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

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August 2000 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Windpower on Muck - Drought in the Isles
Feis nan Garbh-Chriochan
pan-Highland 2000
Monthly reports from Eigg, Muck, Arisaig, Knoydart


The Isle of Muck's windpower scheme is finally in operation, more than ten years after the project was first conceived, bringing power to its 38 inhabitants.
The system was officially switched on on 27th. July by Alasdair Morrison MSP, Minister for the Highlands and Islands and Gaelic, in front of 60 or so islanders and invited guests who had travelled from the mainland on the Western Isles.
Ewen McEwen of Muck, chairman of the community company said: 'It is enormously satisfying to see this scheme in place and providing power after years of hard work on the part of the islanders and those who supported us. It is hard to describe to someone who lives elsewhere the huge impact a reliable and less expensive power supply will have on the island.'
The community have agreed to 'priority hours' for their power supply, between 8 and 11am and between 7 and 12pm. During these times if the windpower drops below an agreed minimum level the diesel generators are automatically started to compensate. Equally households are informed, by radio control, if excess power is available and can choose to use that for storage heaters. The system will still be subject to the vagaries of the weather - if there is no wind outside the 'priority hours' there will be no power supply.
The vagaries of the weather were well illustrated at the opening. After weeks of dry weather, which has brought problems to the islands, the sails of the turbines were hanging motionless only minutes before the opening ceremony. But as the crowd neared the top of the hill, the heavens opened, and a wind sprang up. The sails turned as if on cue. The 'blessed rain', as Alasdair Morrison so aptly called it, lasted as long as the ceremony and was enough to drench the guests but not enough to ease the drought problem!
The guests were entertained to a splendid buffet before they left to return to the mainland.


The rain we have had for the last few days may not be enough to ease the drought difficulties on the Small Isles. While the rest of the country has been getting rain and areas have being threatened with floods, the driest summer for many years is causing problems to those who have no piped water supply.
The ironic cloudburst that accompanied the opening of Muck's wind power scheme was too brief to do any good. The guests who partook of the excellent buffet had wine and whisky and soft drinks but the hosts were unable to provide tea or coffee. Water for beasts, for washing and for such basics as flushing the toilet, is in critical short supply.
At least Muck has its wind power! Over on Eigg, many homes rely on small individual hydro schemes to provide electricity. Maggie Fyffe, Project Administrator, has had to do paperwork outside because she had no light inside, and for two weeks she has been without her computer. 'It's the worst drought I can remember in 20 years,' she said. 'Some people have no water at all in their houses and are having to get it from burns and springs, but they are drying up too. If we have two more dry weeks the situation will be very serious.' There was no water in the hall at the weekend where Neil and Sue Robertson had their wedding reception. Yet the islanders can't pray wholeheartedly for rain - the hay needs to be got in first! 'It's a conflict between the hydro and the hay!' said Maggie wryly.

Feis nan Garbh-Chriochan
17th - 21st July 2000

The Feis, now in its 10th. Year, had another very successful week with 86 children in attendance, 26 being resident. The week started with excellent weather and everyone in great form, classes started at 11 am on Monday, immediately after registration, and from then on for the rest of the week, buses could be seen scuttling through the village taking the children to all the different venues.
The Monday Night Tutor's Ceilidh was a sell-out as always, foot-tapping music to please everyone. Various evening activities were enjoyed by all the children, from Batik, Shinty, Treasure Hunt to Sheep-shearing and Celtic Art. This year the children involved were asked to design a new logo for Feis tee-shirts and one was finally selected from a wonderful display. The winning design came from a French exchange student, Malieus Gely, who was at her third Feis. Thursday night was the Children's Dance, held in Shielbridge hall and attended by 102 children, who danced and played the evening away with gusto, to the music from all the tutors. It was a tired bunch who finally went home at 10 pm, and that was only the supervisors!! Friday was the Participants Concert and what a show they put on, in every form of their music, to a rousing Drama which had the hall in bouts of laughter, to a final group which paid tribute to their heroes - 'Blazin' Fiddles - and again brought the hall down at their talented and funny portrayal of them. Watch out - there is a lot of competition on the way in the Scottish music circles. The Final Night Dance again was sold out and everyone enjoyed the music of the Ryan McGlynn Band and danced the night away. The good weather made the week and I think everyone left having enjoyed one of our best and busiest feis so far.
The feis is very fortunate in having such a wealth of local talent available to tutor: Fiddle - Iain MacFarlane, Aiden O'Rourke and Angus Grant. Chanter/Pipes - Alisdair Fraser, Allan MacDonald. Accordion - Ronnie Douglas, Dougie Hunter. Clarsach - Ingrid Henderson, Sandra Henderson, Beverley Henderson. Guitar - Jim Hunter, Marc Clements. Tin-Whistle - Allan MacDonald. Keyboard - Mhairi Hall. Gaelic Song - Alyth MacCormick. Gaelic Drama/Conversation/GFW - Catriona MacIntyre. StepDance - Caroline Reagh, and supervisors Donald Nicholson and Ali Mackenzie, who were also assisting in tuition.

