Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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April 2021 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Glenfinnan, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
World Wide West Word

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Knoydart's Old Forge Community Benefit Society is set to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help buy the pub for the Community on 7th May. The crowdfund forms the backbone of the fundraising plan, with the aim to raise around £250,000 through it. The CBS said, 'We know how many folk there are from outwith Knoydart who hold the Forge in high regard and want to help us achieve our dream of community ownership, so through crowdfunding we want to give you the opportunity to be a part of this exciting venture.
'For those not familiar with crowdfunding, it's quite simple - in return for a financial pledge we offer a range of rewards. The theme of our campaign will be 'community' - we want everyone who has a tie to Knoydart and the Forge to be a part of this buyout regardless of where you live. There will be lots of amazing rewards which will tie in the values we have set out for the pub's future, and they will let you put your own lasting mark on the pub.'
Plans for a share issue are also taking shape. Shareholders become members of the Society with voting rights (one-member-one-vote) and may receive modest interest payments and tax relief opportunities. To ensure the Society always maintains a majority voice from within the community it serves, at least 75% of its membership must be people who live on Knoydart - these are called community shares. Once the share issue has been opened to residents, the CBS expect to also release a very small number of contributor shares. These will be available to non-residents and offer the same membership and voting rights but will have a higher minimum investment amount. They are aiming to raise a minimum of £50,000 through the share issue.
For more information and to sign up for updates on the campaign visit www.theoldforgecbs.org

Coming Soon to Arisaig ...
A transformation is currently underway in the old shop adjoining the Arisaig Hotel - soon to be the Arisaig Shellfish Shack! Brainchild of Paula Wilkinson and Claire Gunner, the Shack will take the inconvenience out of sourcing, steaming and shelling crustaceans, enabling shellfish lovers to simply take home delicious, ready to eat locally caught shellfish.
Paula and Claire say, 'We'll be selling dressed crabs, potted shrimp, bisque, half lobsters and langoustines ready to spread with a rub of your choice and chuck on your BBQ or grill, and we'll also be partnering with the Arisaig Bread Shed to produce some proper crab, lobster and langoustine rolls.' They plan to open the Shack for business sometime in May.
Arisaig's artisan bread bakers, Chris and Audrey Bradford, are about to scale up production in the 'Bread Shed' and sell their delicious bread and pastries to more than just those 'in the know'!
Chris says, 'We have been making pizzas on Saturday and bread twice a week for a few months now, and we're planning to increase this to baking three or four times a week soon. We bake our bread in a shed behind our house in Arisaig. The pizzas are fired in a wood fired oven fitted in a 1974 Citroen H van, 'Hector', which has been converted from a French auxiliary fire wagon with just 26,000 kilometres on the clock (pictured right). Originally, we envisaged travelling to all sorts of fairs and events but we quickly learned that driving a left hand drive van with a pizza oven weighing half a tonne was not the most nimble of operations! But we can take the van to weddings or birthday parties and some of our beautiful, local coastal locations. We are looking forward to catering for all the lovely weddings which have been put on hold and are now being rearranged.
'We are also delighted to be working with Arisaig Shellfish Shack to create the perfect roll to accompany all their gorgeous, local shellfish. To date, we have been trading through our Facebook Group - Arisaig and Around - but have plans to create a more accessible way for people to find out about what we are offering, very soon. Thank you to everyone for your custom and support!'

I'm very pleased to hear that the Moidart, Ardnamurchan and Morvern newspaper De Tha Dol? is getting back on its feet with a new committee and hope to resume publication in the coming months. The impact of Covid-19 had resulted in the paper running at a loss over the last year and after almost completely exhausting their reserves, the committee took the decision to suspend production in February. We wish them all the best for the future.
In the meantime, you'll see that we have some contributions in this month's West Word from one of their regular columnists, John Dye. Thank you for passing them on to us while De Tha Dol? is in hiatus, John.
So the 26th April is 'the day'; many restrictions will be lifted and I'm sure visitors will soon start to return! All the best to everyone for a successful summer season.
Once again my thanks go to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, and Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes.
Kirsty Bloom

