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

List of Issues online

August 2003 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Kinloch Castle, Isle of Rum
Monthly news from Canna, Knoydart, Muck, Eigg
Coastal Ranger Report & Creepy Crawly Corner
Mallaig Heritage Centre
Local Genealogy & History

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

The community of Mallaig today received a much needed boost to secure the future development of the outdoor playing field next to Mallaig High School.
As West Word was going to press, news came through that the Highland Council has been awarded £127,342 from the sportscotland Lottery Fund . The total cost of the pitch development will be £457,342 with the remaining funding provided by The Highland Council.
The project involves the re-construction of the existing playing field which was originally constructed in 1987 and which became unusable due to a variety of reasons. The new facility will provide a football-sized synthetic turf pitch and ancillary athletics facilities including a long jump pit.
Future users of pitch will be able to use the changing facilities at Mallaig Swimming Pool, situated close by.
Councillor Michael Foxley, Chairman of The Highland Council's Lochaber Area Education, Culture and Sport Committee said: "I am delighted that we have finally secured the funding to rebuild the Mallaig pitch. Councillor Charlie King and our Education officials have worked hard to achieve this. The local footballers will be ecstatic and we hope this will encourage other sports such as Shinty and Hockey."
Users of the new facility will include both Primary and High School pupils (over 230 pupils) and the local community and the town's two football teams, Mallaig F.C. and the Mallaig Magpies.
Angus Kennedy, Manager of Mallaig Football Club said: "We welcome this boost to local football. We currently have to play our home games at Fort William because of the lack of suitable local playing fields. This will save us a lot of time and a fortune on travelling expenses for the 90 mile-round trip from Mallaig to Fort William."
Highland Councillor Charles King said: "I am very glad that sportscotland has acknowledged our local need for this very worthy development. It has been a long- awaited project for our community and there will be a lot of happy people in Mallaig today when they hear this announcement."
The project is currently at the tendering stage and on acceptance of the final tender it is estimated that construction works may begin in September and could be completed by December. Subsequent laying of the synthetic surface is then dependent on appropriate weather conditions.

Stephanie Bridge of Arisaig was proclaimed the British Open Professional Highland Dancing Champion at the 132nd Airth Highland Games on Sunday 20th July 2003.
Stephanie won the Charles McHarg Trophy for the highest marks awarded to adult dancers and secured a place in the Adult British Championships. She went on to win this title and was presented with the cup by the 2003 Airth Games Chieftan, TV personality Bill Torrance (right). Also pictured is singer Alastair Gillies presenting Stephanie with a new dancing cup - The Maisie Bell Memorial awarded to the Senior British Champion. This trophy has been donated by Archie Russell (also pictured) in memory of his wife Maisie. Photo courtesy of Iain Ferguson of The Write Image


BBC RESTORATION SERIES - Please Vote For Kinloch Castle, Isle of Rum.
The BBC will be running a Restoration competition series starting in August. This will feature a number of historic buildings in need of restoration. Based on votes received from viewers the winning building will receive funding for refurbishment.
Kinloch Castle is an Edwardian time-capsule, built by George Bullough, one of the wealthiest men of his time, through a family business in Accrington producing cotton looms and related machinery which was exported round the world. The grandson of a cotton mill worker who became a gifted mill engineer , he aspired to the aristocratic lifestyle and built a hunting lodge on Rum for the summer visits for the shooting and fishing. There is evidence that they were good employers, and employed up to 100 people.
After the WW1 the family declined and the island was eventually sold by his widow to Nature Conservancy (now Scottish Natural Heritage) in 1957. Since then the Castle has suffered some neglect as the focus and funding of SNH is not the built environment. It is in need of significant investment.