This event has been made possible through the generous support given by: Feisean nan Gaidheal, Scottish Arts Council, Highland Council, the local Community Councils for the whole area, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, British Alcan, Bass Brewers Ltd., Ardnamurchan Estates, Dr. Babbott, Vanessa Branson, Mrs. Llewellyn, Arjo Williams, Caledonian Coal, Lochaber Rotary Club, Crannog Restaurant, Scotrail, Nevis Range, Mallaig Marine, Bank of Scotland (Mallaig), Andy Race (Fish) Ltd., Glenfinnan House Hotel, Morar Motors Ltd., Shiel Buses, Loch Shiel House Hotel, ClanRanald Hotel, Marine Harvest, Marine Hotel (Mallaig), Marine World (Mallaig) and also those who so generously donated prizes for all our raffles.
Thanks also go to those members of our community who gave their time to organise activities, this week and throughout the year, also in fund-raising, and in transport. A very grateful thanks to Morag MacLellan and her willing staff in the kitchen and assistants in the daily tea-bar and all the supervisors. Finally to all those who help make this Feis a success, our sincere thanks.
Mary Lamont

Feis Eige 2000
This was a very laid back event, with a lot of very young children attending, and the older children getting almost one to one tuition, which should give them a good musical start for 2001. There was excellent dancing at the feis ceilidh as everyone now knows how to do the eightsome reel properly. The Petronella which is now almost forgotten has been revived and proved very popular! . With Ingrid Henderson's help, the new Feis development worker for our area, Feis Eige will now try to develop on the progress achieved with feis workshops throughout the year.
Camille Dressler

pan-Highland 2000

Knoydart Circus Performers hit the streets of Inverness under the control of Ringmaster Ian
L to R: clowns Lorna and Kira, Victor, one of our funny bags, Ian, Strongman Bernie and Tim the Bearded Lady from Knoydart.

Over the past months, more than 1500 people across the Highlands have been taking part in pan-Highland 2000 - a community arts extravaganza for the Millennium. This culminated in a festival day in Inverness last month, which was attended by young people from various parts of West Lochaber. We have an eye-witness account!
On Saturday 24th June 2000, as part of the Millennium celebrations and organised by the Highland Council, a festival was held in Inverness involving different groups from throughout the Highlands. The festival started at 1.30 pm from Eden Court Theatre with a parade round the centre of Inverness where 700 men, women and children took part. Led by a band of pipers, the procession involved hundreds of children in colourful costumes carrying model fish, animals and flags, a calypso band, a group banging drums, and there slap bang in the middle of it all were the residents from Knoydart dressed as circus performers, with Victor standing at 8 feet tall on stilts, being kept in line by Iain who was the ringmaster. A clown from that group entertained the crowds with his antics. Three young ladies from Mallaig High School managed to walk the distance on their stilts, (Lorna, Esme and Lianne) being the aliens who had just invaded, and who quite rightly were keeping three young gentlemen slaves (Jacob, Sean and Mathew) in check with their superiority! A group of young ladies from Acharacle roller-skated their way around, dancing to the different tempos of music. After the parade the Lochaber Youth Forum adjourned to the Northern Meeting Park where they performed a play under the guidance of their drama teacher Chris Lee and summarised the past 2000 years in under one hour! There, the roller skaters also donned stilts and managed to stay upright despite being 6+ feet off the ground!