Well after the lovely hopeful "spring is coming" weather we had we have now returned to the wet and windy seemingly endless wintery days despite the lighter nights. For the second year in a row it doesn't feel like Easter at all, but hopefully by next year we can celebrate again. Looking forward to Egg hunts, bazaars and Ceilidhs being the norm once more.
There has been a lot of work going on in relation to the hydro, and now after a lengthy and rigorous process just over £2.4 million of Scottish Government Grant, administered by Local Energy Scotland has been secured to enable Phase 3 of the £2.7 million Energy Security Project.
Planning Permission has been granted, and phase 3 is set to go ahead. The current project programme requires the new pipeline to be installed and commissioned by the end of October. This will require a 4-6 week shutdown of the hydro in August/September, going to back to the diesel generator days temporarily. When the Hydro project is complete, Inverie's electricity supply will be secured for the next 40-50 years so it's all rather exciting really.
Things have also been going on behind the scenes with the Old Forge CBS. The property has been viewed by a valuer and structural surveyor and this information will feed in to finalising the funding target and aspects of the business plan. The business plan is being created with the help of a team of consultants from Skye and is a document that will be required for any future grant applications or share offers and will set out a viable business model to follow if the community bid is successful. Hopefully the team of consultants will be able to come for a visit in May.
The "Wee Hooses" are coming along nicely in Mallaig, can't wait to see the finished results. Booking has now gone live for them, and I suspect they will be booked out pretty rapidly. They will have stunning views out over Inverie bay and are south facing with a decking so basically you get the most sun you'll get (when it does shine). Each one can sleep up to four, with a double bed and a bunk set, and come complete with kitchen, toilet, shower and wood burning stove. They are gonna be pretty cool. The bunkhouse will not be open for visitors for the most part of this year as it will be used to house the workers who will be involved in the hydro scheme.
Deer stalking, including night stalking of Roe within the village fence has come to an end, and they had a pretty successful season, which will undoubtedly be beneficial to the woodlands. A lot of tree planting has also been going on over the last few months, with trees being planted at Bhromasaig, Sgreuacha, and in the restock of the village.
This month also saw Chic, Joanne and their children Ruben and Ethan leaving for pastures new, so now there are only three kids at Inverie primary school and one in nursery, the lowest it's been for a good few years. Just as well there are a few little ones younger than that!
Cheers folks,
Heather Robb

Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
Happy Easter!
With the news from Scot Gov that hospitality can start to open up (with restrictions) at the end of April, there has been a flurry of activity in the Glen.
The prospect of sitting outside the Glenfinnan House Hotel with a wee glass of something cold is almost too much excitement. So when will it open? Hopefully all being well, and in accordance with Government guidelines, there is the possibility of opening the restaurant for meals on April 26th and looking a little further ahead at the opening of the main hotel on May 15th 2021. Please also visit the Glenfinnan House Hotel Facebook page for dates that the hotel is offering their fabulous take away menu.
We have more exciting baby news! Our very own Mary MacRae has become a granny for the first time. Her son and his partner welcomed baby Carson James MacRae into the world on 24th February 2021 at a very healthy 10lb 2 oz! We cannot wait to see you in the Glen and congratulations Conner and Michelle on the birth of your beautiful baby boy.
Disturbing news this week came in the form of an attempted break in. A resident startled two individuals who were trying to gain access to their locked garage. I think a big thank you is in order to the local police who came out and spent a considerable amount of time ensuring the area was safe. A wee reminder to keep those sheds locked!
Exciting news from the Glenfinnan Community Facilities SCIO as they near completion of the new car park, footbridge and path projects. A huge thanks to Coast Construction Management for successfully completing the Wee Harry Potter Bridge construction across the river Finnan which will lead people safely from the new car park directly to the viaduct. Once all the signage is in place we hope to open fully and welcome visitors safely from the end of April.


There are still plans for a pedestrian crossing between the National Trust and the new car park this year, which will make for a safer visitor experience. Failing this, with the ever-increasing pot holes I am sure it won't be long before we actually have an underpass!
On a personal note I feel quite honoured to have been coerced . . . I mean co-opted on to the Glenfinnan Community Council. We are so lucky to have some of the 'Grandes Dames' of the village sitting on the council and imparting their village knowledge and expertise on us newbies! I will listen, I will learn and then I will (hopefully) go forward with the essential skills needed to be an asset to this hard working and dedicated group.
'Cha bhi thu nas ige ri d'ionnsachadh'
(Gaelic proverb - You'll never be younger to learn)
Catriona Hunter

Hello, Muck Calling . . .
Well here we are, another month chalked off our sentence and nearer to the 'Go' date but life has just gone on as normal here with the familiar early spring routines and duties . . . and weather, which has not made lambing easy and with an Arctic blast heading in time for Easter I think heat lamps will earn their money.
As soon as School started it seems to have finished for the holidays which itself brings a sad farewell to Lewis and Kelly MacLennan and their two wee ones who are returning to life on the mainland; we wish them the very best and will miss them ... we look forward though to meeting the new family in the next couple of weeks.
End of Lockdown fever has hit with a flurry of enquiries about holiday availability and opening times and I think as soon as they can travel the masses will come which will be daunting after having the Isle to ourselves for so long, but much needed and preparations are well underway to welcome them, with all our relatives in hot pursuit. As Pam and I have our first year on the Island behind us having not known anything other than the pandemic party we look to the coming months and visitors ... and a large Bunny handing out chocolate eggs.
Stay safe and regards
Bruce Boyd

Despite the introduction of the ferry summer timetable being delayed until the end of April we have still had a busy month on Canna.
We are still catching up with lots of maintenance work, some of which was delayed from last year. We have had plumbers, joiners and electricians during the month as well as finally getting the three roller doors on the pier shed replaced. At last we can open them without battling rust and getting them stuck half open.
Early in the month we had a dive team at the team doing a structural survey and also surveying the site for a potential pontoon at the pier. This will make embarking and disembarking from boats much easier than negotiating the slipway.


Calving is well underway and the lambing is due in April but Gerry has already had one unexpected arrival.
We are not sure what the season will be like this year but hope that there will some normality. A number of the larger cruise ships which usually start arriving in May have delayed their visits until June. Hopefully, we will be able to open up the harbour to yachts during April and start to welcome visitors back to the island.
At the end of the month we will have a film crew return to the island to complete the follow up documentary to last year's "Summer on Canna". Hopefully some of those who were a little camera shy last time will have starring roles in the new programme!
Chloe, our new Ranger, arrived halfway through the month and is now settling in and getting her office up and running in time for the first visitors.
Congratulations to Fiona Mackenzie, Canna House Archivist, who won the Best Script category in the BBC Alba Film G Awards earlier this month.
Donald MacKenzie

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
One of the silver linings of Covid 19 has been the ability to reach out to new audiences and make our information and resources ever more accessible to communities and individuals who may not normally be able to access them. March saw Fiona deliver a lecture through the Elphinstone Institute of Aberdeen University and also screen the new 'Solas' art documentary about the lives of Margaret and John Campbell. We have to wonder whether the viability of staging expensive physical conferences and seminars will change in the coming years, post Covid. There will always be a place for the 'networking' aspect of physically attending an event and the ability to 'absorb' audience feedback but if platforms such as Teams and Zoom mean that those who live and work in more remote areas, like ourselves, can access events year round, then this should definitely become the 'norm'.
Looking ahead to the summer months and hopefully, more opportunities to travel, to visit, to meet, it will be time to look at 'tractor seats'! On my recent trip to South Uist, I found the lovely 'Listening Spot' at North Glendale and thought it would 'transfer' very nicely to Canna. Two creative practitioners have been invited to come to Canna and create a similar Listening/Seeing Space on the road from the Pier, near to the Rhu Church, which will provide an attractive resting place for visitors, coming or going to the pier as well as providing a quiet, contemplative space. The space can also be used for small Creative gatherings, poetry readings, a meeting space for walkers etc. So where do the tractor seats come into it?! In an effort to reflect the rural nature of the Canna landscape, five seats will be installed, built dry stane wall style, topped off with a tractor seat, which should be able to cope with all weather conditions. If anyone has any old tractor seat lying around their garden, shed or field, I would be very happy to give it a very good home! It will be treated with loving care and attention and I'm sure it would appreciate a renewed lease of life J . If anyone can help, please get in touch at fmackenzie@nts.org.uk

Traditional Cure of the Month
Did you know that the fat around the gizzard of a chicken or turkey, when melted, and applied to any irritated skin, is excellent. "It can be bottled and is also good for preserving boots". Now there you go! Siuthad!
Fiona MacKenzie

With the daffodils up and the dawn chorus getting louder and more light every day, spring is definitely here. The hens are in overdrive but as I usually use my eggs for the B&B, I am awash and can't give them away quick enough.
The Scottish Rural Parliament took place this month and some of us enrolled to join in the discussion. It was helpful and interesting to see how many small communities, rural and island, face the same problems and forums such as this give us all the opportunity to provide feedback to the Scottish Government to help drive policy in the right direction - that's the idea. It was equally as productive to make contact with people facing the same issues so that, together, we can try and find solutions.
The planned beach clean took place to tidy up the shore line after the easterly winds and we collected a whopping 36kg of rubbish and plastic; thanks to Sally, one of our newer residents, for organising. Whilst we had momentum, we swiftly moved onto the village hall a week later and gave it the most robust clear out it has had for years; it is now very minimalist but tidy and easier to clean. As it will not be able to open this summer due to covid rules we have made amendments so whilst the hall itself will remain locked, the Gents toilet will become unisex and will still be able to be used by the public. A small grant from the HC comfort scheme will assist with this. Kim's Kitchen caf will operate takeaway from the back door. In a further tidying frenzy, Nature Scot organised a scrap collection by Spanish John and very helpfully went around the village moving a whole assortment of debris which has accumulated over the last few years. Just waiting on a white goods collection from HC to remove the fridge graveyard from the pier.
After an easy 18 months of pestering BT to fix the public phone, they finally came good and sent a new phone which was fitted without too much trouble, without an engineer and when I mentioned it was getting a new coat of paint, they very kindly offered to send the regulation red and in due course an entire paint kit arrived including wire brushes, white spirit and paint brushes too. We will soon have out landmark red phone box looking as good as new! We hope had everyone had a happy Easter: the children painted eggs and rolled them down the sand dunes at Kilmory in a socially distanced outing.
We are still waiting to hear if the islands will be able to open on April 26th along with the mainland. Hopefully there will an announcement this week.
Fliss Fraser

It has been a busy month on Eigg with some great news for the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust and the successful completion of the first phase of the woodland creation project. There is a sense of normal service resuming as the school community returns and folk prepare for the opening up of the island to visitors again at the end of the month.
The IEHT had excellent news for us at the beginning of the month when they completed the purchase of the old GP surgery and adjoining land to create two new affordable homes. Now that the Trust owns the properties they have applied for planning permission and it is hoped that work will commence to convert the surgery and build the new house in late summer 2021. A huge thanks to Jonny for his continued efforts in bringing this project to fruition with the support of our local MSP Kate Forbes, the Rural and Islands Housing Fund, NHS and HIE.
A huge well done to the IEHT tree planting team - Tasha, Saira and Angie for braving the elements and planting an astonishing 17,500 trees from our newly established tree nursery on the island. Thanks to Wes for his support in packing the trees from the polytunnel, to Owain for logistics and to Becca for procuring funding for the project. We are all looking forward to seeing their hard work continue to grow and flourish through the years as a native woodland returns to Eigg once more.
A strong representation of women from Eigg are taking part in the Women's Enterprise Scotland Rural Start-Up Programme. So far we have enjoyed learning from and being inspired by successful business women from across Scotland and have benefitted from weekly workshops and opportunities to meet other like-minded and ambitious women from across the Highlands. It has been fantastic to connect with our friends from neighbouring islands and we look forward to continuing to support each other when the course finishes and we put our ideas into practice.
The Eigg Environmental Action Group, led by Jill, organised a beach clean at Laig Beach at the beginning of the month which was very well attended. Thanks to all of our volunteers. For the first time we decided to join the Marine Conservation Society beach clean statistics and Camille was busy counting the different types of rubbish that we were collecting. It's alarming to see how small the pieces of plastic are becoming with each beach clean that we do. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step however, and with each beach clean we are extracting damaging waste from our oceans and out of harm's way for fish and wildlife.

Thank you to John Chester who offers his monthly natural history notes:
Despite the cold and frequently windy conditions the month saw the first tentative signs of spring beginning to appear. Early flowering plants such as Primroses, Lesser Celandine and Coltsfoot began to emerge in the more sheltered areas and a few somewhat optimistic Peacock butterflies were on the wing during sunny spells.
A few early flying moths such as Pale Brindled Beauty, Early Tooth-striped and Chestnut found their way into the moth trap while mammal interest centred around fairly regular Otter sightings and a couple of visits from a group of Bottle Nosed Dolphins.
Bird-wise it was a distinctively slow month with only small numbers of returning breeding birds such as Skylarks, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits trickling in. A good month for owls though with at least two Barn Owls present, two pairs of displaying Long Eared Owls located and a Short Eared Owl seen on one occasion.
The wintering Greenshank remained at Kildonan, as did the lonely Nuthatch at the Lodge with other more interesting sightings including a couple of records of passing Whooper Swans, an Iceland Gull present between the 17th and 19th, and a couple of records of Yellowhammers at garden feeding stations.

Fis Eige had their AGM this month in which Norah stood down as Chair and Tasha stood down from her role of secretary and admin officer. We would all like to thank them both for their tireless work for the Fis and are grateful for their continued support. We welcome new committee members Fee Hagan and Gabe McVarish to the fold with Nan Fee stepping into the role of Chair and Babette Apma as our new Minutes Secretary. Our thanks also to Karen Oakley, our Fisean nan Gidheal lead officer who joined us for the meeting and generously gave her time, expertise and support, helping us to move forward with plans for the rest of the year. There will be no main Fis Eige event this year, however we are hoping to run a Fis Bheag for local children from the Small Isles at some point and very much look forward to a return to full events next year.
And finally, we enjoyed take away pizza from the wood burning oven at Croft No. 13 on the evening of St Patrick's Day. Dougal and wee Maggie cooked up a storm and while we warmed ourselves by the fire waiting for our orders George gave us a highly entertaining performance of Riverdance! Watch out Michael Flatley!
Nan Fee

Glenfinnan Dining Car
As many of you already know, the Dining Car has remained closed throughout the 2020-2021 season due to the various constraints of the pandemic. After much deliberation, we have decided to no longer operate the Glenfinnan Dining Car. We would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to the local businesses, return visitors, passing visitors and local residents who have supported us during our 10 year journey at the Dining Car. We also thank our amazing team of staff who have worked their wee socks off over the seasons! We wish them all the best in their new ventures.
Please note: The Museum Trust is currently considering various options for the Dining Car, some involving structural and commercial changes. The Dining Car continues to be a favoured spot for many. Any queries relating to the business should be directed to the Glenfinnan Station Museum:
Email: enquiry@glenfinnanstationmuseum.co.uk
Tel: John and Hege on 01397 722 295
Take care, Zoe, Chris, Martha and the Dining Car Team

So we thought it was time for an update to show you all the progress we have made so far. We have completed our 1st phase of the project which was to create a picnic area at the Play Park which commenced in 22nd of January. We were able to secure funding from Scotland Loves Local to fund this project. The ground works were completed by Knoydart Construction Co Ltd, and we are delighted with the works. We managed to pull together a group of volunteers who met at the park on Saturday 27th of January to give the current equipment a freshen up with some paint as well as tidying the area and creating a nicer, safer environment for the children to play in.
I am sure you will agree from the pictures below that it's looking much better.




We also have installed two new features which are proving extremely popular with the children, pictured below. These were made by Iain Milligan and painted by our wonderful group of volunteers. The little extra bits were hand painted by Sharon Macbeth and I'm sure you will all agree they look amazing.
This first phase would not have been possible without the help from, Knoydart Construction, LBS, Harbro, Milligan Transport, Mallaig Boat Builders, Travis Perkins and Howdens. All of whom donated building materials, painting materials, pallets, transport etc. We are so grateful for this.

So where are we now:
We are still working towards raising funds to completely renew the existing equipment and create a new inclusive play park to suit children of all abilities up to the age of 12. We have submitted various applications for funding and are waiting to hear back, keeping our fingers crossed that we are successful.
To date we have had success with our local fundraising initiatives for the play park project as well as bids for grant funding and have raised a total of £9,500) This has been made up with donations from Mallaig Charity Bookshop, Mallaig Community Council EWOS, Co-op Community Fund and through our Go Fund Me page, National Lottery Community Fund.
We have been completely overwhelmed at the donations we have received from Local Businesses and Individuals. Demonstrating ongoing support at a local community level is crucial for leveraging further grant awards to enable us to make our project a reality. Everyone has been extremely generous and can't thank you enough for supporting our much-needed project. We would also like to take this opportunity to Thank our amazing group of volunteers, who have turned out to help us paint, tidy and so much more, without your help none of this would have been possible.
Thanks again to everyone for your continued support and we will keep you update on our progress.
Catherine and Vivienne

Arisaig Community Trust News

Arisaig Aire
Negotiations for the purchase of the Aire site have been cancelled as we have not been able to agree a price for the sale of the land. As a result, the Aire project has been stopped.

Over the next few weeks you will see some new planters placed on the verge behind the Czech SOE war memorial, opposite the bottle bank. These are to prevent vehicles parking on the verge and further eroding the area. As funds permit we will be laying topsoil and re-seeding to restore vegetation on it. Additionally, some "No Overnight Parking" signs will be sited close to the car park. During the summer we will be conducting a crowd funding campaign to raise money to replace the tarmac path, at least to the east of the war memorial and make it slightly wider and more wheelchair friendly. More details on this initiative will be provided in next month's edition.

Land, Sea and Islands Centre
The new outside area at the Land, Sea and Islands Centre has been erected in readiness for (hopefully!) the 2021 opening of the centre. All efforts have been made to ensure that the facility is now Covid secure as far as is possible and meets all recommendations. The area provides shelter for those waiting to enter, if inside the building there is already the permitted number of people to allow for appropriate social distancing.


Further adjustments will be made to ensure the access is disabled friendly and to add a little more comfort, seating will be provided! Our sincere thanks to Ross Milligan for his really excellent work!

A huge thank you also to Iain MacQueen for the restoration work carried out on the old station barrow. In a very short time it was amazingly transformed and is such a shining example of why it is important for us to treasure these important historical items. Thanks also to Alison Stewart for taking this project forward.

Restored to former glory!
A couple of months ago I asked Arisaig craftsman, Iain MacQueen, if he would be interested in a commission to restore the old Arisaig Station platform barrow. The two-wheeled hand barrow, which was much in need of a complete overhaul, is one of the exhibits at the Land, Sea and Islands Centre and is reputed to be that which was used by Johnnie Neil MacEachen to ferry goods and luggage from the station down to the village.


Local memory recalls that Johnnie Neil, who lived in the village at Post Office Buildings, was very short in stature but with extraordinary upper body strength, something he would certainly have needed to enable him to wheel the barrow up and down from the station, carrying luggage to the Arisaig Hotel and supplies to the village shop. In the photo below, taken in the 1940s, you can see Johnnie standing outside the PO buildings (the post office at that time being run from the house next door). A Bank of Scotland sign sits in the window of the room which was later to become the PO sorting office. The Bank used this room for conducting bank business in the village.

Photo by MW

Despite research efforts, it has proved difficult to date the platform barrow accurately. By using remaining traces of different coloured paint as clues, it seems likely that the barrow pre-dates the big changes wrought in 1923 when the existing 120 separate railway companies were absorbed into just four large national groupings. In 1908 the West Highland Railway Company (which included the Mallaig Extension) had been taken over by the North British Railway, which itself, as a result of the 1923 reorganisation, became part of the newly created LNER (London and North Eastern Railway). Each of the companies had specific liveries for their rolling stock (with separate colours for engines, carriages and trucks), station buildings, and other auxiliary items - like platform barrows! Further changes to the national rail network brought yet more variations in livery colours, but we decided to revert to brown for the barrow's restoration. Iain stripped the barrow back to its component parts, and carefully rebuilt it using hardwood to fashion new handles and struts.


If anyone has any anecdotes or photographs relating to the barrow's history which would add to this story, it would lovely to hear from you.
With grateful thanks to Iain for his enthusiasm for the project and his excellent and thorough craftsmanship.
Alison Stewart

Mallaig Lifeboat Log

22nd March 2021
Requested by Ambulance control via Stornoway Coastguard to transfer Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg at 17:50. A male resident who had been unwell for some time was to be transferred to the mainland in the care of Paramedics. Once alongside at 18:25 the Medics and two crew were transported the short distance to the patient's home by local Coastguards. Once the patient was examined and prepped he was brought to the pier and taken onboard the Lifeboat in the basket stretcher. Lifeboat departed Eigg at 19:05 and berthed at the pontoon in Mallaig at 19:50. The local Coastguard team assisted in taking the casualty ashore and to the ambulance. The casualty was taken to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further assessment and treatment. Lifeboat cleaned down and sanitised ready for service at 20:00.

31st March 2021
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to transfer Local Coastguards to Kyle of Lochalsh at 10:11. The local Coastguard team were tasked to the Kyle area to assist in the search for a missing person. As the Lifeboat approached Kyle Rhea the Lifeboat was informed by Stornoway that the missing person had been located and the Lifeboat was stood down and requested to return to base. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 00:10 (1/4/2021.)

3rd April 2021
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a work boat off the Isle of Eigg with an injured crewman at 13:30. Rescue 151 has also been tasked from Inverness. On scene at 14:00 two crew quickly boarded the vessel and began to carry out Cas/Care and assess the casualty condition. Rescue 151 was now also on-scene and requested the Lifeboat to relocate and receive the winchman rather than they hover directly over the casualty. Once the winchman was transferred to the work boat both he and Lifeboat crew continued to assess and tend to his injuries in preparation for extraction. Again the Lifeboat moved off to receive the Helicopter's stretcher via high line. Once back alongside the workboat both crews assisted in packaging and lifting to the stretcher the casualty for transfer to the aircraft. Once prepped the Lifeboat moved off and the work boat began steaming on a course directed by the Helicopter. Controlled by the highline the winchman and casualty were winched to the aircraft. Rescue 151 rerouted to Fort William, fuelled then continued on to Glasgow Airport where the casualty was transferred by Ambulance to Hospital for further treatment. After recovering the rest of her crew the Lifeboat left the scene at 15:20 and arrived back at Mallaig at 16:15. Fuelled, washed down and ready for service at 16:45.

News from Mallaig Harbour April 2021
By the time you read this, hopefully 'Stay at Home' will have changed to 'Stay Local', and while there are still less staff on the Pier than normal, we are all back in the office.
We are continuing to progress with projects around the Harbour, and since last month, we have been fortunate enough to be successful in our application to the Scottish Government for funds to install shore power for the fishing fleet. This fund had a very quick turnaround, with works to be complete within the financial year, but it's something that fishermen have been requesting for a number of years, so it's great to finally have the funds to make it a reality. There are six 'towers', each with a combination of single phase and three phase connection points, in the scheme, which was designed based on the requirements of the local fishing fleet.
There has been no secret over the last few months about the difficulties the fishing industry has been facing, so it was interesting that a relative of mine came across this article from 17th July 1894 as part of a scrapbook in Cockenzie House, and was kind enough to send it up.

Mr William Anderson Smith, Commissioner for the Fishery Board of Scotland said there was a great difference between herring caught on the west as compared to those got on the east coast. The former were too rich, and would not stand carriage either in a fresh or salted condition. They had to be sent to markets near at hand. The west coast crabs were too small to be of any value, and as for the west coast cod, they were not worth much more than 4d as compared with 2s 4d got for cod on the east coast, as they were small and of inferior quality. The effort of the government to turn the Crofters into fishermen had not been a success. Upwards of £30,000 had been invested with the object in view but it had been an absolute failure. He did not believe they had created a single new fisherman, and the bulk of the boats had been thrown back on their hands. The Crofter stuck to his land and would do nothing else. There had been much less fishing throughout the West since the date of the Crofter's Act. The security of tenure on their crofts had made them less desirous to fish, and on those boats where one of the crew was a crofter, he frequently kept the boat from going to sea, as he devoted his time to the land. The fishing in the West Highlands had for years been decreasing, and they had now to face competition with Norway and Sweden, which reduced the price of second-class fish. The white fishing inside the Hebrides was of no value at all. The fish were so full of roe that they would not carry to market, and even if the Mallaig line were made, the fish would be of little value to the Southern markets. The bulk of the people in the district to be affected would not go to sea. He had a very poor opinion of Mallaig as a place for a Harbour; and, as a Fishery Commissioner would decline to grant it any money to convert it into a fishing harbour . . . In further examination [he] said he did not think this Mallaig line would benefit the West Highlands.

Thankfully, someone disagreed and Mallaig benefitted from both the Harbour and the Railway not long after!

We are hopeful that the Marina will re-open from 26th April in line with the easing of restrictions, but we are awaiting further guidance on this mid-April. CalMac have published their summer timetables, which are also due to start on 26th April. Although there is obviously a bit of nervousness about restrictions easing, it will be nice to see a bit more activity on the visitor side. There has been lots of freight activity on the Harbour recently, with loads of plant and equipment heading to Knoydart in preparation for the works on the Hydro scheme, and all the materials needed for a new house build on Knoydart too. It's one of the perks of having an office overlooking the Harbour that you get to see all the comings and goings for building projects on Knoydart and the Small Isles! We're often first to know about any filming going on locally as they request permissions to film on the Harbour, and by the time you read this, Sandi Toksvig will have been filmed for the next series of her 'Great Escapes'. Hopefully the weather will have been kind to her and her crew!

It's also the time of year where we advertise for new Board Members, and you will see the advert elsewhere in West Word. When Mallaig Harbour Authority was reconstituted in 2012, in line with Scottish Government guidance, the new constitution allowed for Board Members to serve two, three-year terms; and under exceptional circumstances, a third term. At the end of their second term, Board Members were in the midst of the development of the Masterplan, and it was agreed that they should serve a third term to see the Masterplan published. However, we are now at the stage where all the original Board Members who began in 2012 will have retired this year. Board Members are not directly involved in the operations of the Harbour, but provide support and guidance on the strategic direction of the Harbour Authority, including future plans. Although there are some uncertainties about vessel deployment which need to be resolved before the business case for the new Breakwater proposed by the Masterplan can be made, we have a number of shorter-term development plans, including the Outer Breakwater Development. We have three vacancies to fill, and if you would be interested in becoming a Board Member, I'd be happy to talk through what it involves.
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154

On and Off the Rails

Draw result for Bradt travel guide
I received a good tranche of entries for the Scotland from the Rails Bradt Travel Guide draw in last month's West Word. Unfortunately some postcards arrived after the closing date of March 27th. This has led me to conclude that in future when I hold a draw I will extend the closing date and print the result two issues of West Word later. This will make it fairer. The fact that local entries have to travel so far away from Mallaig before returning to me - especially island entries - makes the timescale too short. Having said that, the winner of the book has received his copy by post now, and as a subscriber to West Word who intended to be travelling to Mallaig by rail, in June of this year, and staying at the West Highland hotel after attending a wedding in Dumfries - again by rail. However, with wedding restrictions as to numbers attending, indoors/outdoors etc. etc., this is on hold at the moment, including guests who as yet could not fly in from abroad. He will keep his books safe and travel when free to do so. Thank you to all who sent cards - everyone was appreciated.

ScotRail to move to Scottish Government ownership
ScotRail services will be provided within Scottish Government ownership from the expiry of the current ScotRail franchise by Abellio, currently expected in March 2022.
Speaking in a statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson announced that ScotRail services will be provided within the public sector, by an arm's length company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government. This is a result of the Government's decision to run ScotRail services through what is known as the "Operator of Last Resort".
He also announced that work is underway to put in place further Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) for ScotRail and Caledonian sleeper franchises for the period 1st April - September 2021. Mr Matheson said, "At this difficult time I want to give rail staff and passengers as much certainty as I can about the future. I have repeatedly stated that the current franchising system is no longer fit for purpose."
ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government owned entity, with their terms and conditions protected.
It has been decided that given the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, alongside the continuing delays to the UK Government White Paper on rail reform (now long overdue), it would not be appropriate to award a franchise agreement to any party at this time, either through a direct award or a competition. The decision is in line with the Operator of Last Resort duty.
The Scottish Government paid ScotRail £237.3m more subsidy between March and September 2020 than the corresponding period of the previous year because of Covid-19. Transport Scotland paid operator Abellio £475.1m during the EMA that operated from 1st March - 1st September 2020. This is twice the price paid to the operator for the corresponding period in 2019.
Meanwhile RMT conductors at ScotRail - after voting for strike action - are three weeks into industrial action for six consecutive Sundays which commenced on 28th March. The strike, over calls for overtime payment increases and rest day payments, mean no Sunday trains can operate. The drivers are in a different Union (ASLEF) but cannot run without conductors. There are no replacement buses, but valid pre-purchased tickets are being used/accepted on regular bus services from Fort William on a Sunday.
If anyone has already planned to make an essential journey and purchased tickets please check your journey date to make sure trains are still running on your route. If your journey is affected you can use your purchased ticket to travel either the day before, or day after the strike action. Alternatively you can seek a refund by completing a Refund Request form.

Message on the Royal Scotsman website
"Due to the current Government restrictions we will no longer be able to run our journeys scheduled to depart before 19th May 2021. We are in the process of reaching out to all our guests to explain their options and to rearrange the trips. If you have any queries in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us." I feel their pain!

