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

List of Issues online

December 2010 Issue

Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath Ùr!
Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year to all our readers!

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Canna, Eigg, Arisaig
Crofting Roundup - Birdwatch - Astronomy

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

The closure of the Mallaig Boatbuilding & Engineering Co., with the subsequent loss of seven local jobs, was announced last month by its Fort William based owner, Crannog Concept Ltd. Crannog acquired the business in 2008 but Marketing Manager Mr Douglas Ormiston said 'Since completing the purchase, we have striven to secure the future of everyone involved with the boatyard at Mallaig, but this has proved to be a difficult task when set against the backdrop of a declining fishing industry.
'Mallaig's fishing fleet currently numbers 14 small boats, a shadow of the 80 or so vessels that regularly set sail from Mallaig as recently as 15 years ago.'
Mr Ormiston added: 'Against this backdrop of a declining market, ever-increasing maintenance costs and increasing competition from larger yards, the Crannog board of directors decided to close the operation as a going concern.
'This decision has not been taken lightly and follows lengthy discussions with a number of parties aimed at securing the future of the business and its employees.'

Well over 100 people turned out in response to a call for a 'Save Our Souls' walk along the treacherous stretch of the A830 alongside Loch Eilt on Sunday 5th December. Escorted by Police and Coastguard personnel, the walkers started at Craiglea, the home of John and Jan Bryden, and proceeded the two and a half miles to the site of the accident which claimed the lives of Kirsty Bryden and Roddy MacInnes in September. Wreaths were laid and prayers said, before the return walk to Craiglea. Walking with the Mr and Mrs Bryden was Roddy's mother Heather.

Photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson

The Awareness Walk was arranged to highlight community concern about what campaigners called 'the most dangerous stretch of road in Scotland', where seventeen accidents have occurred in eight weeks. They were demanding an urgent investigation into the cause of the recent spate of accidents and that immediate action be taken to prevent further tragedy.
Even before the walk had started, however, came the welcome news that, thanks to the intervention of MSP Dave Thomson, Jim Barton, Transport Scotland's director of trunk road network management, agreed some urgent safety improvements would be carried out along the stretch of road in question.
Despite amassing evidence of a succession of accidents on the same four-mile section of the Mallaig road over a few weeks around the time of his daughter's death, Mr Bryden's calls for action were frustrated until Mr Thompson heard of his case and offered to help. Mr Thomson contacted Northern Constabulary and Transport Scotland, convinced Northern Constabulary and traffic commissioners from the Department for Transport to mount a series of 'enforcement days' when all vehicles using the road will be tested for roadworthiness, then sought a face-to-face meeting with Mr Barton, to present the case for improvements personally. This resulted in an informal personal assurance from Mr Barton that he saw the need for urgent improvements and he suggested a programme of work which would be carried out immediately and which would involve a crash barrier.
A letter followed from Transport Scotland chief executive David Middleton, which said a barrier would indeed be installed 'at the bend and extend it beyond the point where it would normally terminate to include the location where it understood two accidents occurred.'
'I am delighted that Transport Scotland have responded in such a positive way to the local campaign and that they have agreed to fit the safety barrier,' said Mr Thompson. 'I hope they will continue to give this matter the attention it deserves and that we will shortly see barriers going up to help prevent further tragedies. I will keep pressing for the barriers to be installed as soon as possible.'
On being told the news by Mr Thompson, Mr Bryden said: 'I am absolutely and utterly overwhelmed with relief that something is now being done. Because of what Dave has been able to achieve my wife and I now feel an almost indescribable sense of relief. As the retired local policeman still staying in the area, people were still coming to me with information about the road and I was passing it on to the authorities but nothing was happening. It was only when Dave helped that this was able to be taken forward.'
Mr Middleton has also agreed to investigate concern raised by Mr Thompson about the design of a parapet over a culvert under the road near Mr Bryden's house.
Transport Scotland's letter states quite clearly that before Mr Thomson's intervention, 'none of the investigatory work identified the need for remedial action to be taken in respect of the road layout.' It goes on to say that the results of the Fatal Accident Inquiry may not be known for 18 months to two years and 'given the strength of feeling locally, it would not be reasonable to wait for the outcome of the FAI before what, if anything, needs to be done at this location.'
However campaigners may well feel there is still a cause to be fought. Mr Middleton says that in April this year, 'route treatment works' were installed on this section of the A830 'intended to convey to the drivers consistent information…about the road ahead…so that drivers are able to read the road more easily. We are aware that there is a body of local opinion that considers further intervention is needed. However it is unlikely that any such measures could be justified in the short term.'
It is astounding, after so many accidents and two deaths, that vociferous campaigning, supported by Highland Councillors and the Community Council, and intervention from an MSP is needed before the authorities will respond in any way at all, and even then only half heartedly.

The walkers carried a variety of placards, proclaiming such slogans as 'No More Tears',
'Dying for Action' and 'Join Our Club - we crashed on A830'
- this last carrying the signatures of nearly 30 people.

The management of the Mallaig & District Swimming Pool are in the process of installing a biomass boiler to replace the oil fired ones they have at present.
The move is the culmination of several years of research and consultation, with the assistance in the past of HIE Community Energy Company, costing and comparing the various alternative energy options.
The Biomass boiler, to be supplied by Lochaber firm Highland Wood Energy will not only provide the pool with significant savings to its energy bills but will also generate CO2 savings of more than 126 Tonnes a year. The full report can be read on www.mallaigswimmingool.co.uk

Hello all
And many apologies for the lack of a Knoydart column for the last couple of months. A huge amount happens in a small community over the space of two months (as well as very little at all) and I'll try to get you up to date.
On the people front Paul and Elaine have bought Alan and Annie's house and should be up permanently by Christmas. Phil, Pete and Aggie have all left the pub, the men for home and Aggie for Glasgow. John, the Ghillie at Kilchoan, is soon to be away, heading for a new job on Sark in the Channel Isles. Nat and Megan, who were at the pub last year through the winter, will be returning soon for the same sort of stint. But of course the major departure is that of Donald and Marie. Following Donald's recent ill-health, and after many years on Knoydart, they have decided to relocate to Mallaig where they are not as distant from any emergency services. They have a house overlooking the harbour which should suit Donald and will feel right at home in amongst so many that know them well. We wish them all the best. They take a bit of Knoydart with them.
Winter has kicked in with a vengeance in the last week or so. The frost is hard and the tourists are thin on the ground. Off season discussions are the order of the day with, as ever, deer high up the agenda. An interesting and hopefully productive Knoydart Deer Management Group meeting was held in Fort William where many forthright and honest opinions were put forward. A draft deer management plan has been produced and after comments and discussion it should help guide practice on the ground for the next ten years. Other major topics of discussion have been the progress of the new houses and the consultations on new sites for housing through the shared equity scheme. Much heat and some insight have been generated by all. The New Year will bring the much talked of sewage development at the Manitobas end of the village and no doubt there is more to be said of that as well. It is a little known truth that if you want to generate endless discussion then sewage is an even better topic than deer.
Winter has also brought games and whist nights at the hall as well as excellent talks by Dave Fletcher and Jim Manthorpe, on the Arctic and biodiversity respectively. Film nights, with the new projector and screen, are on the way. As ever Halloween was a hoot, with a party at the pub (I'm sure there will be embarrassing photos somewhere) but diverging from recent tradition Bonfire Night was not doused by spectacular horizontal rain rather blessed with clear skies and stars to match the fireworks. The Christmas Craft Fair was well attended, Rhona and Isla did meals at the Tea Room for St. Andrews night, and Anne-Marie and Mark saved a baby seal in her drive. The Forest Trust have appointed a new Community Forester, Davie McDonnell, who will start in January. Gwen, in her Powerdown role, is helping set out the future plan for the garden, organising OWL meters for any household, setting up a solar panel course and a stove doctor visit, getting more training for the electric quad and taking funny instructive pictures with a thermal imaging camera. And we are all slowly getting into gear for the Festive season with shopping trips for supplies.
Here's hoping that the New Year is good to us all and that the discussions continue. Good luck to Jim and Claire on their soon to be little one.
Davie Newton

As Christmas approaches at last there is some good news to report from Muck. Mary, architect of our new hall, has handed the project over to her assistant Daniel who immediately left his office on Skye and spent five days here sorting out the problems and bringing it all within budget. So barring hitches in other departments we should be ready for a start as soon as New Year is over. It can't come soon enough!
The other good news is even more important to the island. Marine Harvest is hoping to build a large salmon farm east of Muck. For fish health and marine pollution reasons salmon farming is leaving the lochs and moving out to sea. Muck is one of a number of sites in the Minch favoured by the company . Even more important for Muck is the possibility of the farm staff living on the island and this should help solve one of the biggest problems in attracting new families - lack of jobs. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity but it won't happen overnight - 2013 is the year suggested.
On a more down to earth theme on the 24th we had a fund raising evening for the school Christmas party. Head teacher Elizabeth Boden cooked us an excellent Chinese meal and set the questions for the most difficult quiz that I have ever taken part. With a raffle and a bottle stall £270 was raised during a most enjoyable evening.
Last Sunday night was another cause for celebration - the 21st birthday of Libby Barnden's daughter Vicki. And it was fancy dress on the letter D and some fine outfits made their appearance.
That is about all this month but may I finish by wishing West Word readers the very best for Christmas and 2011.
Lawrence MacEwen
P.S. In Orkney we travelled to Stromness aboard the Hamnavoe a luxurious mini-liner complete with quotations from MacKay Brown etched on the glass screens. She is owned by the government-owned Northlink and was paid for by the Royal Bank. Away to the east on the other side of Scapa Flow lies South Ronaldsay and on the southern tip is the small harbour of Burwick. Here Orkney council spent £15 million constructing a breakwater and linkspan. The council already run the ferries to the outer islands and they hoped to run a ferry to the Scottish mainland from this the nearest point. But it all ended in disaster when gales smashed the linkspan and damaged the breakwater. But the council still own the harbour and when Orcadian Andrew Banks with the aid of an ex Cal Mac ferry started a similar service he was forced to use St. Margaret's Hope, a much longer journey. Now he has a purpose built catamaran the Pendelino B. No subsidy or etched glass screens here but real competition to lower the cost of travel to Scotland.
Next month: We visit Highland Park. Is it the world's best malt?

Seasons greetings! Another year over on Rum and it's still fairly busy here. We've had lots of contractors over at the castle working on maintenance and improvements - and the Reserve Office is being renovated this winter too. The application period for the three Rum crofts is closing on the 15th of December so hopefully we will have some really positive ideas and applications coming in then. Another piece of big news is that the battery inverter system is up and running so that is really good as it means a more reliable flow of electricity to all the buildings.
It's Jinty Crocket's birthday on the 31st of December - Happy Birthday Jinty! And although the castle isn't open this year for the usual Hogmanay bash, there will still be a fun local gathering for New Years. Another birthday was for Nell who had a birthday on the 9th of December - Happy Birthday Nell! Recent wildlife sightings include a single lapland bunting, common redpoll and the usual wintering woodcocks and great northern divers (up to three at present) in Loch Scresort. It's said that the weather will turn very cold again so we are hunkering down for another cold spell.
Kaiser Soezay

As the shouts and screams from the schools Halloween party abated it was into the traditional round of guising by the children of Canna. The kids appreciated all the treats they received. Parents that accompanied them around the island were forced into accepting cakes, sweets and other delicious delights - hard work but someone had to do it. The traditional fine and dry weather arrived for bonfire night, held at Caslum this year. An unusual innovation near the roaring fire were the dancing waters that appeared as the heat intensified. A quick fix with a dog collar and a cold sausage repaired the melted water main. The night was a multi-lingual affair, with all of the 7 languages that the 15 Canna adults can use being heard at some point. The 8th language turned out to be double Dutch as the wine flowed. Absent from the festivities were Aart and Amanda who had a well earned escape to warmer climes for a fortnight. The Small Isles in winter or 24 degrees in Lanzarote, must have taken ages to decide....
The community led process of choosing residents for MacIssacs, the house under restoration by the NTS, is going well. Shortlisting has been completed and December will see 7 potential families visiting. It's an exciting time and we are all looking forward to having fresh faces to gossip about. We will all have to be on our best behaviour and keep those skeletons well hidden.
Half of Canna primary school (2 kids) had the opportunity to go to the Scottish parliament as part of the 'Crofting Connections' initiative. They had the chance to meet MSP's, learn how democracy works and demonstrate what they themselves have learnt and achieved. Both children seem to have gained a lot from the experience and both Mrs Soe-Paing and kids are looking forward to continuing with the project next year.
A proposed moorings scheme for Canna harbour has been given the green light by Canna Community Association. Well done Geoff for getting things off the ground.
With the winter nights now upon us, little groups and committees seem to be appearing. A Knit and 'Natter group has been suggested for the ladies (Chat and Chardonnay me thinks), next year's 'Year of Island Culture' events are being organised by a planning group and an Historical Society will kick off soon. Something definitely needs to be set up for the boys. Perhaps a Glenfinnan Gold appreciation society? I'll drink to that.
Finally it is important to thank everyone on the island, on the boats and on the mainland who have made Canna run smoothly this year and wish everyone , in some of our Canna languages, Nollaig Chridheil, Nadolig Llawen, Joyeux Noel, Gelukkeige Kerstdagen, Feliz Navidad, Zorionak eta Urte Berri On, or of course a Merry Christmas.
Neil Baker

First of all, a big Thank You to all those who voted for Eigg in the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland, as the results of your efforts was crowned with success and Eigg won in the environment category! (More next month from Lucy and Tash who attended the award ceremony on 2nd December!)
The green theme that Eigg has so successfully pursued has certainly had an effect at European level, since the adoption of the green island theme by ESIN, the European Small Islands Federation, has led to a number of initiatives: Irish and Danish islands have been involved on a transnational LEADER exchange on Green technology, the Baltic islands are following suit, the Brittany islands have appointed a green project officer, and nearer to us, Green Skye is now starting to take shape. It is just a pity that our own transnational project for Muck has had to be abandoned because of unforgivable delays in project assessment by Europe, which the Small Isles Community council successfully complained about if this is any consolation. However, the Scottish Islands Federation, of which Eigg is now a member, is busy putting together a Green islands festival as part of the Scottish Islands year. Rumour has it that it may very well take place in Tiree, the Scottish islands' wind capital, next autumn. It all just shows the Green Island concept is working, and let's hope it continues to spread, because there is a hell of a lot of work to do to tackle the deleterious effect humans have on the planet.
A very worrying news is that according to KIMO, the Shetland environmental organisation, pollution at sea has increased by a staggering 83% in the last decade, with disastrous consequences for the environment as well as sea-users, as the numbers of rescues due to jammed propellers has also increased dramatically. Part of being a green island will definitely have to mean tackling marine protection issues and awareness-raising at local level, and we in Eigg and the Small Isles certainly ought to rely on our neighbouring coastal communities to help in that respect. All in the same boat, or to that effect, so Mallaig, please lead the way!
November has also been a great month for networking as there has been a number of events in our Highland capital which have brought together the themes of the arts, heritage, social enterprise and radical thinking, as well as new thoughts on Europe 2020. Andy Wightman who has now published his new book about what still remains to be done to change the landownership pattern in Scotland - The poor have no lawyers - has teamed with Robin Callander, adviser to the Scottish Government to highlight the issue surrounding the Crown estate, on which the government is now consulting: in the new renewable energy marine landscape, where everyone seems busy discussing the huge profits in the making, coastal communities might be well advised to look into the issue very closely indeed. It has been great to meet kent faces as well as new ones, and I would urge anyone looking for a way to beat the winter blues to check "the Old maps and New maps" website on Hi-Arts for some of the inspirational presentations at the November Hi-Arts conference, organised by our own Eigg wonder woman, Lucy Conway. Dana MacPhee from Uist's Taigh Chearsabhaigh was absolutely fantastic, and so were Shetland Arts, who simply decided to buy a trout farm to fund some of their art activities, Social enterprise truly in action…
Meanwhile, on Eigg, our own music entrepreneurs Joe and Ben Cormack, singers and guitarists in 'Massacre Cave', have now released their "nearly Christmassy" single "Behemoth" on Amazon, simply a must-download for the discerning metal head. And they are playing a gig in Glasgow as I write. They might even write a wee impromptu number for the New Year Dance to which we are very much looking for as it should continue into Damien's 30th party in his very wonderful strawbale house (not quite finished, but already increadibly warm upstairs with all that insulation and thick straw walls, he might yet the ESIN eco-house competition!)
The young actors at Eigg Primary school now busy rehearsing for the Christmas play are also selling the film they made with Sam Firth last summer. It is bound to reach record sales in the Eigg film charts! However, they have also been extremely busy taking advantage of the rare snow on our island shores to sledge like mad when school had to close early, storming the shop's supply, much to the relief of our shop keeper whose far-sightedness was far exceeded by her suppliers' keenness! But snow and freezing conditions have not come without their problems, as Stuart Thomson discovered when he returned from Spain to a scene of desolation in his living room, and Phil and Clare experienced the joys of car down-sliding, "beats sledging, but takes more skill to perfect", apparently.
And as the season of good will is now starting in earnest, we must not forget Catriona Helliwell who is working with handicapped children in North India and has been sending us a wonderfully evocative and at times heart-breaking descriptions of her experiences there. A curry night is planned to raise funds to enable the charity she works for to buy more sensory toys. (donations of good quality second hand toys welcome). We are also looking forward for an opportunity to hear more about her parents' trip to Nepal and Tibet in October-November.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Camille Dressler

It hardly seems a year since we had the wonderful day of celebration to mark the unveiling of the SOE Memorial in the village. A number of people have got in touch over the year saying they had known nothing of the SOE until they read about it in West Word and it has now become an interest of theirs. This year we had everything planned for a wee service on the 11th and then heard that the Czech Hon Consul, Paul Millar was coming to Arisaig with a contingent to carry out wreath laying on Remembrance Sunday, the 14th! So apologies to those eight or so people who turned up on the shoreside on the 11th, as advertised in October's West Word, it caught us on the hop.
Paul had also organised the tidying up the Memorial, laying slabs instead of gravel to keep the weeds down, and has had two large stone panels installed, one showing the names of the SOE operatives and the other a list of their operations. This apparently means the Memorial is now officially a War Grave.
Remembrance Sunday was a beautiful day, making it a bit easier to go from the SOE Memorial to the village's own War Memorial. This is 90 years old this year.
Although icy and incredibly cold, we've had beautiful days of blue skies and sunshine while Britain has suffered, though anyone venturing past Fort William has had another world to contend with. I think there were ore than a few disappointed people who had planned to go by train to Glasgow on Saturday 4th only to find there was no train. For the first time in 11 years I was planning to abandon West Word in its vital deadline time to catch a show in the SECC on the 3rd but I should have known better! The Hall has been cosy as the frost prevention control kicks in, meaning the heating is on all the time when the temperature is below a certain level. Thankfully the oil tank was finally fixed last month, it needed a repair which could only be done while there was only a small amount of oil in the tank. I'd been watching the level since March! Repair done and tank refilled in time for the cold snap - result!
At last the contracts for the piece of ground intended as a car park opposite the Hall have been dealt with, so we can start Phase 1 in January - just in time for the increase in VAT to add to the total cost! We must express our very grateful thanks to Iain Macniven and his colleague Elizabeth MacGregor for their legal help with the contract complexities.
The Christmas Fair went well, although stall holders thought it not as busy as last year. I've put a thank you on the acknowledgements page for the ladies who did the refreshments. We take a few month's break now until the next Produce Fair, in April; they've been very popular this year and have raised a lot of money for the groups who have done the soup and sandwiches. I've even booked out three dates for next year for the refreshments so if your group would like to do one, you'd better get in touch! I must thank Sonia Cameron for all her help with the Fairs, they certainly wouldn't be the same without her input. As for opportunities for groups to hold fundraising soup & sandwiches events, there will hopefully be new opportunities during next year - watch this space!
I don't know if the Christmas lights are up earlier this year but with the frosty weather it all seemed very seasonable. I notice Arisaig and Morar have a few 'new' official ones on the lamp posts, coloured ones at that, but as parts of them seem to be unlit I can only feel they have been 'passed down' from somewhere else! The Arisaig tree looks great though.
Arisaig Community Trust has seemed to be very quiet recently but we haven't gone away - in the background we continue to struggle to get a lease for the Playing Field. At least we finally got an idea of the cost! Meanwhile we hope by the time our first AGM comes round next Spring that we may have some good news to announce.
Ann Lamont

'Tuesday November 9th, 1920, was a very memorable day in the annals of Arisaig and was observed as a public holiday' - so begins an anonymous eye witness account of the unveiling of the Arisaig War Memorial 90 years ago. On that day, World War I had only been over for two years and every person in the village would have been affected in some way, either having served in the conflict or being related to someone who did.
The account continues: ‘The day seemed fitted to the ceremony and the surroundings in which it took place. There was a soft grey mist and veiling clouds sweeping low over the hills and islands, lifting occasionally with a suggestion of a light behind, as there is hope ahead.
'Locheil came to perform the ceremony, and was met at Arisaig Station by a Guard of Honour of 22 men (all ex-Servicemen) under the command of Sgt. Lachlan Gillies DCM.
'After Locheil had inspected the Guard and addressed a few words to them, he led them at a sharp pace down the hill to where the rest of the procession were assembled.
'Here the Piper, Hugh McDonald, took the lead and, swinging past the Guard, headed the Procession along the winding road to where the memorial cross stood, solitary and aloof, looking seawards.'
Locheil made a speech, 'standing unbonneted before the Memorial', paying tribute to the 96 men who had left the village to go to war and the 21 and one nurse whose names were on the cross.
'Turning to the memorial, Locheil pulled a string and the veiling sheet immediately fell to the ground.'
After more speeches, Sir Arthur Nicholson, who had lost his two sons in the Great War, thanked Locheil. Prayers were said by Fr Donald MacEachen (standing in for Canon Chisholm) and Rev. J. A. MacDonald.
All the arrangements for the ceremony had been made by Mr William Grant and Mr Alex MacDonald, who acted as Marshals.
Ann Martin

Dear Editor,
I am attempting to locate any information I can with respect to the immigration of the MacDonald family to Canada from Eigg. Unfortunately, I have little to offer in terms of details other than the names of the family members. They were:
Neil MacDonald and his wife Mary (my grandfather and grandmother)
Sons Donald; and Angus (my father)
Daughters, Catherine, Christine and Margaret (my aunts)
It is my understanding that they left the island in 1922. Unfortuntately, I do not have a month of departure.
I appreciate the fact that yours is probably not the appropriate forum for inquires of this nature, but I would be most grateful for any assistance that you can provide in terms of information or perhaps agencies that may have such information.
Thank you in advance for your time and effort.
Hector MacDonald
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

News in Brief:

A start has been made on the removal of existing moorings in the bay to enable a trial dredging strip to be achieved and so allow the dredger Ben Crom access to the seabed.
Over the course of the next week or two all moorings will be lifted out and the Authority wish to acknowledge the helpfulness of all small boat owners for their assistance and co-operation during this phase of the operation.
All moorings that are unclaimed by the end of the year will be disposed of by the Authority.

Planning Approval for the new shore access/egress point for the proposed Yachting Facility at the harbour has now been granted and the dredger Ben Crom of Coastworks Ltd (pictured right) has been on- site initially carrying out work on a trial dredging strip mainly to ensure that their onboard equipment is able to effect the dredging satisfactorily. It's a case of so far so good as dredging in the trial strip continues to be successful.

It may be the humble sprat but it's nice to end the year with a positive news story about the local fishing scene.
On St Andrews Day local boats Caralisa and Rebecca Janeen landed a total of 300 units (30 tonnes) of sprats. With no pump facility available the sprats had to be discharged via the tried and trusted method of the herring basket into boxes on the lorry.
Another local boat, the Margaret Ann caught 9 tonnes of herring last month. This was sold as bait to the Skye creel boats.
A lack of herring quota for the indigenous Minch fleet precludes any more landings meantime. Four local boats, Caralisa, Rebecca Janeen, Ocean Hunter and Margaret Ann, continued the sprat fishing into December, and up to Friday 10th had landed a total of 343 tonnes.

Little did we know 15 years ago that what we did back then would become a popular feature in the present day West Word.
Pictured (left to right) are Robert MacMillan (Secretary). Michael Currie (Chairman); and Charlie King (Vice-Chairman) of the Mallaig Harbour Authority with West Word at the Highland Harbours Stand at the World Fishing Exhibition in Copenhagen in June 1995. And the funny thing is - we haven't aged at all!!!

A Public Meeting to display the Authority's Yachting Plans is to be held in January 2011. Date and venue of the meeting will be published in the January issue of West Word and via local public notices. All welcome to attend.


A company that's been an integral part of village and harbour life for nigh on a century, the Mallaig Boatbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, is set for closure with the loss of seven jobs.
Coming hot on the heels of the news that the Mallaig Fishermen's Mission is also set for closure it's clearly a reflection on the current state of the local fishing industry. Mallaig's once proud fishing fleet is dwindling fast and Harbour Master Pimmy McLean reckons there is now only 19 active fishing boats based at the port - a port that once boasted of a local fleet in excess of 40 boats and a visiting fleet numbering double that.
Henderson's Slip or Henderson's Boatyard to use two local colloquialisms was not only an extremely busy boatyard employing skilled craftsmen but it was also a tourist attraction. Where else would you get a boatyard/slipway in the centre of a village?
It's a sad time for those who have lost their jobs, a sad time for the village and also the Harbour Authority, mindful of the part played by the Boatyard over the years in the ports development!
Robert MacMillan, Port Manager/Secretary, Mallaig Harbour Authority

Crofting roundup by Joyce Wilkinson, SCFA Representative/Area Assessor

Main Implications of the New Crofting Act
Crofters Commission Six out of the nine Commissioners are to be elected. Anyone over 16 can be eligible for election and must be nominated by a crofter from the area The Commission must produce a plan, giving their policy on how they exercise their functions and make their decision, this plan can then be used by the Scottish Government to make their own decisions.
The Scottish Government have stated that the Commission must always have regard to population retention throughout their decision making process.

Duties of Crofters
Crofters must cultivate the croft and reside on the croft, whether they are owner occupiers or tenants. Crofters can apply to the Commission for consent to be absent which can be granted subject to conditions. The Plan [above]must outline commission policy on conditions for leave to be absent
If Crofters wish to put the land to other purposeful use other than cultivation for agriculture or horticulture they must have the consent of the landlord. The use of the word cultivation in the Act brings connotations of every croft resident having to go out after dark with the cas chrom and grow crops and potatoes on every spare patch of ground. However it will be loosely applied and any ground that is grazed will have the same meaning.
Owner occupiers will have exactly the same duties and responsibilities as tenant crofters. Annual notices will be issued to every crofter asking whether they reside on the croft and whether they are making purposeful use of the croft. It will be an offence not to supply this information.
Grazings Clerks, assessors or any member of the crofting community can notify the C.C of any breaches of duties. The Commission must investigate breaches once notified.
Grazings Committees must report every 5 years, this is new and came in late in the Bill with no consultation. The 1st report will be due one year after commencement of the new Bill. Grazings committees must report on the state of the common grazings,and condition of every croft of the shareholders. This caused concern at the assessors conference as many townships have no grazing committees or clerks. The commission must act on any breaches of duties if these are notified in the Grazing committees report.

Crofting and Planning
The consultation period for the new Highland Council development plan ends on 3rd Dec. The policy on crofting states that better in bye and apportionment croft land is to be preserved for cultivation and agriculture and planning applications will be looked at with the good of crofting in mind. Any planning applications on croft land that will impede the access to work a croft or use the best ground on the croft will only be regarded favorably if it can be proved that the planning application is for the good of the community. Design and scale guidelines will be followed especially in National Scenic areas. Policy 49 proposes that any new townships to be created in the highlands will have a section 75 applied to the croft houses, tying them to working the croft, preventing speculation.

Crofting and HIE
HIE support crofting community led development when it is integrated with whole community led development , their remit supports integration as it is recognized that the the crofting element in the community plays a key part and it achieves the government objectives of solidarity, cohesion and sustainability. Crofters use local utilities and services and in return can offer crofting skills and assets into the community.
Working together with the whole community can bring benefits to all collectively and individually. An example of a crofter integrated community project that would strengthen the community and have potential to grow could range from the establishment of a local food initiative using croft produce, creating a local food and craft group, renewable energy and recycling projects, woodland creation and related projects, provision of access and land for whole community enterprises to assisting groups of crofters or individual crofters in projects or micro businesses.


Below Right: Look hard and you can just see Richard Lamont from Arisaig at the base of the Wallace Monument in Stirling!

Middle: Ewen and Morag MacDonald took their copy from Morar to Tunisia and had a look at it in the mouth of a shark on a pirate boat!

Left: Comedians Ed Byrne (Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo) and Nick Doody (left) at Glenuig Hall. Matthew Hardy wasn't there but he took the copy away on tour with him!

photo photo photo

Sue Barrett and John Jamieson, both of Morar, comparing plans for Mallaig's yacht pontoons with the Marina at Las Palmas, Grand Canaria, as they prepare to set sail across the Atlantic Ocean for St. Lucia on the 21st November, onboard the yacht Quicksilver from Glenborodale, in the ARC 2010. (Quicksilver's progress can be tracked at the following web site www.worldcruising.com/arc click on Fleet viewer, the live adventure tracking and see Quicksilver on the list in the left.) With favourable winds they hope to arrive around 18th December. photo

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
After the Waxwing invasion at the end of October, there were only a handful of reports during November as the bulk of the birds moved on further south. The last report from Mallaig was on the 6th, while 4 were seen briefly in Morar on the 10th and at least 2 were seen on Loch Ailort on the 22nd.
A single Brambling was in a Mallaig garden from the 2nd to the 8th, and another was in a Morar garden from the 17th to 20th at least.
The only Blackcap reported was a female feeding on apples in a Morar garden from the 18th to 23rd.
A single Snow Bunting was seen on the shore at Traigh on the 10th.
Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala most of the month until the Loch became frozen over during the last week. Several flocks of Whoopers were seen flying over early in the month, with 22 seen over Morar on the morning of the 3rd, with several other reports from Arisaig and Mallaig around that time.
Flocks of Pink-footed Geese were also seen overhead early in the month. At least 2 Pink-footed Geese joined up with the local Greylags at Traigh from the 11th. Also there was still a hybrid, Canada x Greylag Goose with them.
At Traigh there were 12 Golden Plovers on the 11th, 10 Turnstone on the 16th, along with the usual Ringed Plovers, Curlews and Oystercatchers. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen at West Bay, Mallaig, on several occasions. At least 2 Greenshank were present throughout on the Morar Estuary.
A late Storm Petrel and several Gannets were seen in the Sound of Sleat on the 4th.
Two Peregrine Falcons were seen over Arisaig on the 25th, and a single on the 30th. A male Hen Harrier was seen to fly South across Loch nan Ceall on the 30th and at least 2 Hen Harriers were seen regularly during the month at Back of Keppoch and Gorten.
Golden Eagles were seen in North Morar and Beasdale and an Immature Sea Eagle was seen flying over Arisaig during the last week.
Sparrowhawks were reported from several gardens during the month, including one at Fank Brae, Mallaig, which was very approachable.
Long Eared Owls were seen around Traigh on several occasions and Barn Owls were seen in Mallaig, Morar, Back of Keppoch and Arisaig, on the night of the 1st an injured Barn Owl was found in Arisaig and was handed over to the SSPCA. Unfortunately, it had a badly broken wing and had to be put down.
The Nuthatch in Arisaig was seen virtually every day, visiting peanut feeders.

Whilst 'How the Grinch Stole Mars' continues to play out this month, we are compensated by an early Christmas present on the 21st - a full Lunar eclipse. Although we're not in the best place in Europe to see it, the eclipse should reach totality just before the Moon sets, and before the sky gets too bright. The show should begin just after 6:30am - another chance for all you early risers. The fact we have a total eclipse on the Winter Solstice is entirely open to interpretation...
Before that though, we have another Meteor shower. The Geminids should hit their peak around the 12th - 14th and radiate from (surprise surprise) Gemini, which will be high up in the South East by midnight when the meteors should be most frequent. This shower is caused by the debris left by 3200 Phaethon, which is considered to be an asteroid, which makes the Geminids the only meteor shower we see not to be left by a comet.
Astro-fireworks and lunar eclipses aside, there is little left to be seen for the rest of the month. Mars is still following the sun, while Saturn continues to be a 'morning' planet. Jupiter can still be seen due South, but sets just after midnight. Venus steals the show with a brilliantly bright morning appearance and should be visible well into the dawn. On the morning of the 2nd, the Moon will be side by side with Venus and by the 31st it will have travelled right around the sky and be back beside the planet - not so much a 'Cosmic Ballet', more of a Cosmic Eightsome Reel.
Happy viewing, and happy Christmas!
Rory Ellis

The Etive Shearwater, the ex-Arisaig Marine boat which served the Small Isles for so many years, is up for sale again at an asking price of £25,000. At present she is lying at berth at Caley Marina in Inverness where she has been since she was sold in 2002 and converted into a houseboat.
To remind yourself of the history of the Shearwater, her wartime service and anecdotes of the many happy years she served the Small Isles, look at West Word online for April 2002.
Let's hope someone buys this grand old lady and looks after her!


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