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

List of Issues online

December 2000 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Lochnevis arrives
Astley Hall - WW1 records find
Mackintosh Centre
Monthly reports from Eigg, Muck, Knoydart, Arisaig
Mallaig oil storage tanks - Pantomime

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Year 200 backcopies:
June - July - August - September - October - November

Caledonian MacBrayne's new Small Isles ferry 'Lochnevis'
arrived at Mallaig on Wednesday 15th November
and carried out the inaugural service to Eigg, Muck and Rum on Monday 20th November.


Arisaig's Astley Hall was back in business on Saturday 2nd. December! The building was filled to capacity as local people rounded off the day which marked the unofficial opening with a dance to local band Dimh.

The celebrations began at 2.30 in the afternoon with a speech and the usual symbolic ribbon cutting, performed by Councillor Charlie King, who then handed over a welcome and unexpected cheque for 500 from the Highland Council. Then followed the blessing of the building by Fr MacKinnon and the Reverend Alan Lamb, and after refreshments and a chance to look round, over 100 local people sat down to enjoy a delightful concert by Arisaig Primary School pupils and the Arisaig Brownies. The celebration continued in the evening with the hall packed to capacity for a concert and dance to local band Dimh. The whole event was a real family affair with old and young dancing the night away.

We featured the Hall on our front page last December as the JCB moved in to pull down the old Club Room. Since then the 107 year old listed building has undergone a transformation with a 495,000 funding package, 50% of which came from SCVO's 21st. Century Halls Millennium Project. Other funders were Highland Council and the Scottish Executive, Lochaber Limited, the Crofters Commission and Lloyds TSB. The careful renovations have met with general approval, with many revellers said how pleased they were to see that the atmosphere of the traditional ceilidh hall had been retained but with all modern facilities. The new facilities include a brand new Club Room and a state of the art stainless steel kitchen. There are still finishing touches to be put to the building, and an Official Opening will be held sometime in the New Year. The guest list will then include major donors and funders and the ceremony will centre around the planting of a tree and unveiling a plaque. And it will be party time again!

Emotional opening of the Mackintosh Centre

A surprise appearance by Sir Cameron Mackintosh to open the Day Care Centre named after him delighted guests on 27th. November. He had supposedly cancelled the engagement after fire destroyed the family home on Loch Nevis but in the end he couldn't stay away. In an emotional opening speech, which had many dabbing their eyes, he dedicated the Centre to the memory of his uncle and aunt, Jim and Anthea Jarvie, who had been instrumental in making him a part of the Mallaig community and whose former home was visible across the Loch from the Centre.

Sir Cameron called it a 'bittersweet day' but thanked everyone for their overwhelming support in sending him messages of condolence, offers of somewhere to stay, 'and even socks!' 'The bonniest place with the bonniest view for the bonniest people', he said, and was full of admiration for the quality of provision the Centre will afford. The visitors to the opening were regaled by musicians from Mallaig High School while they toured the Centre and partook of the splendid buffet. Manager Hazel Price was on hand with her new staff to answer questions. She is looking for volunteers who would like to help with the activities of the Centre's clients.

'Arisaig & South Morar War Records 1914-1918'

There was one wonderful 'find' when Astley Hall was being ripped apart. Hidden at the back of a store cupboard was a book-shaped box inbuilt on its own shelf. Engraved on the side is 'Arisaig & South Morar War Records', the initials of two Astley- Nicholsons and the date 1920. We only managed to open it a few weeks ago to reveal a wonderful and very large book - a scrapbook really - which contains photographs of local men in their uniforms, pictures of places where their campaigns took place, and typed pages of biographical and historical fact. We've taken an opinion poll in the village and the consensus is this should be displayed in the Land, Sea and Islands Centre. It is in absolute pristine condition, not looked at for 80 years. [More info in January 2001 online issue]


Halloween and Guy Fawkes night have come and gone and soon it will be Christmas. The Eigg Guisers were out as usual, if a little early this year, Saturday being deemed a more convenient night than Tuesday, but it did catch at least one of us out. Who was not ready and had nothing to give to the children when they called? As always the costumes and makeup were brilliant. Our fireworks on Bonfire Night were the best yet and the usual enormous bonfire and baked potatoes kept everyone warm, although the weather was calm and not too cold for a change!

