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

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April 2015 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Eigg
Railway and harbour news
Local Genealogy

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Mallaig prepares for Spring
Heart of the Community Trust grants £4,376 to Mallaig Community Council

The Mallaig Community Council is making sure that the village looks its very best this year with new quality planters about to replace ageing village flower tubs. Scottish Sea Farms has donated £4,376 to the community to fund the purchase of 12 new planters. Floral displays can make a huge difference to the way an area is perceived by locals and visitors alike and these new flower planters will really improve the appearance of the village centre. Volunteers are now busy preparing the planters but it will be some weeks before the weather is mild enough to fill them with plants.
Jacqueline MacDonald, Treasurer, Mallaig Community Council, said: 'These new planters will really make it a pleasure for all to stroll around the village. The old wooden tubs had reached the end of their lives and the new planters were expensive, so it is great that Scottish Sea Farms has helped us with this project. Mallaig will certainly be blooming this summer.'
Peter Coull, Scottish Sea Farms, said: 'I was delighted when I heard that the Scottish Sea Farms Heart of the Community Trust was going to fund Mallaig's new planters. They have always been such a focal point throughout the village but sadly had passed their best. Once completed and in full bloom the new planters will look fantastic, and be an asset to the community year after year.'

Photo: Peter Coull from Scottish Sea Farms helps Mallaig Community Council volunteers get the new planters ready, l-r Jacqueline MacDonald, John Young, Peter, Martin Sullivan, Audrey McKay


When the Mackintosh Centre, Mallaig's care home, closed its doors to residents in July 2014, patients and their families were told it was for six weeks while investigations were underway. Nine months later it remains shut to the great concern of the community. The six residents were moved to Invernevis House in Fort William, with staff from the Mackintosh Centre travelling up daily to help with their care. This involves a round trip of 80 miles for the staff and for the residents' families, many of whom are elderly or frail themselves. Mary Purdon has now spoken out on behalf of her 86 year old father, Lewis Purdie, who has been travelling up to Invernevis House frequently to visit his 81 year old wife, Mary. Lewis, in spite of a serious heart condition, looked after his wife for nine years after she suffered a stroke in 2004. She developed dementia and when a place became available at the Mackintosh Centre two years ago, it was the perfect solution. On a mobility scooter, Lewis was only five minutes away from her. The stress involved since Mary was moved has caused him to be admitted to the Belford twice.
Daughter Mary told West Word: 'We got a phone call in July to say that Mum would be moved the next day. It was a complete shock. We only had a day to get her things ready. The residents' personal bits and pieces are still at the Mac waiting for their return.
'Mum has dementia and we had been told it was not a good idea to move her. But she was taken to Invernevis House and consequently was confused, not knowing where she was, not recognising familiar faces, and we weren't able to visit so frequently.'
Lewis now relies on arranged transport to visit his wife. On the occasion of his 60th wedding anniversary in August this failed to arrive, so the family had to scramble to make their own arrangements to attend the celebration at Invernevis House, which in turn meant the couple could only spend a short time together.
Lewis told West Word: 'We feel let down very badly. The residents were moved without local medical knowledge. But we have only praise for the staff of the Mac and of Invernevis House, they're wonderful - it's the decision makers who are the problem.'
Siobhan Nicol's mother, Shenagh MacDonald, was one of the patients moved at a day's notice from the Centre to Invernevis House. Siobhan said 'When they moved her, my mother was ill. In our opinion she should not have been moved. She spent a while bedridden and totally disorientated in Invernevis House with staff she did not know and who knew nothing about her. My mum was walking with the aid of a zimmer before she was moved; since then she has been in a wheelchair most of the time.'
Margaret Kennedy, whose 81 year old mother Ellen was also moved to Fort William, shares their worries.
She said everything they hear is second hand and the fortnightly drop-in sessions for the relatives are pointless because when they go no-one can tell them anything.
Shortage of staff is the official reason why the Centre has not yet re-opened; several attempts at recruitment have not yielded the desired result. The latest advert was at least displayed in local shops instead of hidden away on the NHS website and resulted in 17 applicants who are being interviewed as we go to press. (West Word offered to place a free advert but this offer was not taken up.) NHS Highland deny the rumours which abound that it is the staff shortages at Invernevis House which is causing the problem.
Meanwhile the frustration and uncertainty of the situation has caused several key staff of the Centre and some new trainees to leave; others are off long term sick.
NHS Scotland have given dates for reopening - December - February - March - April - now it may be June. Meanwhile anger and distress is growing, caused by the poor way in which the situation has been handled.
The official terminology used in the situation that caused the closure has caused further stress and anxiety. The Mackintosh Centre was closed suddenly because it was 'unsafe' and an investigation is under way after there were allegations against two members of staff of 'institutional abuse'. Abuse is a word which raises all sorts of fears and it was five months before the families got informal confirmation that no resident had been harmed or neglected. The investigation is still under way but is not the reason the Centre remains closed.
Dr Gartshore and Dr Katrina Geissel have written a detailed letter on behalf of the Mallaig & Arisaig Medical Practice to Liz Featherstone, the District Manager of NHS Highland, in which they express their unease and concerns for the future plans of the Centre. They are concerned that there has been no direct communication with the Practice with regards to the proposed re-opening. At the time of going to press, two weeks after the letter was sent, the Doctors have had no reply.
In a letter dated 18th March, they write: 'We remain concerned about the closure of the Mackintosh Centre for several reasons. The initial decision to close the Centre was handled poorly, and there was no planning for the involvement of the local GPs in preparing the residents for transferů.we feel strongly that Drs Gartshore & Geissel, the local responsible clinicians who were involved with the residents, users and staff of the Mackintosh Centre on a daily basis, were not informed of the concerns, the decisions and the process of closure. We hope that those involved have learnt valuable lessons about the need for clear communication in such instances. Despite that, it would appear that communication about the future of the Mackintosh Centre remains a problem.'
The letter continues: 'The continued closure has many implications for the wider community and locality, specifically due to the lack of respite beds and paucity of residential long term care locally. This has had a detrimental effect on many of the local elderly patients and their families, and our impression is that this has resulted in increased acute hospital admissions, increased strain on Carers and increased demand for Home Care.'
The Doctors are concerned that there have been situations in recent months where their patients have died in hospital when they could have spent their remaining weeks at the Centre close to family and friends.
After expressing concerns about the considerable costs involved so far in maintaining the facility, staff and transport costs, the letter ends 'We look forward to being involved in the plans to arrange safe transfer of the residents back to the Mackintosh Centre.'
A meeting with all the Lochaber Councillors was held on 31st March. Councillor Allan Henderson has been trying to get clear answers from NHS Highland for months. Allan told West Word:
'There is no doubt that the lack of information coming out from NHS Highland has fuelled the flames. Not one scrap of paper was issued despite acceptance that this was the route to go. Use of intemperate language in local press has also had a demoralising effect on the hard working and dedicated staff of the Mackintosh. If staff shortages, which were flagged up in an earlier care inspection, had been properly addressed, then I feel this would never have escalated to full closure. Internal investigation should have been swift and never again take this length of time. I don't believe senior management can claim much credit from this debacle. You cannot treat staff like this and expect things to be normal.
'A clear the air meeting, such as we had on Tuesday 31st , should have happened much earlier, involving not only local councillors but residents' relatives and the medical fraternity in Mallaig. The assurance now being given that suitable new staff can be fast tracked into post should and could have been given much earlier in this process. I have a suspicion that this has been convenient to staff Invernevis House which is also understaffed, and this will become clear once the staffing review is complete.'
West Word spoke to Joanna MacDonald, NHS Highland's Director of Adult Social Care, who gave an update on the problem of staffing.
'A lesson has been learned by this situation - hindsight is a good thing and we realise things should have been done differently. The local medical staff are being kept informed now.
'We have been endeavouring to recruit, have interviewed and appointed people and then they haven't taken up the job. I can't say how many we need as the number of staff required is dependent on the residents' needs, and in addition, we have staff off long term sick. We're hoping this latest round will produce enough staff for us to re-open the Mackintosh Centre and if so that will be before June, but we anticipate the process will take two months. Disclosures will be fast tracked and training will be given. The staff at Invernevis House have been receiving ongoing training. I want to make it very clear that the re-opening of the Mackintosh is not determined by the staffing levels at Invernevis. We have no plans to close the Centre - to do so we would have to go through the correct procedures which would involve consultation with the community.
'We want to be fully ready when we re-open and have undertaken a major refurbishment of bedrooms and bathrooms at the Centre, consulting the clients as to the colours they preferred where possible.'
Mrs MacDonald confirmed that a letter went out to staff before Easter concerning the proposed reopening planned for June and that letters to residents' families would be posted out on the 7th April.
It is time the Centre re-opened and their residents returned. It is time the investigation was completed, lifting a cloud from the village. The ones suffering most in this situation are all frail, elderly and vulnerable.. There are now only four residents waiting to be moved back to the Centre and they deserve to live out their lives near to their families who miss them. The resource is there; there is no excuse for little and no communication from the authorities.
As we go to print on Sunday 12th April, no letters have been received by the families or the Doctors...

