Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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A look back at the last twelve months as reported in the pages of West Word. Some of the events are mentioned in the month in which they occurred, some in the month they appeared in the paper.

Our front page began the year with a pessimistic look at the future of fishing in Mallaig, with landing figures falling for the third year running, and we carried an article by Hugh Allen of Mallaig & Northwest Fishermen’s Association. concerning the decisions made in Brussels. Ronnie MacLellan received his MBE in the New Year Honours List. Mallaig High School repeated their Drama Competition success of 2002 and added a Talent Competition and we reported on Mallaig Primary School’s Book Launch. The Boat House closed and Silver Fjord came to join Arisaig's fleet. Mallaig lost it’s ‘hole in the wall’ and gained a postbox, and after a couple of attempts at an election Mallaig got its new Community Council. Rev Ben Johnson departed Mallaig for a parish in Skye.

100 issues! We shared our 100th front page with Mrs Phemie Ironside, who celebrated her 100th birthday on the 2nd. of the month. We carried a second article on the state of the fishing industry, by Robert Stevenson, West of Scotland Fish Producers Assn. Rachel Carr of Mallaig became the Development Officer for Volunteer Highland’s new Lochaber Volunteer Centre and we reported on Jessie Corson’s retirement in January after 33 years as school secretary. We passed on the report that Brussels were about to redefine the term ‘island’ which would exclude Muck, Canna and Rum. ‘Amema’, Mallaig High School’s Young Enterprise company, produced for sale a new board game, ‘Conquering Caledonia’. Dry weather resulted in wide spread muirburn throughout the area, causing a huge amount of damage and threatening house. Ishy MacKinnon of Glenuig sent us an article on her time volunteering in Madagascar and Arisaig’s Ranald Coyne told us about his trip to Bangladesh to advise on tourist development. There was a fatal accident at the roadworks, and a Sea Eagle was found poisoned near Morar. Ewen’s cat Jimmy went missing.

Anne Cameron was our front page pin-up, having been chosen as an Unsung Heroine by David Stewart MP. Mallaig and Eigg were chosen as two of the ‘stars’ of a photo collage exhibition planned to for the 2003 Highland festival. Health & Safety directives threatened the future of auxiliary Fire Services. A ‘Lightbulb Amnesty’ came to the area, twinned with a Community Planning consultation, and a Waste Management meeting was held in Arisaig. The road from Morar river to the A830 closed while a new junction was made, which resulted in the disappearance of the roundabout. We carried a report on February’s Search and Rescue exercise, the largest to be staged off the Lochaber coast, involving the Coastguard and the Lifeboat crew, with observers from the Constabulary and Ambulance Service. As a dry March succeeded a dry February, muirburn and hill fires created havoc, and we read an exciting personal account of fighting a big fire in Knoydart. Allie MacDougall had had a great Christmas and New Year in Vietnam and Cambodia. We remembered the formal opening of the Caimbe bridge, 110 years ago, and went much further back in time in an article on Muck’s archaeology. The Pool held their Butlin’s Swimathon 2003. And the Cat Came Back - Jimmy returned safely.

Both Mallaig and Morar Playing Fields were the victims of an about-turn by the Lottery, which caused them to lose their match funding. There was some good news though as both villages were linked by the long fought for cycle/footpath. Fireman Sam finally drew breath and had time to hand in two months’ Log, detailing the Service’s many long hours fighting fires. Jacqueline Moffat, with Lisa MacLean, won the Lochaber Young chef of the Year. The Spanish John II was pictured, having arrived in Mallaig at the end of March. Allie was back in Japan, and Ishy MacKinnon continued her tale of her time in Madagascar. Angus our Coastal Ranger lamented his stolen van, which turned up in Hawick via Milton Keynes where the thief had been distributing Walks leaflets! Healthy activity was being promoted. A warm, dry month in the main - very spring-like.

The Arisaig By-Pass sprouted signs galore, and Morar Beach (but which one?) was included in the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Beach Guide 2003. The Mission refurbishment plans included a new Memorial Alcove in the TV lounge for memorial plaques. Graeme Stewart won the Lochaber Sports Council School Sport Ambassador Award. On Canna Wendy MacKinnon opened her tearoom and on Muck Lawrence started guided tours of the island on summer Wednesdays—both are West Word 'stringers'. Rum began drawing up a development plan after SNH agreed to release land in the village and West Word asked readers to vote for Kinloch Castle in the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ programme. Lady Lovat School conducted a Mock Election and Fergus Ewing was returned as our MSP in the real thing. We read a further (and last) installment of Ishy MacKinnon’s time in Madagascar. There was an annular eclipse of the Sun on the 31st, not to be repeated for 90 years.

Mallaig and District Swimming Pool celebrated its tenth anniversary and planned to celebrate with ten days of events and activities. The new section of the A830 Arisaig to Kinsadel opened temporarily at the end of May while work was done at Back of Keppoch, and then closed, then opened again. The Jacobite returned for its summer season and the Mallaig and Eigg collages formed part of the ‘New Clan’ Exhibition which launched the Highland Festival. We printed more on the threat to auxiliary fire units with comments of support from Fergus Ewing MSP and David Stewart MP. There was a poor period for prawn fishing. Eigg's old tearoom was demolished, last symbol of landlordship, as work on the new pier continued. Work was continuing on Rum's pier but no sign of any advance for Muck's - but they got a new arts group, CAMAS. It was Rum's turn to get a new post box. Raymond and Marion Manson took over the Morar Hotel as Alistair and Mairi MacLeod retired after 30 years, and Cnoc-n-Faire got their Investors in People Award, only four weeks after entering the scheme! The Canoe Club junior members took part in a sponsored roll and rescue and enjoyed a weekend kayaking away near Aviemore. We carried an article on sea eagles and the recent poisoning in Morar, and one from Auntie Mary on the natural history of the new stretch of road.

Marine Harvest announced a new harvesting station in Mallaig, promising at least ten jobs. Mallaig Primary School made the best school compost in Lochaber, said the Environmental Group! Primary 7 pupils from all the local schools had a weekend at Outward Bound at the end of May and we had the photos to prove it. June Cairns retired from teaching after many years in Arisaig and Mallaig and we showed Jeff Lawrie receiving his RNLI Long Service Badge (20 years). In Inverie, Donald MacLugash retired - reputedly. The Marine Training Centre became an approved RYA Powerboat Training School. We featured the Grand Opening that wasn’t, when bad weather prevented official dignitaries to land at Inverie to visit the refurbished Primary School. Arisaig held its Highland Games and Eigg its Feis in the warmest July for many years.

Mallaig Playing Field got its Lottery award at last, and the updated local Telephone Directory went on sale. The new contractors arrived at last to takeover the construction of the slipways and piers on Muck. Toby and Katherine Robinson of Doune, Knoydart, advertised for volunteers to help with a special programme for their autistic son Coll, and a number of newspapers took up our story, resulting in responses from all over the world. Knoydart and Mallaig & Morar held their annual Games and Arisaig its Regatta. Over on Eigg, residents were connected to the new hydro electric scheme. Six local women qualified as Childminders and set up in business. The first ordination in Arisaig in hundreds of years - maybe the first ever - was celebrated, the new priest a local man. Allie was still in Japan but on the verge of coming home to Mallaig after two years away. There was a heat wave.

Our front page featured the fiasco of the new ferry Coruisk which only ten days after its naming ceremony lost a propeller and had to return to the Clyde for repairs - yet to return.
Knoydart folk held a sponsored relay swim from Mallaig to Inverie, and a sponsored run of all three Munroes in Knoydart, both to raise funds for Coll Robinson of Doune. Rum had a beach clean up and were still urging people to vote for Kinlcoh Castle in the Restoration programme after it made the regional finals. Cathie Stewart took up the Marie Curie challenge and started fundraising for a Daffodil Field of Hope for Morar. We started a serialisation of the story of Charlie Lyons, the Mallaig man who was decorated for bravery in World War I. Mallaig Schools held their Gala day and we featured photos and write-ups on August's Pool Gala Day, Mallaig & Morar Games and the Arisaig Regatta. The new pier and slipway on Rum were finally finished.

Moves were afoot to bring the Uist Ferry link back to Mallaig. Small Isles residents were issued with vehicle permits and Mallaig residents attended a Village Environmental Improvement Consultation evening. There was a mini Feis na Mara in Mallaig, and the Highland Rail Festival returned. Many West Word readers were taken in by a spoof report about the new road but the white lobster in Mallaig Marine world was real enough. Fundraising continued for Marie Curie Fields of Hope in both Mallaig and Morar , with sites identified and planting done, while ‘Make a Difference Day’ saw volunteers make a garden at the Mackintosh Centre. The Aurora Borealis produced a wonderful show at the end of the month. The Canoe Club reported on their trip to Torrin in Skye and Mallaig FC won the Kinloch Cup. Helen and John Alick Campbell made national news when they decided to make a bequest of their house to Alzheimers Scotland.

West Word celebrated its ninth birthday by announcing we were on the way to ‘going digital’, with a grant for new printing technology. Fears were expressed that the possible ending of the Skye Bridge tolls could have a deleterious effect on the Mallaig - Armadale ferry, and Lochaber folk were urged to attend a meeting in Fort William concerning the future of the Belford Hospital - which they did, in droves, with a bus put on from the Mallaig area. The ‘New Clan’ exhibition featuring the Mallaig and Eigg collages (with calendars for sale) was in the Heritage Centre all month. We finally got the news that work on the Mallaig Playing Field was really going ahead. David Stewart MP visited Iraq where he met Arisaig’s RAF Corporal James Henderson. Mrs Margaret Fay Shaw Campbell of Canna celebrated her 100th birthday, and was featured in two TV programmes about her life. The new pier was finished on the Isle of Muck but the Lochnevis wouldn’t enter the harbour. 100 mountain rescuers descended on Knoydart for a training exercise and Prince Charles may be coming to the rescue of Kinloch Castle. Café Rhu opened for business in Arisaig. Mallaig Marine Training Centre continued to develop new courses. Mallaig's new water treatment plant opened as a very wet November dispelled the reports that the country would run out of water.

Good news on the front page with the opening for business of two new buildings - Arisaig surgery and the Mallaig Police Station. We reported on NHS 24, set to start in April in Mallaig. The High School put on an evening of Music and Drama. Ben Johnston was presented with a Vellum by the RNLI. Crofting reorganisation began on Eigg. The Lochnevis used the new Rum pier for the first time and at last ventured into Muck harbour. We featured photos of the Children in Need fundraising. Christmas parties, Christmas menus, Christmas messages - we even had a bit of snow for snowball fights and snowmen and sledging. But most if us ended the year thankful to see the last of 2003, despite the best summer we've had in many, many years.

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