Kinloch Castle
Kinloch Castle receiving some restoration some 50 years ago

The Castle is fascinating, very worthwhile visiting and with its original furniture and fittings, library and papers, an important resource for those interested in the Edwardian period. It is a focal point for day visitors to the island and provides most of the accommodation for residential visitors and a significant number of jobs.
Rum has a history typical of the West Highlands. 440 people cleared out in 1820 by Maclean of Coll to be replaced by sheep. Sheep farming failed and it was sold to the Salisbury family, whose son became Prime Minister. (Just think how did his experience of ownership of "the forbidden island" influence the then government of the day's attitude to the Highlands?) The island was subsequently sold to the Bulloughs who built the castle.
Under SNH the island has become recognised as a resource of world-wide importance. However the social dimension has not been so positive with the community until recently being completely reliant on SNH for employment and housing and as a result relatively transient and insecure. This caused problems and now there is recognition by SNH and the Scottish Executive of the need to build a permanent community which is not completely bound to SNH. In this context, expansion of the visitor numbers and related services and development of small scale enterprises together with preservation of the castle is vital to creating a viable community on Rum and enhancing the Small Isles.
Please lend your support to Kinloch Castle, the only West Highland based building in the series. For further information contact Ewan Macdonald, Chairman of Kinloch Castle Friends Association e.b.macdonald@udcf.gla.ac.uk
(Kinloch Castle Friends Association was established in 1996 to support the preservation of the castle. It is a registered charity and organises regular work parties to the island. Its members are Isle of Rum enthusiasts with wide interests. New members welcome.)
Ewan B Macdonald, Chairman, Kinloch Castle Friends Association

From West Word’s Webpage Guest Book:
Dear West Word, I was thrilled to find your website whilst trawling things Scottish recently, and even more so to find your article on Canna. When I was just 19, I worked with another Australian friend in Canna House. We were two intrepid ‘Ozzies’ enjoying the overseas experience, and had the most wonderful time on Canna. I have never forgotten it, and in fact it is on my list of “must do’s” in the future.
John Lorne Campbell was the laird at the time, and I have vivid memories of him disappearing along the road with a butterfly net in hand and not seeing him again until later in the day. Quite often he would invite other butterfly collectors from the mainland to visit Canna House to compare collections.
I see from your article, you mention Packy – no doubt Patrick, who was at the time about 7 or 8 maybe, his father Angus and mother Eileen (?) and his uncle Hector worked the land and even gave us rides on their tractor! We used to collected eggs from Jesse and butter pats and which had a Scottish thistle embossed on top and fresh cream from other little crofts on the island.
There was Mary-Anne, the Post Mistress who had great glee in running to Canna House with a telegram from my family in Brisbane when I had my 20th birthday there. I still have 3 postage stamps bought at the little post office, and all the letters I sent home from Canna. Mr and Mrs Campbell had a little dog called Perita and most summers a Spanish girl called Magda and her father lodged in “Tigh ard” behind Canna House.
We were employed as au pairs, which was a real learning curve for us, believe me. We used to order the groceries or anything for that matter from the mainland, and it was a treat to use the wind-up phone in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Given our Australian accents, and the broad Scottish lilt at the other end of the phone, we often had things turn up which had us scratching our heads! The Aga had to be kept burning, and we enjoyed very nostalgic and home-sick days listening to “Family Favourites” on the radio whilst we prepared lunch on a Sunday…bliss! Aperitifs were served before dinner always in the sitting room to the left of the front door...du bonnet as I remember.
There was only one teacher on the island at that time. The highlight of the week was to pile into the Campbell’s car and lurch down to Angus’ croft to watch “Doctor Finlay’s Casebook”! Jess’s kitchen was always warm and busy…during lambing season we could feed the lambs with baby bottles just outside her house.
It was a truly magnificent time in my life, the people, the scenery, the wonderful long walks around the island, sitting in the heather, visiting the ruins on the island, enjoying the myths which surrounded them- such a unique experience in my life and one that I shall not ever forget – 34 years later. I look forward to having tea in the Tearoom when I visit! Thank you for setting up the website, it’s great. Best wishes,
Kay Linton-Mann (nee Sunners)