It's been quite a busy month here, with lots happening and everyone beginning to get geared up for the start of the season. March started off with World Book Day, a good day in school, as all the kids (and staff) participated in dressing up as characters from books. We had a right mix, from Angelina Ballerina to William Wallace to Fantastic Mr Fox, as well as Matilda, a WW1 soldier, and Dick Whittington . And sticking to school news for a minute, our kids also enjoyed the Red Nose Day Danceathon which was held on Mallaig pier, taking part with the Lady Lovat Pupils. They also did their part by baking lots of cakes in school to sell at the pier after the dance off.
It seems to have been the month of raising money really, as it was also International Women's day, a favourite on Knoydart. This year's theme was "Lumberjills" and we had a barn dance at night, with everyone clad in checked shirts, denim and a variety of dungarees. As Jackie so rightly pointed out... not that much different from my usual attire! The "Promises" auction was a great success as it always is, where locals offer a skill or promise and others can bid on it, for example Morag's Curry night takeaway for 4. It definitely shows what a bunch of talented folk we have over here.
The Phase 2 felling in the woods is nearly finished now, and it's quite dramatic the difference it has made. There are some photos on the Visit Knoydart Facebook page if you feel like having a look.
Somewhere in the middle of the month there was some lovely weather and it felt like winter might finally be overů the daffodils were all out and blooming, the skies were blue, and dare I say it, there was almost some warmth in the sun! However, it didn't last, and now we are back to snow capped hills and Baltic winds. Can only hope it might get better now its Aprilů.. On the subject of weather I should probably also mention the solar eclipse... Not that that's exactly weather. Or is it? But anyway, yes, after all the build up and the glorious sunny days surrounding the 20th March it was a dreich miserable sort of day and so we didn't really see very much! There was the sense that it got vaguely darker and eerier but I'm not sure how much of that was wishful thinking! It was a shame, as the following morning dawned gorgeous and bright, not a cloud in the sky. Typical!
The 21st however, was a bit more exciting as the now famous (ish) band Daimh came to play a gig in the hall. It was a really good night and I hear the parties afterward were of the good ole days scale!
The Seabridge boats are now back on summer timetable, meaning there are a lot more sailings back and forth, if you fancy a wee day trip. Western Isles is also back in the water. I'm looking forward to a wee booze cruise up the loch soon! Hope everyone had a good Easter!
Heather Gilmour

