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

List of Issues online

April 2001 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Mallaig & Morar Community Centre Opening
Monthly news from Eigg, Canna, Muck, Knoydart
Teddies for Tragedies
Mallaig Heritage Centre
McAlpine's Marvel
Genealogy & A Backward Glance

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe
Sign our Guestbook


Two months after its unofficial opening, the new Centre unveiled its official plaque in the presence of representatives of the main funders of the project, and showed them its many facilities, including a demonstration of video conferencing.

Funding came from the National Lottery, Highland Council, Scottish Executive, Lochaber Limited and the Mackintosh Foundation - to name but a few! Partners in the building are the Lochaber Communications Network Ltd. and the Highland Council Library service, and Lochaber College.

Jill de Fresnes, one of the prime movers of the project and the manager of Mallaig & District Community Campus, said they had been overwhelmed by the use already made of the Centre and went on: 'we want to see this facility succeed in what it was built to do - the building is just the shell, it's what goes on inside that will make the difference to the people here. We want to see more opportunities grow for the community from this. To enable us to do that, we are going to have to rely on continued support from all of you.'

Ongoing plans are for an Arts project and for additional equipment for the Centre including a sound and lighting system. Meantime the Campus is being well used by students studying all levels of courses up to degree level, with fishery courses high on the agenda.

Councillor King, who unveiled the plaque, spoke highly of the Centre and the committee who had worked so hard to complete the project. 'We are lucky in this area to have people who are prepared to get up and make things happen for the benefit of others. For any small community, achievements like this are magnificent and it's only taken two years to finance and build. This must be a record. No-one can fail to recognise the scale of the project and sheer hard work which has gone into it.'

The guests were treated to a splendid buffet from Garramore Restaurant and music from pupils of the High School.

Councillor King with some of the key members of the Centre committee:
left to right - Keith Eddie, Avril Trotter, Willie Inglis, Jacqueline McDonell, Niki Robertson and Jill de Fresnes.

The Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Mosaic can now be seen on Alan Potter's web site, with close ups and descriptions of the different elements as well as an overview of the thinking behind the design. You can view this, as well as Alan's extensive and very impressive catalogue of work at alanpotter-publicart.com

Denis Rixson (left) receiving the lifebelt from Dr. Mills

At a dinner/reception in the West Highland Hotel, Mallaig, on the 21st. March 2001. Dr. Harold Mills, Chairman of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd., presented Denis Rixson, curator of the Mallaig Heritage Centre, with a lifebelt from the MV Lochmor, the Small Isles and Skye passenger ferry which had been based at Mallaig for the past twenty years. The ship's bell and a montage of pictures of the Lochmor will also be handed over to the Heritage Centre in the coming weeks.
The MV Lochmor was replaced on the Small Isles/Skye service by the new Lochnevis in November of last year.


It was a surprise to find that my very amateur writings could possibly be considered important enough to be put on the WWW, however what has hit me since reading Ann's letter is, if MSP's, Government bodies, umpteen national journalists and others in high places read West Word, surely just a few of them could have taken some interest in my admittedly sometimes caustic comments, about Caledonian MacBrayne and all it's works regarding Eigg and the prospective new pier. Eigg Residents Association has written numerous letters to many of these people on the same subject in recent years, with an equal lack of success. We could well do with some influential people on our side before it is too late.

The History Society Slide Show on Thursday 22nd February given by Peter and helped by Susanna Wade-Martins was tremendously enjoyed by all who attended. Even those who had seen the photographs many times before were very impressed by being able to see over a hundred of them enlarged on the screen, and for those of us not so conversant with old Eigg, Peter's descriptions and comments were both informative and extremely interesting. We hope that he will bring another selection to show us at some future date.

There is talk of (one day) publishing a book of old Eigg photographs, and I for one, avidly look forward to that day, but as Peter said, his first priority is to gather as many more as he can before the door closes altogether on the availability of these collections. He has already accumulated over 2000 from various sources and done a great deal of work, preparing and archiving them, one copy is now in the Eigg library another in Inverness. Each photograph has a description attached telling us who, where and when, and / or as much other information as he has been able to glean. Our grateful thanks to him for his efforts and thanks also to Camille who, Peter says gave him the inspiration and encouragement to begin this mammoth task

The end of February was overshadowed by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease At the residents meeting on 27th February it was decided to place disinfectant on the pier for everyone to step into as soon as they disembark. Work on the Forestry Shed has been postponed as the builders are based in Galloway, and a number of other planned visits have been rescheduled till later in the year.

