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

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April 2005 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Eigg
Coastal Ranger Report
Wildlife Reports
Local Genealogy

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Work on repairing the bridge at Traigh (right) is taking longer than expected, and the contractor is applying for an extension period to the closure. They are striving to finish the task by the 15th April. This means the coastal road, which was due to re-open on 8th April, will be closed for at least a further week, bringing the total to nine weeks.
Jim Tolmie, Area TEC Services Manager, said 'While the job has taken longer than the contractor estimated, it is still within their contract period of 12 weeks.'
There has been concern among local residents and businesses along the 'old' road that no-one had been consulted about the closure, which was timed to cover Easter and the start of the tourist season. 'Road Closed' signs have not encouraged visitors to use the scenic route. And although traffic can use the new Arisaig to Mallaig stretch of the A830, considerable mileage has been added for those who regularly have to go 'the long way round' to their destination.

Mallaig Pitch may have to close
Chairman of the Mallaig High School Board, Geoff Thomas, has warned that it may be necessary to close the school all-weather pitch from Saturday 23rd April unless remedial work has been carried out. Two recent accidents have raised concern about the safety of using the pitch.

First Rum Music Festival getting its act(s) together
Ambitious plans for a weekend of music and dance on the Isle of Rum are taking shape as the islanders prepare for an invasion of several hundred people in the middle of May. Funding has been sought and found by Rum Community Association for some of the costs of hosting the event, which will stretch the resources if not the resourcefulness of the small resident population of the island. Visitors must be prepared to camp, but there will be no fee for this. A large programme of bands and artists fill the days and evenings, and there is a host of other entertainments ranging from a Bouncy castle to willow workshops.

Advance dates for your diary
Sunday 19th June - the 15th Isle of Muck Open Day
Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th August - Moidart Sailing Association's Keelboat Regatta
Saturday 13th August - Small Isles Sports Day on the Isle of Muck

News in brief

This has been a busy month on many fronts, enthusiasm renewed by the sight of daffodils in full bloom and the start of the greening on many trees and shrubs. However, there has also been a glitch or two, with power failure first due to lightning strike and then to a fault on part of the power line, happily both now rectified thanks to special efforts by John Duncanson and helpers. This did mean that Broadband was out of action for a while so if any readers have been trying to use 'state of the art' communication please be patient, we can now catch up.
Pierse construction has also had problems with progress on the new pier due to failure of the coffer dam to keep the Atlantic out. The approach now is to use a different method of construction by pouring concrete under water.
The other 'bug'bear of the past month was the virus which swept through much of the population with a domino effect, also indiscriminately affecting school pupils and Head Teacher. We hope all are now recovered and regaining strength during the Easter holiday.
Early in the month there was a community planning day following distribution of sheets listing 8 topics up for discussion to clarify the way ahead for the Knoydart Foundation. This was well attended, the achievements of the Foundation to date were highlighted and a day long workshop ensued to take projects forward and to look at suggestions for generating enough income to keep the Foundation buoyant.

4th March 2005 saw the opening of the new Salon called 'Tresses' run by Fran and Tina and soon became the hub of the Village with nearly everyone calling in for a visit. After the exquisite work carried out by Fran and Tina, glamour abounded!!! and even the women in uniform looked transformed. The men didn't look too bad either. Yes, it was "International Women's Day" Inverie style and an amazing £660 was raised, half going to Breast Cancer and half to Women's Refuge. You all did a fantastic job and I have only one complaint (The Anti Wrinkle cream isn't working). Any chance of a refund?
Jan Marriott

Last Monday 21st March the Village Hall was the setting for an interesting talk on Old Maps attended by a number of local residents. On Good Friday a service for Easter was held in the Village Hall attended by locals and visitors, addressed by the Reverend Rod Mallinson. Easter Saturday and the Hall was filled again for a Coffee and Cakes and what Cakes!! (Dave's specials) Bazaar. That afternoon the Treasure Hunt was on in earnest following Grant's secret trail and clues for gold in "them thar hillls". Two stalwart youngsters followed the clue which led to the new Emergency Telephone Mast, away up the hill and newly completed, awaiting camouflage. I must mention that an adult monitor had been posted at this potentially hazardous site which is not on the 'tourist trail'. Treasure was 'gold' nuggets for the successful sleuths. Saturday rounded off with a Ceilidh in the Hall.