This month I am extending a special welcome to the school who will in future join me on the Muck column. It is far better that events like their exciting week in Edinburgh is recorded from the inside.
This month I am starting with a moan and no it is not Cal Mac! In fact they deserve praise for not sticking to the timetable and calling at Muck on the first suitable day. No it is Highland Council. And I must say first that they gave us a new school though it is quite a long time ago and it was rumoured that officials wanted to send us a portacabin and it was Michael Foxley who stopped them. Since then the school has never been empty. Today the story is less happy. The old school still stands-totally derelict. The pier waiting room is little better though it is 10 years since the great storm. The road from the pier to the main road is a disgrace and the recycling centre an eyesore. The school is full of minor faults well within the abilities of several islanders. We don't expect Highland Council to rectify everything but even when Marine Harvest offered to assist they were given a very discouraging reply. We need action and we certainly would love a visit from Alan Henderson this summer.
Now on a happier note - the bunkhouse is open. Totally refurbished by Colin and Ruth with quite a lot of non professional help from other islanders this cosy and well equipped building is well worth a visit. Well done everyone.
That's about all this month - the sun is shining and lambing has started.
Lawrence MacEwen

It has been an exciting and busy March at Muck Primary School. We began the month with World Book Day and dressing up as characters from our favourite stories. We then started baking in anticipation of our funny face cake competition, for Comic Relief. The whole community joined in the fun. We raised £350 and everyone was on hand to eat the winning cakes!
We have started planting a variety of fruit, vegetables and flowers in school in as we await the arrival of our poly tunnel next month.
We have all just arrived back from a joint school trip to Edinburgh with Eigg Primary School. We received funding from 'Access to Education' to allow us to visit the city. The trip included the National Museum of Scotland, The National Art Gallery of Scotland, Dynamic Earth, the Central Mosque, Arthur's Seat, storytelling and a bus tour. We had great weather and there was a great deal of learning, not all of which was intended, such as meeting street performers, including Yoda and Spanish singers.
Muck Primary School

Two groups of National Trust Conservation Volunteers have been on the island planting 1100 new trees. These are native, slow growing varieties such as oak, hazel, birch and Scot's pine. Thanks to them for all their hard work.
The Isle of Canna Community Development Trust has appointed local man Stewart Connor to be the Project Development Officer for the Canna Renewable and Electrification Project. We are delighted to have Stewart involved as he has a wealth of knowledge in this industry and this position has created local employment.
Looking forward to Canna Cafe reopening on the 3rd April and our population is due to go up in May with the appointment by NTS of a new archivist for Canna House and a new Senior Ranger.
There have been lots of contractors on the island upgrading accommodation and folks changing houses, and it is good to see improvements being made to the housing stock. Farming is busy at the moment with lots of new calves and getting ready for lambing, which starts on the 20th April.
Two pairs of sea eagles have been nest building and we are waiting confirmation from regular monitor Martin Carty from Mallaig if they have laid eggs, hope they have better luck than last year. Cheers
Geraldine MacKinnon

Despite the generally awful gale and rain lashed weather, "March did provide the odd sign that spring might be on the way", John our SWT warden tells us. Indeed it was hard to believe it was, with that bitter northerly wind, not a sign of any celandine or primrose to be seen but nevertheless, "returning Skylarks, Pied Wagtails & Meadow Pipits have begun to appear in some numbers with the first 'genuine' migrant, Wheatear, first logged on the 23rd. Offshore, the first Gannets were observed on the 13th whilst a Great Skua was seen on the 22nd & the first Manx Shearwaters appeared on April 1st. Passage birds were few & far between though 30 Whooper Swans were observed passing north on the 11th. Other odds & ends included a Canada Goose on the 25th, a couple of Iceland Gulls, a Brambling on the 20th & a Yellowhammer briefly at garden feeders on the 15th. A lone Peacock at the Glebe was the only butterfly record while mammal sightings included several Otter records & a group of Bottle Nosed Dolphins present around the pier between the 21st & 23rd. Optimist of the month though has to be the Pipistrelle bat seen briefly on the wing at 12.15 hrs on the 15th." On the odd warm day, eagles have also been observed flying over Cleadale in their spectacular aerial displays but on the whole the dismal weather has taken its toll on the island cattle with quite a few losses this month.
Despite all this bone chilling cold, the solar eclipse on the 20th March was a thrilling event with the school children building all sorts of devices to watch it safely and some spectacular pictures taken owing to the light cloud cover. But contrary to what Prof Brian Cox announced, the birds did carry on singing as if nothing had happened at all! Obviously not dark enough in our part of the world but spectacular nonetheless, like the vivid display of Northern lights earlier on, which thrilled those who saw it. We have now decided on an island wide Northern lights alert as it is very frustrating to hear from those who saw it when you've missed it yourself!
March was a big month for the Eigg children who went on their much awaited Small Isles school trip which involved a trip to the National Museum of Scotland, a mosque and the theatre to see the Pirates of Penzance. Well done Eigg and Muck schools!
The rest of us are waiting for the spring to come in earnest, but Wes, as optimist at our lonely pipistrelle, has been planting an entire woodland in Cleadale, whilst Pascal and Catherine are busy harvesting their willow to make their wonderful baskets which now feature in the latest Outlander film. They along with other Eigg crafters - Libby and Jenny - have their wares displayed until end of April in a great Edinburgh Royal Mile venue, the Storytelling Centre no less!
Camille Dressler