At a further meeting, because there has been no spread of the disease into the Highland Region and Tourism was thought to be disproportionately affected, all agreed that each person receiving visitors would be responsible for finding out where their visitors were travelling from & whether of not they handled animals & taking appropriate precautions. The Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Department has provided us with a risk assessment & it was thought that if the advice was adhered to the measures should avoid as far as possible any contamination being brought to Eigg.

There was much discussion at the above meeting regarding the next step in the pier saga. At a recent Eigg Heritage Trust meeting, Charlie King made it very clear that he thought the application for European Funding should be put in by the end of March or we faced a real risk of losing funding. If successful, it would mean the new pier with adjoining causeway would go ahead So the big question was, should we continue to fight for an alternative or accept the causeway ? The resulting vote of 22 to 19 in favour of proceeding with causeway is by no means conclusive but enough for the Council to submit the funding application.

Camille's Sculpture Garden workshop headed by Valerie Pragnell, an Environ-mental Artist will now be on Monday 9th April. The children have made a good start on preparing the ground for the willow maze planned for the Lodge garden.

Some readers will be aware of a collection taking place for a memorial seat in memory of Angus and Allie which we aim to install on the first anniversary of Angus's death on May 26th. Thanks to the enormously generous response, we will be able to dedicate a seat to the memory of each of them. Brigg, despite being a very busy man, insisted on volunteering his services for the construction of the original but being employed on the house building programme as well as being kept busy manufacturing Rocking Horses, the second one may not be ready for May 26th.

On behalf of Eigg residents I would like to again thank all those kind people from outwith Eigg who have been so remarkably generous and have sent such kind messages with their contri-butions, confirming what we already knew, that Angus and Allie were "well kent" faces and will be sadly missed for many a long day.

Joy Williams


SNH have announced that following veterinary advice they have re-opened Rum Reserve on a restricted basis with effect from 29th March 2001. Re-opening are: Kinloch Village (excluding the north side agricultural fields, farm steading and walled garden); the Loch Scresort Trail; footpaths to Dibidil, Hallival and Askival. Village exit points will have disinfectant baths for walking boots. Regular updates are being posted on the SNH web site and VisitScotland has a hotline number: 0131 332 2433.


The National Trust will make a decision on whether to re-open Canna within the next few weeks.

The Land, Sea & Islands Centre

This will be opening hopefully on Wednesday 11th. April for Easter, with volunteer staff. We won't be able to display the War Records for a while, until we have a case made and a copy done, but this is in hand. The archivist came down from the Libraries Service in Inverness specially to have a look and was very impressed. We hope to have a few copies photographed and hopefully have it on CD Rom.


The event of the month has been the opening of the 'Lochaber Siding Coffee Shop' with local crafts at Fort William Railway Station. This is a joint enterprise by Jenny together with Kate Campbell from Strontian. Ishabel Walters who is now working in Fort William is helping and so far there has been no shortage of customers.

On the island had things been normal CCG would by now be hard at work completing the new ferry terminal. But things are not normal. Highland Council has very kindly delayed the re-start until the extent of the foot and mouth becomes clearer. Now work is to start on the 15th. April. Another notable event has been that the Education Dept. has allowed islanders to carry out repairs to the school. Up until now all repairs were carried out by contractors from the mainland regardless of cost.

On the farm the wonderful weather has really helped the cows who are fatter than they have been for many years. This is because the shelter is really poor here compared with most farms. Although there was a shortage of silage because of the dry summer there will be enough to lat until the beginning of May. Rationing is easy with big bales compared with pit silage.

Lawrence MacEwen.


Spring must be in the air - birthdays abound this month but we start with one special one at the end of March - the arrival of Coll to Kath and Toby Robinson of Doune, a brother for Finn and Lachie. The number of boys at Doune almost creates half a football team now, not to mention boat crews for the future!

Aaron Bowyers celebrates her 18th. birthday on 3rd. April with a party in the pub; Jan Marriott celebrates her birthday on the 4th. and Kenny Morrison on the 5th., so here's wishing a happy day to each of the celebrants.

The Old Forge was humming all week-end to the creative sounds of individual musicians and groups recording for posterity. I'm told enough material was recorded to cut ten discs although this will be edited to one final collection.

There has been an ongoing rash of meetings to discuss plans for housing, pier, forestry and tourism and the day to day life in Knoydart. The Forest Trust now has a digger and power barrow to assist the work on footpaths. It is good to see the Spanish John back in operation, plying these waters again. The large barge used to survey sites for the pier has broken its mooring and is now on the beach. Indeed the gales which are normally a feature of March would appear to be catching up at the beginning of April.

The policy to combat the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease continues to hold sway and much but not all of Knoydart is off limits in common with neighbouring estates. Anyone requiring information should check on a day to day basis as the situation is under review.

Anne Trussell



Tasha Lancaster of Eigg is pictured here receiving an award from Bill Fraser, Chairman of the Shell LiveWIRE Youth Entrepreneur Awards.

Tasha and husband Brigg came fourth in the Highland final of the Award scheme, for their Rocking Horse Workshop on the Isle of Eigg - the only such workshop in Scotland. Their prize is 200.

The winner of the Highland final was Patrick Gray of Tongue in Sutherland, for his business, Planet Boo Communications.

All finalist businesses have been supported also by The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust.

Last year's winner was Arisaig's Ross MacEachen for his single eyed Cyclops Creel.

Teddies for Tragedies
Kimberley with the 40+ teddies made by Granma and friends!

After a recent Brownie meeting Kimberley Jackson, along with all the other Brownies, came home with a pattern sheet for knitted teddies and drawstring bags.

This is an ongoing appeal to bring hope and comfort not only to orphans but to all children in war torn or Third World countries that have lost everything. The bags are just as important as the teddies themselves as many children carry their new cuddly companion inside the bags with only the teddies head peeping out. Doctors who treat these children have found that the ones who have their own teddies to cuddle in their cots/beds at night actually seem to get better quicker than the children who don't have one. The aim of this appeal is to help make children back into children through learning how to play.

Kimberley's Granma mentioned this appeal to friends who instantly asked for copies of the pattern not only for themselves but for their friends too. Soon after teddies began pouring in and to date we now have well over 40 with most having their own drawstring bag.

Kimberley, Judi and, Maisie along with all the Brownies would like to give a big thank-you to everyone who helped in all ways, from knitting the teddies, making bags to donating wool etc.

On Friday 16th March, during one of the Comic Relief appeals on TV, many of the women who have helped to date noticed a small child clutching one of these teddies. This shows the end result of how successful this appeal has been.

Thank you all for your help and support in this very worthwhile project.

As mentioned before this is an ongoing appeal and if you would like to have a go at making one of these teddies or bags, here are the instructions:

Double knitting wool (not white please as in some countries it is a sign of mourning). Size 10 needles.

Main colour - for head and paws. Trouser colour. Jumper colour. Scarf colour.

Cast on 10 stitches (main colour). Knit 10 rows. Change to trouser colour and knit 30 rows. Make another leg in the same way. Knit across all 20 stitches and work 16 rows.

Change to jumper colour and knit 24 rows.

Change to main colour for head and also change to stocking stitch. Work for 5 and a half inches and change to jumper colour. Continue remainder of teddy in reverse order.

Stitch down sides of head. With jumper colour, pick up 8 stitches either side of neck (16 in all) and knit 20 rows.

Change to main colour and knit 10 rows for paws.

Sew up teddy leaving opening in crotch. Sew diagonal top corners for ears before stuffing. Please stuff with polyester or other healthy stuffing (not foam rubber as babies might chew it). Then run a thread round the neck to draw it in. Sew a happy face on Teddy. For mouth please use stem stitch or backstitch.

Scarf. Cast on 75 stitches. Knit 4 rows and cast off. Tie scarf on Teddy and sew firmly to back of neck. Do not sew down front. (Please do not deviate from the pattern as we like all Teddies to look the same).

Bags. Teddies also require little bags made from material (not white) with a drawstring at the top. Finished size 10" x 13". Please do not use elastic as a drawstring.

Mallaig Heritage Centre

Dear Editor

I write to ask if we may use your columns to drum up some support for the Mallaig Heritage Centre. Despite its title the Centre attempts to represent the whole area west of Glenfinnan and we also hold material relating to Knoydart and the Small Isles. In recent years, in common with many similar centres in the Highlands, we have experienced a catastrophic decline in visitor numbers. For a couple of years we were able to raise extra income by providing facilities for Lochaber College but this avenue is now closed. We also benefited from the generosity of Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the Gower Trust and the John Muir Trust. Nevertheless visitors have always been our main source of income and there is no guarantee that the tourist season will be any better this year - particularly given the spread of foot-and-mouth.

Our main outgoing is our loan repayment to Lochaber Ltd but tight cashflow has meant reducing hours and cutting back on promotion and advertisement. In these circumstances we need all the local support we can muster.

What I would like to do is write occasional articles for West Word on historical subjects. If your readers are interested please would they consider becoming a Member of the Heritage Centre or dropping in a small donation! Every little helps and a 5 Annual Membership allows you free entry (local children and OAP's are free anyway). For those with a more practical bent I know that Mrs Corson would welcome a little help in the garden. She has put in untold hours of work, and not a few plants, but some more labour would always be appreciated.

With thanks
Yours sincerely
Denis Rixson, Secretary, Mallaig Heritage Centre

The Cailleach stone by Denis Rixson
Mallaig Heritage Centre

On the way north to Kyle of Lochalsh, by sea, there is a large rock off the Skye shore known as Sgeir na Caillich - the skerry or rock of the old woman. It lies opposite the relatively sheltered waters of Loch Alsh. Today it draws little attention - other than trying to avoid it - but it has a long history.

In 1263 the Hebrides still belonged to Norway. The mainland technically belonged to Scotland but in practice the west coast chiefs looked seawards rather than towards Edinburgh. The Scottish kings had been encroaching on the Hebrides for a number of years, anxious to regain control of islands that had formerly been theirs. The West Highland chiefs were between the devil and the deep blue sea; either they made their peace with a Scottish king who was close at hand, or incur the wrath of a distant Norwegian master. The Macruaris, who controlled the Rough Bounds, the Small Isles, Uist and Barra, sided with the Norwegians.

Hakon of Norway determined to put on a show of force. He assembled a huge fleet and sailed down the west coast of Scotland in the summer of 1263. After the so-called Battle of Largs in Ayrshire (actually little more than a skirmish), his fleet retreated north again. There had been no major military or naval confrontation. His men had not offered battle ashore and the Scots had not offered battle at sea. Nonetheless the Norse had been defeated in the sense that they had failed in their objectives. Scottish pressure on the Hebrides was bound to increase. From a Norwegian point of view the Hebrides simply weren't worth fighting for. Within three years they had sold them to the Scots by the Treaty of Perth. Hakon died on his way home in 1263 and a saga was promptly commissioned telling the story of his exploits. His last great naval expedition featured prominently and the saga is a reliable source in the sense that it was written soon after the events it describes. One passage runs:

They sailed to Rona, and thence into the Sound of Skye, and lay there at a place called Carlinestone [Kerlingar-steinn].
(Dasent: Saga of Hakon)

Now the word carling passed from Norse into English and survives in Scots usage as 'carline' meaning an 'old woman'. Evidently the Norse Kerlingar-steinn is the same as our Sgeir na Caillich which immediately raises the question of whether it was first carline or cailleach. Did the Norse borrow from the Gaels or vice-versa?

At any rate it appears that Sgeir na Caillich was not just any old rock. There was an anchorage nearby where Hakon's fleet lay (up to a hundred ships) and where they were joined by King Magnus of Man and other important recruits. The kyle or narrows to the North is called Kyleakin (Hakon's kyle), quite possibly after this same Hakon of 1263. After this the Cailleach stone and its anchorage drop out of history for the next three centuries. Then, about 1540, they crop up again.

Despite wresting them from Norway in 1266 the Scots kings experienced nothing but trouble from the Hebrides for much of the mediaeval period. The islands were semi-independent under the Macdonald Lordship and little inclined to follow instructions from Edinburgh.

The Scots realm moved against them on a number of occasions and the Lordship of the Isles was finally forfeited in 1493. The island chiefs rebelled intermittently for the next fifty years until a last attempt by Donald Dubh in 1545 ended in failure. The Hebrides were denied but not defeated and the political integration of the region was a continuing problem until after Culloden in 1746.

Few Scots kings ventured far into the Highlands but one who did was James V. In 1540 he led a fleet through the Western Isles to overawe the natives. It seems that part of the preparatory work for this expedition was the compilation of a rutter or book of sailing directions by one Alexander Lindsay, pilot. This rutter eventually found its way to England and then to France where it was published in 1583 by Nicholas de Nicolay. In the section headed "Havens, Sounds and Dangers from Duncansby Head to the Mull of Kintyre, both on the mainland and through the Isles" we find these entries:

"Kyilark is a narrow passage, and betuixt it and Kyilra is a good road. This Kyilra is a streat passage and a dangerous stream"
(National Maritime Museum, Monograph No 44).

In modern English this reads:

Kyleakin is narrow and there is a good anchorage between here and Kylerhea. Kylerhea is narrow and has a dangerous current.

In other words, if you are looking to cast anchor then choose somewhere in Loch Alsh between Kyleakin and Kylerhea, which is exactly where Hakon's fleet laid up in the summer of 1263. James' fleet required less room. His ships may have been bigger but there were not so many of them, at most about 16. Nevertheless they were far more powerful than any West Highland galley that could be brought against them and the only danger they ran was from the weather.

Some years ago Rev Charles Barrington, Ardvasar, drew my attention to another incident involving the Cailleach stone. It features in the Mackenzie histories as the spot where their clansmen managed to wreck a great Macdonald galley at the beginning of the seventeenth century. At the time there was a bitter feud between the two clans and raiding parties went back and forth between Morar and Applecross. An anchorage is mentioned at Loch na Beiste which is a bay on the Skye shore north and west of the Cailleach stone. Perhaps this specifies exactly where Hakon and James V laid up.

These historical coincidences are not surprising. Geography and the tides don't change much over the centuries. What was a good anchorage in 1263 was still a good anchorage in 1540 and 1600. The stone of the old woman was a sea-mark then as it still is today. Next time your boat passes through Loch Alsh imagine Loch na Beiste containing Hakon's fleet in 1263 or possibly James's much smaller squadron in 1540. Next time you notice the Cailleach stone, imagine the wreck of a great Macdonald galley at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

And why was it called the Cailleach stone anyway?


On 7.20 a.m. on Monday, the 1st. April 1901, the first ever Mallaig to Glasgow train left Mallaig Station, carrying on board passengers from the steamers Clydesdale from Lewis and Lovedale from Skye.

The Clydesdale had sailed overnight from Stornoway with the first through ticket holders booked from Lewis to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and they would reach their destination within twelve hours.

The opening of the Mallaig Extension wasn't greeted with banner headlines. The Oban Times had a column and a half on page 5 which described the opening as 'fitting, if somewhat informal,' and lists the officials who travelled on the first train from Glasgow to Mallaig. The account continues: 'the run between Glasgow and Mallaig was a delightful experience, and was accomplished well within the guaranteed six hours under the most pleasant conditions.'

On arrival at Mallaig, 'as the train steamed into the commodious terminus at Mallaig, the travellers were welcomed by a miscellaneous group of fishermen, natives and workmen employed on the line, amid a burst of warm sunshine. At the splendid pier, which connects with the station, lay the familiar red-funnelled steamers Lovedale and Clydesdale of the MacBrayne fleet with steam up. At Mallaig a township is creeping up, although at present somewhat limited in extent, with a large and commodious hotel on a rising ground above, commanding a magnificent view of the Sound of Sleat...

The railway had not been without problems of many kinds, from objections from rival railways to political arguments against the cost to the difficulties of pushing it through the rugged landscape. Page 4 of the same issue of the Oban Times contained a diatribe as long as the article

on the opening, lamenting the 'brutal railway' and the effect of 'the thrusting of the inexorable finger of civilisation in the rough guise of the railroad through their classic ground, dripping as it is in the dew of romance.' but the writer ends philosophically on the reflection that the line would open up the area for the appreciation of tourists as well as providing the intended lifeline to the fishing and farming communities, who were unable to expand because they could not get their produce to market quickly enough.

The engineers were Simpson & Wilson, and the contractors were Robert McAlpine & Sons, both firms from Glasgow.

'Concrete Bob' did a magnificent job, excavating 100 cuttings, and driving nine tunnels through the stretch between Lochailort and Arisaig (the most costly stretch) alone. McAlpine used the new material concrete, which was much cheaper than masonry, in the largest number of concrete structures in one area in the world at that time.

He also had to build the Banavie Swing Bridge to cross the Caledonian Canal at Banavie, and five viaducts. Mallaig Station was not where it is now, but was built on rock projecting out into the water, with a sea wall protecting the platforms from the weather.

The plans to celebrate the centenary have met a set back so far, with the cancellation of the vintage Deltic diesel locomotive which was to come up from the south, but more events are in place during the year. A centenary plaque will be unveiled in Mallaig, hopefully by Sir William McAlpine, and the long-awaited turntable is closer to being installed. There are hopes of being able to replace the splendid canopy the station used to have. Meanwhile ScotRail have slashed fares and a video has been released of a 1960 BBC documentary.

West Word hopes to publish articles on the history of the line during the year.

The Mail Coach times were advertised every week in the Oban Times until just two weeks before the first train. The journey took 7 hours and a single fare cost 10/- (10 shillings or 50p on today speak) plus 1/- for the driver's fee.



Not connected to the opening of the Mallaig Extension but still a comment on the times: this advertisement appeared in the Oban Times of 1st. April and illustrates the effect modern transport had on the traditional methods. The Glasgow Corporation Tramways is here advertising for sale its stock of 4000 horses, its 'entire tramway stud.'

A Little Genealogy, a Puzzle and a Story
by Allan MacDonald

In the last edition of West Word (March), Mark Fraser from Canada was looking for information on his grandfather, Robert Thomas Fraser, born in Drimindarroch in 1901.

In 1840, Thomas Fraser, aged 50, agricultural labourer, lived at No. 10 Borrodale with his wife Isabella, 40, and family Robert, 20, John, 15, Isabella, 14 years of age.

Robert Fraser from Drimindarroch is listed in the 1891 Census, aged 60 years. Also listed is his daughter, Emma, aged 13 years.

The ages of Robert in 1840 and 1891 have a discrepancy of 10 years.

Hopefully, Robert Thomas Fraser, born 1901, will appear in the census for that decade which should be published in April 2001.

R. T. Fraser had at least one brother called Forbes Fraser and a sister called Nancy. The puzzle is: who was the father of Forbes and Nancy? Was it Robert of 1891 or was he their grandfather? We will have to wait and see!

Robert, known as Thomas, was the tenant farmer of Keppoch Farm until sometime in the 1930s. A photograph in the Arisaig Land Sea & Islands Centre shows a very substantial boat being launched by the Campbell boatbuilders at Back of Keppoch. The boat was commissioned and paid for by Thomas Fraser and I think he may also feature in the photo.

Forbes Fraser, a bachelor, was a carpenter to trade and he, along with Hugh Cameron, Moss, father of Angie Cameron, installed the floor in the Astley Hall.

It is a marvellous testament to their skill, given the thousands of dancers who have used the floor over the years. Best dance floor in the Highlands!

Nancy Fraser was married to Hugh (George) MacDonald from Invercaimbe. Sadly, she died at the birth of their first child and the child died some weeks later.

A story which I heard in the district, many years ago regarding Thomas and Keppoch Farm, went like this:

At the back of the farmhouse is an area of ground, reputed to be an ancient graveyard. Very early in Thomas' tenancy, there being little sign of the graveyard, he decided to plough this area. This done, and having finished his work for the day, he took the two horses and put them in their boxes in the stable, locked the doors and went home for the night.

When he arrived at the stable in the morning, he was dumbfounded to find all the locks secure but the horses had been turned to face the opposite direction in the stalls.

He never planted or harvested that piece of ground, nor had anyone since.

The people of Arisaig who remember any of the Frasers, speak kindly of them when recalling past memories.

That's all I can tell you at the moment but I will give you an update if any more information comes to light.

Plain fare
by George W. Baird

As bairns we had plain wholesome fare. We didn't turn up our noses at anything; we ate what was in front of us. Porridge often at breakfast time, from oatmeal kept in a bowie. Never porridge oats or cereals. On a girdle, mother made oatcakes, big thick ones which she stored in a large tin. There were no bought cakes. Scones and pancakes were what filled our tummies, the scones made with black treacle. We had farthing biscuits, spread with margarine, never butter; or, a buttery with syrup.

At the weekend there was kale broth, made with a sheep's head, flank mutton or and ox-tail. A big pot-full lasted two days, the second day's tasting better. Sometimes, on a busy day, mum helped out at the gutting or the kippering. Then the dinner was quickly made - mince, liver, tripe; tatties had been pared earlier. Like most Mallaig families, we never saw rump steak, mutton chops or turkey slices, and what we never saw we didn't miss. Chappit neaps and chappit tatties went a long way.

We rarely saw caramels, or chocolate. It was a nougat bar or a sugarolly stick. Better still a lump of home-made candy. Sometimes fish and chips was on the menu, home-made chips. Fish was our staple diet, a wide range - kippers, herring, mackerel, ling, skate, crab-fish. Salt herring and tatties (in their skin) was a handy stand-by, also dried fish from the hake hanging at the back door. Speldings were cut up small to make hairy tatties; what a treat!

For a birthday, there was no bought cake. It was always a clootie dumpling, boiled in the big pot. Scrumptious fare! My mouth waters yet! Oh, the excitement of finding a maik or a threepenny bit inside. Margaret and I shared a birthday, so it was a bigger dumpling that day.

At Christmas a turkey was unheard of. A cockerel or a hen made very fine broth. At New Year, we had steak pie from Nell the baker.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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