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August 2019 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
MALLAIG SPAR TO CLOSE - AND POST OFFICE UNDER THREAT
The operator of the Mallaig Spar, CJ Lang, have announced that the branch will close at the end of the year. Not only does this mean the loss of a shop in the village, and jobs for its employees, but it also means that the Post Office services which are currently offered at the Spar counter will be lost.
When the Royal Bank of Scotland closed its doors in May last year, assurances were given to customers that the Post Office would be able to provide the majority of services which were previously provided by the bank; but with no RBS and no Post Office, many residents will be reliant on the RBS mobile bank which visits the village for an hour a couple of times a week. The next nearest Post Office is in Arisaig, eight miles away.
MP Ian Blackford is supporting local efforts to ensure Post Office services are maintained in the village. He said 'The Post Office now has an obligation to find suitable alternative arrangements well before a loss of service next January. It is their duty and one that I will do all I can to ensure they see through. 'I have written to the Post Office seeking assurances these measures will be put in place and I will keep local representatives up to date with my efforts.'
A Post Office spokesperson said 'We are absolutely committed to maintaining a Post Office in the area. We would encourage any retailer or small business owner interested in running the Post Office and incorporating it into their business to get in contact.'
The closure may also result in the Royal Mail sorting facility being moved to Fort William.
LIFELINE SERVICE OR CRUISE SHIP?
CalMac's policy of booking tour parties on to non-landing cruises on the Small Isles ferry is (once again) leaving islanders and visitors stranded. Foot passengers cannot book tickets in advance for the Loch Nevis, but CalMac's office in Gourock is booking up the boat with coach parties from the Lochs and Glens touring company for non-landing cruises - and with no consultation with the Mallaig office! With scant spaces left available on the boat, residents and visitors are being told to arrive early for the ferry, but with no guarantee of a ticket - and are being turned away. Accommodation booked on Canna? Trying to get home to Rum? It makes no difference - the boat is already full up with passengers who will not be disembarking, and bring no revenue to the islands at all.
A spokesperson for the Small Isles Community Council said 'the Loch Nevis is our lifeline service, and non-landing cruises only benefit CalMac catering on board. We must be able to book tickets in advance. Visitors are able to book their holiday from work, their travel arrangements by air or rail and their accommodation when they get to their destination, all in advance, only to be confounded by not being able to book their ferry ticket in advance.' Whilst affecting all the islands, it has been particularly disastrous for Eigg on Mondays, which is usually their busiest day, as day trippers can spend five hours on the island between ferries. The Monday Makers' Markets were planned specifically to cater for this and, instead of large groups of visitors, some weeks they have been lucky to see a small handful. This is despite representation from the Small Isles Community Council and Eigg residents when this occurred last year, and assurances from CalMac that it would not occur again.
Eigg residents are advising visitors to travel via the Sheerwater instead, and have raised this issue with MSPs and Transport Scotland. MSP Kate Forbes said 'we should be doing everything we can to support fragile island economies. I have written to both CalMac and Transport Scotland to see what can be done to find a solution that works for islanders.'
MEDIEVAL BELL STOLEN FROM ST FINAN'S ISLE
St Finan's Isle - the Green Isle or Eilean Fhianain, in Loch Shiel, Moidart - has been a Christian burial ground since the days of St Finan, a Columban-trained monk who died in 661 AD. It's probable that island was used for burials long before Christianity. The whole island is covered in graves and is still used for burials.
For centuries, the altar stone in the roofless chapel has held an early-medieval hand bell of great religious and cultural value, of a particular type found in Scotland and Ireland, perhaps brought here by St Finan himself more than a thousand years ago.
The local Moidart History Group was horrified to hear that the bell has been stolen, the theft probably happening in late June or early July 2019. The island is remote, on a loch which until four or five years ago was only visited by a handful of people each year, but the popularity of kayaking increased this to an estimated 2,000 in 2016. The thief would have needed heavy bolt cutters, since the flimsy chain that attached the bell to the altar was replaced by a hand-forged bronze chain in 2017, so the theft was likely to have been a planned affair.
There is a curse on whoever takes the bell off the island. It was stolen by a British soldier in the 1740s but returned after a chase along the seventeen-mile long Loch Shiel. The thief was flogged severely, and the bell returned by his officers.
A similar bell was stolen from Fortingall Church in Perthshire in 2017 - so was St. Finan's bell stolen to order? It has no monetary value but is of great religious and historical value and has huge significance for the local population. It is immensely sad that someone has no regard or respect for the feelings of local people and has seen fit to steal the bell for his or her own profit or perverted pleasure.
Please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your local Police if you have any information.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Your editor fell foul of CalMac's policy of not allowing reservations on the Loch Nevis this month - we booked a pod on Canna for a couple of nights, and then couldn't get on the boat. Really disappointing and frustrating; not just for us but for accommodation providers and businesses on the islands trying to make a living, never mind islanders trying to get to and fro! We'll revisit Canna another time - and we still managed a trip to the Small Isles on that occasion.
