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

List of Issues online

August 2012 Issue

Contents of the online version:

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

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

Arisaig villagers may not be planning to paint their post box gold but they are delighted to 'have a share' in Golden Girl Heather Stanning, who, with rowing partner Helen Glover, was the first to win a Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympics. The pair were Britain's first female rowing gold medallists in history.
Heather, a Captain in the 32nd Regiment of the Royal Artillery, is from Lossiemouth but her parents Tim and Mary Stanning have a home and business in Arisaig, and are in the village most weekends. Mary mentioned Arisaig when interviewed by the national press as they feel they 'belong' to both places. Mary contributed some of Heather's success to 'all that walking in the hills around Arisaig'.
Father Tim was a godson of Miss Becher, former owner of Arisaig Estate and has been visiting Arisaig since he was eight.
Congratulations to Heather - and perhaps the gold medal will be seen in Arisaig at some time!

A full investigation has now been carried out on the transmitter sites that carry the Nevis Radio signal to the Mallaig area and, as expected, major refurbishment and replacement is required.
Thanks to the generosity of the listeners a considerable sum of money was raised via the recent Transmitter Appeal and this has enabled Nevis Radio to place on order all the relevant electrical components, parts and aerials required to enable the Sites to be restored again and become fully operational.
The components should be with Nevis Radio this week and once delivered on site will need to be installed by a qualified electrical engineer. It is hoped therefore that Nevis Radio will return to the airwaves in the Mallaig-Arisaig - Loch Nevis area later this month.

Problems besetting the provision of dental services in Mallaig by Fort William based firm M & S Dental Services were highlighted in May by Mallaig Community Council when Mr Gregor Muir attended their monthly meeting.
Mr Muir explained then that recent Scottish Government legislation regarding cross infection has come into force, and this renders the current clinic non-compliant because their instruments are sterilised within the dental surgery. At present the practice operates out of the Mallaig Health Centre, an NHS Highland owned property, and uses NHS Highland equipment. To be able to comply with the legislation, the clinic will have to re-locate or extend their premises, by 31st December 2012.
The possibilities of building a new, dedicated dental surgery in Mallaig or extending the present Health Centre have been ruled out as funding is not available. The third possibility under consideration is a move to the Arisaig Medical Practice building.
If no solution is found, the current clinic will be shut down at the end of the year. Dr Iain Gartshore updated West Word:
'At the present time we haven't heard anything further about the proposed move by M&S Dental from Mallaig to Arisaig.
'The impact this may have on the use of the Arisaig premises by our medical team is not yet clear. This is one part of a much bigger picture.
'As you are aware, the recent tragic death of Dr Rachel Weldon and the resignation of both Ardnamurchan GPs has led to unprecedented difficulties in medical provision in the west Lochaber area. The use of the Arisaig premises will depend on the outcome of discussions currently underway involving NHS Highland and local communities to try and provide a secure and sustainable medical service to the whole area.'

NHS Highland is currently running the Small Isles Practice with Locum GPs providing the medical cover.

With Davie oot and aboot and away most of this month, and Isla busy with the bairn and the dug, the torch has been passed to me, so here it goes.
While everywhere else in the country was afloat, our wee neck of the woods has had glorious weather (when it hasn't been raining). The kids have been jumping off the pier, Mr Whippy has been earning his keep and the pub turned into a crèche on the odd afternoon as everyone has been enjoying the sunshine.
A big get well soon to Kim who is still healing after a poorly executed bicycle dismount, resulting in a lifeboat call out, fractured skull and loss of hearing in one ear. (Please speak up when ordering in the Tearoom, thanks.) It's good to have her back and in one piece. And because that wasn't enough excitement for one month, lots of well wishes to Jack and his rapidly healing burn. An incident which resulted in a helicopter trip to Raigmore, a night's stay in the charming Kyle court and my blood pressure going through the roof. I am (very) happy to report everything is healing up nicely and in working order!
I'd like to think that'll be the end of the injuries for a while, but with the Knoydart Games this weekend (Sat 4th Aug) who knows what you'll be reading in next month's column.
Our village hall was lucky enough to be graced with good music yet again at the beginning of the month in the form of Darrell Scott, Danny Thompson, Ewan Robertson, Megan Henderson and Norrie MacIver. I think I speak for everyone who was there when I say what a fantastic night. Big thanks to Drew and Kirsten for organising it!
And don't miss 'Abandon Ship' at the end of August, another night with great music in store, and murmurings of a ceilidh. Knoydart, prepare to be invaded by the Spanish Armada!
Other than that it's been a fairly quiet month all round. Doune has been sharing some great photos with us all on facebook, including common dolphins, orcas, sea eagles and naked stalkers. Matty's been braving the walk and making it over for a pint or ten. Mark's been busy building an impressive aviary, and I think we're all counting down the days until his owl arrives. Frank from Tarbet celebrated his 87th birthday with friends, though I don't think he shared his chocolate cake with them. Big congrats to Claire and Jim who are expecting again. And interneters beware - Bernie is connected and braving the world of online shopping, and even JM is on facebook! Whatever next?

