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December 2016 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
FERRY FIASCO MUST NOT CONTINUE IN 2017
Hundreds of cancellations, tourist businesses' takings down by thousands of pounds, coach, commercial vehicles and passenger numbers down, ferries unable to dock at the linkspan and at low tide, passengers stranded on one side of the water or the other - that was the sorry tale of CalMac's dealings with Mallaig and Armadale last year.
The removal of the Coruisk to Mull and replacement by two smaller vessels was the cause of the chaos; but after repeated calls this summer for the return of the Coruisk, built specially for the Mallaig- Armadale run, the view now is that a new ferry which can also maintain a full winter service would be preferable. Transport Minister Humza Yousaf agreed that what happened this summer is not acceptable, and that it cannot and must not be repeated. Yet despite CalMac's call for views from communities along the west coast and islands to be sent to them by 25th July, as yet there has been no word on what the proposals for the Summer 2017 service will be.
Last year's 'consultation' on the timetable ignored repeated representations from Sleat Transport Forum and other informed organisations and went ahead with their plans to replace the Coruisk, resulting in almost 400 cancelled sailings, coach traffic down by 15% from 2015, commercial vehicles down by 48%, passenger numbers almost the same and a modest increase in cars. With the introduction in late 2015 of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) passenger and vehicle numbers should have seen double-digit growth in all sectors. It is very evident that the community consultation process that CalMac and Transport Scotland has in place is not effective and the Forum calls upon the Minister for Transport and Islands to conduct an independent review as soon as possible across the entire CHFS network.
CalMac's call for comments for the Summer 2017 service, sent to communities on the west coast and islands, was emailed on 12th July 2016, asking for views by 25th July, with the statement "Please note that unless there is a compelling reason the timetable will remain as per Summer 2016." STF replied immediately but as yet there are no indications from CalMac what the Summer service will be.
CalMac have, however, been trialling at Mallaig the Loch Fyne, a 54 metre ferry which can carry 36 vehicles. Smaller than the Coruisk, larger than the two used last Summer, Loch Fyne has the same problem as them of not being able to use the linkspan and is also affected by the tides.
BOUNDARY CHANGES WILL SPLIT COMMUNITIES
Changes to UK Parliamentary Constituencies proposed by the Westminster Government would result in Lochaber being linked with Argyll and Bute from Mallaig down to Campbeltown, with Knoydart being a part of the constituency which would run from Skye to Nairn and Badenoch. Kilmallie, Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry would be split up between the Argyll and Bute and Lochaber constituency and that of Inverness and Skye.
Clearly they have looked at a map and drawn lines that actually make no practical sense, based on the area of the constituencies rather than common sense. The changes will result in the loss of one MP in the Highlands and down the west coast and the loss of six overall in Scotland.
BOUNDARY COMMISSION REPORT from Arisaig & District Community Council
As mentioned in the press and in last month's West Word, the Boundary Commission for Scotland has recently published its regular Review of UK Parliament Constituencies and has invited comments on the proposals by 11 January 2017. As the name indicates, the report relates solely to MPs at Westminster, as distinct from MSPs at Holyrood. In accordance with its remit, the Commission is seeking to reduce the number of Scottish MPs from 59 to 53, consistently with a planned overall reduction in the number of MPs for the UK from 650 to 600. The finally agreed changes will not come into effect until the general election in 2020.
Insofar as affecting us in the current Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency, the plan is broadly to:
1. absorb part of the northern end of the constituency within Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and rename the combined constituency "Highland North";
2. merge Skye with an extended Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (to include Kyle of Lochalsh and Knoydart) and rename the combined constituency as "Inverness and Skye"; and
3. merge the rest of the existing Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency with Argyll & Bute and rename the constituency as "Argyll, Bute and Lochaber".
The effect will be to reduce the number of MPs in the Highlands and West Coast overall from five to four.
The criteria given to the Commission were to create constituencies comprising between, roughly, 71,000 and 78,500 voters - i.e. within 5% of the UK average of roughly 74,500 voters - unless the area of the constituency is more than 12,000 square kilometres, but with no constituency exceeding 13,000 square kilometres.
The proposed Highland North constituency has an area of 12,985 square kilometres, the proposed Argyll, Bute and Lochaber constituency has an area of 10,302 square kilometres, and the proposed Inverness and Skye constituency has an area of 9,995 square kilometres. These will be the three biggest constituencies in Scotland, with the next biggest proposed constituency being Dumfries & Galloway at 4,126 square kilometres. It will be seen from this that the maximum constituency area criterion is essentially irrelevant for the other 50 proposed new constituencies.
