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August 2021 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
ST PATRICK'S CHURCH - UP FOR SALE?
Following a period of public consultation, the Parish Council of the Roman Catholic Parish of Morar and Mallaig held a meeting on 1st August to discuss parish finances. With 22 people present, after a long and difficult discussion they voted in favour of selling St Patrick's Church, Mallaig, and using the proceeds from the sale to generate more income for the Parish.
Father Stanislaw Pamula said, 'This was not an easy choice to make but with the current level of income, we need a long-term solution to the problem of diminishing numbers. Falling income is just a result of falling numbers of Mass attendants. At the moment, at two Masses in Morar we have on average 45 people. Diminishing finance is not solely a problem of Mallaig, but the whole Morar and Mallaig Parish, and the whole Diocese and Scotland in general. Rural communities are under extreme pressure.'
The final decision on the future of the building will be made by Bishop McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.
A committee, Save St. Patrick's, has been formed, led by Lindsay Murray and Melanie Poduschnik, to look into possibilities for increasing parish income. If a stable source of income can be found, this would substantially alter the situation and justify another vote on the matter.
If you wish to contact the Fundraising Committee to Save St Patrick's, e-mail: email@example.com
Happy Birthday Lawrence!
A very Happy 80th Birthday to West Word's former Isle of Muck correspondent, Lawrence MacEwen.
Lawrence is the subject of Prince of Muck, a new documentary by Dutch filmmaker Cindy Jansen, which has its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Thursday 19th August at 6pm and is simultaneously being shown at a dozen cinemas across Scotland, including the Screen Machine in Mallaig and Fort William's Highland Cinema. Tickets for the Mallaig screening can be booked at www.screenmachine.co.uk
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR My apologies if the print quality of your copy of the paper last month wasn't up to scratch . . . I had a lot of issues with the printer - a breakdown mid-run which needed an engineer's visit to fix - and then at the end of the run the text started to fade out on the middle of every page . . . A big thank you to Henrik for all his help with trying to keep the printing going!
The printer is all fixed now, I'm happy to say, and the quality of this month's copies should be top notch - but the office PC has just decided to pack up again!! And my editing time is also being taken up by trying to migrate the subscription mail-outs over to Click & Drop (don't ask . . .)
As always, thanks to Morag and Ewen for their help and to Anne and Jane for labelling envelopes.
What a fantastic couple of weeks of scorching sunshine we had there. With temperatures reaching 30 degrees in sheltered areas it was certainly my kind of heaven. There was lots of swimming and water activity - kayaking, paddle boarding . . . and even a piano concert on a boat. Marieke from Pianocean brought a unique open air concert to us at the pier on 21st July and what a lovely evening it was, with the sun blazing in the sky and the sea sparkling all around. It sure feels good to be experiencing live music again. The new and improved Inverie Village Hall also had its very first live music event at the start of the month. It wasn't the humungous celebration it will one day be but until Covid does one, we'll be content with little, intimate live sessions. The band performing was Ape House, a Glasgow based trio comprising of local resident Lachie on strings, Craig a fiddler and Wallace, a multi-instrumentalist.
As well as providing us with music, Lachie is now also involved with the Ranger service, providing guided walks (with a bit of music thrown in if you're lucky). Californian Joel has also joined the ranger team and it's good to see it coming back to life after a very quiet period of time where there wasn't really a ranger at all. Two baby seals were seen on Long beach which is unusual but it seems it's quite normal at this time of year for baby seals to appear abandoned on the sands but it's expected that the mother will return after hunting. SSPCA and Marine Life were contacted but all was well. The Foundation Larder has been undergoing some serious work in preparation for the stalking season, with the old roof being completely removed and replaced as well as internal improvements. There will also soon be a new unit constructed out the back of the larder which will allow for the processing of venison, i.e. making sausages and mince etc. which should improve venison sales massively.
Think that's all I've got for now folks!
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
As temperatures soar, and all the gingers of Glenfinnan hide in the shade, we see the area filling up with more visitors than ever!
We have an update regarding the FLS bridge and boardwalk at Tòrr a Giubhais, Glenfinnan. The main point of concern is the timber walkway at the south end of the bridge. On structural inspection, some issues were raised. We expect a more complete report in due course however the issues were serious enough in themselves that the walkway and bridge require to be closed for now.
Many of you may not know, but human waste on the train track is proving a big problem! Network Rail paid for all the carriages on the steam train to have retention tanks fitted BUT . . . they are not being used. There is no capacity in Fort William to empty them. Which basically means all the waste flows freely on to the tracks and as well as not being pleasant to see is also a hazard for the workers who have to walk the line and for the brave souls who have to clean it up! As the train stops in Glenfinnan Station for 20 minutes this is huge problem. A letter of complaint, drafted by the Glenfinnan Community Council, has been sent to WCR and a local councillor has received all relevant information to refer to the Environmental Health Department.
