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

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December 2015 Issue

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath Ùr!
West Word wishes all its readers, contributors, advertisers and volunteers
a wonderful Festive Season!

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Glenuig
Railway and harbour news
Wide World West Word

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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.

West Word Scoops Small Business of the Year Award
This year's Lochaber Ideas Week saw West Word catapulted into the limelight when we were awarded the title of Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015!
Held annually and organised by Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, Lochaber Ideas Week focuses on business, education and community and aims to conjure new and exciting initiatives and ventures that will ultimately boost business and enhance the area.
Editor Ann Martin was delighted to receive the award on behalf of the local community at the dinner and awards ceremony held at the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William on Friday 20th November. She said 'Once again I have to thank our amazing contributors to West Word for making it the success it is. You all make a difference, however small or large your input.'
Congratulations also to local firm Ferguson Transport & Shipping, who advertises in West Word, who were awarded the title of Lochaber Business of the Year.
Kicking off on 15th November Lochaber Ideas Week proved to be a resounding success with more than 1000 people attending numerous interactive events spread across the region. One such event, Café of Ideas, was held on the Western Isles in Mallaig on Wednesday 18th November, when Visit Scotland's Scott Armstrong focused on ideas to enhance the tourist offering in Mallaig by encouraging and inspiring businesses to take advantage of the thousands of tourists passing through the village each year.
Lesley Benfield, the Chamber's CEO, presented the award to editor Ann Martin.
Photo courtesy of Iain Ferguson, The Write Image.

Our local band Dàimh triumphed at the annual Scots Trad Music Awards 2015 in Dundee on Saturday December 5th, receiving the accolade of Scottish Folk Band of the Year.
The win has come after a great year for Dàimh which saw their sixth album, The Hebridean Sessions, launched during a six week tour of the USA.
Griogair Labhruidh, the Gaelic rapper from Ballachulish, was named Gaelic Singer of the Year and SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Venue of the Year.
The Community Project of the Year is Live Music Now Scotland, whose aim to support three new music clubs a year in Scotland has resulted in the formation of the Arisaig Acoustic Club which has already had two performances in Arisaig.

L to r: Murdo Cameron, Angus MacKenzie, Ellen MacDonald, Gabe McVarish and Ross Martin

Well, that'll be the winter here then. It feels like it's been a long and dreary month, with constant rain and winds battering us. After the nice warm weather at the start of October it seemed winter came around far too quickly and all of a sudden it was dark at 4pm. The residents of Scottas side of Inverie definitely felt it, with the bad storm near the end of the month causing major disruption to their power supply. Lightening hit the pole and they were off for a week. Ouch.
There have been some nice things going on though, to keep us warm and cheery. The bonfire at the beginning of the month was quite something. Every year they seem to get bigger and better. You've never seen such a perfect construction! This year, it stretched feet up into the air, in a perfect helix, which I believe was Kira's design. It was a great night, not too cold and the rain stayed off except for one shower.
Cath and Gwen also threw a fantastic joint birthday party/pizza night in the hall, where everyone could make their own pizza and have it cooked out the back by Kira and Grant. It was amazing! Such a great idea and a really enjoyable night. It's a shame special big birthdays don't happen every year…
Then there was The Christmas Bizarre, something else that has been getting bigger and better every year. We have so many talented locals who have put a lot of effort into their crafts and it is a lovely way to purchase some really special and unique presents. As well as lots of local produce, there was also homemade soup , mulled wine and mince pies to keep you going. Talk about stress free shopping! At school the kids are all very busy rehearsing for the school play, on the 16th December. Always a heart-warming afternoon and I'm proud (and terrified) that this year I am more involved than I ever expected to be, with the nursery taking part too. Going to be an emotional one I think, not just for me being proud of my little class but also for the new mums watching their littlies on stage! What else…. Well, the Tearoom is still open 10-4 weekdays which is great, and also on Saturday from 3-9 where you can pop in for afternoon cake or go all out and go out for dinner (Yay!) The pub…well, that's still shut.
Hope everyone has a brilliant festive season, and I'll see you in the New Year!
Heather Gilmour