The printer decided not to play ball AGAIN last month and it took numerous visits from the engineers over the course of two weeks before all was running smoothly again. My apologies for the delay in the paper reaching everyone - and huge thanks to Ann for stepping in and dealing with the machine whilst I was on holiday.
Thanks to Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes this month and, as ever, to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing.
So our usual Knoydart contributor Heather has handed the baton to me for the next wee while - and only just in time, as Heather and Lewis welcomed their gorgeous daughter Ellie Seasaidh Robb to the world on 8th July! Huge congratulations to you both.
Best of luck to Ian Dow who is heading to Eigg to help with timber harvesting there for a couple of months. Knoydart Forest Trust also ran another stool making course and made some beautiful creations.
The Knoydart Games will be running once more on 3rd August, and will be held at Long Beach for the first time in many years! There has been lots of organising going on to make sure that it is a fantastic day out. From raft races, tug of war and bungee runs to all the dog classes too. Plenty of Games of Thrones inspired fun too. The Western Isles will be leaving Mallaig at 10:30am and returning at 3pm.
We said goodbye to Wilder Ways Horse Riding at the end of June with a beach clean, teaming up with with Kiko Matthews of Kik Plastic tour. Kira provided everyone with a fantastic pizza party on Long Beach to end the day.
Our village hall has been at the receiving end of a tribe of saw and hammer wielding locals who demolished the inside of it over a weekend. With 30 volunteers and over 230 combined hours, everyone had a great couple of days smashing it up in anticipation of getting started with the new look hall. The floorboards have been kept and will be used to line the new hall. Looking forward to seeing it all renovated over the rest of the year.
Think that's all for now,
ISLE OF MUCK
Reading the reports regarding the heatwave further south, I for one am very thankful we live in a more temperate climate. 38C in the south of England, 45+ in parts of France? Most residents of this part of the world start to wilt when the mercury hits 22C. Certainly the last afternoon shearing, on what may yet prove to be the hottest day of the year, had all of us reaching for the water bottle on a regular basis. Still, bar the odd stragglers that missed the gather, shearing is over for another year. The good weather has helped Colin at the farm and they are well on with the silage making. Rows of bales cover Calf Park, ready to be stacked in preparation for winter. Always a timely reminder of the need to prepare for the challenges of the changing seasons. Staying with the farm, this year's French student, Chloe, arrived recently. She is here for 12 weeks, helping on the farm and improving her English. As an ex-resident of France I know how hard it can be, especially with a "regional" accent in the mix, but she seems to be getting on fine. We wish her well.
Cetacean sightings have remained good. John Coe, an Orca and something of a local celebrity, has been seen, with at least one other, between Muck and Eigg. There have been a lot of sightings of Minke whale, dolphins and porpoises and some of the video footage recently on social media has been spectacular. On the bird front, the island is awash with youngsters. The three pairs of Herons which have nested in the wee wood on the west side of Port Mor have all succeeded in fledging young as have the pair of Long-eared Owl in the same wood. They are one of three pairs to breed on Muck this year and it's has been fascinating to watch both adults and young in and around Port, quite often in broad daylight.
On the entertainment front, 5th July saw this year's raft race, organised by Camas. In the days leading up to the race people of all ages could be seen scouring the island for anything vaguely buoyant. Their resultant hauls were then crafted (no pun intended), often behind a veil of secrecy, into vessels that varied somewhat in seaworthiness! Due to the state of the tide the launch site was Square beach and the finish line in front of New House. From the off, Colin MacEwen and his team in the safety boat were kept busy as one or two of the rafts proved to have the odd design flaw. Runners up were Sandy and Vicky Mathers, Julie Baker and Katie MacFadzean on a raft that remind me of something from the south sea islands. A wonderful design but, being a wee bit high in the water, it became victim of the stiff cross wind. The winners, Steve Findlay, Archie and Jasper Fitchner Irvine and Laurens Hendricks stormed the course. Their ingenious design was based around two large diameter pipes, into both end of which had been inserted semi-deflated creel marker buoys. These had then been reinflated and the pipes lashed together. Highly buoyant and with little to catch the wind they quickly established a lead which they continued to extend to the finish line. All in all a great afternoon, as was the Barbecue that followed. With four Camas events to come in the next four weeks, including this year's Ceilidh Trail, there will be much to tell in next month's edition!
ISLE OF CANNA
The month has seen a mix of sunshine and heavy showers - sufficient to keep the island water supplies well topped up, but not enough to deter the many visitors arriving by ferry, yacht, small cruiser and RIB excursions. The harbour moorings have been well used, campsite and other accommodation outlets booked, and Cafe and Community shop enjoying plenty of custom. Hot days we have had to keep the shelves stocked with soft drinks and ice-creams. On the farm, the shearing went ahead in the first week of July - Gerry and Murdo successfully juggling nearly 800 sheep between showers, outdoors and indoors, keeping fleeces as dry as possible.