We have had reports that an Osprey was found dead and all evidence points to natural causes.
Am fear a bhios gun each gun eathar, 's fheudar dha coiseachd.
(He who has neither horse or boat, must go on foot)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . or is it the Tropics calling? . . . hasn't the weather been absolutely fabulous for our visitors? But not so good for our water supply or grass. Our visitor numbers remain fairly steady, but Nicola's announcement on relaxing of distancing could impact this moving forward over the remainder of the season.
Ewes and Lambs have said their goodbyes as the Farm's cargo left for Dingwall with Croft lot following later - fingers crossed at the sales for both groups . . . Partridge have now arrived for this season so busy times for the Lodge as they juggle feeding for both bird and guest.
We had a milestone Birthday celebration as it was Lawrence MacEwen's 80th - and he is still going strong as ever and a good day was had with fantastic food as ever from Jenny, who made the cake which was hand painted by Zöe . . . Well done. Really not a lot of other news as all are busy in their own way . . . countdown is on now for Willow Moffatt who is starting Secondary Schooling soon and we all wish her well.
ISLE OF CANNA
Sheep shearing has all been done thanks again to shearers Robbie and Fachy. The shearing days here on Canna really show how a community comes together to help each other out; there is lots of loud music to keep the shearers going and a wee bit of socialising in between . . . Canna Farm had a 'shear your sheep day' to do a few that missed the shearing day, and well done to those who had a go. Some different sheep hairstyles came out of this but Gareth from CafeCanna won for his sheep 'mullet style' hairdo . . .
Locals and visitors were treated to a performance by Pianocean as were many places on the west coast. This yacht has been at sea for seven years, travelling and giving performances wherever they land. It was a stunning night, calm and quiet and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.
Canna Harbour has been its busiest ever and we had our first cruise ship in two years when the Hebridean Sky landed 62 passengers and also hopes to return soon. Uist Sea Tours have also been regular visitors and it only takes 1 hour 20 mins from Eriskay to Canna - that's the way to travel.
Wildflowers on Canna have been stunning this month, especially the orchids and many folk have commented on the huge variety of plants they can see in a small area.
Finally we were all sad to have to say goodbye to our own 'Canna Anna', as she has moved to Eigg to be with husband Martin. Sorry to see you go Anna but good luck and all the best to you both from everyone on Canna. You still have to compete for Canna in the Small Isles Games though!
Big shout out for CafeCanna and Canna Community Shop who are doing an amazing job keeping our visitors and locals supplied with great food and drink and everything in between.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Having been off island on leave for half of July organising and enjoying our daughter Katie's wedding in Ross-shire, I thought it might be nice to recount one or two of Margaret Fay Shaw's memories of a Hebridean wedding.
In "Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist" she writes the following:
"(after the reitach or the formal betrothal), the banns were called three Sundays in succession and on the Tuesday morning after the last calling, the wedding took place. The greatest chore for the wedding party was the plucking and cooking of innumerable hens presented for the party by friends of the bride and bridegroom all over the island.
The Mrs Reverend Calum Laing standing in a garden of The Manse at Grogarry, Uist by Margaret Fay Shaw
"A delegation was formed just to deal with this part of the feast which consisted of cold chicken, roast mutton, scones and bannocks, fresh and salt butter, new cheese and many other special delicacy of the island, with the ever present tea and whisky and port wine for the toasts. Chickens were considered such an essential part of these feasts that when an epidemic killed a lot of hens in the island, Seonaidh Caimbeul, the local bard, made a song about it in which he refers to the grief of prospective brides at the impossibility of making proper wedding feasts without them. (sic FM. This song was called Call nan Cearc, or the Loss of the Hens, and was apparently about an outbreak of what is now known as Newcastle disease.)
"After the religious service, the wedding party was met at the Church door with the firing of guns and the skirl of bagpipes, which, playing the fine tune Highland Wedding, led the procession home to the wedding breakfast. The celebrations continued through the day and night. The guests sat down to the banquet in relays while songs and toasts were given, the songs often starting with a new song composed by the local bard for the occasion."
"Tha mac 'na mhac gu faigh e bean, tha nighean 'na nighinn fad a beatha - A son is a son until he gets a wife, a daughter is a daughter the whole of her life"
Don't forget to visit the "Rubha Sholais" Contemplation point below the Rhu Church if you are visiting Canna. It is proving a very popular place for picturesque photo taking!