I have to correct an error perpetrated in the November edition of West Word. It has been brought to my notice that the Basic Computer Course mentioned was in fact organised by Lochaber College and the Laptops were lent to Eigg by their Community Education Department and not as stated, the Communications Network. So all credit and a big "Thank You" for their generosity and we apologise for the mistake

On Thursday 9th November the Island was shocked and saddened to hear that " Allie" (Alistair MacDonald) had died suddenly at the age of 49. He was at one time the island postman and he is the second member of an old Gaelic family to be lost to us this year. Sadly, with them is lost another part of the island culture. We know it has to happen one day but Allie should have had many more years ahead of him. The shop will not be the same without him and Sue and others will miss him for the help he would often give them. The funeral was on Friday 17th November and as always on these occasions the Church was beautifully decorated and the brass candlesticks shining, all as a result of the work and thoughtfulness of the good people who always do these things.

At last the Lochnevis has appeared around the Islands. On Thursday she visited Muck and Eigg and we were able to board her to be given a conducted tour all over the ship from bridge to engine room. For the uninitiated, the latter was unbearably noisy but undoubtedly contains all the modern equipment one would expect. The bridge has a wonderful panoramic view, and we were told, has three complete sets of controls, one for normal sailing, one for loading and unloading vehicles and one for coming alongside. Several other screens and control panels are for use by the Chief Engineer to inform him of exactly what is going on in the engine room. The public areas are very comfortable and tastefully decorated, this includes the self service cafe where there are television screens to allow passengers to see the exact location of the ship at any given time and an observation lounge with plenty of comfortable seating. But why were the seats in the lounge arranged to face backwards with the best view being of the enormous black loading ramp right in the centre and with only a narrow strip of sea to be seen on either side? For those who prefer to travel outside there are a number of seats and several small areas of deck where one can stand to enjoy the fresh air. The general feeling appeared to be that the Lochnevis is on the whole, a fine boat but far too big and expensive for our needs. Also the problem still remains regarding our future pier, and Eigg residents' strong objection to the disfigurement of the bay, in order to accommodate such a large vessel. Where can we find a solution to satisfy all requirements?

Well, I knew this would happen when the winter came, there is very little, up to press, to report this month. Barry and I are going off to Inverness for the annual Christmas shopping marathon and will not be back before the W.W. dateline so, sorry folks, this is it until 2001. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas a Stupendous Hogmanay and all Best Wishes for the coming year.

Joy Williams


She's here at last! The new Lochnevis; and she did her first run to Eigg and Muck on 20th. November.

Even the most hardened critic of CalMac cannot fail to be impressed by a ship which is a vast improvement on the Lochmor in almost every direction. Two passenger saloons have videos, as well as chart plotters which duplicate those on the bridge and indicate the ship's position at any moment. There is a remarkably varied menu from the galley, a lift for the disabled, and oil paintings on the walls. Only the outside seating is inferior to the Lochmor, with the view being partly obscured by boats and life rafts; but one can get below the bridge and see right ahead.

For the flit-boats she is also a vast improvement. Unlike the Lochmor and the Pioneer, Lochnevis is not 'cut away' aft and there is not the danger of being caught beneath the belting there; and at both bow and stern the propellers can push her sideways, away from the flit boat, when the time comes to leave.

With the new ferry comes a new timetable. At last (25 years after I first advocated it) the Small Isles have been split into pairs (in winter as well as summer) with calls at Eigg and Muck on Monday being followed by Rum and Canna on Tuesday; and no longer is departure from Mallaig followed by a call at Armadale - half an hour in the opposite direction. Lochnevis is faster too - three knots faster. It all adds up to a revolution in the winter ferry service to the Small Isles.

On the farm there is more paper work to keep us busy. The British Cattle Movement Service has decided that every cow must have a passport - not just those under four years old - and there is a problem. Many of these older cattle have ear tags which include letters, and computers at BCMS do not like letters; they convert many of them into numbers. So much of the recording ends up being done manually.

On 18th. November, loaded with baskets of apples, swedes and home baking, I set off for the Auction Market and the 3rd. Farmers' Market, ably assisted by Su Coyne. We had an excellent position for our stall near the entrance; and though it was not a sell-out it was certainly a social occasion!

Lawrence MacEwen.


At the beginning of November some of us were intrigued by the talk on 'Second Sight', given by Elizabeth Sutherland, who has written a number of the books on the subject. Afterwards she and a friend enjoyed a couple of days walking in splendid Knoydart weather.

Surveyors paid a visit to Inverie to survey the site of a prospective pier between the school and the pub.

Bonfire night went off with flare. Tim's bonfire design being in the shape of pan pipes to reflect the heat.

Candidates were interviewed for the post of Development Manager and the successful candidate offered the job, which is primarily to implement the Business Plan. She has subsequently visited Knoydart again with her husband and baby, to assess the situation. There is still the post of Office Manager awaiting a suitable applicant.

There has been yet more interesting artistic activity at school this week, with the building in the garden of an Icelandic willow dome, which, I am informed, will send out new growth shoots; these will have to be woven in to form the natural canopy. I wonder which wild animal will be the first to take up residence? Following this activity, the children learnt how to make felt, with which they have created collages.

There are signs already that the festive season will be the usual busy time in Knoydart, with almost all accommodation already bespoken.

I should like to take this opportunity to send Seasonal Greetings from all of us in Knoydart, to the stalwart team at West Word, who inform and entertain us without fail every month. Also to friends in outlying islands and other remote areas.

Anne Trussell


The inaugural Clay Pigeon Shoot for the Lochailort Gun Club on the 28th. October was a great success. A marquee was erected and upwards of 50 people attended. The second Shoot was planned for Saturday 2nd. December with a function at Glenuig afterwards with profits going to be donated to the Special Unit at Banavie School.


Well, finally the Hall is in use again - it was sorely missed during the year it was out of action. It isn't entirely finished inside but that will be done over the next few weeks. We had a great opening day, which was done 'on the hoof' - we didn't know if we would manage it and only got the Public Entertainments Licence on the Friday. It was an Unofficial Opening because we need to have more things ready for the Official but we wanted groups to be able to use it over the Christmas period - and have the New Year Dance!. Because of the unofficial status of it and the short notice, we hope no-one was offended by not being invited - no-one was invited, the list of people we must ask to the Official Opening is long and includes all the people who gave donations and the funders. It will give us an excuse for another party!

There are some new activities planned for the Hall for the New Year, with Catherine McDonnell coming over to do yoga, and also the ballet classes starting - the village has lots of excited little girls who can't wait! Over 40 people registered an interest. We also want to make sure we have a good programme of entertainment - there are a number of folk out there with excellent ideas so keep your eyes peeled for the revival of the Arisaig Ceildhan Committee, which was formed some years ago to organise events, and come along to give us your ideas.

Bonfire Night went very well -it seems a lifetime away now! - with people saying it was the best display ever. Thanks to Gerry and Hugh for all their hard work, and to PC John for his assistance. We raised just over 80 from the collection jars in the shop and the bar and on the night.

The tile signing went well that night too and Jack managed to accumulate over 350 signatures over four days. The tiles will be coloured and baked and put around the entrance hall of the Hall, where a space has been left for them.

The cook book is selling well I hear! As fast as it can be printed. Called 'Good things from Arisaig' it not only contains recipes contributed by locals but anecdotes and bits of local history too.

The Remembrance Day Service at the War Memorial was well attended and (Major) Flora MacDonald laid the wreath.

Ann Martin

The demolition of the oil storage tanks next to Mallaig Station on November 29th.

This marks the final chapter in the 99-year story of freight by rail on the Mallaig railway. Opened in 1901, the line carried huge tonnages of fish, but this was abandoned to lorries in the 1960s, even though the herring industry was still expanding. As on the rest of British Railways, general freight was lost to road haulage over the following years leaving the delivery of fuel for the fishing fleet as the last rail-borne freight traffic.
In 1992 the Government declared that rail freight must cover all its costs (with hindsight a move preparing the freight railway business for sale) and so the distribution of fuel by rail to Oban Mallaig and Fort William ceased, even though this meant an extra 60 lorries on inadequate roads each week. Since then all deliveries have been made by large lorries reversing down by the side of the Heritage Centre to the storage tanks.
The completion of the new 'fuel farm' in the outer harbour development last month saw the railway station site redundant. Two of the tanks have been reused at the new site, two have been cut up into small sheets, while three remain lying on their sides, presumably for reuse elsewhere. The site itself has been cleared of rubble and will be returned to Railtrack when the work is complete.
However this is not the end of a use for the site, as it is to be used for the installation of a turntable for the summer steam train service. The turntable will be in almost exactly the same position as the remains of the tank appear in the picture. DB


Some of the High School Pantomime cast in their magnificent costumes:
l. to r. back row: Flip (Donald MacDonald); King Ferdinand (Bill Cornelius); Queen Dilly (Alan Cargill); Fairy Gossamer (Kate Mundell); Witch Watt (Pamela Watt); Lucy the maid (Suzanne May); Dame Durdon (Jim Morton); front row: Rollo, outlaw leader (Louise Manson); Princess Rosemary (Lianne Stewart); Prince Valentine (Katie Hunter); Simple Simon (Rachel Inglis).

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