Dates for the diary: Market Garden Day, Saturday 01 Sep. I think that's all folks!
Amy Connolly

On July 4th the NTS cultural cruise ship Quest for Adventure brought ashore 400 passengers! Yes. Re-read, 400! It was quite a day... post box a-bursting, shop rapidly selling out of everything, we were a treadmill of cakes, tea, sandwiches and coffee, NTS staff giving walking tours and tours of Canna House (I am sure Magda and Winnie were a wee bit shorter by the end of the day, with all the to-ing and fro-ing... not to mention a wee bit hoarse, not all bad then! hehe??) The day did have a typical Canna drama - a day visitor accidently missed the ferry back to Rum, frantically running down the pier begging Murdo to ask if they would turn the Nevis back… "erm no, probably not", "When's the next ferry?", erm… "Friday", ... but thanks to a friendly Quester Crewman and a speedy Zodiac, a personal taxi was arranged..
To thank us all, the crew and organisers invited us onto the boat for dinner and a ceilidh, so a quick change into our glad-rags and off we went to be thoroughly spoiled, wined and dined and treated like royalty. The ceilidh on deck was good fun and all in all a thoroughly good day.
June and July have been incredibly hot, sunny and dry... so much so we have been on water-watch, 15 second shower alert and hosepipe bans. The island was getting a tad brown, as were its inhabitants! But as I write, the rain is a coming, the wind is up and think we'll probably be ok.
Big Birthday congratulations to Nora on 2nd July, she turned 80! And still won't stop climbing the ladders to trim the hedges of her glorious garden… I'm not supposed to tell Gerry that! Young Kathryn also turned the grand old age of 18 on the 11th - happy birthdays! Aart and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary, and our plans for a quiet wee do were rudely interrupted by a 48 hour bash! Gordon and Julie sailed in and got the party started in the restaurant on the Friday night and on Saturday we had a wee get together in the house. Dougie the Dyker popped along in so mandolins and ukuleles, singalong in French, Spanish and English all equally out of tune, and a wee bitty dancing made for a superb weekend… thanks guys!
We hosted a lovely visit for a family from Holland here on the island last week too, Their surname was Canna, and they had been following the island news for many years, culminating in a magazine feature done on the restaurant last year, so finally they gathered together and made their booking- they were given our best community VIP treatment, with tours of the house and garden - thanks to Magda and Graham, made to feel at home in Tighard, looked after by Olivia and ourselves here at the GB, and a RIB trip by the Bella Jane lads. Apparently we made a life-time dream come true. Isn't that nice.
Huge thanks to Dave on Muck for the berries, we have jammed, jellied, liquidised and eaten to burstin' - my they were good, a couple of jars are on their way over! The rest are on sale in the Gille Brighde or the community shop!
Of course the big news for next month is the Feis Chanaidh, a week long event 6th august - 11th August, hosted by community, NTS and lots of support from our Gaelic partners. It should be a great week, and it all ends with a Saturday ceilidh. RIBS are organised for return travel to Mallaig on the Sunday. Contact Stewart at main office or via our shiny new community website which Olivia has been very busy with and all island info can be found on it now www.theisleofcanna.co.uk. Link up guys!
Amanda Lastdrager
Gille Brighde, Isle of Canna

Canna Birds & Wildlife by Graham Uney
It's been a very busy month on Canna for those interested in wildlife. The Highland Ringing Group were here earlier in the month, and continued their long-standing seabird ringing projects. The week went really well, with large numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill, and Shag being ringed, as well as fewer Puffin, Fulmar, Kittiwake, and gulls. On Sanday, Dun Mor was packed with breeding Puffins, to the extent that birds have now started to colonise the main cliff, as well as the top of the sea stack. Those who braved the walk out to Dun Mor earned the great views of these wonderful little birds, as Sanday also hosted no less than six pairs of breeding Great Skuas, and the parents do like to defend their young if they think you're getting a little too close! A total of seven Great Skua young were also ringed. The eagle chicks have now fledged, with both Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle juveniles now on the wing.

