List of Issues online
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
April 2011 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
ANGER OVER PUBLIC TOILETS CLOSURE
Highland Council's decision in March to close four public conveniences in Lochaber was greeted with dismay and anger in the communities involved.
The first residents knew of the shock decision that Arisaig, Traigh, Kinlochleven and Caol public toilets were to close at the end of June was when they read about it in the local press.
Arisaig & District Community Council was quick to respond to the 'high handed way' the closures had been decided, with Councillor Allan Henderson lending his support. The Council had said last September that it would ensure public convenience provisions in key places, invoking the response from Community Council Chair Lesley Benfield that 'Arisaig is a key outdoor holiday destination with predominantly B&B accommodation - where hillwalking, beaches, mountain biking, kayaking are all regular pursuits in the area.' Protests were sent by the Community Council and the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, and residents from the Isle of Muck have also responded strongly with a petition, saying the closure of Arisaig's facilities will impinge on them too.
The Council hopes to encourage community organisations and local businesses to allow the public to use their facilities under the Highland Comfort Scheme, which offers funding to support this, but they have been severely criticised for their decision to force through the closures before any alternative arrangements have been made. Councillor Henderson was defeated in the TEC Services Committee when he asked for more time for the affected communities to consider their options.
In the budget consultation in July 2010, the Council stated that they were aware that public toilets are important for tourism 'but are there opportunities to reduce the numbers of public toilets where other facilities are available (for example shopping centres), or where there is a low level of usage, or where local businesses are willing to work with us' - none of which apply to Arisaig. The loos there are in use all year long and not just by tourists - workmen, van, lorry and coach drivers and commercial travellers all need its facilities. The Highland Comfort Scheme funding to be offered to local businesses and community organisations to allow the general public to use their facilities is not viable in an area where businesses close over the winter and have variable closing hours during the tourist season, and the funding is only available for three years.
Caol and Kinlochleven suffer equal problems - Kinlochleven is on the West Highland Way and a vital venue in the Six Day Trials. A total of fourteen public toilets are to close across the Highlands while others will have their opening hours cut.
The toilets at Tougal may meet a similar fate in the next round of closures.
We are not alone - public conveniences the length and breadth of Great Britain are being closed by their Councils.
MODERNISATION OF TRUST PORTS
The much vaunted and long awaited change over to the Modernisation of Trust Ports legislation for the Mallaig Harbour Authority is now under way.
The Authority started the process off via a Public Meeting in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre back in August 2008, but progress has been much slower that expected with legislative issues delaying matters considerably.
At long last, however, Government approval has been granted for the Authority to embark on the adoption of the new legislation. The first step to is to make a Harbour Order under Section 14 of the current Harbours Act, the object of the Order being to revise the constitution of the Authority in accordance with the Government guidelines as set out via their publication Modernising Trust Ports - A Guide to Good Governance.
Advertising the Order has now commenced (12th April 2011) via adverts in the Edinburgh Gazette, Press & Journal, Oban Times and this issue of West Word.
If no objections are received within 42 days (6 weeks), then the Order will become a legal document and the Authority can then embark on the next phase of the Modernisation of Trust Ports Legislation - the introduction and adoption of new criteria for appointments to the Authority.
TRIBUTES PAID TO MAIRI ON RETIREMENT
A presentation was made to Mairi MacLean of Morar on the occasion of her retirement from Highland Council after more than 30 years looking after school children. Mairi was the matron of Camaghael Hostel at Lochaber High School for most of her career, and when the Hostel closed in 2009 she took on the role of supporting pupils from the Small Isles and Knoydart who were living in the community to prepare them for the move to Mallaig School Hostel when it opened in March 2010.
On the opening of the Mallaig Hostel, Mairi became the residence officer. Margaret Anne Benson, residence manager of Portree High School, travelled from Skye to attend the presentation and thank Mairi for her years of service. Rosemary Bridge, Acting Area Manager for Education, Culture and Sport also attended the farewell afternoon tea at the Mallaig Hostel, and thanked Mairi for her work with the young people of Lochaber.
Mairi MacLean (centre) with Margaret Anne Benson (left) and Rosemary Bridge
at the presentation in the Hostel. Photo Moe Mathieson
ISLE OF MUCK
Real signs of progress on the new hall. The very substantial new frame is now in place and the steel erectors had to work through the worst weather of the month to get it all in place. At the moment the hall looks very high but I am sure that when the surrounding soil is returned it will 'come down' quite substantially. Good news too on the new green power scheme. Lots of hard work by Ian Leaver has got us to the stage where application to the lottery for part of the funding could well be looked at favourably. And on Muck green power means wind power and to a lesser extent photo-voltaics . The two mesh together quite well as in summer there is usually more sun and less wind! The other option, hydro, is not for us - there are no serious water sources on the island.