Stephanie has been accepted into Sgoil Chiu'il na Ga'idhealtachd (The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music) in Plockton. She had her final audition on Monday 21st March and received the good news on Tuesday 22nd evening from Dougie Pincock (Director). Stephanie will attend a week's induction in June and then join in August for 5thand 6th year studies, Stephanie's principal instrument being Clarsach and 2nd instrument being Piano. Congratulations to Stephanie come from Mum and Dad, the two boys and all the HARRIS CLAN; Also from her tutor Shivan McDonell and all her friends.
Jacqui & Drew

Stephanie's introduction to her musical career began when she was a pupil at Inverie Primary School under the tutelage of Eilidh Klemm, so all in Knoydart are delighted for their tuneful ambassadress.
We would all like to send our best wishes to BERNIE for a speedy recovery following his operation in the Belford Hospital. Haste ye back refreshed and renewed, Bernie.
Two 50th birthdays were celebrated last week in Inverie, culminating in the 'Old Forge' with great entertainment from musicians, speech et al. Question "what does one do after 50?" Answer: EVERYTHING!
Anne Trussell

Congratulations to Sheena Mathers engaged to Richard Walton farmer from Northumberland. The wedding will be at Gallanach in July.
Muck Coastguard also had its morning of excitement when it attended the grounding of the fishing vessel Aquilla on Lythe Rock north west of Muck. Aquilla, a clam dredger from Tobermoray struck on a rising tide in considerable swell. The crew were evacuated by Mallaig Lifeboat, who also managed to pull her off. She promptly sank.
On the farm it is lambing time again. The ewes are poorer than they should be despite generous feeding by a whole team of helpers.
Some of the hirsels are overstocked and a down ward adjustment in numbers before next year is indicated.
Alan Boulton has been here again to map out a second Rural Stewardship Scheme. This time I have been careful to keep fencing to a minimum. The Island is already covered in fences and unlike hedges & walls they are not things of beauty. This RSS scored 50 points and should get in. It includes the major prize of Horse Island as "Coastal Heath" which is already grazed only in winter as allowed by that prescription.
Lawrence MacEwen