Another month has ended and winter fast approaching but still no sign of a start on our new power scheme. Despite nearly £1,000,000 from the lottery the contractors are looking for more to cover increased costs since the original quote last autumn. Meanwhile at the Gallanach Lodge building site KDL have despite the hard rock completed the foundations and are ready to start the timber frame.
[Correction dated September 2012: I stated that the price tendered by Scottish and Southern for the construction of the new Muck Power Scheme is similar to the sum offered by the Lottery. This is incorrect. It is much less and I apologise for the distress caused. Lawrence Mac Ewen]
At the hall July has been a busy month. Three events on successive evenings are not what one would have planned but that is the way it happened. A diving group who had come to produce a record of what is growing on the seabed round Muck gave us an illustrated presentation of what they discovered. The following evening we had Wingin it, two lads with a range of stringed instruments which sounded tremendous and I am told by those on the island better qualified to judge than myself, were very talented. Then came the Ceilidh Trail great to listen to, and great to dance to - another very enjoyable evening! Later in the month came the Walking Theatre, three girls who are probably more at home with Shakespeare but on Muck it was Treasure Island, We were lucky it was a beautiful evening as we walked round Carn Dearg looking for treasure and ending at the hall for supper. Very enjoyable and strong on audience participation!
While all this was going on Duggie the Dyker was working away building a mini dyke to separate the playing field from the road, Finished with a strip of turf it is a great asset to the Hall. Thank you Duggie! And lastly Dave Barnden is off to the Moy Game Fair loaded with Muck wool rugs many of which are beautifully needle felted with a range of animals and birds. Good Luck! David.
Lawrence MacEwen

July was an even busier month than June on Eigg and that is really saying something! To start with, there were the exciting finds at Kildonnan, where the archaeology team finally unearthed concluding evidence of an Early Christian monastery on the site of the old protestant graveyard: in evidence of wooden posts and of an earthen ditch surrounding a wall which in part has actually become part of the fabric of the 18th century graveyard! And on top of this, Colin Carr managed to locate a hitherto undiscovered Early Christian gravemarker by simply turning over a pillar of red sandstone. Equally exciting was the discovery of Prehistoric burials in the upper part of the graveyard, with the remains of two cairns and the find of a cremation urn under a massive stone, showing that the site has been used a burial ground for thousands of years… Many more clues to the history of the site have been brought to light, including the fact that the existing chapel was build on an earlier structure, as well as earlier burials, all this showing that the local tradition making it a 16th century building rather than the original Medieval chapel was right all along! We are looking forward to the report by Prof John Hunter and in the meantime, a small display about this Heritage Lottery funded project can be seen at the Community Learning room in Eigg Primary school, where the artwork resulting from the Primary School involvement in the archaeology dig can also be admired! An other aspect of archaeology was also brought to light by John Hunter in his talk about forensic archaeology, showing how archaeological techniques are increasingly used to solve modern crimes, and perhaps even more gruesomely, locate the mass graves of former war zones, such as in Kosovo. Many thanks also to our mainland volunteers, Ken and Jean Bowker from Roshven, who spent a week scraping away at their trench not always in the best of weather! Their help was much appreciated.
There has also been plenty of music to keep us on our feet, from world music with Samba Sene at the beginning of the month to the mid July pocket DJ in the tent and bonfire on Laig beach organised by Ailidh Morrison, followed by a week-end to top them all, the Fence Records 2nd Away Game on the third weekend of the month. No mean feat to coordinate a record number of bands and performers over three days which saw Fence followers converge on the island in great numbers. For us it was a real privilege to hear such a variety of music and sound over the week end, which even included two French bands, and saw the long awaited arrival of Irish band Kan and the return of Niteworks for more dance tunes after their 12 June gig! For some of the most established groups, it may have come as a bit of shock to realise they'd have to handle all the equipment themselves as their van could not get over to the island, but they took it in their stride and it was that lack of self-consciousness that contributed in part to the friendly atmosphere of the event. Lizzie, Alex and Emily did a superb job of the barbecue and with the help of our talented Eiggy Bread duo and Daniel, the chef at Galmisdale Bay café, everyone got fed, which was no mean feat! The weather of course which had been brilliant up to that point decided to play tricks on the party goers, and the rain driven by strong winds caused a lot of tent damage, but everyone who needed a dry bed managed to get one! So well done Johnny, Kenny and Sarah for hosting and organising such a superb event, which allowed so many folks not only to sample such good music but to discover what beautiful places Eigg and West Lochaber are! And what a great 40th birthday for our piper - now dubbed "Local Legend" in the press - Donna MacCulloch.
With two island weddings in the next couple of months, islanders won't have much time to rest. And keeping up with this relentless pace, Karen and Simon celebrated their joint 60th birthday on the 28th with a barbecue at the Glebe barn, a gathering that included their far travelled children: Catriona on holiday from her job in New Zealand as well as Tamsin back from Nepal with husband Stuart and baby Teaghan, which ended up with a good old fashioned rock n'roll performance with the return of Blaze to the island. Long live the Eigg baby-boomers!
Camille Dressler