Unfortunately the weather was bitterly cold which perhaps accounted for the absence of spectators at the plays, and those who did brave the wind couldn't quite make out what the Lochaber performers were saying because of a louder group of speaker-assisted performers at the opposite end of the park.
In spite of that, the effort that each and every one of the participants gave to the parade and to the play that followed was absolutely brilliant. The youngsters from our area are to be commended for their good behaviour, and their patience, for what was a long day for all of them. You don't have to go to the 'West End' for entertainment - it's sitting right on our doorstep!

Jacob, Lianne, Esme, Sean, Matthew and Laura (and who was trying to look inconspicuous in the trees, Victor??)

From One who Braved the Cold!
PS With apologies to any other group who travelled to the festival from our area - I didn't recognise anyone else. If you were there - please take a bow you were excellent.


Tim Fyffe and Marianne Sykes (left) and Tasha Fyffe and Brigg Lancaster (right)
were married on the Isle of Eigg on 22nd. July by island Registrar Marie Carr.
(Photo courtesy of Kenneth Kean)

You can forget all the society magazines, the Wedding of the Year here on Eigg was last weekend when Timmy and Tasha Fyffe married their respective partners in a spectacular double wedding! Every person on the island was involved in one way or another, including some early arriving guests. Friends and relations by the dozen converged on Eigg, many complete with tents, including groups from Muck, Rum and Knoydart. Wes's three brothers with some of their families travelled from Northern Ireland bringing with them a whole pig and a spit to roast it on (this was accomplished with great success the next day at the Pier). Nine of Marianne's family and friends came from Inverness. Sadly neither of the surviving Grandmothers were fit enough to attend.
Marie performed her first double wedding in exemplary style in front of as many people as could be crammed into Kildonan House and many more who remained outside in the almost unprecedented good weather we have enjoyed lately. A long standing friend, Natalie Vardy, specially designed and made gold wedding rings for each of the two couples.
Meanwhile in the delicately decorated Hall there were helpers arranging the more than ample buffet, many items of which had been previously cooked in almost every household. In the Barn kitchen, a squad of willing helpers prepared yet more food. Outside the Hall someone had erected a green and white striped gazebo lit by coloured lanterns, the gazebo provided much needed extra space.
Lachie Robertson piped the two wedding parties to Davy's bus and away to the reception. The bus, tastefully decorated overall with wild flowers, streamers balloons, and "Just Married" signs and the driver, resplendent in Highland Dress looked really great. Ceilidh music was provided by Lawrence and three of his friends. They played good lively music for the many dancers, throughout the night.
It only remains, on behalf of every Eigg resident and visitor, to say a big "Thank You" to Maggie and Wes and their family for arranging a really good and highly enjoyable time for all of us. Sunday 25th June, was the day chosen by the Rev. Alan Lamb and Helen, to bring Arisaig's Congregation to join that of Eigg for a Service in the Church of Scotland and for a picnic afterwards. It couldn't have been a better day, either for the sea crossing on the Shearwater, or for the picnic which took place this year in the Barn garden. All were entertained by Karen with tea and cakes and everyone, including the twenty-six adults and eleven children from Arisaig had a really enjoyable afternoon.
The end of June was perfect weather for clipping and on one beautiful evening, at about 11pm, a large number of sheep and lambs were heard passing the old shop, the animals were making a tremendous noise, the sheep shouting at their lambs and the lambs answering their mums back in no uncertain terms!

It was thought that they were on their way to Kildonan for the next days shearing. This is a busy time for shepherds and they work extremely long hours, this makes it all the more sad that the fleeces will not be going anywhere except into the barn to join last years production. Their value is so low it is simply not worth the cost of transport to the mainland. Thursday 29th June saw Sleat Primary School children visiting Eigg for their school trip.
Unfortunately two hours (the time it takes the Lochmor to go to Muck and back) is not very long but there was time enough for some games on the beach, including the inevitable football match! "On the Trail of John Muir" was the subject of a slide show and talk by the writer, Cherry Good (who refuses to call herself an Author). She researched her book by following John Muir's life from Dunbar, where he was born, to America where his father took him at the age of eleven. He is far better known in America, particularly in California where he spent much time walking and climbing in the Yosemite Valley in his later life, than he is in Scotland and this book should hopefully help to make him better known here. A limited number of autographed, copies are on sale in Eigg craft shop at 7.99 each.
Cherry Good is now researching what she hopes will be her next publication, this time on Crofting. Part of her reason for visiting Eigg was to talk to our crofters and to get permission to use some of our archived photographs.
The weekend commencing 7th July was Feis weekend. (See Camille's article regarding the musical activities) and Natasha must be thanked for contributing 65 towards the expenses by way of a Jumble Sale and Bric-a-Brac Stall which, in spite of the rain, she set up in the Lodge Porch. All surplus usable items will be sent to one of the charities.
Morag has been busy collecting cardboard boxes in which to store all the schoolroom books and equipment while the refurbishment takes place. New windows are to be fitted later but for the moment the schoolroom is to be re-decorated and the old gaslight fittings removed. Outside, the surroundings are to be tidied up, the play area fenced off and levelled. (Although the children always seemed to be having very enjoyable playtimes the way it was!!!)
Apologies Corner! - It seems that I demoted Alistair in last months West Word, promoted Donald Maclean - and spelt Donald's surname wrongly, sincere apologies to both! However the fencing around Sandamhor Wood is now finished and the next phase is well on it's way, this time the re-fencing is parallel to the road between the Church of Scotland and the School, and is due to be extended towards the forestry gate later.
Joy Williams