March has been a good month on Eigg, with lots of gardening work done in the welcome bouts of good spring weather. The Eigg biodiversity project is now nearing completion with lots of trees being planted in the margins of existing woodland.
The Easter weekend was a busy one with many people descending on the island for their spring break: relations, visitors and a squad of volunteers coming over to tidy Garden cottage and help Nora and Bob in the lodge garden. The Easter ceilidh which featured Gabe McVarish on the fiddle, Colm o'Rhua on the banjo and Allie MacKenzie on the piano accordion got a good crowd dancing for what should be the last dance in the green shed before the opening of the refurbished hall in June. Then it was Catriona Helliwell's 21st birthday celebrations which saw the whole island gathered in the tea-room to wish her the best. Catriona is currently studying to be an occupational therapist and\is really enjoying her student life in Edinburgh. Another significant date was Eilidh Kirk's 18th birthday on the 21st March, whilst baby Briagha was born in Fort William on the 22nd , a wee sister for Catriona Miller. Congratulations to proud parents Kathleen and Stewart!
The usual beach spring tidy also took place over the holidays: the Singing Sands beach is now looking a bit better with a huge quantity of nets and plastic of all shape and size being disposed of. The usual quantity of flotsam was much aggravated by the January storm, but there is no denying that a lot of this rubbish is the result of careless disposal of milk, water, margarine, and oil containers by local fishermen. PLEASE TAKE YOUR RUBBISH BACK WITH YOU TO DISPOSE OF ON THE MAINLAND, DON'T CHUCK IT IN THE SEA BECAUSE IT ENDS UP ON OUR BEACHES!!!
Meanwhile, the powers that be have finally managed to install a short wave radio mast in Cleadale so that the police can have full radio/phone coverage of the Small Isles. After much debate, the community agreed that the mast should be erected, but on one condition: that the 1 watt power required would be provided by renewable energy sources as opposed to a 7.5 kw generator, not an unnatural request in this day and age. So what does happen? A helicopter comes in one day to drop the mast, and a 7.5 kw generator. This is followed by the arrival of a few blokes with a huge forklift caterpillar machine and an equally massive fuel container brought over for the day by the Spanish John. They were bravely heading for the forestry viewpoint when they were stopped by Colin Carr who hinted that they would be closer to their target if they headed for Cleadale instead, but that it would be pretty doubtful that they would be able to go up the hill footpath with all that equipment. Nevertheless, they headed on, to scratch their heads and come exactly to the same conclusion half an hour later, before turning round and heading back to the pier. A few weeks later, a couple more technicians turn up to start the generator. In order to do so, what do they do? They borrow a car battery from a vehicle which, they surmise, must be lying abandoned by the road side - much to the annoyance of the islander who subsequently tries to start his car to take his daughter to the ferry and realises his battery is being carried down the hill by two strange characters! Seeing him at the pier half an hour later, they promptly hand him two jerry-cans, and ask him if he would not mind climbing up the hill to fill the generator - three times a week would do fine - before hopping on the ferry. "We'll be in touch" said they, waving away!
Does this surrealist scenario inspire confidence in the way that the government energy saving policies are likely to be followed? Of course not, when an alleged sum of £75,000 is being spent to install a mast which, needing 1 watt of power to function, now requires a 7.5 kw diesel generator working 24 hours to power it. If the police have waited that long to have this mast, why can't they wait a little longer to get the mast hooked on to the nearest renewable system, just a few yards down the road? Surely this would be a wiser use of resources? Especially now that every one has a phone on this side of the island, which means that there is cover in case of emergencies, allegedly the main reason why the mast has to be installed. And why then consult the community, if it is only to totally disregard the conditions that it has put on the use of the mast? Shurely shome mishtake! Or is it?
Camille Dressler.