A Heritage Lottery funded project on Eigg has unearthed evidence of 4000 years continuous occupation of the Early Christian site at the Kildonnan Graveyard.
Comunn Eachdraidh Eige (the isle of Eigg History Society) received £17,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to carry out a rescue archaeology exploration of the ancient graveyard at Kildonnan on the isle of Eigg, The site is associated in local tradition with the early Christian monastic site founded in the early 7th century by Donnan, a Pictish saint who was martyred there with his 52 monks in 617, after bringing Christianity to a number of sites in the Highlands from Sutherland to Uist. The archaeology dig started on 16 June and is finishing on 7th July 2012.
The Kildonnan Community Archaeology and Learning Project was led by Prof John Hunter, OBE, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham with a team of field archaeologists and young archaeology students from Glasgow and Cranfield Universities. The project also involved a number of volunteers from the local community on Eigg and Moidart. The project focused on retrieving evidence in the Kildonnan graveyard for the 7th century Early Christian monastery founded by St Donnan, as the use of the graveyard for modern graves is now threatening the integrity of the site.
The project succeeded in identifying the likely oval enclosure and ditch of Donnan's original 7th century monastic settlement. A number of prehistoric structures including Bronze Age burial cairns have also been found showing that the site has been in continuous occupation for the past 4000 years.
Prof. John Hunter said: 'I think it's fair to say that the findings surpassed all our expectations. We now know that that this part of the island was a special place for worship and burial throughout time. We all feel very honoured to have been able to work there." The project has brought to light the importance of Kildonnan as one of the most historically significant areas on the island, and will contribute meaningfully to the understanding of Early Christian monastic settlements in the Hebrides, by showing in particular how a monastic site was established where there was a tradition of earlier burials.
A steady stream of islanders and holiday-makers visited the site where Prof. John Hunter and his team explained the way the dig evolved over the three week period and the discoveries that were made. By involving volunteers from the local community and the island's Primary school children in the dig and research, the project has fostered a great deal of local interest in learning about archaeology recording skills, which should help islanders deal more confidently with archaeology research in the future.
Prof. Hunter, whose work as a forensic consultant has taken him to war graves in Serbia among other sites, also did a well-attended talk on forensic archaeology which brought the public's attention to the way archaeology methods are regularly used to solve crimes.
A report is now being compiled about the dig's finds which Comunn Eachdraidh Eige will be using to interpret the site for the public, hopefully in time for the start of the Columba year in 2014. In the meantime, Comunn Eachdraidh Eige is putting on a small exhibition about the dig which will be held in the Community Learning room in Eigg Primary school over the summer months. Information about the dig can also be found by looking at eiggexcavation.blogspot.co.uk.
Commenting on the award, local historian Camille Dressler of Comunn Eachdraidh Eige said: "We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for this essential archaeological work, as we have been very worried about archaeology evidence being gradually destroyed at Kildonnan. The dig has shed new light on the history of this part of the island and our task is now to build a time line for the site. Bringing over an enthusiastic team of young archaeology students has also shown our young people that archaeology was a "cool" activity to get involved with. We hope to continue working with the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust in identifying new community archaeology projects to keep involving young people in researching the island' s rich history."
Young islander Helen Maclean, 21, said: "it's my first dig ever, and it's been really interesting, I feel I have learnt a lot in just a few days, I wouldn't have missed it for anything!"
Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland said: "This is a very interesting project and we have been delighted to give it our support. Our local communities have on their doorstep hidden clues to the way our ancestors lived and how our lives developed into what they are today. By delving into this history, volunteers, families and school children will not only expand their knowledge and learn lots of new skills, but it will also provide a unique record of the area for others to learn, enjoy and be inspired by."

Photos by Arthur Campbell

The Lochaber Schools Band lead the parade through Arisaig before the Highland Games on Wednesday July 25th

Arisaig's Tommy MacEachen is still competing at the age of 76

Four call outs for the Henry Alston Hewat during the month of July.

Wednesday 7th July: Lifeboat launched at 0300 hrs when requested by HM Coastguard in Stornoway to medivac an injured cyclist in Inverie who had fallen off her cycle and sustained a head injury.
With a paramedic and ambulance technician on board, the Lifeboat arrived on scene at 0320 hrs and, after examination of the patient, deemed her fit to be transferred to Mallaig on the vessel. Assisted on board by the Lifeboat crew, the casualty and a companion were conveyed to Mallaig Harbour and the care of the Ambulance personnel.
Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 0430 hrs.

Saturday 21st July: There was a launch request by Stornoway Coastguard at 2057 hrs after reports that a small craft with two persons on board had suffered engine failure off Ulinish Point in Loch Harport, Skye. However, a yacht was in the area and went to the casualty's assistance, towing it to Portnalong, Skye. With the Lifeboat no longer needed, crew were stood down at 2100 hrs.

Sunday 22nd July: Mallaig Lifeboat launched at 1050 hrs in near gale force conditions to go to the assistance of t he 8 metre yacht Papillon of Carden reportedly dragging her anchor and in danger of beaching in Rum harbour. Arriving on scene at 1137 hrs, the Lifeboat discovered the yacht holding again but now out in the middle of the loch. Papillon was being blown about by the strong squalls and gale force winds. It was agreed that a member of the Lifeboat crew board the yacht to assist in the recovery of the anchor and reposition in calmer waters but it soon became apparent that even with two persons aboard it was still an effort to recover the anchor in the powerful squalls. The Lifeboat manoeuvred alongside it again and put another crew member on board. This allowed the skipper of the yacht to motor up on the anchor, letting the two crew hand haul the chain and anchor on board.
With anchor recovered, the Papillon tried to anchor again but to no avail. On the third attempt, the anchor took grip and seemed to be holding well. After waiting and watching for 15 minutes, it became apparent that the yacht had not moved despite the squally conditions so the Lifeboat manoeuvred alongside the yacht and in a split second and with great agility, the two crew sprung onto the aft rails and clambered safely on board the Lifeboat. Lifeboat returned to Mallaig, was refuelled and ready for service at 1350 hrs.

Wednesday 25th July: Launched at the request of Stornoway Coastguard at 1215 hrs, the Mallaig Lifeboat was tasked to go to the assistance of the yacht Graphix, suffering from steering loss west of Sleat Point. By the time the Lifeboat arrived on scene (12.35), the crew of the 10 metre yacht had managed to regain steering and were proceeding towards Mallaig with the yacht Lucky T, also bound for Mallaig, agreeing to escort the Graphix into port, thus Lifeboat was released from service and returned to harbour, refuelled and ready for service at 1315 hrs.

The volunteer lifeboat crew from Mallaig were paged at 9:30pm on Wednesday 1st August and launched immediately to rescue the French crew from their capsized catamaran off the Isle of Skye.
The catamaran got into difficulty North of Mallaig. it is believed that the adverse weather conditions caused the vessel to capsize and it had become completely inverted. The incident unfolded so quickly that the crew were unable to call for help on the radio or release a distress flare.
The coastguard was alerted by the activation of the EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) and requested the launch of the Mallaig all-weather lifeboat. The lifeboat used rough co-ordinates from the coastguard and the signal from the EPIRB to locate the stricken yacht and were on scene within 45 minutes of the authorities being alerted.
Michael Ian Currie, Coxswain on the Mallaig lifeboat, said, 'Once we knew we were close we used the radio signal from the EPIRB to locate the vessel and after a short time she emerged out of the rain and murk.'
The inflatable Y-boat was launched and the two women and five men were rescued from the upturned hull of the yacht and brought safely to the lifeboat where they were seen to by Dennis Eddie. Dennis is a full time paramedic and volunteers on the lifeboat crew. No one was injured; the lifeboat returned all casualties safely to shore where they were looked after in the Fishermen's Mission.

News in Brief

On and Off the Rails

West Highland Line Re-opens
After being closed for two weeks due to a landslide and derailed freight train, the line between Glasgow and Fort William was re-opened on 11th July. The first train to 'test' the line was the 6.03am Mallaig to Glasgow Queen Street passenger service. Network Rail worked around the clock to remove the de-railed wagons and clear tons of rock and debris from the damaged track before stabilising the rock face and laying new track and ballast. A spokesperson for Network Rail said it was possibly the hardest task that they had undertaken, due to the remote location involved. The GBRF Class 66 locomotive has still to be removed from the bank of Loch Treig, and it remains where it came to rest after the derailment. All fuel oil and lubrication oil has been removed and the locomotive stabilised. The recovery of the locomotive will probably be done during nights and weekends, with a possibility of it being dismantled and removed on flatbed wagons. The angle that it lies and its sheer weight (127 tons) makes a 'clean' recovery impossible.

Class 156 Sprinter runs into landslide
The 12.56 passenger service from Oban to Glasgow on Wednesday July 18th ran into a landslip at Falls of Cruachan. Although the four-car train remained on the track, it embedded itself into the landslide. The 60 passengers were all moved into the rear two coaches and sent back to Oban, then bussed through to Glasgow and intermediate stations. None of the train crew or passengers were injured. The line reopened to trains the next day.

ScotRail announces more travel offers
'Advance' Club members should by now have received the Summer 2012 'Advance' brochure giving details of the latest ScotRail travel and hotel special offers. There are some excellent offers, such as £19 return anywhere in Scotland (two vouchers in each brochure, each one valid for two tickets). Outward travel available from now until 30th September 2012. Membership to 'Advance' is free and there are no limitations to age restriction etc. pick up an application form at staffed stations, apply online at scotrail.co.uk/advance or ring 0845 078 0077.

Jacobite Steam Train news
The Jacobite steam train continues to be very popular with tourists and visitors to our area, with the morning train being sold out on most days. The afternoon train is also proving to be a great success, with over 200 passengers travelling on most days. The morning service continues to operate seven days a week until Sunday August 26th when it reverts to five days (Monday to Friday). The afternoon Jacobite continues to run Monday to Friday inclusive until Friday 31st August. The final morning Jacobite will run on Friday 26th October, so still many weeks to go!
On Tuesday 17th July, a fresh rake of coaches arrived into the yard at Fort William, enabling the existing morning Jacobite coaches to return south on Wednesday 18th July for 'tyre' turning. Also Ian Riley's Black 5 No. 44871 returned, along with its support coach, to Ian's works yard at Bury, the coaches and steam engine being hauled by a West Coast Railway diesel-electric Class 47. The replacement carriages travelled from Bo'ness via Manuel and were made up of Mark 2's and Mark 1's of various origins. The Guards van was a Mark 1 in red and custard, and in the Mark 2's was a Southern Region carriage in its original green livery. The original rake of coaches (all Mark 1's) will return on Sunday 22nd July and return to morning Jacobite duty on Monday 23rd July.

ScotRail's new policy on Drink (Alcohol) on their trains from 20th July 2012.
Most of you by now will have probably heard about ScotRail's new drinks curfew laws on their trains, either from TV or radio reports, or by reading about it in newspapers. Now ScotRail have published a new brochure outlining the reasons behind the decision. Basically, no alcoholic beverages are to be consumed on any ScotRail service after 9pm at night and before 10am in the morning. On-board catering services will not serve alcohol after 8.30pm, and an announcement will be made to the effect that a 30 minute 'drink up' time will be allowed, encouraging ScotRail passengers to take responsibility for their own actions. Anyone taking alcohol home in their shopping is asked not to have it on public display. ScotRail will stop people who are drunk from travelling to discourage anti-social behaviour against staff and fare paying passengers who just want to return home peacefully and quietly. The curfew does not apply on the Caledonian Sleeper train to London and return, but certain trains will become 'dry trains'. i.e. alcohol-free, where ScotRail deem appropriate. This policy has already been in place on some Football Specials. For more information, you can pick up a leaflet at any ScotRail manned station, or telephone 0845 601 5929 to have one posted to you. Details are also available on the ScotRail website, scotrail.co.uk

Two new ScotRail Free publications
The July/August 'Insight' magazine is available in racks on any ScotRail train. If you are not travelling, hop aboard any stationary train and help yourself to one. It is a good read. The other publication is a 40 page free softback book (A5 size) called 'Discover Scotland', available now at any staffed station. It is a useful wee book for those who want to explore Scotland's Railways, including maps, places to visit and explore, some useful contact numbers etc. You don't have to buy a ticket to obtain one!

Hope to have a competition for you next month.

See you on the train
Sonia Cameron


Storage Shed
It's now twelve months since the official opening of the Mallaig Harbour Storage Facility and in that year the throughput of fish feed totalled 27,000 tonnes.
The bulk of this fish feed has been supplied by the West Lothian based fish feed manufacturer EWOS Ltd for their main customer Marine Harvest, but hauliers Milligan Transport and also Ferguson Transport have also made use of the facility.
Initially assisted financially by Highlands & Islands Enterprise Ltd the Authority was also awarded a grant of £380,000 from the European Fisheries Fund via Marine Scotland to build the Storage Facility - an award that we are happy to publicise and display an appropriate notice on the wall of the building!

It's fair to say that the Authority has been pleased with the uptake of berths at the new pontoon facility. On at least five occasions recently Marina Attendant Peter Weirman has had to turn yachts away as all pontoon berths were in use.
Up to mid July 477 visiting yachts had used the marina and virtually all users have stated their satisfaction with the pontoons however there has also been plenty of comments regarding the lack of shore facilities i.e. toilets, showers and laundry; but it is the Authority's aim along with Nevis Estate to provide such facilities as soon as possible.
Robert MacMillan
Port Manager/Secretary 01687 462154 www.mallaigharbourauthority.com

Birdwatch - July Report by Stephen MacDonald
Nothing unexpected or untoward this month, as most of the local birds approached the end of their breeding season.
Good numbers of Guillemot and Razorbill chicks appearing in the Sound of Sleat indicated a successful breeding season for these species.
Locally Common and Arctic Terns seemed to have had a successful breeding season also, as many recently fledged young were seen feeding on Loch Nevis and around Mallaig by the end of the month.
On the 14th, 53 well grown Common Tern chicks were ringed on Glas Eilean, at the mouth of Loch Nevis and there were many more already flying.
A freshly predated adult Common Tern which was found on the island bore a ring which, on reporting, indicated that it had been ringed as a chick on the islet south of Eilean Shona, Loch Moidart, on 12th July 2005.
A few waders started to trickle through, with a few Curlew appearing at Traigh and Back of Keppoch early in the month.
On the 21st there was a single Greenshank and 3 Redshank at Traigh. On the 22nd there were several Dunlin and 2 Sanderling on the shore there and 6 Redshank at Silver Sands. On the 23rd there were several more Dunlin and Sanderling on the shore at Traigh and a single Black-Tailed Godwit on the golf course. Small groups of Golden Plover were seen several times at Traigh, including a flock of 15 on the 31st.
Several people reported large numbers of Siskins from their garden feeders during July. This apparently has been mirrored across Scotland and Wales and has been put down to an exceptional breeding season for this small finch, according to recent results from the BTO.