Canna House garden is beginning to look tidy - paths cleared, borders weeded, and a new lawnmower helping us keep the lawns trimmed and looking their best for hosting the Garden Party on the 13th.
In fact, it has been quite a cultural scene on island this month, with also a film première; an art workshop with Raine Clarke (beautifully painted stones appearing in unexpected places for visitors to find); and a concert in Café Canna. (Read more about these great events in Fiona's following piece.) It was nice to have singer / songwriter Yvonne Lyon back performing her songs once again, and inviting locals to get up on the floor and join in. There is, it seems, genuine musical talent on Canna just waiting to blossom.
And on Saturday the 20th, we were blessed with glorious sunshine for the Annual Small Isles Games. Most of the usual events were contested - three-legged races, shot put, hill race, plus a few new ones - 'Zwartble racing', and for the first time ever, we think, caber tossing. A late 'VAR review' was not enough to prevent Canna once again making home advantage count to lift the trophy for the second time.
Thanks to Travis Perkins, builders merchants, for supplying the one tonne bags for the four-person team sack race (always hilarious) - Thanks also to Pam MacDonald, Active Schools' co-ordinator from Mallaig, for generously and expertly organising the children's events - And thanks mostly to all of our Small Isles neighbours who were able to come along and take part on the day, without whom the Games simply could not happen.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
July has been a very busy month for Canna House with Canna Archivist, Fiona, delivering three events open to the Public in addition to continuing digitisation, research and archive work.
First on the agenda was the 'Canna Rocks' event which took the form of an Arts and Crafts workshop, led by artist Raine Clarke, who visited Canna in 2018 to work on the Cats Gu Leòr project. Raine brought with her the concept of " #kindnessrocks" which involves painting pebbles with decorations and inspirational words or phrases, which are then left for other people to find. Finders can then either keep the pebble, move it, or take it away and leave it for someone else to find. Raine also guided participants through an exercise of leaf printing on gauze, resulting in a beautiful curtain which will be displayed in the Pier Waiting Room Art exhibition later this summer. Visitors and residents alike found the tasks absorbing and inspirational.
The workshop was swiftly followed by the main event for Canna House this summer - the "Summer Steinway Serenade", Canna's very own Garden party! Award winning Greenock based singer songwriter Yvonne Lyon performed a summer recital on the Canna House Steinway, with the doors and windows thrown open for all to hear, even although the House itself is closed to the Public at the moment.
Tighard's proprietor Fiona has a spot of face painting!
A sunny afternoon meant that visitors and residents were able to relax in the garden, play some croquet, enjoy the music and Gaelic song (from Fiona herself), indulge in a cream tea from café canna and generally enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Garden. It is hoped to make this an Annual event.
Fiona and Yvonne Lyon on the steps of Canna House
The weekend concluded with the Canna premiere of the new film "Solas" about the life and work of Margaret Fay Shaw, with a new musical score composed by James Duncan Mackenzie. The film will be screened on BBC Alba over the winter and also at film festivals over the coming months.
ISLE OF RUM
A brief article as I'm away on my own wee holiday at the moment.
A good squad of us went to the Small Isles Games on Canna; we were blessed with good weather, company and food. I think we came last this year but not for lack of effort, just numbers! Joss and Eve put up a good fight in the kids races and we got a Rum 1st and 2nd in the tattie and spoon by Sean and Luke - both with interesting methods of keeping the tattie on the spoon. The bulk bag race was the usual mix of chaos and determination and always hilarious. New events for the games included a bake off, which we missed entering as we didn't read the small print on the poster; the dog obstacle race type thing which looked good but doubtful any dog from Rum could have managed it, and the sheep race, nuff said. It was great to catch up with everyone even if we couldn't stay for the ceilidh.
Meanwhile back on Rum we welcomed Voluntary Action Lochaber for an afternoon of director's training and talk about governance issues for all the community to learn more about how (our) company operates and the roles and responsibilities of directors. All important stuff.
The bridge over the Rockery burn has undergone repair: it had been quite badly undercut for some years and had a weight limit on it but now is looking much better and should increase its lifespan for a long time.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust officially launched the Whale Trail, which features Rum and the other Small Isles as good sites for spotting cetaceans. Ranger Trudi is holding various events this summer to support this - check out the website for more details.
ISLE OF EIGG
An action-packed month on Eigg with Feis Eige at the beginning of the month, which brought a sizeable number of children to the island for a few days filled with music, dancing and art. Brilliant session at Galmisdale café bringing together tutors and youngsters who, having grown with the Feis are now keen as mustard to play with the professionals! Especially as one of them is now studying at the Conservatoire in Glasgow! Fundraising for the Feis is continuing intensively throughout the summer as unfortunately the Highland Council's cuts have made a deep hole through the Feisean nan Gaidheal's budget and in turn ours! So look out for the cake stall at the re-installed Eigg Monday Market!
These have been well attended so far, showcasing artisan production on Eigg: beer, natural cosmetics, basketry, embroidery and textile art, basketry and art photography . . . There are even taster sessions in cyanotype and basketry available.
