Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
August 2002 Issue
Contents of the online version:
THE END OF KINSADEL
An famous and infamous landmark of the area is being turned into rubble and will soon only exist in our memories.
The above photograph was taken on Monday 4th August 2002 on the crest of the hill to the north of the present road, but on the day West Word goes to press on Tuesday 5th August this has all but disappeared.
There is a poignant side to seeing a feature of the landscape disappear but the general feeling must be of relief.
It has been a persistent problem to vehicles, especially fish-laden lorries, as one of West Word’s early front pages demonstrated.
Our very second headline story in December 1994 was: ‘Herring landed at Kinsadel!’ with the accompanying photograph of 18 tonnes of freshly caught herring lying on the brae. The accident happened during a Thursday night and the road was blocked for several hours. The fish were swept to the sides and a complicated procedure had to be gone through to authorise a waste disposal company to come to collect it. Unfortunately, by the time the paperwork had been done the offices had shut for the weekend and it wasn’t until the Tuesday that the fish were cleared away. During that time Mairead and Catriona had been wading through rotting and stinking fish to get into their house and even when the herring were finally removed a putrid sludge was left and an over-riding smell.
David Stevenson of Barr Construction has given West Word an update on the progress of the new road. He writes:
‘Barr Construction have now been on site for a year, the contract having commenced on 28th July 2001. Works are well advanced with the bulk of the earthworks being substantially completed. The tar production plant has been set up at Back of Keppoch and blacktop works have now commenced, initially at the diversion at Arisaig Village and Kinsadel.
There appears to be some confusion as to the road layout at Kinsadel and sketches have now been provided at Arisaig village opposite the Post Office showing the existing and new road layouts for anyone interested.
The new children’s playpark at the corner of the Rhu road in Arisaig has now been opened and has proved popular during the recent spell of improved weather.’
EMERGENCY CALL OUT ON CANNA
The Lifeboat and Coastguard Services were called out to Canna on Monday 5th August when a visitor to the island missed his step in the fog and fell 100 feet down Compass Hill onto the beach. A full scale search was on for some hours before Lewis Routledge was found on the shore.
Because of the fog, Stornoway Coastguard helicopter could not get close and Mallaig Lifeboat sent its inflatable craft ashore for the injured man. He was taken to Elgol on Skye where ambulance paramedics treated him on board the Lifeboat before a rendezvous at sea with the helicopter enabled him to be winched aboard, to be further treated by Stornoway GP Dr Iaian MacPhail.
Mr Routledge was taken to Raigmore Hospital where he is being treated for suspected fractures of the skull, pelvis, leg and ankle.
Anne’s article arrived a little late for last month’s issue but we print it here...
The idea for Knoydart’s Open Independence Day on July 4th was to celebrate that achievements of the 3 years since the ‘buy out’ and to thank all those people who have contributed financially and practically to preserving and improving Knoydart. The event has triggered a major clean up of the village area with dramatic results for the better. Where would we be without the ‘Spanish John’ team, who have helped to remove countless wrecked vehicles, dead batteries, etc. Thank you.
At the end of June we enjoyed a most interesting performance in the village hall by ‘COMA’ Scotland playing and singing music composed by winners of the Heriot-Watt young composer competition, new commissions and plainchant from Inchcolm; the music of Scotland of 1000 years ago being the inspiration for all the new works. The group had spent a week of ‘workshop’ in Inverie prior to the concert.
School broke for the summer holiday on ‘Open Day’ and pupils started and concluded the celebratory event by singing their song about Knoydart, performed for the first time three years ago. Next term there will be an additional aspect to the School; as well as the refurbishment of the building, which is currently under way, Alasdair Lanyon has been appointed to nurture the nursery pupils at the start of their schooldays. Congratulations Alasdair. Congratulations also to Stephanie Harris for her prize-winning success at the end of her first year in Mallaig High School. Stephanie, a former pupil at Inverie Primary School has proven the promise she showed and the teaching guidance she received in her early school years.
We all wish Tim a speedy recovery from the injury he suffered after an altercation with a langoustine whilst clearing the beach of debris.
New Life in Knoydart
Our ‘Independence Day’ went well – and an assumption that we would have better weather in July paid off – but only just. After several wet and windy days we were blessed with sunshine and only a light breeze. The Western Isles came in at 11am carrying over 50 guests who had come for the event – a mixture of funders, agencies, businesses, press and friends. Arriving in Inverie, guests were taken to the village hall to be greeted with a glass of wine. The village hall had been hung with specially decorated bunting – handprints of every resident of Knoydart festooned the walls in addition to displays about projects that had been recently undertaken.
At 11.30, just as the Mallaig lifeboat pulled in – with yet more press on board – everyone gathered around the Foundation office. After speeches from Roger Trussell and Iain Wilson, the children of Inverie primary school gave a rendition of the song composed by them for the original buy out ceremony – the words still holding true. Charlie King, chairman of the Foundation, used his speech as an opportunity to thank our many partners, without whom nothing would be achieved. Particular thanks were given to John Watt of Highlands and Islands Enterprise who has been a Director of the Foundation since its inception and who will be resigning at the next AGM. Charlie then handed over to Chris Brasher. Chris was one of the originators of the Foundation and the Chris Brasher Trust contributed to the original appeal. Chris symbolically launched the refurbishment of the Hydro electric scheme (symbolically, as being a couple of miles out of the village, the logistics of getting over 50 people up to the site would not have been easy!), our biggest project to date, with the opening of a new sign outside of the Knoydart Foundation office.
Following the speeches, guests were divided into groups and shown around a number of completed and future projects:
Clachan Dubh – this is an A frame chalet, designed and built locally to provide accommodation for 2 local workers. It was built in response to the chronic housing shortage in the area with significant local support. The value of the property is in the region of £35,000. However, with windows donated free of charge by Velux, many building materials given at cost by Travis Perkin and substantial amounts of time donated by members of the local community, we achieved the building at a cost of just over £20,000. The property is fully occupied and provides good quality, reasonably priced accommodation.
Display Area – this occupies the space next door to the Foundation office and consists of 6 panels which outline the history of Knoydart, its geology, plants, wildlife, underwater environment and our hope for the future. A notice board will also provide local information of interest to visitors eg access and stalking information. The panels were designed by a local graphics business, Knoyd.Art, while the frames were made by a local joiner Davie Newton. The display area also provides a focus for our Friends of Knoydart scheme – this gives people an opportunity to keep in touch with the area and find out what is happening as well as providing much needed revenue for the Foundation.
Woodland Walks – the woods around Knoydart are managed on behalf of the Foundation by the Knoydart Forest Trust and recently they have constructed several kilometers of paths through the woods near to the village. In addition they have constructed with financial support from the Council, a small village car park. If you are visiting Inverie, call into the display area and pick up a leaflet which shows you where to walk and gives you a bit of information about the area.
Returning to the village hall, guests were able to join in a buffet provided by the local community. Such was the weather, most people were able to sit outside giving the impression of a huge family picnic! The event finished with the children again giving another rendition of their poem, this time with the words distributed for all to join in.
So what happens now?
Despite undertaking many projects, the work of the Foundation has only just begun. Our aim is to become self sustaining and whilst work has been put in place to achieve that, we still have a way to go. Priorities over the next couple of years include:
Housing – in October we start the refurbishment of one of our properties to convert it into 2 homes for local families and we are trying to secure funding to be able to undertake refurbishment of our other properties.
Hostel refurbishment – over the next few months we hope to undertake a basic refurbishment of out Hostel which provides basic accommodation to hill walkers and groups visiting the area in order to provide an improved standard of facilities.
Knoydart Ranger - we hope to be successful in securing funds to employ a ranger who will undertake a range of practical and education based activities in the area which will benefit local visitors to Knoydart
In addition to the above is a long list of projects we wish to undertake to improve the area, both for the benefit of the community and visitors.
In all, the day went well and we hope everyone who attended enjoyed it. Thanks to all who made the effort to come or who contributed in some way to the days success. Thanks also to our many partners over the past 3 years – the Highland Council, HIE, Chris Brasher Trust, John Muir Trust , Kilchoan Estate, Lochaber Enterprise, SNH to name a few – we hope you will continue to support us for the next 3!
If you would like any more information about any of the projects, please phone the Foundation office on 01687 462242 or email on email@example.com
ISLE OF MUCK
A new month has brought with it better weather and better weather has brought the visitors. Recent years have seen a considerable increase in whale watching boats which apart from Sheerwater come from Mull. And when the whales are near Muck a call at the Craft Shop is part of the experience. These, together with lots of yachts and the occasional RIB has made the craft Shop a very busy place at times.
The other event of note this month has been a very successful painting course organized by Jill Noble and led by her former art teacher Alick Pearson. Fully booked it also enjoyed more than half a week of fine weather.
On the farm 10 lambs left Muck on the 15th bound for Mull and another 11 on the 30th. And what should have been a seamless journey from Muck to Tobermory, to the slaughterhouse and back to the butcher’s shop in Tobermory, was far from seamless. There were endless delays while every link in the food chain got into position but when they did reach the shop they were not there long! And the weights were good; 197 kilo for 10 and on was 220 kilo. The price of 285p went a long was towards covering all the extra costs involved.
Also this month saw the visit of David Kennard and his family. David claims to have been inspired as a boy by watching the late David Jones and myself working our dogs. Now in NW Devon he has made a highly successful video of his farm and his dogs and gives a weekly demonstration to the public. Farm diversification takes many forms!
Lastly it gives me great pleasure to announce the engagement of Charlie MacKinnon of Port Mor, Isle of Muck, to Mhairi-Anna Henderson of Sagger Street, Dundee (Mhairi-Anna is the sister of Eileen Henderson, head teacher Isle of Muck).
ISLE OF RUM
Due to the BBC block booking all the accommodation on the island we haven’t had the usual variety of visitors and friends coming to Rum, however we have still had quite a lot of day trippers happy to come and brave the rain, midges and Castle tour. The BBC will be here for sometime yet, as they keep having to interrupt filming by leaving every couple of weeks to recuperate - apparently the cut and thrust of the pace on Rum is proving too much for them.
Plans for our new shop and tearoom are well under way. Mandy Ketchin, the architect from Muck, has come up with a wonderful design for a timber building , which we are all quite happy with. It will make the most of local resources and, unlike most of the other buildings in the village, be as energy efficient as possible.
We are also making some progress, albeit slow, with the local development plan for the village, hopefully there will be a basic draft ready by the end of the year.
On Saturday 31st August Rum will be having an Open Day (see advert). It should be barrels of fun. Transport will be available from both Mallaig and Arisaig. Attractions will include Bouncy Castle, Beer tent, barbeque and Ceilidh - Harem Scarem will be playing – but there will be lots more happening. Everyone is welcome so please come along.
ISLE OF EIGG
I guess the amazing show of orchids, especially the pale mauve heath orchids, is some compensation for the wet weather in the early part of the month. No summer is really ever the same from the naturalist's point of view! And we are privileged in our part of the world to observe at such close range the adaptability and versatility of nature.
Sadly from the breeding birds point of view, it has been a disastrous year especially for Arctic Terns. It was all the more heartwarming when the weather turned hot a few days ago, to hear a female Starling sing away madly on top of the disused chimney pot which successfully protected her family from the wet weather, with added warmth from the other pot in use next to it! It was great to witness this musical explosion of gladness in such a tiny creature.
The island kids also responded to the call of the sun and ran to the beach. Adults followed until half the island found itself gathered on Laig sands for a pretty impressive football match (impressive not only by the skills displayed of course, but also by the numbers: it brought to mind the numbers of male islanders who would have made up the great shinty matches in the 1920's before football took over as the island game) it was fitting weather to welcome our newest islander, little Mia Lancaster born on Sat 27 July - the day after her dad's birthday! Well done, Tash and Brigg, the proud parents, here's to another bonny island girl!
Meanwhile the youth of Eigg has been practising samba rhythms with Alan Calder from Strontian - great fun and big drums - as well as stepdancing and a variety of instruments during the Feis whilst learning shinty and a few stories about giants and clan massacres. Feis 2002 was blessed with good weather and was a real success in its new venue, the very comfortable Glebe Barn. It was impressive to see young people returning to be a tutor six years after being taught at the feis, like 17 years old Sophie Read who is now part of the Scottish Stepdancing Company! She was as much an inspiration to the younger generation just as Michaela Rowan had been to hers!
Who can really moan about the wet summer weather if there is good music and good dancing to be had ? We certainly had plenty of that this month, with groovy piper Fred Morrison, the Uist- Ireland Ceilidh Cruise, Graham Irvine and the Killer Tunes Feis Ceilidh Band, (I have not quite recovered from that Hooligan's jig yet!) and the versatile Chittery Bites from Glasgow. And there's more to come!
I must start by mentioning the really excellent concert by Cliar – rightly called the Gaelic super group in the opinion of the audience who crowded in to hear them. The Hall was packed and the atmosphere was wonderful. From the Albert Hall to the Astley Hall – This is the idea behind the Arts Promotion grants we received, to be able to bring artistes to Arisaig which we couldn’t normally afford – watch out for Mull Theatre and Scottish Opera. The Hall made nothing out of the concert, but the grant and entrance money enabled us to pay the band’s fee and expenses which in turn put money into the local economy for B & B and meals. It was good to see such a mix of locals and visitors, for some of the latter it was a ‘first’ to hear Gaelic and traditional music and song, and the queue for the CDs proved how much they enjoyed it. Altogether a great evening, and a little bird tells me it was the one of the best nights of a very successful tour for Cliar.
Earlier on in the month another grant aided event was the family show ‘Monsters in my Wardrobe’, which was well attended for a rare sunny Saturday afternoon! Great fun and we hope to have Mark and John back next year with their new play.
Coming up this month we have a magic show and wizard workshop from Tricky Ricky – no, not the man I married! (sorry Dick...) but a talented performer much in demand in the Edinburgh area who is now becoming popular in the north too.
Cliar actually asked us if they could include the Astley Hall on their tour, and so have the McCalmans – a nice compliment for the ‘new’ hall. If we could just get the lighting fixed.....
The Regatta is nearly upon us as I write this and we’re all crossing everything we’ve got for good weather. Have you got your raft ready? With the Model Exhibition on the Thursday and the Flower Festival from Thursday to Sunday in the Church of Scotland, this week in August is fast turning into a mini Gala. There was a very popular sunset cruise on the Sheerwater on the beautiful evening of Friday 2nd, necessarily organized at the last moment as the opportunity arose, for Regatta funds.
The Land, Sea & Islands Centre is ticking over nicely considering it can only be open between 11 and 3. We have some new things in the exhibition. Our thanks to Felicity for giving us a spinning wheel and a display of wools coloured with nature’s dyes – lichen, seaweed, etc – and for some bones and to Ian Abernethy for some freight labels from the days when the fish went by rail – these go nicely with the porter’s barrow and the old desk from Arisaig Station which we have on loan from John Barnes. We have the new WRI scrapbook of course, which is proving very popular with visitors, and various other interesting reading material including the report on the dig for bronze age moulds on Eigg.
Life in Japan - by Allie MacDougal
Allie’s July article was held over to this month, which was a shame inasmuch it was topical with the World Cup on at the time!
I’m sure it can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the World Cup is being jointly held in Japan and Korea this year. This has been great news for us as there have been socialising opportunities aplenty with the bars downtown digging out their big screens. In general Matsuyama hasn’t had the kind of fever pitch you may have seen on TV; Shikoku is the only island with no games being played, wouldn’t you know it, so we are pretty far removed from the influx of foreign fans that Japan had been dreading in the run up to the event. (They even had warnings on the TV about where the England games were being played, fearful of the famous hooligans they had heard so much about.) Still, a feeling of camaraderie has been spreading over the city as we gather together to watch the games and celebrate or commiserate together.
Since Japan got knocked out the enthusiasm has definitely waned, but it’s still a great talking point for conversations with my students, especially as every female in this country loves Beckham(‘s hair) and are surprised to find I don’t. Needless to say my students are well educated on the geography of the UK – the general view of the UK here is that it is all Igirisu, or England – and now understand the traditional rivalry between Scotland and England on the football pitch. After spending almost the whole tournament in quiet Matsuyama, we decided to take ourselves off to Osaka for the weekend and do our best to get tickets for the Senegal/Turkey game. If we didn’t get them, at least we would be in Osaka where the football fever was bound to have reached a more noticeable level.
A quick request for holidays was successful and Barbara, Tara and I piled off on Thursday’s overnight ferry. The weekend got off to a great start when we discovered that by being gaijin (foreigners) heading off to the World Cup, we qualified for discounted fares. Hooray! It was surely an omen of the great times to come. Arriving in Osaka at 8.30am we spent a wonderfully lazy day shopping and touring the city’s coffee shops, sitting out in the sunshine. It is supposed to be the rainy season just now, but it has been remarkably dry, luckily for the football! The England/Brazil game was kicking off at 3.30 so we headed to an English pub to watch it; Tara and Barbara had been supporting England all the way, but since I couldn’t quite shake off my traditional opposition (I don’t care how cute Michael Owen is, it’s too ingrained) I settled for what I hoped was neutrality. The atmosphere was great, with so many other gaijin and Japanese too, but I have to admit I was quite happy when Brazil got through.
That night was the U.S.A/Germany game, which we watched in another British pub, but I barely looked at the screen for that one as we were too busy enjoying meeting so many new people and being in a real city! After the game though, things got very interesting! Two of the random people we met were from Senegal, and took us to a pub ran by a Senegalese guy who had tickets for Saturday’s game behind the bar. It seemed like fate, especially since the prices were not inflated as we had expected they may be, but were being sold for face value – 30,000\, c.180 GBP. It sounds awful when I convert it, but in Japanese terms that’s not bad at all. I can easily spend 10,000\ (c.60 GBP) on a night out without trying too hard. Everything here is expensive! So, a night of dancing ‘til dawn ensued in a club where reality seemed to verge into an alternative version, for me at least.
Whilst I was chatting and being generally oblivious to anything except the thought of the match the next day, I was approached by a woman from a modeling agency who asked if I wanted to work on their books! I was assured by a Japanese friend that she was sober and serious, but it’s so hilarious that I spent the whole night chuckling about it…and I haven’t stopped since. It seems she is serious however, as she has been in touch since and says the same thing. It certainly could add some spice to the life of an ALT…I’d better get to the gym though.
The game was fantastic, we were on the Senegal side, so if you saw the supporters in their colourful African dress, drumming away, we were quite near them! Of course it was devastating when Turkey got the goal in extra time, but just to have been there was an unbelievable experience. Afterwards we met up with other friends that had come over on the Friday night and another night of partying followed. It was quite a shock to go back to work and remember that we have to actually do something to fund our junkets.
So we’re building up for the final on Sunday now. I don’t know what we’re going to do when it’s all over! It’s quite an addiction and great excuse to go into town during the week, so maybe we should find a new sport. Problem is, the only other thing on just now is Wimbledon, and it just doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of frenzy. I wonder if Tim Henman would ever consider running about the court with his shirt over his head or doing a dance in the corner, Senegal-style. No? Ah well, only four more years to go. I might have to consider a teaching post in Germany for 2006…
While Allie has been teaching in Japan, mother Chrissie has been the teacher for the Isle of Rum, retiring last Spring after six years.
Island Teacher by Chrissie MacDougall
Whenever I told the children on Rum that they were living on an extinct volcano, they were always enchanted by thought that they were now standing where once spectacular explosions took place. Rum is a shield type volcano and the Rum Cuillins are the eroded edges of its magma chamber. The island is a splendid place for those interested in geology or, because of its beautiful flora and fauna a haven for botanists and twitchers, etc. Rum also has a long human history, going back 6000 years to the Mesolithic ages through hardship, massacres and clearances. It is also a wonderful island on which to bring up and educate children. With so much history and natural science to offer and experts of every persuasion on hand to explain and clarify our findings, how could a school not benefit from such surroundings?
These are some of the reasons I have found my last six years on Rum so enjoyable. Another advantage of teaching in an island school is the independence you have to run things in your own style, more relaxed days and a closer relationship with the children you teach than is normally the case in mainland schools. The smaller numbers make it easier to arrange trips, for example. At one time I had only one pupil, Hannah, so we spent a lot of time having weekends away in Mallaig or Fort William! We were able easily to attend special events like the Mallaig Schools Gala day. Hannah also stayed with me when her parents were away. Of course, when you have only one pupil you have to be everything to that child, teacher, friend and playmate – You are never off duty.
Rum is owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and is a Nature Reserve. All the children in school have parents who work for SNH and as such are likely to come and go with their families. Numbers go up and down on a regular basis and you have to have a versatile programme to in school to accommodate these movements. At the millennium we had a good school population, seven in school and three in the nursery. By the end of the year, however, we were down to two in school and one in the nursery. Latterly we went up again to four in school and two in the nursery.
The school staff has grown too. I was lucky to have a succession on hardworking cheerful auxiliaries, culminating latterly in Jean Hutchison (Nursery) and Sue Scoggins (Clerical). I think we were informally known as the three witches!! Sometimes you can feel very isolated when you don’t see any teaching colleagues on a regular basis (more of that later) and it is very comforting to have the support of other people in school who have all the interests of the children at heart.
Parents play a very important part in the school life too. I don’t know how any of our school events would have taken place without their unstinting support – especially in the kitchen!! When the Director of Education, Bruce Robertson, visited there was tea and chocolate muffins on hand. "Have you been baking, Chrissie?" he asks, "Not so," I reply, honestly. "The general consensus among the parents was that you would be better impressed if I didn’t poison you." My lack of culinary skills in the baking department is very well documented!
Because of the lack of manufactured entertainment, the school is often the centre of a lot of amusement and hilarity. It is all hard work but worth it to see the happiness of children, parents and other friends as they come together for various activities.
Some of the advantages also appear on the disadvantages list. For instance, the closeness of island life can sometimes feel like living in a goldfish bowl. There are definitely no secrets! You have to remember too, that owing to the small number of people living on Rum the teacher will always be socialising with the children and parents outside school. On the mainland a teacher may not ever see the children he/she teaches after school hours. Everything on an island is just that bit more intense.
I mentioned earlier the feeling of isolation. I mean this in a professional sense. Sometimes, especially when you are feeling a little fraught, it would be lovely to blow of steam with other teachers in the staff room. No matter how supportive colleagues are on the telephone, nothing can compare with a live presence. There is a distinct tendency to make mountains out of molehills and a drama out of every setback! The school starts to become your whole life and because you are living on top of it, you tend to be in there at all hours, especially at weekends when you would be better off doing other things.
There are disappointments too, mainly connected with the weather. Island people are avid readers of weather forecasts because everything about our daily life depends on whether or not the boat will come. So many school trips have been cancelled at the last moment because of inclement weather. I remember recording in the School Log book , a few years ago, a time when the Loch Mor could not reach us for a week. You can imagine how quickly the food, drink and cigarettes disappear under these circumstances, deep freezes are raided and there is, of course, the added complication of feeding storm bound visitors.
There have been laughter and tears aplenty and I feel I have been privileged to make many new friends in my years as an island teacher.
Coastal Ranger Report
Now that we are well into the monsoon season, we can look back over the month of July and argue as to whether we can remember a wetter one or not! Personally I can conjure up images of the distant past when the "Glasgow Fair" fortnight was guaranteed deluge time, but, unless my addled memory is well askew, I am pretty sure that the flooding was confined to these two weeks, and was sandwiched between good spells of bright and sunny weather. Perhaps I am wrong though, and I have no doubt that someone out there will be more than willing to correct me?! But what of it?
At least this year we, in our remote little corner, are no worse off than anywhere else in the country, and in fact much better than some. So it is that we must make the best of it, and what better way to do it than to get out into the countryside (properly waterproofed of course!) and admire the changing face of Nature. Have you ever seen the weeds so tall and so plentiful? Have you admired the proliferation of wild flowers complementing some of the spectacular cultivated displays? Maybe I’m wrong again, but I don’t remember seeing such huge carpets of Foxgloves, Bog Cotton and Asphodel mingling with the bright purple of the Bell Heather.
But to reality, what has transpired in the Ranger service since my last moan? Well, it’s been a busy month for me, with the walks programme back in full swing and the children’s play scheme to run. As far as the walks are concerned, I am quite disappointed in the attendances with only one walk attaining double figures, however it seems that everyone I have spoken to recently in the tourist industry is in the same boat. What is the answer to encouraging more folk into this area? Are we marketing properly? Should we be selling harder all our facilities? Is there some key feature missing, or is the whole system falling down on cost? Wherein lies the answer I know not!
The previously mentioned play scheme was a total success, although again the numbers were down on previous years. The two days saw enthusiastic groups enter into the spirit of the hunt for the solution to the problem set by the "Aliens" from the galaxy of "Mindoz". The tasks were centred round the damage we are doing to our planet, taking the form of Waste, Pollution, Erosion and Extinction (of creatures in the food chain). Anyway all went well, with the solutions finally being sent up to the aliens by rocket! (maximum height 100ft but who cares!) a good day was had by all. Incidentally, we apologise to everyone who might have gone had there been transport laid on, but we were given absolutely no budget, and had to beg borrow and pinch what little material we had! Never mind, there is always next year.
To finish, I would say that the bridges on the Loch an Nostarie path are almost all in position, and the remainder of the route markers and finger posts (with names) are on order and expected soon, so the little network connecting the Circular Walk to the Lochs Nostarie and Eireagoraidh should be well marked soon, which I hope will encourage locals as well as visitors to enjoy a stroll in the hill.
Finally, "Scottish Biodiversity Week" is the first week in September, and to mark this I, in conjunction with the Strontian Ranger, intend having an extra walk in the Roshven area specifically to look at this on Friday Sept. 6th. Please get in touch should you have any queries. Surprise, surprise, it’s still 01687 462 983!!
Mallaig in the 1901 Census by Malcolm Poole, Mallaig Heritage Centre
Thanks to Jack Shaw-Stewart and funding from the Gower Trust the Heritage Centre has just obtained microfilm copies of the 1901 Census records for the parishes of Ardnamurchan and Glenelg and those for 1841 to 1901 for the Small Isles. However, the 1901 Census for Arisaig is on a separate reel from the rest of the Ardnamurchan returns and we don't expect to have this until early in September. Meanwhile, the Glenelg returns provide some interesting information.
The 1901 Census took place at a critical point in the history of North Morar, on March 31st, with the railway from Fort William due to open on the following day. James MacDonald, who did the census for North Morar west of Tarbert, records that "In consequence of the railway works I had to allot 4 miles of my division to the enumerator of the second division". The second division covered Tarbert and the settlements of North Morar to the east and was undertaken by Donald Walker of Bracara. Presumably he would have passed through Brinacory and Swordland on his way to Tarbert so this cannot have caused him any great inconvenience.
344 people are recorded at Mallaig, although we are told that some of them are "temporarily present, due to Railway Works". However, this is still a large increase on 1891, when the population was 158. Elsewhere the population of Bracara remains stable at 65, as does that of Beoraid (Morar) at 91 but the number of people living in Knoydart continues to drop dramatically to 280 from 400 in 1891.
Among the new buildings is the Station Hotel (now the West Highland Hotel), where no less than seven painters were staying, presumably putting the finishing touches to the building. The manager, William Krupp from Germany, was accompanied by his Edinburgh born wife and 3 year old daughter, born in Inverness.
Victoria Place has been built and seven of the houses in it are inhabited by railway workers and their families from many parts of Scotland.
Surnames which are now familiar in Mallaig appear for the first time in this census, where four Burnmouth men, James and William Martin and Paul and Alex (Sandy) Johnston are listed living under the same roof. In the next house are four fishermen from Buckie: Peter Geddes, Alex Reid, and John and James Main. Also newcomers to Mallaig were David and William McLean of the "West Highland Stores", soon to be immortalised as "D & W McLean".
In sharp contrast to the 1891 census, where almost all the residents of Mallaig are listed as crofters or fishermen, there are now a wide range of occupations. Many of these are people from elsewhere in Scotland : we find Duncan MacLennan, Police Constable from Croy, John MacTaggart, Steamer Agent, from Roxburghshire and Mallaig's first Stationmaster, Henry Grant from Coatbridge. However, there are many local people who have seized the chance of a new living: John Gillies as a shopkeeper, John MacDonald as a restaurant keeper, James MacDonald as a railway surfaceman, John Michie as a mail contractor, Archie MacKellaig as a navvie and Angus Macdonald as a fishcurer, to name but a few. All these were born in the parish of Glenelg, either in North Morar or Knoydart. It seems probable, too, that the coming of the railway with its new opportunities prompted local people to return to the area after living and working elsewhere: I wonder where Archibald MacLellan, General Merchant, met his wife Mary, who was born in New York.
Also included are the crews of five fishing boats: three from Banff, one from Pennan and one from Dublin. Unfortunately it is not clear whether these were moored at Mallaig or not.
The census returns provide a fascinating insight into the changes taking place in our area between 1841 and 1901. They are available to anyone who is researching local or family history, or who is just curious - come and have a look anytime the Centre is open.
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The June issue of West Word featured another old photograph of an event in Mallaig and leading the Parade were pipers Ronald MacLellan and John MacEachen. In my last genealogy about the Walkers of Bracara I mentioned Gilliesbuig Brinacory, who was Peggy Walker’s maternal grandfather. He was also the grandfather of both of those men, and others in the district of Mallaig and Morar.
He was born in Brinacory in 1804 (d. 1878) and married Margaret MacDonald (1810—1898). They had 11 children, namely (1) Alasdair, (2) Donald, (3) Margaret, (4) Anne, (5) Sarah, (6) Ronald, (7) Kate, (8) Marion, (9) Flora, (10) Archie and (11) John.
(1) Alasdair m. Kirsty MacLean and their family, known as the ‘Kirstys’, was:
Peggy, married John MacDonald, and they had Hugh, lost on HMS Hood in the Atlantic; Alasdair ‘The Station’, who was unmarried and died in 1999; Gordon who lives in England; Donald, married Famie ‘the Croft’; Catherine, ‘Kate Kirsty’, married Lewis MacPherson from Glenuig and they had 6 children—Mary, Donald, Christina, Anne, Lewis and Ronald. They lived their lives in Glasgow where Lewis was a rigger in the shipyards. Donald is visiting the area about now to look up his research; Alexandrina, married Gordon Goodwin and emigrated to Iqueque (pronounced eyekeekee) on the Chilean Coast and I have no other information.
Donald was not married
Margaret (Walker) I wrote about in my last article.
Anne married Duncan MacLellan from Arisaig, and their family was—Katy, married Angus MacDonald from Uist; Mary, married, no children; Donald Duncan, married Flora MacEachen, the Blacksmith’s daughter from Knoydart, their children being Duncan ‘Traigh’, who married Angusina MacDonald, Suinsletter, whose children are in Curtaig today, and sadly Duncan died at an early age—and Ishbel, who married Alastair MacDonald, Portnadoran, Margaret who was not married; Lexie, who had a son Archie, who married Flora MacDonald from Meoble.
(6) Ronald married Clementina MacLellan of Coiteachan and their children were: Marjory, who married Alexander MacDonald, Arisaig, my direct ancestors; Mary, married John Clark and went to Canada; Jean, married Edward Brennan and lived in Riddrie; Angus, married Kirsty MacLellan, a sister of Theresa MacKenzie’s (Morar) mother; Archie, married Isabella MacDonell, Bracara, and they had two children, Ronnie, featured in the photo, and Molly; Allan, married Miss MacPherson; Donald married Elsie Tait from Kelso; John, died 18 years, and Hugh, died in infancy. This was the most prolific of Gilliesbuig Brinacory’s children, leaving about 180 descendants to date.
(7) Kate married Gillies MacIsaac from Knoydart and latterly lived in Mallaig. Gillies was a victim of the evictions of Knoydart in the 1840s, aged 14 years, and an article in the future will look at the issue.
(8) Marion was born 1850 and I have no information on her at all other than she appears in Paul Galbraith’s ‘Blessed Morar’ in the Baptismal Record.
(9) Flora married an Irishman in Greenock, and no other information.
(10) Archie married a MacRae from Lochcarron. I have some information on the family and will be adding to it this coming Autumn.
(11) John was also married and lived around Kyle of Lochalsh and I do believe descendants are still in the Kyle area. I think, but have yet to verify, that Pipe Major John MacLellan of Edinburgh Castle Army School of Piping was descended from this family. His son, Pipe Major Colin MacLellan is instructor in Glasgow College of Piping. John, unfortunately, was killed by a train on the Kyle railway.
Scottish Folk Cures Used in Eastern Nova Scotia by Marlene MacDonald Cheng
The old ways are mostly gone now, but there are still people in eastern Nova Scotia with knowledge of the old cures and folk remedies of the highland Scots. Some of these cures derive from ancient superstitions; many have a basis in fact and seem to work. Here are some that I know about from my youth.
Usually it was a woman who was the repository of the knowledge of cures, but sometimes it was a man, as in the case of the "seventh son", or on rare occasions the "seventh son of the seventh son". If the seventh son touched the diseased part of the person’s body, it was believed that the person would be cured. The cousin of my friend Duncan Chisholm was a seventh son, and was always called upon to cure some person or other. When this young lad was about 14, a lady came to the house to have him bless a worrisome lump which she had on her breast. When the woman proceeded to expose her breast to the young man, he ran into the woods in terror. His mother came after him and dragged him back into the house. With eyes mostly closed, he was forced to bless the lump on her breast. Soon after, so they say, the lump disappeared, and the woman lived to be 90 years of age. It is also interesting that the Mi’kmaq people of Cape Breton also believed in this cure. They used to come to the house every spring with gallons of water and the young man would have to wash in the water. They then took the water back to the reservation for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.
Another Cape Breton seventh son lived in British Columbia. When he was home in Mabou, Cape Breton, on a visit a couple of years ago, people would come from miles around so that he could make the sign of the cross on affected areas of their bodies, and they would leave immensely relieved, firmly believing in his power to cure. As a Catholic, the seventh son could not take money from fellow Catholics; if he did, there would be no cure. But if a Protestant asked for the blessing, he was allowed to take money. Once he blessed the head of a store owner who was a Presbyterian and received some chocolate bars in return. The Presbyterian lived to a ripe old age, and the young man enjoyed the chocolate bars for months during the long, cold winter.
There were several cures for warts, all of them appearing to come from ancient pre-Christian rituals. The idea seemed to be that the disease could be transferred to Mother earth, thus ridding the person of the problem. One cure was to gather the blood from the wart in a handkerchief and drop it in the path of a passerby. The passerby would then get the wart. Another cure was to count the number of warts, then put an equal number of stones into a bag, each stone having been rubbed on one of the warts. Then they would throw it over the right shoulder and let it fall onto the road. The next person along who picked up the bag would get the warts. Sometimes, just for devilment, they would write on the bag "Beware of warts". One rather gruesome practice was to rub red meat on the warts, then bury the meat. As the meat decayed, the warts would gradually disappear. One cure that old people swore by was to take a string and tie one more knot than your number of warts. Then you threw it in the direction of the first funeral which passed by, crying out "Take this with you and rot in the grave." This made for a rather colourful funeral procession, but it didn’t cure my warts.
Marlene’s article will be continued in next month’s West Word: cures for toothache, earache and croup among others!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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