But for much of the rest of Scotland the dash for wind power is crazy. During December and for much of the previous winter, on many days of severe frost, production of electricity by wind must have been negligible. Just when it was needed most. All natural energy sources have their problems - even hydro in a dry period; but wind has more than most. A big rethink is needed before the country is totally covered in turbines.
Back to Muck and on the human front I am delighted to announce the arrival of Hugh Lawrence Traquair MacEwen at Livingston Hospital on 6th March. His mother Ruth has described his arrival as life changing. Babies are !
ISLE OF RUM
Always a busy month as everyone makes preparations for start of the tourist season - the village hall has had a good clean in preparation for Dave and Sylvia's wedding, Mike and Dave have been busy sorting out the wildlife garden area and erecting marquees. A painting frenzy has taken place including the visitors centre, campsite toilets, craftshop and the old phonebox ( which hasn't seen a fresh coat of paint for at least 16 years) and Jinty has launched a village beautification scheme to keep the place looking ship shape, especially around the village hall area which has started to look a bit dilapidated.
With the ferry cancelled for best part of a week at the beginning of the month, there were a lot of stranded folk included Phil Wren and Karen from the Coastguard; the Rum team got more training than they bargained for and poor Phil missed out on his trip to Stornoway. We recommend checking the forecast before you set foot on the ferry Phil! That same week 12 whooper swans took refuge in the bay and predictably left the same day the weather was fit enough for the ferry to come. We have had no further news of the French fishing vessel that went aground near Kilmory, it seems as though it has been abandoned and left to rot.
There have been plenty of comings and goings in March with the school welcoming back Mrs McKinnon to work and new staff coming to work at the castle and the community saying goodbye to the Frew family who have left for pastures new. As was briefly mentioned last month, this could leave a gap in the school role which might mean a temporary school closure until the nursery age children go into primary one. No one can remember a time when the school has had to close due to lack of children.
Like most small communities, we are always short of housing and with several folk living in caravans and yurts this problem doesn't look like it will be going away soon. The Community Trust have decided to start to tackle this by converting the old garage into 1 or 2 person accommodation; we are funding this from our own income and are all suitably excited to get it underway. We're also putting together a (long awaited) housing strategy to establish a way forward for housing on Rum. Like Eigg and Knoydart, we will include as many affordable options as possible, such as shared equity and shared ownership. We will also spend time this summer sorting out common grazing land for the crofts in order that they attract more applicants when they are readvertised in the autumn.
Ceilidh season approaches with the first on Friday 8th April, swiftly followed the next week by Dave and Sylvia's wedding and possibly an Easter ceilidh too. Ali is organising an Easter bonnet parade, egg rolling and Easter egg hunt for the little ones. The cafe and craftshop and ranger activities all starting up this coming month, check out the website for more details.
ISLE OF CANNA
We now have the front two rooms and hallway of Canna House open for public viewing. The House will be open on a Wednesday and Saturday to coincide with the ferry timetable and will run for the summer season. Included in the House tour will be the opportunity to tour the House Gardens and see the excellent work carried out by Neil.
Busy work going on at the farm with Geraldine and Murdo preparing for lambing and a healthy number of calves being born. The NTS are preparing areas of grazing for Corncrakes as well as managing the species rich grasslands. This project involves assistance from NTS volunteers as well as the services of Geraldine and Murdo in both management and fence works. It was good to see the interaction between NTS Volunteers and the Community when works were carried out re-locating the base for Geoff's tent in preparation for his new season.
With the summer timetable now upon us we are looking at a very good season with advanced bookings of all available accommodation getting close to showing full up signs. The NTS assisted Aart and Amanda with their kitchen refurbishment works at the Gille Brighde and with the restaurant looking great they are looking forward to a new and busy season.
May will see a wedding take place on Canna on the 14th as well as the "Bard and the Birlinn" event on the 28th. This event will celebrate Alasdair MacMaighstir Alisdair's time on Canna where it was reputed he wrote some of the verse to "The Birlinn of Clanranald" Details of this event are available on the NTS website and tickets are available at www.theboth.co.uk Hoping that the excellent work put into the organising of this event by Camille Dressler of Eigg will be well supported and interest has been expressed from many academics of the Jacobite period from all over the world.
