May 2024 Issue

Contents of the online version:

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

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


Best of luck to Barry and Anikó Henderson, new managers of the Lochailort Inn. After taking over the lease last December, they have had a hectic few months renovating and decorating the Inn, before reopening on 1st May.
The couple are focused on using natural materials in furnishings and beddings, cooking with fresh local produce and serving locally produced beer, and it is fundamental to them to be able to provide a place where locals can eat out and meet up. Barry says, 'Local is very important to us. We want to support the local community and we want to give our staff and customers an honest product here.' And they are in it for the long haul, with a plan to purchase the hotel outright in the future.
The Inn is currently open from 3pm every day, serving dinner and breakfast, and will also be open for lunches over the summer season. Over the winter, Barry and Anikó plan to open at the weekends, unless they're closed for maintenance work. For updates please visit their website: www.thelochailortinn.co.uk



Isle of Eigg residents celebrated the official opening of their new community and visitor hub, An Laimhrig, on 29th April. Situated at the ferry pier, the redeveloped An Laimhrig now includes a larger grocery shop, a much bigger café and bar, a craft shop and a base for Eigg Adventures. The first floor houses offices, hot desking facilities and a meeting room. An old agricultural building, the 'Green Shed', has been repurposed to provide office and workshop space for local businesses and the Coastguard. Completing the scheme is Taigh Nighe (Wash House) with public toilets, showers and laundry facilities. The project started over 10 years ago and was built in three phases, assisted by funding from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, National Lottery, Highland Council, Centrica, SSE and HIE. Cutting the ribbon on the 29th were the oldest and youngest residents on Eigg - Peggy Kirk (92) and Edith Merrick (9 months). Ailsa Raeburn, Chair of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust said, 'The opening by Peggy and Edith is a nod to the amazing progress the Eigg community has made since its buyout in 1997 and to the future. Eigg is bucking the trend of depopulation, with the population having doubled since 1997 and a growing number of young people returning to or choosing to settle here. Having a fantastic facility like An Laimhrig will ensure we can keep on serving our community and visitors alike for the next 25 years.'


Congratulations to Rachael Robertson and her West Highland Tea Company, whose new Tea Studio in the Harbour Buildings, Mallaig is now open for business!
Besides selling her packaged unique hand blended teas, the Tea Studio is serving a range of drinks including a wide selection of specialist teas, plus local baking from B's Wee Bakes and The Mallaig Bakehouse, with more items to be added to the menu soon, including the Studio's own home made ice cream!
There is a viewing window through to the dedicated tea blending area, where customers can watch as the tea is blended and packaged before tasting and purchasing.
We wish you every success, Rachael!



We've had some beautiful spring weather lately, and aren't the Bluebells amazing this year? The rain's welcome today though, especially if it keeps wildfires at bay - the recent fire at Glenuig spread over two miles and took two days to put out. Scottish Fire & Rescue took a timelapse video of the fire which you can watch on the BBC News website. Scary stuff - not least because, as you'll see mentioned in the Lifeboat Log this month, there's crewing difficulties at present with the Mallaig Fire Service team. On a lighter note, this year's RNLI Gala Day takes place on the Pier on the 25th May from 11am to 4pm - see the back cover for details. It'll be a fun day out for sure!
Mallaig Football Club are having a great start to the season! Read their latest, plus the Canoe Club and Golf Club news, on page 33.
My thanks, as always, to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing.
Kirsty Bloom


May . . . it has to be my absolute favourite time of year. The Bluebells have just erupted into a beautiful carpet, there's real heat in the sun, the Swallows and Cuckoos have returned, no midgies quite yet, ever increasing daylight and the feeling of summer just hanging in the air. What's not to love?
So, what's been happening lately? Well, Easter was a busy weekend, with Fras playing the Easter ceilidh as well as doing their new album launch for "Flinne" and was a brilliant night, although with Fras I wouldn't expect anything less. Mid April saw the return of the Beyond the Ultimate race, whose hard core runners had a brutally wet start but were rewarded with a nice end day at least.
However, that was also the day that there was a serious house fire at Knoydart House. Due to a malfunction in the solar panels Jackie and Ian's roof caught fire and it became a desperate attempt from locals to save the house. It was a colossal team effort, and I've never been prouder to be part of such a special community. After several hours, the fire brigade arrived and water was pumped from the sea to finally extinguish the blaze but the damage would have been far worse had so many people not dropped everything to help. Repair works have now begun, and luckily Jackie and Ian have somewhere else to stay while work continues and their other properties were not damaged.