Then it was the excitement of going to Canna for the Small Isles games on the third weekend of the month which felt like a real holiday as many of us had to go on the Friday to ensure we'd be there in time! Great day out, with the sunshine in attendance! It was great to see so many kids and the Eigg youngsters did us proud, winning many races. The adults did not do bad either, and Eigg got second place! The Canna folks' organisation was faultless and full of ingenuity: the lamb race and the dog competition - with the special guest appearance of Scoobydoo - were hilarious! The food was really tasty too - loved the barbecue! Then it was the dance in the Shearing Shed - great venue - where we met with two of our Feis tutors again as Fras was playing with their customary gusto: Angus and Yogi were in fine form! So all in all, great fun, great music, great craic, thanks Canna!
In between these fun events, Eigg had a serious fire incident which could have turned into an absolute disaster had it not been for the swift reaction of the Eigg people. On his way to attend a sudden power cut, Bob Wallace noticed smoke coming out the Electric Shed and raised the alarm. The Mallaig fire brigade was immediately called with CalMac doing an emergency run that night to bring the team and fire engine over. Luckily however, by the time they arrived, the fire had been brought under control by the concerted efforts of a good number of Eigg men and women making a chain of water from the nearby burn until the fire hose got going. The damage, although serious, was limited as the fire was contained before it could spread to the room where our inverters are housed and power was able to be restored within hours. This was a very, very close shave, but our community has shown its strength and resilience.
Let's hope it does not have to be tested again too soon!
A Write Highland Hoolie
Mallaig Book Festival Friday 8th - Sunday 9th November
West Highland Hotel
Tickets for the fourth Hoolie are now on sale! This year we are doing things a little differently and it will be easier for you - and for us. Tickets can now be purchased directly through our website (see below) but if you really can't or don't want to use the internet you can phone me on 01687 450263.
The cost of each talk is £7.50 which is excellent value for money, and because we aren't using an online ticket supplier as in previous years you don't pay any fee on top of that. Tea and chat with Sue Townsend will be £9.50 per head. If you want to come for the whole weekend and take part in everything, the weekend ticket for all ten talks is £69. Remember, if you want to join in the craic at lunch and/or dinner, you will have to book separately at the West Highland Hotel. A three-course dinner is £27.50, a soup and sandwich lunch is £7.50.
If you are coming from afar you can book accommodation and meals at the Hotel at a special rate. For Hotel bookings with the special rates, call 01687 462210 (Book Festival special rates are not available on the Hotel website or the Hoolie's).
Canna Rangers - July update
July has been a fantastic month weather wise which has been great for guided walks, moth trapping and surveying. Our main task this month was surveying the rabbit density of the whole island. This got us to some corners and basalt shelves we had yet to visit and has been a great way to explore the whole island. Whilst on our surveys we spotted our White-tailed Eagles alongside one of their recently fledged chicks - fantastic to see. We also spotted Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon and Merlin, the latter causing much excitement. A few others have spotted the Merlin but it had been eluding us so it was great to finally see it on two different days.
We have also been invaded by lots of Painted Lady butterflies - we lost count on our last walk across the island. Although not in such high numbers we also spotted Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown and Grayling.
This month we also hosted a NTS Conservation Volunteer Group over a weekend with a focus on beach cleaning. We targeted three beaches out at the far end of Tarbert Road and the difference is fantastic. It's amazing what ten people can do over two days. We filled 137 recycled feed bags plus four tonne sacks with larger pallets, containers and rope. We cannot thank the team enough for their help and we hope they enjoyed their stay on Canna, even with the rain showers!
Remember to follow us on twitter for updates on the wildlife and our activities at twitter.com/CannaRangersNTS and let us know if you have spotted anything on your visit.
Gillian and Mike
Arisaig Highland Games and Clanranald Gathering 2019
The weather held for us and we enjoyed a successful Games day with a large crowd at Traigh Farm.
After an opening parade led by Lochalsh Junior Pipe Band, the 83rd Arisaig Games were opened by Andrew Macdonald of Boisdale, followed by a Gàidhlig song from Hannah MacRae.
Our piping competition attracted a high-quality entry with Angus McColl the overall winner in a field of 14 senior pipers.
The dancing competitions were won by Hamish McInnes from Australia in the adult section with other trophies won by Lauren May, Connie MacLennan, Kirsty Taylor and Sophie Macrae in the Juniors.
Angus McColl, winner of the senior piping competitions being presented with the trophies by Lt. Col. Ruraidh Allen of Clanranald
Vlad Tulacek, winner of the Open Heavy competition, being presented with his trophy by Hugh Cameron
A highlight of the day was the battle between Lukasz Wenta and Vlad Tulacek in the heavy competitions, with the overall winner only decided following the last event of the day. The culmination of this struggle would see Vlad breaking the Arisaig record for the 56lb weight over the bar (which had only been set by Lukasz last summer) at a new mark of 16'3".
The track & field competitions saw Rory Dowd from Oban win the Norman Milne memorial trophy for field events. The trophy had been donated to the Games by the Milne family in memory of Norman, a long-term volunteer and a big part of Arisaig Games. Norman's brother Callum presented Rory with the trophy.
Callum Milne presenting the Norman Milne Memorial Trophy for Field Events to Rory Dowd.
Our sponsors, Ardnamurchan Distillery, had a very busy day in their tent talking to visitors about the Distillery and offering samples of their products. Connal Mackenzie from the distillery also presented the prizes they kindly donated to Asha Gillies, winner of the programme raffle and to Matt Waterston and Michael Houston, winners of the Barrel race.
Barrel race winners Matt Waterstone and Michael Houston being presented with Adelphi prizes by Connal Mackenzie from Ardnamurchan Distillery
The Boisdale Art Competition, sponsored by Ranald MacDonald, Younger of Clanranald, was won (11-13 years) by Laila Tarn and the 14-17 age group by Hannah Gibb, both pupils of Mallaig High School. Thank you to all the entrants and also to Andrew Fairbairn who judged a very tight competition. The Games dance was also a success with a close to capacity crowd in the Astley Hall for the annual ceilidh with the popular band Trail West. We must say thank you to a huge list of people who make Arisaig Games possible.
The Shaw-Stewart family for the use of their land and Eilidh, James and Gavin for their help in getting the field ready. Our sponsors at Ardnamurchan Distillery for their ongoing support and sponsorship of our event. The Women's Guild for running the tea tent which sold out again with their takings going to various charities.
Our biggest thanks must go to the loyal band of helpers who turn up each year and effectively donate three or four days of their holidays to our event. Without them, Arisaig Games would not be possible and the committee are very grateful to you all.
See you next year, on Wednesday 29th July 2020.
Arisaig Games Committee
Mallaig and Traigh public toilets and motorhome service point - project update.
No news is generally bad news and this has been the case with these projects, which is why I haven't written an update since March. We have come across some major hurdles which we are struggling to climb over, most notably the cost of connections to services in Mallaig which could be over £100k. This is frustrating as the sewage and power are adjacent to the site but we cannot access them there. Despite being awarded £440,000 this still might not be enough to cover the total costs and so we have been looking for additional funding and looking at ways to reduce the costs.
The other major issue is the bizarre carve up of land which is likely to be a legacy of when the land was reclaimed and not correctly registered. The result of this is that the site in Mallaig is owned by the Highland Council with a small slither up the middle being owned by Nevis Estates. This all causes legal issues which costs extra money and time. We only found this out when we applied to transfer the asset from Highland Council; before that we were led to believe they owned the whole site.
Asset transfers have also been frustrating for Traigh despite it being much simpler: we started the process in December 2018, some eight months ago!! We need this to be completed before we can access funding, and so all the work we've done so far (hundreds of hours) has generally been done by volunteers. The good news is that we managed to secure local funding to pay the deposit on two Natsol zero discharge units, with a delivery date at the end of August.
These Natsol toilets are a change to our original plan to site three Kazuba composting toilets at Traigh. We changed from composting toilets because we felt they were susceptible to chemical toilets being emptied in them; also the capacity was substantially less than the Natsol toilets, which require to be pumped out periodically throughout the year. This has meant that we have had to apply for a change in planning permission. The building design is more basic but they can have a turf roof which will help them blend into the environment.
Let's hope we have a change in fortune as we are still committed to delivering these projects, and let's hope the funders' patience holds!!
Please contact us with your thoughts or queries.
Road to the Isles Facilities Group
Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, West Bay, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4PX
This has been a month of learning the ropes for me, meeting people and trying to understand everything that's going on, and how it all fits together! I'm lucky to have a great view from my office window, and there's been a lot of activity outside the office this month as Knoydart Construction have the contract to build a new Hydro Electric scheme on the Barrisdale Estate on Loch Hourn, so Milligan Transport have been taking all the required equipment in by sea from Mallaig.
The Marina has been busy, and we have two new staff supporting Chris - Courtney is managing the Shore Base, and Michael is covering days off for the summer season.
The warm weather has meant lots of demand on the ice plant - we've been working at capacity some days, but we continue to have issues with the IT side of things, so haven't been able to fully automate the plant yet.
We welcomed another new boat to the harbour this month. The Fleur De Lys has been bought by Donald Sharman of Mallaig Boatyard Ltd, to be upgraded to provide weekly cruises.
There has again been some disruption to the CalMac sailings, with the Lord of the Isles having to fill in for the Isle of Lewis and undertake some unscheduled runs to Barra, meaning that capacity between Mallaig and Armadale was affected. On the positive side, CalMac have installed two new passenger shelters, one for passengers waiting to access the Loch Nevis via the RO-RO ramp, and another one on the breakwater for those using the Skye ferries. These are designed to protect passengers from the worst of the weather. Thankfully they haven't been needed much this month!
XOcean are still surveying the coastline this month, so you may have seen their remotely operated vessel south of Mallaig. It was making the most of the good weather last week, and headed back into the harbour at 10pm last Thursday, closely followed by its operator on the Harbour Tender.
I've been reviewing some of the charges, and it has been agreed that we will increase the cost of an annual parking permit from £50 to £60 with effect from 1st August. This is still great value for money at £5 a month, and is the first increase since the charges were implemented. We have a waiting list for car parking spaces, so if anyone no longer wants theirs then please let us know.
Finally for this month, we have set up a Facebook page - www.facebook.com/mallaigharbour so if you are interested in what's going on, then give us a 'like'!
On & Off the Rails
West Highland Line - 125th Anniversary - Competition for Children and Young People
I am including below details of a competition that featured in July's West Word. As it was not alongside my column, I am now thinking that with the deadline for entries not closing until September 1st, there is still time for parents/grandparents/youth group leaders etc who read my column each month to encourage the next generation to accept the challenge set by West Highland community rail partnership. Read on for details and good luck if you enter.
The West Highland Community Rail Partnership wants to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the railway between Glasgow and Fort William by engaging the younger generations. They are inviting the area's future residents and decision-makers - youngsters now aged 17 and under - to be creative about their railway.
The challenge is to write a short story, design a poster or take a photograph that captures the spirit of the West Highland Line. From the young people's perspective, what impact has the railway had on the area since it formally opened on 11th August 1894?
There are two age categories - 17 years and under, and 11 years and under. Excellent prizes have been donated by ScotRail, the Highland Bookshop in Fort William and Glenfinnan Station Museum. Closing date for entries is 1st September and winners will be announced in October.
Full terms and conditions - and downloadable competitions entry forms - are available from the rail partnership's website at www.westhighlandcrp.com.
Fort William Rail Trail
Also to commemorate the anniversary, a self-guided walking trail through Fort William is being launched. This is a 2.5km walk following the route of the original railway. As many readers will be aware, the original station was on the waterfront adjacent to the Town Pier but this station and the line to it were removed in 1975 to make way for the A82 dual carriageway.
There are 19 stops, each with a historic photograph. Modern images help you match the past scene with the present day. The trail guide can be downloaded in pdf form from www.fortwilliamrailtrail.co.uk. Either print it out or just view the pdf on your phone as you follow the trail. It is hoped to make this available as a printed leaflet/booklet and a smartphone app at a future date.
The trail has been developed by local railway history enthusiast Nick Jones and is being hosted by Glenfinnan Station Museum.
There are various other events planned during August by the West Highland CRP supported by Lochaber Transport Forum, ScotRail, Network Rail, Fort William Chamber of Commerce, Highland Bookshop, Glenfinnan Station Museum plus other "behind the scene" organisations, including Friends of the West Highland Lines. The best advice I can give is to look at the partnership's website at www.westhighlandcrp.com or refer to www.westhighlandline.org.uk or email their vice president John Barnes at email@example.com
The Mallaig extension of the West Highland Railway - which was opened on April 1st 1901 - commemorated its Centenary on May 10th 2001 at Mallaig railway station. Sir William McAlpine, Bt. visited us with many guests in his train, unveiled a commemorative plaque, and speeches were made, local primary school children were awash with flags and banners and the event was covered in West Word! The children were all given commemorative crown coins (do any still survive in a drawer in Mallaig?) and Sir William happily departed with "Mallaig Harbour Water" whisky and a box of Mallaig kippers. I even wore a skirt that showed my legs!!
The mounted plaque from 2001 was removed from the interior of the public area of Mallaig railway station booking office some years ago now during renovation and alterations to the staff area of the booking office. It was never replaced. Recently, and by coincidence ahead of the WHL 150 planned events, a visit was made to Mallaig, by train, by a representative of Edinburgh resident Dorothy Fenwick who was enquiring as to where the plaque was. Dorothy was the Network Rail senior representative and organiser of the public relations for the event who on May 10th 2001 and made a speech that day. I made it a personal challenge to locate it - and - after several weeks of deliberating I am delighted to say that the plaque has been rediscovered, is still looking good (see photo, taken in front of my flower tubs at Mallaig railway station) and will - hopefully - this month be fitted in a position in the public interior of the waiting room for all to see again. A fitting tribute to a great man and his railway connection.
Sir William McAlpine passed away last year but to this day is frequently, fondly and proudly connected to our railway through his widow. In May this year at the AGM of FOTWHL John Yellowlees put forward a suggestion that Sir William's widow - Lady MacAlpine - would be a perfect president for them, as the position was vacant. John is ScotRail's Honorary Ambassador (the one and only to my knowledge). He was making a presentation on behalf of ScotRail. His suggestion was approved and I'm pleased to know that Lady McAlpine has accepted the position of president. She will be involved in at least one of the WHL 125th commemorative events. Photos and reports will follow, I have no doubt, in a future edition of West Word.