Canna has also just received notice an excellent donation via the 'Year of the Scottish Islands' fund to host their first Feis later this year. This looks like being an excellent event that could be repeated on a yearly basis. Look out for more details to come. Finally the joint NTS/Community project developing MacIssacs croft house for a new residency nears completion. Hopefully by next month we will be able to announce the arrival of a new family to Canna.
ISLE OF EIGG
It has been a busy month of preparation for the coming tourist season with everyone making the most of the last quiet weeks to get things done before the visitors begin to arrive. The butchery course, which had been postponed due to gales earlier in the year, went ahead. It was a real success with around 14 people learning the basic skills, meaning that we are now a bit closer to being able to sell our own meat on the Island. However a bit more practice may be needed as most people found out that it was nowhere near as easy as it looks to create a perfect lamb chop!
There was also progress in the orchard, with about twenty people turning up to help plant some new fruit trees.
Alistair, Ewen, Jamie and I completed the half marathon down in Bath, with Alistair and Jamie finishing in less than two hours, we won't mention the other two! Thank you very much to everyone who donated, we raised £792.79 for the RNLI, and might be hanging up our running shoes for a wee while!
As I write the rain is now lashing the windows, however it has been a fairly dry month overall and the traffic light system, which is in place to tell islanders when the power in the grid is running low has been on red, encouraging people to keep their energy consumption to a minimum. We had the opportunity to learn about this on a tour of the system, followed by a presentation by John Booth, which revealed some interesting trends, including the effectiveness of the traffic light system, which really does seem to work. Then it was straight home to catch Ailidh Morrison on the Weakest Link. In an episode dedicated to Islanders, she made it through to the third round, but definitely had some bad luck with some hard questions, although luckily for her she did seem to be spared the full wrath of Anne Robinson!
On the last Sunday of the month we had a clean up of the pier area, with everyone helping to clear up the rubbish and general grime which has accumulated throughout the winter. It is always worthwhile, as it looks so much fresher and revitalised afterwards.
Good Luck to Frances and Stephen, who headed off to live and work in Doune for the Summer. We are going to miss them but they will be back in the autumn!
LOCH MORAR WEB SITE
There is now a web site for Loch Morar and the surrounding area. It covers a lot of different subjects including the geology of the area and how the loch was formed, the walking routes around the loch, the different wildlife that can be seen in the area, fishing on the loch and some beautiful photographs. Check out the site at lochmorar.org.uk. Many thanks to Gary Clulow, Jim Wilson, Angus Macintyre and Robert Spence for their input for the site.
News in Brief
- Mallaig Primary school pupils will feature on BBC ALBA as Gleusta, produced by Sealladh TV on the Isle of Skye, comes to the screen. 'Gleusta' - a new, fast-moving studio game show - begins on Wednesday 6 April at 18.30pm and features teams from different Primary schools throughout Scotland, who along with some special guests, go head to head facing several different challenges in order to win the coveted Gleusta prize. Mallaig Primary school will come up against Portree Primary school on Wednesday 20 April with the programme starting at 6.30pm and repeated on Saturday 23rd April at 5pm. The Mallaig team will be supported by special guest Gilleasbuig Ferguson
- The A830 and the railway were closed for several hours on Monday 4th April after a van which was carrying paint collided with the Callup Bridge east of Glenfinnnan and burst into flames. The driver was able to escape and was treated for suspected minor chest injuries.
- The A830 is at present reduced to a single lane for the foreseeable future just west of Glenfinnan while the railway bridge there is being repaired. Inspection had showed severe deterioration of concrete under the arch. The work will take at least two months to complete. Traffic lights are in operation.
- Eigg islanders have been filmed by TV crews again - this time by Al Jazeera! The Arabic News Channel is interested in the renewable energy systems in place on Eigg.
- A man collapsed and died in Mallaig on Tuesday 22nd March on his way back from conducting a solar panel workshop on Canna. Kerr Macgregor was known as the creator of a 'solar van' and will be familiar to those who have attended Energy fairs in Fort William where he was pleased to demonstrate his van to interested people.
A830 BARRIER IN PLACE
The new barrier has been erected alongside the A830 at the spot of the fatal accident last year. While it is encouraging to see it being put in place so quickly after demands were made, is it long enough - and is it in the right place? At the eastern end are pegs marking a longer, unprotected area beside the water, while the eastern end of the barrier is a distance from the loch.. Councillor Henderson's wife and daughter recently had a scary experience when their car skidded twice on the road between Arieniskill and Lochailort.