Scottish Highland Railways - book review and draw
Following on from last month's review and draw I have successfully been able to obtain a book which was due for publication in 2019 but the timing of its release now seems more pertinent.
The book is entitled Scottish Highland Railways, priced at £19.99 (ISBN 978 1 78500 7927) and published by the Crowood Press in softback. The author, David Tucker, has been a keen user of public transport since the 1960s, while working in various professions as a researcher and writer. A tour guide across Scotland since 2010, David has extensive knowledge of travel in the Highlands. He has lived for many years near Stirling.
Scottish Highland Railways describes eight great journeys by rail including (chapter 7) "Reaching the West Coast: Oban, Mallaig and Kyle of Lochalsh". The book contains over 100 present-day and archive photographs and maps in colour and black and white, many taken by the author.
It is well researched and his keenness to impart knowledge and assist other rail passengers is evident and inspiring. His enjoyment of Dalmally Station - on the Oban line, where I have stayed in the 'quirky' accommodation - is spot on, followed by Loch Awe Camping Coach overlooking Loch Awe and accessed by the station footbridge. Colour photographs and details show that he has stayed there.
To enter a free draw to win a copy of the book send a postcard to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, No 5 Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD with your name, and address and telephone number. An extended closing date of Saturday 15th May will ensure all entries are included!! Just remember to enter - not put it to one side to do another day! Good luck.

Jacobite update
As I write this on Easter Monday, 5th April, the revised start dates for both the morning and afternoon season of The Jacobite are shown as Monday 26th April 2021. These dates obviously are dependent on the Scottish Government - who have indicated that this is likely to be the date that travel restrictions across Scotland could be lifted. An announcement from the Government will be suggested nearer the time - but will this allow travel from the rest of the UK? We just do not know - but I am sure that the situation is being assessed daily. With us only being at the "Stay Local" level on 5th April, who can say. Let alone cruise ships, visiting yachts, flights etc. Staying safe is paramount is all we know.
What I do know is that when The Jacobite returns the timetable for both trains is as follows:


The morning service is scheduled to run from Monday 26th April until Friday 29th October, and the afternoon service from Monday 26th April until Friday 1st October (both seven days a week).

Easter Monday snow!
West Coast Rail are providing snowplough/diesel locomotive duties today ahead of trains running on the West Highland main line from Fort William. WCRC also provided haulage duties to Network Rail and associated hired-in firms during the mainline essential work carried out in March.

I cannot finish my column without reminiscing that on April 1st 1901 (120 years ago), the Mallaig Extension Line was officially opened. The Extension was completed in five and a half years.
Keep in touch till I see you on the train!
Sonia Cameron

BIRDWATCH March 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
Generally a milder spell compared to the previous month and not much rain until the deluge in the last three or four days. Whooper Swans were on the move with several flocks seen flying overhead or coming in to rest for a few hours as they headed north to Iceland. One the night of the 2nd, several groups were heard as they flew over Mallaig. On the 20th 12 were seen resting on Loch an Nostarie, Mallaig and 21 (16 adult, five juveniles) were resting on Loch Torr a Bheithe, Rhu. On the 28th a number of flocks flew over Arisaig, with 40 seen heading north over Loch nan Eala whilst two were settled on the loch and stayed until the month end.
At least 40 Pink-footed Geese came in to feed and rest in a field at Back of Keppoch on the 31st. The three Pinkfeet seen last month continued to associate with the local Greylags at Traigh and Back of Keppoch throughout the month. The first Lesser Black-backed Gulls appeared this month with two at Traigh on the 23rd and a group of six there on the 31st. The first Manx Shearwaters were seen in the Sound of Sleat on the 27th and Great Skuas were reported the same day. The first Gannet reported close inshore was seen off Traigh on the 28th. Two were seen off Mallaig the following day. Various wildfowl continued to winter on Loch nan Ceall, with Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebes, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye seen their regularly. Six male and three female Goldeneye were seen near Milburn on the 30th. Shelduck were also seen on Loch nan Ceall and Traigh.
Wintering Great Northern and Red-throated Divers were seen at various coastal locations and Black-throated Divers were reported back on breeding lochs from midmonth.
Golden Plover were reported from Back of Keppoch and Traigh on several occasions, with 19 feeding in a field at the latter location on the 7th the highest count. A single Greenshank was seen throughout on the Morar estuary, whilst two together at the head of Loch Ailort on the 28th were probably returning birds. By the end of the month Lapwings and Redshanks were back on breeding territory at Back of Keppoch and Invercaimbe. Snipe were heard 'drumming' on several occasions by Rhubana, Morar.
From the 25th several flocks of Redwings were seen feeding in local fields, with 200+ by Loch nan Eala on the 26th. Most likely Icelandic birds passing through.
Still only small numbers of Siskins reported from garden feeders. The first Lesser Redpolls were reported on the 15th from Rhubana.
Bullfinches were reported from Mallaig and Morar Gardens from mid-month, feeding on the buds of fruit trees. A Jay was seen near Lochailort on the 3rd and a Magpie was seen near Loch nan Eala on the 28th. Great-spotted Woodpeckers were seen and heard in both Arisaig and Morar.
Nuthatches were seen nest prospecting in the Arisaig area.
A single Wheatear seen during the last week on the Rhu peninsula was the first record of the year.


Your editor had a look back at last month's issue whilst waiting for her first Covid jab on Friday!

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