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May 2021 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It's good to see a few visitors around and things starting to open up again - a partial return to normality! It's been a cold month with plenty of frosty nights. As I write the ballot papers from the Scottish Parliament election are being counted - no result for our constituency declared as yet.
No complaints from me about the printer this month (!) but unfortunately the office PC decided to give up the ghost yesterday, which made things a bit tricky when I was trying to finish editing! Fortunately I didn't lose anything crucial.
Once again my thanks go to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, and Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes.
So even though it felt like it would never come, the time has arrived where once again Knoydart is open for visitors. The restaurants, B and B's, Guest Houses, campsite and the Tearoom (initially only for takeaway but a Tearoom takeaway bacon roll is a VERY distant memory so this is fantastic news!) are about to welcome back the first tourists of 2021. There's been a bit of a buzz around the place, as people prepare to open up their businesses to the world again, not to mention an absolute ton of freight arriving to stock up those fridges and kitchens. We've also had some cracking sunshine of late, which has been much needed and with that came the sudden hum of everyone doing that first mow of their grass. It's almost like summer is coming.
The Wee Hooses will be arriving any day, with the site at Millburn pretty much finished, and the hooses have also been named after community voting. They are called Ladhar Bheinn, Meall Buidhe, and Luinne Bheinn - after the three Munros, for anyone who didn't know that.
On the 7th May The Old Forge CBS will launch a huge crowdfunding campaign which you can be a part of, to help relaunch our amazing pub. This crowdfunding will be the backbone of the fundraising plan and hopefully will raise around £250,000 . . .
A lot, I know. But I also know there are so many, many people out there around the world who have incredibly fond memories of the Old Forge and hopefully be willing to help us achieve this goal. The theme of the campaign will be "Community" (Something I'm sure most of you reading this are familiar with) and there will be lots of awesome rewards that will tie in to the values that the Old Forge CBS has set out. For more info on all the goings on you can follow it the website www.theoldforgecbs.org/invest.
Another exciting venture going on is the beginning of Coffee Knoydart, where you can get fresh simply roasted coffee from Doune. If anyone is interested in buying this, you can get it on their website: https://coffeeknoydart.square.site
That's all for now folks,
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
Lots of things happening in the Glen this month.
Transport Scotland has put a clearway TTRO (temporary traffic regulation order) in place for Glenfinnan this summer to address instances of inconsiderate parking on the A830 within the village. The TTRO will run from April to the end of October 2021. We hope that a permanent order (PTRO) will be put in place in the very near future but this process can take up to a year and possibly longer!
Some of the residents have been out undertaking our annual litter pick. We had a great socially distanced turnout this year and many, many bags of rubbish were collected from the top of the village right along the road towards Callop Bridge. Thank you to all who came out to help.
The following weekend we had a skip delivered by Bowmans which was filled with lots of old metal that had been lying around the village for years. We are all spic and span now what with the litter pick and the skip fill and hope that the tourists leave only footprints here too and it was lovely to see people turn up to help.
You will have noticed that we had some work being undertaken on the bridge in Glenfinnan (A830). This, I was told, was surveying work to see if we do in fact need a new bridge or possibly an upgrade of the existing structure. As of yet we have no further details but as soon as we get any information I will update you.
It is lovely to see the area opening up again for business but we must say a fond farewell to Chris Pritchard who had run the very successful and quite frankly fabulous Glenfinnan Dining car for many seasons. We are going to miss you very much but wish you all the best in your new ventures; thank you so much and hope to see you and your family in the lodge for a light refreshment, in the very near future.
As you know the car park is now open for business and is being used on a daily basis. If you were driving through the Glen on Thursday 22nd April you may have seen a strange sight . . . It was not, as previously suggested, locals out scaring away a rògaire or two, but a group of hardy locals with their rakes, raking the car park for the grass seeding. T'was a sight right enough.
Fòghnaidh feur nach d'fhàs don laugh nach d'rugadh!
(Grass that has not grown will suit the unborn calf)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . .
Well that's the floodgates well and truly open, so time to man the barricades in readiness to repel boarders. . . and by the time visitors get here the fantastic spell of weather we are having will be over . . !
We welcomed a new family onto the Island to take up the position of Head Keeper at Gallanach Lodge and we say a big welcome to Sam, Katie, Emily and Thomas - and we hope they find the transition painless! The summer timetable will take a bit of getting used to as we have had the same boat schedule for the past 12 months and already there are updates galore due to tidal issues at Eigg, so some visitors will get their money's worth out of their tickets. It is great to see sails back on the water and won't be too long before they are docking and walking ashore . . . we will all congregate at the pier and do the ceremonial Haka as a welcome!
