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

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December 2005 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Eigg, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago
Local Genealogy & History

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Northerly gales on Friday 25th November wreaked havoc outside Arisaig as trees, deprived of their decades-old protection from the old plantations, fell in numbers across the A830, blocking it and bringing down telephone cables. A total of eleven trees throughout the afternoon and evening are estimated to have fallen, leaving motorists stranded after Police decided they must close the road to all traffic.

From 5 pm on Friday until after midday on Saturday 26th November the road was cordoned off. The residents of Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig - the Small Isles and Knoydart - were thereby cut off by road from the rest of Britain for more than 18 hours. And no-one in the 'outside world' knew or cared!
Buses met at either side of a fallen tree at one point to ferry pupils at school in Mallaig home to Lochailort and Acharacle. It has been reported that the road was closed because of unsafe telephone cables but a BT spokesman said they weren't told of the problem until well into the Saturday morning. When on the spot BT engineers had to chainsaw several poles and a fallen cable and then rejoin the cable, which cut off telephone lines for a short period.
Understandably the Police were concerned about the safety of anyone travelling on the road but there was some discontent among the people who had to abandon their vehicles at Lochailort or who could not get home that night.
The cause of so many trees falling was not because the wind was particularly strong - the main cause was that the recent felling had removed shelter. The general consensus of regular users of the road is that it was obvious that once the old plantations had gone, the fringe of trees left along the roadside would be extremely vulnerable to wind, especially after the ground was saturated by the flooding which resulted after the felling. The wind that night was, unusually, from the north. Our trees are 'braced' to meet winds from the west!
The roadside on Saturday morning was littered with stumps, tree trunks, branches, cables, broken bollards and road signs.

A local tradesman who travels the road daily said 'They were ill prepared for a situation that everyone knew would happen sooner or later.'
There has also been some concern that a tradesman, trying to deliver supplies to the cut off villages, is said to possibly be charged for moving police cones and driving through on the Saturday morning. It was good news for First ScotRail though - the last train was packed with people who had had to leave their cars at Lochailort or Fort William!

With effect from 6pm on Wednesday 4th January 2006, patients of the Arisaig Medical Centre will be covered out of hours by NHS 24. Patients will receive information in the post and there is an open meeting on Monday 12th December at 8pm in the Astley Hall to discuss the new arrangements.

As West Word was going to press, news came through of a fire in a flat above the Spar shop, Mallaig, during the night of Saturday 3rd December. The incident has resulted in one fatality and two people in hospital. Our sympathies go out to all affected by this tragic accident.

With a recent new subscription requested for South Africa, West Word now reaches 11 foreign countries: China, Dubai, Australia (3), New Zealand (2), Canada (3), USA (3), the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Italy. I know West Word gets sent out to friends and family by local purchasers - so if anyone sends on to a country not listed here, please let us know!
Apart from that it is read online all over the world, and how amazing technology is and how small the world has become when our Guest Book can receive contributions from 'our boys' serving in Iraq. I hope that means they can read West Word online too! If so, I'm sure West Word readers would want me to send them all our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, and hopes for a safe and speedy return in 2006.
By the way there were 1898 hits on the internet version in September, and 2324 in October!
The wishes of the season to everyone - see you in 2006!
Ann Martin

Matt and Samantha now have a son - Felix - which means that Anne and Roger have a grandson! The community would like me to pass on their congratulations and best wishes to the Humphreys. Does this push our population tally over 100?
Session A9 (Members Of) proved to be as amazing as their reputation suggests. The concert started late, due to band member commitments elsewhere - but what a night once they got going! With fiddlers such as Adam Sutherland, Charlie MacKerron and Duncan Chisholm you can't really go wrong: backed up by Iain Copeland and Kris Drever the night was as magic as it gets. I know, I know - I'm prejudiced. But all you have to do is ask the opinion of any of the Knoydart residents who went down to the concert, ceilidh, or instrument workshops the next day. Photographs from the event, as well as future ones, will be up on the website: www.KnoydartArts.com
And now, the Christmas present idea everyone has been waiting for. Inspired by some very close friends of Knoydart, the Old Forge has created its very own version of the Calendar Girls, using their own barstaff as models. All (and they mean ALL) proceeds will go towards breast cancer research (the pub is paying for the printing costs). Everyone has agreed how striking yet tasteful the pictures are (Gaddie looking particularly alluring!). To order one, 'phone the Old Forge on 01687 462267, or write to them (Knoydart PH41 4PL). Calendars are £10 plus £1.50 p+p; cheques should be made out to Knoydart Breast Cancer Calendar. Get in quick to guarantee your order arriving by Christmas.
It's conference season, with representatives from Knoydart travelling to places such as Kincraig and Unst for tourism, energy and access seminars. Lots of useful ideas coming out of all these events, all helping the community become self-sufficient and an attractive place for locals and visitors alike. And AGM time as well, with the Forest Trust holding its annual meeting, and electing three new directors whilst tucking into a cracking selection of cakes.
And finally...how did you guess? Lots of goings-on Riadh-an-Darioch way. I walked into the Post Office the other day to find a telegram detailing court proceedings on the desk. Concerned about the highly unlikely prospect of criminal goings-on in Knoydart, I quickly read the missive. I reprint it in its entirety here:
Tommy McManmon

November has been an uneventful month on Muck. The highlight was on the 19th when almost the whole island made their way to the Craft Shop. Each family was carrying a curry so there was a range of flavours for us all to share. It was all to raise money for the Pakistan Earthquake Appeal. Following on was an evening of horse racing. Sandy Mathers had first to video a number of races from round the country and he also acted as bookmaker while we all tried to pick the winners. Very exciting at times and £200 will be making its way to help alleviate that terrible tragedy.
On the farm, everything saleable is sold apart from one black lamb which escaped from the field in Arisaig and is roaming free on Keppoch Farm. Last to go was the wool, 27 bags of it for further transport to Evanton by Donald Forbes of Foyers. Donald is able to transport straw in the opposite direction. This year's wool was sold for £845 and I mention this because in 1928 the same size wool clip was sold for £700 and was the most valuable boatload to leave the island. How times change!
Lawrence MacEwen

It has been very busy out here on Canna, which is why we were not able to put in our part for the last few months. As a welcome to the new month I would like to send out many happy returns to the people on Canna who have their birthdays this December.
The sheep and cattle sales have been getting n well and I have a little bit here written by our very own Geraldine MacKinnon: Sales are over at last and considering the present climate in farming, Canna has been doing reasonably well. There has been good inter-island competition with stock from all four small isles being sold at Fort William. Eigg and Muck are beating us with cattle but we still have the best sheep! Thanks again to the Spanish John and crew for all stock transportation and Cal-Mac boys for assistance at Mallaig.
A rescue mission was mounted at the beginning of November, to retrieve a heifer which had fallen over the cliff edge. She had been on the ledge for at least ten days and was very thin with some nasty cuts. Sinead, my niece, had luckily spotted her while being transported home for a weekend break aboard the Lochan.
We managed to climb down the cliff and lasso Sinead (as she is now called), tie her up in a cargo net and pull her to safety to the cliff top using a tractor, scaffolding boards and some of our resident rat catchers! She is doing well and getting lots of food to help her gain weight again.
As many of you may know by now we have a new teacher and family on Sanday, Mrs Eilidh Soe-Paing, her husband Geoffrey and two children Johnny and Oria. Mrs Soe-Paing has been settling in well at our school and getting on well with everyone. She has so far endured awful weather, a Hallowe'en party and the two children that attend Canna Primary.

The RJ Mcleod's company has been very busy. They are getting on well with our new slipway and hope to be finished sometime in the summer holidays of 2006. They are also beginning to work on our road bridge but as usual nothing is ever easy. When they were digging the test pits they found no rock to build on. Canna pier

The Ratters have also been getting on very well. They have placed all of the four thousand bait stations around the island. There was one slight glitch for them in November, the outboard of the boat that they use rotted away. Amazingly although they were on board everyone lived to tell the tale. But I believe that they now boat less as a result. They have also placed some snap traps around and have even placed some poison boxes in some of the houses.
We had a visit from Blazin' Fiddles member, Mr Alan Henderson. He came over to teach music at the school. Unfortunately Mr Henderson was only able to stay for a couple of hours before he had to venture over to Muck. Hopefully he will be able to come out again for longer. A big thank you is in order for the head teacher at Arisaig, Mr Martin Jones, for sending out a fiddle for the pupils at Canna Primary to practice on (it is still in one piece, I promise you).
Merry Christmas everyone.
Wendy MacKinnon

Electricity is very much on everyone's mind this month, as the community is now a little bit closer to getting a mains type supply thanks to the Big Lottery Fund announcement that they will help fund the £1.34 million scheme to the tune of £250, 000. A lot of work has gone into getting this far and more needed as another £200 000 still needs to be secured before the Trust can go for European funding, but this has given the project a huge boost.
The news is particularly welcome as the 4 Housing Association houses on the island are currently without power because of serious problems with the generator that powers them. And when that goes, it's not quite the same thing as calling the man from the power company… Just as well that Peggy, one of Eigg's OAP and tenant of one of these houses is away at present! Lunch club and primary school dinners had to be cancelled as the Daycare centre is also affected. Robert and Maryanne who converted their petrol generator to gas after three years on candle power, are among those who thoroughly welcome the scheme: they have lost several TVs and videos and a great number of bulbs before getting the conversion right, and for them as for the rest of the island, much of life is still spent making sure that they can have power, something completely taken for granted by the rest of the country apart from the other islands in the Small Isles…
So for Eigg, when is generator dependency going to be a thing of the past? Probably in early 2007, if everything goes well, although diesel generators will still be part of the equation for the time being, that is until hydrogen generation technology becomes more user friendly, maybe 5 to 10 years from now, when the large back-up generators in the system could be replaced by hydrogen cells. Green or what?
In the meantime, the plan is to have most of the power produced renewably with 5 small (and discretely sited) wind turbines between Galmisdale and Grulin, 30 KW solar panels behind the telephone exchange, 2 of the existing hydros and a brand new powerful one on the Laig Burn. With wind speed of 107.6 mph recorded on stormy days such as Friday 19th November, there should be plenty renewable energy for Eigg Electric Ltd - the new Energy Company to be created - to earn ROCS on top of delivering 24 hour power. This won't mean that we will all be able to go ballistic and buy all sorts of power hungry appliances. Frugality bred out of necessity will have taught us awareness of power-saving reflexes, something that mainlanders find it much harder to acquire.
I guess this type of self-reliance is part of the make-up of our island identity, a theme which was discussed by a bunch of island folks from all over Europe at the last ESIN meeting which I attended in Ireland this month. One of the Danish delegates developed the theme to ask whether there could such as a thing as an "Island Philosophy" based on a slower, simpler way of life, which in Denmark at least seems to be a very desirable thing. More on the ESIN conference in next month WestWord…
Meanwhile 11 November saw 20 Eiggach gathered at the graveyard to pay tribute to the memory of the islanders who fell in the 2 World Wars, and in particular this year, to the two unknown WW2 sailors buried there. They served on the Curacao, a destroyer which zig-zagged in front of the Queen Mary, guarding her from U-boats off the North West coast of Ireland as she carried troops bound for the Clyde. Over 300 sailors on the Curacao lost their lives on 2 October 1942 when the ship was sliced in two by the Queen Mary which carried part of the stricken cruiser a considerable way. Even though it was witnessed by many on board the Queen Mary, the accident was hushed up until the end of the war for fear of the effect on morale. On Eigg, the two Curacao sailors were buried without much ceremony at the time, both the minister and the priest being unavailable. Thanks to Rosaleen Campbell, they were duly remembered in this anniversary year with poppy wreaths laid out as Aidan MacEoin recited the poem written by Hugh Mackinnon, the bard of Eigg, in memory of the Eigg lads that never came back from the French trenches, and Donna did a moving rendition of "Flowers of the forest".
All those islanders who took a part in the two wars are to be commemorated on a bronze plaque on a cairn erected at Cul nam Pairc in Cleadale, a favourite gathering place in olden times. Wes Fyffe is putting the last finishing touches to the cairn, and a remembrance gathering is planned in the summer time when people with Eigg connections will be able to attend. These islanders were also remembered in an exhibition of selected photographs from the Eigg archive, which will form the basis of the history society display this summer. (Come and see it in the Pier waiting room!). They were in the hall for all to see at the very enjoyable launch of the Comunn Eachdraidh Eige's book of archive photographs: "An island and its people, Eigg, a photographic record" This booklet illustrated with a wealth of pictures, gives a very evocative flavour of the way Eigg people lived from the 1890's to the 1950's (and is available from all reputable outlets, including the Eigg craftshop). The launch was combined with a "Bangers and Mash" dinner which raised £300 pounds for Breast Cancer Awareness, thanks to all who attended and was good fun as well, said organizer Eileen Ferguson. Buying the "calendar girls" 2006 calendar produced by the Old Forge in Knoydart will help further: well done Jackie, Rhona and Ian for a great idea and great artwork!
Camille Dressler.

This month seems to have flown past. I escaped to the sun for a week in the middle of November. What a pleasant respite from the winter weather.
Happy 50th Birthday to Ruth Powell!
We had a fireworks display on the 5th November. I was told that the fireworks were quite spectacular this year and lots of villagers turned out. This is probably the most enjoyed event of the year as it is the one event that most people attend. Les MacFarlane and Iain Banks took care of all the pyrotechnical stuff and Joan Robertson ensured everybody was fed and watered. The Community Council AGM also took place in November at the Prince's House Hotel. There was quite a good turn out and it was a good chance to discuss the work of the council and for people to raise issues or ideas.
Access Lochaber are going to build a bridge over the Callop. There will be a track and boardwalk to the bridge. The bridge will look attractive and will offer a circular walk.
There is still concern about speeding through the village and this is an ongoing issue.
There are plans for a bus shelter at the station road end once the station has been renovated in about a years time. We now have broadband but only BT can provide it at this time. A paper bank and can bank have arrived! They are at Glenfinnan House Hotel car park so please use them and reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill.
The Community Council are planning to renovate the War Memorial. There was a lot of discussion about this at the AGM. Landscaping, new fencing, cutting back of trees and the placement of a bench are among the plans. The memorial was erected to face the old road. When the new road was built it was facing the wrong way! The soldier has been turned but the large stone bearing the names remains facing the old road. It is a very big job to turn that stone and it is of interest that it faces the old road as it shows where the road used to be. We may look at placing an information board near the memorial telling its story. There are three housing plots available in Torr an Eas, Glenfinnan. They belong to the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust and are for sale to people who are eligible for the Rural Home Ownership Grant.
Gaelic Glenfinnan is the working title for our plans for Highland Year of Culture 2007. Let's make 2007 the year Glenfinnan learns gaelic. The idea is for a year-long programme of events including music workshops and performances, celebrations, bard in residence, gaelic tuition etc. There was a lot of support for this idea at the AGM. We will set-up a project group to develop the idea, apply for funding and take it forward. Anyone interested in helping to get this project going is invited to attend the next CC meeting on 9th January 2006 at 7.30pm, Glenfinnan House Hotel.
Gail Wandorf has kindly started a painting class in her home. Lots of people have jumped at the chance to practice or even acquire painting skills under her expert guidance. The first class was on Tuesday and it was a fantastic way to spend a winter evening. Everyone was a bit nervous at first but we all settled in and even enjoyed ourselves.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Eileen O'Rua

It seems ages since Bonfire Night, with Christmas coming up fast, but I must make a mention of what many are saying was the best display ever. A smaller crowd than usual? A fine night, not too cold. There was even a short alternative display just up the hill by a private party - I wonder why they didn't just come down and join us in the occasion which brings so many of the village together? It is the community bonfire after all. Many thanks to the Community Council for organising it and to Gerry, Graham and John for setting them all off.
We had a wonderful play on the hall in the middle of November - 'Watching Bluebottles'. It was the poignant and often funny reminiscences of a hall caretaker on the eve of his retirement as he sets up the hall for the last time - for his own 'surprise' party the following night! The hall itself was the main prop. Superb acting by Ron Emslie in this one-man play left some very damp eyes from some of the audience at the end! Ron was superb last year in 'Who Bares Wins'
The arrangements for the Senior Citizens Party are different this year, the occasion will be a Christmas Lunch at Cnoc-na-Faire on Thursday 15th December. The Children's Party will be in the Hall on Wednesday 28th December at 2.30 pm. There's also going to be a Virgin Vie cosmetics and jewellery party on the 8th, with Tricia MacEachin showing off the wares. No obligation to buy - come along for a mince pie and a glass of wine, but who knows, you might find that elusive Christmas present too!
The concert by local choir Stella Nova on the 16th promises to fill us full of Christmas goodwill, lots of carols to sing along to and mulled wine as well! Money raised from the refreshments will go to the Pakistan Earthquake Appeal.
I write this the morning after the Opera Gala, an evening of wonderful voices that sent over 50 people home with a glow in their eyes. The five singers and pianist were at the primary school the day before doing workshops with the pupils who loved it - the group were in turn very impressed with our wonderful children! We hope to have them back next year...
Next week BBC Scotland are visiting the village and are going to be looking at the cemetery. They're making a programme about the Curacao, which by complete coincidence is also mentioned by Camille in the Eigg article. Like Eigg, Arisaig also has graves to unknown sailors from the Curacao who were washed up on the shores. The Curacao, as Camille says, was on guard duty of the Queen Mary in WWII, and because it had to zig zag about in its hunt for mines the two ships were in collision and the Queen Mary cut the smaller vessel in two. The Queen Mary couldn't stop to help survivors - bit like the Cruel Sea isn't it - which must have been very distressing for those who witnessed it all. Nothing has been heard of this war-time tragedy because it was hushed up, but now the story will soon be told. Hopefully West Word will carry an article at some point in the near future!
Ann Martin

Discovery Channel Discovers Mallaig
A film crew from leading independent television production company, IWC Media, spent a fortnight with the Mallaig Marine Training Centre following the trials of three rookies hoping to become fishermen out here on the west coast. On completing the Basic Introduction to the Fishing Industry on Tuesday, the lads are currently on their way to join the Challenge II deep sea trawler which will be leaving Ullapool for a ten day trip to the North Atlantic. The documentary will be part of a new series for the Discovery Channel called Hard Labour which will kick off the channel's new season in autumn 2006.

All the volunteers for the programme were long-term unemployed and desperate to find a career they could stick to, but they didn't know what job they were coming to Scotland to train for. It was only when they got to the harbour that they were finally told by Lachie Paterson, who - along with Michael Currie and Moe Matheson, was in charge of getting them ship shape in time for their trip. The boys had to hit the ground running upon arrival in Mallaig. None had come from fishing backgrounds - in fact none of them had even been on a boat in their lives. However, after some intensive training in basic seamanship along with the required safety courses provided by FITA and the Mallaig Marine Training Centre, the new recruits were ready to set off on the experience of a lifetime - trawling off the Faeroes in December gales. photo

All the boys enjoyed the experience of spending time in Mallaig, and indeed the trip out on Mallaig lifeboat on Saturday was a definite highlight - 'The best day of my life' was the comment from one. Another added on his feedback form 'Mallaig people are amazing and can I say thank you to everyone, Lachie, Michael, Moe and everyone who made us feel welcome.' Thanks to all who helped look after the boys - the tutors, the lifeboat crew and especially the Fishermen's Mission staff who as always were very supportive.

Well, well, well, who would have thought it...
Flo Cargill and Helen Campbell have discovered an historical romance novel set in the year 1424 entitled La Châtelaine de Mallaig. This roughly translates to 'The Lady of Mallaig Castle' and the book, written by French Canadian author Diane Lacombe, centres on the Clan MacNeil and the area of Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig.
The book was published in 2002 and is the second part of a trilogy. The others are L'Hermine de Mallaig and Sorcha de Mallaig, We wonder why Diane Lacombe focussed in on the Mallaig area for her piece of romantic fiction? We will have the chance to find out on 16th June 2006 when she and her literary agent, Laurent Lavigne, have organised a visit to the areas featured in the book. As it happens, Laurent Lavigne contacted West Word some months ago and told us that a party of forty intend to come over and are interested 'to meet the community of Mallaig in a cocktail'. He asked who would organise the trip and was given contact details of the Heritage Centre and the Community Council. There is more about the author and 'Mallaig Imaginaire' on http://www.edvlb.com/DianeLacombe/ (in French but with some summaries in English). More about the trip can be found in the section 'Quoi de neuf'.

Dear Editor,
Your editorial this month (November) mentioning the old order changing fast made me think of a quote from my father's diary written at Garramor, Arisaig in August 1907. 'Just now there is an absurd commotion going on in these parts about motor cars. Just because one happens to come along the road, which is narrow and dangerous in parts, every few days in July and August Connie Astley and the Nicholsons (Arisaig House) want to get the County Council to prohibit cars north of Fort William altogether. What rot I say!'
West Word is always packed with current news and is probably, along with the arrival of electricity in the late 1940s, one of the best things that has happened in the area, because the coverage in the Oban Times and the West Highland Free Press was to say the least sketchy prior to West Word's arrival in 1994.
It occurs to me that your readers might like to hear of the journeyings of the Victorian visitors to Arisaig? My grandparents (Bowman) took a lease of Garramor from the Arisaig Estate from 1885 to the early 1920s when my father bought Camusdarach, also from Sir Arthur Nicholson of Arisaig House. In the beginning there was no railway even to Fort William and the whole family arrived from London by steamer (the Grenadier) from Oban at Rhu Point, Arisaig. The journey was further complicated because there was only a footbridge over the River Caimbe and if the tide was high two sets of horse-drawn transport had to be ordered while the passengers and their belongings were carried over the swaying footbridge. Now, with the prospect of the last bit of the A830 being widened we shall be able to drive from Edinburgh to Achateilasaig, Arisaig, in a little over four hours!
Yours sincerely,
Rosemary Law (formerly Bowman).

Book review
Comunn Eachdraidh Eige has just published a booklet containing a selection of pictures from the extensive Eigg Photographic Archive. The booklet is intended to give a flavour of what traditional life was like on Eigg and other Hebridean islands before the changes that took place in the latter half of the 20th Century. The 50 page booklet is packed with fascinating photos dating from 1890s to the 1950s - photos of people at work and leisure, of crofters, fishermen, lairds and their lodges, and allows us a privileged chance to see what everyday life was like.
Over the last ten years the Isle of Eigg Historical Society has collected an extensive archive containing copies of more than 3000 photographs, contributed by islanders, friends, relatives and visitors. Every photo has a story to tell and luckily there have been enough people able to recount the stories behind the pictures before memories fade and a disappearing way of life is forgotten. The book is divided into various chapters dealing with the various aspects of island life, the major part covering the lives of crofters and farmers, not only the working and everyday aspects of life but also the special occasions.

book cover

Camille Dressler and Susanna Wade Martins wrote the introduction, Camille the main text and Susanna the captions for the photographs. The cover was designed by Sue White. Sheena and Kenneth Keen digitally scanned the whole collection.
Comunn Eachdraidh Eige received grants from Awards for All to copy and store the archival photographs, and to publish the booklet, which is on sale through the Isle of Eigg Craft Shop at the price of £6.50. More of the archive can be seen online if you go to www.isleofeigg.org , then to 'Heritage', and 'Photo Archive', and there will be a display at the Eigg Pier Waiting Room next summer.
The book will also be on sale at The Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig (open on Sunday 11th December).
Ann Martin

West Word - ten years ago
The lead story in the West Word of December 1995 was the proposed Regeneration Studies for Ardnamurchan and the Mallaig-Morar-Arisaig areas by the Corrom Trust, whilst the second story centred on the re-vamping of Nevis Stores into a Costcutter establishment. Local celebrity Gray Thompson performed the official opening ceremony on 6th December 1995. The photo on the front cover - a scene from 'The Heroes Harvest' as performed in Glenuig Hall by local residents - was a precursor or a detailed review of the play on page 21.
Jennifer Ferguson from Paisley was adjudged the winner of the West Word logo competition - it's still on the masthead today, ten years later. Thanks Jennifer!
Hugh Allen (M&NWFA) and Robert Stevenson (WSFPO) provided their slant on the current fishing scene, and Mallaig High School's Head Teacher J. Forbes Jackson made available to West Word a letter he had circulated to all parents. The letter was headed 'Substance Abuse'.
Heather Smith continued to report on her adventure in Guyana and Ross Martin provided a detailed report on a pilgrimage of Peace to Bosnia undertaken by Billy and Carol MacKail from Glenuig and Mairead MacDonald of Kinsadel.
There was a healthy letter display (two pages) with one being from Ewen Nicholson and his pets (there will be a feature on Ewen in next month's West Word.
Ambulance Service, Sheep Problems, Youth Hostel, Overnight Parking and Christmas Trees were all agenda items for the Mallaig Community Council. Morar Sewerage Works had just been completed but due to site difficulties Eigg Hall was put 'on hold'. Arisaig meanwhile wanted more litter bins and traffic calming measures.
Page 19 of the 32 page, 50p cover price, paper was on Memories of Christmas with Kate MacDonald, Nellie MacQueen and Ishbel Gillies describing their Christmas childhood at Rhu, Ardnish and Samalaman respectively, and, sticking to a festive theme, a funny recipe for a Christmas Fruit Cake brought a smile.
The Personal Angle column highlighted the dangers of fallen trees at Borrodale and the need to get some cut down as they were a danger to road users (fast forward to November 2005 - and the same statement could still apply ).
A snippet that caught my eye was … which Mallaig fisherman was providing pandrops for Frances Shand Kydd during a recent church service?...
Robert MacMillan

The China Trade - By John Hermse, Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association

I was part of a learning journey to China organised by Seafood Scotland. Catching and processing companies undertook a learning journey to China in November. The visit was organised by SFS and Scottish Development International, in conjunction with the China Britain Business Council. It included three of my Mallaig and North West Fisherman's Association members, Tony Kenning from Mallaig, John Macalister from Oban and Ross Skinner from Avoch, plus leading shellfish processing companies Angelbond and CKI Seafood Scotland Ltd. During the first few days of the trip, our delegation visited trade organisations and government officials to identify areas of mutual cooperation. At a seminar to introduce Scottish seafood products to potential buyers, fresh Scottish scallops and langoustines were served in both Chinese and Western recipes to great acclaim.
The group also toured live seafood markets and major retail outlets including Carrefour, which has grown into one of the main supermarket chains in China. The seafood professionals found the fresh seafood counters to be outstanding, with a huge variety of live, fresh and frozen products from around the world.
I was pleased to find a genuine interest in Scottish seafood and believe that it can be turned into real business opportunities. It is all very exciting, but before we can develop any business, we need to educate buyers and consumers and undertake some major promotional work. The variety of seafood on display was impressive, but our entire delegation agreed that Scottish product competes very favourably with everything on offer, and in many cases it is of a superior quality. We found plenty of exciting potential markets for our products and China looks very promising as niche market for high value shellfish species.
Libby Woodhatch from Seafood Scotland said, "We recognise that to maximise this potential and penetrate the market in China, we must develop a long term market entry strategy. This will involve building partnerships with local distributors, as well as clearly promoting the uniqueness that Scottish seafood has over other species already well established within the Chinese market." We also toured markets and retail outlets in Guangzhou, and attended the China Fisheries Exposition, where Seafood Scotland hosted a stand for companies on the trip.
The Expo provided companies with the opportunity to make key business contacts in terms of both supply to the domestic market and further processing opportunities.
The final day of the trip included a study tour to a local wet market, carp farm and seafood processing company based in the Pearl River Delta. The group was impressed by the high level of quality control and hygiene implemented by the company, which exported farmed and wild products to markets in the USA and EU.
From a social point of view China is awesome. Beijing, where we started our visit, is a city of some 14-15 million people (that are registered. It may be as high as 17 million with itinerant workers). This one city has three times the population of Scotland! It is strange to see bikes, rickshaws and donkey drawn carts sharing a motorway with top of the range Mercedes and Lexus cars. There just seemed to be people everywhere with not an inch of space wasted. There are no houses as such and people stay in apartments in high rise flats. There is no doubt that China is an emerging superpower and they hope to showcase the country in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I thing the lasting impression I have is that the Chinese are integrating new technology with age old practices. For example, scaffolding for building skyscrapers was made from bamboo poles but tied together with plastic cable ties! The people seemed to find simple solutions to problems without having a plethora of meaningless legislation which added to the cost of production. However, you feel that, just underneath the surface, not that far away, there is a police state waiting to deal with those that don't tow the party line.

Spanish John in Battleship Drama
A local cargo vessel, the 18 metre landing craft Spanish John II was caught up in a frightening incident with a large battleship in the Minch recently. "I got the fright of my life" said the Spanish John skipper Greig Milligan. "I had no warning of a naval exercise taking place but when the shells were fired, just for a second or two the thought went through my head I hope they aren't firing at me. It was a bit scary".
Friday 28th October had started off quietly enough and although not the best of days weatherwise Greig decided to head for Canna. On board the Spanish John was 40 tonnes of rat poison for the New Zealand team of rodent experts who are ridding the island of rat infestation.
Although hearing some extra activity on the ships VHF Radio Greig left Mallaig Harbour and set course for Canna. Two hours out from Mallaig the silence in the wheelhouse of the Spanish John was broken by an American voice coming over the VHF and that's when Greig noticed the huge battleship in the distance. "Vessel approaching battleship, crossing my starboard side, please pull away now - you are entering my safety zone" was the message which was repeated and repeated with the R.O.'s voice getting more and more high pitched. Greig wasn't too bothered at this point as he was on the port side of the navy ship, none the less he altered course slightly just in case.
The Radio messages kept coming and as Greig could not see any other vessel in the vicinity he began to wonder if it was the Spanish John that the warship was trying to warn off. "Power vessel with black hull and white superstructure approaching on starboard side, please pull away now". This was repeated a further six times with increasing urgency.
Greig was beginning to get very concerned and tried unsuccessfully to contact the warship. The Spanish John has a dark blue hull and the drums of poison on board could explain the white superstructure. Again Greig altered course although still remaining on the port side of the warship.
"Vessel on starboard side, vessel on starboard side you are entering my safety zone - I'll have to defend myself". The Radio Operators tone became more and more agitated, Greig got more and more concerned. Then it came "I'll have to defend myself - I'm opening fire" "I'll have to defend myself - I'm opening fire". Then they came. "Four shells were fired. Two white, two red " said Greig. I did get a fright and being caught up in the increasing tension of the incident heightened the emotions. My brain was in overdrive I just wondered what the hell was going on".
That was the end of the incident, no more histrionics on the VHF by the battleship Radio Operator, no more contact with any other vessel and as the rats on Canna will have found out to their cost the Spanish John safely delivered its load to Canna!

A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
Ḍmhnall Ṃr an ̉bain

In October, Elizabeth and I had a visit from three Canadians who were en route to the Mod in Stornoway. They were, Irene Mar, née MacDonell, Bernie Chisholm and Marlene MacDonald Cheng, known to us as Màiri Eilidh.
Mairi Eilidh is an old friend, having stayed with us several times in the past and, is also, a past contributor to 'West Word' This month we thought that we would say a wee bit about Màiri Eilidh's sloinntearachd and follow up with Irene's and Bernie's in succeeding months.
On one side of her ancestry, Màiri Eilidh is descended from John of Gaothdail, "Fear Gaothdail", himself a younger son of Alexander MacDonald, VI of Morar and a brother of Hugh MacDonald, first Bishop of the Highland Vicarate whose base was, initially, at the seminary on Eilean Bàn on Loch Morar. However, it is Màiri Eilidh's ̉ban, Gillies ancestry on which we will concentrate today.
̉ban, (in English - Little Bay) is situated at the head of Loch Morar, at the entrance to Glen Pean and in the 16th and 17th century, was the home of "Ḍmhnall Ṃr an ̉bain" Gillies, born ca. 1690, an independent landowner and veteran of the '45 right up to Culloden. It was from ̉ban, in 1801, that his grandson, "Ḍmhnall an ̉bain", Gillies, son of "Eoghainn an ̉bain" and his wife, Margaret(Ṃr) MacEachern or MacEachen, b. ca. 1740 in Morar, set out with his wife, Anne MacDonald of Knoydart and their family. In company with many other local families, they embarked from Druimindarach on the 'Dove' of Aberdeen, bound for Nova Scotia. After landing at Pictou, in Nova Scotia, they moved to a place which they named "An Allt Ṃr" or, "The Big Brook", in the district of Dunmore, Antigonish, Here, Donald and Ann raised a family of 5 sons and 5 daughters, some of whom were born in the old country, another child having died on the voyage across.
While she was here, Màiri Eilidh was able to visit ̉ban at the head of Loch Morar, the home of her ancestors and the first of their descendants since 1801, to have the opportunity of doing so. Màiri Eilidh's sloinntearachd is as follows.
Parents: Robert B. MacDonald (Gaothdail) and Annie C. MacEachen. GP.: John Hugh McDonald (Gaothdal) & Catherine Sutton. GGP: Hugh MacDonald (Gaothdaill)& Alice Floyd. (Ireland) GGGP. John MacDonald (Gaothdail) & Mary Gillies (Oban) GGGGP. Hugh Gillies b. ca. 1790 (Oban) & Catherine MacDonald b. ca. 1800. GGGGGP. Donald Gillies, (Ḍmhnall an ̉bain) & Anne MacDonald, "of the Martin stock" (Knoydart) GGGGGGP. Hugh Gillies (Eoghainn an ̉bain) & Margaret MacEachern/MacEachen, (Morar). b. ca. 1740. GGGGGGGF. Donald Gillies (Ḍmhnall Ṃr an ̉bain). b. ca. 1690.
N.B.When reading the above, it should be remembered that the present day Canadian descendants of these old emigrants are, in many cases, still identified by their ancestors' places of origin.

Looking for...
An email from Sharon Minarovic:
I was pleasantly surprised to see my comments published a few months ago...and was definitely surprised and happy to hear from someone who thinks our ancestors may have had property next to each other in Glengarry, Ontario, around the mid 1800's...we're working on it! Of course this is all due to your wonderful publication!
I still hope to get the proper documentation as to their parents, who seem to have somehow landed in Quebec (we're talking somewhere between 1745 - 65!), before crossing over and having all the children in Ontario. (Very difficult to find Scots in the early French records in Quebec).
Our Clan MacGillivray gathering is the week before the games in Moy in '07 in Inverness so I'm really getting anxious to establish the connection to your area, so I can make arrangements for some of us to stay in your area the week or so after. I was always told to remember that we are VAMY McGillivrays (as was written in the family bible)...which I understand means they came from the Glen Mama area, somewhere near Arasaig....but I can't seem to find a boat or regiment yet from that early time...do you or anyone know if 1) there were any early "exploratory" regiments sent out from this area or 2) were there any records of those in your area who fled to France and joined their regiments to "explore" and fight against the English...because this is so soon after Culloden!?! My understanding of the 800 yr. history of affiliation with the French said that many Scots could speak French and several have made quite a name for themselves in France.
There's some story in our family about the daughters being taught by the French nuns and something about a beautiful painting they (the offspring of the early Scots-Quebecers) gave to St. Raphael's in Glengarry, Ontario (loads of info. on this area & the later regiments, etc.)
If you have any clues to pass on or know of someone who does, I would appreciate someone letting me know of such. The McGillivray that I'm now stuck on is Angus McGillivray (son of John, son of Hugh) born abt.<1771> who marries Mary McMaster abt.<1796> (who was born abt.<1774>. All of these events supposedly occurred around Soulange area of Quebec, close to what later becomes Glengarry, Ontario. They apparently make it over there because that's where they have their children, one of whom is my g.g.g.grandfather Donald who marries Isabella McDonell (according to archival records we've rec'd from Glengarry.)
At this point, it appears that John McGillivray is the immigrant. It is Donald's son Angus, who comes to Chippewa Falls, in northern Wisconsin.
We have marriages to other McDonnells, Macraes & Grants in this line (Inverness-shire names, as I understand). One of the most puzzling things to me is that the use of the name Vamy (as a group of Mac/Mc Gillivrays) is so predominant in Antigonish, Nova Scotia (as opposed to being a Ban Mac/Mc Gillivray). Though my friend (who was born & raised in Dundee, Scotland until coming here at 16) and I had a great time at the Clan Gathering during the Games in Antigonish in the summer of '03...I still don't see any connection with our family.
I of course joined the Canadian Clan group and am in contact with the Pres. & Editor from time to time...they are so welcoming! After just attending our 1st "formal" USA Clan Gathering this past August, I discovered that our Clan Commissioner Bruce P. McGillivray (from Portland, Or.) is also a Vamy McGillivray.
Most curious to me because I inherited some Pacific Power & Light stock from my Grandfather McGillivray (which was bought out by Scottish Power in Glasgow!) and I remember some vague reference to some "cousins" going out that way...but we haven't had time to see if we're connected...need to do more work on collateral lines. McGillivray's a big name in nearby British Columbia...many things named after them.
One other thing I've been wondering about: was there a following in your area for the works of Sir Walter Scot back then? One day, when I was an early teen having to memorize either the Preamble to our Constitution or Lincoln's Gettysburg address, I must have been "anguishing" over it, because my Grandfather McGillivray said"Hmmph! Well, did you know young lady,that not only I, but my father and his father before him could recite the whole poem "Lady of the Lake"? I politely said "No", thinking it must have been maybe only twice as long as what I had to do.
Not until years later, when I phoned into the public library to get a copy of this "poem" (thinking it to be perhaps included in an anthology of poetry) did I discover that it itself comprised a book. I had picked it up on my way to my grandfather who lay dying in the hospital and could no longer talk, so I had thought I would read him this "poem". You can imagine how overwhelmed I felt! As I began reading, he became very restless and it appeared as if he wanted to say something, so I said, "Yes, I remember how you & your father & his father could say the whole thing." Then he settled down. However, as I continued struggling to read what the book had explained were the main excerpts, he again became restless until I told him, "It's O.K. I know this isn't the complete work that you memorized, but it was the only copy I could get from the library." He died the next day.
We knew he was kind and generous to all, but only found out after his funeral to what extent his philanthropy spread. (One of my closest friends, tracked down an old copy of the complete work and gave it to me as a sympathy gift, within a week after the funeral. since then I've aquired another copy, so that I can pass them on to each of my daughters...though I still haven't memorized even the small parts I thought I would)
Genealogically speaking though, I've been wondering: did the Highlands have a informal version of something similar to Ireland's Hedge schools...especially at that time? In Inverness-shire? Particularly the Western Isles areas?
Did the British-leaning Scots follow Burns while the more Nationalist-leaning followed Scot? (I don't think Nationalist was a common term then, but you know what I mean.)
I have one theory that perhaps the part of the clan that stayed in Antigonish kept the Mac "prefix", while those that went on to Quebec decided to use the Mc?!?
One can't help but wonder, at which point did it change? Or did this happen back in Scotland where maybe it was done to keep family lines straight, to prevent inadvertant in-breeding? (On 2nd thought, that would also have been a good reason to do it in North America, where families were sometimes scattered.)
Really enjoy reading West Word… have told many others about it.
Sharon Fox Minarovic

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