What a cracking games this year. More stalls, more silly games, and more of the infamous tug-o-war…
The Knoydart Games kicked off on an overcast Saturday 2nd August. Worried glances at the sky were needless, as the rain held off apart from a wee shower in the small hours. Bernie the Post and Fraz the Painter did a sterling job at the gate taking the money from people walking down from the ferry, as well as pointing vehicles in the right direction (over 20 at one point!).
Inside the marquee, Sandy and Mrs M kept the thirsty mob happy, while various stalls, including the Marriott’s tombola, Roger Trussell’s raffle (thanks to all the businesses who contributed), and Isla’s homemade card stall all competed for attention. A resurrection of last year’s Nail Game was spotted next to a stall selling Dr Bonner’s Magic Soap, and the Pier House kept everyone fed with some delicious venison burgers (and everyone inside the marquee nicely barbecued!).
Outside, Butcher’s Boomerang Lobbing proved popular, as was the chance to prove your Digger skills in Drew’s corner of the field. The Knoydart Fire Brigade provided a spirited demonstration of how to soak other firemen in a display involving two tanks of water, eight hoses and a very wet Iain Wilson. The vertical bungee-run tended to be won by the same people as took part in the Tug-o-War – the…um…more “solid” the participant, the further back the soap-covered bottle of whisky was moved! Most entertaining at this event had to be the Stag from a party which had travelled far to be here – this chap ran the bungee clothed in a large summer dress and blonde wig. Some of the drunker fishermen had to be restrained from chatting the poor guy up…
Of course, the main event was the Tug-o-War – Mallaig emerging victors in both men’s and lady’s competitions – this despite the Knoydart ladies enduring a punishing training regime which would put the Scottish Rugby Team to shame (how many press-ups a day can you do now, Isla?).
The ceilidh proved a storming success as always – thanks to Gabe and co for some incredible playing – how yon drummer boy played at that speed after 8 cans of cider we’ll never know. The kids ran around clutching glow-sticks (Lorna: “It’s really handy. You know where they are even when it’s pitch black and they’re at the other side of the field…”).
We have to reiterate how grateful Knoydart residents are to the people of Mallaig for coming across and supporting the Games, which have raised some much-needed money for the village hall fund. It’s great to see familiar faces from the village across here. I personally would like to apologise to the lady from the Fishermen’s Mission who had to wait half-an-hour to buy a drink from me when I was behind the bar in The Old Forge – just goes to show how busy it was.
In other news – this coming week marks the 150th anniversary of the sailing of the Sillery, the ship which took away over 300 residents of Knoydart. A small event may be happening to mark the occasion – phone the Foundation Office for details.
Well, I know everyone is itching to know the latest news with Bernie’s ducks. I’m afraid to report that I haven’t managed to catch up with him this week, so I’ll have to make it up. Dire consequences resulted from the war between the Campbells (ducks) and MacDonalds (hens) – but at least Bernie’s got plenty of feathers to line his pillows with, and a nice recipe for Duck a l’Orange from wee Rhona…..
Tommy McManmon

Briggs Marine are here in force - at last. A lot of their work seems to be clearing up after CCG. Many design changes have taken place and a great deal of sand, cement and track ballast on site seems to be surplus to requirements. At the entrance to Port Mor work has started on the most difficult tasks of all, fixing the perches insisted on by Caledonian MacBraynes and requiring calm sea conditions.
22nd July saw the arrival of 150 East German Scouts, or rather they came from the former East Germany. They formed the biggest camping party ever to visit Muck. ‘Wild’ camping is forbidden in Germany but they soon had erected a vast black tent ‘city’ at Camas na Caridh and were foraging for firewood and digging potatoes. The visit ended with an informal concert round the camp fires which many of the islanders attended.
On the farm it has been another good month - not the unbroken sunshine which would have allowed us t make hay, but neither were there days of drizzle which were such a feature of ‘Glasgow Fair Fortnight’ in the 60s and 70s. Three acres of hill ground have been sown with ‘organic’ fodder rape with the only fertilizer one ton of rock phosphate. The main failure this month has been bracken cutting though some has been sprayed. It has been difficult to find suitable days to spray when the tractors were not involved with silage.
Blondie, one of our three brood mares, died on the 14th - cause of death uncertain but it might have been a twisted gut. We were left with a six week old filly foal. What were we to feed her on? First we tried lamb milk. Then Bob MacWalter found some powdered mares milk. Attempts to feed her with a bottle were a failure but after two days she started to drink from a bucket and the worst was over.
Lawrence MacEwen

July was typically a very quiet month for birds, our SWT warden tells us, with what little action there was concentrated offshore. Guillemots and Razorbills began to appear in some numbers, many accompanied by their chicks, whilst Puffins and Storm Petrels were recorded almost daily from the ferries. Migrants were almost non existent but an immature Great Northern Diver at Laig on 14 and 15th was certainly unseasonable.
Minke Whales remain remarkably scarce with very few records (surely the build up will start soon) but it was a good month for otter sightings with several animals reported. A good month also for moths with the new trap producing some bumper hauls as well as a potential rising star in the world of entomology in the shape of Joy Williams!
Not much botanical news though primroses in full flower in mid month seemed a bit odd. Main event was the occurrence of a fungal disease (Ventina sp.) that is wreaking havoc on the island aspens. Samples have been duly sent to the relevant bodies and the situation will continue to be monitored. On the plus side a record autumn harvest is to be expected, as hazels are already heavy with green nuts.
Flower baskets at the pier and summer posies in the tea-room have been a colourful and scented treat throughout the month, courtesy of gardeners Pascal Carr and Catherine Davies, who are now contemplating expanding into a market garden operation.
Lamb prices have remained satisfactory and the island farmers are hoping for a continuation of the recent dry spell to start on the hay.
The weather certainly kept islanders and holiday-makers happy, with two improvised beach barbecues, and a successful Feis Eige 2003, ending on the Sunday with an energetic football match between the Eiggach and the Golden Eagles, the visitors’ team, made up of feis participants, campers and kayakers. There was a record number of children attending the feis and a good time was had by all who attended the tutors’ ceilidh, the Saturday night dance and the Sunday night session.
The Eigg summer carries on with quite a few cultural events throughout August, following the excellent and clever comedy presented by the Road Runner theatre in early July, “Elsie and Norm’s Macbeth.” We are expecting Kakatsitsi, drummers and dancers from Ghana on the 2nd & 3rd , Blaze from London with their anthology of Rock classics on the 9th and Caim, celtic song and harp duo also featuring this year a renowned Irish fiddler on the 27th.
We are also very much looking forward to the visit of An Sulaire, the classic boat from Ness in Lewis (the Sgoth Niseach) which will sail from Armadale to Eigg, and then after a day’s sailing round the island, on to Tiree to take part in the regatta there on the 9th, thanks to The Sulaire trust and skipper Kenny Morrison. Anyone who fancies a bit of rowing or sailing between Armadale and Tiree and back to Skye, should get in touch with Kenny on 07733065418.
Camille Dressler.

Residents of Kildonnan on the Isle of Eigg have ditched their diesel generators in favour of a reliable and environmentally friendly hydro electric power supply. Four out of the five households that make up the settlement on the east coast of the island are now connected to a shared hydro electricity scheme, recently installed by The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.
Eigg isn't connected to the national grid power supply and, like the majority of the island residents, the villagers relied on private diesel generators for their electricity needs. However, the Trust were keen to switch to a cheaper and more reliable source of electricity.
Ian Leaver from the Trust explains that the work is part of their long-term plan to create sustainable communities on the island. "This is the last stage in a major renovation project to improve the quality of life for the residents of these houses. Four out of the five houses have been completely rebuilt with damp proof courses, proper heating systems, renewed water and sewerage supplies and new electricity circuits.
"The hydro scheme seems to be performing well so far, and not even the recent dry spell has disrupted supply, but we'll still keep the diesel generators on hand for times of extreme demand, just in case."
The scheme is supplied from a nearby burn, which is used to power a small turbine. Four houses are supplied at the moment, including a guesthouse, and a fifth will be connected once renovation work on it is complete.
The turbine is capable of producing in the region of 6kW of power for the bulk of the year and has sufficient capacity to power additional households if needed in the future. The residents installed the hydro scheme themselves, and they will also be responsible for maintenance and repairs.
The £40,160 project received a total of £9200 from Lochaber Enterprise and the Community Economic Development programme, as well as funding from the Scottish Land Fund, the Scottish Clean Energy Efficiency Demonstration Scheme and the Gordon Fraser Trust.
Lochaber Enterprise's project officer for the Community Economic Development programme, Alison Boyle said:
"A sustainable, reliable and plentiful power source is fundamental to the long-term development of any community and we are pleased to have been able to assist this vital project come to fruition.
"Development on Eigg has been turned around since it came into community ownership six years ago and the Trust and residents are to be congratulated for their continued efforts to regenerate the island. They will continue to have our full support."

First Arisaig ordination in centuries
Father William MacLean of Roshven, Lochailort, made history last month when he became the first priest to be ordained in Arisaig in centuries - and perhaps the first ever. The Right Rev Ian Murray, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, presided at the Ordination Mass at St Mary’s, which was attended by about 30 priests from across Scotland and Europe.
William attended Arisaig and Acharacle Primary Schools before going on to Fort Augustus Abbey and the Lochaber High School. He studied plant biology at St Andrews but after working one summer with the Iona Community he realised his calling and went on to spend six years studying theology at the Scots College in Rome. He will now be assistant priest at Oban Cathedral, where he has been Deacon. William’s parents Toni and Bob live at Roshven and his aunt is Felicity Blackburn, who lives in Arisaig.

The launch of the Glenfinnan stamp
photo courtesy of Iain Ferguson of the Write Image

There was quite a lot of Lochaber publicity (quite rightly) of the new set of stamps issued by The Royal Mail on 15th July. The stamp issue was to celebrate the ‘Beauty of Scotland’ and on the 47p stamp there in its full glory is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, Lochaber, Scotland.
The viaduct also features in the leaflet printed by the West Coast Railway Company Ltd to advertise the June to early October season of the Steam Train on the West Highland line. Leaving no (philosopher’s?) stone unturned in attempting to attract bums on seats (quite rightly) Harry Potter is also mentioned on the cover with the fact that the WCRC provided the carriages and engine for the Harry Potter movies Chamber of Secrets and The Philosopher’s Stone.
The RCAHMS has issued a Broadsheet entitled ‘The Mallaig Railway: the West Highland Extension 1897 - 1901’ and it also, as you would expect (quite rightly) features the engineering wonder created by Concrete Bob McAlpine, the Glenfinnan Viaduct. There’s photographs showing how they constructed the Glenfinnan, Loch nan Uamh, Borrodale and Arnebol Glen Viaducts (but not of Morar Viaduct unfortunately) and there’s also a photo of Polnish Field Hospital. It’s a fascinating publication and it tells the story of the horse and cart that fell into one of the piers on one of the viaducts. Which viaduct? Well, you can find out by buying the Broadsheet. It’s available at Denis Rixson’s Book Shop at the cost of £1.50.
P.S. For those who need to know these things, RCAHMS stands for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
Robert MacMillan

A fishy tale
If you had been in Morar Hotel Bar on the night of the 28th June, you would have observed a notable, local worthy with a face so long you would have thought he had just had confirmation that the new proprietor was aiming to make the Hotel TT. Actually, what had happened was that Donnie By Gosh had lost his rod and reel over the side of his boat in Meoble Bay. He didn’t even have the consolation of believing that there was a large fish on the other end: it didn’t tug off in the manner a fish would take it, it just slowly slid off and disappeared over the edge. Donnie wasn’t that concerned about the rod, line and end tackle, but the reel was another matter. It was a Hardy’s vintage spinning reel given to him by his aunt, the widow of the late Dr. John Rattray. The tears in the whisky weren’t because the reel was extremely valuable (although it was); but, rather, regret at the loss of something of such sentimental value.
Imagine then a Monday morning, a fortnight later. Donnie is on Mallaig Pier gutting fish for his mobile fish mongering business. Along comes Victor, the angling club champion, and pleasantries are passed about Victor's outing the day before on the loch. Comparisons are made about the hot fishing spots, although whether these are truth or bluff is anyone’s guess. Then, just as he was leaving, Victor asked if Donnie had lost anything lately. Suddenly hopes soared and the sun came out for By Gosh! Victor went to his car and handed over lure, line, rod, and bless its cotton socks, the vintage Hardy’s reel. Victor would take no reward, but Donnie insisted, and Victor went home richer by a bottle of uisge beatha.
Then the story came out. Victor had been drifting in Meoble Bay, close to the river entrance. He missed starting his engine and drifted onto a rock. By the time he had sorted out the engine and got it going again, his line was down wind and very close to the shore. Under control again, he took in his line only to discover he had hooked some nylon. ‘Who knows’, he thought, ‘it might have a ***** monster on the end that has smashed some unhappy angler’s line?’ He hauled in until he felt some tension, then proceeded very carefully, for he didn’t want the line to snap.
Gradually, a large lump of timber hove into view with a Rapella firmly hooked into a notch in the branch. Now to the other end. Usually, when this sort of thing occurs, you haul in a 100 foot of line, only to discover a broken end. This time, however, there was considerable tension on the line. Oh! So carefully and slowly the line came in. Eventually, the cork handle of the rod floated to the surface and, with it, the famed Hardy’s spinning reel.
Roger Lanyon

Coastal Ranger Report
July – Well, that was it! I can’t really decide whether it was/is summer. I suppose overnight rain, and sunshine during the day is ideal really, but somehow, it’s the times that the overnight rains seem to stretch, that puts us all wrong! However, I can’t really complain, as everyone with a garden must be appreciating these perfect growing conditions (those that have to cut the grass are of course excluded!). Beyond the gardens, it has been a great year for wild flowers with some magnificent blooms stretching well beyond their normal period. I was lucky enough to come across a “Lesser Butterfly Orchid”, a fairly unusual plant, for the first time this month, so since then my eyes have been searching vigorously for more rare specimens to add to my “firsts” list, but so far no luck if you exclude a couple of Pale Butterworts.
Another first during the course of one of my walks was an incidence of seeing a Badger. “O.K.” you might say, “What’s the big deal? That’s not unusual.” But the thing is, I haven’t seen a live Badger for a few years, and I most certainly haven’t seen one at close quarters (no more than five yards) in the middle of the day! Fortunately, I had proof that my eyes were not deceiving me, as most of my walking group were able to watch the animal walk sedately up the hill into the deep bracken. Speaking of bracken – boy, am I sick of it! Now a great deal of the stuff, on some of my routes, towers above me, and lovingly harbours the pesky little ticks that start fiendish itches! Roll on the autumn where the damn stuff dies back! Walk numbers for July were slightly down on usual, but the one big, and pleasant, surprise, was the turnout for the exploratory stroll round Roshven, when 14 folk - including some locals – enjoyed a lovely day. Maybe I should be looking at doing more short wanders with the emphasis on exploration, with time and distance not being a worry?? Your opinions or suggestions would be much appreciated!
So, what else has been happening? No, I haven’t had any holidays yet! The major item in our (the Rangers) July programme is always the “Summer Play Scheme”. This has to be initialised way back in February/March, as our entry has to be in for the printing of the schools summer brochure. After the initial deciding of where and when, it tends to be shelved (forgotten), then all of a sudden we’re into July with nothing concrete done – Panic Time! - Head scratching, memory searching (what did we do previously), yes I know we wrote it down, but where the **** is it! What can we do that isn’t “old hat” to the children? Eventually we settle on some wild scheme, and the preparations begin, what do we need? can we borrow/beg it? are we getting any funding? The answer to the last question is a resounding “NO!” Oops! Problem! How can we arrange transport for children to the site with no money? So it goes on until, at last, it all happens, and hopefully again this year we managed to put smiles on the faces of the groups that turned up (20 first day, and 24 next day). Unfortunately, with these numbers, we did not quite manage to cover costs, so it seems that next year we must re-consider, and probably restrict things to just the one day. This is very disappointing, as all the preparation will remain the same, but needs must! Any suggestions or comments on this theme would be very welcome, as it seems that those children (with their parents encouragement??) who do go, always seem to enjoy themselves. Our thanks to all the parents who supported us, and also thanks to those who lent or gave materials without which we could not have managed. My personal thanks too, to my colleagues for all the time and effort (and I have no doubt money!) that they had to pour into the success of these two days. I again enjoyed the whole experience, and, as I type this with my two arthritic thumbs, feeling totally “knackered”, I fervently hope that next year might see a return of the smiles and laughter that the children who joined us this year brought with them.
Although my August walks programme has already started with a smashing group on the Brinacory/ Lochan stole walk on the 1st., I will pass on a copy of the list to a hopefully well mended Ed. in the hope that she can find enough space to squeeze it in. In the meantime, look after yourselves, and why not consider a walk with me, or at least make a suggestion of where you might sometime like to go (I don’t want any cheek at this point!)
Stay happy and healthy,
Angus Macintyre

Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
This month’s question has been raised by our variable weather. Thanks to Catriona McCauley for the average Sladach rainfall information.
Why is it wetter on the west coast of Scotland than on the east coast ?
Most of the characteristics of the British weather are formed over the 3000 miles width of the Atlantic Ocean. Water gains and loses heat more slowly than land thus the Atlantic acts as a moderating influence on our weather. In this part of the northern hemisphere the prevailing winds are south-westerly and these bring warm moisture-laden air up from around the Azores.
Rainfall is much higher in the north and west of Britain. This is because when the water-laden air carried eastwards by the wind reaches the hills it is forced to rise and cool, the water vapour condenses into clouds. For example the mist which often envelops the Cuillin in Skye. The miniscule water droplets that form the clouds then combine to form raindrops that fall on more than 200 days of the year in many parts of Lochaber.
To the east of the high hills, in the comparative shelter or rainshadow area, the air sinks and warms – which can hold more water, thus the sky is often clearer and the rainfall less. On the east coast in areas such as Fife the rainfall is about 22-26 inches per year. In comparison in the relatively low west coast islands such as the Uists there tends to be about 60 inches per year, and on the high hills in Lochaber such as the Ben and around Glen Finnan 120 inches of rain (at least!) falls from the sky each year.
This reminds me of a poem, sorry don’t know the poet:
The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and unjust fella’,
But most upon the just,
The unjust has the just’s umbrella!
Dr. Mary Elliott

Mallaig Heritage Centre - Malcolm Poole, Curator
Timothy Pont and his maps
‘To this man the geographers of Scotland ought to raise a monument, so that the name of Timothy Pont might be as familiar to Scottish ears as the names of Robert Burns or David Livingstone.’ (H. A. WEBSTER)
400 YEARS AGO, a young man called Timothy Pont began what was at that time an extraordinary task: the mapping of Scotland. Today, thirty-eight of the delicate sheets of paper on which he drew his maps still survive and are among the great treasures of the National Library of Scotland.
Pont’s maps are important because, dating from the 1590s, they are the first detailed maps of Scotland. They are also important because they went on to form the basis of the first atlas of Scotland — produced by Joan Blaeu in 1654 as the fifth volume of his Theatrum orbis terrarurn, sive Atlas novus. The production of this atlas made Scotland among the best-mapped countries in the world at that time.
The Scotland in which Pont lived was a small independent kingdom on the northern fringes of Europe which was beginning to embrace the European Renaissance of science, arts and architecture while coping with post-Reformation upheaval. Mapping it must have been enormously difficult: this was, after all, still some 130 years before General Wade would begin to build his military roads in the Highlands.
Pont’s surviving manuscript maps range in quality from very rough sketches to more finished copies. But what they almost all have in common is their concentration on human features: settlements, place-names, buildings, and bridges. It is this that makes them such a rich source of information about late sixteenth-century Scotland.
The maps are crowded with place-names, ranging from the names of mountains like ‘Bin-Lawers’ to towns like ‘Inner Nes’ (Inverness). Pont’s Clydesdale map alone contains more than 1,300 place-names. A close examination of a part of the country that you know well will reveal just how ancient some present-day place-names are, and may even shed light on the original meaning of names in current usage today.
With such a wealth of detail, there is something in Pont’s maps for everyone. Whether you are seriously researching local history, or are just curious about how an area you know well appeared 400 years ago, there is sure to be something to interest you in the Pont maps. And now you have the chance to find it…

“Mapping the Realm” in Mallaig
During August and September Mallaig Heritage Centre is hosting this exhibition from the National Library of Scotland about Timothy Pont and his maps.
Using digital facsimiles of many of the maps (the originals are too precious and too fragile to travel), the display explores Pont’s place in the mapping of Scotland. Ten graphic units tell the remarkable story of the Pont maps. Alongside them, actual-size facsimiles of some of the most important maps are available for visitors to leaf through.
“Mapping the Realm” has been touring Scotland for the last two years, visiting venues all over Scotland. It is the latest in a hugely successful series of touring exhibitions which the Library has mounted, and which has much to bring the Library’s treasures to people throughout Scotland and beyond.

A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
The ‘Kettle’ MacDonalds
Floyd MacDonald appeared on the doorstep in late May, looking for the ancestral home of his family who emigrated on the Lucy in 1790 and were always known as the ‘Kettle’ MacDonalds after their homeland in Kinlochmoidart, and particularly Glenforslan, called Coire Goill. The lochan beside it was renowned for resembling a boiling kettle when the vapour would rise off the loch surface on a summer morning.
Floyd’s great-great-great-grandfather, Donald Bhan, was reputed to have stolen Atkin’s daughter (probably eloped) and landed in Nova Scotia where they got married.
It was always assumed in Canada that Atkins was English and the farm manager around Eilean Shona or Dorlin, but a chance e-mail puts some doubt on that assumption.
Malcolm Culloden traces his line back to Patric Culloden in Belfast and Dublin towards the end of the 1700s, and understands that a lot of ‘Cullodens’ changed their name to Atkins after the 1746 battle.
However Floyd, who was joined on his trip by his son Graham, visited Glenforslan and will never forget John MacAuley from Dalilea who took him on one of his farm vehicles to the site of the old home - Floyd himself would have struggled to get there because of arthritis - left him to explore, and took him back out again.
By sheer coincidence, when Floyd was in Lewis he found the landlady of his boarding house was also a ‘Kettle’ and she gave him some names of other descendants across the ocean.
Floyd also spoke of another family in Cape Breton, known as the ‘Sanndraighs’; MacDonalds again who went out at the same time as the ‘Kettles’. After discussion on the name we agreed the most likely area they came from was Sandaig, next ‘tack’ to Guidal on the Rhue peninsula.
In the Scotsman of 29th November 1947, Seton Gordon wrote of an old traditional story of Arisaig. He wrote: ‘On Sanndraigh lived Oisien, son of Fion, leader of the band known as the Fienne. Fion had a Fairy sweetheart but forsook her to marry a mortal. The slighted Fairy then put a spell on Fion’s wife and changed her into the form of a hind. When the time approached for her to have her son, she swam out to the Island of Sanndraigh and there Oisien was born. The nature of the hind only asserted itself partially and she gave one lick and one lick only to the child and where she licked his forehead a tuft of fawn’s hair grew which Oisien, or Ossian, retained all his life.’
Sandaig it may be, but Sanndraigh it still is in Canada.
Floyd had a wonderful day out of Mallaig fishing for prawns with Hendry Addison. He’d expressed a desire to go creeling in Scotland to compare with what he’d done on his own boat for 50 years in Nova Scotia. He was impressed by Hendry’s professionalism and astounded by the prawn fishery being a somewhat all year round enterprise.
To compare, he has 13 licences for various fisheries including lobster, crab, herring, mackerel, etc, which provide all yea round work, but the seasons are vry limited in duration. For example, the lobster season starts in May for two months, is closed on a pre-determined date, and twelve days are allowed to get all the gear ashore before moving on to crab, which is also set by the calendar and quota, before moving on to other species, also restricted by calendar and quota.
There is no prawn fishery in his region, nor is there ‘squat lobster’, both species which he considered a pure delicacy. The way prawns were presented in the Fish Market Restaurant he will remember forever.

From next month we will be serializing the life of Charlie Lyons as researched by Tony Leszczuk. Here’s a taster….
Corporal Charles Lyons M.M. & Bar, S-9937 (Lochiel’s) Cameron Highlanders (1891 - 1941)
His Early Life to 1914
Charles Lyons was born in Possilpark, Glasgow, on 30th January 1891. It would appear that his early life was unsettled and probably, most unhappy. By 1901, he was not living with his own parents and, in the Census of that year, he is shown as the ‘adopted son’ of a family in Alloa.
Shortly after this, as a boy ‘boarded out’ by Glasgow Corporation, his connection with Morar began. In the 1900s, Morar was a very small settlement. Young Charles was sent there to be brought up by Mr and Mrs Angus MacLellan who worked a small croft at Beoraid, on the south side of Morar……...

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

List of Issues online

Current Issue

The paper version of West Word contains 36 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Logs from the coastal range, lifeboat, police and fire services
  • Columns on gardening, sport, recipes
  • Poets corner, book review, letters, snippets,
  • Feature articles, local events
  • .....and more!

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

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


Copyright © 2002-2003 West Word
Page last updated: August 2003

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland