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

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April 2013 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat log
Railway and harbour news
Local memories

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Mallaig firefighter Kenny Merrilees sent us the photo on the front page and told West Word: 'On 28th March 2013, we attended a hill fire between Morar and Arisaig.
'We were in the process of putting it out using beaters when Fire Fighter Neil MacKellaig came across a newborn lamb in an area that was already burned, there was no sign of its mother and lamb appeared weak. We took the lamb into our care and phoned local farm manager Bill Henderson to arrange collection. The lamb now named Smokey seemed no the worse for his ordeal.'
The photo of Neil and lamb Smokey has certainly gone global. On West Word's facebook page alone it received over 24,000 viral hits, making over 24,400 in total, with 190 shares.

The fire service has urged land owners and land managers to stop controlled burning after almost 200 wildfires in the Highlands over the past week. Landowners who fail to heed the advice could face prosecution.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has warned that conditions are 'clearly unsuitable' for controlled burning, which is used to clear areas of land.
Legal muir burning has been carried out over the last few weeks by hill farmers and landowners, who have to obey strict laws on their management. In a practice which has been carried out by generations, fires are deliberately set to burn off old and dead grass and heather to encourage new grazing for sheep and cows. There are a number of conditions to observe, which include informing the surrounding landowners within one kilometre at least seven days before and ensuring that the fire is supervised, normally by a team of three. This year the unusually dry and cold weather has produced conditions which have allowed fires to spread too quickly to control. The Highlands have suffered a number of huge wildfires, in Lochaber notably in Knoydart on 24th March and above Banavie and Corpach on the 1st and 2nd April, when homes were at risk. There have been conflagrations in Arisaig, Morar, Mallaig, Glenfinnan, Strontian and Ardnamurchan. In the Highlands a fire raged for days in Wester Ross. Our firefighters have done a magnificent job in tirelessly attending out of control blazes.

The fire on Knoydart which came very near to dwellings at Doune. Photo by Mark Harris.

Robert Scott, Assistant Chief Officer for the SFRS North Service Delivery Area said: 'The last week has seen an exceptional period of activity with almost 240 wildfire incidents in the Highlands and Islands area.
'I would like to thank the retained, community response and wholetime staff for their dedication and commitment, as they have worked around the clock to ensure these incidents were brought under control and finally extinguished. I would particularly like to thank local employers who have released our retained and community response crew members to deal with the incidents and maintain the safety of our local communities.'
The fire on Knoydart came only short time after the news that the voluntary fire units on Knoydart and Eigg were to be disbanded. Prompt for a rethink!

A new model for delivering GP services North West Lochaber has been agreed by NHS Highland and doctors.
This follows a long period of working with local clinicians and communities, representatives of which were part of the interview process.
The model will see the linkage of three practices and a team of eight doctors working in two sub-teams, one based in Mallaig and the other in Acharacle, and will ensure the continuation of out-of-hours services as well as the full range of routine care and treatment. The practice will continue to work closely with the community nursing team.
The process of recruiting doctors to the team is beginning this month.
The model being developed will be part of the wider work on the sustainability of remote and rural health and care services which NHS Highland is working with the Scottish Government on and will be evaluated as part of the action research approach that is planned.
Gill McVicar, Director of Operations for North and West Highland, said: 'I am delighted to announce that Dr Iain Gartshore has been appointed to lead the development of a multi-practice model of primary care services in West Lochaber which comprises the existing Mallaig/Arisaig, Acharacle and the Small Isles practices.
Dr Iain Gartshore, Mallaig & Arisaig Medical Practice, will take over the running of the practices under a formal agreement with NHS Highland from 1st April, with a view to going 'live' with the new model in October.
Dr Gartshore said he would like to thank NHS Highland for their support and vision throughout the development of this innovative new model.
He added: 'NHS Highland has recognised that a new model of working is required to support not just rural communities but also the NHS teams which provide GP and nursing services. 'I look forward to implementing a sustainable 21st century primary care medical service to the West Lochaber area.'
Garry Coutts, chair of NHS Highland, added: 'This is a very exciting development which NHS Highland is pleased to be able to support. It is the beginning of a programme of work which will test an approach to building sustainability of health and care services in remote and rural areas and we will be able to learn lessons that could be applicable across the country.'