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR - April 2011 by Robert MacMillan, Port Manager
- Financial cut-backs by Highland Council will result in the Community Skip on Mallaig Pier being removed. One skip will remain - the one paid for by Mallaig Harbour - but it will not be available for the general public to use.
It is a statutory requirement for the Harbour Authority to provide a skip for ship's waste/rubbish and as it is imperative that the Authority meets this legal obligation, the skip on the pier will be for pier use only.
Incidentally last year the Authority paid The Highland Council over £13,000.00 for the provision of the pier skip.
- Yachting development. Irish contractors McLaughlin & Harvey are due on site on Monday 25th April to commence the shoreworks element and are scheduled to complete the task in 8 - 10 weeks. We would hope that road users will not be inconvenienced too much when the lorries start trundling through the village with the quarried rock in-fill and depositing it onto the East Bay foreshore. From time to time there will be traffic hold ups but the contractors have been instructed to keep delays to a minimum.
- The dredger Ben Crom was back in port at the end of March and was tasked by the Authority to carry out some dredging in the Outer Harbour.
- Work will commence later this month on the construction of the warehouse/storage building down behind the CalMac office. We currently use the term "Waste ground" for this area but would like to give it a proper moniker. Any suggestions? We already use the following names for various parts of the harbour:- Fish Quay; Breast Wharf; Jary's Wharf (who was Jary?); Steamer Pier; Outer Harbour; Outer Basin; Linkspan Berth; but we would like something snappy/pertinent as a name for the new site.
- The Spanish longliner "Arrigorri" is pictured here entering the Outer Harbour. The 35 metre boat, registered in Ondarroa near San Sebastian in the Bay of Biscay discharged 850 (Spanish style) boxes of fish (mostly hake) on Monday 28th March after three days fishing in the waters to the west of Ireland.
- After months of frustration the Authority's web-site is now operational and you can click on www.mallaig-harbour.com to view it. There is still some tweaking and upgrading to be done to the site and there's some special effect photography of the harbour by Scott Anderson to be added. Some of these photographs can be viewed through the following links:-
Photographs by Steve Roberts and my goodself also adorn the site.
A complementary (and linked) site for the up-coming yachting facility at the port should be operational in June - the same time as the Pontoon Facility will become operational.
- The paddle steamer Waverley will, once again, visit Mallaig as part of its spring Western Isles Cruise schedule. Tuesday 26th April and Wednesday 27th April are the scheduled dates for it to dock, cruise up Loch Nevis, then return later in the day. Tuesday 26th April: dep. Mallaig 14.15 arr. Mallaig 17.00 Wednesday 27th April: dep. Mallaig 15.30 arr. Mallaig 17.00
As well as the cruise up Loch Nevis the Tuesday trip incorporates a visit to Armadale. Last winter boiler repairs were carried out on the Waverley as a result of the successful 2009 Public Appeal and this winter extensive repair work is required to one of the deck lounges. Leaks have affected the furnishings and electrical equipment in this part of the ship so they need the water ingress halted and the lounge completely refurbished. If you want to help the current Waverley appeal go to www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk and click on the Appeal Button. Let's hope the weather is kind on 26th & 27th April.
- The Authority has received a letter from Scottish Natural Heritage informing us that the Mallaig Coast: Site of Special Scientific Interest is no longer classified as an SSSI. The "Background" and "Reasons" for denotifying Mallaig Coast was explained thus:
Mallaig Coast is centred around the harbour at Mallaig and extends both north and south along the open coast. It has not been re-notified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and has undergone development within the harbour area which has covered some of the geological exposures.
Reasons for denotifying Mallaig Coast
The geological interest of the Mallaig Coast SSSI was once regarded as the best available section of the Moine and "Sub-Moine" rocks of the Morar district, exposing the Morar Antiform and "Lewisianoid" basement. However, more recent research has determined that the area to the north of Loch Morar, exhibits better and more representative rock exposures compared with those in the existing SSSI. As part of the Geological Conservation Review, North Morar rather than the Mallaig Coast was chosen to represent the Moine geological interest of the area.
The geological interest in the Mallaig Coast SSSI therefore no longer merits SSSI status.
On and Off the Rails
Mallaig West Highland Railway Extension
When the steamer Clydesdale cleared Stornoway harbour just after 11 o'clock on the night of 31st March 1901, she had on board the first passengers ever booked through from Lewis to Glasgow and Edinburgh by the new iron road to the isles. At daybreak, when the vessel entered the brand new harbour at Mallaig, the passengers crossed to the waiting train where they were joined by people just in from Portree on the Lovedale. At 7.20am, the first ever up train on the Mallaig Extension departed for the south. Some two hours later, it crossed the first down train, the 5.55 am from Glasgow, bringing passengers for their first experience of the new railway.
All of which means that on Friday April 1st 2011 we celebrated 110 years since the first passenger trains ran on the Mallaig Extension.
On the 10th May 2001, Sir William McAlpine travelled to Mallaig by train and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of the line. The plaque is in Mallaig Station waiting room, and the photograph shows ex-steam train driver Elliot Ironside alongside it. ScotRail and Network Rail are not planning any 110th celebratory events; maybe we will have to wait until the line is 125 years of age before any recognition of the history of the line is held.
Passenger Shelter to appear on Mallaig Platform
Although Mallaig Station is staffed and open for passengers to shelter most days of the week, there are still many days times when it is not, i.e. early mornings, after 4pm in the winter months, all day Sundays etc, meaning no shelter for passengers waiting for southbound trains. But not for much longer! ScotRail and Network Rail have agreed to erect a covered waiting area between Platforms 1 and 2. As I write my column, the foundations have been excavated, and the concrete base laid but the shelter has yet to appear. The construction, we are told, will be of stainless steel, with clear panels on both sides. Some shelters already erected on the West Highland Line do not have 'full' seating but a shelf to perch on. Not very comfortable for a long wait, but at least it will enable passengers to wait, with their luggage, in the dry and out of the wind. A facility that has long been needed - albeit that the 'modern' design is not quite in keeping with the 'old' West Highland Railway original structures.
Forthcoming Rail Tours to visit Lochaber
On Wednesday 4th May, the West Highlander will be visiting Fort William. Starting from Carlisle (departing 5am) diesel hauled by a vintage Class 47 and crewed by West Coast Railways, the train arrives in Fort William at around 2pm, where the passengers will have around 2½ hours to explore the Fort. Departing at around 5pm, the train will head south with an arrival time backing Carlisle at 20 minutes past midnight. The train is run by 'Compass Tours of Liverpool' and anybody interested in future tours can obtain information by telephoning 0151 7221147 between 10am and 6pm, Monday to Friday.
SRPS Excursion to Mallaig on Saturday May 7th
The very popular Scottish Rail Preservation Society rail tour to Fort William and Mallaig will take place on Saturday May 7th. Starting from Glenrothes and picking up at Kirkcaldy, Dalmeny, Linlithgow and Westerton, SRPS have requested either Class 37 or 47 locomotive haulage throughout. The passengers should be in Mallaig between 2 and 3pm. For information on future SRPS tours call 01506 822298 or 825855 or go to www.srps.org.uk
New Rail Postcards on offer plus Competition
A new edition of A5 colour postcards with spectacular views of the West Highland line have been produced for free distribution on ScotRail trains, which serve the award-winning routes, which include the Fort William - Mallaig line.
They follow the success of the first postcard series in 2009. the cards are available free to rail travellers on the award-winning routes. Although there are four in the set, not all are available at any one time! So, several journeys may have to be made in order to collect all four! The catering staff are issuing the cards.
Complete sets are available by post (including postage) by sending a cheque/postal order for £2 made out to 'Glenfinnan Station', to Glenfinnan Station, Station Road, Glenfinnan PH37 4LT. The cards are co-funded by Friends of the West Highland Line and Hitrans, the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership.
Competition: John Barnes, Vice President of the Friends of the West Highland Lines, has donated four complete packs of the stunning view postcards to be used in a competition in this month's West Word. If you would like to try to win a complete set of cards, just answer the following question: On April 1st this year, the Mallaig Extension will be how many years old? Send your entries to me, Sonia Cameron, at Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD to arrive no later than Friday 22nd April. Good Luck!
Extended hours at Mallaig Booking Office/Waiting Room
For the duration of the summer, Mallaig Booking Office will be open for advice, ticket sales, timetables, etc, from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.
See you on the train
TWO BUILDINGS GREATLY CHANGED
The French MacDonald compiled by Jean-Didier Hache came out in a second edition last year. The book is about the son of Neil MacEachen who helped Flora MacDonald to take Bonnie Prince Charlie 'over the sea to Skye.' In 1825 this man who had risen in Napoleon's armies to become Marshal MacDonald visited Scotland in search of his roots. They were at Howbeg in South Uist. The Marshal kept a travel diary and his comments on two buildings - one seen, the other stayed in - before he crossed the Minch may interest local readers.
At the Glenfinnan Monument there was change of use as well as change of appearance. This Jacobite symbol at the head of Loch Sheil was built by Alexander MacDonald of Glenaladale who died, aged twenty-eight, at the start of the year in which it was raised. That was 1815. As a boy he had been welcomed to Bishop John Chisholm's seminary on the Isle of Lismore and the bishop wrote to him, with authority, in January 1813. The letter was a stern reprimand for going to the Western Isles with Reginald George MacDonald of Clanranald and producing a bastard son: 'I was informed yr jaunt along with Clan did not increase your good name in the long islands &c. A rake & one head & ears in debt are names that have been bestowed on you. . . Begin this year by a determined resolution to do what is sufficient to wash away past stains and secure you the grace & protection of your Creator for the remainder of your temporal existence.' He did not have long.
As with Kilmory at Arisaig (said to have been raised by Ailean nan Creich, chief of Clan Cameron) it seems that penance took the form of church-building. From enquiries at the drovers inn, or else through his well-informed travelling companion MacDonald of Staffa, the Marshal learned that 'close to the shore, a small chapel has been built and, next to it, a round tower which is tall and crenellated around its top.' The tower originally had a two-storey extension and Neil Cameron, who produced a scholarly account of the Monument, accepted local tradition that this was a bothy. No doubt it became one before being dismantled. Just prior to the Marshal's observation John Macdonald of Borrodale, who fell heir to his cousin's already leaking structure, put in new flooring and added lath and plaster as well as shutters for the windows. Entry to the room above was from the whitewashed tower staircase. It was common for chapels to have accommodation for priests on an upper floor, and no doubt the Rev. James MacGregor - who visited from Fort William - was grateful for the fireplace installed by Borrodale.
Marshal MacDonald then paid a courtesy visit to the aged 'patriarch' at Borrodale House. He met the wife, laid low by rheumatism, her four daughters 'dressed in the French way,' and three sons - the oldest Angus aged thirty. In London the Frenchman had accepted Clanranald's offer to stay at his Arisaig castle. Angus, who features in the diary 'dressed as a highlander and as strong as Hercules,' led the French party to what is now Glen House. Elizabeth MacDonald's recent booklet about Alasdair Mac Maighstir Alasdair describes how Clanranald's Mansion House was built (or perhaps enlarged) shortly before the Marshal's arrival although most of it was removed by new owners in 1864. What remains today was probably the servants' quarters. As with the Monument, the French MacDonald's diary provides information which is entirely new:
'We arrive there by a special way and are greeted by the porter. While our apartments and the dinner are being prepared, we go to Arisaick to see the ship which will take us to the Islands. . . We return to the castle: it is a rotunda with two rooms jutting out, built eight years ago. It is not very high. A ground floor with some rooms above; a double wooden staircase but it is only provisional. A fine entrance hall, decorated with wooden pillars painted in white. This castle is very badly positioned, having no view and being surrounded by a chain of rocky hills, though with some woods. The bottom of the basin is a peat bog with a small loch at its end, with no park or garden. The location must be very unhealthy, whereas some distance from there half-way up the slope one would enjoy a fine view over the sea.' Francis Dukinfield Astley agreed, draining the bog and moving the house.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A few more birds on the move this month as the first of our Summer visitors started to appear, while some of our Winter birds were beginning to head off.
The first report of Manx Shearwaters was on the 24th in the Sound of Sleat. A single male Wheatear was seen on the beach at Traigh on the 25th. Also on the same day, two Sand Martins were back at the breeding colony at Rhubana, Loch Morar, and on the 27th there were at least five, hunting insects over Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. There were at least three Lesser Black-backed Gulls at West Bay, Mallaig, on the 31st, when there were also a few Gannets and Manx Shearwaters close inshore near Mallaig.
On the 29th there were two Slavonian Grebes on the south side of Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig. Although there is a small breeding population in Scotland, these were probably migrant birds on passage back to Iceland.
The only report of Whooper Swans were of three seen on Loch an Nostarie on the 15th. There was still a single Pink-footed Goose and a hybrid Canada & Greylag with the local Greylag at Traigh. Goosanders were seen on Loch Morar and a male and two females were seen at the Caimbe, Back of Keppoch, early in the month. There was still a number of Teal and Wigeon present on Loch nan Eala late in the month and also a few male Mallards, possibly indicating that the females were already on eggs.
A sighting of an Immature Glaucous Gull which hung around a creel boat fishing off Luinga Mhor, Arisaig, early in the month was the only report.
Plenty of reports of finches coming to garden feeders during the month with Lesser Redpolls, Siskins, Greenfinches and Goldfinches widely reported. 23 Goldfinches in a garden in Morar on the 10th was a good count.
Yellowhammers were reported from several gardens in Arisaig, along with a pair of Reed Buntings coming to feeders at Canon Gillies Place, Arisaig. A single Snow Bunting was seen at Traigh on the 16th.
The long staying Nuthatch was still visiting feeders in Arisaig throughout the month. Long-eared Owls were heard at Traigh early in the month and two Barn Owls were seen roosting together at Mallaig on the 16th.
There were several reports of Sea-Eagles during the month, including one flying past Mallaig High School on the 16th, where a group of people were watching four Orca in the Sound of Sleat, just off Mallaig.
IRCT Ranger Service News
Put the Manx back into Rum
The snipes are drumming on the moors and the red- throats are wailing across Scresort.Is this spring perhaps? Can we actually be forgiven for believing that the last days of winter are finally drawing to a close. We are all eagerly awaiting the start of some proper biological activity (in one form or another) and will no doubt be cursing this blessing by the end of May. Not to say that the winter period has been totally void of interest, as the island has recorded lapland bunting, mealy redpoll, jack snipe and a lone pink-footed goose. The island's resident otters have been putting on a fine performance in and around Loch Scresort also. So far this spring, passage migration has produced a fine flock of 'storm-bound' whooper swans, and like the many visiting contractors and islanders trying to get off to the mainland, they too had an enforced stay due to the atrocious weather conditions (4th to 11th of March). True African arrivals are still to put in a bulk appearance, but we have recorded the first greenshank and chiffchaff of the year (23rd March). As it is the end of March, our blacky-white arrivals from Brazil must be close at hand and will soon be squabbling over burrows with good views in the Val's Land Territories soon (burrows with good views of Skye, Eigg and Mallaig most popular).
One pair of both sea and golden eagles have successfully laid (end of March), but total spring numbers are awaiting confirmation. Further investigations regarding the fluctuating breeding successes of red-throated divers is to commence this season also, as SNH propose using nest cameras to record any visible evidence (rats, disturbance or deer?). Works on the new SNH cattle crush at Harris has commenced and access to Papadil is back on the cards, as the new public access bridge has been installed across Abhainn Rangail (Glen Harris). Interesting news has filtered down from the BTO regarding one of Sean's woodcocks. It was ringed on Rum on the 18th March 2010 and came to an untimely demise 28 days later; after making it the 3,045 km to the Russian Federation, it was shot. At least it died for science. We've been gearing up for the busy season ahead. The 2011 IRCT Ranger Service programme of events is up and out (www.isleofrum.com) and work is almost complete on the newly improved Visitor Centre. Plans have been proposed and initial groundworks are well under way for the new community wildlife garden and many look forward to its completion this summer (many thanks to Rumics Chain, Silvia, Ali, Claire, Fliss, Nell, Sorcha, George, Sandy, Linda and the soon to depart Dave Frew).
Mike Werndly, Isle of Rum Community Trust Ranger Service
In April we shall see the change of schedule for our wheelie bin collection, and I know some people are anxious about having the food waste around for two weeks. I remember my Domestic Science teacher saying "you can tell how a household is run by looking in the bin"! If it is chaotic and smelly, hang your head in shame.
There are ways of reducing the problems of smell and rotting. Any meat juices and other food residues will soon go off and smell bad, so first wash all plastic trays, containers and yoghurt cartons before they go in the kitchen bin, and cut up the larger trays to save space. Compost all uncooked fruit and vegetable trimmings and peel, don't put it in the bin to rot. Wrap all cooked food scraps, and meat and fish trimmings, neatly and tightly in several layers of newspaper; the newspaper is great for absorbing any decomposition juices and smells. Squeeze to compact each bag of kitchen or bathroom waste, and then tie tightly before it goes out into the wheelie bin. Only clean waste like lumps of polystyrene packaging should go unwrapped into the wheelie bin. If you do notice any seepage in the base of your bin after it has been emptied, take a few minutes to wash it, and leave it open on its side to dry. I try to avoid over-packaged food, but there are always some plastic trays and tubs in the rubbish. It is surely better if plastic does two useful things in its life instead of just one, so in my garden I re-use quite a lot of plastic food containers for things like seed trays. A good way to make holes in the base is with a soldering iron, it gives a neater hole than cutting. I also use beach-combings such as buckets and fish boxes. The problem is that I do have an untidy corner, where all these things lurk "just in case"; one of my current challenges is to devise storage methods, and an attractive screen of hurdles and hedging. This month is an exciting one in the garden; seed time. In my vegetable beds I plant across the bed, giving very short rows of just over a metre, and I plant root seeds such as carrots, parsnips and beetroot every ten days or so, to give an ongoing succession of crops. If these are alternated, it gives the parsnips room to grow on after the carrots and beetroot have been harvested. Leaf crops such as brassicas and salad leaves are easy to transplant from seedtrays or modules; keep on sowing and planting out, and you will have salad all summer. Pea and bean plants should be waiting to go out in the garden now, but it's still not too late to germinate them indoors and get them out as soon as you can. To protect the crops from weather and pests, arches made from alkathene water pipe can be covered with Enviromesh or Fleece to form mini tunnels. This makes a huge difference in exposed gardens like mine.
Don't forget there are usually some young plants for sale at Produce Fairs in Arisaig. Happy gardening!
Cutting Carbon @ the Community Centre
Mallaig and Morar Community Centre is to benefit from a grant of £14,659 to help make the building more energy efficient by reducing carbon emissions, (and hopefully electricity costs). The grant, from the Climate Challenge Fund, is to install sensors on lighting, timers on the heaters, and extra insulation.
We intend to install sensors on all the lights, so that they will switch off after a period of time if no movement is detected in that area. This will mean no more lights shining all night! We are also going to install push-button timers on the heaters in the main hall, and on the separately controlled convectors on the heaters in other areas such as the café. We also hope to re-insulate much of the building, and re-install a partition in the café area so that the area can be made smaller and easier to heat for smaller groups.
Finally, and probably most controversially - we are installing an alarm on the back fire door in the foyer. This is used by people going outside to smoke at the moment, but can be left open for long periods, letting all the heat escape. The alarm will sound all the time that the door is open, hopefully deterring people from leaving it open for any length of time! In submitting our application, we have calculated that we will save over two tonnes of carbon each year from these measures. This has been calculated in energy savings, we estimate that we can save around 15% in our electricity bills over the year.
This will be a significant saving - at an average annual bill of £7000, this would save us £1000. We're going to keep a note of the savings, both financially and in terms of carbon reduction, and share them with readers of Westword, so that you can help us track the difference we are making.
Some of the changes will mean that people have to get used to thinking about how they use the building - you'll have to keep turning the heaters on using the timers, while others will make it easier - lights will automatically switch off so you won't have to check all the areas before you leave. We'll give all the hall users guidance when the changes are implemented, but if anyone wants more information in the meantime, phone the hall 01687 460039.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
A touch of not just 'Where is West Word' but also some 'Who is reading it' in this month's collection!
Vanessa and Colin Taylor took their West Word to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and are pictured here in the grounds of the Independence Palace in front of the tank on display which burst through the gates of the Palace on April 30th 1975, leading to the Liberation Army hoisting their own flag, thus ending the arduous 30 year war of the Vietnamese people.
Rhiannon Wares took hers to the summit of Mt. Lofty, overlooking Adelaide, South Australia. Yes, she had just climbed from the bottom and was enjoying the view of Adelaide and the ocean beyond. Rhiannon is the youngest grand-daughter of Petie Maclean, Coteachan Hill, Mallaig. The photo was sent to us by Christine Wares, youngest daughter of Petie Maclean, who has lived in Adelaide for 5 years and is a West Word subscriber.
Our Pirates in the Caribbean are (l to r) Kevin Butcher, Drew Harris, Suzanne Hedly and Kirstin Smith.
After a whirlwind tour of the souks of Morocco, its good to stay up to date on all the news back home...
Deb Cummings and Arisaig's Rosemary MacEachen in Menara airport, Marrakech.
Donnie and Yvonne MacDonald packed their copy in Arisaig and took it to Madeira, where a fellow guest just happened to be Sue, a West Word subscriber from the North of England! Don't know Sue's second name but people will recognise her as she is a frequent visitor to this part of the world, is a friend of Michael and Ann Currie, and often goes to Eigg on the Sheerwater when up here.
Walter Smith, Manager of Rangers FC, on Mallaig Railway Station,
signed a copy which was then whisked away so he didn't have time to read it!
Is this our youngest reader? Four month old Mia, daughter of Alison (nee MacDougall, ex Mallaig) and David Herrara was first pictured in December's West Word aged 20 minutes!!! (Wonder who our oldest reader is?)
Thanks to everyone who joins in with the fun of this feature - and come on those who haven't, where will you read yours?
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook
List of Issues online
Copyright © 2002-2011 West Word
Site designed by
Page last updated: April 2011
The Internet Guide to Scotland
Copyright © 2002-2011 West Word
Site designed by