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April 2023 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
A Write Highland Hoolie 2023: Mallaig Book Festival
November 10th - 12th 2023
The Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition is open! the prize will again be an engraved quaich (The Mary Manson Trophy), £250 cash and £250 in Highland Bookshop tokens, plus a bottle of whisky.
This year's judge is the brilliant and witty Hugh McMillan from South West Scotland, who was recently invited to recite some of his work at No 10 Downing Street.
This year's Festival will open on Friday evening with Duncan Chisholm, Hamish Napier and poet Jim Mackintosh, bringing us their wonderful celebration of the Life and Work of George Mackay Brown - Beyond the Swelkie.
We plan to have our programme out earlier this year, with tickets on sale by June 1st. There is no doubt it will be another full and exciting weekend celebration of great books, music and food, all in the comfort of the West Highland Hotel.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Happy Easter everyone!
Thank you to everyone who sent their contributions in a bit early this month, enabling me to get the paper out before the Easter weekend. Much appreciated!
It's lovely to see The Jacobite chuffing past the window again. Welcome to any visitors to the area reading this - happy holidays - the weather's looking good!
The new masthead is coming along nicely - hope to be able to show you next month.
My thanks as ever to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for looking after the envelopes.
As March draws to a close, there's a sense of the imminent season about to burst into busyness. Already there have been increasing visitor numbers, and with Easter just around the corner there will be plenty more, and before we know it we will be back to mountains of luggage being unloaded from the boat and an energetic vibe will replace the quiet of winter. The Lookout will open from Saturday 1st April, Monday to Saturday 8am - 10.30am for breakfast, then from 4.30pm - 10pm for dinner. Sunday will be open all day from 8 til 8, and will be offering a Boozy Brunch deal too. Cocktails for breakfast? Yes please.
Ranger Finlay's mum was here and ran a fantastic willow basket weaving course in the hall, and there was also a great Table Top Sale on Sunday 19th, to raise money for Rossa, Innes and Victor's residential school trip. An amazing £587 was taken in total, but £60 of that was kindly donated to the hall. There were certainly some good bargains to be had, and all for a good cause.
A couple of weekends ago, Jackie and Lorna were out for their morning run when they happened to witness an owl falling out of a tree where the poor thing landed in a ditch. Luckily Woody and Lewis were passing by, and with a good knowledge of game birds and such, Woody decided to take the poorly Tawny home, and, with a bit of research and perseverance began to feed it up. She was severely weak to begin with but a few meals of venison, chicken, and some cat food and she began to perk up. Astonishingly, she laid an egg while in Woody's care that first day - on top of his good jacket naturally. This created quite the excitement, as it's quite the privilege to see an owl egg, never mind have one laid in your house… Anyway, two days after she was rescued, we embarked on a climb into the woods where she was found to release her back into the wild, and it was a joy to see her soar off through the trees. As for the egg, well it's in an incubator in the hopes it may survive, but only time will tell. It takes around a month for it to hatch if it's viable, so next month I shall let you know!
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
With the Glen starting to buzz with the anticipation of the steam train's imminent arrival and with that the return of the many visitors to the area, the Glenfinnan Communities Facilities SCIO are looking for a friendly individual to come and work in the car park team. The hours are 9am-5pm 4 or 5 days a week and part time hours would also be considered. If you think this could be the perfect job for you, please email email@example.com.
With the summer months approaching that also means the MV Sileas will be returning to her mooring to start up the ever-popular Loch Shiel Cruises. So, if you are partial to a bit of eagle watching, want to relax and take in the stunningly beautiful scenic mountains or would like to join the toe tapping ceilidh cruise then be sure to book early. Visit highlandcruises.co.uk for information on sailings.
The community hut continues to go from strength to strength with new and exciting classes being added all the time. So, this time next year, I am hoping to be able to play bridge and throughout the time speak nothing but conversational Gaelic whilst executing the perfect downward dog. My talents are almost endless!
The church Bell at St Mary and St Finnan's is now under repair with the support mechanism being removed and delivered to a local metal workshop for necessary welding. The bell itself is not damaged and the Church hope to have it reinstated and ready for action soon. A huge thank you to James and Ian Gillies on the significant tidy up and disposal of shrubs, rhododendron and brambles on the banks surrounding the church and for digging the drainage on the grassy areas in attempt to improve the surface. Thanks so much for all that you do!
A 'bheinn as àirde tha san t́r, 's ann oirre 's trice ch́ thu 'n cẹ
'The highest hill is often covered with clouds' Catriona Hunter
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . wasn't that a rapid 30 days? That's the Season right upon us now and we're pretty much ready. Cottages with some new furnishings . . . Bunkhouse spruced up . . . Tearoom Menu tried and tested all ready to welcome the first visitors on our new summer timetable . . . OH!!!! hold the press, ink's not even dry yet on said timetable and our already shaky Saturday service shock horror the Bhrusda has been canned for a technical issue so Spanish John will be doing the vehicles and foot passengers might be on a charter of sorts to be determined. . .?
We say a goodbye to Tom, Esther, Rose and Baby Kit who have been living amongst us for the winter and have integrated whole heartedly with us and I'm sure it will be a wrench to leave going on past visitors' experiences. Good luck guys and no doubt will see you again. Farm and Croft are in touching distance of Lambing so won't be long before little bundles of white woollen fun will be skipping and jumping around the place to join all the baby Calves already here. Lodge guys have been hard at it on fence and hedge duties to occupy their days. There was much excitement at the sight of our first yacht on the horizon which promptly got bigger as it anchored in Port, but alas did not venture ashore . . . On a positive, Sandy has managed to secure and sail home a replacement vessel to continue fishing which is good news indeed, although 'Little Red' might be a stretch until brushes are brandished in anger to restore the company logo.
Well folks that's us for now, wish you all a very Happy Easter and fingers crossed for fantastic weather.
ISLE OF CANNA
The Spring Equinox brought with it a superb storm and high tides. The seawater was being whipped up and hurled across the harbour. Part of the road was blocked by high water in the mornings which made getting from Sanday to Canna a bit tricky! Moss is seen here doing his best inspection work. His CV also includes inspecting the Bio Security boxes and doing electricity meter readings. A very versatile collie indeed!
As the tide subsided, clumps of seaweed and plastic were left dumped on the road which had to be cleared. Loose buckets, bits of wood and other detritus which swirled around threatening to smash into vehicles were caught and put into sheds. Cafe Canna reported an unexpected expansion plan with one of the tables surfing from the Cafe down to Stinky Corner. Despite its unexpected journey, the table has remained largely unscathed.
We have some new arrivals on the farm! The calves have started being born and we are now eagerly awaiting for the lambs to make an appearance. The exotic sheep - Kerryhills and Zwartbles, or the bandits and marauders as I like to call them - have been corralled in the big barn for a couple of weeks now and in the afternoons I like to go in and say hello and dish out a few head pats and nose scratches. Gerry has threatened to start charging a fiver for her "Therapy for Ewe" services.
Fiona MacKenzie is away this month.
ISLE OF RUM
March has been mostly getting ready for the season. As I mentioned last month, there were road contractors here, over from Skye and most of the tracks in the village have been improved, ditches dug out and some culverts cleared. This should leave us in good stead for the year and a plan for future repairs and improvements is being put into place to prevent further degradation.
It's been a monumentally busy month for the community shop squad, getting to grips with the computerised system, card machine, ordering stock and actually manning the shop. Big pat on the back to Ali who has spent more time than is reasonable on the phone to PayPal and inputting stock into the new zettle system. We feel we're over the top now and have a short term management plan in place (on the back of an envelope) to tide us through the summer, at which point we will consider whether it remains a community enterprise or offered as an opportunity for someone to take on, subject to the current housing situation of course.
An occasional license has been applied for so we can run a bar in the hall when we have events this year, Nick, one of our newest residents, is the brain behind this scheme. Dave has bought a catering van for which he has exciting plans . . . more news on this when we get it; so far he's been doing Sunday breakfast rolls for locals.
IRCT held an EGM to update their memo and articles and following this released a welcomed three-year business plan outlining plans and aspirations for the immediate future; this includes infrastructure and housing upgrades.
Wildlife news from Sean: Eider numbers have built up during March and they are now displaying (fave bird call). Other sightings are a Bonxie at Kilmory, Greenshank, Iceland Gull; Lapwings are back with two or three pairs displaying over Croft 1 and also a pair at Harris. Lesser Black Backed Gulls seen in Loch Scresort; Shelduck at Kilmory, Wheatear at Guirdil and the first Cuckoo on the 1st April.
The latest development about the castle is the removal of the offer to buy it from Mr Jeremy Hosking. The community are looking forward to investigating a better, more sustainable future for the castle, which serves the local community and public better.