There's been a lot going on at the pier, with the Timber harvest extraction continuing and the boat arriving to take the wood away to Troon. There was an enormous stack of logs and it's been interesting to see how it all works.
The Ranger service had an exciting few days hosting Alliance for Scotland's Rainforest and spent time exploring three of the remains of Knoydart's temperate rainforests which include Scottas Wood, Airor Burn and Cnoc Gorm.
Lambing has commenced for those who have sheep - another reason I love this time of year! The community garden hosted a wee social gathering to celebrate the Spring Blossom and things are at that perfect stage right now, sweet with the promise of everything to come.
There continues to be a steady stream of visitors all round and it looks set to be a good season with yachts now appearing in the bay.
That's all for now folks,
Heather Robb



It feels as though April has sprinted past us and as we head into May, the island is looking and sounding more colourful than ever. The greens are so much brighter now that the grass is growing again, the sea is bluer with sunlight refracting through it now that the last (!) of the big storms has passed. Pockets of lemon yellow primroses have sprung up all over the machair and the Oyster Catchers are in full song. The Ringed Plovers, with their impossibly fast legs and look of earnest business (in an alternate universe I'm convinced they would be carrying briefcases) are enjoying the rich pickings on the shore of Sanday Beach.
Speaking of rich pickings, Gerry found a King Ragworm on Sanday Beach the other morning. This creature could potentially be the stuff of nightmares and there was a lot of talk about films such as "Tremors" starring Kevin Bacon and, of course, "Dune". The specimen found by Gerry was approx 50cm long so I think we are quite far away from being unable to walk on the sand without creating apocalyptic scenes, but nonetheless, I will watch where I am putting my feet from now on!


Lambing is in full swing now and the fields are filling up quickly. The lambs are starting to scamp about together in marauding hordes, testing out their legs and being playful. One lamb in particular got to be extra playful when Caroline sent a video message to her friend whose hen do she was missing due to lambing; it became a sailor for the day and quite frankly, it stole the show. I'm sure there is a place for it on Broadway in a production of Anything Goes!


Last weekend saw the arrival of more yachts in the bay and the first of the cruise boats has put ashore. The sudden influx of visitors and the arrival of the oompa loompas (Bella Jane's bright orange seasuits) means the season is underway. Cafe Canna is now open for business and a few sherbets have already been enjoyed in the Spring sunshine.

The Puffin Trail has now been set up so visitors can follow the trail which starts at St. Edwards Church on Sanday out to the stacks to see our puffins. The puffins are slowly starting to arrive and, at certain times of day, they will still be out at sea either rafting or feeding so it's worthwhile spending some time there to wait for them.


Our new Ranger Tom Allen has started in Canna this week. Tom is joined by his partner Rona and they have already settled in and got straight down to work. They moved to Canna from the Shetland Isles where Tom was a Project Officer for the RSPB. Tom and Rona are joined by their gaggle of guinea pigs. We welcome them both to Canna and look forward to working together and becoming part of the community.

The Canna House Project is entering its final stages of refurbishment. Simpsons are aiming for the start of July to finish their part in the project. Over the Summer months the conservators, wallpaper specialists, AV team, furniture movers and interpretation team will be coming to Canna to begin the next phase of putting the house back together including 6 conservation students who will use Canna House as part of their learning. Indi and Glyn gave the community a tour of the house to see what progress has been made and to explain the next part of the project. Canna House and Garden is due to open to the public in 2025.
Margaret Willington



I think I always say that May is the best month to visit Rum, usually a good spell of weather, spring bursting everywhere, the eider ducks oohing and the constant birdsong and today a solitary whooper swan blown off course I imagine.
The bluebell wood looks full of bluebells again; for the last few years they appear to have been top of the menu for the free roaming red deer (deer fence, what deer fence?) but this year there are either less deer or they're eating something else. Local debate among the gardeners is what plants and flowers do the deer not eat; we have put together a list, but any other suggestions would be very welcome. It would be great to actually have a lovely looking garden that didn't get completely browsed. Quite randomly, they don't like blackcurrant bushes you know.
The wonderful opportunity of headteacher at Rum primary school has been re-advertised so one - please share, and two - if you are a teacher and fancy living in a small island community and educating its youngsters then hustle over to myjobscotland and apply! And Highland Council are now planning to build two houses for the school staff on the site of the existing house, a two bed and a three bed, so a nice new house to live in too.
There has been a flurry of meetings, one with RESAS, the people carrying out the survey about the castle . . . it was disappointing; when they asked us to tell them a bit about our organisation (IRCT), we were a bit flabbergasted that that they didn't already know. There are a lot of issues, all of which could have been resolved if they had been in contact with us before the survey actually started; we had been trying to contact them for months and yet more off island stakeholder groups are involved but not the actual island based community company. Could you have anticipated this? Probably, she said with a sigh.
Next meeting, the same day actually, was the Transport Scotland consultation on their future connectivity plan, which will replace the existing ferries plan. The meeting was held on Eigg and the rest of us joined online. It was mostly a description of all the things that the communities feel CalMac and Transport Scotland fail at. The idea is that Transport Scotland will go away and make things better, I think. We live in hope. This was not meant to be a witty one liner but honestly we do live in hope. Our ferry is our lifeline: Loch Nevis is kinda part of the family, regardless of the chaos all around her, and that Transport Scotland are planning a connectivity strategy which incorporates ferries, trains, buses and even planes is a big thing to do. That they haven't delivered all the things laid out in the existing ferries plan, like the meaningful trip to the mainland for islanders, makes it an even bigger challenge. So we sincerely do hope it is successful and that the consultations continue and that we can share ideas to make our service better.
A quick congrats to Eigg on the opening of Am Laimhrig, navigating a CalMac disaster day and the rain; still haven't seen the whole completed building, we look forward to that this summer.
Fliss Fraser


An Laimhrig Official Opening
On 29th April Eigg Trading and IEHT invited funders, contractors, residents and other stakeholders involved in the An Laimhrig project to an opening event to thank everyone for their support, and to show off our new premises in-person. It was amazing to see Michael Foxley, John Watt, Peter Peacock who were all involved in the buyout in attendance, as well as representatives from SWT, and the National lottery.
The building was officially opened by Edith (8) and Peggy (93), the island's oldest and youngest residents. We enjoyed an amazing spread put on by Stuart and Danny and plenty of speeches to celebrate both the incredible journey Eigg has experienced since the existing building was built in 1998 - one year after the community buyout - and the completion of this seven year project. A special thanks has to be given to Becca who has dedicated an enormous amount of energy and time to the An Lamhrig project through some of the most unimaginable challenges.

Archive Films of Eigg & Govanhill Baths
This month we had Bothy Project artist in residence Kate O'Shea join us for a week. Kate, who was here last September, has been commissioned to work with people in Eigg and Govanhill to create a new piece of flag art that represents and celebrates what was achieved 25+ years ago, and the connection between the stories as part of the celebration of 100 years of community land Scotland.
Along with Lucy, Kate put on an evening of archive films of Eigg and Govanhill in the hall. The short film United We Swim . . . Again tells the story of the community occupation of Govanhill Baths in 2001 and documents the journey that has followed. "Not long after Eigg's buyout, people living in Govanhill discovered the Council wanted to close their swimming pool and public baths. In March 2001 campaigners entered the building and chained themselves to the cubicles - the occupation lasted 140 days and had a 24-hour picket outside. On the 7th of August 2001, 250 police officers, some with horses, and two helicopters were sent to forcefully remove the group in what has become known as The Battle of Calder Street. 1000s of people came out in protest and it took 17 hours before the occupation ended. The fight was not over. The Govanhill Baths Community Trust was created to take ownership and reopen the Baths as a Wellbeing Centre."
Following this, Lucy showed a selection of BBC archive films of Eigg in the time of Schellenberg, in the lead-up to the buyout, and when it finally happened in 1997. It was an excellent evening with reflection from those involved in the buyout as well as an opportunity for newer residents to see the way of life on Eigg during that time, and hear historical and present-day accounts of what the process meant and the incredible effort that it took.

Eigg Electric Work with Wind and Sun
This month Steve Wade, Rowan & Nick from Wind and Sun were on Eigg helping to upgrade our electric system and increase our storage capacity.
With new batteries and inverters, by the end of the week they had increased our battery storage capacity by about a third! This combined with the recent increase in solar production and a hugely upgraded multi cluster box we now have a much more resilient system more suited to the Island's current and future usage.

Small Isles Shore Clean
This month Celia, in partnership with the Ocean Recovery Project, facilitated a shore clean around the inaccessible parts of our shoreline on her boat, Selkie. From the 20th to 25th April we sailed out to the south east and north west coasts to collect litter and transport it back to the island. This serves multiple purposes. The litter, mostly plastic, is much easier to collect and properly dispose of or recycle when in the form of a rope or wellie boot than it is as 2cm pieces of plastic that have broken down and spread throughout the ocean. Also, many items are a risk to wildlife, as well as humans. Finally, these efforts serve as an opportunity to collect and analyse data on what items are most common, and most importantly, where they come from in an effort to target the problem of marine litter at the source and demand legislation that puts the responsibility for collecting and reducing this waste on those who are creating the issue.
Working in groups to collect, and then transport the litter, we gathered an impressive amount. In total 20 bulk bags were collected, alongside many 20L broken and sometimes full containers of engine oil, bags of broken plastic, rope, nets, creels, fish boxes and degrading marine litter. A huge thank you to Celia for making this possible, and sharing her boat with us all as we hauled dirty and often smelly bags of rubbish on and off of Selkie.