The top event this month has been Road Equivalent Tariff reaching the Small Isles. This has been great news for businesses and in the Small Isles where visitors are not permitted to bring their cars to the islands we will be less overwhelmed with traffic filling the Loch Nevis. Even so within a few months booking well ahead will be essential.
Weather is now back to normal with the sunshine of September and early October but a distant memory. Marine Harvest had been hoping to empty the Muck cages before Christmas but with only 1/3rd of the 700,000 salmon gone to Mallaig a calmer spell will be needed if this deadline is to be met.
Heritage tractors are a common sight on West Highland farms and crofts usually lying amongst the nettles so we were most surprised when an Alan Henderson from Kinross who was at the launch of A Drop in the Ocean 15 months past expressed an interest. A Fordson Major, Ford 4000 and a Ford 4600 had all spent most of their lives under cover but even so the ravages of rust were all too obvious. Especially the 4000 which was famous for being the tractor which went swimming off the slipway and had to be rescued by Spanish John and Jamie Robinson from Doune. Not the best for the electrics. However on the 21st both Fords departed for Mallaig and restoration.
On Muck and on Eigg those who are concerned are searching for 'A Cluster Head' to replace Hilda who is retiring after a number of years of service. What a cluster head does I have not been able to discover but there has been a suggestion of helping with (that curse of modern society) paper work which schools generate in abundance.
This month two events on the island definitely warrant a mention. Fireworks on the 7th sponsored by one of the shooting parties. While we stood on the shore armed with drinks and nibbles Toby provided a wonderful display from Corolag, the little island that occupies the centre of Gallanach bay. All that was missing was the 'Water music'! And the 'French Evening' in the Hall on the 18th, 5 days after but planned long before the horrific events in Paris. This was an event organised by the Parent Teacher Association in aid of school funds. A big range of French cuisine resulted for the main dinner and on the fringes were a number of competitions in French and many faces featured a red, white and blue theme. A super evening and over £400 was raised .
Lastly I have a very sad events to be told - the death of Ian Ketchen at Banavie on the 27th November. Ian and his wife Mandy came to Muck in 1995 and from the start made a huge contribution to the island. Ian had ability to use his hands for a multitude of skills having started with stone and wood and ended making Northumbrian Pipes. Rebuilding the Square at Gallanach was a major challenge but his health failed and reluctantly he and Mandy had to live closer to a hospital hence Banavie. Someone whom I greatly admired, he will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
That will be all this month. Have a very enjoyable Christmas.
Lawrence MacEwen

New from Muck Primary School
On the last Friday of the month, we have a dress down day, and we donate the funds raised to Mary's Meals, which means we can feed some children at school for a year. Thanks to everyone who is supporting this.
During Autumn we look after the birds that means filling up the bird feeders more often. We have also been mixing paints and painting leaves to learn about primary and secondary colours.
At our Enterprise Club we have made an improved bricks with our shredded paper, and we have been testing them ready to sell. We have also been practicing our hockey skills in PE.
For Remembrance Day we had a two minute silence, and made poppy bookmarks using our fingers and dipping them in the paint. In our joint assembly with the Eigg pupils we found out that they had researched World War I.
We have also been looking at natural disasters, and symmetry, and painted symmetrical doors.
Preparations went very well for our French evening. We dug up some final potatoes from the polytunnel for our potato dauphinoise. We had quite a bit of chopping to do for our ratatouille. We enjoyed the night very much. We found out where different people had visited in France, and that twenty six people have been to France. We loved all the foods especially the gingerbread biscuits, the profiteroles, chocolate mousse and croissants, but it was all delicious! We really enjoyed playing French corners, and pin the snail on the pot! Many had fun doing their French number quizzes. Thanks to all those who came and made it such a great night. We had fun, and raised £404.20 which will go towards our new climbing frame. Merci beaucoup!
We had a farewell assembly for Mrs Ibs this week. She is retiring at the end of term. We wanted to say goodbye and thank you for all that she has done for the school and the community. We found out about Mrs Ibs long career and we shared some school memories. We gave her a book of thanks with letters and pictures. There were also some other gifts to help her remember us by. She seemed to really like them. We were a big group so our songs and jumping around were great fun too! And of course it wouldn't be a special occasion without tea and cake! May you have a long and happy retirement, Mrs Ibs, from the community of Muck.

Sitting writing West Word with the rain and wind battering on the window and that's how much of this month has been!
Good to welcome Isebail MacKinnon back to live on Canna on a permanent basis and with lots of exciting ideas, keep you posted.
A little black highland heifer calf was born 2 days ago but is skipping around and not bothered by the weather.
Hoping to get the last of the cattle off to market before Christmas.
We would like to wish all our friends near and far a Happy Christmas and a Good New Year.
Geraldine MacKinnon

A fab Rum Bonfire Night with barbecue, mammoth bonfire (well done Trudi, Fliss, Ali, Ady & Nic for building, Doug & Dave for moving the wood and SNH for supplying it), Sean on firework duty, masses of mulled wine, soup, hot chocolate and other food contributions and the first wide eyed wonder at fireworks for Rum's newest resident baby Dougal.
A livestock movement from Muck to Rum with some Muscovy ducks now resident on Croft 3. Ranger Trudi took delivery of a load of trees from the Woodland Trust which have now been planted around the village.
It's been busy with traffic as various contractors come on and off the island working on the white house conversion, the green shed conversion and work starts on the road to Harris/Kilmory repairs and castle roof. It's always entertaining seeing 'men at work' road signs on the island!
The bunkhouse is quieter now the official season has ended but contractors and other visitors are keeping Derek and Jed busy and there are grand plans ready for next season. Stable Bothy workshop has some amazing crafts being created, Steve's chess sets are a thing of wonder to behold!
Rum Primary are gearing up for their school trip to the mainland and keeping fingers crossed for ferries running. Young Eve will be attending the theatre with a sun tan as family Morris have been enjoying a sunshine holiday after all the Kilmory red deer and Autumnwatch excitement!
Joss turned 6 with a spectacular rainbow cake and Rum's newest teen Scarlett shared birthday brownies with folk at the shop in advance of her birthday on 6th December.
Cancelled and disrupted ferries have meant random fruit, veg and milk supplies on island. Eggs go from feast to famine but at least the winter winds have brought a few trees down meaning a continued supply of firewood moving forward!
A fond farewell to Sean 'the Rat' Carlisle who leave Rum after finishing all his field work on rats here. We wish him all the best for the future and hope he and Nicola return for visits. Nic Goddard

November has truly ushered the winter season here on Eigg. Confronted with horizontal rain and hail showers, not much else to do but batten down the hatches and be thankful for a warm, cosy home! In this weather, it was therefore particularly surprising to see a French TV team turn up for yet another documentary about our self-sufficiency in electricity (for the Echo-logis series on TV5). It was the first time I've seen a camerawoman using a towel over her head and her equipment to film under the rain! However, they very much appreciated their time here although they did worry a bit about missing the ferry and their next assignment in Thailand.
For me it was good to have a bunch of compatriots to share the awful news about the terrorist attacks in Paris. At times like these, you really feel for your country, whilst at the same time you're also grateful to live in a safe place like the west coast of Scotland. It was all the more poignant since as part of our 11th November Commemoration, I had just been reflecting on the anniversary this year of the battle of Loos where one Eiggach got killed and another wounded, both part of the Queen's own Cameron Highlanders regiment raised in Lochaber, where they fought alongside lads from Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig. Reading The Big Push the gripping eye witness account of that murderous battle by Pat McGill, of the Children of the Dead End fame (history of the road building Irish Navvies based in Kinlochleven), I felt overwhelmed by the scale of that senseless massacre and almost 100 years later to the day, here was yet another massacre, another in a long list of atrocious deeds around the globe. A good place to be to reflect on the way of mankind, this land of ours though, where nature soothes the soul and community life restores your faith in humanity. Where else would you be drinking your cup of coffee whilst watching an otter fish from the tearoom window?
And so life goes on, and November is the month where we get ready for the festive season, starting with bonfire night, which featured a very fine fire and a great firework display! Wee Colm's eyes (at that time the youngest Eiggach) were filled with wonder at the sight of it all. The end of the month was marked by the yearly Christmas Craft Fair at the hall, which is a great gathering occasion for good food, mulled cider, locally produced craft beers and a fine choice of handmade goods. This was the first outing of baby Arlo, now our very youngest Eiggach, who came back to Eigg on the 25th with his proud parents, Sarah and Johnny, and he was having a great time being passed from arms to arms. At 3pm that afternoon, Eigg resident piper Donna McCulloch, played Amazing Grace on the pipes as part of an international pipers' playing for World Peace and we all joined in by singing along, a moving moment.
Another moving moment was when we had to say goodbye to Kathleen Millar and Breagha on Saturday 14th, when they left on the ferry for their new life on the mainland. It will nice for Catriona to be home at night though and in any case Breagha will reunited with some of her Eigg pals when they move to Mallaig Secondary School. In the meantime, Facebook has been very busy!
Meanwhile, we've also been busy with archivists from the Assynt community Archive and the Lochaber archive coming to help our history society quantify requirements for a big archive project aiming to ensure, amongst other things, that all the information and documents pertaining to the buy-out are professionally archived. Our Eigg crafters, Libby and Jenny, also did very well at the Oban Craft Fair, with Jenny's beautiful silk shawl modelled on the catwalk getting the first prize!
On a more frivolous note, whilst the annual end of year Scrabble competition is underway, I would like to officially congratulate the Eigg Scramblers, Eddie and our community health workers, who won the Chlachan quiz in Mallaig!
Camille Dressler