The Swallows have made their journey back and it is great to see them inspecting the old nests and repairing them and our resident Herons are making themselves heard as they prepare for wee ones.
The Croft has finished Lambing and it's really funny to see them all playing in the field and chasing Seagulls. I myself even had a go at hand feeding the pet ones. Sandy, Vicky and painting foreman Sandra have been readying the Little Red Boat for action; the Green Shed is getting finishing touches to house the island's handmade craft products and we wish all involved the best of luck: there are fantastic items within and all great quality. The Farm is about half way through their Lambing regime but the ever-curious Calves are ever so funny . . . some showing how brave they are by standing firm in front of peers. I think Muck is looking absolutely pristine at the moment with new benches and tables dotted along the main walk, community hall deep cleaned and open, and the Tearoom in full flow with a slightly new look and feel, ready to serve up good food.
Well World, that's it from us this month!
ISLE OF CANNA
Really busy month here on Canna with Lambing underway and lots of lambs about. Everyone is getting ready for visitors being able to return to the island and I'm sure we will find it strange after so long being on our own. Café Canna has had a revamp and looks great; two new self-catering cottages are now ready for letting, and Tighard Guesthouse and Canna Campsite are busy gearing up for what we suspect will be a very busy season. The Community Shop is now stocking Beltie Burgers - made from Canna's home grown top quality beef. Packaged up with a great logo designed by Graficanna!
We are all looking forward to a special Canna wedding on 1st May but more about that in next month's issue. Our Community Moorings have just been serviced and are all ready for yachts and small craft.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Although you'll be reading this in May, I am writing this on the 25th anniversary of John Lorne Campbell's death in 1996, on April 25th; and I thought it might be fitting to include here an article I have written about John and his life, using excerpts from the obituary written for John by Professor Hugh Cheape of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.
Most people who know of the Isle of Canna have heard something of John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret, but few will know the details of John Lorne's own story and how he came to buy and live on Canna.
John died suddenly, whilst on their annual holiday at the Villa San Girolamo, part of a small convent retreat in the small town of Fiesole, Italy, on 25th April 1996. John was interred, as he requested, 'where he died' in Italy, but was reinterred on his beloved Canna in 2006, in the bluebell woods he himself planted as a young man.
Here, in commemoration of John's death, we use words of Professor Hugh Cheape, his executor and Vice President of the National Trust for Scotland, to tell us John's story. I have teamed his words with images and artefacts from the Canna House Archives.
John Lorne Campbell of Canna was a Scottish patriot of unique stamp, a scholar of exceptional quality, and a generous friend to many both at home and beyond the shores of Scotland. His roots lay in the old heartland of the Scottish kingdom, where his pedigree of the Campbells of Craignish and Clann Thearlaich bear witness to the single-mindedness and fierce independence of spirit which was Campbell's own mark.
The eldest son of Col Duncan Campbell of Inverneill on Loch Fyne and his American wife, Ethel Waterbury, of New Jersey, he was educated at Cargilfield School, Edinburgh, and Rugby.
He went on to St John's College, Oxford, to read Rural Economy under Professor Sir James Scott Watson and Celtic under Professor John Fraser of Jesus College, graduating in 1929 and receiving his MA in 1933. An interest in Gaelic from boyhood was fostered by Fraser, the gamekeeper's son from Glenurquhart who became Campbell's mentor. Campbell began work while at Oxford on a Gaelic anthology which became his first publication, Highland Songs of the Forty-Five, in 1933.
After Oxford, Campbell's career took a fresh and momentous turn. Invited to Barra to study crofting conditions and colloquial Gaelic, his arrival in the Outer Hebrides on 4th August 1933 marked the beginning of a long and extraordinary life's work of recovery and transmission of the Gaelic song, literary and linguistic record.
Sharing in the coterie which Compton Mackenzie had established at Northbay in Barra, Campbell himself stayed with the exceptional John Macpherson, County Councillor and postmaster, known to all as the Coddy.
With him, and other Barra notables, such as Neil Sinclair, the Sgoilear Ruadh, and Annie and Calum Johnston, he began to explore this unusual world of the Hebrides, then still, as in his own words, 'like the old Highlands of the early 19th century'. Here Campbell became the pioneer of the modern collection and preservation of Gaelic song and story.
Campbell was also a pioneer of technical methodology. His recording work advanced in step with contemporary developments; beginning with an Ediphone Recorder using wax cylinders, he progressed to a Presto Disc Recorder both obtained in New York as state-of-the-art equipment. He would often recall ruefully the difficulties and suspicion which he met in trying to get his equipment through the bureaucracy of customs.