News in Brief

Jings, crivens, and help ma boab - what a month!
Firstly, we paid the price of all the good weather we've been having. While most folks appear to be under a pile of snow, we've had a glorious, sunny dry spell. This has been great for morale, but not so good for the hydro or the hills. In fact, it became quite the hazard (as I'm sure everyone has read in the papers or on Facebook by now)! Around dinner time on the Sunday the 24th it came to our attention that the west part of the peninsula, above Doune and Sandaig, was on fire. It just so happened that a lot of the population were frequenting the pub at this particular time (what luck!) and all who were there, and others from their homes, rushed out and over the hill to help. These brave locals were able to beat back, put out, and contain the fires that had spread, narrowly saving Doune, where the fire was a mere 200m from some of the homes and businesses there. A mighty effort that saw a community uniting together and helping each other in a time of crisis: dozens of folk, over a huge area, for nearly six hours. An amazing accomplishment and a huge thank you from everyone else. A big thanks to Mallaig, Fort William and Acharacle fire brigades for making it over.
In slightly cheerier news we've had some of those ceilidhs I mentioned in last month's column. I say some as sadly the Flensburg student one was cancelled due to a windy evening stranding the band in Mallaig. Or should I say relocated as a handful of local musicians banded together in the pub and gave the students enough tunes to keep their hearts pumping for a good while, and their spirits were not dampened in any way, even when the power went out.
Our Easter ceilidh was a big hit thankfully. Gary Innes, Ewan Robertson and Megan Henderson gave us a braw time and then it was disco until the early morning. It was lovely seeing so many locals out, and also visiting friends and family, and keen tourists all joining in! Even a stag group who could barely stand were attempting some of the dances. Huge thanks to Gary, Ewan and Megan, and everyone who organised it - Great night!
Another big night was International Women's Day. A fantastic night filled with fun and games, drinking and laughter, and much silliness. Again, the Flensburg students were out in full force and some quite competitive! Although to be fair, the football match was between Scotland and England… you can imagine the roar of applause when Scotland won. A good night.
We also played the rubik's cube game which resulted in some extraordinary outfits. And then to top it all off we had a go at tossing the teabag (not a euphemism). Tommy may have been the victor of that game, but we'll be talking about where Davie's teabag landed for years to come. Thanks to Isla and big Rhona and everyone else who brought it all together. And thanks to everyone who came and donated their hard earned pounds: we managed to raise a fantastic £210 which went to Lochaber Women's Aid.
We also had a lovely curry night in the hall and were spoilt with a huge choice of different curries. A packed night and I can see why: beautiful dishes from locals and also from the Flensburg students, shared with friends. Thanks go to Morag and Gwen for organising the night.
A slightly more fabulous night was Sam Firth's leaving do. A great night with yummy food and strange things done with wooden spoons. We're sad to see her go but wish her and Alasdair all the love and joy.
Fantastic Festival News - the crowd funding has managed to raise £1546 already!! And it doesn't end until 23rd April. This is an amazing achievement and a huge thank you goes out to everyone who has donated. There's still time to take part and get a reward - 103% of the target met, doesn't mean we can't go higher! Check out the facebook page or festival website for details.
Also - the funky new festival t-shirts are in and I can't stop wearing mine! Love it! Pre-order now, don't miss out! Again, check facebook or the website for more details.
And that's about all the excitement I can take for one month. We're all gearing up now for the season, since that's Easter out the way. Doune's counting down the days, getting store cupboards filled up and decks built; Pub is onto its summer opening hours; and that's the Tearoom open five days a week, 9 - 4.
We had the first four yachts in on Saturday: must be that time of year again...
Amy Connolly

St Patrick's Day the 17th was a special day on Muck - the lights came on in the afternoon. On an island where for years the central generator has gone off at exactly 11am and never come on before 4pm this was special. They soon went off again but after some tweaking by SSE engineers they came on again and have been on ever since. Its great but it takes a little getting used to. At first it was photo voltaic power and on a bitterly cold overcast day we were very impressed by the high output of our 30 panels. Avance was here and soon with a lot of help by islanders five of their six turbines were soon rising into the sky and joining the system. They are quiet and unobtrusive (and manufactured in UK) and almost hidden from the houses. Well done Avance - well done.
Wonderful weather for PV panels but not I am afraid for growing grass. I do not think we have ever approached lambing with the island so grey. (1969 the year of the great Rum fire was drier but it certainly was not as cold) Still it has been great to say good bye to the mud for a few weeks and the rain will come!
Mull Theatre have been with us again with a great little show - Starbird. It is not often we get live theatre for the very young (my grandson Hugh aged two sat in rapt attention) and there were plenty of them in the audience of all ages! Well done Mull Theatre.
By May West Word we should have welcomed our new minister and the opening of Gallanach Lodge should be imminent.
Best wishes
Lawrence MacEwen

For the first time Muck islanders can now be 'switched on' for round the clock after six 5 KW wind turbines and thirty solar panels came on stream. Previously the residents relied on diesel generators. Power had to be rationed to nine hours a day, and everything went off at 11.30pm, very annoying if you are watching a film on TV! Isle of Muck Community Enterprise Ltd secured £978,840 from the Big Lottery Fund last year to help pay for the renewable energy projects.

March has been incredibly dry and windy, I think we have only had one day of rain this month. Farmwise it is worrying as we really need it to be warm and wet to get the grass growing especially as lambing is due to start soon. Calving is underway at the moment and our new Luing bull is leaving some very nice calves.
We said goodbye to Roy Boyle, a heating engineer from G&A Barnie's who has been coming to Canna for the last ten years as he is retiring this month.
St Edward's Centre has been re-named Camus Arts Centre and throughout the summer events and plays etc will be put on. Colin, Julie and Murdo have been busy getting things ready. It will be open to the public this summer for visitors to go in and look around.
Dougie the dyker has been back for a short visit and mended a few dykes while he was here, good to see the wall outside Tighard Guest House repaired after about 25 years!! Intrigued to know what he had in his knitted handbag!!
Martin Carty from Mallaig has started monitoring the sea eagles to see if they are going to breed this year, so far things are looking promising with two pairs sitting on nests.
The first veggies have been planted in the polytunnel and if anyone has any info on books about gardening in polytunnels it would be good to hear from you as nobody here has any experience of what to plant and what does best in a polytunnel.
It is looking like 2013 is going to be a really busy year for Canna. All the holiday cottages are fully booked and Tighard is filling up quickly. The first RIB from Bella Jane Tours was in today the 28th with a full boat of visitors. The Community Shop is now open for the season and will be selling woollen goods, cards, local produce and lots more.
Finally congratulations to Mairead Wilkie who celebrated her 21st on the 28th March and sister Sinead who's birthday is the same day. Hope you had a great day girls.
Geraldine MacKinnon

The season has well and truly started on Rum with day trippers coming off the Calmac in their droves already. The Teashop and newly opened Bluebell Cafe have already been doing a roaring trade, the Craft Shop opened again with a Spring Fayre and the Ranger walks, talks and events kicked off with an Otter Walk all in the gorgeous sunshine we've been enjoying for weeks now.
Now the Kinloch Castle Bistro and bar have closed Jinty is running an occasional bar in the Village Hall and the first event on Easter Saturday was such a success that the island ran out of Tennents long before the next delivery!
Along with the tourists we welcome back Kate and Ian (newly married!) along with new crofters Gav and Laura, both couples bring a pet dog so welcome too to Annie and Finn! Other new animals on the island include some drakes for Croft 3, a shetland pony on Croft 1 and hopefully soon some lambs for Neil and Lesley too.
The seasonal ferry timetable change always takes some getting used to, this time we have the additional Sunday boat too - Dave will be back and forth to the pier meeting himself going the other way!
The community polytunnel is another step closer to being ready for getting plants in, thanks to some help from the Friends of Kinloch Castle who joined in with slipping about on the mud on Croft 3 to get the frame up. Next step the polythene...
Easter celebrations took place at the school with all the island children invited for egg and spoon racing, egg rolling, Easter bonnet making and some goose egg decorating. Rum shop now has a very impressive range of Rum laid eggs available - chicken, duck and goose!
Angus Kirk, over working for Gordon Mackenzie on the Kinloch Castle 'holiday village' temporary accommodation gave us all a big scare by collapsing and falling into the very deep hole they were busy digging. Two rides in the helicopter and visits to two hospitals and an operation later he is on the mend and rumour has it is already keen to be back at work. Hope to see you soon Angus!
Talking of the holiday village we're getting a couple of metal boxes a week arriving on the ferry which should all become accommodation ready for June.
Another helicopter was over Rum for the day this week with Marcel conducting a deer survey from the air - I think all of us rather wished we worked for SNH deer management for the free helicopter ride!
Abby and Paul have been getting their quad bike training so have been reversing trailers up and down the roads sporting very attractive crash helmets.
Nic Goddard

The daffodils have brought in more than the Easter Bunny this month, with tourist season beginning and new faces finding their way to the island. This dry weather has been bitterly cold, at times, but it hasn't discouraged visitors and islanders alike from finding sheltered sun traps in which to bask.
Sunshine is just the need for Eigg's newest addition to its existing energy array. A new solar panel PV scheme is to be added to the system. Let's hope Summer 2013 mimics 2012.
As far as the island's forward motions go with construction, the winners have been announced for the new Eigg Box Talent Hub: a project conceived by Lucy Conway and funded by Creative Scotland that will benefit residents who want to pursue their creative businesses on Eigg. The winners are: Ben Cormack, Damian Helliwell, Gabe McVarish, Frances Carr, Jenny Robertson, Joe Cormack, Johnny Lynch, Karl Harding, Libby Barnden, and Sarah Boden. Of the ten talent hub winners, eight will receive £1000 each to help their business projects, and all will receive support and expert advice from Lucy Conway. Congratulations to all of you!
Easter came early this year, and, with it, the Isle of Eigg Easter Ceilidh, Easter morning service at St. Donnan's Church, and the Easter Monday Craft Fair. The Saturday night ceilidh featured the Jim Jam Ceilidh Band - a pipes, fiddle, guitar, piano, drums, and voice medley. All reviews were full of praise for the night of dancing and great music, with plenty of visitors to merrily fill the community hall. The St. Donnan's service was freezing in temperature but very warm in spirit!
As for the craft fair, it won't be happening until this article has been sent off, but we all know home-baked goodies from Eiggy Bread and unique crafts from talented locals will have been tempting and wonderful.
Enjoy the blooming and promise of April, everyone - no matter what form it takes!
Audra Cormack

Council awards extended Knoydart ferry contract
The Highland Council has awarded a new contract for the lifeline Mallaig - Knoydart/Tarbet passenger ferry service, which will be available every day of the week at a reduced cost to the Council. The service began on 1st April.
Sandaig Ltd of Knoydart have accepted the terms of a contract with the Council that runs until March 2018, and allows the Council to extend the arrangement by a further two years.
The winter timetable (October until April) will see four return sailings a day on weekdays and two per day at weekends.
The summer timetable (May until September) will see six sailings a day on weekdays and four at weekends.
Up to four boats will be used to accommodate peaks in passenger numbers.
The current contract provides two return journeys on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and none at weekends.
Tarbet will be served on the same basis as the current contract.
The Western Isles, which holds the current contract, will continue to run to its timetable at least until the end of the 2013 season.

As of Friday 15th March 2013, the Arisaig Hotel has new owners in the shape of Josh and Sophie Kingswood.
For Josh it is a homecoming. He first came to live in Arisaig 23 years ago at the age of 7 when his parents Mike and Sheila Kingswood moved to Ach na skia at Back of Keppoch. He and sister Laura attended Mallaig High School, then Josh went to Australia before going to University in Derby to study Motorsport. This led to a successful career with the Subaru World Rally Team, finally joining the Red Bull Formula 1 Team where he worked in research and development.
Although he enjoyed the success of the team and the fast paced life of motorsport, he always knew that eventually a time would come when he would settle down and start a family-and where better to do it than Arisaig?

Sophie, Josh and Charlotte outside Arisaig Hotel

Josh and teacher Sophie married in August 2011, and having never lost his love of the Highlands, when an opportunity to return home presented itself he took it. With Mike and Sheila moving to their new house behind Ach na skia and semi-retiring, Josh and Sophie came up in June last year to live in the old family home and run the self-catering business and to help his parents run the Arisaig Sea Kayaking business.
Baby Charlotte was born in October last year.
When the opportunity to buy Arisaig Hotel came up, they barely hesitated. The couple have energy and enthusiasm and many ideas for the Hotel, some of which are already being put into place. At present they are looking to hire local staff and to put on a series of music nights.

St Mary's Stained Glass Window Fund
When the community of Arisaig began raising £21,000 to restore the stone masonry protecting St Mary's Church chancel window, it seemed like a really long road. And in the dark December night of winter, gathering together in the Church club room, running from the car with the rain and wind lashing, a slight metaphorical slump of the shoulders could have been discernable to a trained eye. But to underestimate the human spirit is a glass half empty approach to life.
This month, just five months later, we must give a heartfelt thanks to all of our sponsors, chartable bodies, those who have made personal donations and of course those who have been fundraising with enthusiasm. A special thanks to our younger fundraisers, Wallace and Edward. Their Ceilidh raised over £200. With gratitude to them all, we've reached an amazing running tally today of £14,000, the first £2,500 has been paid, and we have been sent these pictures of the work in progress. There's still much to do, and still much to pay for, but the process of affixing the roundel masonry will commence on 22nd April, when we'll be praying that this wonderful weather continues.

photo photo

This is a strange kind of fundraising project. It's not helping the sick, it's not helping famine or poverty, it's not brave or daring, but it is bringing a community together with a common goal to safeguard a really precious piece of architecture. And if bricks and mortar were ever a symbol of a strong and vibrant community, of faith, or of hard work and creativity, then in this small way we have much to be hopeful and thankful for.
Look out for a couple more fundraisers coming soon. A coffee morning at the Astley Hall on Saturday 13th April, the annual swim across Arisaig Bay on the 25th May, and the Agricultural Show Tea Tent and Dance on the 8th June. If you've got a bit more to give then you can also donate on our Facebook page using the paypal button - safe, secure and really easy to do from the comfort of your own laptop. Just a few thousand to go!

Friday 8th March, saw the induction of the Rev. Edgar Ogston at St Columba's Church, Mallaig, as the new incumbent for the Parish of North West Lochaber.
Rev. and Mrs Ogston are no strangers to small, remote parishes and have a family connection to Lochaber, having served at Kinlochleven where their daughters Eileen and Heather were born.
They also have a son, Stephen, who was born in Elgin. All three of their children are married and Edgar and Jean have four grandchildren.
Edgar finished his training in Elgin and in 1977 went to Kinlochleven where he served for six years, during which time Nether Lochaber became part of his parish. From there the family went to Georgetown, Grand Cayman, where for three years Edgar was minister of Elmslie Memorial United Church in the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Then followed three years at Leven in Fife, and six as minister of Burra Isles and Tingwall in the Shetlands.
Rev and Mrs Ogston come to North West Lochaber from the parish of Kilmorack and Erchless in Beauly, just west of Inverness, where they had lived since 2007.
Rev Ogston tells us 'During our time in Shetland Jean trained as a Reader and conducted services across those islands. She will be assisting me in conducting services across this wide and scattered parish, which has quite a bit in common with our parishes in Shetland. We look forward to getting to know people here.'

Photo: Edgar and Jean outside Mallaig Church with Maisie, their two year old granddaughter from North Uist


Lifeboat Log
The Mallaig Lifeboat was called into action on five occasions during the third month of the year.
Saturday 16th March: At the request of HM Coastguard, Mallaig Lifeboat was launched at 14.18 hrs to go to the assistance of the 8 metre prawn creel vessel Grimsay Isle. The fishing vessel, suffering from a fouled propeller, was reached only seven minutes after the call out, and a tow rope was quickly established, enabling the Lifeboat to tow the Grimsay Isle back to Mallaig, berthing her alongside at 15.06 hrs. The two man crew of the creel vessel were unharmed.
Monday 18th March: Lifeboat launched at 05.00 hrs when tasked by Stornoway Coastguard to go to the assistance of the Mallaig based fishing vessel Amethyst, grounded on a reef just off the Point of Sleat. Other vessels responded to Amethyst's request for assistant, including the Ronja Commander, which launched her Fast Recovery Craft, recovering the three man crew of the fishing boat from the liferaft, which was still attached to the Amethyst. The crew were transferred to the Lifeboat, which was on scene some fifteen minutes after leaving Mallaig Harbour. With the Lifeboat in attendance, the other vessels which had responded were now free to continue on their way. Once it was established that Amethyst was not taking in water and that the crew were not in need of medical attention, the decision to tow the vessel back to Mallaig was taken when the fishing boat floated free of the reef on the rising tide. With the pump on board as a precaution, Amethyst was towed back to Mallaig by the Lifeboat, arriving at the port at 07.40 hrs.
Wednesday 20th March: It was a clear frosty morning when, at 02.00 hrs the Mallaig Lifeboat and its Y-boat searched in and about the Harbour for a missing male who may have fallen in the water. Harbour Master inspected CCTV footage and pinpointed the missing person down at the ferry pier. However, the missing person was found on board a fishing vessel and, with the matter now in Police hands, all search parties were stood down. Y-boat recovered to Lifeboat which was back at the pontoon berth at 04.00 hrs, ready for service.
Sunday 24th March: Lifeboat launched at 22.28 hrs on a frosty moonlit night to medivac a young army cadet from the Ardintigh Outdoors Centre, Loch Nevis, who was suffering from abdominal pains. Arriving on scene at 22.48 hrs, the Lifeboat launched its Y-boat to get access to the casualty, who was able to walk to the jetty and board the Y-boat. The Lifeboat was soon under way back to Mallaig, arriving there at 23.45 hrs where the cadet and one of his officers were soon on their way to the Belford Hospital via the local Ambulance Service. Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 23.45 hrs.
Friday 29th March: At the request of Stornoway Coastguard, the Mallaig Lifeboat was launched at 13.40 hrs to transfer the local Coastguard team to Inverie to search for a missing hill walker. Lifeboat was tasked to carry out a search of the north shore of Loch Nevis and as far as Sourlie's Bothy in Upper Loch Nevis. With nothing found, the Lifeboat was relocated to Barrisdale in Loch Hourn to pick up the Coastguard team, and whilst waiting their arrival the Lifeboat searched the upper reaches of Loch Hourn again with no success. After boarding the Coastguard team at Barrisdale, the Lifeboat also picked up two Police Officers and their search dogs who had walked in from Kinloch Hourn as part of the shore search. Police and dogs were dropped off at Kinloch Hourn and Lifeboat returned to Mallaig Harbour, refuelled and ready for service at 20.00 hrs.


The big clean up operation on West Bay took place as planned last month with two large bulker loads - 30 tonnes - being removed from the West Bay Industrial Estate. Phew! Pier Works
The opening up of the services duct on the Steamer Pier proved much more difficult than, we, our Engineer and the Contractor NRS had envisaged. The walls of the duct (trench) have been found to be in poor order and will need to be repaired prior to placement on top, of the new concrete covers!
There has also been issues with the electricity supply and temporary repairs have had to be carried out in the meantime.
The problems encountered have had the effect of extending the contract time by 7 - 10 days but with 80% of the tarring complete and road/pier markings now in place it's clear that progress is being made and the end of road and pier transport restrictions is in sight.


Margaret Ann
This month we bid fond farewell to FV Margaret Ann OB 198 - a vessel that has spent virtually all its working life fishing from the port of Mallaig, initially at the Ring-net for herring and latterly trawling for prawns.
The 54ft vessel was built in Weatherheads, Dunbar, in the mid 60's for the Manson family and present owner Mr James Manson has decided to sell the vessel. Mr Manson has purchased a replacement vessel and we wish him well in his new venture.

Take 2
Mallaig Harbour Authority was formed in 1968 - 45 years ago - and since its inception there have been four Harbour Masters. The very first Harbour Master Cpt MacRae was appointed in October 1968 but 5 months later Mr MacRae, who was from Portree, had to retire due to ill health.
The next appointment was Cpt John Murray who served the Authority from 1969 up to his retiral in 1999. A total of 30 years.
Cpt Simon Alletson then took up the reins but within a year he had left for pastures new. In May 2000 Mr James (Pimmie) McLean, a former fishing skipper was appointed to the post of Harbour Master, becoming the first local to hold the position. Mr McLean will therefore complete 13 years with the Authority next month.
This photo taken in the Harbour Office last month shows John Murray (left) and James (Pimmie) McLean who between them have served the Mallaig Harbour Authority for a total of 43 of its 45 year existence.

Robert MacMillan
Port Manager/Secretary 01687 462154


photo photo

Mallaig Lifeboat attempting a tow on the Jannet MacArthur of Skye Yacht Charters after running aground in Sandaig Bay Knoydart on Fri 5th April.
Due to an ebbing tide, the tow was unsuccessful and all crew were safely escorted from the stricken yacht by the personnel of the Mallaig Lifeboat.

Photographs courtesy of Seabridge Knoydart.

An Diasporran Gets Help Via West Word - But Needs a Camera!
Howling Events, of which West Word is an Associate Group, made an appeal for volunteers last month for help with the inputting of family history data. While the appeal is still very much alive, Chas Mac Donald, Project Co-ordinator was very pleased to have been contacted by a lady from Idaho as a result, who will be able to give a few hours per week. Chas admitted to have been "stunned, by such an offer of help from so far away. It's testament to the power of West Word that the west of Lochaber is pretty well connected in the global age."
Meantime, An Diasporran, the database part of the project, has just received permission from Tearlach MacFarlane to photograph his archive, so that it can be used by data inputters to mount the archive. Chas called this "a tremendous development, which will mean we can get to work on that part much more easily." Lorna Byrne has agreed to do the work, and Lochaber Archives have agreed to provide space in the research room at the West Highland College campus, where the archives are based, to do the photography.
However, Chas pointed out that this leaves the tricky little problem of finding a camera to do the job with. It doesn't need to be a complicated camera, as long as it can take pictures with good resolution of A4 images, and is digital.
Unfortunately, HOWL still doesn't have any money, and can't afford to buy one. So, Chas and HOWL are making an appeal to famously generous West Word readers, who have perhaps recently upgraded their camera and still have the old one spare. Can you donate it to the project, to get work underway, on what is surely the most important archive of Lochaber family history in existence?
If you can, or if you even have some time to spare on the data inputting, Chas would like to hear from you as soon as possible! You can email at antilleadh2014@arisaighighlandgames.co.uk

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
March was a fairly cold but dry month with winds mostly from the East.
Usual early migrants such as Wheatears and Sand Martins failed to appear in this area by the month end, no doubt held up by the poor weather further south. Resident breeders however were not delayed by weather and there were several reports of House Sparrows already nesting, Blackbirds were already on eggs in Morar and some Herons in the heronry at Camus an't Allen, Arisaig, already had chicks during the third week of the month.
A female Blackcap seen in Arisaig on the 9th was probably an overwintering bird rather than a spring migrant.
Golden Plovers were seen at Traigh and Back of Keppoch on several occasions during the month and there were at least 20 Lapwing at Achnaskia on the 18th.
A pair of Canada Geese were seen around Loch nan Cealland also the fields at Traigh from the 18th. On the 27th there was a flock of 9 Canada Geese in fields next to the golf course at Traigh, along with the local Greylags and the Greylag x Canada Hybrid.
Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala throughout but numbers had decreased to one by the month end. Several flocks of Whooper Swans were seen heading north over the last couple of weeks, including a flock of 30 over Arisaig on the 21st and 28 north over Morar on the 31st.
A male Yellowhammer was photographed on a bird table at Loch Nevis Crescent, Mallaig, during the month, seemingly a regular visitor since mid-January. More reports of Bullfinches over the last two weeks of the month as people notice t hem feeding on the buds of their apple and plum trees!!
Large flocks of Skylarks were seen at Gorten and Back of Keppoch from the 27th.
Sea-eagles were reported from the Mallaig and Arisaig area during the month. A Barn Owl was seen on several occasions around Carnoch, Arisaig.
A Peregrine was seen at Gorten on the 27th and another at Carnoch on the 30th. A Merlin was seen briefly on the 30th at Torr Mor, Rhue.

Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Wild fires, such as the one which spread swiftly over the moorland north of Banavie and Corpach last night, are very damaging to wildlife such as the 'creepy crawlies' which overwinter as eggs or larvae amongst vegetation or in the top layer of the peat. As these animals are unable to move they get burnt along with the plants. Ways of protecting wildlife are included in laws and guidelines covering muirburn.
Dr Mary Elliott


The fire raged above the oak wood and several of Mary's neighbours' houses by the Mallaig road in Corpach on the evening of 1st April.


The photo taken on 2nd April shows where the Fire Brigade managed to stop the fire amongst birch trees at the top of the wood above Corpach. This wood is a remnant of the ancient oak woodland which covered much of the Lochaber coastal glens since colonising after the last Ice Age.

Fund Raising Open Water Swim
Some will know that the more unhinged residents of Arisaig participate in what has become an annual swim across Arisaig Bay. We have such a good time we don't see why it should be restricted to just the unhinged of Arisaig.
Numbers are limited so apply now. Funds this year will be equally split between Arisaig Primary School to purchase equipment, and to help towards the £21,000 cost of renovating the lovely stained glass window at St Mary's RC Church in Arisaig.
Entry to the event is £5, and we encourage sponsorship - it is after all a fundraiser! The current date is Saturday 25th May, 6.30pm from Morroch. This date may alter depending on weather conditions and prevailing circumstance so keep in touch. Swimmers must be confident in the water, will be swimming at their own risk - rescue boats are in attendance during the swim. The swim is followed by a bar-b-cue for donations. Spectators encouraged with due respect to health and safety for a working boatyard. Come join the fun!

Watch out for whales and dolphins from your local shoreline
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer to help record vital data about whales and dolphins on the Isle of Eigg is being encouraged by WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) to sign up, come along, and receive expert training.
WDC will be holding a presentation on the conservation of whales and dolphins at the Community Hall, Isle of Eigg on Friday 19th April (6.30 - 7.30 pm), where you can learn about these amazing creatures and the work which is being done to try and protect them. There will also be a WDC Shorewatch training session at the same venue on Saturday, 20th April 2013 (10.30am - 4pm).
WDC Shorewatch relies on community volunteers to monitor the presence of whales, dolphins and porpoises around Scotland. Participants will receive basic training and access to equipment so that they can then carry out regular 10-minute watches in their own time from our new site on the Isle of Eigg.
Information gathered on these watches then helps us learn more about how these amazing creatures use our coastline and how best to protect them locally. If you like to get out and about and are keen to see more of your local wildlife, then Shorewatch is for you.
In addition to learning how to identify common whales and dolphins, volunteers have the opportunity to learn how to recognise and report them when they strand on beaches, will receive the latest whale and dolphin related news and will also learn how best to raise awareness of the threats whales and dolphins face in Scottish seas today. Booking is essential as places are limited. If you are interested in joining us or finding out more about the WDC Shorewatch programme, please contact Kila Taylor on 01343 820 339.

Songs for Dawn
Last month West Word featured Robert and Maryann Bowman's gifts to Inverness and Edinburgh Sick Kids Units with money raised from sales of the Songs for Dawn CDs and the two dances. Pictured below are the items requested by and delivered to the Royal Aberdeen's Sick Children's Hospital - 65 portable DVD players and 103 children's DVDs.

photo photo

An eye witness account of the train hitting a tree
I was travelling with my friend Debbie on the 6.15pm train from Mallaig in the 22nd March. As we approached Fort William, the wind arose ferociously and the right hand side of the train was hit by a huge tree. The impact resulted in windows being broken and part of a branch of the tree coming in through one of the broken windows, the glass from the windows shattering into a thousand bits. The train crunched along the rails with the branch of the tree embedded and with shrieking brakes for I guess about 200 feet. I was praying to God at this time to help us all. For the grace of God, that is when the train shuddered to a halt. It was a very traumatic, frightening experience, but I am relieved that none of us were injured, especially when I have seen photos of the train and the serious damage of the impact.

Photo courtesy of Steve Roberts

We are indebted to linesman Paul, who calmly helped us to get down the steps at the side of the train and walked with us on the railway line, which was very cold with the wind howling, to the platform at Fort William, where we were met by a lovely lady called Ellen. I needed a hug so I asked her and she willingly gave me one, and also to my friend. That meant so much to us. She is a kind and caring person and showed us wonderful hospitality, going beyond her call of duty to arrange a taxi home for us. She was like an angel by our sides at such a difficult time.
Susan MacLellan


ScotRail Sumer Service Timetable Changes
It's official! British Summertime commenced on Sunday March 31st, and with it came the welcome ScotRail timetable changes. For full details, pick up a timetable from any staffed railway station, go online to www.scotrail.co.uk or www.travelinescotland.com or telephone them on 0871 200 22 23. in Mallaig the Visitor Centre also has timetables.
Luckily for us, locally it means the resumption of the daytime Sunday trains out of and into Mallaig. This year daytime Sunday services are for a longer period of time. Thank you ScotRail. From March 31st until October 27th - a full seven months! - trains on a Sunday will depart Mallaig at 10.10am, 4.05pm and 6.15pm. Into Mallaig on a Sunday trains will arrive at 1.34pm, 5.43pm and 11.35pm.
Locally, from April 1st until October 25th, Monday to Friday, the lunch-time train will arrive at 2.10pm (re-timed from 1.35pm). This will be a four-car set from Glasgow, departing there at 9.03am. on a Saturday it arrives into Mallaig at 1.34pm. Restaurants - please note!

Jacobite Summer Service
In 2013, the Jacobite steam train service will be further increased. The service will run five days a week from Monday May 13th through to Friday October 25th.
The morning service will be running 7 days a week from June 22nd to September 22nd. The afternoon service will be running Monday to Friday from June 3rd to August 30th. If you have the time and/or inclination, come to Mallaig Railway Station at 12.20 on May 13th to welcome the first Jacobite of the season into Mallaig.

Network Rail Track Recording
Carrying of from a visiting ballast train on February 26th, a Network Rail 'Track Recording' train came into Mallaig on March 13th. The modified Mark 2 carriage was top and tailed by DRS (Direct Rail Services) Class 37 English Electric Diesel Locomotives, numbered 37607 and 37610 (Ted Cassidy). It stayed in Mallaig until the 10.10 Glasgow service departed and then made its way to Motherwell, recording track measurements. The data is downloaded and analysed by Network Rail in order that repairs and improvements can be carried out at a later date. The data collected includes track gauge, camber, loose sleeper chairs and fishplate bolts. Broken or cracked sleepers are also located. The continued commitment by Network Rail is a good indication that our railway is safe for the future. With the enhanced ScotRail Summer services, two Jacobite services, The Royal Scotsman trains visiting, plus other touring train companies all competing to use the Fort William to Mallaig 'Iron Road to the Isles' railway line, we look to have a secure railway future.

The track recording and evaluation train standing at Mallaig Station
Photo courtesy of Steve Roberts

Disruption due to bed weather
Friday March 22nd saw some of the worst weather conditions of 2013. Firstly, a 'special' train travelling from Nottingham to Fort William was held at Bridge of Orchy due to a fallen tree blocking the line. Meanwhile, the 4.05pm Sprinter service to Glasgow from Mallaig was sent back to Fort William as it could not get past Bridge of Orchy. Finally, the 6.15pm Sprinter service from Mallaig to Fort William struck a fallen tree near the Loch Nevis Viaduct just at the entry to Fort William Railway /station. The Class 156 Super Sprinter stayed on the track, but damage was done to the front of the unit, along with some broken windows. Although nobody was hurt, some of the passengers were shaken. Once the debris on the track was cleared the passengers, on arrival at Fort William Station, were looked after by Ellen of ScotRail. Finally, the fallen tree blockage near the Bridge of Orchy was cleared and the 'special' train made its way into Fort William some three hours late. The passengers from the 4.05pm from Mallaig Sprinter, who were bound for Glasgow and returned to Fort William, were put on the southbound Sleeper to continue their journey.
Considering the atrocious conditions, both Network Rail and ScotRail did all they could to make sure passengers were taken care of. Passengers to Glasgow and beyond eventually made it to their destinations, tourists on the 'special' train were delivered to their hotels in Fort William and passengers and crew arrived in Mallaig albeit a little bit late! Thank you ScotRail and Network Rail.

The Great Britain VI Touring Train
The first touring train to visit Mallaig in 2013 will be on Friday April 26th. It will steam-haul out of London on an 8-day luxury tour of Britain on Saturday April 20th. Day 6 of the tour sees the train divide into two trains (each steam hauled). From Edinburgh, one train overnights in Inverness and one overnights at Fort William. On Day 7 (Friday April 26th), the Inverness train departs from the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Fort William train departs for Mallaig. At the two destinations the passengers and crew swap trains (via CalMac and coaches) and end up in Fort William and Inverness. The whole train rejoins again at Edinburgh on Day 8!! Good fun or what!! And all steam hauled!! In my dreams I am on it as a steward ha!ha! The K4 No 61994 The Great Marquess (formerly LNER 2-6-0_ owned by John Cameron is the booked engine to haul the train to Mallaig. Great Britain VI is operated by the Railway Touring Company based in Norfolk and all details can be seen on www.railwaytouring.net

ScotRail's Adopt a Station Annual Meeting
The number of railway stations adopted by gardeners on a voluntary basis has now reached over 150 stations. This ScotRail initiative is the project held together by John Yellowlees, ScotRail's External Relations |Manager, and has snowballed into a big family. Each year we meet to swap ideas, photos, seeds, plants, etc, and have a lunch. This year's 'event' was at Jury's Inn, Glasgow, on Wednesday March 27th. The guest speaker was Beechgrove Garden's Jim McColl, who was enthused as to the latest anti-midge plant, Eucalyptus. Watch for them at Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig stations!!! Jim went away from the lunch with a 'clutch' of Jaffy's Oak Smoked, award winning kippers and a smile upon his face!! Steve and I were pleased to donate them to him and his wife. As to Steve and me - well, I have travelled a lot nearer home for a free lunch, ha! ha!, but the long day on the train picking up other gardeners on the way was fun from start to finish. Thank you John for al the support you gave us on the day.

Beechgrove Garden's Jim McColl (left) with John Yellowlees, ScotRail
Photo courtesy of Steve Roberts

The Tardis!
Thursday March 28th saw the arrival at Mallaig Railway Station platform of 'the Tardis' (as it has been nicknamed), completing the answer put to me many times overt he last month as to what the covered up slab of concrete base was for. All is now revealed in the form of a dark blue, big tool shed for John Leckie's cleaning materials for the wonderful job that he does cleaning the train at night. It is huge! And at the moment certainly catches the eye as you approach the railway station. I can envisage an opening ceremony at least! Let alone a plaque!

The Tardis on Mallaig platform
Photo courtesy of Steve Roberts

Special Train Excursion News
Friday March 22nd (the evening of the day if disruption due to bad weather), the touring 'special' train was the last of four weekend visits to Fort William from various departures in England. These excursions were organised by Statesman Rail who operate out of Hayle in Cornwall. The 'special' on the 22nd March was from Nottingham. Due to time and length of journey constraints, Fort William was as far as they could travel to. However, so successful have these tours been that, in the autumn of this year they are now planning to add an extra day onto each journey and include steam-hauled trips to Mallaig. Good news indeed.
On Saturday March 30th, a 4 day tour of Scotland, organised by Pathfinder Tours, (based in Stroud, Gloucestershire) starting from Exeter and titled The Easter Highlander, visited Fort William. The train arrived at 11am, when coach visits to various locations were on offer, and departed at 3.30pm. the happy guests were regally dined on the line and returned t their 4-star hotel at Dalmuir. The carriages double-headed hauled by two Class 37 DRS English Electric locomotives.
On Saturday May 4th, SRPS Railtours return to Mallaig. the diesel hauled train will travel from Glenrothes, picking up pre-booked passengers en-route. Welcome back.

See you on the train
Sonia Cameron


Simon Down took his copy to where he was working on an oil spill response boat for a customer near Sullom Voe in the Shetland Isles. He says 'It seems that you can't read the West Word without someone taking a photo!' Simon lives in Hampshire and is married to Donna nee MacLellan and son in law of Jimmy Traigh.

John Murray read his West Word while he was visiting Waitangi, an old whaling station at the Bay of Islands, near Cape Reinga, in New Zealand.

Allan Henderson, Provost and local Councillor, enjoyed a great day out at the Open Tennis Tournament in Australia in January with his West Word. He was keen to see Andy Murray play - or rather wife Sandra was!

A far cry from Mallaig Harbour and CalMac! Ann and Michael Currie took their copy when they left Mallaig to cruise the Caribbean. Here they are In Antigua beside their cruise vessel Ventura (on the right). The Carnival Miracle is alongside on the left. On board Ventura were 3200 passengers and 1400 crew!

Childhood Memories of the 50s
It was good fun going down to the rocky shore around the Khyber and collecting the wilks, boiling them up and, using pins or safety pins, removing the black cap-like membrane, then lever out the edible wilk - it was good, yummy, yummy.
In the summertime, we always went down to the beaches at The Khyber, Mallaig Vaig, Glasnacardoch, Johnston's Beach. Johnstone's Beach was a good beach. The boys used to swim out to the dinghies, climb on them, just to jump off them again! Or they might swim to the old wooden pier.
There was no swimming pool in those days. We were all self-taught swimmers.
The Henderson girls - Christine, Mairi and Margaret - were all great swimmers and could swim from Johnston's Beach to the Khyber Beach. There was a big rock at the Khyber Beach and lots of us would use it as a diving board. It was all good innocent fun...
To be continued...
Jane MacPherson

In days gone by
Jane MacPherson's reminiscences last month stirred Sandy Johnston, now living in Lochinver, to send us some of his own. Sandy is a subscriber and sent us a letter with his renewal recently in which he said he thoroughly enjoys the read but must admit to not knowing the present generation; however he knows their grandparents which makes it all the moe interesting!
This is not "I remember the good old days" but I thought that possibly one or two stories which have a naive innocence about them might just be worth telling, like the time somewhere in the late 40's when I learnt about centrifugal force, maybe at school but more than likely from my pals, (somehow they always seemed to know more than I did) anyway the theory being that if you put a drop of water in a bucket and spun it round like a windmill the water would stay in the bucket due to centrifugal force (whatever that was) marvellous, we had some fun trying it out, it was like a discovery, I wondered if they knew about this in Morar or even Arisaig, for that was our world in the 40's, no internet, no TV just ourselves and discoveries. With this knowledge still fresh in my mind I was sent by my mother to get the "accumulator" charged up, (for the younger generation, an accumulator was an acid lead battery used to power the wireless or as you say nowadays the radio) so off I set , there it was, a glass container full of liquid, a nice size, not too heavy and having a big handle, ideal for a bit of centrifugal force, so off came the cap where you filled it up and I started to spin it as I walked along the road, no! I never spilled a drop but an other discovery was about to befall me, my uncle Andrew who had watched me coming along the road started shouting "SANDY! stop spinning that accumulator, stop spinning it or you'll mix up all the programmes" Gosh! I never thought of that one, funny how one discovery leads to an other.
Sandy Johnston

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