The first Glenuig Lantern Festival was a great success at Glenuig Hall on Sunday 15th November 2015. There was a busy tea-room, a puppet show from Payne's Puppets, live music from Karin Schuler and friends; fire-lighting and toasting marshmallows on the campfire with Leon from Wildwood Bushcraft, and the Moidart History House was open all day full of local information. A range of fun and creative art activities were set up by local artists Alison and Helen, and lots of amazing lanterns and sculptures were made with willow, tissue paper and LED lights. The hall looked gorgeous filled with happy, busy folk, great music, lanterns and decorations. There was even a woodland lantern trail with faerie lights and willow arches. Thanks to all the folk who made the effort to come along from Glenuig, Roshven, Lochailort, Glenfinnan, Acharacle, Resipole, Arisaig, Mallaig, Eigg, Lochaline and Fort William. The Glenuig Community Association was holding an open day at the same time which was a great opportunity to collect ideas and suggestions for future events at the hall. Huge thanks to everyone involved - you really helped light up the winter! We hope to make this an annual event - like our Facebook page for updates.

From Personal Angle
Chariots of Fire Oscar winner, Colin Welland, lost his battle with Alzheimers and passed away last month at the age of 81. The actor (I remember him in the BBC TV series, Z-Cars) and screenwriter (who won his Academy Award for the screenplay of Chariots of Fire, 1982) famously accepted his Oscar by proclaiming to the great and the good of Hollywood and millions watching on TV that "the British are coming". It went on to become one of the most quoted lines in the ceremony's history.
The film's Producer was David Puttnam who was also the Producer of the film Local Hero which, as we all know, was filmed at Camusdarach Beach.
When I visited the film set on the beach one quiet Sunday in 1983, I wandered around the shack located on the edge of the sand and the 'make believe' Church and graveyard at Curtaig overlooking the beach. One polystyrene headstone caught my eye and it was obviously an in-joke with the film crew and Puttnam in particular I suspect.
The inscription on the stone reads:

Colin Von Welland
Went down with the ship
At the Battle of Oscars


News in Brief

A man has been charged for the attempted murder of eleven people after setting fire to a house in Mallaig Mhor on October 27th 2015. Kieran Ridley, 31, of Worcester is accused of locking the group, including a baby, inside the house, opening a gas valve on the cooker, setting fire to the kitchen using petrol, leaving the property and taking the keys with him. It is alleged the occupants were sleeping at the time.
Ridley has appeared at Fort William Sheriff Court and made no plea or declaration and was remanded in custody. Eleven people escaped unharmed with one woman treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
As the remote property can only be reached by a small track with a sheer drop to the loch below, the Coastguard were deployed to convey firefighters in their 4x4.

Ian Blackford MP for Ross Skye and Lochaber has called for The Ministry of Defence to postpone its period of statutory public consultation on plans to double the size of a torpedo range off the west coast of Scotland. The Public Consultation on proposed changes to the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre (Butec), in the Inner Sound between Applecross and Rona commenced on 30th Sep 2015 and was scheduled to run for 49 days, until 17th November. The changes could potentially threaten the livelihood of around 140 fishermen who work in the area.

The matter of whether Caledonian MacBrayne's MV Coruisk should be redeployed from the Mallaig - Armadale crossing to serve the Oban - Craignure route continues to rumble on.
It has been proposed that the Coruisk should be redeployed from its current Mallaig - Armadale crossing in order to serve the Oban - Craignure crossing leaving the MV Lochinvar to serve the Mallaig - Armadale route. At first glance, the new proposal looks attractive as it offer an increase in capacity, but the Lochinvar is far slower than the Coruisk, which would result in an increased journey time of 40 minutes as well as potential reductions in Sunday sailings. The Lochinvar also offers no catering facilities for passengers to enjoy.
Recognised Internationally as one of the finest ferry crossings in the world, the Mallaig - Armadale route attracts a huge number of tourists and bolsters the local economy. In recent years, more and more tourists are using the crossing and CalMac traffic statistics have shown a continual rise in vehicle and passenger numbers aboard the Coruisk. Passenger numbers are also forecast to increase dramatically following the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), an initiative which sees ferry fares match road users fares for the equivalent distance travelled.
It is projected that an unacceptable 42% reduction in capacity would be the outcome of switching from the Coruisk to the Lochinvar. The Lochinvar would, of course, be supplemented during the week by the Lord of the Isles, which would provide four crossings each day when it is not sailing to and from Lochboisdale. However, it would arrive in Mallaig at 10am and depart for Lochboisdale at 6.10pm, which means that it would not be available for early morning coaches, which the Lochinvar would not have the capacity for and on which many tourism businesses in Skye and west Lochaber rely.
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has already written to CalMac Ferries about their proposed new ferry provisions and he remains insistent that it is wholly unacceptable to attempt to solve an Oban-Mull service frequency problem at the expense of the Mallaig-Armadale service stating: "CalMac and the Government must think again on the redeployment of the MV Coruisk to the Oban/Craignure route to meet the expected significant increase in demand as a result of RET, because the same increase in demand applies equally to the Mallaig/Armadale route".
Concerns were also reiterated by Councillor Allan Henderson who received a response from the Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, which acknowledges that there could be constraints at peak times on the Mallaig to Armadale route and clearly states that there is no other feasible solution to CalMac's current proposal.


Development Masterplan
The Authority's aim of producing a ten year development plan took a step closer recently when a "Notice of Interest" advert was placed on the Public Contracts Scotland web site seeking companies/consultants able to provide a Masterplan for the future development of the port and the village.
The Board of the Authority, eager that a new forward looking strategy be adopted, is working in partnership with Nevis Estate, The Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise to produce a Development Masterplan with a time horizon of ten plus years.
It is hoped to select the successful tenderers by the middle of December 2015 with the ultimate contract winner being appointed early in the new year, producing the Masterplan by the summer of 2016.

Sprat Fishery
As is the norm at this time of year four local trawlers Aubretia BCK 32 (J. MacQueen); Caralisa OB956 (W.J. McLean); Independence OB198 (J. Manson); and Rebecca Jeneen OB38 (R. Summers), are participating in the winter sprat fishery. The opening week of the fishery has been good with landings from Monday 23rd through to Friday 27th November - here's hoping that the fishery will continue deep into December.


New Vessel
It's great to welcome a new vessel to the local fishing fleet. The Buckie registered trawler Aubretia (BCK32) was recently purchased by Skipper John MacQueen just in time to head off to the local sprat fishery (see above).
The 60ft vessel replaces John's previous trawler "Ocean Hunter" which was sold some months ago.
Good luck to John (and his crew) with the "Aubretia"

Vessel Fire
Le Boreal - the French owned cruise ship which berthed off Mallaig Harbour last May suffered a major engine fire and was in danger of grounding on East Falkland last month. All 347 people on board had to be evacuated from the crippled vessel.
Robert MacMillan
01687 462154 info@mallaigharbourauthority.com

Mallaig Lifeboat Log
The crew of the Mallaig Lifeboat Henry Alston Hewat would like to thank everyone who have supported us in 2015 and wish everybody a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for 2016. We hope for your continued support for the new year.

11th November 2015 Fishing Vessel Happy Return
Towed a broken down creel boat to Glenuig and put it on its mooring.

Thursday 19th November 2015
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to assist with an ongoing incident in the Lochailort area at 11:10hrs. Police were in attendance when a person entered the water and was at risk of harm. Whilst the lifeboat proceeded the situation was resolved with the casualty being recovered ashore. Medics were on scene at the location and no further need of the Lifeboat was required and so stood down. Lifeboat ready for service at 11:40hrs.

Thursday 19th November 2015 Medivac, Inverie
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie, Knoydart at 19:00. A local man, who was assisting another local in the repair of a vehicle, slipped on the wet cobbled surface at the pier head in Inverie. It was suspected that he had dislocated his hip and was in great pain and being attended to by locals. Once on scene the Medic began their assessments and administered pain relief. When the casualty had responded to the pain relief he was moved onto the stretcher and conveyed the short distance to the Lifeboat. Once boarded the casualty was taken back to Mallaig and transferred to the ambulance for onward travel to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further care and attention. Lifeboat ready for service at 20:45hrs.
Jim Morton

On and Off the Rails

Tis the Season to be Jolly…
Thankful that as I start this column, the trains are still running to time; so often in the dark and wet at this time of year, the trains risk being battered by gale force winds, having trees fall across the line and stags (and other animals) to watch out for as they become transfixed in the train headlights. The drivers, conductors, station staff, Permanent Way, Network Rail workers and the catering staff are truly appreciated for the service they give us.
Backing them up are all the contractors trying to give us a constant service. The abseiling and rock climbing work has been successfully carried out around Loch Dubh (Black Loch), clearing all vegetation to expose the rock face and then securing steel mesh using steel bolts and plates with resin bond adhesive to ensure no rocks fall onto the track, which could also mean onto a passing train. The work has mostly been carried out at night, in dreadful weather, for our benefit as we travel the line. On behalf of all travelling passengers, THANK YOU, YOU ARE APPPRECIATED.

CET Tanks for ScotRail's Class 156s
The first fitment of a Controlled Emission Toilet (CET) tank to a ScotRail Class 156 Sprinter train was carried out during October (three cheers!). The move is part of ScotRail's plan to bring to an end the practice of trains discharging effluent onto the tracks, by retaining it into a tank under the chassis, which is then discharged at servicing depots (pumped out). There is one at Fort William, which is currently used by the Caledonian Sleeper, but whether there would be time allowed for the Sprinter to discharge there (probably not) or whether the tanks will hold enough effluent before reaching Glasgow, we will have to wait and find out. I understand that when the tank is full, the toilets 'lock off', so it will be interesting!! We have had one train with the new tank fitted on trial and so far so good!!
Transport Scotland is funding the £382,000 project, and by Christmas, nine units across Class 156 routes will have been fitted. The fitting of the tanks to all of the Class 156 fleet is due to be completed by December 2017, three years ahead of schedule. Any new or refurbished trains introduced into the ScotRail fleet will also have CET tanks and equipment fitted as standard.
The work is being carried out by Knorr Bremse at Springburn, near Glasgow.

New Uniforms for ScotRail Staff
Drivers on our route have now been issued with new uniforms. These have been anticipated since the awarding of the ScotRail franchise to Abellio on 1st April this year. Conductors and station staff are hoping to have theirs in time for Christmas!! The white shirts have been changed to a pale blue (quite like the West Coast uniform) and all other items are a darker blue.

Caledonian Sleeper Staff to be Balloted on Strike Action
Rail workers are to be balloted this week (first week in December) on industrial action over a dispute with the new operator of the Caledonian Sleeper service.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT) claims that the operator, Serco, has failed to address "potentially dangerous" defects in the current rolling stock of the Scotland to London overnight service (fire alarms and toilets).
Peter Strachan, Managing Director of Caledonian Sleeper, said: "We are disappointed the RMT is considering industrial action and are absolutely committed to continued dialogue with our employees and their representatives".
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "It is disappointing that the RMT feels the need to call a ballot on strike action. We urge the Union to resolve any issues and avoid disruption to passengers". And so say all of us!!

Possible Industrial Action by TSSA Members of ScotRail
As I write this column at the end of November, The Transport Salaried Staff Association's (TSSA) Scottish Union Leader, Manuel Cortes, is indicating that, "we have an overwhelming mandate for industrial action against ScotRail". The dispute arises over nine planned job cuts (four network controllers and five attributers who report on train delays). ScotRail say they are cutting out "duplication" after a recent deal to form an alliance with Network Rail Scotland. The MD of the ScotRail alliance, Phil Verster, will be working closely with the TSSA to try and resolve this issue I am sure. The latest news is that both parties are 'moving forward'!

Planned Refurbishment - Six-Month Closure of Glasgow Queen Street Railway Station
Queen Street Station in Glasgow, the start and end point for rail services from the West Highlands, will be closed from Sunday 20th March 2016 for refurbishment.
Trains to and from Oban and Mallaig to Glasgow and vice versa will use the Glasgow Queen Street low level station, but "some services will terminate at Springburn, and some services will have replacement buses for all or part of the route". As we get nearer to March 20th, I hope to be able to give you the full information. At this moment in time, that is all I know!!

Track Evaluation Train on West Highland Branch Extension On the evening of Thursday 26th November, a Network Rail Track Evaluation train travelled between Fort William and Mallaig. Hauled by a DRS class liveried 37, it was formed of five vehicles, one being a DVT unit so that the train could reverse without needing to run round.
Using Headcode 329P, it left Fort William at 5.45pm arriving into Mallaig at 8.25pm, departing at 8.32pm. The booked arrival was scheduled to be at 9.15pm, departing at 9.25pm, but a different path was offered, so that it would arrive at Fort William before the 10.14pm train to Mallaig departed. The next day, Friday 27th November, saw the train depart Fort William at 3.05pm destined for Slateford Carriage Sidings to arrive at 11.34pm. The actual arrival time was just three minutes late at 11.37pm. When it went past our house on Thursday evening, it was a wonderful sight all lit up in the dark and bustling with computer equipment and humans! It sounded wonderful. Some would say "better than - - -!" Ha! Ha!

New Jacobite DVD Release
Video 125 have a new DVD due for release early in December. Showing footage taken this year of our beautiful summer landscape and Ian Riley's Black 5 Steam Locomotive 45407, The Lancashire Fusilier, and filmed using the latest technology including GoPro camera footage. It is available in DVD format for £20 and Blu-ray at £25.
The accompanying narration (written by Peter Middleton) is by Paul Coia, and I would suggest would make a very good Christmas present for the rail enthusiast.
To order, or for more details, please telephone 01344 628565. Alternatively, go to www.video125.co.uk where you can view clips from the DVD and order.

Book Review and Competition
The New Railway: The Earliest Years of the West Highland Line, the latest book by John McGregor, is newly published by Amberley Publishing in softback (ISBN: 9781445647326) and at any price is a fantastic read, but at £12.99 is practically a steal!
John combines human interest with an academic interest and is a valued historian. His summary of the politics of the time, complex as they were, is a page turning good read accompanied with beautiful photographs and well-researched documentation. Whilst not oriented to the West Highland extension, there is a chapter on the Mallaig extension. In this book, Dr John McGregor brings the early years of the line to life with a lively, richly illustrated discussion.
Available to purchase from www.amberley-books.com, it may now be in your local bookshop and Heritage Centre. For a chance to win a copy of the book in time for Christmas, answer the following question:
How much does the book cost and who are the publishers?
Answers on a postcard (or Christmas card!) to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, PH41 4RD no later than 20th December. Good luck!

And Finally, but Again Saving the Best 'til Last…
Have compassion, be non-violent, have respect. Remember everybody has something good inside them, they sometimes just don't know how to show it.
Thank you all so much for sticking with me through my columns. It has been a busy year, but we got through it!
Steve and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur!
See you on the train.
Sonia Cameron

Eigg men remembered
Following the excellent and informative article in September's West Word which marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Loos, here is a little more about the Eigg men that took part in that battle.
Angus MacLellan from Tigh an Sithean was only 24 when he was killed in action at the Battle of Loos, the first of three brothers to die in WWI. Donald Archie MacLeod, 20, his neighbour from croft 8, was wounded, but survived and went on to fight in the Battle of the Somme a year later when he was awarded the Military Medal for his action at Delville Wood. Both Donald Archie and his younger brother Ronald - a sniper - survived the war, emigrating to Canada afterwards. Unlike his brother, Donald Archie came back to Eigg where he succeeded his father as the estate gamekeeper and was much respected by his employer, Lord Runciman, for his role in the war.

photo photo
Above: D A MacLeod
Left: D A MacLeod and Angus MacLellan, from the Ishbel Anderson collection

Another two Eigg men were in the 5th Cameron Highlanders. One of the them was Neil Maclellan, Angus's younger brother. Six years younger than Angus, he probably joined at a later date and was gassed in Flanders. The only survivor of four brothers, he went on to study for the priesthood in Rome and it was there that he too finally succumbed, a victim of the aftereffects of gas poisoning.
The last Eiggach to fight in the 5th Cameron Highlanders was Hugh Mackinnon from Croft 11, who was well known as the island bard. His war was fought in Greece where the peaks of Mount Olympus reminded him of the Rum Cuillins. The song he composed on his return was full of sadness and nostalgia for those of his Eigg comrades that would never come back.
Camille Dressler

A breathtakingly beautiful photograph of a local girl and her horse enjoying a canter across a beach will be featured for the month of August on the Countryfile 'Children in Need' 2016 Calendar.
This prizewinning photograph, entitled Coastline Canter, was taken on Camusdarach Beach and features local girl Nicole Simmonds and her horse Samantha!


Holiday maker Graham Mealand took the photo in May 2013 and entered it into the Countryfile Calendar Competition. It pipped 33,000 other photographs to the post, winning a place in the calendar and coming second overall named as the Judges' Favourite! He had no idea of the identity of the rider and had been trying for some time to find out. At the same time Nicole's mother Eileen, who lives in Mallaig, was trying to find out who took the photo as, while she recognised the beach, she wasn't sure which of the local riders it featured.
Then Graham contacted West Word with his enquiry and within hours Editor Ann Martin had made an enquiry and put Graham and Eileen in contact with each other.
The photo is still copyright of BBC Countryfile until January but Graham obtained permission from the programme's producer Matt Gull for West Word to use it.
The winning shot is called 'Coastline Canter' and was taken in May 2013 by Graham when he and his wife, Betty, were holidaying at Eigg Cottage near Camusdarach Beach for a week. On their final evening in the area they decided to head down to the beach to take in the sunset. The couple happened upon another photographer who was just leaving, claiming that the light was no good, but Graham and Betty decided to stay on for a while as the sunset looked promising. A little later, two horse riders appeared and cantered along the edge of the sea and at that moment, as Graham said, 'the whole evening changed for me'.
The theme of the calendar is 'Colours of the Countryside' and it is packed with vibrant and beautiful pictures. Coastline Canter will also appear on the cover of the Ordnance Survey Explorer Series of maps No.398 - Loch Morar & Mallaig.
For anybody interested in buying a copy of the calendar, it costs £9.50 including free UK delivery and at least £4 from every calendar sold will be donated to BBC Children in Need. Order from www.hcscalendar.co.uk, call the order line on 0330 333 4564 or send your name and address and a cheque for £9.50 (made out to BBC Countryfile Calendar) to BBC Countryfile Calendar, PO Box 25, Melton Mowbray, LE13 1ZG. It is also available at some branches of WH Smith.

BIRDWATCH November 2015 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly wet and windy month, certainly getting cooler but no real frost to speak of.
Nothing extraordinary reported, but a very white, possibly leucistic, Great Northern Diver seen from the MV Shearwater near Rhue Point on the 4th was a very striking bird to see. A dark phase Arctic Skua was seen the same day and a late Storm Petrel was seen between Eigg and Arisaig on the 15th.
Only a single report of Blackcaps, a male seen briefly in a Morar garden on the 4th. There were several reports of Pheasants seen around Arisaig village during the first week of November and a single female was seen at Camusdarroch on the 12th.
A few Whooper Swans moving through the area mid-month, with numerous reports on Saturday 14th, with groups seen from first light and birds heard flying over first after dark. Birds were reported from Camusdarroch, Morar and Arisaig. On the same day, Whoopers were also seen resting on Loch nan Eala and Loch Eilt. About nine seemed to have settled on Loch nan Eala until the month's end. Presumably the same two Whoopers were seen feeding in flooded fields at Cross Farm, Camusdarroch and Arisaig on various dates later in the month.
At least two groups of Canada Geese (11 & 5) seem to be in the area at the moment, with sightings from Loch nan Eala, Back of Keppoch and Traigh. On the 16th there were eleven Canada Geese, twenty Greylags and a single Greenland White-fronted Goose feeding together at a field at Traigh. Wigeon were reported from the Morar Estuary, Silver Sands and Loch nan Eala. The latter site also held numerous Teal, Mallards, two Little Grebes and a female Tufted Duck. Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and Goosanders were reported from the Morar River and Estuary.
A single Greenshank was seen on various occasions on the Morar Estuary and Golden Plover were reported in fields at Traigh on several dates, the peak count was thirty-six on the 18th.
Dippers were reported from the River Morar and also the burn that runs down from Cross Farm to Camusdarroch Beach. Jays were reported from the Loch nan Eala area and still a few flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare around, mostly feeding in fields rather than on berries.
One or two Siskins were reported from garden feeders in Morar and Arisaig and still good numbers of Goldfinches reported from gardens. Sea Eagles were reported from Traigh, Mallaig and Arisaig.

Wide World West Word

Faye Henderson and Grave MacDonald embarked upon a 20 mile sponsored cycle along Loch Shiel from Polloch to Glenfinnan on Saturday 7th November and even managed to find the time to take a quick West Word break along the way! They were raising money for their Morar Primary 7 induction Outward Bound trip next April. Many thanks to all who sponsored them. Great work girls!

This chilly but beautiful picture was taken on 21st November at Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall in Iceland. Good to see (l to r) Karen McLeod, Audrey McKay, Daniel Haig and Fiona McKay wrapped up for the weather enjoying West Word.

Ronnie and Martine, Arisaig, are pictured here with Christine and Charles Murray enjoying a copy of November's West Word alongside their dinner, bubbly and beers to celebrate Christine's birthday at the Minishant in Ayr. Happy Birthday from West Word, Christine!

This is subscriber Shirley Carman's entry into her local church's Christmas Tree Festival, which had the theme 'My favourite holiday resort.' Shirley, from near Harwich in Essex, loves Scotland, and especially the Arisaig/Mallaig area as her display shows - Scottish newspaper headline, shortbread, tartan ribbon - and of course, West Word. Shirley says 'It's only a small church so only small trees were allowed!'.

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