The major event of the month was the opening of the Wind Power Scheme by MSP and Minister for the Highlands and Islands Alasdair Morrison. Ewen had been preparing for this big event for months but during the final week he was joined by a team of assistants to tidy up, paint and raise the rock pillar on which the commemorative plaque was affixed by Ian Ketchin. Raising the pillar would not have been possible without CCG and their large machines to lift and transport the massive rock to the summit of Carn Dearg.
And it was there we all gathered for the unveiling by Alasdair Morrison, a crowd consisting of islanders, representatives of public bodies and many of those who had made contributions to the scheme. Possibly the most remarkable event of the day was (after weeks of dry weather) the shower which poured down just as the minister was speaking. Accompanying the rain was a squall of wind and the turbines which had been hanging motionless suddenly sprang into life and started turning.

Ewen MacEwen and Alasdair Morrison MSP
with the newly unveiled stone.

The somewhat dampened onlookers then left the hilltop to enjoy a buffet lunch in Port Mor house. Later that evening there was a ceilidh to round off the celebration. Muck is very short of musicians but Duncan Ferguson kindly came over from Eigg to join Ian Ketchin and Ian Nimmo Smith so we were able to enjoy live music.

On the farm: seven fields (44 acres) have now been cut for hay and silage but we are still 100 silage bales short of the minimum needed for the winter. There are still four fields to cut but with only 18.5 mm rain this month growth is virtually at a standstill. Soon the only green on the island will be the patches of bracken.
And we were all reminded of the power of West Word advertising when Colin disturbed a family of corncrakes.

Eilidh's story (continued):
When we left Eilidh the 'Castaway' pony during the winter she had reached Taransay. Although she had been trained before departure from Muck as far as was possible (we did not have a horse collar or a plough) Eilidh did not perform well on the island. To make matters worse she suddenly produced a foal in April. Doubtless all this will be covered in future TV programmes but Lion (the company) were warned - as we had no control over the ponies before they left Soay. So at the end of June we were told to take her away and so it was that on Sunday 23rd. July Wave arrived at Leverburgh in Harris after a voyage of eight hours forty minutes from Muck.
It would not have been possible to load the pony on Wave in Taransay as there is no pier, but Angus MacKay the owner of the island brought her to Leverburgh where there is a fine slipway next the fish pier. Wave was manned by Colin and myself and we were lucky to have the assistance of Ranald Coyne from Arisaig. On Monday morning the forecast was NE 5-6 and it certainly was breezy early. But at 11 o'clock the wind seemed to abate and we decided to leave. Out in the minch however it was still NNE 5 and a lot of white tops. Colin and I held the mare and foal with Ranald at the wheel and the wind right on the beam. The ponies seemed unphased by the rolling and the spray in their faces though we were soaked to the skin.
As we neared Neist point Ranald was able to let Wave off the wind and that made things easier and soon we were in the shelter of Skye. From Loch Braeadlae to Canna the wind was on the quarter and we were able to leave the ponies to themselves and listen to the rescue of the Galetea on the VHF. At Canna the wind suddenly died and the rest of the journey was uneventful.

Piers and ferries: There is still no sign of the new Lochnevis and on Muck progress with the new pier could best be described as slow. The bottom of the slipway has not yet appeared above water so everything is happening underneath with divers doing the work. There are still the foundations for two towers of the alignment structure to go in so time must be getting short for CCG. On land the new access road is making good progress now that the sewage system is complete.

Craft courses: Lastly, we will be holding two craft courses.
'First Aid for Furniture' on 16th. and 17th. August
'Basket making' 9th to 16th. September.
For full details of these two residential courses phone 01687 462990 or 462841.

Lawrence MacEwen.


The Hall is still coming on well although perhaps a little behind schedule. The plumbing is going in, the kitchen units are ready to be installed and the work men have repaired the chimney. Soon the weather boarding will be going up.
Those of you who like brain teasers like the recent Flower Quiz, look out for one on 'The Lochs of Scotland', devised to raise funds to replace the old stone dyke around the Hall. We're looking forward to the first Arisaig Regatta and hope that there will be something for everyone on the fun day on Friday 11th. There are a number of trophies and cups, and pennants for the entrants. The Sunset Cruise was lovely - we didn't see any whales but lots of seals and yes - a beautiful sunset. Our thanks to Murdo for the use of the Shearwater.
The good news in the village is that the eyesore of a bank on the Land Brae below Clanranald Place is going to be replaced by a shrubbery. It was left uncut for months and when it was 'cut' it looked far worse - if that was possible. The Community Council tried unsuccessfully for funding for a shrubbery last year and but Cllr. King has come to the rescue with a budget for village enhancements. The Council landscape expert has been out and types of shrubs discussed - we need a variety of low maintenance, indigenous, attractive plants. All that will be done this year is the weed control, ready for planting next year. Somewhere in there is an old stane dyke and with that and the bench we are placing at one end the area should be transformed.
Great news too about the prescription delivery service. Again this was something the Community Council had been struggling with for a while, with Mr. Ramsey the pharmacist very keen to assist, but without solutions. Then a representative from the NHS Trust came to talk to Mrs. Ralph and myself as Rural Link and Rural Outreach Worker about the best way to utilise a fund they had with a transport project in mind. The prescription collection problem was discussed, Mr. Ramsey consulted fully and this trial scheme is the result. It will be reviewed in six months time.
Ann Martin


Arisaig residents are still celebrating the Millennium - and will continue to do so until the year's end!
Saturday July 15th. proved to be a gloriously hot day, with just enough of a gentle breeze to keep the midgies away. The cul de sac at the end of 'The Avenue' proved to be a perfect venue, and tables there were loaded with sandwiches and excellent home baking to tempt the seventy or so folk - aged from 6 weeks to nearly 90 years - who donned party hats and had a wee ceilidh to themselves.

The Nursery School Monster Hunters
- Daniel Campbell, Murdo Colston, Kirsty Benfield, Cara MacEachen.

Angela Hardman at a portable organ backed performers Olivia and Stephanie Bridge who entertained on fiddle and pipes; Lianne Stewart who played recorder and recited a Gaelic poem, and the Nursery School set who sang songs about not dropping rubbish, and meeting monsters. Word sheets were provided for a general sing-along, and what ceilidh in Arisaig would be complete without a song or three from Alex MacEachen?
The party goers have asked West Word to pass on their thanks for such a splendid afternoon to the Millennium Committee, and those who helped on the day and made the food - special thanks to Angela and Derek Hardman, Helen Lamb, Beattie Brodie, Margaret MacEachen and to the artistes who entertained.
Ann Martin

Droving photo courtesy of Write Image


Saturday 29th. August saw the start of the a 21st century cattle drive, two days and 25 miles across the wilderness into Kilchoan Estate on the Knoydart Peninsula from Kinloch Hourn.
More than ten years ago the last 50 cattle were driven out of Knoydart, but now a regeneration is taking place as part of the conservation and husbandry projects on the estate. Twelve Highland cattle - cows, calves, three heifers and a bull - will follow the old drove road, , accompanied by men, wives and children on the historical walk, in the charge of Drew Harris, head stalker.
The Highland cattle have been chosen for environmental reasons. 'Ordinary cows can strip an area of grass to the ground, which is no good if you are wanting food provided for deer in the area. Highland Cattle breaks down rougher grasses other animals won't normally touch, so improving the area,' said Drew. 'The beast is also better suited to our climate.' The journey followed the traditional 300 year old drovers' road.

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