April Sightings
Lots of dolphins have been seen around Eigg this month, at Laig, Galmisdale and out on Selkie during the Shore Clean. The first cuckoo was heard by Jenny, just four days later than its traditional arrival on St Donnan's day - the 17th April. Camille shared the story of the Eigg tradition to keep a piece of bread under your pillow and eat it as soon as you heard the cuckoo for good luck and plenty of food for the rest of the year, told by Alistair MacDonald.
The swallows have also arrived, and willow warblers and wheatears are calling. The bluebells are also out, along with primroses and orchids.

Community Days
A Group of Edinburgh University sustainability students have been visiting and joined in with a community beach clean at the singing sand, making a huge difference to the state of the beach.
There was a Community Day at the Tree Nursery, where we helped Tash with packing, pruning, cutting back brambles, building tables and much more!
Eigg Primary School had an afternoon out in the Manse Wood tree planting. It was an excellent day enjoyed by all and documented by the students in the monthly school blog. (See page 25)

Eigg Guiding BSAC Snorkelling Course
This month Eigg Guiding held a British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) snorkel course for six islanders to train as Snorkel Guides. It was an excellent course in tough weather and we look forward to tours around the Eigg Snorkel Trails by some of the guides this summer.
Eilidh MacGilp


Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well we have full power Captain!!! After a bit of investigation the fault was isolated to 1000m section between Gallanach and the farm, and it was decided to dig and lay a new cable . . . (how quick was it to say that? Bit longer to dig) . . . which was a combination of digger, a lot of shovels and trailer loads of sand, we probably would have been quicker but for Zöe trying to rake a herringbone Zen pattern in it ??. Sterling effort people.


One of our visitors, Richard Turner, took a fab picture of a rare and out of position Purple Heron, what a pretty bird which no doubt was blown off course during a storm; and the Croft has a long awaited and welcome Corncrake out and about. We have had a fairly up and down spell of weather this month - just when we think the sun is here, no sooner are the parasols up that we're cowering under them from the wind and rain. Those visitors that had the best of it were wondering why go to the Med, only to wish they were there a few hours later.


The magnificent Jenny celebrated her 80th birthday this month and of course the Island rallied Muck style to help her enjoy it (rude not to) and with relatives from far and wide it was a fantastic event with lots of laughs, Nerf wars and a game of football (ish) - the Ballon d'Or winner surely coming from the Small Isles this year.
Lambing is just about a memory now with pretty much all been born and free (ear worm song moment), just hope the Lochnevis can stay operational for more than a couple of weeks at a time when it comes to getting them off. Eigg School have been taking good advantage of the Sheerwater run on a Wednesday and have been able to come over to interact with our children doing a variety of activities.
Well Folks that's us this time round,
Bruce Boyd


A painting displayed at Arisaig House since 1883 has been moved to a new home at Glenfinnan where it will now be on public display and accessible for the community and wider public to enjoy.
"Letters and News at the Loch Side" by Henry Tanworth Wells is an enormous oil on canvas, measuring 120 cm in height by 282 cm in width. It was a wedding gift to Gertrude Astley from her sisters, Constance and Beatrice when she married in 1883.
The painting depicts the end of Loch Eilt where the river Ailort flows to the sea and shows the postman, Donald MacDonald of Achraig, delivering mail to two boats on the shore. Others in the painting include Gertrude's father F. D. P. Astley, the painter Sir John Millais, Duncan McCrae (the wee boy), the boat captain John MacDonald, Donald MacDonald, an unknown MacRae, Sir Henry Halford, Angus MacDonald (the water bailiff of Arienskill, and father of the yacht captain), and Mr Henry Evans.
The painting was bequeathed to the West Highland Museum in 1999 and had remained on long-term loan to Arisaig House, on public display in the hotel. In 2022 the property was sold and became a private residence. The museum loaned the painting to the new owner when no alterative location for public display could be identified. Although the painting was available for public view during this period, sadly no requests to view the painting were received and it remained unseen for two years. In 2024, Glenfinnan House Hotel asked the museum if they could display the painting in Glenfinnan. The museum's Board carefully considered the request and concluded that the move to Glenfinnan would be beneficial as it would ensure better environmental conditions for the painting and allow the community access to view this magnificent painting once more. The museum's Vice-Chair, Dr Chris Robinson, said "After the debate about the painting several years ago it has remained virtually hidden from public view in Arisaig House and we believe it has not been viewed in two years. An opportunity has arisen to display it securely in the newly refurbished Glenfinnan House Hotel on Loch Shiel. It now hangs in the foyer for all to see".
The Glenfinnan House Hotel reopens after refurbishment on 13th May 2024 and the oil painting will take pride of place in their new reception area.
Vanessa Martin

Mallaig Lifeboat Log

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.

20th April 2024
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard at 13:36 to convey Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to Inverie, Knoydart. Owing to the local Fire and Rescue team being off the run due to crewing difficulties, the Lifeboat was requested to proceed to Armadale and collect the Kyle of Lochalsh team and transfer them to the scene. The Fort William team would be transported to Inverie by the Western Isles' RIB on arrival at Mallaig. The Lifeboat arrived at the Armadale linkspan at 14:18 and boarded five personnel and equipment. On-Scene at Inverie at 14:47, the Lifeboat was met by local Coastguards and others with vehicles to convey fire fighters the short distance to the scene. Fort William were now also on-scene. The fire was in the roof space of the building and locals had managed to curtail the fire spread by using every fire extinguisher at their disposal and garden hoses. Once the Fire brigade had established a heavy duty pump on the beach, enabling them to pump a good head of water to the property, the fire was soon under control. Some locals who had entered the property were checked over by a Doctor attached to another event in Inverie. He recommended that they be checked out at hospital and so the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig at 16:55 with three individuals concerned and were met by local Ambulance crews for further assessment. After a quick pit stop the Lifeboat returned to Inverie to recover the fire crews. On arrival at Inverie at 17:50, the crew were informed that the Fire crews were happy with the situation and ready to leave the scene. It was now a matter of gathering all their equipment and carting it back to the Lifeboat. Once crews and their equipment were boarded the Lifeboat departed Inverie at 18:51, firstly for Armadale to return the Kyle team, berthing at 19:12. Departed Armadale at 19:19 for Mallaig, alongside the pontoon at 19:32, and the Fort William team and equipment discharged to their vehicles.

25th April 2024
Requested to convey Coastguard CRT and Medics to Inverie, Knoydart at 16:16. Information received from local Coastguards at scene was that an 18 year old male had entered the water at the pier. Once the requested agencies were mustered, the Lifeboat departed Mallaig at 16:50. On-passage to location the Coastguards relayed to Lifeboat that the casualty had been recovered and taken to the Village hall. On-scene at 17:05 the Medics and CG were transferred to the scene. After an assessment and dry clothing was sourced, the casualty was taken back to the pier and brought onboard the Lifeboat. Lifeboat departed scene at 17:30 and berthed at the pontoon at 17:45. The casualty was taken to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further treatment and assessment.


Tony Skea Retires
After 11 years of diligent service to Mallaig Lifeboat Station, Full Time Station Mechanic Tony Skea retired from the RNLI on 18th April 2024.
Tony made sure that the Lifeboat was ready for sea at a moment's notice. Throughout his time he has undertaken maintenance work and repair that would often require Technicians from Regional base to travel to station to rectify. The Operational staff and crew at Mallaig wish Tony good luck in his future endeavours and extend their sincere thanks for his service to the station.


News from Mallaig Harbour

The visiting fishing vessels have continued into April, which has been a good boost for the Harbour, and has made it look pretty busy on occasion! March's landing figures were the highest March figures since 2017, so we'll be delighted if visiting boats continue to land throughout the year.
The challenges with ferry services continue. The MV Loch Fyne has been operating a single vessel service since 14th April, and we haven't had any sailings of the Lord of the Isles since then either. There have also been some days this month that the Loch Nevis has been unable to sail due to technical issues, so it's been a quiet start to the season. Today we have been informed that there are further delays to the MV Finlaggan's annual overhaul, and that she is not now due back on service until at least 15th May, which will mean a delay to the return of the Coruisk and Lord of the Isles. We are still working towards our plan for another overnight ferry berth, and the project is out to tender at the moment. The closing date had to be extended until 8th May, and we have spent part of the last month showing prospective contractors around the works and answering queries so fingers crossed for affordable tender submissions! We met with Transport Scotland on 22nd April to talk through the proposals for the berth, and some of our other concerns about ferry infrastructure locally.
Our new Deputy Harbour Master, Arijit Mukherjee, started at the beginning of April, and many of you will have already met him out and about with Pimmy. Arijit has spent time at sea, but also lectured in ship stability in Glasgow for a number of years, so brings a wide range of experience to the Harbour Authority. We are members of the British Ports Association, and their Scottish Ports Group meeting took place in Bishopton on 18th April, so this was a good opportunity for me to introduce him to colleagues undertaking a similar role in other Scottish Ports. We've taken the opportunity of having to reorganise the office to accommodate Arijit to give it a much needed coat of paint and get new flooring. This has led to complete disruption for a week or so, but will be worth it in the end!
Another project for the wider Harbour Buildings has been the redevelopment of the former 'An Cala' Café into the West Highland Tea Studio. Rachael and her team have worked hard to get the building organised and area almost ready to open the new tea studio. Even the exterior has had a makeover with composite cladding to make it stand out. It's looking really good, and we wish Rachael good luck for the opening later in the month!
The Marina has re-opened for the season, and although it has been a fairly quiet start, it has been nice to see yachts back. It's also great to have Gena back for the season, and Kenny Harris, who has returned to cover days off. There's lots of work going on at the pontoons, with planks being replaced on the walkways, and a visit from North West Marine to check mooring chains and anchors. We normally have a Marina Gala Day in early June, but this year we are going to tie in the Gala Day with a visit from a group of Danish yachts in July. We'll have the gala, and hopefully a small regatta on Saturday 13th July. Anyone who has used the Marina since it opened has probably come across Jim Fowler, who was one of the first berth holders and who sailed round the pontoons when they were installed making sure all the berths were accessible. Jim and his wife Pat have sold their house locally to move closer to family, so we'll be sad to see their yacht Seraphia depart the pontoon for the final time in early May. The RNLI Gala day is due to take place on 25th May, and you will see it advertised elsewhere in West Word. This will be the first year in many where it hasn't been a joint Gala with the RNMDSF, but the plans are well advanced, and it should be a great day. There will be some restrictions on the Harbour that day to ensure everyone's safety, but those who have parking spaces behind the Prawn Market / shops will still be able to access these.
This is also the time of year where we look at Board membership in advance of our AGM in June. This year, we have three Board Members who have just completed their first term and are eligible for a second term. All three have indicated that they are keen to remain on the Board, and have re-applied. However, we are always interested in hearing from others who would like to apply to become a member of the Board. If you are interested, then please drop me an email at jacqueline@mallaigharbourauthority.com and I can send on some details.
Our AGM this year will take place on Friday 14th June, and we always open this meeting to the wider public. This year we have invited Mark and Leeanne from MKA Economics to come and talk through the findings of our Economic Impact Assessment, which has now been finalised to include some case studies, and which we hope to share more widely after its approval at our AGM.
Jacqueline McDonell

On and Off the Rails

Hello, it's me again!
What a 'stramash' of a month it has been - a right 'boorach' - indeed, no two days the same! My granny used to say, 'Be careful what you wish for - it just might come true!'
Let's work backwards from today, Tuesday 8th May, on The Jacobite operated by West Coast Railway - latest news. The morning Jacobite is still operating, seven days a week, with a rake of alternating coaches: three Mark 1's which cannot be used for conveying passengers - but which are locked off externally but allow passengers to traverse through, and four Mark 2's which primarily are used to convey passengers who purchased tickets (mainly it seems as part of coach party tour companies who booked last November.) The buffet car is a Mark 1 - which means it can't be used, so snacks are sold from a trolley service, as are items normally sold from the on board shop. Before it leaves from Fort William, if there are any vacant seats they can be purchased for cash only from the guards van.
This service continues, and due mostly to the changeable weather conditions and therefore fire risk, we have seen steam hauled, with or without a diesel on the rear. One day it ran diesel hauled with no steam. On the first day of operation the steam locomotive left Fort William, tender first with no diesel at the rear and after its regular stop at Glenfinnan, at the 16 1/2 mile post, it ground to a halt and after three unsuccessful attempts to traverse forward to Mallaig was declared a 'failed train'. Despite Network Rail dispatching a mobile operations manager by road/rail vehicle, with sand, to try and obtain grip on the rails. By this time two ScotRail trains were unable to run and bustitution was arranged for the passengers.
Eventually The Jacobite's driver was driven to Fort William depot to take possession of a Class 37 diesel locomotive and drive to the stricken steam locomotive, and haul the whole ensemble back to Fort William. Imagine the dismay in Mallaig where every establishment had hired in extra staff, prepared all the meals for the travellers, boat trips were planned from the harbour etc etc., and no-one knew what was happening. Like Granny said, 'Be careful what you wish for'!
Fast forward to today again - 8th May - and Mallaig is still in a state of flux as West Coast Railway have just announced a further delayed start date for the pre-advertised and booked afternoon Jacobite service which had been due to commence on Monday 6th May. The company say, 'We have now cancelled all the afternoon service trips departing Fort William at 12:50 from 6th May to 27th May 2024 (dates inclusive). As we are unable to offer alternative trips on The Jacobite afternoon service at this time, our reservations team will process full refunds for customers with bookings on those dates in the next 10 working days.' Not one business in Mallaig has been contacted. Tomorrow they will read in the press and hear on the news. As a PR exercise I know they deserve better and I know they should be kept informed earlier by West Coast Railways. Forget all the technical reasons - just keep Mallaig 'in the loop' - we too deserve better for our loyalty.

Rail trespassers beware
As I write this page of the column on Bank Holiday Monday, news comes through to me of two separate trespass incidents reported where photographers were actually on the ballast at the line side this morning on our branch line.
How do you stop that, I think to myself. Then I turn to the May issue of The Railway Magazine and read that one steam locomotive company is to trial a forward facing GoPro camera on the front of a steam locomotive on 10th and 11th May! Simple but brilliant. In today's reported incident the next train to pass the two sites was asked to report if the trespassers were still on site - which they weren't. Maybe a wee GoPro is the way to help identify trespassers? I rest my case.

Need some 'steam' to watch on your TV?
There are plenty of series being shown currently. One for steam fans that may have slipped by you, but is fun to watch, has just started on Friday evenings on Channel 5. It is titled The Big Steam Adventure, and features John Sergeant, Peter Davidson and Paul (Piglet) Middleton and it airs at 8-9pm. This is the second series and was filmed for TV in the autumn of 2023. Episode one was on Friday 3rd May. You are invited to join them on a rollicking adventure each week, as they try to cross Britain by 'steam' - not only by steam trains but boats, road motors etc. It is good for the soul. They also go behind the scenes to visit workshops, forges, and relish in the fact that engineering is alive in this country. On the 10th May they visit the Isle of Wight. It is reminiscent of Fred Dibnah's TV series, well filmed and makes me smile until my cheeks ache! Try watching the third one on Friday 17th May. I defy you not to smile.

Crewe based Locomotive Services Group Ltd
LSG's 'locomotive hauled' West Highlander ran a third visit to Mallaig on Friday 19th April. The weather charts predicted a true blue sky day and so it was. With 37409 Loch Awe and 37667 Flopsie top and tailing the four CDL fitted Mark 2/3 coaches, it ran as a pay-on-the-day, sit-anywhere-even-in-first-class return ticket price. It was considered to be 'a real bargain' by all passengers. Nick Jones was one of them and has supplied photos to West Word of the first class interior.

West Highlander - photo by NICK JONES

Touring trains continue to weave that way into the network of timetabled services. This month we have seen the Belmond Royal Scotsman luxury touring train visit Mallaig twice and I believe there are eight more visits still planned. The Midland Pullman luxury train promoted by LSG will visit Fort William on Tuesday 28th May on a one day tour named the 'Ben Nevis and Lochaber'. Starting from Morpeth, the route is Morpeth-Berwick-Edinburgh-Fort William-Morpeth. The train is always sold out in advance and its sleek, blue exterior attracts many photographers who travel by road to track the journey, photographing it throughout the day. These photographers increase the tourist numbers and purchase meals and fuel in the area. There are eight more visits to Mallaig planned for the LSG blue Pullman train on Saturdays later in the year.
Once upon a time the only 'followers' of touring trains were video operators, camera operators with tripods and huge lenses, sometimes with microphones. Then came the drone operators. These days there is a network of followers who I frequently find myself being introduced to - all of whom mystify me. There are bloggers, influencers, life changing TikTok personalities, adventurers, social media presenters, YouTubers etc. All know each other, usually polite, run about like 'headless chickens' to get the footage they require, often getting themselves in the shot or giving interviews for editing on their 'platforms' or websites on their GoPro cameras; talk to newspapers, take movie shots on their hugely expensive mobile phones - to be edited later. They swarm around, sometimes paying to travel by train for the interior shots, AND seem amused by Luddite me. They arrive, they purchase food and drink to eat on the go and they move on happily to the next location shot! Bless them all. The promotion that they give to travelling by train in our part of Scotland is welcome, and if it earns them a living, good on them. Gone are the days of a pencil and notebook!!

Pete Waterman and the Railnuts are Record Breakers!
On Saturday 27th April 2024, Model World LIVE at the Birmingham NEC was the only place to be if you wanted to see history being created in the model railway world.
Pete Waterman and his team of enthusiastic model rail builders attempted to enter the Guinness Book of Records by assembling 'the longest portable model railway in the world'. The layout, named Making Tracks: The Final Frontier, measured 208ft x 14ft (63.4m x 4.3m) and was assembled in 8ft (1.82m) sections. It incorporated tracks they had built over recent years for display at Chester Cathedral.
The railway, which depicts the West Coast Main Line between Rugby and Watford Junction, features a four-track main line and the option to pass trains at Milton Keynes Central, and has an astonishing level of detail, including digital displays in the three passenger stations which show live information corresponding to the trains on the layout, which are equipped with RFID tags communicating their position and estimated time of arrival to each station.
The record was measured by the total length of usable tracks in the train set, and the official track length, as certified by the adjudicator, was 2,279 ft (694.9m). After seven and a half hours checking, the adjudicators pronounced the result. It was indeed certified as a World Record Holder, and Pete Waterman went on to say - after the cheering and shouting - "I'm proud for the lads who built it, we're a team, it's not just me. And we set out to do it and we've done it, it's fantastic."
He added the model railway would return to Chester Cathedral in August. The team intend to return to the NEC next year and have its sights set on what it could achieve in 2025. "There are more records to be set," he said, adding "but we can't go any bigger." I hope that it reaches our TV screens this autumn.
What a wonderful, heart-warming slice of model railway building life. I hope you enjoyed it.

Locally, at the Nevis Centre, Fort William, we were treated to the Lochaber Model and Craft Show at the beginning of May, which incorporated working railway layouts. Over 150 exhibitors took part. Now in its eighth year, the show continues to grow. All profits from the show (which has an entry fee of only Ł3 - a bargain) will be shared this year between the Scottish Air Ambulance, Lochaber Women's Aid and Lochaber Hope. Congratulations to the event organisers and sponsors.

Good news from ScotRail
ScotRail has confirmed that four high speed train power cars (HSTs) from its Inter7City fleet are receiving attention from contractors, bringing back hopes that eventually (after platform lengthening - which is taking place on the West Highland Line to Fort William) we may yet see HSTs traversing Rannoch Moor for example as timetabled service trains.
No's 43129 and 43150 are to undergo cab repairs at Brodie Engineering in Kilmarnock following accident damage. No 43129 run into a fallen tree at Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, on 27th December last year, you may recall.
The sleek appearance and past performance are proof enough to warrant a future in ScotRail for their use.
In the meantime our locally based ScotRail crews are coping well with passenger numbers increasing as the daylight hours lengthen, with wonderful sunsets just now. The four car sets on most trains are cleaned in Mallaig every night inside and out, and the booking office is very busy. All of the staff are helpful in making sure that your journey is pleasing to look back on.
See you on the train,
Sonia Cameron

Birdwatch April 2024 by Stephen MacDonald

A mostly settled month weather wise, with just a few days of high winds and rain. Still a bit cool with night frosts on quite a number of occasions and some fresh snow on higher ground.
Lots more summer visitors arriving with several species of warbler reported.
The first Blackcaps were heard in the Morar area during the first week. Also in Morar, Willow Warblers were first heard on the 8th. Both Grasshopper and Wood Warbler were heard in Arisaig on the 23rd and Sedge Warblers were first reported from Arisaig during the last week.
The first Wheatears were seen at Traigh on the 3rd and at Millburn, Arisaig on the 8th. The first Cuckoo was seen and heard at Rhu, Arisaig on the 17th and Back of Keppoch on the 21st. Common Redstarts were seen and heard near Loch nan Eala, Arisaig from the 23rd. Two Swallows were at Invercaimbe on the 20th and two were at Traigh Farm on the 23rd.
Common Sandpiper were back on Loch Morar on the 21st and Loch Ailort on the 23rd. Several groups of migrant Golden Plover and Whimbrel were reported from around Back of Keppoch and Traigh. The first Whimbrel were three birds seen at Traigh on the 23rd, rising to 11 by the 28th.
Numerous reports of Pink-footed Geese heading north mid-month and also several groups of Whooper Swans. The lone Barnacle Goose was still around Back of Keppoch area till the month end. A single Pink-footed Goose was also lingering in the same area. It's probable that both birds are either injured or sick and unable to migrate to their breeding grounds.
On the 9th there were still at least three Common Scoter and three Slavonian Grebes on Loch nan Ceall, the grebes now in their breeding plumage.
Some good numbers of Great Northern Divers seen offshore, with at least 34 seen at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall on the 20th.
Other groups were reported offshore from Traigh and Camusdarroch.
Several sightings of Great Skua and Manx Shearwaters from the Sound of Sleat.
On the 25th a Merlin was seen at Traigh, hunting Meadow Pipits.
A Siskin that had ben ringed in Morar on the 28th May 2023, was re-trapped by a ringer in Millyford Green, Hampshire on the 21st April 2023, over 730km to the south of Morar.

World Wide West Word

Rachel Crawley read hers outside the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, on a recent trip to Pisa, Florence and the Cinque Terre!


The Editor's daughter Lily took a West Word with her to Central America last month! Lily says, 'I went to Costa Rica on an exchange through Edinburgh College to work with a local circus company called Circo Fantazztico. We were a group of ten students, from various different courses within creative arts. Alongside a group of young people there we devised and created a short piece of theatre consisting of singing, dancing, acrobatics and juggling, which we performed at the end of the week. We then had a few days to explore the beaches and walk in the mountains which was absolutely incredible!'


Stewart and Liz Goudie spent a week sailing with Celia Bull on her yacht Selkie in April and took their West Word along! Here's Stewart as they approached Staffa - he says, 'We got a good view of Fingal's Cave as we sailed past.'



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