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

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December 2002 Issue

Contents of the online version:
(Apologies for late publication online and limited content of this issue
- due to computer problems in the office - again!)

Top stories
Monthly news from Canna, Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg, Arisaig
Coastal Ranger Report & Creepy Crawly Corner

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

With road closures on the Arisaig - Lochailort stretch looking to continue at least until Christmas, local residents are set to have more disruption in the New Year.
The B8008 Morar village road at Kinsadel will be closed for about three weeks in mid-January to enable Barr Construction Ltd to provide the link with the new part of the A830. We have been reassured that alternative access to Morar will be provided!
Meanwhile the daily road closures have caused some confusion. Signs at Mallaig indicate the road will be closed at the roundabout, leading to the belief that travel between Arisaig and Mallaig and Morar is not possible during the closure times of 10.45 am to 2.45 pm.
The road is being closed at this point for through traffic only, to avoid queues forming on the single track section. For the same reason traffic is being halted at Polnish Church on their way west. Travellers between the villages will get through.
Councillor King has had a meeting with BEAR to seek assurance that the work will be finished by Christmas.

Tribute to Farquhar
The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh was the packed venue for a tribute concert in memory of Farquhar MacRae, famed and loved local fiddle and box player.
The tribute came as part of the Fiddle 2002 Festival and was the best attended concert of the weekend.
Friends of Farquhar who played for the tribute are all well-respected musicians: Tearlach MacFarlane and his son Iain, Angus Grant, Fergie MacDonald, Duncan Chisholm, Alan MacDonald and Ross Martin. Angus Grant gave a talk on Farquhars’ life and works. (Duncan and Iain were appearing at the Astley Hall the same night with ‘The Clunes Collection’ - the audience forgave them for being half an hour late is starting!)
Present at the concert were Farquhar’s widow Hetty, their son Farquhar, daughter Helen and grandchildren.
Farquhar died in August 2000 after a few year’s illness and his funeral at Glenfinnan was attended by over 600 people. During the service a bevy of fiddlers played selections of Gaelic airs and a piper led the cortege playing a tune composed by Farquhar.
At the time of Farquhar’s illness, Fergie composed a tune in his honour called ‘The Roshven Fiddler’. Fergie said it was Farquhar who got him ‘going on the Box’ when he was a teenager; and for forty years they travelled all over Scotland to thousands of venues playing their special brand of music.


Photo: on board the ‘Shearwater’ about 1988, in Eigg Harbour.. Farquhar with the box is accompanied by Tearlach on pipes, who is being watched closely by Angus Mac.
Others on board are Peter and Rosemary Bridge, Bella MacDonald, and Helen Grant. Is that Camille behind the box, and a young Blair Martin watching Tearlach?

At last the sales are over for another year and both sheep and cattle have done very well. Thanks to everyone who helped getting our stock to market safely, especially the boys on MV Raasay and Taylors of Killin. Also to Bill Henderson, Lawrence MacEwen and Ewan Ross for looking after our tups until we could get them home.
Congratulations Canna Primary School!! You’ve done it again, going to Disneyland Paris at Easter time. A big thank you to all the people who collected tokens for us. The children have written to everyone so if we have forgotten you we’re very sorry.
Welcome to Canna, Susan and Patrick. I missed last month’s issue to welcome them. They have settled in nicely, Susan has gone down well with the children, they are racing to see who can become Zoombinis champion at the moment.
Work has been going on by Donald MacKenzie from Dunvegan Skye. The boys George and Ron have put a new roof on the shearing shed and Donald himself has been doing drainage works at the back of the Bothy. They are nearly finished now. We’ll be sad to see them go.
Christmas time is upon us once again. The school is off to see ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in Eden Court, Inverness, on the 5th December.
Congratulations to Kathryn who had one of her drawings in the BBC programme ‘Smarts Art Gallery’.
Hope you all have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Wendy MacKinnon

