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

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August 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
West Word ten years ago
Railway - Local History - Birdwatch

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The Preliminary Study on the proposed Yachting Development at Mallaig Harbour has now been concluded and findings published in a 26 page document by Consulting Engineers Wallace Stone. It brings to an end a consultation process which involved a public meeting and display of plans in the Fishermen's Mission at Mallaig in January of this year when comments and suggestions were put forward by interested parties, stakeholders and members of the public; and regular meetings of the Authority with The Highland Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Mallaig Boatbuilding & Engineering Co and Nevis Estates who all - along with the Mallaig Harbour Authority - contributed financially to the cost of the £22,500 Study.
The proposed development is planned in three distinct phases.

Phase 1
It is proposed to maximise the opportunities for early development of berthing for visiting yachts by concentrating in the first phase on the berths themselves and good launching facilities, therefore Phase 1 works will comprise:-
  • Lifting of all existing moorings.
  • Dredging to suitable depths.
  • A pontoon system providing 43 dedicated yacht berths, up to 20 small boat berths, and up to 20 additional yacht berths by rafting.
  • A bridge to the pontoons and an independent access walkway that is sufficiently flexible to allow incorporation into the on-shore facilities in Phase 2.
  • Disabled hoist for people of limited mobility.
  • A launching slipway with sufficient manoeuvring space and storage area for boat trailers (East Bay).
  • Swing moorings to accommodate visiting yachts at busy periods.
Phase 1 of the proposed development at East Bay showing yacht berths and slipway

Harbour Secretary Robert MacMillan said 'The estimated cost to implement Phase 1 of the 3 phase Project is just under £1m and the Authority is actively seeking European Funding for the project. I cannot put a timescale on its implementation but the Authority hope it will become a reality within the next 2 - 3 years.'
He went on 'There is widespread enthusiasm for the early development of the supporting on-shore facilities with associated landscaping and public recreation areas as described in Phase 2 of the Project and we would hope that they could be implemented as soon as possible after Phase 1.'
There will be more about Phase 2 in next month's West Word.

As ever July ends with the prospect of the Games looming large. Luckily for the ceilidh band the floor in the back room of the hall is freshly concreted. Holding a rotten floor together with 3mm ply and lino was never going to be a long-term solution. The hall was of course in use throughout the month with a table top sale, a talk by Dave Fletcher and a week long display and activity based Renewables Week. This was set up as a part of the ten year anniversary and was hugely successful in informing visitors and gathering local opinion on a range of renewables issues. Thanks go to Gwen, working under the auspices of her Powerdown post, and the Renewables board. Gwen has also been heavily involved in the planning for the new plans for the market garden where vegetable plots and community gardener are all hoped to be in place by next year. Teething problems in this project will soon be ironed out, especially with the amount of goodwill which surrounds the initiative.
The east end of Inverie has also seen the first of the Forest Trust log building courses with participants coming from far and near to take part. The building taking shape will be a fine addition to the long beach as information point, shelter and Indian Takeaway. Alongside the logs the totem pole is taking shape, Karen spending time carving and organising others to do the same. With the Kilchoan houses nearing completion a few confrontations between polecats, dogs and badgers have only added to the general hum of activity in the area. Of course the peninsula as a whole is buzzing: every bed on Knoydart was taken up for a few days running in the middle of the month, the pub had its largest single night diners total (130) and on occasions the bay looked like a whitewashed forest. The pottery, now into stoneware firing, can hardly keep up with demand and the Hawkins prints sold by the Foundation are looking like reaching the end of the print run this year. I was told that tourism elsewhere in Lochaber is not that buoyant but it doesn't feel as if that's the case here. And although the visitor numbers can a have a bit of a draining effect as we head towards the tail end of the season the general feel of the place is still positive, an impression supported by the latest programme on Radio Scotland. What all this can sometimes miss though is the general insanity that can still poke its head above the parapet even at this time of the year. With this in mind it is only fair to mention, without names, a certain night of drunken nudity, lost clothes and shower-room confusion. Phil's striptease for Paisley's leaving do is also worthy of note, his love of cream has not come to the fore in his day job as chef.
Both Paisley and Alex are off on separate trips to do conservation work with turtles, good luck to them and we look forward to the slide show. The rest of us, older, Knoydart folk still manage to get off and have some fun elsewhere. The Mission day in Mallaig was a high point for many this month, while a few others managed to make it to Falkland (Fife not South Atlantic) for the Big Tent festival. Aaran and Fraz are in Turkey and will miss the Games! Coming back is always a bit of a shock though for there is always work to be caught up on. Iain Wilson coming back from South Africa to the clipping being a case in point. Other notable happenings of the month have been the now annual Bastille Day bash at the Post Office, the arrival of the Tea Room Pedalo, with which much fun, which was quickly superseded as transport to work by Isla's quad (lippy mirror and all).
Community ownership and involvement in running aspects of our own infrastructure brings its own highs and lows. We've had both this month. The realisation that the amount of remedial work still need on the hydro pipe line was way and above the expected was bad enough, the fact that the village generator was also caput was the icing on the cake. To balance that though is the news that our application to the Scottish Government's Rural Homes for Rent pilot scheme has been wholly successful. This will mean, once we've sorted out all our side of the finance and the planning, that there will be three more homes for rent in what is called the affordable sector. This is a much needed and long sought for fillip and support to the local economy. Cheers
Davie Newton

Just a brief update this month, as a lot of Canna folk were away on holiday (some still are!) and we're still trying to catch up.
Last month's Canna School Olympics were a hoot as ever…the sun shone and the grounds were in tip top condition. Paraglider Pete took the honours in the slightly modified Huffin' Puffin Hill Race, though an objection was raised by a small child who claimed she was pushed. Ha ha, better luck next time. Unfortunately the nettle eating competition was cancelled due to lack of participants, and the bogie race suffered a lack of puff. Well we're none of us getting any younger, y'know…
Shearing was finished in record time; thanks to Dave from Muck…the help was much appreciated. Also on the farm, there was a big community (and visitor) turnout for what has been dubbed the Great Ragwort Clean-up. The field above the beach was cleared completely. Well, almost. The sheep can have the rest.
Sheep ahoy! The animal rescue squad were in action again last week, after the eagle-eyed crew of the Loch Nevis spotted a sheep at the bottom of the lighthouse cliff. The team was dispatched and returned several hours later with a very hungry animal in a quad trailer. After a hearty meal the poor thing was none the worse for wear. It did look a bit embarrassed, though.
Some may have read in the press that we're short of water…going by the weather tonight, I don't think so. We were on an amber alert though, for a spell…a kind of 'Water levels in your area have failed to rise as expected. A shortfall may be likely. Please take appropriate measures and proceed with caution'. Not quite the 'No more baths…yippee!' the kids were hoping for.
There was, however, a rather unfortunate water shortage for one lone yachtsman, who shall remain nameless, having managed to ground his new vessel not once, but twice attempting to beat his way back to his mooring. The spectacle of flailing oars and flapping of sail and provided the day's entertainment. My, how we laughed.
Entertainment earlier this month - a well attended afternoon of fine Gaelic music and tales courtesy of renowned cellist Vivienne Mackie. There were also some spirited solos and songs ensemble from the children and friends of Canna Primary School…standing room only in St. Columbas Chapel. Now there's a novelty!
Looks like we're beginning to draw a bit of attention in the music department…I've just heard that one of our visitors next month is a balloonist from the Halle Orchestra. At least I think that's what he said. Hmm. Must be going up in the world…
That's all for now. What with all that ragwort pulling and oar flailing I'm surprised I managed to write anything this month.
Geoff Soe-Paing

The month opened with a continuation of the June sunshine but fewer visitors. An exception has been the yachting fraternity who this summer have sailed into both harbours in record numbers, a reflection of the calm seas and light winds and perhaps the good eating places ashore! They were certainly well represented on the evening of the 15th when the Ceilidh Trail arrived on the island and played and sang to a record audience.
The weather was past its best by the 25th and we were very lucky to get a beautiful evening for the bar-b-que and ceilidh in the barn with Ewen Henderson's Ceilidh Band. Although all the participants were already staying on the island (apart from a small party which Ronnie and Martine brought from Arisaig) the barn was well filled and nearly £500 added to the Community Hall fund which now stands at over £10,000.
These were the month's main social events but as birds are always topical I will give them a mention. There are slightly more seabirds nesting on the cliffs than in recent years and many more terns. Terns are particularly dependant on sand eels so this must be good news for the seabird population in general. While on wildlife I must mention David Barden's visit to Canna to help Geraldine MacKinnon with the shearing. He was amazed to see thousands of rabbits everywhere. Could they be the result of the removal of the rats? Despite the rabbits David reports that only one of Geraldine's lambs could be classed as small!.
Lawrence MacEwen

Muck Homecoming programme:
Monday 14th September - Informal reception for everyone to meet
Tuesday 15th September - Archaeological walk. Dinner followed by Talk on the history of the Island by Catriona White
Wednesday 16th September - Historical walk or walks Evening Genealogical exchange
Thursday 17th September - Isle of Muck today: Tour of farm with Lawrence MacEwen.

Have your say on future of Rum national nature reserve!
Local people and visitors are being asked to comment on Scottish Natural Heritage's proposals for the management of Rum national nature reserve.
A public consultation exercise is running from 24th July to 11th October 2009 aimed at finding out peoples' thoughts on management over the next six years.
Working closely with the community on Rum, SNH is looking to develop a range of high quality visitor facilities which will improve people's enjoyment and understanding of the reserve. Susan Davies, SNH North Operations Director, said: 'This consultation is important because it allows people to tell us what they think about the reserve and its management. Rum holds a special interest for many people and we'd be delighted to hear their views during this consultation.
'This is a chance for anyone with an interest in Rum to have a say on what they think its future management should include. I am also particularly keen to get feedback from visitors who travel across to Rum and stay on the island during their visit to the national nature reserve.
'Rum is one of our oldest NNRs having been declared in 1957 and SNH has management responsibilities for the designated site along with conservation, study and research work, which we are working towards. It is our hope that this consultation will allow us to plan the way forward together with the people of Scotland.'
Rum has mountain-top colony of Manx shearwaters, around a third of the world's population of this seabird. The reserve was the base for the first sea eagle reintroduction programme in 1975 and has a golden eagles and a thriving population of otters. It attracts around 10,000 visitors a year.
To find out more about the proposals and make your views known go onto www.snh.org.uk/nnr-scotland/reserve.asp?NNRId=22 or contact SNH at The Governor's House, The Parade, Fort William, PH33 6BA. Phone 01397 704716. Leaflets and posters about the proposals and the consultation will also be available on Rum.

July's hot days have been much appreciated by all on Eigg, residents and visitors alike…With the tide running over the warm sands at Laig to provide very pleasant swimming indeed, the island children seemed to have spent their entire life in the water this month! All the volunteers that have come to work on Eigg this month are now spreading the word about the great tropical hebridean weather, so that John can expect many eager candidates next year! Feis Eige this July saw the much awaited return of Leo MacCann as button box tutor after a number of years off (busy with the kids) for another successful feis, run very efficiently by Grace and Ailidh. Having now officially retired from the Feis Committee after a decade and a bit, I was very moved to be presented with three huge flowering plants which are now adorning my garden. Although I will miss being involved with the kids, it is very comforting to feel the baton can be passed on to the younger generations…
Young Eiggach are continuing to spread their wings, with the latest traveller being Helen MacLean, who left on 5th July to North Tanzania for a month with 11 other fellows pupils aged 16-18: they are on 4 weeks expedition, facing challenging treks in the mountain including reaching the summit of Mount Meru (4566m) and a 2 day safari, but also spending part of their time there doing voluntary work in a local school and community. The expedition is run by World Challenge - an organisation that aims to develop lifeskills, leadership, teamwork, respect for other cultures and environment and Helen and her friends have spent the last months fund raising for the trip as well as planning and organizing, as they were expected to have an input in the management of their expedition. Meanwhile Tamsin and her husband are flying to Nepal to work there for two years, Ben Cormack is on a road trip from Indiana to Colorado, by way of a break from graphic design and house building, and Felicia Greene has moved from one side of Australia to the other and is now on the pearl fishing coast, enjoying a spot of snorkelling: no horrible leeches there at least. Older Eiggach are not far behind, with our head teacher Hilda going on her dream trip of a life time with a two week Tibet trek.
A couple of islanders - Dean and Alistair - attended the log-cabin workshop in Knoydart which they found really brilliant, so we can now expect a new use for green wood on Eigg… Not that building work on Eigg is slacking, with the Eigg construction team moving from Laig where Saira and George are now busy redecorating, ready for the baby in September, to Crow's Nest to carry on with the insulation work. As to the two houses which have been fitted with solar water heating, they have enjoyed masses of hot water, courtesy of the record temperatures this month. The system has also proved to work very well for the pier building. Other building projects are advancing equally well with Damian finishing the roof structure, work on Jenny's house advancing at Sandavore, Irene's house renovation in Cleadale and Andrea's attractive conversion of the stone workshop into 'Clanranald Cottage' near the pier which has now seen its first - and very happy - customers.
News of Eigg's attempts to encourage other communities to start their own green islands have now spread far and wide thanks to the new website: www.islandgoinggreen.com and the presence of a Green Eigg stand with a sizeable group of islanders at the Big Tent festival in Fife which elicited a lot of interest.
On the heritage front, the new museum at Croft 6 has had a lot of visitors who all felt moved by this recreation of a now past way of life, whilst at the Community Learning room in Eigg Primary School, a selection of archive photographs can be seen alongside archaeological artefacts as part of the Eigg Homecoming Exhibition. Alec, our artist in residence for Project Eigg is also there, recording islanders' feelings about their landscape environment for posterity…
In anticipation of a transatlantic cultural exchange during the September Eigg Homecoming, we are now anticipating a transcontinent cultural exchange with the eagerly awaited visit of India Alba in the first week of August.
Camille Dressler

Eigg Homecoming programme:
Monday 14 September
2 - 4 guided visit: Cleadale to 5 pennies (including croft 6)
8.30 - 12.00 Welcome home house ceilidh at Lageorna with Tearlach mac Farlane and Eigg traditions bearers.
Tuesday 15 September
2-4 Guided visit: Kildonnan ( with tea and scones at Kildonnan Farmhouse)
8-10 genealogy evening with Tearlach macFarlane and Allan MacDonald
Wednesday 16 September
10 - 12 guided visit: Laig and the Clanranalds
2-4 ceilidh Dancing with Donna
8.30 till late: the Cape Breton connection ceilidh: tunes and dances from both sides of the Atlantic. Eigg Community hall.
Thursday 18th September
From 11am Guided wildlife walk
Evening: informal session at the Pier
Friday 19 th September
2-5 Guided visit: Grulin Clearance townships/ the caves
8- 12 Farewell evening
During the homecoming week, the Eigg Community Learning room will become the island genealogy hub, where our Homecoming visitors will get a chance to search through the Eigg archive and genealogical material, and share their stories with the Eiggach of today.

Glenfinnan is in the midst of the tourist season and there are lots of visitors around. The Thursday night music session in the bar is proving very popular and drawing people from around Lochaber. The musicians are enjoying the tunes and Joe Gillies has been entertaining the crowd with his songs.
We went to Barra for the wedding of my very good friend Ann Marie. She is the daughter of Donald and the late Flora Nicholson. West Word readers will know her family from their years in Mallaig. She was brought up in Mallaig and Fort William and is now living in Barra and has married a lovely Barra man, Domhnall MacLean. It was a fantastic wedding and a beautiful island to spend a holiday on. We had such good weather it was more like Barrabados or the Barrahamas. We were also in good company with Iain, Ingrid and Seumas.
Joan and DJ went away for a well-deserved break to the races after spending much of their summer break dismantling a garage from the roof down!
There were a few birthday parties this month. Shane and Angus are now 2 and had parties to celebrate and Hazel Powell and Martin Powell both celebrated birthdays this month.
Daimh were playing at The Gathering in Edinburgh in July. The Gathering was the main event of Homecoming Scotland 2009 and was a huge Highland Games and Clan Gathering. It must have been the biggest gathering of the clans since 1745. The march of the clans up the Royal Mile was a wonderful sight and a great occasion.
In August we have our own Glenfinnan Gathering and Games to look forward to. Let's hope the weather reverts to the warm sunshine we became accustomed to over the last few months.
Eileen O'Rua

There was an open meeting during July to meet with Paul Millar, the Czech diplomat who is spearheading the project to erect a monument to the Czechoslovakian SOE trainers and trainees who were here during WWII. With him was the sculptor who is designing the monument, and some plaster examples of the proposed work. Most of the Community Council members attended, Councillor Hunter and two members of the public.
Paul repeatedly stressed that the work was still being developed so the end result could be somewhat different from the models. It has already changed considerably since it was first discussed and certainly we all went to the meeting with some misgivings. However by the end of an hour and a half of explanation and discussion, I think we left feeling more reassured that the end result will be acceptable to the local residents.
The site for the monument is opposite Café Rhu and it will be screened from the café and the road by the existing tree, rocks and shrubs. Landscaping with more bushes is intended. The monument will depict a parachute at the time of landing and will be in polished grey granite. It is designed to present a narrow edge towards the bay, which will not only be a safeguard from strong winds but will also minimise the impact of the statue seen from the water. Planning is being sought and most of the funding is in place. If all goes to plan the unveiling will be in November and should be a prestigious event for Arisaig. Mr Millar hopes that the President of the Czech Republic will be there and there will be contingents from both the Republic and Slovakia are expected to attend.
It was a busy month in the Hall, starting with the Ceildh Trail concert and ending with a stomping evening with the McCalmans. In between we had an excellent singer/songwriter, Sharon King, the Produce Fair, the Craft Fair, a well-received performance of classical piano, the Games Dance, and a birthday party. Neil MacEachin's family gave him a surprise 80th birthday party and it was particularly appropriate to have it in the Astley Hall as Neil's uncles, the two MacVarish brothers, built it!
The Produce Fair was a great success, only nine poducers but a wide range of items from fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs to plants of all kinds for the garden. Hopefully if it becomes a regular event in the summer months, more folk will sell their surplus produce, even if it's only a small boxful. Anyone interested in selling at the next Fair, on 20th August, please get in touch - I can arrange table sharing if you only have a small amount. The refreshments did extremely well too, raising over £500 for Marie Curie Cancer Care. August's refreshments will be in aid of Swimming Pool funds, and September's is being done by the Canoe Club. Hopefully we'll get organised for a May start next year and have them monthly until September, so think of that when you're planning your garden for next year. We'll also be looking for a different group each month to do refreshments for their own funds. The £5 table hire goes to Hall funds, incidentally.
Many thanks to Ian Buick who acted immediately on a suggestion and made some little notices for the Fairs, to go on the verges of the by-pass.
And what of the concerts? Robin Colville gave a polished performance of piano classics and was informed and amusing about the pieces he played and his training. It was well attended and many of those present have asked if he can come back next year. The McCalmans' night was eventful! There was a leak from a pipe in the Gents and minutes before he went on stage Ian McCalman was wielding a mop in there! He said he now has a story for the next six months and indeed stood on stage and said he had finally found his role in life. Then later the Disabled loo was found to be locked - no-one was inside but someone was waiting for ages to go in. I opened the lock with a knife blade and all was well - but when Ian McCalman heard about it he said I should have called on him in his new role!
Lots of good things on this month too - I'm especially looking forward to the Mull Theatre performance which seems to ask for audience participation - there could be dancing! Setting up tables and allowing room for this will seriously limit the number of the audience so I think buying tickets in advance will be a good idea.
Meanwhile down at the Land Sea & Islands Centre is the display of the hypothetical seaweed farm based in Arisaig which was covered in last month's West Word. There are comment sheets there as James Tait, the architect student whose idea it is, has to have community feedback on the project. Why not pop in and see it and leave your comments!
Some local upset this month that the bank concerned had withdrawn the ATM from the Spar shop. They said it wasn't used enough - how come then it so often ran out of money? In response Spar staff have done away with the rule that you have to spend £5 in the shop before you can get cash-back.
Ann Lamont

Arisaig Highland Games - The parade through Arisaig led by the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band

News in Brief

Local band Dàimh took a copy with them on their tour of Italy. Calum Alex, Gabe, Ross, Angus, James and Colm and are pictured here at Campo Ligure, Genoa. New album cover boys?!
Betty Campbell went from Fort William to Spain to read hers outside the Oceanográfico Centre in Valencia.
Liz McLean of Mallaig took the July issue to Kulusuk in Greenland.
Where do you read yours? We want to know! Either at home or on holiday, please send us your photo!

photo photo

West Word - ten years ago

On and Off the Rails - by Sonia Cameron

New Book Release - updated edition and book competition
As mentioned in my column last month, a new railway related book has been released by train author Michael Pearson. This is the 3rd edition of Iron Roads to the Isles. It's basically a 'travellers' and tourists' souvenir guide to the West Highland Lines', but would appeal to anybody interested in the West Highland Railway. Priced at only £4.99, it's excellent value for money. It can be purchased from the following outlets:
Got It ~ Mallaig Heritage Centre ~ Mallaig Tourist Information Centre ~ Jacobite Steam train souvenir shop ~ Arisaig Land, Sea & Islands Centre ~ Glenfinnan Station Museum ~ 'Bill's' Newsagent in Fort William railway station concourse.
Alternatively, you can stop me in the street and I'll sell you a copy! The 50 page book has plenty of photographs of bridges, trains and stations as well as maps of the tracks broken up into 19 sections, and includes the journey to Oban as well as to Mallaig. The introduction starts with the gathering at Arisaig to officially open the refurbished office in April.

Jacobite season going well
Despite the credit crunch, the Jacobite steam train has reported record numbers of passengers with 7 days a week operating during July and August. The K1 and Black 5 have been sharing duties on a week about roster. The week starting Sunday 9th August sees a change of Black 5's when Ian Riley's Black 5 No. 45407 starts its turn of duty. Although a regular visitor to the line, it is always a pleasure to see the engine which has been so lovingly restored and saved from the scrap heap. Should anyone like to take a look at the inside of the cab and experience a footplate experience, just go down to the station when it arrives at 12.25 every day, and Ian Riley will gladly show you around. The driver and fireman booked from Sunday 9th August for 2 weeks are Paul Kane and Frank Santrian, both of whom have driven the famous 'Harry Potter' steam train in the Warner Bros. movies. Should you own a copy of The Iron Roads to the Isles why not take it down with you to the train and get it signed by the 'Potter' crew!

Special trains into Mallaig
On Friday 17th July a 'Spitfires Tour' pulled into Mallaig behind two English Electric vintage locomotives. Class 20 and Class 37 DRS Locomotives arrived with the 'special' organised by Spitfire Tours from Taunton, Somerset. It was only their 18th tour since they began in 2007, and only the first time as Class 20 locomotive has appeared in Mallaig since the 1980's on passenger trains. Owing to the Class 20 proving to be a bit temperamental at Fort William, the train eventually got into Mallaig at 9pm! But all on board managed to take in at least one of the local hostelries for a quick pint or two. The operators of the Tour were so impressed with their welcome in Mallaig that they have promised a return trip in the not too distant future. On their arrival they were greeted by local piper Katie Macnaughton to 'pipe them in'. The looks of 300 young males as they witnessed a young blonde girl piper greeting their train was amazing! They had been trying to organise a piper but without success, only to arrive in Mallaig to be greeted by one! Well done Katie! I trust your bank balance is now looking good! That's all for this month. See you on the train.


Nostalgic Schoolboy Memories
I read June's edition of West Word from cover to cover, as I do with all of the editions that I have the good fortune to get my hands on. They are kindly sent by Bobby Burt to my mother (Betty Gillan), who now lives close to me in deepest darkest Cornwall. Each edition gives me a deep nostalgic feeling and brings back very fun and fond memories of my time spent in Mallaig and the surrounding area. What has inspired me to write to West Word on this occasion was the photograph of the Mallaig Secondary school teachers from the 1960's; my era! I remember them all well; Mr Moncrieff the headmaster, Mr Buchanan the English teacher, Mrs Grigor who taught maths, Mr Jenkins the art teacher, Mr Forbes the woodwork and metalwork expert and Miss Crawford who I think taught geography.
Oh, by the way, I think I had better introduce myself. I am Martin Surman; I came to Mallaig, from Glenelg in the sixties, to undertake my secondary education and was boarded out at Mrs Henderson's in Loch Nevis Terrace and then later lived at Bracara. The digs at Mrs Henderson's were shared with my brother Paul and Roddy MacKenzie from Knoydart. I also recall that the Mallaig baker, George Watson stayed there too. I still have family in the area in the form of Colin, my younger brother who now lives at Roshven near Glenuig and is the postman at Lochailort.
I left school in 1966 and went off to HMS Ganges in Suffolk to join the Royal Navy as a boy seaman the following year. At 15½ years old, I wondered what an earth I had let myself in for. I spent 13 months undergoing my basic training, which at the time I dreaded, but with hindsight, it taught me all I needed to know about the ways of the world and how to stand on my own two feet and I now consider it to have been the best grounding anyone could ever have. I went on to serve for 25yrs in the Royal Navy and travelled the world for free, visiting places that I would otherwise only ever have dreamt of, or perhaps seen in magazines or on television. One of my school reports stated that I 'had little ambition and wouldn't get very far'! I clearly got a lot further than some gave me credit for! I saw active service on HMS Active during the Falklands War and finally left the Royal Navy in 1992. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my naval career. Since leaving the Royal Navy 17 years ago I have worked for the Ministry Of Defence arm of the Civil Service, currently working as an Area Security Manager managing and advising on the security of six military sites across the South West of England, from Exeter to Lands End.
When not in school I spent most of my free time knocking around with John McLean, either fishing from the pier, trying desperately to catch those elusive trout in Loch Nostarie or making up bicycles out of the spare parts of other wrecks that we had acquired from other sources. I vividly remember one day John and me going around Mallaig looking in all the back gardens, to see what bicycles appeared to have been abandoned and then knocking on the door to ask the owner if we could have it. Happy days………John and I had some great fun together! Other names from school that remain vivid in my memory are Pimmy McLean (John's brother), Tommy Mathieson, Arnold MacBeth, Alan Moffatt, Marie Henderson (Mrs Henderson's granddaughter) and of course Roddy MacKenzie with whom I shared digs. There are others of course, whose faces I can visualise, but unfortunately the names fail me. Forgive me if you are one of them! I also remember fondly John's parents, his father 'big' Jimmy McLean and his mother Minnie. I used to go round their house every week to watch Top of The Pops…….John and I were avid fans of Pans People……….two teenage boys with raging levels of testosterone!! How time has flown……it all seems as if it were only yesterday. Time has moved on so quickly; I have been married to my wife Maggie for 37 years. Our Banns were read in Mallaig and we married in Fort William registry Office in July 1971. We have one son, one daughter and six grandchildren. Our son lives local to us and our daughter has lived in Australia for the past 13 years; we have been fortunate enough to have visited there on several occasions. Having travelled all the way to Australia for a holiday, I appreciate that it would take very little time and effort to travel back to Mallaig for a holiday, so watch this space, I am going to put it firmly on my agenda and hopefully I will get an opportunity to catch up with some of those whose names I have already mentioned.
As I sit here typing this, more and more memories flash through my mind and if I continue to put them down on paper I will be here for days, so I am going to close now. If anyone remembers me and fancies a chat then ask the editor for my email address and make contact.
Best regards to anyone that remembers me.

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A few more birds about as the month progressed as the first returning waders made an appearance. The first noted were 8 Dunlin seen at Traigh on the 13th. A flock of 14 Curlew were seen there in the 20th and 2 Golden Plover on the 23rd. On the 29th there were at least 20 Dunlin at Traigh and 2 Greenshank were on the Morar Estuary at Bourblach the same day. A single Sanderling was seen at West Bay, Mallaig in the 31st.
The first Sooty Shearwater of the year was seen on the 22nd amongst a flock of Manx Shearwater between Arisaig and Eigg from the MV Sheerwater.
By the month end quite a few Razorbill and Guillemot chicks were seen at sea, which is an improvement over the previous couple of years when hardly any were seen in this area.m The Kittiwakes nesting in the Mallaig Breakwater have also had a successful breeding season, with 25 well grown chicks ringed during the last week of the month.
Good numbers of Gannets feeding close inshore were seen from mid-month and quite often were being harasses by Great Skuas trying to steal a meal.
The Mallaig Barn Owls were seen regularly during the month. Another Barn Owl had to be rescued in Arisaig on the 9th, after it had 'swept' someone's chimney. It was released unharmed, but several shades darker than is the norm!
Also in Arisaig, a possible juvenile Long-Eared Owl was seen between Arisaig and Back of Keppoch on the 26th.
Just wee reminder to folk, that depending on the prevailing weather conditions, the first newly fledged Manx Shearwaters could be appearing by the beginning of September.
If you recover any birds, could you give Martin at The Moorings or myself a call, as the intention is to ring as many of the birds before they are released. If caught, they are best kept - individually if possible - in a suitable cardboard box, which has the bottom lined with newspaper and a secure lid! If you give either of us a call we can manage for the birds to be collected.
Martin 01687 462225
Stephen 01687 462793

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

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

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