Another trip around the world this month and it looks like we've had a lot of fun - and we've been to the Olympics too!

Ben and Grace MacDonald, Morar, were reading their copy of West Word as they entered the Olympic Park on Saturday 28th July.
They and parents Stephen and Pam had tickets for basketball and volleyball. Dad said 'what a great vibe at the events!'

Mike Dunn, Mallaig, took this photo of wife Norleen (right) while they were on holiday in Norway with friends. Halden is just before the Swedish border on the way to Gothenburg.

Graham Berryman, Lincolnshire, took his copy to Hadrian's Wall in Cumbria on his way home from a holiday in Arisaig with wife Helen.

Paul Sheard (Arisaig), John Jamieson and Steven Williams (Morar) looked at their West Word in Torshavn Harbour in the Faroe Islands, where they sailed on Paul's yacht, Capercaille. And who took the photo? Ranald and Su Coyne of Arisaig, who they bumped into at the marina!!

Arisaig's Kevin Kane reads his in sunny Krakow in Poland, on his way with partner Gayle to...

...the wedding of Michal Kocol and Katarzyna Brozek in Tarnow, Poland, on 7th July 2012. Michal and Kate worked at Arisaig House for several years before going home to get married and are the 'mystery' people who left a copy of West Word in a hotel in Marmaris, Turkey, in April, where it was picked up by Donald Campbell of Sleat, Isle of Skye!! We weren't sure if this was a photo for the 'Congratulations to ' page but it's a personal dream of the Ed's to picture a bridal couple reading West Word! The Ed and Richard would have been at the wedding if it hadn't been during the time she puts West Word together...Next best thing?

This motley crew took West Word with them to the Rewind Festival at Scone Palace in Perth in July. It looks like we had fun! Does anyone recognise these Mallaig locals who stepped back into the 80's?

Subscriber Gill Ing, Derby, sent us this photo and tells us 'West World climbed new heights in our Switzerland Holiday in May this year. At 7,800ft the Rothorn is reached by Steam Train from the town of Brienz a wonderful hours boat trip from Interlaken. You can see our two well travelled Cairns Hamish & Isla in the picture, Hamish won third place in the Road to the Isles best looking Dog Competition back in 2008. Terry my husband and I have been holidaying at Gorten Sands since 1981, we have only missed one year in all that time. (We made up for that with two holidays in Arisaig the next year). We plan to be back at Gorten Sands the place we love in September.

Last year the West Highland Museum Trustees seemed only interested in the possible monetary value of the painting in order to help finance their expansion plans. Following local concern and publicity they reversed the decision to sell, but they still want to remove it from Arisaig House. It has descended through the Astley family and somehow survived fire, wartime occupation by the SOE and several changes of house ownership, and yet the painting still hangs there in the hall. The house had been sold for some years with the painting still there when Miss Joan Becher died in 1995, bequeathing it non-specifically to a museum, because of its interest.


At Arisaig House, where it is freely accessible to any member of the public who wishes to call by to see it - and many do - the painting has resonance for the local descendants of some of those it portrays. But it is important too for the relationship between its artist and the principal subject: they were not casual acquaintances of painter and patron, but had been friends since they were young men. Arisaig House itself is important as a work of early Arts and Crafts architecture by Philip Webb, the key architect of that movement and the painting is part of its story.
Francis Dukinfield Palmer Astley (1825-68), its builder, inherited wealth and in 1848, as a young newly married man, bought the Arisaig estate with a damp crumbling shooting lodge. By 1854 at least he was friends with Henry Tanworth Wells (1828-1903), three years his junior. Wells painted a number of family portraits, and through the 1850s and 1860s he was a regular guest at the Astleys' home in Arisaig, where he would go out yachting, deer stalking or sketching.
Wells was a portrait painter, originally of miniatures, but closely associated with John Ruskin and the original Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artists, particularly the Millais brothers. Wells married the painter Joanna Boyce in 1856 and his Arisaig visits and friendship with Astley run through the pages of their newly published biography (Joanna, George and Henry, A Pre-Raphaelite Tale of Art, Love and Friendship by Sue Bradbury, Boydell Press, 2012), including highlighting his difficulty in communicating with Joanna by mail when at Arisaig, very relevant to the title of the painting!
The Wells family moved to the same street in Kensington as other artists and philanthropists, and a few doors along was the society lawyer William Shaen, a great friend of the Astley family (and Wells painted his portrait in 1877). In the next generation Margaret Shaen and Connie Astley were close companions and Gertrude and Arthur Astley-Nicholson (the recipients of the painting) occupied the Shaen house after William's death in 1887.
Wells's young wife Joanna Boyce died in 1861 and Astley's wife Gertrude in 1862 from TB, both leaving young children. Astley had already decided to build a new house at Arisaig but after Gertrude's death he changed architects choosing the young architect friend and collaborator of William Morris, Philip Webb. It is thought they met through a short-lived London arts club (the Hogarth Club, 1858-61) but it is likely that Astley at least know of Webb through Wells and Joanna's brother, the architect turned painter George Price Boyce, as Webb, Wells and Boyce knew each other by 1849, and Webb and Boyce were great friends. Astley gave Webb his first major commission since building the famous Red House for William Morris, and Arisaig House was Webb's first country house and (with other associated Arisaig commissions) his first and only surviving commission in Scotland. Webb is regarded as being the father of Arts and Crafts architecture, a discipline that went on to influence British and overseas architecture, and much of early 20th century suburban housing expansion. The Astleys were important patrons; Constance Astley later commissioned Webb to design the Astley Hall and, with her sisters, the family memorial cross in St Maelrubha's churchyard.
Sadly Francis Astley died at 42 in 1868 and his family grew up with frequent visits to Arisaig. Henry's sketch books show that he also continued to visit through the decades, there are sketches of deer stalking at Meoble in 1886, views from Traigh beach in 1891, local paintings from the same period, and also sketches by his daughter Joanna of Garramore, Traigh and Loch Morar in 1899, now in the British Museum. Clearly there were many family associations over at least five decades.
Letters and News at the Loch Side is dated 1868, but most likely painted from sketches produced in the gun room at Arisaig House (local anecdote) and elsewhere because Henry tended to visit in the autumn. Francis had died on 26 March 1868. Was this Wells's tribute to his great friend?
The painting was significant to Henry as he submitted it as his diploma work for his election to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1870. In 1882 he swapped it for another work, Volunteers at Firing Point of 1866, and interestingly there is a sketch, long since sold at auction, showing a study for the ghillie for Letters and News on one side and of a man loading a rifle for Volunteers on the other. The sketch was inscribed by Wells's grandson: "sketch for boat picture which was originally HTW's diploma; then when the Astleys wished to possess it Papa gave the Volunteer picture to the RA in its place".
On 30 April 1883 Astley's daughter Gertrude Susan married Arthur William Nicolson at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton. (Arthur's cousins included Florence Nightingale, the Smiths of Ardtornish estate and the Bonham Carter family). Gertrude had inherited the Arisaig estate in 1880 when her younger brother Francis, an officer in the Scots Fusilier Guards, had drowned at the age of 27 in Canada. Gertrude's sisters Constance and Beatrice, as substantial heiresses, could have afforded a significant wedding gift. Their choice was to approach Henry Wells and request that he obtain his diploma painting of their father: Letters and News at the Loch Side.
The painting hangs in the entrance hall and can remain there. It is one of the last local representations of the Astley family and for the last 130 years has greeted visitors to the house with a vision of what the house was (and still is) all about: visitors from further afield coming to enjoy highland hospitality amid stunning scenery. It links Wells and Astley, the builder of the house; Astley and his house guests Millais, Halford and Evans; and the guests with the various MacDonalds and MacRaes and their still-local descendents. The house owners are happy for people to come and look at it and, as more information comes to light, are willing to display information detailing its story alongside.
Meanwhile at Fort William the West Highland Museum will need to clear a substantial space to display such a large painting, and more space to adequately tell its story. But with what relevance to the general museum visitor, and would this painting really make such a difference to their experience amongst all the other things on display there? With the painting removed from Arisaig much of the relevance of the portraits is lost, so for most it would be yet another loch side view.
There are numerous other estates in the West Highlands with interesting stories that could be told and I query the Trustees' need to display the painting in Fort William or their visitors' need for it to interpret the West Highlands. The Museum is an excellent facility, providing information about the Jacobites, the old fort, the Appin murder, crannogs, ancient arrowheads, Victorian costume, the St Kilda mail, and so on, a wonderful place to visit when in Fort William, but it is a bit of a trek from Arisaig for those that specifically want to see the painting. I am concerned that a move to a room in the Museum would take the painting away from its context and diminish its interest.
Museum space is valuable and surely the West Highland Museum could use the available space to display items not currently being showcased, and leave the painting on display in Arisaig House. Cross linking information displayed in the Museum could direct visitors taking the "Road to the Isles" to see the painting in situ, and guests visiting Arisaig House could be encouraged to take in the Museum when heading back by Fort William. There must be many other aspects of West Highland life that the Museum could use the space to interpret more fruitfully, yet still receiving benefits from an outpost display in Arisaig. A win win opportunity for the Trustees, the Arisaig community and the many visitors to all parts of the West Highlands.
Adam M Swan, Polnish

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook

List of Issues online

The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Reports from the coastal ranger, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

Please view the latest issue for current subscription rates.

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel/Fax: 01687 462 720
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)

Visit the official Road to the Isles web site


Copyright © 2002-2012 West Word
Page last updated: August 2012

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland