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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 2012 Issue
Contents of the online version:
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
PREMIERE OF MALLAIG IN ITS OWN WAY
Class P4-7 English Medium at Mallaig Primary school celebrated making their own film last month with their own red carpet premiere at the Fishermen's Mission on Friday 9th March. It was a fun occasion which raised £132 for the Mission funds.
With the help of Sam Firth and Tiny Spark Productions the children made a four minute film about the history of Mallaig, the fishing industry and its connection with the arrival of the train.
The project took six weeks and the children were involved in every stage of the filmmaking process. They came up with ideas for the film, learnt how to use professional filmmaking equipment, edited the film, recorded music with musician and composer Fraya Thomsen and wrote lyrics for the soundtrack.
The children were given access to the Scottish Screen Archive and an extensive collection of archive material at the Mallaig Heritage Centre. They particularly enjoyed editing the film using archive footage and material they had shot themselves. The style was inspired by Geoffrey Jones film Snow which features footage of the Mallaig to Glasgow rail line and can be found online in the BFI archive.
Sam Firth and Jim Manthorpe both came over from Knoydart to help the children with the project which was funded by First Light Movies and the British Film Institute with money from the National Lottery.
The children's film and another about how it was made can both be seen online at vimeo.com/38503367 and vimeo.com/38503368
It will also be available for visitors to watch at the Mallaig Heritage Centre and you can also find out all about it on mallaigfilm.wordpress.com
If you know a school or a group of children or young people who would like to make a film then do get in touch with Sam Firth at Tiny Spark Productions as she is always looking for new projects www.tinysparkproductions.com
Stefan Buchan and Rebecca Wilson show off
their Oscars at the red carpet and cocktail reception
Cocktails and cocktail dresses at the film premiere
Photo courtesy of Sam Firth
Stefan Buchan and Rebecca Wilson show off their Oscars at the red carpet and cocktail reception
Photo courtesy of Sam Firth
Photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson
The start of March is usually guarded with anticipation and anxiety from some of the men on Knoydart as we celebrate International Women's Day. This year was no exception and found a nervous Bernie double-checking his statue of Midge (the dog) several times an hour. We were a week late marking the occasion so Bernie's guard was finally down when we "borrowed" his flag from the pole replacing it with the Olympic rings. As always we use the day to fundraise for charity with this years proceeds going to the cardiac ward of Yorkhill sick kids hospital, after baby Rubens successful operation.
March 2012 saw an Olympic theme and you may have noticed two of our medal holders sprinting through Mallaig on their way back to Inverie. Jane Davies, torch-bearer and double medallist, and triple champion Liz Tibbets were in Mallaig for the day and raised £284 thanks to Mallaig's generosity. A huge thank you to a great neighbour!
Back in the Olympic village Anna Robertson and Freya Holroyd kicked off the events with the 200m, with a Gold for Scotland (Anna). Up to the hall at night with an Olympic procession and me leading the way with the burning torch, I think I was nominated to do this so that everyone was blinded by the flame and not notice the figure hugging leotard contraption I was wearing at over 7 months pregnant. (Sharp eyed regular Knoydart column readers will realise it is not Davie writing this month)
Some observers of the Olympics may have never heard of Tea Bag tossing, but it proved to be a great event. Special mention should go to Fraz who had a few false starts but finally managed to get his teabag on the target, and of course Kim for winning Gold, and Mallaig (now Knoydart's) Heather Gilmore winning Silver. Other popular events were the Olympic quiz, hoopla, grand auction and the big Game of the night - blow football. Anna Wilson won Gold proving she has a lot of hot wind! The final total raised is £800. Thank you to everyone who turned up, gave money and donated prizes and items for auction. It never ceases to amaze me how much money small communities such as ours can raise in the space of one day. Rhona would like to thank everyone who donated money for the memorial bench for Donald Maclugash. £448 was raised with money coming in far and wide, thanks to the West Word for people hearing about the appeal. A bench should be in place soon with photo in a future edition for all to see. Many Thanks.
Mrs Morrison celebrated her 90th birthday last month. I think from now on she should be like the Queen and get to have two birthdays so that she can accommodate all her visitors and well wishers! Tim presented her with 90 roses from the community. Technology even got in on the act with messages flooding in from Knoydart residents past on Facebook. I should point out this was printed out and that to my knowledge Mrs Morrison isn't on Facebook, so don't be disappointed when you try to send a friend request to Mary Ann and she doesn't accept. Businesses are all busy getting ready for the start of the new season with it kicking off earlier than usual. The Foundation has turned what used to be Davie's office into a shop for selling their merchandise and venison. It's looking good and if you can't see it in person you can have a wee swatch on the Knoydart Foundation's Facebook page. The Village Hall was a flurry of activity too with a good turn out of volunteers for the annual spring clean. The hall recently had their AGM and saw members resigning and new members joining. Special thanks to Aaran for all her hard work over the years, as chair of the hall committee, and to Janet as treasurer.
Tommy celebrated his tenth anniversary on Knoydart with a themed party in Airor. (dressing up, now there's a surprise) The theme was ABC which meant Anything But Clothes. A lot of creativity went into covering the brave party-goers, with curtains, bin bags, sheets, lamp shades, sacks, animal skins and cooking appliances all being worn. Livvy in my opinion showed model potential, looking good in a bag!
Chic and Joanne's son, Ruben didn't get to hold the title of "youngest resident" for long as Izzie gave birth to a son, Morgan. Congratulations to Izzie and Steven. That Stork sure is busy just now with an other arrival due at the end of April. There is a gorgeous photo of Knoydart's youngest and oldest resident, Mrs Morrison holding Ruben. Hopefully it won't be long until the other baby pictures make there way into the west word. Baby Maja was christened in a special ceremony in the hall, watched on by mum and dad, Mel and Jim, all her family and friends. It was a beautiful day for a beautiful wee girl.
Robbie and Archie celebrated their 6th birthday at long beach with a barbecue in the bright sunshine. I think it's a Knoydart record not only that it didn't rain on a barbecue but the boys went for a swim on the 22nd March - surely the first of the year. Soon all the kids were jumping off the pier, which was just as well they made the most of the sunshine as we had snow the following week. I don't know if Dr Mark Woombs changed the lecture that he was due to give about sea temperatures and hypothermia when Caitlin and Callum were two of the hardy bunch of swimmers.
Frank Conway otherwise known as old Frank is currently writing his "memoirs" I'm not sure if it is fact or fiction but look forward to reading it when it's finished! Although it probably wouldn't be able to be printed in the West Word due to censorship.
Cheerio for now
Knoydart's youngest and oldest residents: Mrs Mary Ann Morrison (90) holding Ruben Day. Ruben didn't stay the youngest for long!
ISLE OF MUCK
There was consternation on the island on 18th March when we heard that our new power scheme had been rejected by the planning dept. Two of the houses at Port Mor are too close to the planned turbine array on the summit of Carn Dearg despite the residents having written letters supporting the scheme. As the March meeting of the Lottery (the major funders) was fast approaching action was essential if construction is to start this summer. So four members of the Power Committee set of for Fort William where they joined Project Officer Iain Leaver, Councillor Alan Henderson and representatives of Community Energy Scotland for a meeting at the Planning Department. The planning decision was soon overturned and that of the Lottery is eagerly awaited.
The Camas summer programme is beginning to take shape but is far from final especially during the summer holidays. Fixed is of course the hall opening on Friday 18th May. Allan Henderson and KDL director Finlay Black will cut the tape in the afternoon. In the evening the Pneumatic Drills will be on the bandstand. The following weekend will be a basket making course with Jane Wilkinson and Sunday 3rd June will be the Open Day.
That is all this month.
ISLE OF RUM
What weather! That sunshine was so good, please please come back soon. The mild spell has brought the bluebells out early, they aren't usually seen till the beginning of May, and so catching sight of primroses and bluebells happily together at the end of March is a pleasant surprise. Other rare sightings this month have been a Bittern, seen by both Cara and Norman; you can read more about this on Mike's 'rangeringonrum 'blog. Other bird sightings have been greenshank, redshank, gold crest, chiffchaff and wheatear. You can hear the eider ducks 'oohing' away on the loch too.
The arrival of two camping pods on 30th March from Applecross caused great excitement. With a lot of manoeuvring and half the community watching, the two cabins were finally put in the right place. There's a video on YouTube if you're interested. The cabins are the latest arm of the community trust's trading activities and we are hoping they will bring in much needed income to IRCT.
Today, which is Wednesday 4th April saw an influx of day visitors to Rum, the first of the season and an appearance by the Hebridean Princess. The café and craft shop opened their doors today for the season ready for a steady flow of happy customers… This weekend is a celebration of the Manx shearwater - 'The return of the ocean wanderers: The Manx Shearwater Weekend'; there will be a guided walk to the shearwater colony, music and a barbeque at the Village Hall, all welcome.
Any of you wandering where our old flitboat Rhouma ended up? You will be pleased to know she is fixed up and operating boat trips out of Oban, looking very shiny and looked after. Our new crofters, Nic and Ady Goddard are moving here later this month along with their two children and we will also be welcoming Ian and Kate Bolas, who are moving up from Wales to begin their renovation of Tattie house which they bought in 2009. Ian and Kate have been regular visitors but this will be their permanent move to the island. That might just push the population past 40!!!
Not getting enough Rum chat? Feel free to catch up on twitter @isleofrum or on the facebook - Isle of Rum Appreciation Society.
ISLE OF EIGG
After such a wet winter, the two glorious weeks of sunshine we've enjoyed this month have been such a treat! Just as the days are getting longer too, so that activity has taken a bit of a frenetic turn on the island with everyone trying to cram everything in the good weather! Hard work is paying off and there has been a lot of interest in the archery courses that Jamie and Eilidh are starting on the croft with Eigg Adventures, and for the sustainability courses now on offer at the Earth Connections Centre from May onwards with a choice of four themes: Introduction to Sustainability, Reconnecting with nature, Practical sustainable living and Ecorenovation in Action(for more details see www.spanglefish.com/earthconnections).
Meanwhile we got busy tidying up our beaches at Laig, Kildonnan and Sandaveg, and with everyone's combined effort we filled a dozen bulk bugs with stuff that is mostly discarded or lost fishing gear, oil and petrol containers from boat users. An incredible amount of spent cartridges were also recovered. Who's shooting the fish? We do ask. Anyway this is all grist to our plastic awareness mill and we have been using some of it to make what we hope will be thought-provoking artwork to bring the point home about the global problem that plastic in the marine environment has become through our carelessness and thoughtlessness. You will be able to see it in the Pier centre (our version of Alexander Calder's "finny fish" and our "entangled whale" and plastic eating turtles are awaiting your comments) and around the community hall where it has brought new life to our sculpture garden (feel sorry for Sysiphus pushing his ball of plastic, although a mere 0.001 % of our annual beach plastic and beware of the three-headed plastic ropes sea monster...). James and Paul from Impact Art were great guys to work with and have vowed to come back next year! Part of the project being also to measure how much plastic we did consume in a week, we average a modest 300g per person, but this does not mean we can be complacent, as we are still to tackle our overuse of plastic bags for shopping, something that the school kids are working on.
On the nature front, the mild and even pleasant weather has moved things on too, with fair numbers of Peacock butterflies to emerge from mid month on with a Red Admiral putting in an appearance on the 31st. Spring has officially arrived since the Shearwaters are back and pipistrelle bats are flying about (first sighting for both on the 26th!). Regular summer breeding species have reappeared on the island including in order of arrival: Lesser Black-backed Gull (Feb 10th), Meadow Pipit (Feb 20th), Pied Wagtail (Feb 29th) & Twite (Feb 20th) whilst offshore the first Gannets were recorded on the 7th March, and the first Great Skua on the 29th. A few Wheatears began to appear from the 22nd on, a singing Chiffchaff was at Kildonan on the 28th, a Jack Snipe was flushed on the 29th and two Yellowhammers were briefly present on the 12th. As passage birds, John Chester also recorded a couple of Whooper Swan , two Canada Geese on the 30th, a Greenshank on the 29th, an unexpected Green Sandpiper on the 20th-21st & a Snow Bunting on the 26th.
Last but not least, as we are making preparations to celebrate the Trust's 15th anniversary, it was heartening to see Gigha celebrate their 10th anniversary this year and inspiring for our directors to meet up with other community land owners in Mull to explore the very real strengths of this growing sector! Another great event was the Claim of Crofting at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Friday 8th March where Maggie and I had to contribute our bit, which the organizer Issie macPhail entitled 'the view from the reservation', i.e. 'how the Indians took over'. It was great to see all our comrades there, and very moving indeed to see the way children today are so actively involved in understanding and making the new narrative about Highland history which is so badly needed. Good on you Jean Urqhart MSP for helping bring about this new way of looking at Scottish History!
LOTTERY AWARD FOR ISLE OF MUCK
Residents on the Isle of Muck will soon have a reliable, affordable electricity supply on tap thanks to a grant of £978,840 to the Isle of Muck Community Enterprise Ltd. Currently the island's power supply comes from a diesel generator, which only operates for 10 hours each day. Now the 38 islanders will be able to enjoy the benefits of electricity being available round the clock for the very first time.
Mark Johnson, member of the project's steering committee, said: 'The Isle of Muck community was absolutely delighted to hear of the award from the Big Lottery Fund, it is difficult to express how much this means to us. As one of the few islands that are not connected to the National Grid, we have been existing on just a few hours of electricity a day. This award will allow us to have a continuous electricity supply using clean, sustainable, renewable sources for the great benefit of the community and the environment. It will hugely change our lives for the better and allow our population to stabilise and grow, safeguarding the community on Muck for years to come. We'd sincerely like to thank the Big Lottery Fund for this investment in our future.'
Morar Community Trust
The spring sun has really given our 'Gardening group' an inspiring boost and, from Gemma's updates, I can almost see her helpers busy planning what and where to plant. I can't wait to see the hanging baskets and tubs in place and filled with the flowers some of the helpers have grown.
This month's director's update is very brief and short as we are mainly concentrating on getting the Morar Gala Day organised. The date for this event is written in stone now and will take place in the afternoon on the 4th of June. The theme is 'Queens and Kings'; to pay some respect to the Queen's Jubilee and to the extra day off. So there is plenty of time to get the finery out and perfect it. As every Queen or King may at some point need extra help with the harder tasks we will hold a 'Slave Auction' during the day. Our 'slaves' will have special talents such as taking the 'owner' for a guided fishing tour on Loch Morar, gardening, babysitting, dog walking etc. This will be a great opportunity for everyone to get a personal helper for few hours. In addition to the auction there will be fun games, stalls and best of all... 'good old Morar craic'. Hopefully see you all on the Playing Field on that day.
Congratulations to Donnie MacLellan, the March winner of the Trust's 200Club. Please note that Audrey is more than happy to sign up new members for the Club at any point.
Tiina / Morar Community Trust (formerly Morar Futures)
Arisaig Community Trust
ACT has just held its second AGM, and the list of achievements contained in the Chair's annual report was impressive for such a relatively youthful organisation. Among the list of successes which Ann Martin was able to include in her report were: the acquisition of the 50 year playing field lease; saving the Arisaig public toilets from closure, carrying out a comprehensive community survey and the dissemination of the results, and a fruitful hunt for an ACT logo. We've also held successful local fundraising events, and attracted several thousand pounds of grant funding to help with ongoing projects.
Three new directors have joined the ACT Board, replacing the three who have just retired. The retiring directors included Ann Martin, John MacDonald and Ian Buick. I would like to pay public tribute to Ann, the first Chair of ACT, for her untiring work in getting the Trust established; and I offer a personal thank you to her for her help and advice during my first year in post as local development officer for Arisaig. The three new board members are Rory Duncan, Eve MacKenzie and Martine Wagenaar - welcome to them all.
I recently circulated to all households in PH39 a summary of the results of the community consultation which was undertaken here last autumn. If you haven't seen a copy, you can access it on the ACT website www.arisaigcommunitytrust.org.uk Lots of interesting information came out of the consultation, and this is being fed into a Development Growth Plan for Arisaig. This household mailing has also resulted in several new applications for membership, which is great - if you haven't joined the Trust yet, just ask for an application form or download one from the website.
Plans are gaining pace for a Midsummer Village Picnic on the Arisaig playing field. The picnic will take place (obviously weather permitting!) on the afternoon of Sunday 24 June, and is to be a fun, relaxed event with picnickers bringing their own food, rugs and cushions, (or tables and chairs if you want to be more sophisticated!) Put the date on your calendar and look out for more details soon.
And lastly, a word about our latest project. ACT is taking on responsibility for the Arisaig Land, Sea and Islands Centre. The Centre's survival as a community asset, through some difficult times, is down to the ongoing efforts of Ann Martin and Elizabeth Fleming, with the help of a team of volunteers. ACT's involvement will start a new chapter, which I will talk about next month.
Local Development Officer
MOSAICS AT GLENUIG HALL
Glenuig Hall was built 17 years ago by the Glenuig Community who raised the funding for the Hall by running Music Festivals annually for ten years. Since 1995 the Hall has held countless concerts, gigs, dances and Theatre events plus workshops, weddings and parties and continues to run a packed Arts programme and the weekly Hub.
Over the years the idea of a Mosaic to decorate above the main doorway was talked about and finally over the past year the Glenuig Mosaic project has taken place. At the end of March the project was completed with the large entranceway Mosaic commission and the 51 Community mosaics installed at the Hall.
The project involved adults and children from predominantly the villages in west Lochaber including Kilchoan, Lochaline, Acharacle, Glenuig, Isle of Eigg, Glenfinnan, Arisaig and Morar, who all made an individual mosaic to be displayed within the Hall. The programme of Community workshops throughout 2011 was led by local Ceramic and Mosaic Artist Helen Michie who also designed and made the entranceway Mosaic.
'The response to the Community Mosaic workshops has been fantastic,' Helen said. 'Everyone has been so enthusiastic and really enjoyed the process of making a Mosaic. It's a very therapeutic activity using some lovely coloured glass mosaic tiles which brings out everyone's creativity and there have been some amazing Mosaics produced over the course of the workshops. The Community Mosaics make a real difference to the Hall.'
The Glenuig Community Association also commissioned Helen to design and make a large exterior Mosaic incorporating the lettering Talla Ghleann Uige. This Mosaic was made using stained glass, glass mosaic tiles and hand cut porcelain tiles with some found pottery and pebbles from local beaches. The design is an abstract representation of the local landscape using natural materials and muted colours combined with the rich colours of glass and iridescent mosaic tiles to create a varied pattern of textures, shapes and colours.
'I have lived in the area since 1995 when the Hall was opened coincidentally and have always loved it here and think it's fantastic what the Community have achieved with the Hall. It's a very special place and building and I wanted to capture and celebrate within the Mosaic, something of the surrounding beautiful natural environment and also the vibrancy of the events that take place in the Hall and the people who live here,' said Helen.
ARISAIG GAMES AND MARINE HARVEST GO ALL 'HUNKY DORY'
Arisaig Highland Games has announced a new addition to its programme of events in 2012. It's called The Hunky Dory!
Games Secretary, Allan Mac Donald, said "we're really pleased to have teamed up with a major local employer in Marine Harvest to try to bring a new competition which does some good as well as provide a fun and challenging event that spectators can get behind." As anybody who worked on Marine Harvest farms in days gone by will know, a Dory is a type of boat. The Hunky Dory will involve teams of up to four people hauling the dory around the field on a trailer, which is not always the simplest thing. The competition will be against the clock, and the fastest team wins.
Arisaig Games' Pas de Bas Producer, Chas Mac Donald, explained some of the thinking. 'Highland Games in the heavies arena are essentially about feats of strength and ability related to the traditional work of the area. Boats have been associated with the area around Arisaig since time immemorial, and managing them is not always easy. This competition takes our sea culture at its broadest, from creels, coracles, and cobble fishing, all the way through to the big boats of Cal Mac, the Mansons, and the McLeans, and obviously fish farming and ferries.'
However, there is an important serious note to the Hunky Dory too. Arisaig Games has always carried a full page ad for the lifeboats and coastguard at no charge as a way of trying to help a worthwhile community effort. Teams for the Hunky Dory, which will come from any water related activity, will be competing for prize money of at least £500 which is being generously donated by Marine Harvest. But the prize money goes to water based charities or agencies. Half must go to an RNLI or MCA station (or split between one of each). The remaining half is to be donated to water based charities of the teams' choice, such as a swimming pool for teaching, a river club for safety equipment etc.
So! Fish farmers, fishermen, boat crews, RNLI stations, MCA stations, fish hauliers, fish processors, ice factories, ferries, canoeists; anybody else with a sea related activity, get yourselves into a team of up to four, and get in touch through the Arisaig Games website.
Songs for Dawn
Music in Mallaig...
It has been a busy few months for the young musicians in Mallaig. Since the final curtain fell on the hugely successful production of We Will Rock You, the youngsters (and the teachers) have had no time to rest. In fact it may be fair to say that the Mallaig High School's Music Departments is as busy as ever, with the introduction of a choir, supported study sessions, and a S1 and S2 music club led by Miss Hodes as well as the start of Junior Fiddle Club, Senior Fiddle Club and the resurrection of the Lochaber Fiddle Orchestra being led by myself. In the last month, we have also had a large number of children sitting their SQA practical performance exams, a talented handful representing their school in Highland Regional groups and the string players are fresh from competing at the Lochaber Music Festival.
The Lochaber Music Festival was held in various locations around Fort William in March and the string pupils from Arisaig Primary School, Lady Lovat Primary School, Mallaig Primary School and Mallaig High School made us proud! They worked hard to prepare their pieces and it paid dividends on the day - out of 19 string pupils from the Mallaig area, 17 of them gained a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in their respective competitions. The full results can be seen at www.lochabermusicfestival.co.uk, but the local results are as follows:
Arisaig Primary School:
Rosie Leven - violin class 95, 2nd place
Ellie Muthel-Gibb - 'cello class 96, 3rd place
Angus Moss - violin class 97, =3 place
Erin O'Rourke - 'cello class 98, 1st place
Lady Lovat Primary School:
Keira Boyce - violin class 92, =1st place
Erin MacKenzie - violin class, =1st place
Fraser MacKintosh - violin class 97, 1st place
Iona Stewart - violin class 97, 3= place
Emily MacDonald - violin class 97, 3= place
Heather Nicolson - violin class 97, 3= place
Erin Nicolson - violin class 99, 3= place
Mallaig Primary School:
Alicia Poole - violin class 95, 3rd place
Mallaig High School:
Melissa MacKenzie - violin class 103, 1st place
Joey Baker - violin class 105, 1st place
Sophie Cameron, violin class 105, 2nd place
Eddie Benfield - violin class 107, 1= place
Solene Cargill - violin class 107, 1= place
I would also like to give a special mention to Ruaraidh Maclellan and Niamh MacLellan who, despite missing out on a place, also played incredibly well!
On the Tuesday evening, Erin Nicolson from Lady Lovat Primary School returned to the stage to perform in the prestigious Junior Young Musician of the Year competition at the Festival. The competition attracted several very talented Lochaber youngsters and despite performing really well on both violin and guitar, Erin missed out on the top spot.
During the festival, a few colleagues and organisers complimented me on the high standard of the string players from the area and one stated that they are a credit to me. Although highly flattering, I must take this moment to point out that the credit lies mainly in the hard work of Harriet Bovingdon, whose hard work and dedication in her time here made this new string instructor's job a lot easier!
All in all it was a very tiring, long week for both myself and the youngsters involved, but well worth it! The week was then finished off with a whole weekend of rehearsals and concerts in Inverness with the Highland Regional groups. This year we have Rachael Robertson representing Mallaig High School in the Highland Big Band, as well as Erin Nicolson from Lady Lovat Primary, Joey Baker, Eddie Benfield, Morven Cameron, Sophie Cameron and Solene Cargill from Mallaig High School in the Highland Youth String Orchestra. Eddie Benfield was given the responsibility of leading the String orchestra this year and performed his solos beautifully in front of a very busy Eden Court theatre on Sunday afternoon.
Now that a very busy term in the music department is drawing to a close, the string players are busy getting ready for violin exams, concerts and an exciting new music project that we have coming up - more about that in future issues!
It is with regret that we once again correspond via the national press as a community voice. Our last letter was sent in May of last year after 6 adult residents announced their decision to leave the Isle of Canna. We were saddened that a further two adult residents decided to leave in February of this year. What is disappointing is that there are 11 adult members of the Canna island community affected by all the negative press surrounding this latest departure. What those of you on the outside don't get to read is that there is actually a very hard working community here on Canna dedicated to the island and the positive aspects of its future. Mention has been made of community ownership but this requires a community that agrees to it. The 8 adults that left Canna no longer have a say in how this island should be managed and the community of Canna would like to make this very clear that we have no wish to participate in any community ownership scheme and are more than happy with our current partnership with the National Trust for Scotland. We are looking forward to a very prosperous future in that partnership and can also confirm that there are loads of opportunities here on Canna for those willing to work hard for it. Canna may not suit everyone or meet every individual's needs but one thing is for sure, those that live here are very committed to the island and the wellbeing of its community and many visitors.
The Canna Community Association
Geraldine MacKinnon (Chair) Julie McCabe (Secretary) Joachin Gironza (Treasurer) Murdo Jack Amanda Laastdrager Aart Laastrdager Magda Sagarzazu Winnie MacKinnon Nora MacKinnon Stewart Connor
Dear West Word.
Through West Word, I was fortunate to make contact with local residents Elizabeth & Allan MacDonald who provided invaluable assistance with my request for information about my late Grandfather, Daniel Scullion and his brother Thomas, who died together in a rail accident near Lochailort in August 1939. I have now had the pleasure of travelling to your beautiful part of the world, and meeting Allan who very kindly took me to the brothers' resting place at Arisaig, far from their home and families in Lurgan, Ireland. With his local knowledge, Allan also showed me other places relevant to that tragic episode, including the Lochailort Inn where I spent a hospitable night. I should like to thank West Word for providing the contact point that enabled me to fulfill our family's remembrance.
Attached is a picture of myself taken on March 29th 2012, bidding farewell to Allan outside the Lochailort Inn at the end of a moving afternoon.
At Arisaig the misty morn obscures the Isle of Skye
Without a breath of summer wind the dreaded midges fly
The otter's silver bubbles shine from darkest kelp below
The arctic terns wheel in the sky their feathers white as snow
The heather moor is cooled by wings of butterflies galore
Golden ringed and skimmer dragonflies above the peat bog soar
Common lizards bathe in languid streams and on the rocks they bask
The buzzards call to all around that hunting is their task
The silver sand is purer than the freshness of the air
A billion years of angry sea has sprinkled it with care
All tiny shells and quartzite grains that glitter in the sun
It hides the flounders like a veil and puffs when hermits run
The saddest eyes of harbour seals survey the fishing boats
They nudge the fenders hungrily and jostle buoys and floats
The basking sharks glide soundlessly as if they have no care
Their fins the only telltale sign that they are feeding there
I've watched them now for forty years, a tourist as it goes
But I shut my eyes and I am there, the sand's between my toes
The scent of crushed bog myrtle is floating on the air
My beating heart's not in my chest as I have left it there
One day I'll stay in Arisaig, I'll sink into the sand
My soul will fly with Arctic terns as I'm sprinkled there by hand
Our thanks to Hazel for sending in her poem. She has been a visitor to Gorten Sands since 1972.
ROAD TO THE ISLES MARKETING GROUP - Rathad nan Eilean
The new website went live on Tuesday 3 April 2012. There have been many positive comments to the new format, ease of use and stunning photographs of our beautiful area. As the new website is a work in progress, please let us know if there are any corrections to be made and if you think there can be any other items of information included to further inform our visitors of what is available on the Road to the Isles. Members are reminded that the 'What's On' section will highlight what is happening locally so please let us know the 'when, where and what' on a regular basis.
On 4th April the following office bearers were elected by the management committee: Chair - Andrew Simpson, Secretary - Ian Buick, Treasurer and Membership Secretary - Pat Fowler. Andrew Simpson welcomed three new committee members, Julie Bryce, Ian Bryce and Charlie King.
At the meeting it was agreed to further develop our 'corporate identity' by adopting the purple colour and white Jacobite Rose as seen on the new website along with the words - ROAD TO THE ISLES - UNDISCOVERED SMILES. The committee is currently seeking quotations for the printing of car window stickers, display banners and pens with the new logo.
The next meeting of the committee on 16th May 2012 with a single item on the agenda which is to develop the group's marketing and promotion strategy for the next two years. The Road to the Isles Marketing Group is also developing social media exposure through Twitter and Facebook.
News in brief
A train had to brake sharply on the Glenfinnan Viaduct last month to avoid hitting a photographer who had set up a tripod on the line to take photos of the ballast laying train. (It has been widely reported in the media as being a steam train but it's been six months since a steam train was on the line! The steam train has also been blamed for the numerous lineside fires caused by muirburn.
News from Mallaig Harbour - April 2012
It's good to see the village spring back into life after the winter hibernation and a sure sign that Spring is in the air and Summer's just around the corner is when two things happen. The clocks go forward one hour and the Coruisk arrives in port! The Mallaig/Armadale summer service commenced operation on Friday 30th March so let's hope the ever increasing cost of petrol and diesel does not impact too severely on the 2012 summer tourist Season.
Modernisation of Trust Ports
Applications from those interested in becoming Board Members of the Mallaig Harbour Authority were assessed last month and interviews are scheduled to take place over two days - Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th April - following which the new Mallaig Harbour Authority Board will be formally appointed.
The new Chief Executive of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen visited Mallaig on the 3rd & 4th April to meet with fishing industry representatives to discuss the future of the Fishermen's Mission in Mallaig.
At the meeting Commodore David Dickens CBE RN confirmed that the 2011 decision by the Mission Council to sell the Mission Building in Mallaig remained the charity's policy but that there had been keen public interest expressed in purchasing the building.
The meeting agreed that the Mission needed to retain a presence in Mallaig and that Mission officials in conjunction with the Harbour Authority and other local interested parties examine possible ways of serving the needs of the fishermen using the port.
Above (l to r): Senior Supt Murray Campbell; Kevin McDonell, Chair of the local Mission Advisory Council;
Karen Calder, Mission Manager, and Chief Executive David Dickens are pictured at the meeting.
Planning permission for the placement of a modular building on the shorebase of the yachting development has been granted. Once the site is prepared and concreted the building which measures 3.3m x 1.9m will be bolted in place. The building is due to arrive in Mallaig on Friday 13th April.
The new Yachting Facility is to be officially opened at noon on Friday 27th April. After a short ceremony there will be a small buffet reception in the West Highland Hotel.
The Spanish longliner Cabo Ortegal (AR 865) is pictured docking in the Outer Harbour on Friday 23rd March. The 30 metre vessel based in La Coruna had been fishing in the waters west of Ireland and discharged 9,973kgs of ling and 5,820kgs of hake at the port. The Harbour's been busy due to an influx of around 30 large East Coast trawlers who have been prosecuting the prawn fishery in the Minch. As well as a big increase in prawn landings considerable quantities of white fish have also been landed.
Spanish longliner Cabo Ortegal
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
Two call outs for the Mallaig Lifeboat during the month of March:
Friday 2nd March: Mallaig Lifeboat was launched at 21.44 hrs when asked by HM Coastguard to help in the search for a 58 year male on the Island of Skye. Arriving at Armadale Pier at 21.59 hrs, the Lifeboat coxswain liaised with the Police Officer to formulate a plan of action, and the Rescue helicopter was en route from Stornoway. Police were worried about the safety and wellbeing of the missing man and concerned about his state of mind, but the Lifeboat was quickly stood down when he was reported to be in the care and custody of the Police. Lifeboat arrived back in Mallaig at 22.30hrs.
Saturday 17th March: It was a clear crisp day when at 16.33 hrs HM Coastguard requested the launch of the Mallaig Lifeboat to go to the assistance of the creel boat Boy Grant who, on passage from Tobermory to Elgol, had struck a rock to the south of Muck Harbour. With the Mallaig Lifeboat underway, the local volunteer Coastguard went out to assist the stricken vessel and, securing a tow, managed to pull the Boy Grant into Muck harbour. Arriving on scene at 17.16 hrs and assessing the damage with the skipper - the sole occupant of the Boy Grant - it was decided that the damaged vessel could be towed back to Mallaig with the salvage pump dealing with the ingress of water. The 8 metre creel boat was strapped alongside the Lifeboat and, with improving weather conditions, made for Mallaig, arriving there at 21.07 hrs. Lifeboat was refuelled and ready for service at 21.30 hrs.
HM COASTGUARD - Search and Rescue
Rescues are extremely variable in their requirement but in a technical rescue scenario they will probably fall into one of the following categories.
Water rescue, cliff rescue, restricted space rescue or mud rescue.
Although certain areas of Lochaber have high sea cliffs such as those around Sanna on Ardnamurchan and each of the Small Isles, fortunately incidents are few and far between. We do, however, have specialized rope rescue teams at Kilchoan and Mallaig. These teams are also equipped to rescue persons from restricted spaces such as culverts, shafts and holds of ships. This type of rescue would only be carried out once the fire service confirm there are no toxic fumes. There are few areas of mud but we should be aware of them. Areas such as Loch Moidart at low water and Inverscaddle Bay, Loch Linnhe.
The most likely incidents requiring some form of technical rescue will probably involve water, either sea loch, freshwater loch, river or canal.
So who or what are the likely targets?
- Persons who are out of their depth either by accident or design or those who may have been swept off their feet by a wave.
- Swimmers in difficulty (usually affected by the cold water)
- Persons cut off by the tide.
- Persons trapped on vessels aground or close to shore.
- Persons trapped in vehicles due to attempting to cross rivers or flooded areas.
- Persons trapped in vehicles due to an accident resulting with the vehicle in the water.
- Persons that need to be moved from their homes due to flooding.
- Persons trapped under piers or bridges.
- Persons who have fallen overboard from any water craft close to shore.
- Persons involved in the new craze of tombstoning.
A person in the water in our waters is indeed in grave and imminent danger. We can not wait for a Lifeboat (up to 1 hour) or helicopter (up to 1 hour) and must take immediate action usually without time to even don a dry suit. A swift rescue can be achieved with the correct equipment as long as the rescuer is not immersed for more than 5 minutes.
How do we conduct such rescues?
There are four ways to rescue a person from the water.
Take these one at a time.
- Talk - Quite often the person is not in as much difficulty as they think they are. It could be a lack of confidence in their ability. Once on scene and having assessed the situation it is often possible to shout "can you swim ?". If the answer is yes then ask them to make their way to you.
- Throw - You have assessed the situation and for the time being it is safer for the casualty to stay where they are. Without entering the water the rescuer (wearing a lifejacket) will throw a line (specially designed) to the casualty and pull them back to safety.
- Wade - The rescuer wearing a water rescue lifejacket which is tended from shore can approach the casualty to conduct a rescue.
- Swim - The last resort - without a dry suit, but with a water rescue lifejacket - only to be attempted by the fittest team members. Must be able to reach and rescue the casualty within 5 minutes.
We continue to develop methods of extracting persons from harbours, canals and steep sided lochs.
Phil Wren, Sector Manager
Teams practicing their throwing skills using our rescue throw lines
Group wading in the river, this aids stability in flowing water and is a good way to cross a river.
On and Off the Rails
Peter's Railway Competition Results
Last month I set a competition to win a hardback copy of Christopher Vine's book called Peter's Railway 1 and a set of the new paperback books, written and illustrated by Christopher.
I was inundated with correct entries, but unfortunately there can only be two lucky winners. The winner of the hardback copy was Mrs Nancy McLean, 'Failte', Loch Nevis Terrace, Mallaig, and the winner of the paperback versions was Ross Martin, Taigh na Moine, Morar. Well done to the winners, and thank you all who bothered to enter.
In May's edition I hope to set another competition, the theme being set around the Jacobite steam train.
Engineers work on the Mallaig Extension
As I reported last month, extensive engineering work has taken place within the station limits at Mallaig. Most of the work has now been completed, with the exception of the oil siding 'ground frame' being connected to the points via the operating levers and bars. Carrying on from the work at Mallaig, Network Rail deployed a ballast train to drop fresh ballast between Fort William and Mallaig. Using a DRS class 37 locomotive and six 'auto-ballasters', it began dropping ballast on Monday 19th March. During the following week, it continued its journey as far as Arisaig, and was booked to come to Mallaig on Thursday 22nd March but, due to a faulty set of points, the engine and ballast wagons had to return to Fort William on the afternoon of the 22nd. Friday 23rd saw it move south and return to Carlisle via Motherwell.
New 'decking'at Mallaig, fitted between running rails allowing road-vehicle access.
Photo by Steve Roberts
DRS Class 37.37059 departing Arisaig for Fort William on 22nd March after deploying ballast.
Photo by Steve Roberts
Trespassers on the line
Normally, the only trespassers that train drivers see are sheep, deer and the occasional cow but, whilst the DRS Network ballast train was on the Mallaig extension, several adult trespassers were reported on the line - one incident was reported as 'a near miss'. A person was taking photographs of the Class 37 near Glenfinnan Viaduct when the southbound sprinter from Mallaig was approaching Glenfinnan. The driver had to apply the emergency brake in order to avoid hitting the photographer.
The opportunity to take unusual train photographs is no doubt very tempting, especially when they occur so infrequently in such beautiful surroundings. But it is no excuse for trespassing on the railway, and is an offence which can leave the offender with a hefty fine.
On Tuesday 17th March, lineside fires broke out between Glenfinnan and Mallaig, and at Kinloid were very close to the railway line. I was travelling back from Fort William on the tea-time train and you could feel the heat from the fires through the carriage windows. At least three fire appliances were attending the fires between Kinsadel and Kinloid, and at one point the smoke was so dense the train driver could not see where he was!
All these fires, and not a steam train in sight! Although those of you that read the Aberdeen Press & Journal may have seen an article written by Neil MacPhail on Saturday 31st March featuring a picture of the of the Jacobite steam train on Glenfinnan Viaduct. According to Neil MacPhail and his editor, it was the Jacobite Harry Potter train that caused the lineside fires. As a steam train hasn't crossed Glenfinnan Viaduct since October 2011, it must have been some sort of Harry Potter magic that intervened!
Forthcoming rail excursions
The Great Britain V
Monday 23rd April sees Railway Touring Company's first train of 2012 to visit our area. The train arrives into Fort William on Sunday 22nd April, made up of two sections. They leave Edinburgh Waverley at 9am on Sunday 21st April, with Train 1 travelling to Inverness and Train 2 going to Fort William. The train divides at Thornton Junction, with John Cameron's engine K4 The Great Marquess no. 61994 taking the Fort William section, and Black 5 no. 45305 taking the Inverness section. On Monday 23rd April, The Great Marquess heads for Mallaig, with the Black 5 heading for the Kyle of Lochalsh. On arrival into Mallaig, the passengers will then take the Skye ferry to Armadale and travel by coach to Kyle of Lochalsh where they board the 'special' train to Inverness.
The passengers on the Inverness-Kyle portion travel to Mallaig via Armadale on the Skye ferry, then board the train hauled by K4 The Great Marquess and carry on their journey to Fort William. Tuesday 23rd April sees The Great Marquess leave Fort William on its way to Glasgow to rejoin Train 1. The journey then travels south via Stranraer, Carlisle, Preston, Chester, Wrexham, Bristol, Plymouth, Penzance, Gloucester and finally London Paddington on 29th April.
For details of the excursion go to www.railwaytouring.net or telephone 01553 661500 for a beautiful colour brochure!
The Nevis & Glenfinnan Highlander
On Thursday 3rd May, Compass Tours from Liverpool are visiting Fort William and Mallaig, starting at Wemyss Bay (6am). They will travel via Port Glasgow - Paisley - Gilmour St - Westerton - Dumbarton Central - Helensburgh Upper - Fort William and Mallaig. There is a lunch-time break of about an hour in Fort William, and a 30 minute stop over at Mallaig. Arrival time into Mallaig is likely to be at about 14.00 hrs. The rolling stock is West Coast Railway's Mark 1 carriages, with either Class 37, 47 or 57 locomotives as main traction. For full details go to www.compasstoursbyrail.co.uk or telephone 0151 722 1147 (10am - 6pm weekdays).
See you on the train
by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
New Crofting Commission formed
The newly elected Crofting Commission has met for the first time on 3rd April as a board and now has a new role. The newly elected commissionaires plus the staff of the commission will now only be there to serve the continuance of Crofting, as opposed to the needs of individual. No longer will they issue crofters grants [this is now done by the dept of agriculture known nowadays as Sgrpid] or deal with the development side of crofting [this is continued by HIS through help for fragile areas], instead they will devote all their time to regulating crofting, mainly casework and dealing with cases of absenteeism and neglect. They will also decide together on policy and produce a report on the state of crofting. The new Commission will work as a board and will have a convenor appointed from the 9 commissionaires to the board by the Scottish ministers in the next few weeks. The newly elected members although elected by area are not there as representatives of their areas, which has caused some confusion among the voters who maybe thought that they were electing area representatives.
The government has stated that 'commissioners, when they are on the board, aren't there to act as area representatives. Their role is to carry out the functions of the Commission as these are expressed within the 2010 Act' As a board they will have to work together for the good of crofting and adhere to due diligence and consensus in every case. At the meeting on April 2nd there was unanimous support for the work of the Area Assessors.
The new Commission will rely on their team of assessors who work on the ground with crofters to give a fairer representation in any casework that goes to a hearing or before it gets to a hearing stage. As an assessor for this area down to Moidart and including Eigg and Rum I get a fair amount of casework and then can liaise with the commission or dept, the assessor for north Morar and Mallaig is a Colin MacDonald Aultmhor, Glenelg, Kyle IV4 08LA, tel: 01599522719. It is worthwhile contacting your assessor if you have a crofting problem relating to regulation. Assessors are the area representatives who can help you.
- Inform the Commission on relevant local matters concerning crofting e.g difficulty with sheep dipping regulations, effect of conservation legislation, development needs etc.
- Respond to queries from the Commission on specific regulatory cases e.g. assignation, re-letting, decrofting and difficult cases arising from any type of application.
- Help implement our absentee policy and any investigation into misuse or neglect of land by providing information on local situations when requested to do so.
- Attend any public hearings we hold in their area and any Assessors meetings to discuss and give views on local matters affecting crofting.
- Ensure information on matters of interest to crofting is passed onto crofters in their area.
Rushes Ragwort and Rabbits
Three things that the crofts are badly affected by in this area. All can be got rid of but it takes time. Harbros sell rabbit traps that trap them live and you can then despatch them or get someone to do it for you if you are squeamish. You can bury them on your own land if you don't want to eat them. I have tried lots of different bait in the traps but the best one yet is a type of horse feed that has garlic in it, or new carrot thinnings. Basically they are attracted by smell to the bait so won't go in for supermarket veg but do like the smell of garlic or fennel.
Rushes respond to drainage and liming, either powdered lime from the quarry or shells and /calcified seaweed. This raises the ph and rushes grow better in acid soil. They also die off if eaten down to the root by ponies or a scythe or strimmer, especially if done in the frosty weather. Leaving some rushes to grow will give you eligibility for a payment of £100 a hectare per year, in your land management options, and is done to encourage nesting habitats for lapwing and other waders who like cover but not too much of it so the chicks can move about.
Ragwort is usually only noticed in the summer when it appears with a bright yellow flower. However the 'rosettes' of the plant are present all winter and are easily identified, a special tool called a ragfork can be bought from Harbros and the small plants dug out easily before they get a chance to flower and spread. Sheep grazed on the fields from January to March will also eat the plants when they are the only green thing about and appear to suffer no harm. Spot spraying with citronella based weedkiller can only be done in the hot weather, and other weedkIllers marketed to target ragwort are effective but a licence to spray is required unless you are 45 plus and have grandfather's rights.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
The first of our summer migrants appeared back this month to welcome but uncommonly warm weather, while many winter visitors started to clear out.
A single male Wheatear seen at Traigh golf course on the 21st was the first report of the year. Chiffchaffs were heard calling at both Rhubana and Beoraid, Morar, on the 24th. Siskins were reported back on garden feeders early in the month, a single at Fank Brae, Mallaig, on the 1st, and 2 at Rhubana on the 12th were the first reports. A single Lesser Redpoll at Rhubana on the 5th was also a first. Reed Buntings were seen and heard at Loch nan Eala and Rhubana during the month. 2 Twite seen near near Loch nan Eala on the 22nd were first sightings of the year.
There were 9 Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala at the beginning of the month but from the 6th only a family party of 2 adults and 2 juveniles which moved on a few days later. Small groups were seen flying over through the month, including a flock of 14 flying low over Back of Keppoch on the 30th.
On the 4th - 5th, a group of 13 geese feeding by Loch nan Eala contained 1 Greenshank and 12 European Whitefronted Geese, unusual in that most Whitefronts recorded on the west coast are of the Greenland type, although this winter there had been an influx of European Whitefront into the eastern parts of Britain.
A summer plumaged Black Throated Diver was seen on Loch Eilt on the 17th and 2 Slavonian Grebes were seen on the south side of Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig, on the 22nd.
9 Iceland Gulls were counted in Mallaig on the 6th and numbers slowly dwindled to about 4 by the month end. The single Immature Glaucous Gull was present throughout.
The wintering Greenshank was still on the Morar Estuary till mid-month. Purple Sandpiper were seen at West Bay, Mallaig, on several occasions and a group of 10 Lapwings were seen on rocks to the south of Rhu pier on the 21st. Numerous reports of Great Spotted Woodpecker from both Morar and Arisaig and 2 Jays were seen together near Morar Lodge on the 24th.
2 Golden Eagles and several Buzzards were seen soaring over the hillside between Arisaig Railway Station and Creag Mhor on the 28th, while muirburn was in progress.
ISLE OF RUM COMMUNITY RANGER SERVICE
The beginning of another summer season
There's something in the Rum air lately and things are surely getting better. It's great to see more of the islanders taking responsibility for their own dogs, but how long this will last is anyone's guess. The new pier waiting room is looking swish and feels like it's always been here, and in a way, I suppose it has. Visitors will no longer have to cross their legs as they wait for the ferry either (or dart into the bushes for that matter) as the waiting room will have a composting toilet nearby very soon. Excellent new walking route signage is also up around Kinloch, so watching people scratching their heads whilst they walk around the village will be a thing of the past; they'll only be scratching because of the midges from now on. I bet we still get a few folk who walk the long way on the front road looking for the castle, it's just the way it is. Even in the wilds of the island, the public will 'taste the difference' as a new public observation hide will be built at Kilmory by the end of April. It will overlook the rutting stands which were made famous by BBC's Autumnwatch a few years back.
I've been pretty busy lately trying to finish off the forthcoming wildlife garden. I've ordered all the plants so it had better be finished soon. In fact, the wildlife garden has even been attracting rare UK Biodiversity Action Plan species without even a single reed planted yet, as we had a bittern in there on Sunday 18th March. Our money's on either avocet, cetti's warbler or a little egret next, my money's on the latter. It's the first time a bittern has ever been recorded on Rum, and this rare breeding heron has only been recorded a handful of times in Highland ever, so good going Norman! Rum was feeling a bit left out over all the bird excitement in the Small Isles of late and goes to show what bizarre birds are lurking about in bushes, ditches or slurry middens in these parts. I've been getting to grips with my new camera lately and trying to bring the island to the public via cyberspace and have been writing a new ranger blog also. If you want to see more pictures of the bittern or keep up to date with what's around etc please check it out at rangeringonrum.blogspot.co.uk
I'm trying to increase the number of breeding tysties in the village (or the black guillemot as they're also known). They're a species of conservation concern which are limited by the number of nesting cavities on the island. In a small attempt to increase the number of cavities (x1!), I'm experimenting with a specialised nest box that I've designed. Boxes of this type have never really been tried extensively in the UK before, so we can only gain from the experience. I'm trying to entice the pair that usually feed around the slip to take up the challenge, so the nest box (or tystie crevice as its now been nicknamed) has been installed with help from Sandy in a safe and practical place on the new pier. Although it now looks like we will have to move it. I was given this great idea by Richard Kilpatrick a while back, so I'm glad it's finally up. I will definitely keep you posted if we're successful.
Other recent wildlife news includes three Iceland gulls at Kilmory on the 11th March. A single dog otter at Bagh na h-Uamha and at least 7 common seals hauled out between there and Port na Caranean on the 18th. Another otter was seen under the bridge at Kilmory on the 22nd March. 4 starlings (a fairly unusual occurrence for Rum) were a welcome change around Kinloch Glen on Friday (16th). 30+ whooper swans were observed moving north around Camas Pliasgaig and a single short-eared owl at Kilmory on the 18th March. Another 9 whoopers were storm bound in Loch Scresort between the 19th -20th March due to the atrocious weather over those few days. The first greenshank was back in from warmer climes on the 21st and joined by another on the 22nd, 2 redshanks were also present around this time. A summer plumaged black-headed gull also on the 21st and our first chiffchaff on the 23rd. Wheatears are also back in, with the first report from Harris on the 23rd. The East to Southerly element to the wind last weekend (24/25th March) produced a small passage of migrants namely a single house martin, 7 goldcrests, 3 chiffchaffs, 5 wheatear, 1 merlin and a single great northern diver at Kilmory. The first common lizard of the year was spotted around Kinloch and 2 harbour porpoise were seen heading towards Camas Pliasgaig both on the 24th March. All of our resident birds are getting on with the business of breeding with song thrush already on eggs.
Our white tailed sea eagles are on eggs and look likely to breed this year, but all of our goldies are still yet to lay (3 pairs). Interesting news from one of Sean's ringed woodcocks from the end of last year; ringed on here on the 17th November it was controlled 351 km away in Co Sligo, Eire on the 10th December. A few manx shearwaters must be back as they've returned to other colonies in the UK, so it's only a matter of time before their presence is felt in the village. Incidentally, I must take this opportunity to plug our manx shearwater open day on Saturday 7th April. If you've never experienced these amazing birds, please take this opportunity to pop over, we'd love to see you. Amongst other things, we're running a night time excursion up into the colony on Hallival, boat trips to view them, talks and even a play! I cant wait to see Lesley in costume! Please check out our website under events for more information www.isleofrum.com
Mike, IRCT Ranger Service
COASTAL RANGER REPORT
Ladies, gentlemen and children, today i would like to tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!
Once upon a time there was a Ranger, he (obviously of the male variety!) in his younger days, once he had left school, followed the usual route of these times and worked his way through a long five years apprenticeship. These initial years did little to prepare him for the later dramatic change in career when he quit his manual labours and began a completely new line of learning. It is possible that this flight of fancy had something to do with a "mid life crisis" but the fact remained that there was certainly a great deal that he didn't know! In the initial stages of this new employment, sheer panic drove him to delve into history books and any local facts that he could glean prior to being first unleashed on an unsuspecting public! Fortunately the public were all rather nice and understanding, and treated his first efforts at guiding in a very decent manner! As the years progressed this ranger gradually amassed a few interesting facts and figures with which he was able to keep up the interest of his fellow walkers. He also slowly began to improve his recognition of the various flora and fauna that he tended to come across in his wanderings. His customers of course, expected him to know everything, but he had the sense to be honest and explain that the field was just too wide to be able to confidently name every species! The very unfortunate thing about growing older is that eventually all the senses become poorer or at least certainly less acute, and recognition therefore becomes slightly more difficult. This of course is not an excuse, but merely recognition of the failure of the body, particularly the eyesight and the hearing. I have heard it said that, prior to death, hearing is the last of the senses to stop, in which case I at the moment am half dead!
But I digress! Let's get back to the story! This Ranger, in his later years, began to forget much of what he had learned, or to put it more correctly was prone to temporarily forget things! This is a common failing in the more aged and is not something to really worry about as most of the forgotten facts reappear in bed the following night! One thing that this particular ranger was never wonderful at, was bird recognition. Given a static bird of the run of the mill type at a reasonable distance then there was normally not much of a problem, but some of the "in flight" jobs could always have been a UFO! Fortunately the knowledge of trees, flowers, shells etc. was usually enough to cover up this rather serious gap in his knowledge, and in any case Stephen was able to inform all the West Word readers on what was flying round us at any given time!
By now I am sure that you are either curious or just plain bored, so I shall get to the point of this story! During a recent, very enjoyable, walk with some local participants, this aforementioned ranger, as usual was snapping away with his camera at any view that took his fancy. On cresting a wee rise, out of the corner of his eye he spotted a bird perched on a rock some hundred or so yards away. Dropping to his knees he quickly dragged the camera to his eye and took the photo that hopefully the editor has managed to include! (if she hasn't then the whole point of this article is lost!) Anyway, I have admitted that my recognition aptitude is nothing great, so the challenge is for you to get back to me with the answer to what type of bird is it? I was completely stumped, and having searched through my books on bird recognition I have still no idea, so it's up to you!
I apologise for this month not having all my usual complaints about weather and so forth, and not giving you a run down on what else I have been up to, but I was just too fascinated by the sighting to let it pass without appropriate airing!
Look after yourselves and get out to enjoy whatever Spring may throw at us! Get me on 01687 462 983
Wide World West Word
No, it didn't get quite that cold in Knoydart - Tommy McManmon took his West Word to Chamonix in Switzerland.
Mary Ann Mathieson, Ann Marie Currie and Sheena Milne packed a copy when they went to Ardverikie House, Loch Laggan
- the location for Glenbogle Castle in the TV series, Monarch of the Glen.
Malcolm Ross, ex Arisaig, went to South Africa. One of the places he visited was Umlani Bush Camo
in Timbavati Private Game Reserve where, he tells us,
he just happened to have a copy of West Word to read.
Ian and Iona MacDonald, Tougal, visited the NASA Space Centre while in Houston, Texas,
for their eldest son's wedding. Now, that's one place West Word hasn't been - the moon!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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