Coastal Ranger Report
Well, there is no doubt about it, Spring has definitely arrived! Funny what a difference one weekend can make, two days of glorious sunshine and even the trees decided to show their true colours. This year, prior to the Easter weekend, I think Mother Nature was a bit mixed up, not quite sure of what to offer us, as temperatures and weather conditions fluctuated wildly from day to day!
However, overall, March wasn't a bad month weather wise as we actually saw a gradual drying out process begin with the south-easterly winds a mite warmer, and carrying little in the way of rain, or so it seemed! (check the weather reports!!). Anyway, as far as I was concerned, as I paddled about in the hill, the boots got less and less saturated as the month wore on, and I was able to get a few things done that previous conditions had prevented. While much of my time was again taken up with last minute administration, the orders from above coming thick and fast! I did manage to get the way marking finished on the route up to Loch Bhada Dharaich (the third Loch!) and a few signs made. Thanks to the three Community Councils, I will now be able to purchase wood for the repairs/alterations to the wee walkway to the Camusdarach beach, and hopefully get a start in the near future. By the way, if anyone has any ideas on new route marking or signage locally, please send me your ideas (provided they are not too elaborate!) and I can always have a go at raising some interest - or even cash!
Now, the serious stuff! By now all of you should either have seen the adverts on T.V. or have been presented with leaflets by your offspring regarding the new Access laws. Yes? No? Well, like it or lump it you are going to have to accept it, or get yourself a criminal record by flouting it!! These new laws are far reaching, and cover a multitude of leisure activities, both from the point of view of the landowner as well as those who will enjoy the extended freedom provided. This "freedom" nevertheless must be exercised in a "responsible" fashion! This is the keyword in the whole gamut of laws, and means that when in the outdoors, everyone should exercise common sense and treat the natural environment and other users as you would like to be treated yourself. The new access does not cover any motorised usage of the countryside other than that required for disabled access, but does cover cycling, horse riding and access over water (e.g. canoes or sailing boats). If accessing the rights over water, it should be noted that it does not mean that a boat/canoe can be bunged into the water at any point, as one must use any launching facility/slipway that has been reasonably provided. The same type of conditions would be applied to riding and cycling, i.e. allow for other users, and don't churn up paths that you know people regularly walk on etc. Now the sticky one, dogs! It is great to see how many people have bought dogs, and through exercising them are appreciating the health benefits brought by walking, but! Did you all realise that it is a criminal offence to allow your dog to foul in a public place? Get out the "pooper scoopers!"? The other point that comes out in the legislation is the control of dogs when in the countryside. It is clearly stated that dogs should either be on a short lead or "under close control" particularly during bird breeding season, when near livestock, or in public places where concern may be caused to others. In crofting communities where sheep graze on hill ground, particular attention should be paid to this section, as dog worrying is a substantial and commonly overlooked problem. Owners should be aware that the mere presence of a strange dog can cause sheep to panic, which, at this lambing time of year, can cause fatalities. The other side of this of course, is the emphasis placed on land owners/workers to keep the public informed of events, and to make access to the countryside as convenient as possible. Hopefully we can all appreciate the needs of others and access the local environment in a sensible and frictionless fashion, and extend a welcome to the many visitors to the area and extol the virtues of our bit of God's Own Country.!
Hopefully this has not been all too long winded for you to plough through, and has given you a brief insight into the new law, but should you have any specific queries, do get in touch, and if I can't sort things out for you, I can pass your problem to the next level!!
The number's the same, and the message boy listens on 01687 462 983.
Angus Macintyre

Basking sharks on the increase in Scotland? by Colin Speedie
The summer of 2004 was the third year of studies in the western Highlands and Islands for us at the Wildlife Trusts Basking Shark project, and what a year it turned out to be!
In 2002, during our first season up the west coast was a complete washout, with the only sighting of the season being a solitary shark that almost blundered into us in thick fog off Arran. It was not the case that the weather beat us -compared with the weather we had endured in May and June in the English Channel, the conditions in Scotland were a welcome respite. Sadly, despite covering a huge distance in good conditions we saw nothing - very depressing.
In 2003 things looked up - nearly fifty per cent of the seasons' sightings were made North of the border, with the first signs of significant "hot spots" for the sharks becoming apparent - progress indeed. Not only that, we got to enjoy one of those magnificent spells of weather that bless the Western Isles from time to time. I vividly remember anchoring one evening off Mingulay in the calmest conditions imaginable, and sitting in a "T" shirt and shorts, watching the sun go down - none of us had ever seen anything to match it, the sky endlessly changing hue from crimson to pink to apple green as the stars appeared one by one - unforgettable. 2004 was greeted with great apprehension - could we surpass the previous year? Well, weather wise, no. But the sharks, our reason for travelling thousands of miles over the years, were out in force. Of our season's total of 124, 109 sharks were sighted in Scotland, compared with only 15 in the English Channel. High spots of the year were a group of over fifty sharks west of Rum one evening, and the young humpback that took up residence off Mallaig for a week or so. Magical encounters, not least for my son, Guy, who joined us for a few weeks this season on his first trip as mate.
So is it the case that there are suddenly more sharks? Well, yes and no. The basking shark has notoriously slow reproductive rates, only becoming sexually mature at around twenty, with a possible gestation period of around eighteen months, after which five or six live pups (1.5-1.8m long) will be born. It may then be a further eighteen months before a female becomes pregnant again. This is hardly an effective strategy for a depleted population to rapidly recover. In any case, the vast majority of the sharks we sighted were more than 5.5m in length, and so were mature animals - we saw very few young sharks in Scotland, although we did see several down South in the Channel.
It is far more likely that the sharks are following productive ocean currents, driven by changes in the North Atlantic weather systems that so greatly affect our shores. This is not news though, and we have in the past enjoyed just such huge local upswings in numbers on many occasions, most recently in the Channel between 1997 and 2001. That seems to be over now, with Scotland apparently the main beneficiary at present, and it is our hope that this upswing may continue for a while yet.
This uncertainty is what makes the basking shark such a fascinating (and frustrating) creature to study. And we are not the only ones who felt the same frustration at times - so did the legendary shark hunters of the region ; Maxwell, Geddes, Manson and others. The sheer unpredictability of the sharks - when they arrive (if at all) in the area, their distribution throughout the Sea of the Hebrides, the Little Minch and the North Minch from year to year - confounded them just as much as it does us today. And that same unpredictability may have protected the stock from dramatic over-exploitation in the long term, for in the end it was that main factor - the difficulty of reliably finding sharks at the surface to harpoon - that made many of the fisheries uneconomic and thus eventually closed them down.

With us on board, we have much high-tech equipment to help us with our research, computers, sonar etc, as you might imagine. However, we also carry many of the books the hunters left behind as a lasting legacy of their exploits, and not just because they are a good read (which they are). It is our responsibility to survey the whole area in an unbiased manner, but nonetheless we compare our findings with their reports. And it would seem that many of the sites that they favoured as the best hunting sites remain key sites where the sharks gather. This is not surprising, really, as these were men with a colossal amount of experience, but still gratifying for us. And many of the sharks we have sighted in the last two years were on the way to the theoretical maximum size (11-12m), including a giant we saw off Canna twice last year of around 9.5m in length. As they are believed to reach as much as fifty years of age, then at least some of the animals sighted would have been around in the latter days of hunting in the area.


So will they be there again this year, and in the same numbers? Impossible to be certain, and science is only interested in fact - and yet, if certainty was our only motivation, we would probably have quit in 2002. And that would have meant that we missed out on all of the wonderful people, places and sharks we've come across since then. Besides, the very uncertainty that is the pleasure and pain of wildlife research drives you on, even through the difficult times. And that's why we'll be back for a new three year research cycle this year, trying to unravel more of the mysteries of this unique creature in its (current) homeland. And it's also why, in the clear expectation that I might be proved wrong, I'll stick my neck out and say, yes, 2005 will be a great year for sharks in the Hebrides again!

Cetacean sightings report - Bottlenose Dolphins - Part 2
Bottlenose dolphins have for centuries been in close connection to man. The ancient Greeks held them in such high esteem because of their gentle and trusting nature that killing one was worthy of a punishment of death. Some civilisations accorded them God-like status, and regarded them as spirits or messengers of the gods
In more recent times, we have exploited their nature and intelligence to satisfy our human demands, often disregarding the welfare of the dolphins themselves, or the fact that they had been removed from their natural environment for the soel purpose of our own pleasure. Throughout Britain and other parts of the world, there existed many parks where dolphins were held captive (in pools barely large enough) and taught to perform tricks for the public. The dolphins didn't do this by choice, or through their natural ability to learn, as they were taught their 'tricks' by the method of food deprivation, hence no performance, no food. Thankfully we are now better enlightened and educated and these parks have long been closed down. The last park in Britain to re-habilitate and release the dolphins back into the wild was Flamingoland in Yorkshire, which released Lottie, Betty and Sharky back into their world and their freedom.
The American military have long been involved in the use of dolphins. Many rumours have persisted since the early '70s, when dolphins were allegedly trained to kill underwater enemy divers, attach limpet mines to ships, fix high technology listening devices to submarines, plant mines and various other military tasks. Although this has been strongly denied, enough evidence exists not to doubt that it did take place.
On a brighter note, these days we do not abuse them as we once did. Many, many people have had personal encounters with wild dolphins, and experienced benefits to both their health and mental status. This is purely and simply at the dolphin's choosing, in his world rather than our imposition which quickly be rejected. We have all heard stories of dolphins coming to the aid of swimmers in distress, and other mishaps at sea, and there will always be sceptics. Yet time and time again these stories re-occur. It is now an accepted fact that these creatures have a positively beneficial impact on many peoples' lives, who are now being helped by dolphin therapy. The dolphins are known to enhance recovery from life-threatening illnesses, chronic depression and even to speed up the learning process of children with disabilities. How wonderful is that?
A recent programme, featuring Bill Oddie on a whale/dolphin watching trip, pointed out that once a whale/dolphin had been spotted, not one single person on the boat didn't have a smile on their face! Next time you take a similar boat trip, have a look at your fellow passengers' faces - I think you'll find he's right!
Marion Affleck, Marine Mammal Medic
Local Cetacean strandings: 01687 462664

March 2005 Report - Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
March produced no rare birds and was fairly typical, in that many of our Winter visitors still lingered, while the first of our Summer visitors approval, no doubt helped along by the mild southerly airflow that persisted in the latter half of the month.
The first reported Wheatear were 2 at Bourblach, by the Morar Estuary, on the 23rd, with a single bird at Millburn, Rhue, the following day. The first two Sand Martins were seen over the nest colony at Rhubana, Loch Morar on the 25th. A Greenshank was reported on the Morar Estuary on the 19th.
Goldeneye were still about, with eleven the highest count on Loch Morar, with smaller numbers reported from the Morar Estuary and Loch nan Ceall. Up to 7 Shelduck were seen on Loch nan Ceall and another 4 seen near Traigh Boathouse. Teal were seen on Loch nan Eala and at Millburn, Rhue, with Wigeon reported from both these sites and the Morar Estuary. There was still a Whooper Swan on Loch nan Eala till the 22nd at least.
There were still a few Iceland Gulls about Mallaig, till the month end, with up to 6 Iceland Gulls and 1 Glaucous Gull seen on the 11th. Small numbers of Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were about all month at the New breakwater area of Mallaig Harbour. Great Northern Divers were seen regularly off Traigh and Mallaig, with Red-Throated Divers seen off Traigh, and also seen flying inland over Morar from the 15th.
Goldfinches were seen feeding in an Arisaig garden early n the month, then disappeared. Yellowhammers were seen in a few locations, including |Rhue, Morrach, the Main's Farm and Gorten.
A Dipper and 2 Grey Wagtails were seen on several occasions at the West end of Loch Morar, near Rhubana. Sparrowhawks and Buzzards were seen quite often around Arisaig and Morar and a Golden Eagle was reported at Rhue, Arisaig, during the first week of the month.
Finally there were several reports of a potential albino Blackbird between the Fank Brae and Lovat terrace area of Mallaig. The male Blackbird had several large areas of pure white feathers about its body.

Moidart Sailing Association
The launching of the boats in Arisaig coincides with the launch of the newly formed Moidart Sailing Association. The association was formed last year to continue with the very successful keelboat racing that had been part of the Arisaig Regatta. The provisional programme of events includes a Spring Meet over the weekend of 28th/29th May, details to be confirmed; the Keelboat Regatta from 4th - 7th August including the Eigg & Spoon Race and Round the Cans Race, and a BBQ/picnic on the skerries. September will see a Close of Season Muster.
For more details, contact Carole Jamieson, 01463 871313

West Word - Ten years ago
The front page of the April 1995 edition of West Word (Vol. 1 issue 6) proclaimed the opening of the Glenuig Hall - Talla Ghlinn Uige - and told of the fundraising history and of the opening day's festivities, which included entertainment from The Battlefield Band and the Roshven Ceilidh Band who had reformed specially for the occasion. The other front page story was the proposed sale of Eigg by Keith Schellenberg to the German artist Prof Maruma!!
It was a case of 'Up Periscope' for Ewen Nicholson and John MacAlister, plus other West Coast Fishermen who took up the invitation to take-a-trip on HMS Splendid, a nuclear submarine.
The death of Arisaig Estate owner Miss Joan Becher was reported and, on a lighter note, Dennis Eddie's appearance on the Channel Four TV Show 'Crystal Maze' was described as an 'amaze-ing' experience! 'Euro Cash Aids Mallaig Project' was the headline on page 4 and the article below the headline told of the building of five workshop units on Westbay and highlighted the Council's other projects - the building of the car park and the major new sewerage works. Children from Arisaig Primary raised over £100 for Comic Relief by running 8 miles in their pyjamas and a pyjama swim, and other events in Mallaig School raised over £200 for the charity.
Among the Planning Applications listed were the proposed development in Mallaig of four shop units and five residential flats above, for Mr & Mrs Andrew Fleming, Arisaig, while Lawrence MacEwen penned an article on the memories of an Island at War - Muck 1939 - 45.
About 70 folk partied in Knoydart on the occasion of the 18th birthday of Catriona MacKenzie and noted Irish accordionist Malachy Doris played 'The Dark Island' in the Morar Bar - a touching tribute to its composer, Iain MacLaughlan who had recently passed away.
The main feature story was the 'Recollections of a Mallaig Childhood' by 98 year old bella Muir, and she is pictured with Robbie John de Fresnes (Jill the Editor's new son).
There was also news of a High School 'Swinnimg Gala' which proves I suppose, that we had printing errors back there as well!!
We also had a whole page in Gaelic, with the English translation beside it, 'Glimpses of the Past' by Paul Galbraith.
Couldn't find an April 1st spoof story tho'.
Robert MacMillan

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
The Photographs of M.E.M. Donaldson
It was about 1908 that Miss Donaldson came to the Highlands with her camera. "Herself" was of the Donaldson, Shipping Line family and she was very proud of her Domhnallach ancestry. Her studies were largely concerned with the old Clan Donald lands. She died on 17th January 1958 leaving behind a valuable collection of photographs of the western Highlands and Islands. Some of the photographs are illustrated in a book entitled "Herself" and presented by John Telfer Dunbar. The book is, unfortunately, out of print. The ISBN is: 0 85158 133 1
Moira MacDonald, Kinnigary, helped us identify some of the people featured in the book, including some wonderful pictures of her great grandparents, grandparents, uncles and aunts taken outside the old Kinnigary black house.
Page 34 contains a photo of Moira's grandmother, Mary Ann MacDonald, née Beaton, with her 4 children, Donald aged about 8 years, later drowned whilst swimming in Morar River, Charlie, Kate b.1899 and Annie. Kate, later married Sandy MacEachen, " Sandag Iain", Tougal and they had a daughter, Elizabeth Ann. The foundations of the old thatched cottage can still be seen at the foot of Kinnigary Brae, beside the burn.
Page 35 has a picture of Moira's gt. grandmother, Annie MacDonald, carding wool and on page 36 she is spinning, watched by her granddaughter. Page 37 is another family group consisting of gt. grandmother Annie, her son, John, his wife Mary Ann Beaton, children Charlie, Kate, Annie and Angusina, who was Moira's mother. Angusina was a nurse and married John Campbell from Barra. Charlie and Annie remained unmarried. On pages 38 and 39, gt. grandmother continues spinning and winding wool and on page 40, she can be seen feeding the hens. Another splendid photo has John wearing his sou'wester and standing on the beach below Kinnigary John died in Rhu acha Mḥr a week before his 100th birthday.
In another photo, John MacDonald's brother, Donald, is examining a peat cutter and yet another picture shows him enjoying a smoke beside his boat. Donald was a tug- master, for many years, with the Clyde Port Authority. Page 66 contains a lovely photo, which has been much reproduced, of Moira's Uncle Charlie, aged about 8 or 9, barefoot and clad in his wee kilt and tweed, hill jacket, standing above the bay, with a brace of what may be haddock, in his hand. In his adult life Charlie was always known as, "Charlie Rhu acha Mḥr".