There will be a unique opportunity on Canna on 18th September for anyone interested in Gaelic songs or piping. The brilliant piper composer James Duncan Mackenzie and well known Gaelic singer Katie Mackenzie (yes, they are married!) will be delivering the 'Crunluath' workshop, teaching Gaelic songs and pipe tunes related to the Sea and Shore.
Participant numbers must be strictly limited due to social distancing restrictions so if you are interested, get in touch with Fiona Mackenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org Cost is £20/£10 students and under 18. Don't miss this chance to learn from two of Scotland's finest traditional musicians and have a lovely day out on Canna! Fiona MacKenzie
ISLE OF RUM
This July we have had some spectacular sunshine on Rum. For over a week, each morning we would wake up to misty mountains, wondering if the sun was going to make yet another appearance and before midday the sky would clear, the mist would evaporate, and we were treated to another hot summer's day. What a treat when Rum can be can extremely wet a lot of the year!
One hinderance of this was the abundance of clegs which were enjoying the sunshine as much as us. New residents on the island quickly learned that clegs are slow to bite, which leaves just enough time to slap them dead. This did result in it being completely acceptable to walk around slapping yourself or even your neighbour when spotting the wee beastie.
At the start of the month Rum was treated to a fantastic performance by Pianocean at the Old Pier, which it appears most of the isles have been able to enjoy also. Here on Rum we had over 80 people come to see the performance, with a delicious BBQ by Kim's Kitchen to complement the event. It's really inspired the Rum residents, so keep an eye out for more music coming to Rum. We already have a music event planned for next Easter!
In other news, the summer holidays are midway through and the children of Rum have been out enjoying the freedom with many days spent at the beach. Calving season is now over, with reports of over 70 deer calves having been born. Next up on Rum we will be looking forward to the Rum Film Festival with four films being shown in August at the Community hall. Tickets available on the day. With the recent announcement by the First Minister, we are also looking forward to an increase in day trippers to Rum as CalMac have increased capacity.
ISLE OF EIGG
A busy month on Eigg with such good weather and visitor accommodation pretty full but without us feeling the kind of pressure staycations seem to have exerted on the mainland: we feel Laig beach is crowded if there are 20 people on it! Lots of kayakers and yachts about too!
July saw the return of Feis Eige for a lovely Feis Bheag weekend at the beginning of the month, bringing together the children of the Small Isles for Gaelic games, art and shinty. A great time was had by all and it was nice meeting all the new Rum families. As a special treat we screened the filmed performance of the Eigg kids' drama about St Donan (it was soooo sgoinneal! ) on the brand new and huge Small Isles cinema screen which finally made its way to Eigg from Tiree courtesy of Screen Argyll, Screen Scotland and Regional Screen Scotland. It was used to great effect again for the final of the Euro Football and with an eclectic programme for August touring the Small Isles, it is going to be a great new addition to our cultural life.
Meanwhile the highlight this July has been the visit of sailing singer Marieke Berthou of Pianocean as she travelled from the Outer Hebrides back to Brittany via the Small Isles: a great voice and piano playing on the deck of Lady Flow, her beautiful wooden yacht. Marieke defines herself as an ambassador for free international culture and her repertoire including French, Irish and now Scottish songs is a testimony to her ambition!
Photo Owain Wyn Jones
The Saturday pizza and tacqueria have been really busy in Cleadale whilst the many July birthdays were celebrated with a bonfire, tunes and camping at the Singing Sands. Swimming has been heavenly with the water temperature soaring up, particularly when the tide comes up on the hot sand . . . but the other side of the coin is that water shortage is now coming to a crunch, with many households having to severely restrict their water usage.
Hopefully this is not something that the new toilets, shower and laundry building at the pier will experience as part of the pier project is to ensure it has a reliable water supply. Taigh Nighe is almost completed and looking very smart clad in Eigg larch milled on the island. Meanwhile work on the new renewable energy plant for the new pier complex to be finished in time for next summer season is advancing steadily, the huge diggers proving to be an endless source of fascination for the younger members of the community.
On the wildlife side, most of the birds Norah the SWT warden and her two volunteers have been monitoring have now fledged, most notably the Hen Harriers with at least four young flying which is great news, as the Hen Harrier is still one of the most persecuted birds in the UK. Several broods of Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher have also successfully fledged at Galmisdale bay and there has been a larger than usual group of Arctic Terns at shell beach this year - at least 50. They have managed to raise a couple of young, despite the pressures of rat predation and disturbance by those visitors who remain unaware of the signage in place.
There have been two families of Long Eared Owl this summer, plus regular sightings of a Barn Owl and the occasional sighting of Short Eared Owl which can be seen during the day. Some Swallows have also fledged and Little Grebes at the giant's footprint lochan have had two broods! Butterfly and dragonfly numbers are lower than usual, reports Norah, with the most common butterflies at the moment being Green Veined White, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood with a few blues. It's the Big Butterfly Count time of year again, and everyone is invited to take part:
and send pictures of their wildlife findings on the Small Isles facebook page! Plantwise, the great weather has occasioned a profusion of wild roses and honeysuckle to flower, and walking or cycling on the island, you can catch their delicious scent as you go by!
News in Brief
There have been ongoing issues in the last month with traffic congestion and parking chaos on the B8008 and illegal camping on the local beaches, with some locals reporting that they felt Morar beach was becoming a 'no go zone' for walkers as they felt intimidated by the campers. One incident at Morar resulted in a local policeman being assaulted by a camper.
A rockfall at Kinigarry on the B8008 in early August created a substantial pile of debris (pictured below) but did not affect road users.
Highland Council have produced a motorhome and campervan guidance booklet to help visitors enjoy the Highlands responsibly - protecting the environment and keeping it clean, tidy and safe for both visitors and residents. Paper copies will be distributed via the seasonal access ranger team. An online version is available at www.highland.gov.uk/tourism
A Write Highland Hoolie
Mallaig Book Festival
Friday 12th - Sunday 14th November
We are pleased to announce our authors for the 2021 Hoolie - we'll have more details for you next month. Our opening event will feature a talk on The Highlands by Paul Murton with accompanying music by Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier. There will be a free dram for ticket holders. Duncan and Hamish will be playing in bar after dinner that evening.
The other speakers over the weekend are:
Chris Brookmyre, Donald S Murray, Ghillie Basan; E S Thomson; Myrtle Simpson; Polly Pullar; Tom Bowser; and Leonie Charlton.
Vivian French and Alan Windram will be speaking at Mallaig Primary School to as many pupils as we can assemble! Chris Brookmyre will be holding a workshop at the High School too.
Next month we'll give you the programme and tell you more about the speakers - meanwhile we'll leave you googling away!
ARISAIG HOSTS ORIENTEERING EVENT
Day three of the Scottish Six Days Orienteering Event took place at Craigmore Croft, Arisaig on Tuesday 3rd August and despite a damp start the weather improved as the day progressed and conditions were ideal for those who took part.
As can be seen from the photograph below, hundreds of vehicles were easily accommodated along with portaloos, First Aid and Help tents. Marshalls were on hand and the participants - virtually all from the UK - seemed to enjoy the course. 'It was a tough tough course and I lost my way twice,' said one competitor, while another, a veteran of the British orienteering scene, confirmed that it was 'pretty tough'! Fortunately there were no casualties, not even midge bites!!!
Event hosts Hughie and Anne MacDonald, Craigview, praised the organisers of the event and were very happy at how the day had gone. Hughie and Anne organised a raffle in aid of St Mary's Church Arisaig, with a bottle of Arisaig Gin and a home-made sponge cake being among the prizes.
Anne MacDonald and Ken Ritchie (Nottingham via Blantyre) pictured prior to commencement of the orienteering event
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
Unusually, we have not had any call outs for the month of July.
But we have not been sitting on our laurels. During July the last phases of the new pontoon were completed. Contractors installed a 110v power supply to provide a trickle charge to the Lifeboat's batteries, and the water supply was also revamped to meet modern day requirements. Coincidentally, as part of station management, Tony and I undertook an online course on Legionella as part of station management.
As part of improving Coxswain cover throughout Scotland we were joined by a trainee Coxswain for a week to practice boat handling and other aspects pertaining to Lifeboat command. The trainee joined us on the evening of 4th August to undertake an assessment exercise to gauge his progression with Paul Daly, Area 33 ALM (Area Lifesaving Manager), who put him through some basic and emergency procedures onboard 17-26. Area 33 covers Mallaig, Tobermory, Islay, Campbelltown, Tighnabruaich, and Arran.
Michael Ian Currie
News from Mallaig Harbour
After the disappointing landing figures from our annual report that were published in last month's West Word, it's good to be able to report that the fish landings have improved in May and June, with 85 tonnes of shellfish landed in June and nine tonnes of white fish. It's still a far cry from Mallaig's heyday, but it's been nice to see a bit more activity among the fishing vessels.
We've also seen an increase in ferry traffic - perhaps because the Lord of the Isles is back on the route. The trials and tribulations CalMac are having are well documented elsewhere, and sometimes Mallaig can feel like the poor relation as the Lord of the Isles has to be taken out of service to cover another route, but when she is sailing there is definitely more activity around the ferry terminal. The aspiration locally of having the Coruisk back on the run seems further away than ever at the moment!
The Harbour came to a standstill on the afternoon of 9th July as the funeral of Lachie Robertson took place. The hearse was piped from the Church down onto the Harbour and paused by the Reul a'Chuain to say a last goodbye before proceeding to the graveyard at Morar. The number of people who lined the Harbour was testament to the many lives that Lachie had touched, with people travelling from all over the West coast and beyond to pay their last respects.
The Marina is having a busy season, being frequently fully booked. We are still operating at restricted capacity but have been able to relax some of the restrictions in July so that more than one crew can use the shore facilities at a time. We're hoping that further relaxations in August will allow vessels to raft up again and increase our capacity for the end of the season. There have been a number of larger yachts this year, and as well as welcoming Eda Frandsen with her new owners back to Mallaig for the season, we also welcomed the Pellew and the Blue Clipper. I was lucky enough to capture them all in one photograph early in July, the Blue Clipper at the end of the pier then the Pellew and Eda Frandsen on the hammerheads at the pontoon.
The Pellew arrived mid-June, in what was her maiden season, having been launched in 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. She was built as a modern day re-creation of the Falmouth Pilot Cutter Vincent by Master Shipwright Luke Powell through 'The Falmouth Pilot Cutter CIC', a not-for-profit organization set up to pass on the skills of traditional wooden boat building. Pellew left again on 28th July, sailing south to Cornwall for the remainder of the season. You can find more details on Pellew and the work that has gone into building her at www.thefalmouthpilotcutter.co.uk.
The Blue Clipper is a three-masted Schooner, which was built in Sweden in 1991 and refitted in 2020. She also arrived mid-June, and after a wee hiccup when the crew were required to self-isolate due to Coronavirus she has completed various cruises from Mallaig, and is due to leave again on 8th August. We were pleased that we were able to offer our new shore power to make the crew's stint in self-isolation a bit more pleasant - an unexpected benefit of the project! Blue Clipper is operated by Maybe Sailing - www.maybe-sailing.com.
Those of you who keep an eye on the AIS, or even just out your window may also have seen the Borealis passing on her maiden voyage from Liverpool on 10th July. The Borealis is operated by Fred Olsen, and although she is much bigger than we would be able to accommodate in Mallaig, it was nice to see her sailing past. Looking at the cruises on Fred Olsen's website, she might become a fairly regular feature to our local waters.
As well as the usual activity on the Harbour, we are expecting the Breast Screening Clinic from 5th to 18th August, and the Screen Machine from the 17th to the 19th August.
I mentioned last month that we had to say goodbye to Charlie, Jackie and Michael, and this was picked up in a nice article written by David Ross in the Press and Journal, which paid tribute to the work Charlie and Michael had done not just for Mallaig Harbour but for various communities in the West Highlands. Although I can't claim to have been involved as long as either Charlie or Michael, it was interesting for me looking back at how much of my career has been aligned with initiatives involving Charlie and Michael - from my first 'real' job on the Isle of Eigg in 1997 until the present day!
Finally this month, Michael Portillo has been in the area filming for a new television series, and Sonia Cameron arranged for me to present him with a bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water while he was filming around the Harbour on Thursday 29th July. The exchange wasn't filmed, so I don't need to worry about it ending up on the cutting room floor, but Moe Mathieson was on hand to ensure that there was at least photographic evidence!
On and Off the Rails
Immediate transport information on your phone
Well, the headline above as written - in large print - on page 31 of the August issue of Lochaber Life, with a full colour photo of Allan Henderson gripping a smart phone (ah!) towards the camera of Iain Ferguson, gripped me! I read on. If you take part in smart phone technology and use apps I urge you to read it (or read on!) And for you I hope it works, just remember to keep your "thingy" charged up and be somewhere where you can get reception!
The Highlands and Islands are "leading the way" in Scotland, it says, with the launch of a new app called GO-HI which will make it easier for residents, tourists and business travellers to access the information they need to make better use of public transport, car sharing, and to decide when cycling is an option.
Regional transport partnership HITRANS has developed and launched the app which can (it says) provided the answer to transport information connectivity. Funded by the EU North Sea Region Stronger Combined project and the Scottish government's Mobility as a Service (MaaS) Investment Fund, its aims are very welcome. As we all strive to become greener and reduce carbon emissions, connectivity to information is surely the way forward.
Lochaber Transport Forum, which I was involved with, tried with HITRANS to implement a similar plan several years ago. It was good, but only as good as the speed at which it was informed of changes by transport providers - e.g. road closures, high and low tide ferry changes as ferries were changed from one port to another, accidents, trains and buses not running due to staff shortages, work-to-rule, strikes, wildfires, other related weather issues, landslips, floods etc. It was led by the very hard-working Frank Roach and developed mainly by him. It was called Giant Puffin and slowly slipped away. I truly hope that the GO-HI app is, as it says, "as simple as downloading the app onto your phone to provide instant access to information from buses, trains, taxis, car hire, car clubs, bicycle hire, air travel and ferries . . . allowing users to plan their journeys and find, book and pay."
In the Luddite part of my brain I find myself thinking, then sighing, "oh dear"! But to all who have worked their socks off to provide, find, and input the information, it is an inspirational idea. Well done, and to all the inputters - keep it updated in real time! Let me know if you use it and find it useful. Remember GO-HI app!!
Hopefully Shiel Buses have added on to it bus route N42. (The timetable is in the August issue of Lochaber Life.) This service will run from Fort William bus station to Glen Nevis Lower Falls six times a day, seven days a week, in both directions from now until October 11th 2021. Well done them. It is dog friendly, but unfortunately not able to accommodate passengers with bikes.
ScotRail's "Highland Explorer" Class 153 carriages, especially designed to support active travel by providing people with the space and storage needed to comfortably take their bikes, skis, or other sporting gear with them on their journey, are now in use on some of the Glasgow/Oban services on the West Highland line. Currently being used on Class 156 x 2 carriage sets, each carriage has a total of 20 individual bike racks as well as designated seating for 24 people.
From Friday 7th August it will be possible to purchase a "Highland Explorer Ticket" for an additional £10 on top of the usual ticket price, guaranteeing you a seat in the new carriage with the following benefits: larger cushioned seats, USB and plug socket charging points, table maps detailing the route with recommendations on where to walk, cycle and visit, access to a QR code at each table providing links to further inspiration on places to visit in Scotland - plus the security of travelling in a carriage with your equipment. Regardless of your ticket type, bike reservations are free of charge, and in addition to the new carriage the existing six bike spaces are still available in the 156 carriages. Bike spaces in the new carriage will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to those who have booked a Highland Explorer ticket. (Therefore, you + bike could both be in the new carriage; or both in an 'old' carriage; or you might have a seat in an old carriage and your bike stored in the new carriage!)
The standard class rail ticket price will still be available for seats in the 2 x Class 156 carriages.
The Highland Explorer coaches will be introduced on to our section of the Glasgow/Fort William/Mallaig railway line hopefully in the spring of 2022 - maybe sooner - but before then the comprehensive driver training, which must be completed to ensure all passengers can travel safely, must be carried out. As travel restrictions are lifted/relaxed and perhaps if we have a good ski season we may see ScotRail trying to add the coaches to our two carriage Class 156's to increase capacity.
Cycle reservations must be made at least two hours before travel. Reservations can be made on ScotRail's website when booking a ticket, or by calling 0344 811 0141, or visiting a staffed station.
Conductors on ScotRail/Abellio train services have now been striking for 18 weeks and counting. The dispute is likely to continue throughout August. There were also two days in July when no staff were available to service the late afternoon train. In that instance three coach companies covered the service. In the meantime, train cleaners at ScotRail have rejected an RMT call for strikes in a dispute over payments for overtime. However a small majority voted in favour of other industrial action short of a strike. The RMT has not commented.
During the last week in July, each evening on BBC2 repeats were shown of Michael Portillo's Australian series of Great Railway Journeys. Very watchable they were too - I missed them the first time round two years ago.
On Wednesday 28th July I was amused (I'm easily pleased!) to think that as it was being shown he was just a few yards away in the West Highland Hotel (yes - he did watch it!) and waiting to go to dinner with the two vanloads of film crew who were with him for all that week filming in the area for a future series. He went into the surf on a "rescue training exercise" on Bondi Beach that night. It would not have happened here I thought!!
So it was at 8:30am the next morning (prearranged by the producer) Michael (in the flesh so to speak) was talking to me saying, "Oh, I do like your tweed jacket!" It was worth "scrubbing up" for!! Social distancing was involved and masses of hand sanitising - and snoods and masks were going up and down like yo-yos!!
The crew - and Michael - were extremely cautious all week. How much of the week will end up on the "cutting room floor" we will see!!
During the last month we have been visited twice by The Royal Scotsman touring train. The livery is superb on it - on Saturday 17th July the "top and tailed" locomotion was 66743 and 66746.
The locomotives 44871, 45212 and 62005 are working hard twice a day, seven days a week to keep providing power for The Jacobite carriages of socially distanced and mask wearing guests travelling to Mallaig. The crews are working so hard to provide the service that they cover. From all of the Mallaig businesses, Thank You - we sometimes should stop and realise how much goes on behind-the-scenes to keep the "heritage vintage stock" in as good a condition as it is on our economy's behalf.
The crews who live constantly in the depot, the amount of work that has to be done behind-the-scenes, from keeping the locos in light steam 24/7, the maintenance involved, cleaning out the ash, the crews of each shift. Carriages and locomotives have to be replaced while stock is refurbished; etc. etc.
I personally know how much pride they take in presenting the locomotives and coaches to the travelling public. With pandemic restrictions - to have kept going as they do, away from home - we should sometimes show our gratitude. Mallaig would be a lot poorer financially without them.
Book review and draw
To do justice to the intrepid author of the book All Rails Leading to the Smallest Street in the World is a challenge! As a teenager in 1963, Martin Williams clocked up 4500 miles in 10 days with a Scottish rail pass and has been hooked on rail travel and Scotland ever since! Fast forward to 2021 and he has achieved publication of a 138 page book detailing a route that he invites anyone who has the stamina to attempt. He set himself the task of planning and executing all routes and stations in Scotland in a seven day week. As Scotland has 1752 miles/2819 km of railway line and 360 stations, you just know it is going to be quite a ride! He achieved it and has now written a remarkable "how to do it" guide to challenge anyone's stamina - but it is achievable!
To give you the answers to the title, and why HW600, would spoil the read. It is witty, interesting and very cleverly executed. I feel sure that this book will become a TV series. To that end I have already sent a copy of it to the producer of Michael Portillo's Great Railway Journeys - I believe it is that good.
Martin starts his epic journey (very carefully thought out) at Berwick-upon-Tweed and finishes it at Wick. How he achieves this is so cleverly planned. He managed it before the pandemic, thankfully, and his wit and joy of every twist and turn that the journey took leaps out at you from the pages. It is a true gem of a book.
Published by Green Rail Books and priced at a modest £7.50, the ISBN number is 978-1998996100 and it is available from www.ypdbooks.com
From the point when this book "breaks even" a donation of 50p per book will be made to Trees for Life, a charity based at Findhorn Bay, Forres, Morayshire whose aim is rewilding the Scottish Highlands. What's not to like? Happy travelling - if you dare - armed with this book. If not, travel it in your own head as you do the journey by train with him. I have and loved every mile of the way.
To be in with a chance of one copy of the book donated for a free draw, send a postcard with your name, address and phone number to me, Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD. The closing date and date of the draw will be Saturday 4th September. Don't leave it too late to enter.
It would make an ideal journey planner - for any part of the epic trip will be achievable again by train in Scotland in the future.
See you on the train,
Traigh Golf Club - Open Roundup
After much COVID related uncertainty I am delighted to say that the 2021 Traigh Open finally took place on Saturday the 24th of July.
The fortnight prior to the big day had seen a sustained period of hot weather making course preparations particularly difficult, but thanks to the combined efforts of Head Greenkeeper Gavin Johnston and his more than able assistant Alan MacDonald, Traigh was looking resplendent to welcome our many guests on the day. Particular thanks must also go to Alan for kindly mowing down the gazebo on the eve of the competition . . .
Despite this the course was still playing hard, fast and difficult, which combined with a beautiful but very hot day meant that conditions were even tougher than normal. The main event of the day has been won by visitors for several years running, but this year it appears that a little local knowledge was required to overcome our notoriously tricky layout, with homegrown talent taking the majority of the prizes on the day.
Organising the Open is a big task at the best of times, but COVID restrictions and uncertainty made it especially difficult this year. We were forced to cancel the 2020 edition, so it is testament to all involved that we managed to get the show back on the road in 2021. Particular thanks must go to the organising committee for their enormous efforts in the build up and on the day, to the Ladies for putting in an enormous shift on the catering front in order to feed and water the masses, and to the Shaw Stewart family along with Eilidh Henderson and all the staff in the clubhouse for their continued support of this fantastic event.
The open would also not be possible without the generous support of our friends and sponsors. Particular thanks must go to Matt Waterston Guiding, Mallaig Visitor Centre, Lochaber Larder, The Old Library, The Tea Garden, Arisaig Marine, Maclean Deliveries, Fishermen's Co-op, MV Cara Lisa and Waterside Soaps. We also owe a massive debt of gratitude to both Willie John McLean and Robert Summers for the generous donation of prawns which go a long way towards making the Open financially viable - it is very much appreciated by everyone at the club.
50 competitors lined up to take on the wonderful layout, amazing views and penal rough of Traigh Golf Club, and very few emerged completely unscathed. Top of the pile in the scratch competitions were our very own Michael Summers with an outstanding 73 to claim the Jack Shaw Stewart Trophy, and Jill McKinnon whose 89 meant the Norma Downey Quaich is heading to Skye. Our noble Vice Captain Matt Waterston triumphed in the Men's 0-12 Handicap section with an impressive 67, whilst Robert Anderson won the 13+ section with an incredible 63. The Ladies Handicap section was won by a very welcome visitor in Katie Cameron with a 71, and the Stableford was taken by Willie John McLean with a superb 40 points. Longest drives went to Matt Waterston and Katie Cameron which goes to show that driving is not necessarily just for show . . . And finally the nearest pin competition was won by a very popular winner in David Shaw Stewart, which demonstrates that a little very local knowledge goes a long way. Well done to all concerned, the cream rose to the top on a difficult day.
Michael Summers being presented with the Jack Shaw Trophy by David Shaw Stewart
The day was also a long awaited and very lovely social occasion, with many of our regulars and guests staying long after the final putt had been holed, and a few even stripping off to take a cooling swim in the bay towards the end (someone suggested that this should become a tradition, but I think we shall reassess that once we see the forecast for next year . . !)
Elsewhere we need to give a very, very brief mention to the fact that Spean Bridge managed to exact a brutal revenge on the merry men of Traigh following an early season defeat, by trouncing us in the return fixture. Our thanks go to them for their hospitality along with the humbling lesson.
Finally, Billy MacMillan has been at it again. Not content with waltzing into the Spean Bridge Seniors Open two years ago and walking away with the silverware, he has managed to do the same to our other friendly neighbours at Skye Golf Club. A huge well done to him for another spectacular achievement; I've no doubt we will be hearing plenty about it in the coming months . . .
Moe's Fishbox Mystery
Moe Mathieson came across this old postcard entitled 'Hebridean Lobster Fisher' at an auction recently. Noticing the writing on the fish box on the left of the photo, he enlarged and rotated the picture (below) to get a closer look. It looks like the text reads 'Star Fishing Trawler Owners Mallaig'. Has anyone heard of Star Fishing? So far Moe's enquiries locally have drawn a blank. Please get in touch if you have any information about them!
BIRDWATCH July 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly warm, dry and settled month, with fairly typical reports birdwise.
Lots of juvenile birds reported. Flocks of finches containing numerous youngsters reported from throughout the area, with Twite, Linnet and Goldfinches seen around Traigh and Back of Keppoch. Redpolls and Siskins mostly reported from gardens. Several reports again of Great-spotted Woodpeckers with young visiting gardens in Arisaig and Morar. Many more Guillemots and Razorbills with young reported from the Sound of Sleat and the first young Puffins were seen at sea at the end of the month.
On a trip out to ring seabirds on the islands off Traigh at the beginning of the month, the ringers found that the birds had done really well, with lots of large well-fed Cormorant chicks. Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common and Arctic Terns also had large well-fed offspring. Sand Eels seemed to be abundant and there were no signs of Mink predation on these outlying islands this year.
Although July is midsummer, autumn migration for waders has already started. Small numbers of returning birds were reported from the Morar Estuary, Traigh and Back of Keppoch, mostly Dunlin and Sanderling, with six Curlew on the Morar Estuary on the 18th. Greenshank were reported from the Morar Estuary and Loch Ailort. At the latter site a single Black-tailed Godwit was seen on the 1st July. Most of these birds will be failed or non-breeders. Many of our local breeding waders now have well grown chicks, with Ringed Plover reported from Traigh, Snipe, Lapwing and Redshank reported from Invercaimbe.
Three Arctic Skuas were seen from the MV Sheerwater on the 27th, along with tens of thousands of Manx Shearwaters. Also regular sightings of Great Skua and several reports of Storm Petrels. On the 20th, two Peregrine Falcons, three Golden Plover and four Red Grouse were seen on a hillwalk by Loch Eilt.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
West Word went Jurassic at Blair Drummond this summer with Lola, Charlotte, Chloe, Edie and Max!
Jill took a copy along to share with Dippy the Dinosaur
when she went to visit him in Norwich Cathedral last month.
Dippy the Diplodocus, who has lived in the Natural History Museum in London
for over 100 years, has been on tour around the UK for the last three years.
There was plenty of space for him in the Cathedral!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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