The linking of Scotland and Nova Scotia was another facet of Campbell's innovative approach to Gaelic studies. […] He visited eastern Canada and Cape Breton in particular to discover the Gaelic oral tradition among the descendants of 18th- and 19th-century emigrants very much alive even after a separation of over 100 years. He also recorded the history and traditions of the Micmac Indians, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Maritime Provinces, while he was in Nova Scotia (1937). The significance of Cape Breton for Gaelic tradition was, in his own words, as 'a Highland Community where there are no lairds'.
Wishing to play a more active part in Hebridean affairs, John Lorne Campbell adopted the persona of laird and farmer when he bought the islands of Canna and Sanday in 1938, midway in the Minch between the mountainous seaboard to the east and the Outer Hebrides of the Uists and Barra to the west.
No celebration of Campbell's life could omit his marriage of 60 years to Margaret Fay Shaw of Glen Shaw, Pennsylvania, whom he met in South Uist in 1934 where she was collecting traditional Gaelic songs. This rare partnership brought together her musical talents with his lexical skills, creating the treasure house of their lives and work in Canna.
The Isle of Canna was presented by John Lorne Campbell to the National Trust for Scotland in 1981, together with his library, archives and sound recordings and this gift of his life's work to Scotland was a gesture of enormous magnanimity.
John Lorne Campbell, Scottish Gaelic scholar, born Argyll 1st October 1906; FRSE 1989; OBE 1990; married Margaret Fay Shaw 1935; died near Fiesole, Italy, 25th April 1996.
ISLE OF EIGG
April has been an unseasonably cold one this year, but that didn't stop the Eiggachs making the most of the occasional sunny day to get out and about. Spring has sprung, birds are singing, trees are budding, baby lambs are here and the Eigg landscape is gradually transforming from hues of brown to green.
My thanks to John Chester for his monthly wildlife update:
Given that the weather throughout the first half of April was more in keeping with February than early spring it's hardly surprising that things were a tad slow to get started wildlife-wise. However from mid-month on, prolonged periods of sunshine and light winds saw a sudden acceleration of activity.
Spring flowers continued to appear throughout the island with Wood Anemones, Wood Sorrel and Golden Saxifrage flowering in the wooded areas, Scurvy Grass appearing on the shorelines and the first Early Purple Orchids being seen late in the month.
Common Seal numbers around the bays regularly reached 50 animals and the first Minke Whale was seen on the 13th. Butterfly numbers continued to increase with Peacocks becoming numerous, the first Green Veined Whites appearing in mid-month and the first Orange Tip being recorded towards the month's end.
Bird-wise regular migrant species continued to appear throughout the month with first arrival dates including the following - Whimbrel (25th), Common Sandpiper (16th), Great Skua (1st), Arctic Tern (25th), Cuckoo (23rd), Sand Martin (1st), Swallow (13th), Wheatear (March 30th), Blackcap (16th), Chiffchaff (5th) and Willow Warbler (14th).
As would be expected the month also saw a fair number of passage migrants with more interesting records including a big passage (250+ birds) of Pink Footed Geese on the 14th-15th, 15 Canada Geese on the 16th-17th, big wader counts of 56 Redshank on the 20th and 37 Black Tailed Godwits on the 26th, an Iceland Gull on the 14th and three records of Yellowhammers early in the month. Bird of the month though was undoubtedly the Wryneck which appeared (all too!) briefly at Howlin where it was seen by Pascal Carr on the 14th.
Wee Maggie organised a very well attended and much-loved Easter Egg Hunt for the children of Eigg in the Lodge Gardens. Thank you to Maggie for your huge efforts in making Easter so special. Everyone was so excited to find their Easter basket full of goodies hanging from the branches of the trees. Eigg Drama Club is going from strength to strength and the children of Eigg are having lots of fun playing and learning new skills each week. Betsy and Wee Maggie, along with Nan, have written a wonderful and very funny new play about how Eigg came to be known as 'Eilean Nam Ban Mòra', Island of the Big Women. The older group are beginning to rehearse this and hope to perform it soon.
It's all go down at the pier with building work for the new An Laimhrig toilet and shower block going full steam ahead. Some locals have been fortunate enough to gain employment with Compass who are leading the project and it's brilliant to see on-island skills being utilised so well.
Sheena Kean retired from the Small Isles Health Practice this month after 11 years of service. We are all so grateful for her care and dedication to the people of the island and wish her a long and happy retirement. There was a lovely presentation of flowers and gifts for Sheena from our oldest resident Peigi Kirk on a beautiful sunny day. Frances Nelson will be taking over from Sheena and we wish her all the best in her new role.
With the island opening up again at the end of the month, there is a sense of excitement and some trepidation in the air as businesses and folk on the island prepare for a return of visitors. Hopefully they'll bring the good weather with them!
Arisaig Community Trust News
We are delighted to welcome two new directors onto the Board: Kieran and Jess Logan. They have both frequented the area on holidays for many years and held their wedding at Camusdarach last August. They managed to make the permanent move from Lanarkshire to Arisaig in March this year and quickly got in touch to ask how they could get more involved in the community. They bring with them experience in marketing and IT, operating and managing their own video production business, Cue the Mustard.
Land, Sea and Islands Centre
A warm welcome to Rachel Crawley as she takes up her post as Manager of the LSIC. We wish Rachel all the best in her new role and look forward to working with her.
Rachel and our volunteers have been busy getting the Centre ready to welcome visitors again and the Centre will be opening on the 21st May. When restrictions are eased further, we will be open daily, but for the time being, the opening hours will be:
Thursday: 10am - 4pm
Friday: 10am - 4pm
Saturday: 10am - 4pm
Sunday: 10am - 4pm
The latest addition to the Centre is the porch area and this will provide shelter for those waiting to enter the building. The ground under the porch has also been re-laid to make it wheelchair useable and to provide access from the disabled parking space.
Please do pop into the Centre to have a look around the exhibitions and gift shop. We'll be stocking local produce and have lots of lovely local crafts and books. Come and say hi!
Our community DIY efforts to improve the shorefront have commenced with gusto. A huge Thank You to David Buick and Lindsay Kenning for their contributions to additional signage along the main car park area and to Chris Pritchard for the planters made from recycled timber. We hope that by preventing parking on the area opposite the glass recycling bins, we will allow the ground to recover and eventually re-seed with grass and additional wild flowers.
Annual General Meeting (AGM)
The 2021 AGM will take place on Monday 7th June. In light of Covid restrictions we have arranged for the meeting to be conducted online. A link for the meeting and further details will be sent out to our members nearer the time.
Our toilets have had a Spring makeover and new paint applied both inside and outside. A huge Thank You to our painting volunteers: Jill and Arthur Whittaker, and Kieran and Jess Logan.
The Last Headteacher of Arisaig School lifts up his pen again . . . from Puerto Rico
As a schoolboy, I first visited Arisaig in 1973 with some friends. We arrived to paint the Catholic church on Eigg. After a couple of weeks of 'work' we were rained off and literally took to the hills leaving the paint pots and brushes at the back door of the sacristy.
I returned 20 years later to teach in the primary school. One evening I walked down to the church only to find the paint pot where I had left it. A memory made me look instinctively for the brushes on the ledge above but these were gone. Shortly after that I took up a teaching post on Canna which became a circuitous route via Muck, Rum and Mallaig to Arisaig. I remained Headteacher for 20 years until the wisdom of the ancients deleted my post in the name of progress. I returned to writing and my work as a psychotherapist. I never stopped writing during my time as Headteacher and lockdown provided the opportunity to collect these poems together, and with the help of my editor, compile the two collections that emerged from that small mountain of paper. They are available from The Highland Bookshop, Land Sea & Islands Centre, and Amazon.
Before the Craic Began - Poems from Arisaig is a collection of poems written during my 20 years as Headteacher of the Arisaig school. They reflect on how life has changed in that short time and offer the reader an insight into this small community its characters and life. They look at the challenges thrown our way by remote, rural life and catch some of the people who make it work for themselves and those around them.
The Road to Ksar Ghillane - A book of Moments takes the reader on a journey through places and events in an abstract sense. This takes us from a local landscape to the wider world; Borneo, Sri Lanka, Japan and India. Exploring themes of momentary change and how they affect our lives. Travelling alone or to remote locations intensifies our sense of self and can help us understand how we become who we are.
The first of these collections is aimed at those with a local interest and the latter is a more abstract philosophical work. The choice is yours but I do hope you enjoy a good read. I have travelled to many places since leaving the school but still call Scotland home. I am currently, with my wonderful wife, awaiting the birth of our first child, in Puerto Rico.
All the best
Road to the Isles Facilities Group
The tourist season is now upon us and we had hoped the new facilities in Mallaig would have been open, but unfortunately we're just short of the finishing line at the time of writing.
The team from Healthmatic have returned this week to finish off a few minor jobs and commission the building ready for applying for a completion certificate. One of the jobs is the replacement of the roller doors with automatically opening doors which will look better and be more functional. Fion Construction are due back within the next few days to complete all the paths, which should tidy things up and allow for the opening of the area of car park we've used.
We are in the process of sorting the operational aspects of the building, and have cleaners waiting to start. At some point we will have a formal opening but we plan to have a soft opening before then. One task is the landscaping of the surrounding area and improving access from the roadside. We need to identify some funding streams for this as well as gather support from volunteers.
We are now opening both toilets at busy periods which seems to be working well. We were also successful in becoming part of Highland Councils Comfort Scheme which will provide £50 per month, every bit helps.
We've not had much luck with Tougal car park as the landowners have withdrawn their support. We had hoped to persuade them to change their minds but unfortunately without success so far. We will now try and identify alternatives before we lose access to the £100k we'd secured for the project. Any help with this would be appreciated and we are open to paying rent.
After listening to feedback if we can identify alternative land, we will scale back the number of spaces to ensure that we do not increase capacity: we just want to relocate the cars parked at Silversands.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
14th April 2021
Launch requested at 21:33 by Stornoway Coastguard. A male had fallen and sustained a head injury which required Hospital attention in Inverie on the shores of Loch Nevis. Lifeboat on scene at 22:05. Two members of crew were transported to the location by a neighbour.
Once ascertained that there were no further injuries bar the head wound a dressing was applied. The neighbour again kindly drove the casualty and the crew back to the Lifeboat, departing Inverie at 22:25. Once back at the pontoon in Mallaig the casualty was handed over to the local Ambulance crew who took the patient to the Belford Hospital, Fort William.
Lifeboat washed down and ready for service at 22:55.
25th April 2021
Requested to launch at 15:19 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a broken-down fishing vessel with two persons onboard. Whilst fishing in the area of Rum Sound the vessel started to experience engine overheating. Unable to rectify the problem, the Skipper requested assistance from the Coastguard. Launched at 15:30 the Lifeboat proceeded to the casualty arriving on scene at 16:10. The tow rope was quickly passed over to the fishing boat.
Once the tow was underway the casualty was found to be yawing quite significantly on the end of the rope. With weather conditions being near perfect it was decided to change the tow to an alongside tow so as to have more control over the casualty. Once the tow rope was recovered and fendering set up the casualty was brought alongside and secured and a more orderly course set for Mallaig.
Lifeboat and casualty berthed alongside in the harbour at 18:40. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 19:00.
News from Mallaig Harbour
Things are slowly getting back to normal around the Harbour, with a bit more activity than in previous months. We've re-opened the Marina, from 26th April, with additional COVID-19 protocols in place. We've welcomed back Gena MacLean for the season, and although it has been a quiet start, with only one or two yachts each day, we're delighted to be able to accommodate yachts again, and it's nice to hear the extra 'chatter' on the VHF. We're aware that the Government is encouraging anyone travelling to the islands to take a COVID-19 test prior to going, so we are encouraging those travelling by yacht to do the same.
The CalMac Summer Timetable began on 26th April, although the issues with the Loch Seaforth mean that the Lord of the Isles is operating from Oban until at least 17th May, which means that there is no Mallaig/Lochboisdale service at the moment, and only the Loch Fyne is operating from Mallaig, restricting capacity on the Mallaig/Armadale route. This year's timetable was scheduled to have less sailings than previous years, with the Lord of the Isles departing earlier in the afternoon for Lochboisdale, so it will be interesting to see the impact of this on tourism locally as the season progresses. Western Isles Cruises begin running their full timetable on 3rd May, but with changes to the one-hour cruises to reflect the change in the Steam Train times, so check the website to book!
The passenger shelter (below) has been installed, and we have purchased transit wheelchairs and two trollies to help with transporting shopping and luggage up and down the ramp. The storage shed for these is en-route, but won't arrive until June, so bear with us until then! Niki Robertson worked with Falco to come up with the design for the shelter - which we are delighted with - so hopefully the users will agree!
The shore power 'boxes' are another new addition to the pier and will take a wee bit of getting used to in terms of vehicle movements around them. We're very grateful to Paul and Owen Harrold, and to HF Electrical, who have pulled out all the stops to deliver the system within the tight timescale imposed for us to access the funding. Ian Coates kindly gave us a copy of the booklet produced for the inauguration of the New Harbour Facilities for Fishing Vessels on 20th September 1972. Under 'Lighting and Electrical Work', the booklet states that, "The whole harbour electrical system has been renewed [. . .] A new switchroom adjacent to the ice factory on the Steamer Pier distributes the incoming supply to the lighting system and new buildings. The switchroom also houses two D.C. rectifier units for shore to ship supply. Ducts in the new pier carry relayed TV to ship connection points at 5O ft. Centres." It must have been very modern at the time - almost 50 years on and we have just installed new shore power. No need for the relayed TV though - who would have imagined 50 years ago that TV would be beamed wirelessly from satellites, and that you could watch programmes on your phone!
This month we have been awarded funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise towards the pre-construction costs associated with the proposed development in the Outer Harbour. This will allow us to undertake some more preparatory work, including more investigation to see how deeply the Harbour could be dredged, with a view to tenders being ready to be issued in November. The Marine Licencing process is ongoing in the background, and we are hopeful that this will be resolved by the time tenders are issued. We will then be in a position to assemble a funding package for the project. In the meantime, we are continuing to progress smaller developments such as those mentioned above, as and when we can.
The timetable for easing of restrictions in Scotland highlighted 17th May as a potential date for cinemas to re-open, and we are keeping everything crossed that this is the case, as Mallaig is scheduled for a visit from the Screen Machine at the end of that week. Our previous two scheduled visits have had to be cancelled - in November because of the weather, and in January because of the lockdown so let's hope that it's third time lucky!
Our AGM is due to be held on Friday 18th June. This meeting is open to the public, and if at all possible, we would like to host it in person. We'll provide more details next month, and on our Facebook page nearer the time, but if you are interested in what is going on, then please make a note of the date now.
On and Off the Rails
Every day is different from another
As we very cautiously ease into - is it really only the end of the first week? - The 2021 Jacobite season. Certainly it has been a case of 'no two days the same' as passenger numbers creep up day-on-day on both the morning and afternoon services. The ice cream machines have been reinstated, the takeaway fish suppers have returned, sandwiches are plenty and hot beverage machines frothing away! The first week the weather has been kind for the incoming Jacobite passengers - dry - really dry, and deep blue skies with no vapour trails from planes overhead, but with a chill wind in the shade. The gorse bushes are bursting with bloom and the wee, long tailed, newly born lambs are entertaining as they leap about.
Film crews have sped up by plane and taxi, plus VIPs have been spotted as they all attempt to get footage, mirror-images of the lochs included, for future series' of TV entertainment. In the week before the season's official start as set by the Scottish Parliament for Monday 26th April a "no passenger - crew only" Jacobite came into Mallaig on the Thursday afternoon with a film crew on board, scattering the seagulls as it came in to the station! No one had told them of it! Hopefully they did not film at Mallaig railway station as I was not allowed to work on the station in advance of their arrival. That permission and insurance cover for my volunteer ScotRail Station adopter status resumed on Tuesday 27th April. When I did resume it was with my emblazoned high viz vest and my new seagull-proof 'bump cap' which allows seagulls to divebomb me with no ill effects! New regulations do not allow me to wear my wellies (what would Billy Connolly say) on the island platform. I now have to wear close-fitting, "closed toe, low heel footwear" at all times which are not as practical. The good news is I am still allowed to transport my bags of compost, plants, shrubs, herbs and annuals along with tools, binbags, dustpan and brush, etc. in my freshly WD40-oiled cart. (Other oils are available - ha ha!) Some plants I'm holding at the house as the forecast for the next week is dreich with nasty squalls and even colder nights. It is a pleasure to report in and out via the station helpline - and watch the camera zone in on me for a laugh, and for my own safety. The lavenders and hostas have survived covid, as have several other shrubs, but they have now had a haircut. I have top dressed the barrel train with compost, mixed with coffee grounds from local hostelries! This is the third year I have done this it seems to deter slugs and snails and provide nutrients.
Next job when it's warmer is to replace bedding plants and try to get rid of chickweed in the whisky casks. It is rampant - as are the seagulls (again). They are nest building and the first egg has been laid, and I have them nesting in two of the barrels, currently, but as they are a protected species (why, on land, I ask myself) I am fully aware that I cannot move a single twig, or bird, or eventual offspring (three eggs per nest, 120 birds, so potentially 60 nests and 180 new chicks.) The ScotRail station booking office staff were asked to take photos on their phones and forward them to the Manager at Fort William railway station. Where they have gone from there we do not know! They have a pressure washer which is used daily as far as the shelter on the island platform to try and cut through the excrement, but barely scratches the blobs! In one of the whisky casks I have planted iceberg style rocks to deter them. We need a covered railway platform like the original cast iron and glass domed roof cover. It would have been an amazing feature, but was sadly neglected and taken down many years ago.
We also had the yearly visit of the two tank container (the Yellow Peril - pictured right) last week, Network Rail's weedkiller train. Driven from either end, luckily they always turn off the spray nozzles before they enter the station at Mallaig so the no spray drift cuts across our properties - thanks chaps.
Further Jacobite news
After the first couple of days of running, both the Jacobites were instructed to run under "light steam", with diesel loco at the rear providing the power, had therefore not putting accidental ash or clinker into the trackside reducing the risk of lineside fires. This has led to complicated arrangements for shunting at Mallaig, particularly for the afternoon service, as when it comes into the station the Up platform already has the lunchtime ScotRail train in it as it does not move until the next day in service. The Jacobite is seven coaches in length plus the diesel at the rear and the steam locomotive at the front with coal tender. So it is quite a complicated procedure to reverse everything. Good fun though!! It has worked.
Railcam launches online streaming line side footage from Glenfinnan viaduct
Now operating from a computer near you - Railcam UK Ltd has more than 10 years experience in bringing live footage - in real time - to you at home, including from Crewe, Doncaster, Derby, Cornish sites and London to name a few. Now added to its choice 24/7 is line side footage as it happens of any passing train on the viaduct!! The live footage will excite fans of Harry Potter, anyone interested in railway locations and of course children as they watch the trains go over the viaduct. You can see what the weather is like, how many people are around viaduct etc etc. To bring you this, Railcam have teamed up with Locheilnet to broadcast from the viaduct in ultra-HD and went live from Sunday April 25th 2021. Children can learn to count the coaches, see the steam, and at the moment the diesel locomotive at the rear. The ScotRail trains (all trains) will feature - but between trains so will the scenery. Railcam also offer on screen live chat reactions from all over the world as trains go over the viaduct.
Glenfinnan camera is available (once you have logged in) at www.railcam.uk
There will also be a stream available via the Railcam YouTube page at www.youtube.com/c/RailcamUKLive
What's not to like about this, it can only be for the greater good to have the site available. It is such a good idea to have this live stream. For anyone who has a computer give it a try.
ScotRail reinstatement of trains
ScotRail's timetables are scheduled to change from Sunday 16th May 2021 and tickets can now be booked on the additional services between Fort William/Mallaig. Hopefully the four trains a day in each direction are set to return for good. Some trains will be four car sets, some two car sets depending on pre-booked seats. However, ScotRail state that if booking tickets in advance it is always wise checking for service alterations nearer to the time of travel due to the possibility of RMT led industrial action strikes being in place or with the caveat of future coronavirus restrictions imposed on travel. As we go to print no strikes have been announced after Sunday 2nd May. But, be aware and check. Buy tickets through the ScotRail app, website or station facilities.
Rail siding, log stacking, timber loading facility on Rannoch Moor moves a step closer
After a few years of deliberation, a "Memorandum of Understanding" has been signed between the Scottish Government and a number of partners with regard to the above siding, some point north of Rannoch station, on land owned by Lord Pearson of Rannoch.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said, "Over the next 10 years there is forecast to be up to 50,000 tonnes of timber due to be moved every year from Rannoch Forest. This timber is important as it will boost the economy and safeguard jobs, but we need to extract the timber in a way that minimises the impacts on local people and the environment. The new rail facility should help achieve these goals and is a good example of the modal shift to using rail as a viable means for transporting timber."
Other partners in the project are Scottish Forestry, BSW Timber Ltd, Fountain Forestry UK Ltd, Lord Pearson, and Ferguson Transport and Shipping, with, one would presume, the destination for the timber transported by rail being an Inter Model Facility, long predicted, at the Port of Corpach.
Next step will be the commercial agreements and an application for the new rail siding near Rannoch, with construction starting later this year.
It is so encouraging to hear that this predicted project is finally starting to be a real possibility, securing at least ten years' worth of jobs, initially in the construction of the rail siding, followed by the harvesting, storage and removal by rail of the timber. The forest is, I am sure, destined to be replanted with native trees, involving more labour. It is a win-win situation. I look forward to seeing Ferguson Transport-logoed trains on the rails and will follow up on this project in future West Words.
See you on the train, masked and socially distancing, or on the station platform!
Mallaig and District Canoe Club
Spring has sprung and the paddling season got off to a great start with a leisurely day trip on Loch Ailort. Like last year the spring weather has been kind, and Sunday 11th April was no exception as eight paddlers set off on a sunny but chilly morning from the slip near the head of Loch Ailort. The pleasure of catching up at long last with fellow paddlers was of course tempered by the need for social distancing and the usual greeting hugs were sadly foregone.
With tides on springs, the paddlers got some assistance in the narrows between Eilean nam Bairneach and Eilean na Gulainn as they headed to the beach by the old schoolhouse at Peanmeanach. Despite the sun the wind was biting and early lunch was not as warming an experience as it might have been. Back on the water, they made a beeline for Goat Island where the lee side made for a balmy respite from the breeze.
The return leg started by paddling into the bay in front of Roshven House and then along the Coopers Knowe shoreline before making another stop beside Eilean na Gulainn. By this time the incoming tide was coming onto the beach at a rapid lick and this 'rest' break was twice interrupted by having to move boats further up the shoreline. With the wind at their backs and the incoming tide they made easy progress back to the launch point and the completion of a successful first trip of 2021.
No otters were sighted, but amongst the birdlife were a pair of Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and several Red-breasted Mergansers. Two pairs of Canada Geese were spotted on Goat Island which shows that this species is spreading in Lochaber.
Next on the club calendar is a multi-day trip to south west Skye at the beginning of May.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the club can visit the website www.mallaigcanoeclub.co.uk where details of how to join can be found on the membership page.
A Diary with a Difference
Morar's Claire Wortley has just published a 'diary with a difference'. Originally entitled 'The Joy/Smile Diary', Mood Manager is a simple and effective way of improving your mood and finding happiness.
Do you find it hard to enjoy your life and see the good in it?
Do you feel the pressures of life are weighing heavily on your shoulders?
Are you anxious or feeling down?
Mood Manager is the diary you need to facilitate change and bring joy back into your life. Created as a wellbeing tool, Mood Manager:
- Is a place of positivity
- Helps you recognise your achievements at any level.
- Assists you in identifying the good in your life (even when you are convinced there is none).
- Provides a record of mood variations/swings.
- Supports work on difficult situations or relationships.
- Enables you to start every day from a good place.
- Can be started as and when suits you as it is not dated. This is a diary with a difference: it's 'JOY' full!
Available in paperback on Amazon or as a spiral bound diary directly from Claire Wortley - firstname.lastname@example.org
BIRDWATCH April 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
Overall a fairly cool feel to the month, with a mostly northerly air flow over the country and a higher than usual number of frosty nights. With clear skies some afternoons felt pleasantly warm in the strong sunshine.
The arrival of many of our summer visitors seems to have been delayed by a few days this year, apart from a very early Cuckoo reported from Morar on the 3rd - the earliest report from Scotland this year. The next reports from this area were not until the middle of the month from both Arisaig and Morar.
After just a single Wheatear was reported during the last week of March, several were seen on the 1st at Traigh and Back of Keppoch. From then on there were daily sightings as birds arrived back on territory or continued on passage further north. Several reports during the first two weeks of the larger 'Greenland Wheatears' also migrating through.
Also on the 1st Sand Martins were reported from Loch Ailort, Morar and Arisaig. On the 11th two Swallows were seen by Arisaig Marina. It wasn't till the 30th at Loch Ailort that the first two House Martins were seen.
Most of the smaller warbler species seemed to be several days later and initially in smaller numbers than usual. Both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were first heard at Loch Ailort on the 12th. The first singing Blackcap was heard at Alisary, Loch Ailort on the 15th, Inverailort Castle on the 16th and Woodside, Morar on the 23rd. A Common Whitethroat was seen and heard by Arisaig Marina on the 20th and the first 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers were heard by Silver Sands, Traigh on the 23rd. Wood Warbler were first heard in birch woodland by the 'Piper's Burn', Loch Ailort on the 28th. Sedge Warblers were reported from Back of Keppoch and Loch nan Eala, Arisaig on the 30th.
Wader passage was pretty light, with only two reports of Whimbrel during the month, a flock of nine birds by Loch nan Ceall, seen on the 25th - 27th and two birds seen at Traigh from the 26th till the month end. Several reports of Greenshank passing through with six by Loch nan Ceall on the 2nd and four at the head of Loch Ailort on the 7th. Two were on the Morar Estuary most of the month. Still flocks of Golden Plover passing through with some stopping to feed for a few days. 30 were seen at Back of Keppoch on the 20th.
Pink-footed Geese headed north throughout the month. Whooper Swans also reported during the first two weeks, with two resting on Loch nan Eala for several days and a single bird with Greylags at Back of Keppoch for almost a week. A single drake Tufted Duck was seen on Loch Torr a Bheithe on the 17th. Still plenty reports of Great Northern Divers from around the coast, including a group of 25 at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall on the 24th, many in breeding plumage. There were at least three Common Scoter on Loch nan Ceall till the month end.
Many more Siskins and the Lesser Redpolls arrived during the month with numerous reports of birds on garden feeders. Small flocks of Linnet were seen around Back of Keppoch and Traigh from the 20th and Twite were seen from the 22nd in Morar and Back of Keppoch.
A Magpie was seen in a Mallaig garden on the 11th. A Twite that was seen and photographed at Back of Keppoch on the 23rd had been colour ringed on the 3rd December 2020 at Seal Sands, Teesmouth, Stockton-on-Tees. A Herring Gull that was found dead in Mallaig as the result of a road casualty on the 22nd April, had been ringed as a chick on the islands off Traigh on the 5th July 2014.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Here's reader David Hurdle, of Sheringham, Norfolk, in the Scottish Corner of his manroom, immediately after his first haircut of 2021!
Hazel Melville and Jura took their copy of West Word on a picnic by the mighty River Tweed.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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