On page 67 there is charming photo of Christina MacVarish carrying a bundle of brushwood for the fire. Christina was the daughter of Neil MacVarish and Margaret MacRae and her brothers were, Donald, John, Sandy "the Post" and Angus who ran the Post Office on the family croft in Bracara. Christina's father, Neil MacVarish was drowned off Eilean Ighe, Arisaig. Christina married Sandy MacDonald and they lived in Meoble. Their son, Neillie with his wife Màiri and children, were the last of the native families resident in Meoble.
Christina's husband, Sandy and his brother, John MacDonald, Inverosie, were natives of Moidart. John was married to Isabella MacDougall from Glen Nevis. Their daughter, Ishbel MacLellan, one of 8 children, lives in Morar.

Christina MacVarish
Christina MacVarish

Page 54 shows a photo of Allan MacEachen, who had a croft at Kinsadel and the now derelict dwelling was the family home of his son, Hugh, or, Ẹghainn Ailein Ẹghainn whose wife was a Barra woman. Their children were Archie, John and Mary Ann. Page 51 is a photo of Donald Macallister (see next page) standing on the old Rhue pier. The old pier was in good condition then. Macallister, who lived at Morroch, used to row M.E.M.D. on the 6 and a half hour journey to Eigg. He is buried in the old cemetery of Cill Maol Ruadh, where no headstone remains to show us his grave.
Pages 45 and 47 contain photos of Angus MacLellan, Seaview, Morar, cutting peats and cleaning the well. The likeness to his nephew, Ronnie Seaview, is remarkable.
Page 65 shows Katie Ann MacDonald, Bourblach, Morar, who was one of a family who lived in the 2, now derelict buldings on the shore. One of the buildings was a shop.
Page 70 is a picture of Ronald MacLaughlin who used to live in Rhubana and was the gamekeeper for Arisaig estate. Ronald's son John, was married to Lily MacEachen of Knoydart and they had one unmarried son, Ronnie. John was water bailiff for Prentice until he retired and came to live in the cottage in the Square at Cross Farm. Lily predeceased John. Her two sisters, Maggie and Kate had worked in Traigh, with the Shaw Stewarts, for many years and when they retired in the early 60s, they came to keep house for their brother-in-law, at Cross. Flora, another of Lily's sisters, was married to Donald Duncan MacLellan, who was originally from Riverside, Morar, and latterly, of Traigh Farm where he was farm manager. Their children were, Duncan, Ishbel and James.
Page 68 features Angus MacDonald, one of the accomplished piping brothers from Bun a Chaimbe, South Morar - although I think that the Arisaig people could claim them as their own. As a young man Angus was estate agent on the estate of South Morar for Aeneas (Aoghnas) MacDonnel. He was taught piping by Duncan Campbell, Foss and also by the MacKays who were composers and pibroch players. Angus was unable to compete in the public arena until he was 41 but then, with his brother George, competed at all the major games in the North. Between them, they took all the premier prizes in the area. Angus was a renowned piper of world class and his advice on the Cẹl Ṃr was keenly sought by amateur and professional pipers. Although Angus was unmarried, the descendants of his siblings, some of whom are fine musicians, still live in the district.
On page 44 is a photo of a man with a wooden, agricultural, implement, not unlike a plough but, this it appears that this was for hoeing between the rows of turnips. This is Sandy "a' Gheamair", MacKellaig, grandfather of Catŕona, Màiri and Mairead, MacKellaig, Beoraid.

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The paper version of West Word contains 36 pages (A4 size) including:

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