Diggers and dumpers, compactors and cranes,
Sarking and shingle, sandbags and drains,
Rooflights and rulers, Range Rovers and runes,
Knoydart is building to radio one tunes!
The school is now finished -
The A-frame a plan,
New pier in the pipeline, fine tuning in hand -
But pause, do we still hear the birds and the bees?
The hydro is purring, makes daily chores hum,
Intent on our ‘progress’ we skip and we run -
To keep pace with expansion we strive and we toil
And utilise gallons and gallons of oil;
Is this right, is this good and is there a ‘fin’
Do we yearn to return on a nostalgic spin to
The ways of the past and an absence of din -
So pause, hear tides change and converse with the trees.
Our efforts are worthy and many will gain
An improvement in life style, reduction of pain
Fresh produce daily from land and from main
Fine heritage culture in sight, touch and strain
All to be lauded, enjoyed and preserved,
In cahoots with the wild things of hillside and sward.
Pause now, on the mountain, reflect and refrain; in
Our transient journey ways past should remain.

Welcome baby Anna Robertson who arrived on Wednesday 20th November and congratulations to Jackie and Iain, proud parents.
Since this is the December issue — may we wish friends and neighbours in Mallaig, Arisaig and the Islands a Very Happy Christmas season with goodwill and peace all round.
Anne Trussell

Inhabitants of Knoydart are doing their Christmas shopping on the Internet, courtesy of Yahoo!Shopping.
The Yahoo! Internet company heard that Knoydart folk have a marathon journey to do their Christmas shopping - catching the 3-day a week Western Isles and then driving an hour to Fort William or three to Inverness or Glasgow—public transport being ruled out and overnight stays often a necessity.
The Internet terminal has been set up in The Old Forge, the remotest pub in Britain, and locals have until December 18th to order online and have their choice delivered to their door.

This month the island welcomed home Colin, fresh from is journey round the world. The first part was South America, from Venezuela to Argentina and countries between. This was followed by New Zealand, Australia and India. Highlight of the year was outback Australia where Colin worked on two cattle stations, the first in Queensland where he helped erect many miles of fencing, part of a team which had to use GPS to avoid getting lost. At the second station north of Alice Springs Colin led a team of backpackers mustering Santa Gertrudis cattle for export using mobile yards. Dangerous and exciting work and we were most relieved to see him back home in one piece. And that was the day of our annual fund raising bash when the island enjoyed communal dinner in the school cooked mainly by the Hendersons, followed by bingo and a raffle. £179 was raised and out of this £90 is being donated to the British Heart Foundation.
On the farm this month: I want to mention the Hi Health Scheme. This involved testing or ‘screening’ the cows for four diseases, namely Leptospirosis, Johnes, BVD and IBR. After discussion with Chris Evans the vet (who advised me against the whole scheme, quoting ‘if you don’t look for trouble you won’t find it’ ) we decided to test a representative sample of the herd at the same time as the Brucellosis blood test. The results were: Leptospirosis and Johne’s—negative, IBR and BVD—positive. IBR is a highly infectious type of pneumonia which causes problems with housed cattle on the east coast. It is not a problem on the west coast and its elimination from the herd could be expensive. BVD could have been more of a problem. It is the disease they are trying to clear from Orkney. Chris returned to the island to test the replacement heifers and they were all negative. Where all this leaves the farm I am not sure!
Next month is a new year and with it plans for the farm, some of which will be covered in January’s West Word.
Lawrence MacEwen

November began with an excellent bonfire, barbecue and firework display, it was a great night enjoyed by all.
For most of the month we have been without our flitboat, Rhouma, which is away in Arisaig having its annual MCA inspection and overhaul. While she’s been away we’ve had Andy Tibbets from Knoydart here with Gripper, acting as an excellent replacement and also teaching us a few new tunes on his accordion. Cheers Andy.
Last month on a day after a national security alert Mick, Sharon and Jud inadvertently got mistaken for terrorists while on a small boat handling course near Rosyth Naval dock yard, however they escaped without having to undergo the body cavity search...or so they claim, Mick’s not been walking the same since…
On a lighter note, the stalking fraternity on Rum have been complaining that they’re doing far too much exercise, an unfortunate circumstance due to a scarcity of deer and the remaining 24 (or so) seeking asylum down at Kilmory, the only place on the island the stalkers aren’t allowed to shoot.
There will be a Hogmanay Ceilidh this year, featuring a collection of musicians from Skye and beyond calling themselves ‘Willie Turnip’. For those interested in coming, the Castle will be open but it’ll be self-catering and bring your own sleeping bag. The cost will be £6 per night. Please ring and book.
Fliss Hough

November is a month of birthdays on Eigg, and since we like a good celebration here on the island - as you all know - a club night was organised for Felicia Greene's 18th birthday. Young and not so young islanders danced the night away with DJ Dolphin Boy at the mixing desk in a community hall especially decorated for the occasion with extremely tasteful graffiti art! Thank you Donna and Joanne for all your efforts: it was a night to remember! The following weekend saw the first of our planned year- round feisean events: starting with the story of the Appin murder told by Scott the storyteller around his virtual campfire, guitarist Neil Campbell, stepdancer Joy Dunlop and whistle tutor Donna MacCulloch got some tunes and dances going at the Glebe Barn, Feis Eige's new and comfortable venue.
The Feis committee hopes that the Eigg kids will keep their skills honed up with classes to be held in Arisaig in the New Year and another Feis weekend in February. We are also looking forward to developing Feis Eige following the successful Lochaber bid for equalisation funds, which should provide us with more of the high quality tuition we have got used to. The storytelling event certainly brought home how important it is that local traditions should be passed on in this way and it is something that we shall seek to develop.
On the pier front, work is advancing very well, with the pier terminal well under way and the vertical face for yachties almost done. (Interestingly, fragments of a very large clay pot were found at some depths when preliminary diggings were made on the beach, showing that the area would have well above water in prehistoric times.) Apart from hiccups occasioned by power interruptions whenever heavy machinery cut through electrical cables, progress has been steady, helped by good weather conditions. Everyone is now getting used to the "rock" and the RG boys have been proved to be a popular addition to our community. We look forward to have them again on the island early in the new year.
Work is also progressing well at Kildonnan which should re-open in May as the island's first accommodation provider with en-suite facilities. 24 hour electricity will also be available, as for all houses in the area, from the hydro-power scheme devised by Hugh Piggott. It will be a while before we can think about emulating Islay with its wave power scheme providing clean battery-powered transport, but for us, who do not have the 24 hour power that you all enjoy on the mainland, the completion of each alternative energy project is yet another step towards better living conditions. The next step would be to provide power for the North end and hopefully provide surplus power and earn some ROC (Renewable Obligation Certificate) income for the trust!
Another exciting prospect is the planned re-organisation of crofting spearheaded by the Crofters' Commission. This should result in more land being made available for crofting, with the creation of new holdings and a crofting township improvement scheme which will include plans for interpretation of crofting life and landscape.
In the meantime, we are looking forward to the festive season and this year's Christmas panto: "James and the Giant Peach," starring the Eigg Primary school pupils. Merry Christmas to you all!
Camille Dressler.

A stunning concert in the Astley Hall on the 23rd, with five extremely talented musicians giving us the tunes of Donald Riddell interspersed with anecdotes about Donald, Tearlach MacFarlane and Farquhar MacRae. People came from Fort William and beyond to form a very appreciative audience - just a pity there weren’t more there to take advantage of having such good quality traditional entertainment on their doorstep.
Earlier in the month Scot anSgeulaiche (‘the Storyteller’) gave us an evening with a difference with some traditional story telling. There was a day long workshop for which four of us made time in busy lifestyles. We sat around a virtual campfire and heard stories and examined the technique of keeping your hearers interested. The evening saw fourteen people around the same virtual campfire, in the light of candles and lamps, hearing the story of the Appin Murder. First an earthenware quaich filled with malt whisky was passed round as we made ourselves known. In the interval we served wine (thank you Deirdre for the donation!) and partook of oatcakes and cheese.
We came away feeling calmed and also stimulated. Not everybody’s dream day but all those who came enjoyed the experience and we shall certainly ask Scot back next winter. This particular event was organised by the West Highland Museum and Scot also did a workshop in the school.
Well, it was goodbye to Brandy this morning. A familiar figure around High Land for 17 years, he’d been very ill since the weekend and Chris the vet stopped in on his way to the Mallaig surgery. People used to say ‘Is your house the one with the ginger cat in the window?’ ~ he used to love to watch what was going on and was self~appointed caretaker of the Astley Hall, always checking out that things were in order. I joked at the time of the hall’s renovation that he should be issued with a hard hat as he patrolled the site looking for mice; I was always afraid he was going to get walled up inside, a time capsule with a difference! Ah well, ‘it’s only a cat’ you might say, but my 23 year old son was only 6 when Brandy arrived, so it’s a lifetime relationship. He was the last of three generations from a grey cat given me by Nellie and Iain MacQueen.
Ann Martin

Coastal Ranger Report
Well here I go, the last report of 2002! As usual, I needed a push from the Ed. to get my miserable article in, and also as usual, I’m stuck for something of import or interest to say. This last month for me has been a fairly “gruamach” existence, spending most of my time glued to a computer trying to satisfy the demands of the new “projected corporate image”! No! I’m not sure either! But I do know that I’ve had to knuckle down and produce various items from templates and examples which have drifted down from on high. I am convinced that it is not realised in headquarters that I’m no whiz kid on electronic articles, and as far as I’m concerned I.T. spells it! What’s more, my assiduous two fingered (at most) typing still seems to produce more than the odd mistake (usually twice)! But hey ho, I have managed to produce the first draft of my next year’s work plan - never very accurate – and the makings of a handout leaflet on Camusdarach beach. Still to come is an A3 sized poster of events in Lochaber, which will be a combination of walks, agricultural shows etc. that we, the Rangers, have some input in.
More important than all my wailings, was the success of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award groups. In the Council Chambers in Fort William, our Silver and Bronze heroes swept the boards with both the number of awards and their presentations of the explorations. Even more pleasing to me, is the fact that almost all of them are going to continue up a grade to Gold and Silver awards (I can’t be toooo much of a tiger!) It will of course mean that I will have to spend more time on training the participants in their hill walking and navigation skills etc. but I have to admit that it is very rewarding to see the children overcome difficulties and come out smiling! Unfortunately having lost the invaluable services of Suzanne Turner (nee May!) and her extremely helpful (and at times super eagle eyed) husband Alex, I may well have to appeal to all of you fit ladies out there to find someone who can stand in, take all the flack, do a bit of admin. and also help out with the expeditions. Not a lot to ask is it???? Volunteers????? Anyway, I believe Ed. has a good photo of all the award winners with their smiles lighting up these dark days pre-Christmas, and enough to carry through to next year.
Finally, thanks to all my readers, (particularly those who saw fit to actually say that they read the column!) and helpers, and I would just wish you all a happy and lively holiday and a great and healthy 2003.
P.S. To those of you that were all ready to do the walk last Saturday, sorry the weather was bad enough (on the forecast!) to call it off, but hopefully we can do it soon. Keep in touch 01687 462 983.
Angus Macintyre

Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
This month’s question comes from Margaret – whom l hope is still awake to read this in December! Why do some animals hibernate in the winter?
The word hibernate comes from the Latin for winter. It is used to refer to animals going into a torpid state when the weather and, or, their food supply, would limit their ability to be active For example reptiles and amphibians needed a warm environment to enable them to move and find food; and bats feed mainly on flying insects which are abundant only during the summer in Lochaber. A hibernating animal is able to slow down its body’s activities, for instance the heart beats very slowly, and its temperature goes down, to save energy. Some mammals such as squirrels can go in and out of the hibernation state during the winter if there is a prolonged mild period of weather.
Dr. Mary Elliott

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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List of Issues online

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

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

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