Magical Morar Hotel to be lovingly restored under new ownership
One of Scotland's most iconic hotels, the historic Morar Hotel is now under new management after being bought by private hoteliers Stuart Sherwood and Christopher Manumbali. This heralds a new beginning for the property, built in 1902, with the new owners looking to restore the hotel to its former glory.
After spending many years in New Zealand in international education, Stuart has returned to UK to take up his role as Managing Director and begin the new challenge of positioning the hotel at the forefront of the West Highlands hospitality industry. Christopher, with a business background, will take on the role of Business Development and Restaurant Manager at the prominent Highland hotel.
Situated three miles from Mallaig, the Morar Hotel features stunning views of the famous silver sands of Morar and the inner Hebridean islands of Rum and Eigg. The breath-taking landscape of the area, including the Glenfinnan viaduct, famously featured in the blockbuster movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Its new owners are also aiming to create something magical at the hotel including gothic stone arches, heavy oil paintings and magic Persian carpets.
Stuart, Managing Director of the Morar Hotel commented:
"The Morar Hotel is a beautiful mansion house in a location that really has to be seen to be believed. Chris and I are really excited about restoring the hotel and re-capturing its early 20th century grandeur and charm. This includes using bell boys for luggage and using old Highland recipes, whilst also equipping the buildings with full wifi throughout. Both the hotel and the surrounding area have a rich history and that, combined with the spectacular countryside and scenery, make this a truly unique tourist destination. We are looking forward to growing the business and offering a hotel and restaurant that the local community and the travelling public can enjoy."
Stuart continued:
"There are many stories about the hotel dating back over a hundred years and we are keen to capture and celebrate the history of the property. Since taking ownership we've discovered that the hotel has Royal connections too. HRH Prince Michael of Kent even used to be a regular visitor who enjoyed trout fishing in the area!"
The Morar Hotel is now recruiting and anyone interested in being part of its comeback can contact Chris at chris@morarhotel.co.uk
For all enquiries please contact reservations@morarhotel.co.uk or phone 01687 462346.

News in Brief
Dave Thompson, our MSP, has been forced off the election trail after playing football with his 6 year old grandson on Easter Sunday. He has broken his leg, which prevented him from accompanying SNP candidate for the area Ian Blackford on his canvas of Eigg and the Mallaig area; however he plans to work from home - if he can get up the stairs to his office! Charles Kennedy, the Lob Dem candidate for this area, has also had to take time off the election trail after the death of his father last weekend.

Lady Lovat Primary School Centenary Celebration
On Friday 15 May 2015 Lady Lovat Primary School officially marks the centenary of the opening of the school.
Pupils and staff warmly welcome past pupils, parents and carers and members of the community to an Open Afternoon where there will be a display of photos and artefacts on view and current pupils will perform the first public rendition of the specially written Centenary Song, composed by the children and arranged by Jim Hunter, provide musical entertainment, present a short dramatisation of the school through the ages and offer guided tours of the school, beginning at 1.30pm. A time capsule containing one item provided by every pupil in the school will be buried on the day.
There will be a children's concert in Morar Hotel at 7pm, followed by a ceilidh dance with music provided by Eilidh and Ross Martin, Jim Hunter, Fiona Cameron and other local guest artistes to which everyone is cordially invited.
A finger buffet, provided by parents and staff, will be available during the evening.
Tickets, at a cost of £5 can be purchased from the school and Toys and Gifts, Mallaig. Entrance is free to children, who must be accompanied by an adult.
A prize raffle will be held. There will be the opportunity to buy a helium filled Centenary Balloon with label attached, to be released in the evening. A prize will be presented, eventually, to the person whose balloon travels the furthest.
Also on offer will be a competition sheet inviting you to 'Name That Child' from a rogue's gallery of past and present staff.
Plans are under way to have a booklet on sale to mark the occasion which will include excerpts from the original school log book, a report on the history of the school provided by Alasdair Roberts, interviews and items researched by current pupils and a collection of photographs, happy memories and anecdotes.
Further information can be provided by contacting Fiona MacKellaig at Lady Lovat Primary School, telephone 01687 46 2127, email: fiona.mackellaig@highland.gov.uk

Personal Angle

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember the local Fish Merchant Sandy Reid, who also operated a local Fish Shop on the 'wee' pier.
The Fish Shop was quite unusual in that there was a series of holes drilled in the concrete floor because on the occasion of exceptional high tides the sea water would rise up the holes and into the shop!
I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was an early flood defence system, more a flood release system, as when the tide went out so did the water from the shop floor!
I don't know where Allan Henderson found the calendar but it was issued by James Reid, Fish Merchant, Mallaig. The date? 1932 - 83 years ago!!



The local Fishsalesmen's office of Geo Walker & Sons had a wee 'Spring Clean' last month and this 400 piece jigsaw - dating back to the 60's - was found. The two men on the pier are not known but on board The Minnnie are Jimmy Sutherland and Billy McLean.

Last month's Fishing News contained this piece in their 'Looking Back' column -

This Week - 20 years ago:
The major development programme for the Scottish west coast port of Mallaig is set to go ahead following an additional award of £1.9m from the EU's Objective 1 fund. Mallaig Harbour Authority had already succeeded in winning a grant of £4.1m from the Scottish Office towards the £6.8m total cost of the development, but Mallaig Harbour secretary Robert MacMillan said that the two amounts combined ensured that the project would certainly now go ahead.

Here are some facts - courtesy of the Highland Council - which illustrate the benefits of recycling and should encourage us all to recycle more of our waste.


The photo above crossed my desk courtesy of Hendry Addison and shows the area in Mallaig known as Station Square. John Duthie's Chemist Shop is on the right (advertising Capstan cigarettes in the window) and the Railway Parcels and Ticket Office with the small canopy over the ticket office window. The entrance arch to the Station is in the middle of the photo and the car, I think, is a Ford Anglia!!! Station Porter Guy Johnston is pictured in the foreground walking towards the Station and Norman MacLennan can be seen leaning against the wall outside his work place, the Parcel/Left Luggage Office. Year of photo is probably mid 60's!