ISLE OF EIGG
Rum from Cleadale - Photo by Erika O'Reilly
We had an Eiggceptionally busy month in March.
Firstly, we would like to congratulate Stacey Noel as she became a permanent resident on the island in March!
The island was the star of the BBC Alba programme Mach à Seo at the start of the month, showing Ramsay MacMahon's visit last year. It should be available to watch on BBC iPlayer - keep an eye out for a few familiar faces, and maybe fast forward the bit with me in it!
Climate scientist and PhD researcher Charlotte Slaymark came to stay on Eigg for a Bothy Project Fieldwork residency in March. While she was here, she gave an interesting talk in the community hall about evidence of an ice sheet which covered a large area of Scotland 22,000 years ago. She also discussed features around Eigg which showed signs of former glaciation.
The following night we had a film night in the hall, with the film Searching for Sugarman. This was a documentary looking into the mysterious apparent disappearance of the musician Rodriguez. And if that wasn't enough, there was free hot chocolate (with or without rum!) and popcorn to enjoy during the show.
Eigg has been busy preparing for the return of the tourists, with lots of spring cleaning around the island. Well done to everyone who got involved with the pier clean up day - it's looking great! The deep clean was followed by another delicious Sunday Bunday event at the hall. This was the last one sadly, and in addition to the cakes there was free soup from Kat and Jon, through the Cost of Living Fund. The school garden also got a spring clean this month, getting it ready for the children to be able to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers this year. Thanks to everyone who got involved!
Between the Sunday Bunday donations, collection box at the shop and a contribution from the shop, Eigg was able to donate £350 to the Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal.
Singing group has continued through the month at the hall. It will now be held most Thursdays at 1715 and is free for anyone to join, regardless of your singing ability.
The tree nursery has had a very busy month, and has just supplied 8,500 trees for restocking the forestry plantation. Team Trees did a fantastic job getting all the trees planted, and we should be able to see the new trees coming into leaf soon on the left hand side of the walk to the forestry.
John Chester writes: March was a real mixed bag weather-wise with periods of NE winds accompanied by ice and snow, a good deal of heavy rain and a short spell of storm force winds. All of this presumably a bit confusing for any birds attempting to migrate north.
Nonetheless there were signs of approaching spring with the first Lesser Black-backed Gulls seen on the 17th, the first Wheatear on the 23rd and a Blackcap reported on the 24th. Overall bird passage was a bit patchy but there were two records of Whooper Swans on the 11th and 23rd, a pair of Canada Geese which remained throughout the month, three Golden Plovers on the 14th, a Jack Snipe on the 20th and a Yellowhammer on the 21st.
Birds apart, there were some early suggestions of spring with the first Primroses and Lesser Celandines appearing late in the month, a Pipistrelle bat on the wing on the 24th and a very tatty Peacock butterfly emerging from hibernation on the 21st.
Unusually though the outstanding record of the month was neither an animal nor a plant but a fungi found by Tasha Fyffe. Whilst tree planting with her team in the forestry plantation Tasha unearthed some odd looking mushrooms growing in the soil. When samples were sent off for expert analysis they were identified as a species of False Truffle, a first record for the island. Hopefully identification down to species level will be available shortly.
Erika O' Reilly
Road to the Isles Facilities Group - Music Rehearsal Room
The Road to the Isles Facilities Group is a registered charity operated by local volunteers. We built and maintain the toilet block in Mallaig, the toilets at Traigh and are in the process of taking on the car park and toilet block at Tougal. In addition, though now maintained by the Highland Council, the group was also responsible for developing the children's play park in Mallaig.
One potential future project is the provision of a fully equipped and sound proofed rehearsal room that could be hired by local musicians. Kitted out with a drum kit, back line speakers and amplifiers and a full public address system, it would mean groups of musicians could turn up with just their instruments (sticks and cymbals in the case of drummers) without having to unload and set up cumbersome equipment and without falling out with their neighbours! It would be suitable for traditional or contemporary musicians of all ages but would be particularly focused on providing opportunities for young people.
We are in the process of assessing the feasibility of such a project and in doing so would be interested in knowing if anyone is aware of any vacant premises that would be suitable for a venture of this kind and whether anyone would be willing to support us through either their time, financial support or the donation of equipment. We would also like to know how much interest there would be if we decided to go ahead, so please let us know if you would be interested in using such a facility or could support us in any way by e mailing the group's secretary Dave Newnham at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Arisaig Community Housing Project
Work is well underway on site now, and progress is noticeable to anyone passing on Station Road. It is fantastic to see the site taking shape, after many months of looking at digital plans and drawings! Despite a wet winter, things are moving along at a good pace, helped by the better weather and lengthening days in February and March. Currently, foundations are being completed for the three blocks, allowing the first few courses of blockwork to commence on the houses. Following suggestions by members of the community, we put forward the street name Creag Mhor Gardens to the Highland Council and this was recently approved.
The Communities Housing Trust website now has an 'expressions of interest' form for Arisaig, under their Future Opportunities section. Enquiries about the application process should be directed here. Applications will open in April for the Self-Build Plots, and those who have added their details will be contacted to apply. They will be open for several months, giving people plenty of time to apply. Applications for the six rental homes will open later in the year, about mid-way through the build. The allocations policy will prioritise those living and working locally, or with a strong local connection. For both rented homes and self-build, it must be your primary residence. Other factors will be taken into consideration by the Communities Housing Trust during the application process. We anticipate demand to be very high; CHT have many years of experience working with rural communities and have a fair and balanced allocations policy. The Arisaig Community Trust do not see any of the applications, it is all done anonymously.
We are very pleased to be working with building contractors S + K MacDonald Homes on this project and hope works continue to progress well throughout the spring.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
16th March 2023
Requested to launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 17:30 to assist a yacht into Mallaig harbour. A yacht was on passage to Mallaig and was experiencing engine problems, and being single handed the skipper did not want to attempt berthing on his own. The Lifeboat launched at 17:45 and met the yacht a couple of miles off the harbour. A tow was quickly established and the yacht was brought to the harbour entrance. Once strapped alongside the Lifeboat, the casualty was placed on the hammer head in the Marina at 19:00. Once the lifeboat had been squared away she was back on the pontoon for 19:15 and ready for service.
18th March 2023
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Muck at 11:00. A female resident was to be transferred to the mainland for hospitalisation. On-scene at 12:00, the patient was waiting at the slip way with the local Coastguard team. The patient was quickly boarded into the care of the Paramedics. Lifeboat departed Muck at 12:05 to return to Mallaig.
At the pontoon at 13:00, the patient was taken to Raigmore Hospital via road by the medics to receive further treatment. Lifeboat ready for service at 13:10.
News from Mallaig Harbour
It's April already, and the Marina has re-opened for the season, complete with new Welcome Cabin. Gary Burton has worked hard to make sure it was ready in time for the season, and we also have to say thanks to Callum and Colin King for all the electrical works, and to Jeremy Vickers for laying the flooring at relatively short notice. It's looking really good, and it's definitely not a bad view from the 'office' as the photo below shows. We're also grateful to the members of the Men's Shed who came along and built the furniture for the interior. There are one or two finishing touches to be done, including an external notice board and signage, but we're hoping to have these done by the end of the month. We've also welcomed Gena back for another summer season, and hopefully the new cabin will make for a more pleasant workspace for Chris and Gena than the portacabin it replaced.
We are expecting the return of the Eda Frandsen, Pellew, and Blue Clipper at various points over the summer, and this year, we may also have the Provident - an ex-Brixham trawler operating some trips from Mallaig. Some of you may have spotted the Provident in the Harbour this month, as she was visiting to use the slipway.
We shared a wee story on our Facebook page this month from the Eda Frandsen, which as many of you know, operates from Mallaig throughout the summer months, and was built at Doune on the Knoydart Peninsula. Eda had been having some work done on her mast, and traditionally sailing vessels carry a single coin on their mast step. Eda didn't have one, but coincidentally Mungo spotted an advert for a 50 pence piece commemorating the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book, which depicts the Hogwarts Express. This was felt to be a fitting coin, with the connection between the Hogwarts Express and Mallaig, and also the fact that it's around 25 years since Eda was relaunched in June, so the mast has now been replaced with the 50p on her mast step!
Fishing has again been sporadic this month, although we have had a few visiting vessels landing, and we are hopeful that this will continue.
Last month I mentioned the Consultation into proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas, which was due to close on 20th March. The deadline for submissions has been extended until Monday 17th April, and the consultation has been a 'hot topic' over the past few weeks, with many community organisations publishing responses in addition to those from the fishing industry. While the principle of sustainable management of our seas is something we can all agree with, the strength of feeling in some of the published responses about the potential wider impacts for our communities is clear. There is still time to submit a response and although the consultation process is a bit unwieldy, you don't have to answer all the questions.
By the time you read this, the initial summer timetable will be in operation for CalMac ferries. It's nice to have the Loch Fyne back in service, and to see more regular ferry movements, and the additional traffic this brings to the Harbour. Unfortunately, disruption to services from Mallaig continues, due to vessels being deployed to cover shortages elsewhere. We are not expecting the Lord of The Isles back until mid-May at the earliest, and as a result of there being no service to Lochboisdale, the Loch Bhrusda has also been redeployed to the Western Isles.
April is the time of year where we advertise for new Board Members, and you will see the advert elsewhere in West Word. 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. At the moment, we are at an exciting stage with the plans for the Outer Harbour, awaiting confirmation of a funding package but hopeful of starting the works later in the year. 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. As with last year, we have two retiring Board Members this year, who are both eligible to re-apply for their second term. However, we always welcome applications to become a Board Member, and if anyone is interested, and would like more information, I'd be happy to talk through what it involves.
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
I'm starting this column extra early for me as we are still two days away from April 1st - All Fools Day - and nine days before Good Friday! However I'm not the only one ahead of time, as luckily for us, our editor is trying to bring out an Easter issue. Another person trying to gain time as I write this is Ian Riley, the lead driver bringing two LMS Black Five locomotives, all of the carriages, plus a Class 37 diesel locomotive at the rear from Carnforth Steamtown to Fort William junction, Inverlochy Yard, Tom na Faire depot! Yes - it's that time of year again: The Jacobite steam train service operated by West Coast Railways commences the morning service from/to Fort William/Mallaig on Monday 3rd April. The trailing load leaving Carnforth today at 01.43, Thursday 30th March, was an impressive 715 tonnes, planned for 60mph maximum speed, 850 feet long, and described as 'empty coaching stock'. Impressive to see and what a responsibility on Ian and all of the team involved in making it happen. It arrived in Fort William this evening at the booked time of 7pm. What an achievement! This weekend will be spent prepping, stocking the on-board catering and gift shop, familiarising the staff etc. etc. Welcome back to all of you. They all have to receive medicals, have done their rules, totally adhere to zero tolerance levels of testing for drugs and alcohol etc, as do all our railway staff. It is a huge task to keep all of us who travel as passengers on the railways safe. Is it really five months since the end of October? Yes it is. Sometimes you have to look back to get to where we are now. Hopefully a strike free, trouble-free Jacobite season!
At Fort William railway station, new tenants are taking on premises including what used to be "Bill's Place". Following Bill's retirement we now have the "Signal Box Shop". It opened after a massive refit, as "Your one stop little convenience shop for snacks and drinks, also bringing you a range of Railway, Jacobite Steam Train and licenced Harry Potter souvenirs." I called in last week to speak to Maria Wilson, who also runs the shops on the two daily Jacobite trains, and Haggard Alley in what used to be Mallaig Police Station. She is inspirational in what she is achieving, and I wish her and her staff success - along with all of the new traders both in Mallaig and Glenfinnan and Fort William railway stations and surrounding areas. I know Maria has been spending evenings in Haggard Alley refurbishing it and then eating locally before driving back to the Signal Box Shop to do the same, now that the carpenters, electricians and plumber have finished. Good luck to all the local businesses as the season starts.
ScotRail 'Highland Explorer' Class 153 Hiccup!
In the February West Word I flagged up the new coach with extra seats and bike racks which was (I said) maybe coming to Mallaig in March 2023! Well, the conductors, Network Rail and ScotRail were heralded as being trained and trialled. I now understand that even with the "best will in the world" the stopping distances marker boards required for the drivers and guards/conductors to comply with for the extra coach length, have not been fitted!! Whoops - just an oversight I'm sure. Let's hope so. I know that reserve bookings for its use were very well booked, but then it disappeared from booking office screens, and vanished from smart phones, laptops and computers. Little has been said by ScotRail yet, but it's a wee bit embarrassing or even perplexing! I'm a "glass half full" not "glass half empty" type of person, so hope that by next month's column all will be well and I can uncross my fingers and toes, and that we can have more seating capacity on the early morning from Mallaig and the evening train from Glasgow Queen St to Mallaig.
Which leads me onto on board train catering
In the March issue of West Word I wrote of my meeting with Scotland's Railway Managing Director Alex Hynes, at Glasgow, with reference to returning catering trolley services, at seat, on our branch line. So many tourists arrive at Fort William station each lunchtime for the wonderful train ride to Mallaig, having not been told by their coach party drivers that there is no on board catering, or they do not arrive in time to purchase even a bottle of water, before boarding the train. I did not expect a fast response, however - "baby steps" I know - but only on a Thursday so far do we now have Tina with her trolley on the branch line to provide for them and us. She then, bless her, waits in Mallaig, refills the hot drink flasks and returns with the passengers on the 16.05 sprinter to Mallaig. Thank you Alex. Thank you Tina. I have been assured also that new starts are being trained to cover other shifts. Also the customer information screens in stations will display details of which trains have food and drink available. As I say, at the moment it is just on a Thursday on one train in each direction, but it's a start. I should further add that I have had a note in writing stating "Please note that services providing on-train hospitality may be subject to short notice change and alterations". Lordy, lordy - all I can say for sure is that Tina was on board today, Thursday 30th March. Hurrah! I won't give up my quest.
Do you need a reminder about the Highland Railcard?
It is a ScotRail - Scotland's Railway - Railcard available from staffed booking offices, for £15 a year. Available to people aged 16 or over living permanently in these postcode areas: All IV except IV12, IV30-32, IV36; all KW; all HS; PA20 to PA38, PA41 to PA49, PA60 to PA78; PH16, PH17, PH30 to PH44, PH49, PH50; FK20, FK21, and G83.
You need to take proof of residence (e.g. utility bill or bank statement) and a passport-sized photograph of yourself to the booking office. Once issued with your Highland Railcard you can travel at half price for the whole year and children can travel with you for a flat fare of £2.00 return each.
The Highland Railcard is available on the following routes: Mallaig/Fort William/Oban to and from Glasgow. Wick/Thurso to and from Inverness, plus Kyle of Lochalsh to and from Inverness. That'll do. What's not to like!!
I'll leave you this month with (as I understand it) the following:
The new SNP leader and First Minister, Humza Yousaf, has revealed his new Cabinet which "reflect the priorities he will pursue" as FM. What I find shockingly unbelievable is that having studied his new cabinet appointments and junior ministers, "Transport" (of any kind) has been dropped from the title of the new cabinet secretary believed to be responsible for it at the highest level of the Scottish Government.
As I understand it, Mairi McAllan will take overall charge of transport as part of her portfolio in joining the Cabinet for the first time as "Net Zero and Just Transition Secretary". however, Humza Yousaf (who was a former Transport Minister) has omitted "Transport" from her title. The Scottish Government was unable to confirm that transport would be part of Ms McAllan's brief, or why it had been omitted from the list of Cabinet portfolios. However Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart will now be "attached" to the transport role. Meanwhile Jenny Gilruth, who was previously transport minister, will now join the Cabinet for the first time as the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. So as I see it, we do not have a Transport Cabinet Secretary. Cripes!
See you on the train then,
A Visit to Abu Simbel
Sitting at the foot of one of the world's greatest wonders, Abu Simbel, in the Aswan Governorate, Upper Egypt, near the border with Sudan, it is hard to believe I am on the same planet as my 'real' life on the West Coast of Scotland! The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the early 13th century but in a feat of extraordinary engineering, were moved, block by numbered block, to a new location in 1968 to avoid it being submerged by Lake Nasser, the Aswan Dam reservoir. As an archivist naturally interested in all things culturally significant, sitting at the feet of Ramesses II and his wife, Nefertari, I tried to absorb the significance of these temples and imagine the lives of those who toiled for years to build them. Inside the temples themselves, I was delighted to find intricate painted images of Nubian musical instruments including the harp, reminding me of Margaret Fay Shaw's own harp in Canna House. A set of whistles too!
It was a privilege to experience at first hand, the complexity, the sophistication, the beauty and the Stories of the Temple. That these were real people, not just carved statues. I came away from the visit with a desire to learn more about Egyptology and the stories behind the hieroglyphics.
The entire visit reinformed to me the power and significance of Story, regardless of location. The statues are centuries old. Will the modern 'statues' of today, in Canna House and elsewhere, still be present to visitors in the far future? This is why our work in Conservation and Restoration so important.
Margaret and John Campbell would have loved Abu Simbel!
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Sue and Pete Barrett have had another trip on the luxury 'Blue Train', the Midland Pullman - this time to Whitby!
Here's Gary, Katie, Maia, Eoin and Kaia Burton enjoying their holiday in Antalya, Turkey with West Word in late March / early April.
West Word went on a trip down the Nile in March! Read all about Fiona's MacKenzie's visit to Abu Simbel below.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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