Engineering work on West Highland main line by Network Rail
Currently, some weekend planned line closures to allow for extensive engineering work to be carried out are in operation. These line closures are only on the line between Glasgow Queen Street station and Crianlarich. Bus replacement services are operating. Please be aware that bicycles are not allowed on rail replacement buses at any time - unless fully folding. Check at any staffed railway station booking office or online if you need further clarification. On weekends when this applies the Serco Fort William/Euston sleeper clients are being bustituted to Kingussie to join/depart the sleeper train from/to Inverness, and from/to Fort William.
Moving on to October there are engineering works planned by Network Rail resulting in line closure between Crianlarich and Fort William from October 5th to October 14th (ten days). As earlier, bustitution will be in place to convey ticket carrying passengers from Fort William/Crianlarich and return as near as possible to the planned timetable to all stations except Corrour or Rannoch stations due to their remoteness from the roads.
The running of The Jacobite steam train and ScotRail services between Fort William and Mallaig will not be affected. The Auch viaduct is to be refurbished which will involve lifting the rail track in order to replace the wooden deck underneath. The metalwork will also be repaired and repainted. Elsewhere track will be lifted to replace train culverts under the line. Network rail describe the work being carried out as 'complex'. Again remember the 'no bicycles' rule on these buses, only folding bikes. Network Rail say 'we understand the inconvenience engineering works cause and always try to deliver significant projects out with the peak tourist season.' Take that comment as you will! Half term/Golden Autumn?
Looking on the positive side any work that keeps us safe as we travel the rails, of course, has to be done and is very welcome. Just look at the work on our West Highland extension that goes on night after night with no disputes or interruption to the timetables. Thank you and stay safe is the message to all the workers involved, whether it be new signal box digital equipment installation, new transmitter work, landslip prevention techniques or bridges and viaducts, track work or what is below the track. We, the travelling public, thank you all.
As per the 2019 timetable, the weekend afternoon service (all too soon it seems) ceases after Sunday 1st September - plus the weekday afternoon ceases after Friday 13th September.
The morning service is booked on until Friday, October 25th Monday to Friday, whilst the weekend morning service ceases after Sunday 29th September. Timetables are still available from Mallaig Heritage Centre and the booking office at Mallaig. Also available are Off the Rails - a Visit to Mallaig leaflets - with a map showing where the community toilets are! That, by my reckoning, means 13 more weeks of meals to be served to, and shopping to be done by, Jacobite customers and staff - depending on when you read this column!
The ScotRail regular service then takes over for the autumn/winter conveying visitors and locals to and from Mallaig and before you know it Mallaig will welcome back the A Write Highland Hoolie! Mallaig Book Festival at the West Highland hotel the weekend Friday 8th - Sunday 10th November: what do you mean you haven't got your tickets yet!! It pleases me to see so many participants travelling by rail and boat to it. More events please!!
Thinking ahead through "glorious golden autumn" (of course it will be!) to pre-Christmas events. Would it not be a good idea for local shops, cafes, businesses to take out a page advert in, for example, the P&J group around a ScotRail journey/visit with discount if you show your rail ticket. I am sure ScotRail would give a good listen to such an idea. If only we still had a local Chamber of Commerce! I know we are connected to, and by, the Fort William Chamber of Commerce so maybe approaching them would be the answer.
I know press publicity always generates a desire to visit by rail, by positive feedback I get. In the last two months I have hosted and given an interview for a German national radio station on the benefits of a positive commercial future for Mallaig. Then in July I hosted Robin McKie around Mallaig for a weekend two page article in the Observer newspaper - partly asking "what future do locals see for the scenic railway service?" 10/10 was the answer!
See you on the train,
7th July 2019 Assist CG Helicopter Rescue
A casualty was reported to have fallen from a cliff inaccessible from land and was in a position that could have been cut off by the tide. Coastguard helicopter was also tasked and Lifeboat was required to stand by in case recovery from location by helicopter was not possible. After arriving on scene and standing by for around 30 minutes the casualty was airlifted and the Lifeboat returned to station.
11th July 2019 Assisting Yacht Breakdown
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to assist a disabled yacht at 14:00 hrs. After departing the Isle of Canna the yacht skipper noticed that no drive was coming off the propeller. As the winds were favourable the skipper decided to sail for Mallaig. On route to Mallaig the skipper contacted the Coastguard to advise them of his predicament and what assistance was available at Mallaig. On contacting the Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) the Coastguard requested the Lifeboat to assist in berthing the yacht. As the Coastguard was monitoring the yacht's progress the LOM was contacted and requested that Lifeboat assist. The LOM agreed and requested the Coastguard to page the crew when the yacht was off the harbour. At 13:50hrs the crew were paged and the Lifeboat launched at 14:00hrs to meet with the yacht just off the Harbour. With near perfect conditions the yacht was immediately brought alongside the Lifeboat and towed abreast to the Marina. Lifeboat ready for service at 14:35hrs. Footnote. After inspection by a local diver it was found that the yacht had indeed lost its propeller. Fortunately a spare prop and nut were onboard. After the diver fitted the spare prop the casualty proceeded to Oban to where the charter concluded the following day.
17th July 2019 Assisting Broken Down Well Boat
Launched at 22:20hrs by Stornoway Coastguard to assist a broken down well boat south of Arisaig Point. Whilst on transit from Lochailort to Mallaig with 90 tonnes of harvested salmon the vessel suffered a complete engine failure. After dropping his anchor to reduce drift the casualty broadcast a PAN-PAN message for assistance. A fishing vessel nearby and a work boat on passage also responded and stood by. On scene at 22:56hrs; as the Lifeboat approached the casualty began to retrieve his anchor, but failed to do so as it was hard fast on the bottom. Once the tow rope was passed over, the crew on the casualty attached a buoyed rope to the chain and cut it free. With favourable light southerly winds the tow commenced at a steady five knots towards Mallaig. Once off the harbour the tow rope was adjusted and shortened for the last leg into the outer harbour. Onshore local Coastguards were awaiting to assist with mooring the casualty on the outer stub at 02:05 hrs. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 02:15 hrs.
25th July 2019 Launched to Assist Swimmer
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 15:30hrs to Arisaig Harbour to the assistance of a reported swimmer in difficulty. A member of the public reported to the Coastguard that they could see a swimmer clinging onto a buoy in the harbour and believed they were in difficulty. As the Rescue services proceeded to the area it was confirmed that the swimmer was safe ashore and all units were stood down. It transpired that this was a local lady who regularly swam out to this buoy, rested and then swam back to shore below her home. Lifeboat stood down at 15:45hrs and returned to port berthing at 16:15hrs and ready for service. False alarm with good intent.
26th July 2019 Assisting Broken Down Yacht
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a disabled yacht off Armadale, Isle of Skye at 04:05hrs. The craft had suffered engine and electrical failure due to it taking a roll and dislodging the battery from its location, thus disabling the engine and electrical systems. The lone occupant dialled treble 9 and requested assistance through the Coastguard. On scene the casualty was being shadowed by one of the large well boats that operate in the area until the Lifeboat arrived on scene. Once on scene the lifeboat towed the casualty the short distance to the Armadale anchorage and put her on a mooring. The occupant would then be able to get ashore with his tender and walk the distance home. Lifeboat berthed back at the pontoon at 05:15hrs and ready for service.
26th July 2019
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to investigate reports of a person being blown to sea on an inflatable at 14:10 hrs. Coastguards received a report from a member of the public at Camusdarach beach that they believed a person was being blown to sea clinging to an inflatable ring. On arrival at scene the Y-Boat was dispatched to the beach to gather more information from the first informants. The Lifeboat proceeded to seaward to search for the inflatable on the fresh offshore breeze. The inflatable ring was located about a mile off shore. As the Lifeboat recovered the inflatable, the Y-boat crew reported that they had located the party which the ring had belonged to. They had watched the ring being blown offshore and believed that was the end of that. On the adjacent beach our first informant also saw it and believed they saw someone clinging on and called the Coastguards, who requested the Lifeboat to launch and investigate. Whilst on the beach the crew advised other bathers with inflatables to be mindful of the offshore breeze and remain close in or even have them tethered. With the situation resolved the Lifeboat proceeded towards the beach to recover the Y-Boat, only to be joined by a pod of Dolphins who took great pleasure in bow riding and playing in the wake of both Lifeboat and Y-Boat, much to the delight of crew and bathers on the beach. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 15:40hrs.
BIRDWATCH June 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
A mixed bag weather-wise, with some periods of prolonged rain at times.
Very quiet on the bird front with nothing out of the ordinary reported.
Most birds seem to have had a fairly successful breeding season, although there have been some localised failures.
Many birds that use garden feeders appear to have done well, with numerous reports of Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Siskins, House Sparrows, Great, Blue and Coal Tits bringing their offspring in to gardens. Lesser Redpolls seem to be the exception with no reports of juveniles at feeders yet. Local breeding waders had mixed fortunes, with many hatching chicks at the end of May - beginning of June, only to have many of the youngest succumb in the very wet days that followed.
Ducks and Geese have fared well with their chicks hatching much earlier and a fair size before the worst of the wet weather came.
The Cormorants on the outermost island off Traigh did much better this year, with in excess of 60 well grown youngsters there on the 29th, when many were ringed. Last year none fledged, as they all perished during bad weather when the chicks were small.
On a neighbouring island which would normally produce more than 100 Herring Gull chicks, only five were ringed on the 29th, with much evidence of predation, most likely Mink. The Common Gulls and Common Terns nesting on Loch Ailort suffered a similar fate.
Jays successfully bred in the Loch Ailort area, with an adult and a single youngster first seen in a garden on the 11th. By the month end two adults and four juveniles were seen feeding together in the same garden.
Whinchats with young were seen near Camusdarroch and family groups of Wheatears were seen near the golf course, Traigh.
A Cuckoo was seen and frequently heard in the Woodside area, Morar up until the 17th at least. On the 4th a walking group encountered up to eight Ptarmigan on Sidhean Mor. Also seen were Golden Plover and Greenshank.
Barn Owls were seen on several occasions in the Mallaig area.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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