetty in Arnisdale Bay. Once the casualty was made secure at the jetty the Lifeboat departed at 17:40 and proceeded back to Mallaig, berthing at 18:20 and made ready for service.

12th November 2021
Launched on service at 16:30 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a yacht with engine failure with four persons on board south of Arisaig Point. The vessel was experiencing trouble with its fuel system and to add to matters the wind had veered into the North making it difficult to sail towards Mallaig. On-scene at 17:14 the tow rope was passed over to the yacht and proceeded back towards Mallaig with a fresh headwind. On arrival of Mallaig in quieter waters the yacht was towed to the pier heads and taken alongside the Lifeboat for the short tow to the Marina. Lifeboat ready for service at 19:40.

14th November 2021
Launched at 15:45 by Stornoway Coastguard to a catamaran that had lost power in Arisaig Sound and drifting towards rocks. On passage to the location the Coastguard informed the Lifeboat that a second Catamaran had come to assist and now they were also in difficulty. As the Lifeboat passed the North Channel into Arisaig loch two sets of lights were observed. The Lifeboat continued to the South channel of the Loch in order to launch the Y-Boat in quieter waters. On passaging through the patches into the bay it was noticed that the observed craft were moving towards Arisaig Marina. Once alongside the crafts, it became apparent that our catamarans were actually jet skis. Because of poor reception on mobile the descriptions were somehow lost in translation. Anyway, the second casualty managed to free its impeller of seaweed and was towing the other to Arisaig slipway. All were well but as a precaution the Lifeboat escorted them to off the slipway before returning to Mallaig. Fuelled and ready for service at 17:45.

15th November 2021
Stornoway Coastguard requested the transfer of a medic to Knoydart to attend to an unwell male on the peninsula at 13:03. The Lifeboat arrived on-scene at 13:32. The Medic and one crewman were transferred to the male's location by a family member. Once assessed it was decided that the best course of action was to transfer the casualty back to Mallaig. The Lifeboat departed Inverie and berthed in Mallaig at 16:00. The patient was transferred to Fort William's Belford hospital for further assessment. Lifeboat ready for service at 16:00.
Jim Morton


On and Off the Rails

It's oh so quiet . . . shh, shh,
It's oh so still . . . shh, shh,
You're all alone . . . shh, shh,
And so peaceful - UNTIL . . .
. . . along comes 'Storm Barra' and now I'm wide awake - so here goes with my final column of 2021 to write!

Firstly: ScotRail's Scotland's Railway becomes Santa!
Pass the word on that university and college students can 'Travel home for Christmas' on ScotRail and return to uni or college within one month at half price, without having to purchase any Railcard, using only their student ID card, at any ScotRail booking office only - not on any website or app!
Tickets can be purchased from Friday 10th December until Friday 24th December for travel up to that date. The return half will be valid up to one month from the date of travel. The offer is not available on super off-peak day return tickets, and cannot be used in conjunction with any other Railcard discount, e.g. 16-25 Railcard. It is simply to half the cost of 'Travel home for Christmas - and back!'

Secondly: ScotRail timetable changes over Christmas/New Year
This is for trains between Mallaig - Glasgow Queen Street. ScotRail advises to recheck nearer Christmas.
However as at Tuesday 7th December,
Mallaig - Glasgow Queen Street
Friday 24th December Possible changes re the 18.24 ex Glasgow - check nearer the time.
Saturday 25th December No service
Sunday 26th December Limited ScotRail trains, mainly serving Greater Glasgow.
Monday 27th - Friday 31st December Normal service
Saturday 1st January No service
Sunday 2nd January Normal Sunday service
Monday 3rd January Normal service
If it helps, I would suggest checking with ScotRail customer relations on 0344 8110141.

Thirdly: Young Persons' Free Bus Travel Scheme in Scotland
This scheme, which was approved by the Scottish Parliament this year, will allow all young people under 22 to access free bus travel through the National Entitlement Card (NEC) and the Young Scot branded NEC. In total around 930,000 young persons will benefit from the new scheme, which will embed more sustainable travel behaviours from a young age and help to meet the target of net zero emissions by 2045.
Parents or guardians will be required to approve applications for young people under the age of 16 to ensure they can exercise their responsibility for their children's safety. This includes providing approval for existing cardholders to access the scheme.
Under 19's are due to get their passes in January 2022, and under 22's in January 2023. Details of how to apply will be provided to existing cardholders and for new applicants via a media campaign in due course - hopefully very soon. Sounds good to me - as they say in some TV adverts, 'That'll do'!

Fourthly: check out Mallaig railway station and booking office
I do believe that free Wi-Fi (if you need it!) is now available at the above! Seating area - also booking office area and platform barrel train - are festooned for Christmas.
P.S. the large community council-provided Christmas tree is now switched on and many shops deserve a thank you for encouraging the festive spirit in this, what is possibly a 'cautious Christmas'!

Fifthly: Looking forward to 2022
The Jacobite steam train dates for 2022, announced for publication on November 23rd 2021, are as follows - put them into your new diary or calendar now!
The start date for the morning service, running seven days per week, from the outset, is Monday April 4th 2022 (only 17 weeks away as I write this column - gulp!) running through until Friday October 28th 2022 - nearly seven months!
The afternoon service will commence running on Monday 2nd May, also seven days a week, until Friday 30th September - five months!
Don't say I didn't give you fair warning - and fair play to West Coast Railways for committing to a planned longest season ever.
Bookings are now being accepted. I imagine that a lot of group block bookings are already in place from coach parties and tour operators plus hotel group operators who offer day trips on The Jacobite as part of a total itinerary plan.
The television coverage in travelogue prime-time programs this autumn and winter has been more than you can count on two hands - whether it be fish and chips and ice cream, or gift to take away. We thank them - as do ScotRail! and other rail touring trains that can find space to run on the rails.

Sixthly - Network Rail's Role
I cannot emphasise enough how indebted we are to Network Rail for their role in trying their hardest to stay one step ahead of the changing weather conditions in our climate. Not just so on our branch line, but from Crianlarich through to Fort William and Oban as well. Seven days a week and often 24 hours a day the crews are working on sections of the line in between working train times. We are so lucky (in these currently low passenger numbers) that ScotRail are committing to four trains a day (three on a Sunday) in each direction for 2022. The on-board staff and drivers commit to work knowing that the line below them is safe to travel on. Whether it be from crossing gates left open, to fast moving water flowing along the track bed, inside the rails, fallen trees, garden sheds, trampolines! Livestock - and trespassers on the line, etc. etc., the shift working response teams are working 24/7. This combined with planned projects on bridges, tunnels, and surveys by drone and regular maintenance on foot is to keep crews and passengers safe in all weathers. I reckon that Network Rail deserve a 'shout out' of thanks from all of us who travel safely, with masks on, and gratitude in our eyes. They really do 'Test and Protect' us on public transport.

Lastly - and just a late-night idea!
But worth committing to paper I think! It is a way that our local businesses and our train operator could convince more customers to travel on ScotRail by train during the next three months. How would this idea work?
I have recently spoken to Hege Hernaes who champions our 'West Highland Line Community Rail Partnership' (CRP). They work alongside station adopters, local authorities, HiTrans, Transport Scotland, etc. to discuss how to ensure a brighter future for our region's local and main railway lines beyond the pandemic and into the future 'Company at arm's length', 'ScotRail Scotland's Railway'.
Hege is willing to talk to any local businesses and ScotRail with regard to producing a discount scheme, for a defined period of time, that passengers would, on production of their discounted rail ticket receive an agreed discount in premises that displayed accreditation into the scheme. This would result in a newspaper series of advertisements to promote the scheme. Hege believes that the CRP committee would want to take this idea forward to ScotRail for approval, with agreed funding available from the CRP. If the project has legs, in the first instance please contact Hege on 01397 722291 or email her. Like I say, it is just a thought.

Finally - saving the best till last, I have to thank all of you who share my column each month. It is so heartwarming to be stopped in the street or told on the phone how truthful and passionate it is. My massive links to 'the Railway Connected Family' continue to inspire me and carry me forward. Thank you for caring.
We all know by now what we have to do to stay safe, not only to protect ourselves but others from our own contacts. We have all tried, with all balls up in the air, not to let this pandemic beat us. We mustn't let the balls come crashing down on us yet! Even though we have to believe that a positive 'loud and proud' campaign is coming, maybe a wee bit of 'Cautious Christmas' will help! That way we will not be beaten and a new season will follow. The bulbs are already punching through the soil, and the birds certainly are optimistic! Storm Barra has quit and I can heave a sigh. I've just seen today that the catkins and mimosa are following. I may even get time to read a book I purchased last Christmas - railway related of course - before the old year is out!!
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ┘r!
Sonia Cameron


BIRDWATCH November 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
Still a few birds on the move, as winter visitors continued to arrive while others passed through. Probably the most unusual sighting was a Firecrest which was present in a garden near Woodside, Morar from the 22nd - 24th at least. A close relative of the Goldcrest, it does not breed in Scotland, but a handful are reported most years.
Several reports of Whooper Swans still heading south, with sightings from Morar, Arisaig and Loch Ailort. At the latter location 12 were seen on the 1st and on the 7th a flock of nine were pursued briefly by a Sea Eagle as they flew down the loch. A group of around 40 Barnacle Geese were seen flying south past Mallaig the same day. Varying small numbers of Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala from mid-month. Goldeneye were reported from Loch nan Eala and the Morar Estuary. Goosanders were reported from Loch Ailort and the Morar Estuary. In calm weather on the 28th at least nine Slavonian Grebes were seen on Loch nan Ceall.
On the 6th a juvenile Iceland Gull was seen by the marine pontoons, Mallaig - the first report of the winter. On the 8th a Sooty Shearwater was seen near the Oberon Bank, between Eigg and Arisaig. On the following day up to three Little Auks were seen in the same area, both sightings from the MV Sheerwater.
Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were reported from West Bay, Mallaig throughout the month. Up to three Greenshank and six Redshank were seen on the Moarar Estuary on several occasions and on the 27th a Bar-tailed Godwit was seen in the bay at Bourblach. Several reports of Snipe and Woodcock from Morar and Arisaig as the month progressed.
From the beginning of the month Redwing numbers steadily increased and soon they were joined by Fieldfares, feasting on the plentiful Rowan berries.
On the 4th a male Brambling was reported from a Lochailort garden. Later the same day at least a dozen were seen near the Salmon hatchery, Lochailort, also feeding on Rowan berries. On the 6th a single female was feeding on seeds in a Morar garden along with Chaffinches. In Morar at least five Redpolls were seen feeding in the Birch trees on the 5th.
Several reports of Blackcaps during the month, presumably migrants as our breeding birds are long gone. A male was at Lochailort on the 4th. Both a male and female were seen in a Morar garden between the 5th and 11th feeding on Elder and Rowan berries.
Great-spotted Woodpeckers were seen feeding on fat balls and peanuts in several Morar gardens.
Jays were seen and heard at Alisary and Arisaig on several occasions.


WORLD WIDE WEST WORD

photo
Mountaineer, explorer, skier and writer Myrtle Simpson relaxed with a copy of West Word
in the West Highland Hotel and caught up with all the local news
after giving her talk at the Book Festival last month!

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Niall and Juliet Blackie have travelled to the four corners of mainland Britain
with a copy of West Word over the last three months.
Here they are at Ardnamurchan lighthouse, on the most westerly point of the mainland.
More pictures to follow in future issues of West Word!

photo
North Wales readers John and Barbara Price took their favourite reading material
with them to Marbella, where they celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary with their family.


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