I'm grateful to Molly (MacLellan) Buchanan, Marie Henderson and Viga MacKay who all contributed in one way or another in allowing me to grace this page of West Word with this splendid photograph. I also thank Donnie MacDonald for his recollections.


Donnie, the youngster on the right of the photo, says 'I was wearing the uniform of the time - corduroy shorts and a woolly jersey - and helping, in my youthful way, Joe Jurasek, Molly and Watty Buchanan with the horses, as we planted potatoes at Seaview, Morar.' Donnie also recalls that the horses were based at Cross Farm with local crofters using them (hiring them?) when the need arose.


Looking back... Twenty years ago - April 1995
The front page of the April 1995 edition of West Word (Vol. 1 issue 6) proclaimed the opening of the Glenuig Hall - Talla Ghlinn Uige - and told of the fundraising history and of the opening day's festivities, which included entertainment from The Battlefield Band and the Roshven Ceilidh Band who had reformed specially for the occasion. The other front page story was the proposed sale of Eigg by Keith Schellenberg to the German artist Prof Maruma!!
It was a case of 'Up Periscope' for Ewen Nicholson and John MacAlister, plus other West Coast Fishermen who took up the invitation to take-a-trip on HMS Splendid, a nuclear submarine.
The death of Arisaig Estate owner Miss Joan Becher was reported and, on a lighter note, Dennis Eddie's appearance on the Channel Four TV Show 'Crystal Maze' was described as an 'amaze-ing' experience! 'Euro Cash Aids Mallaig Project' was the headline on page 4 and the article below the headline told of the building of five workshop units on Westbay and highlighted the Council's other projects - the building of the car park and the major new sewerage works. Children from Arisaig Primary raised over £100 for Comic Relief by running 8 miles in their pyjamas and a pyjama swim, and other events in Mallaig School raised over £200 for the charity.
Among the Planning Applications listed were the proposed development in Mallaig of four shop units and five residential flats above, for Mr & Mrs Andrew Fleming, Arisaig, while Lawrence MacEwen penned an article on the memories of an Island at War - Muck 1939 - 45.
About 70 folk partied in Knoydart on the occasion of the 18th birthday of Catriona MacKenzie and noted Irish accordionist Malachy Doris played 'The Dark Island' in the Morar Bar - a touching tribute to its composer, Iain MacLaughlan who had recently passed away.
The main feature story was the 'Recollections of a Mallaig Childhood' by 98 year old Bella Muir, and she is pictured with Robbie John de Fresnes (Jill the Editor's new son). There was also news of a High School 'Swinnimg Gala' which proves I suppose, that we had printing errors back there as well!!
We also had a whole page in Gaelic, with the English translation beside it, 'Glimpses of the Past' by Paul Galbraith.
Couldn't find an April 1st spoof story tho'.
Robert MacMillan (written in April 2005

Ten years ago - April 2005
I'm often struck by the coincidental 'sameness' of things when looking back at past West Words. In our last issue, March 2015, we carried a photo of a digger at Traigh - and what is on the front page of the issue for April 2005 (Vol 11, Issue 6)? Yes, you've guessed it. The digger was used to carry out repairs on the bridge on the road at Traigh, a task which had closed the coastal road for nine weeks. Luckily the stretch of new road from Arisaig to Mallaig had been opened but local residents complained of lack of consultation, the road being closed at the start of the summer season, with 'Road Closed' signs leading visitors to believe they couldn't use any of the coastal route.
A strange object had appeared on the Morar River...
The first Rum Music Festival was being planned for mid-May, with a full tw0 day programme of events. And we wished a happy birthday to Glenuig Hall, ten years old that month - see above!
There was a page of Gaelic poetry from the Gaelic Medium which was then at Lady Lovat Primary School and we had photos and results of pupils from Lady Lovat winning the Lochaber Cross Country and events in the Lochaber Festival, and local youngsters winning an art competition as part of the Mountain Festival.
Whatever happened to the Morar Field Club? It went very well for some time, and in April 2005 they reported on two interesting meetings held in Morar Bar!
There was a full page article by Colin Speedie of the Wildlife Trust's Basking shark project, entitled 'Basking Sharks on the increase in Scotland!' it compared studies undertaken in the summer of 2004 with one in 2002, when they saw only one shark. In 2004, a total of 109 sharks were sighted in Scotland's waters, compared with 15 off England.
Colin was quick to say that this didn't necessarily meant there were more sharks, but possibly a result of them following beneficial ocean currents.

Colin Speedie's photo of a Basking Shark

All the regulars had articles: the Coastal Ranger (on the new Access laws); Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner (plankton); Birdwatch (sightings of a potential albino Blackbird) and A Little Genealogy (the photographs of M E Donaldson), amongst others.
David Stewart MP, representing Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber (an odd mix), wrote his last column for West Word as the constituency boundary changes were about to be made and he was going to represent the new area of Inverness, Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey. .Lochaber was merged with Skye and most of Ross. Fergus Ewing was our MSP and was also lost to us in the shuffle.
Members were being sought for a scuba diving club...
The For Sales column included a 2 year old Highland filly and a Specialised Hardrock Sport Hardtail (black).
Ann Martin


Sunday April 26th will mark the 3rd Anniversary of the official opening of the Mallaig Marina. It has certainly proved an asset to the village as well as the Harbour and with the Esplanade now complete - apart from some minor adjustments and improvements - the final piece of the "sailing master plan" is about to be unveiled.

The Esplanade nears completion

Workmen finishing off the bandstand

Yes, within the next few weeks the building that will house the showers/toilets/laundry facilities will be completed and open for business. For the past three years the main gripe from the sailing community has been the lack of facilities at Mallaig. Come May/June that will no longer be the case.
The Harbour Authority is indebted to Nevis Estate a willing partner in the development of the Esplanade and Lovat Slipway and the sole contributor to the Marina Facilities Building and Crannog.
Robert MacMillan
01687 462154

So, it's official, British Summertime is here!
Hard to believe, I know, as we dodge the gales, rain, sleet and snow that is still persisting! especially when unloading two tons of 70 litre grow bags! But, just occasionally you can 'make a pair of sailor's trousers out of a patch of overhead blue sky', as my Gran used to say, and 'things' are shooting up and sprouting from the ground - especially the dandelions and brambles! The daffodils that have not been destroyed are blooming, the tulips are still in really tight buds - let alone flower, the camellias are out in bloom in the shelter belt and the skimmias, pieris and leucothoe shrubs all look really healthy. The cultivated rhododendrons are going to be OK, as will the eucalyptus and bay leaf standard trees after a bit of TLC. All the seeds are late (or so it seems) except for primroses, polyanthus, violas and pansies which are fine flowering plants. Plenty to keep me going! I am to get a delivery any time soon of three more wooden barrel trains for distribution at Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig Railway Stations. At Mallaig I have permission to extend last year's train and make it a 'double header' with six planter goods wagons behind it. It should look quite spectacular when planted up.
Steve and I had an enjoyable two day stay in Glasgow to attend the Annual First ScotRail Station Adopters lunch/day at the Jury's Inn Hotel. It is always a pleasure to meet up with at least two hundred Station Adopters and swap ideas, photos, stories, plants and seeds. In total we now number nearly four hundred voluntary gardeners but some people combine it with working full time as well! A good selection of speakers were there, including a .Britain in Bloom' Judge. It certainly was a learning curve for him to see what we achieve, and we all had clean hands and nails for the occasion!!

Today, as I write this column on April 1st (sorry Ed, late again!) Abellio, at 2.00am took on the control to run the next 'ScotRail' franchise. Jeff Hoogesteger, CEO of Abellio Group, said of the moment: 'This is a huge day for Abellio and indeed the Netherlands, which has such a rich history of commercial and cultural trade with Scotland.' We look forward to them managing Scotland's national rail network. I am very pleased that the majority of the existing First ScotRail Management are initially retained in the first six months of the contract as they 'bed in'. Locally all our station managers and station staff, drivers, conductors, cleaners and despatchers, plus the on board catering staff are all retained, as are the booking office staff and cleaners. Thanks go to all of them who tolerate my voluntary work to make the Railway Stations bloom! There are currently vacancies on the website of Abellio for on board catering staff to work on the branch line between Mallaig and Fort William. Currently we do not have any!
Initially the only changes for our line today (April 1st) are new badges saying 'ScotRail Scotland's Railway' and staff name, and new ties and scarves. The only trace of Abellio is going to be on the drivers' cab doors saying 'ScotRail is operated by abellio group'. We look forward to more improvements - watch this space!!
One major announcement change to the timetable announced so far is that we are to keep our Sunday train service between Fort William and Mallaig all the year round. Three cheers!! No longer will Mallaig lose the service at the end of each summer. The next timetable, due out May 17th 2015 will confirm this. At last.
The retained Management Team from First ScotRail are 'co-locating' on April 11th to the Abellio Group offices, 3rd Floor, 151-155 St Vincent Street, Glasgow G2 5NW. Network Rail operate out of the same building. The staff training centre will, for now, be retained at Atrium Court, Glasgow.

'New look' for the Caledonian Sleeper Service
At 2.00am on April 1st the 15 year franchise holders of the Sleeper service officially took over. They are the 'Serco' Group of Companies. Earlier that night at 7.45pm (Tuesday March 31st) the 'Sleeper Scot' rolling stock on the Fort William to Euston section of the train was unveiled with the new look Serco logo (a 5 point white stag). The carriages, painted in their new livery of 'Midnight Teal', were hauled by Class 67 67004 (renamed Cairngorm) in number two platform at Fort William.

Spud the Piper (who featured recently on TV's The Mountain) pipes away the Sleeper on the 31st March

At 17.50 special guests, VIP's and the travelling passengers were piped aboard the newly refurbished train by the splendidly attired Piper.
Once on board the 'guests' were welcomed by the attendants, resplendent in their new Midnight Teal tweed uniforms. As the train departed the newly appointed Managing Director for the Caledonian Sleeper, Peter Strachan, made his way through the carriages personally greeting those on board.
As the train crossed the border at about 2.00am, it was a fond farewell to First ScotRail, the previous holders of the franchise. The transition took place without any problems, and the train arrived at London Euston at 7.47am exactly on time.
Although the franchise holders have changed, it will be a further three years before the major upgrading will be in place. The most notable changes to date are obviously the different exterior appearance of the carriages and locomotive. Along with the newly styled comprehensive true 'taste of Scotland' menu served in the Lounge Car, there is a fully stocked bar and snacks, comfortable soft furnishings, newly 'refreshed' bed linen, complimentary 'Arran Aromatics' guest toiletries, a complimentary sleep pack with padded sleep mask to aid relaxation and ensure a good night's sleep. The reclining set 'sitting up' section of the train is warm, cosy, curtained and comfortable. Breakfast can be ordered. There are various new leaflets freely available at staffed ScotRail Stations as well as a newly dedicated website, www.sleeper.scot
I for one wish the new franchise holders all the very best in the foreseeable future and I hope it encourages more people to travel overnight by sleeper. It really is an experience not to be missed. For the best prices and latest offers, book online at sleeper.scot During the franchise changeover period there have been one or two glitches concerning booking but Serco are determined to give good service.
As I briefly mentioned in my column in last month's West Word, the locomotives hauling the new Caledonian Sleeper were to be Class 73/9's, but as they are not available until later in the year, Serco has re-negotiated a contract with D B Shenker to supply Class 7's. in the meantime the Drivers for the new sleeper service are employed by G B Railfreight and will take the train to Helensburgh, a change of driver (G B Railfreight) will take the train into Edinburgh via Glasgow Queen Street Low Level. Until the handover the Fort William sleeper was always driven by Fort William drivers employed by ScotRail as far as Rannoch Monday to Friday, and to Bridge of Orchy on Sundays. This pool of drivers is retained into the ScotRail/Abellio pool of drivers. The change of Operating Companies has not incurred any compulsory redundancies.

March West Word Competition Result
Only a few cards in for the DVD prize. The answer was 'Norman McNab' and the winner is Pauline Frazer from Inverness. Congratulations.

Rannoch Railway Station Tea Room and Craft Emporium
The lease for the above became available in 2014 and was taken on by Bill and Jenny Anderson who live very close to the station. Just this week Steve and I visited them by train from Mallaig. By departing Mallaig on the 10.10am train you get 2Ż hours to enjoy the surroundings and the ambiance there before returning into Mallaig on the 5,35pm train. Open every day except Friday, from 8.30am to 4.30pm between March 1st and October 31st.
It is a little gem of a station. Don't just take my word for it - try it!! On the day we visited, Venison Casserole was the 'Dish of the Day' with creamy mash, and wonderful home-made cakes, pots of tea, soup of the day etc etc. Toasties were proving popular and I'm pretty sure if you were travelling through to Glasgow and wanted a pre-ordered bacon/sausage/egg bap you could ring Jenny in advance on 01882 633247 to have it ready to hand to you on the train!! The locally produced crafts include tiles, paperweights, jewellery, turned wooden items (including lovely porridge spurtles), home-made jams and marmalade, postcards and stamps that can be posted at the station, etc etc.
Jenny's Mum Kathy Weston makes wonderful soft felt and wool animals and birds for sale. A pair of turtle doves really caught my eye. There is a separate section of the building dedicated to the flora, fauna and history of Rannoch. This was opened by David Bellamy. I could go on and on about the scented herb pots of thyme on the tables, the glass domed jar of felt mice but I know that our esteemed Editor will already be tearing her hair out at me so suffice to say - try it!

Sonia awaiting her venison casserole at the Rannoch Tearoom

Jenny has offered a complimentary lunch for two people travelling to Rannoch by ScotRail, at a date of their choice, as a competition prize this month - so here goes.

Who opened the section of the Rannoch Station Building dedicated to flora and fauna of Rannoch?
Answers on a postcard please to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD, to arrive no later than Monday April 27th. Good luck.

And FINALLY - a few quick dates to note:
Saturdays April 25th - May 2nd - May 9th: The first three Royal Scotsman luxury touring trains arrive into Mallaig.
Monday May 11th: First New Season Jacobite Steam Train into Mallaig 12.20pm.
Sunday May 17th: New ScotRail timetable out.
Monday May 18th: First New Season Jacobite afternoon Steam Train into Mallaig 4.40pm.
See you on the train!
Sonia Cameron


Kirsteen Campbell sent in this picture of one of Canna's resident greyhounds, Rury, enjoying a scamper on Coroghan beach...
'He's one very happy boy to be living here!' she says.


Now Lewis from Cnoc-na-Faire has had his fifteen minutes of fame he can't get enough. 'So far so good I love being retired.'


Brr, we're in the cold again!

Andy and Liz Tibbetts from Doune, Knoydart, took their West Words to the border between Finland and Sweden, North of the Arctic Circle. When we expressed delight that the had one each, Andy confessed it's two photos stitched together. Very clever, we can't see the join!

Ray and Gael Mackie, well kent faces in Mallaig, took their copy to the Iguazu Falls in Argentina, where they were attending a Numark Pharmacy conference. Gael says it was very wet! The Iguazu River flows through Brazil but most of the falls are in Argentina.

Julie and Ray Gordon travelled from Arisaig to Norway with their West Word, where they went dog sledding amongst other wintry pastimes!

Ann the Ed and husband Richard made sure they packed their copy (or we wouldn't have heard the last of it!) when they went to Cappadocia in Central Turkey. This photo was taken in the Goreme National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site - inside the holes in the rocks are churches with painted walls.

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald - March 2015
A mixed bag weatherwise this month, with wintry spells early and at the end of the month. However, there were definite signs of spring, with Great -spotted Woodpeckers drumming iin Morar and Arisaig, Skylarks singing and displaying at Back of Keppoch and Traigh. Buzzards were seen soaring and displaying in Arisaig and Morar.
The first Wheatear reported was on the 21st in Arisaig and another was seen by Traigh golf course on the 28th.
A single Sand Martin seen hawking insects over Loch nan Eala on the 26th was the first report from this area.
Manx Shearwaters were seen in the Sound of Sleat from the 3rd week of the month.
Golden Plovers in breeding plumage were seen in fields at Back of Keppoch and Traigh during the month, including three 'Northern' type at Traigh on the 26th.
Also there was movement northwards as some of our Winter visitors cleared out. Flocks of Whooper Swans were seen heading north on several dates, including a flock of 42 over Arisaig on the 22nd and 30 over Morar on the 24th. The local Whoopers on Loch nan Eala had cleared out by the end of the third week, apart from a love juvenile which may be injured or sick. An unusual sighting was of a single adult Whooper Swan which was in Mallaig Harbour for a few hours on the 11th.
The Slavonian Grebes that wintered on Loch nan Ceall seemed to have moved on by mid month. Two birds seen close inshore near Millburn on the 29th, one of which was almost in full breeding plumage, may have been birds passing through.
Three pairs of Canada Geese were seen at Traigh on the 27th. Shelduck were seen at Glasnacardoch, Morar Estuary, Camusdarach and Loch nan Ceall.
The lone Greenshank was still on the Morar Estuary till the month end. A Kumlien's type Gull was seen around Mallaig Harbour on several dates and a single breeding plumaged Black-headed Gull was on the Morar Estuary from the 27th.
Just the odd Siskin reported from garden feeders, but Lesser Redpolls were reported from the 21st in Morar and numbers built up as the month progressed. Still Reed Buntings visiting gardens in the Woodside area and Yellowhammers reported from several gardens in Morar and Arisaig.
The Barn Owls have taken up residence again in the usual cliff site in Mallaig.

Kin Connections by Marlene (MÓiri ╔ilidh) MacDonald Cheng (mcmcheng@shaw.ca)
This month's genealogy column concerns a Gillies family from Morar, Scotland, who emigrated to Cape Breton about 1826. When they arrived in Nova Scotia, non-Gaelic-speaking people spelled their name as "Gillis" and that is how it stayed. The head of this family was John Gillis. His sloinneadh was Iain mac Dh˛mhnull 'ic E˛ghainn (John, son of Donald, son of Ewen). It's been said that John Gillis's grandfather E˛ghainn (Ewen), was the son of Iain Gillies, AKA John Gillies of Morar (or "John of Morar", for short).
John Gillis brought his family to a beautiful area of Cape Breton, peppered with lovely lakes, and settled at what became known as Gillis Lake. He was born about 1780 in Morar, Scotland, and was in his forties when they emigrated. John married Ann Gillies in Scotland about 1804. They had the following children: (1) Donald (D˛mhnull BÓn); (2) William (Uilleam); (3) James (Seumas); (4) Mary (MÓiri); (5) Angus (Aonghas); (6) Ann (Anna); and (7) a daughter who, at a young age, drowned in Gillis Lake. So sad!!
1. Donald (D˛mhnull BÓn), son of John and Ann Gillis, was born about 1805 in Morar, Scotland. In Cape Breton, about 1837, he married Jane (Sýne) MacDonald, daughter of Allan "Gardiner" MacDonald, an emigrant from South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Allan got the nickname "Gardiner" because, for some time, he had worked in Edinburgh as gardiner to Clanranald. Jane's mother was Margaret (Mairead) MacDonald, also from South Uist. Allan "Gardiner" and his family settled at Gillis Lake, which is where Donald (D˛mhnull BÓn) met his love. They had 9 children: Angus; Donald; Hugh; Sarah; Annie; John; Allan; Margaret "Maggie"; and Ronald.
2. William (Uillean), son of John and Ann Gillis, was born about 1809 in Morar, Scotland. His wife, Florence "Flora" Campbell, was born in North Uist, Scotland, on the 29th of October 1820. Her family emigrated to Cape Breton in 1823. Flora and William married about 1849 and they settled on the Beechmont Road, close to Gillis Lake. They had 6 children: Michael; Hugh; Ronald; Donald; Elizabeth; and Angus.
3. James (Seumas), son of John and Ann Gillis, was born about 1812 in Morar, Scotland. He was called "Seumas an Dh˛bhair", or "James the Drover". As a young man he was a drover, taking cattle over the mountain passes from Morar to places where cattle were bought and sold. He did not marry until he came to Cape Breton. His first wife was Ann Gillis, daughter of Gillis Gillis of Margaree, Inverness County, Cape Breton. James and Ann married about 1843. They had one son, (a) Gillis, called after his maternal grandfather. Gillis was born in 1844. His mother, Ann, died shortly after her son was born.
About 8 years later (circa 1852), James married again to Catherine Gillis, daughter of Angus and Mary (MacLellan) Gillis of Mira, Cape Breton. Catherine was born about 1831 in Grand Mira, Cape Breton. She and James had 10 more children:
(b) Margaret Ann; (c) Mary Ann; (d) Hugh Ronald; (e) John; (f) Elizabeth; (g) Duncan; (h) Angus John; (i) James Angus Mary became a priest; (j) Helena; and (k) Patrick J.
4. Mary (MÓiri), daughter of John and Ann Gillis, was born about 1815 in Morar, Scotland. About 1834 she married Donald (D˛mhnull mac Aonghais 'ic Ailean) MacDonald of East Bay, son of Angus MacDonald and Mary Steele, both from Iochdar, Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides. Mary Gillis and Donald MacDonald settled in East Bay, Cape Breton, and had 7 children: (a) Allan; (b) Alexander; (c) Margaret "Peggie"; (d) Ann "Nancy"; (e) Catherine; (f) Mary; and (g) John.
5. Angus (Aonghas) Gillis, son of John and Ann Gillis, was born in Morar, Scotland, about 1825. In about 1856 he married Ann "Nancy" MacDonald, last child of Angus and Margaret (MacEachern) MacDonald who had settled in East Bay and later at Mira, Cape Breton. Angus and Nancy settled at Gillis Lake and had 10 children: (a) Margaret; (b) John, a twin to his brother (c) Ronald; (d) Hugh; (e) Mary; (f) Peter; (g) Elizabeth; (h) Catherine; (i) Margaret; and (j) Mary Ann.
6. Ann "Nancy" Gillis, daughter of John and Ann Gillis, was born about 1828 in the Gillis Lake area, Cape Breton. I am having difficulty tracing her; perhaps I will find her by the next column.
7. Another daughter of John and Ann Gillis drowned in Gillis Lake. I have been told that she died at a young age. I hope to be able to discover her name; if any of my readers know her name, please contact me by e-mail.
More and more we are able to connect our families on both sides of the water. One of my objectives in writing this column is to find the connections now so that future generations will know something about their ancestors. In the next column I shall bring you more members of this Gillis family, with a few stories to enjoy.
If any of West Word readers have information that will help link the Gillises of East Bay and Gillis Lake, Cape Breton, to Gillies families of Morar, Moidart, and the Outer Hebrides, I would be delighted to hear from you.

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