The effect of this is potentially quite stark. The combined Argyll, Bute and Lochaber constituency will extend from Mallaig to Campbeltown. The three proposed new northern constituencies will cover a land mass about 40% of the entire land mass of Scotland. While size of electorate and constituency areas have been taken into account, population density does not appear to have been given the same focus. Further, the effect of the proposals will be to dissect the Council ward of Caol and Mallaig, removing Knoydart and a large part of the Kilmallie parish, including Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Invergarry. The logistics of serving the new proposed constituencies are going to be challenging for the MPs and, on the face of it, the quality of the service which those MPs will be able to deliver to their constituents may be compromised, creating a democratic deficit for the area. The Lochaber and Argyll & Bute parts of that new proposed constituency are sufficiently disparate that the areas may have significantly diverse priorities and interests.
The Commission is holding regional meetings at which the proposals are to be discussed. By the time that you read this, I and others will have attended the session in Inverness.
The Arisaig & District Community Councillors are concerned by these proposals, and I suspect that that may be the reaction generally within the area. Subject to the general view within the Community Council area, the Community Council proposes to give written comments to the Commission by the end of December, setting out these and any other concerns, and requesting that the Commission reconsider their proposals.
All input and comment on this issue is welcome and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning Susan Carstairs on 01687 450327.
Arisaig & District Community Council
Groups or individuals can comment on the proposals up to January 11th. You can fill in a form online at https://www.bcs2018.org.uk or send an email to email@example.com or write to Boundary Commission Scotland, Thistle House, 91 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HD.
A relatively quiet month this month, with lots of frosty mornings and bright blue skies. It was perfectly stunning on these days, albeit very cold, but cold and frosty is 100% better than driving horizontal rain and gales.
We started off the month with the parent council organising a soup kitchen afternoon, which they are hoping to make a more regular thing, to keep money coming in for the school funds. This one was rather successful, drawing in lots of people and raising a grand total of £215.81. It's this kind of fund raising which really helps our wee school to be able to take part in events outwith Knoydart so it's great that the community are so generous. Following the soup kitchen, it was bonfire night, with yet another spectacular bonfire. It just gets bigger every year! Kira has done a time-lapse video again, which you can find on the old facebook, and it is worth a watch. It looks very impressive! It's always one of the busiest social events too, with everyone and their Granny braving the cold to come out. Not that it's ever as cold as you expect with the size of the fire!
The next social event on the Calendar was Gwen's 50th birthday, which was a suitably fantastic celebration so I hear (sadly I missed it myself), with pizzas (cooked in the pizza oven of course), an abundance of ale and even a performance by the Ukulele band starring Rasputin.
There has been lots of Badgers about, getting bolder and bolder and a few people are lucky enough to have them right on their doorstep. Literally. Starting to wonder if there's been a badger boom, as I've never seen so many in the seven years I've been here, never mind right in the house... There have also been some cracking sightings of otters recently and a family of four were captured on film frolicking about quite happily in the loch by the rangers. Check out the Knoydart Rangers facebook page to have a wee watch. Guarantee it will make you smile.
Former Knoydart resident Sam Firth premiered her short film Creeling which she shot in May, starring Hannah Morrison from Eigg, and there was a great turnout to the hall to see the 15 minute film. It's always funny seeing our home on screen like that, it doesn't look real (also, the film seemed to be shot in the best weather of the summer!)
It's that time of year now, where suddenly it starts to feel a lot like Christmas, and we were proud to see two of our local businesses (Pottery and Tearoom and Wood Knoydart) heading off to Fort William last week for the Christmas fair down there. The kids are also busy working hard now, getting ready for the Christmas play which will be on the 21st of December and is always a lovely afternoon. They work so hard, and it's amazing what nine kids with a dedicated teacher can pull together! They have also been busy making crafts to sell at the Bazaar which will be held on Saturday 3rd December. Not much left to say now except….
Hope all my readers have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year. Peace, light and many happy returns to you all.
ISLE OF MUCK
Dave and Julie have gone. Gone to a small farm in SW France. 10 years on the island and a massive contribution in a whole range of occupations. For Dave it was , forestry, gamekeeping, processing the game birds, shearing, the Green Shed Crafts, needle felting, growing fruit and vegetables. For Julie it was nursery teaching, feeding my pigs, B&B the Yurt and nursing as I know well when my boar took a chunk out of my knee. May we wish them every success in France.
Also leaving us but not as far as France is Vicki Williams, former assistant doctor on the Small lsles. She is only travelling as far as Eigg where she will be living on the holding formally occupied by celebrity crofter Angus MacKinnon. We wish her the very best also.
It has been a good time to be working on roofs; as this incredible autumn enters its third month! Colin has been doing just that. He has stripped the slates off the barn at the Square. This was a building erected around 1850 when Muck ceased to be a crofting community and became a single farm leased to the Thorburn family originally from Lanarkshire. The building is derelict but Colin is replacing much of the roof timber and covering it with corrugated iron. The barn is not of great agricultural value with its narrow doors but Colin feels that we cannot have such a ruin on the island.
We have only missed one call by the Loch Nevis in two months. It would be great if this weather continued until January and covered the holidays. However; fine or otherwise may I wish West Word readers the very best for Christmas and Hogmanay.
ISLE OF CANNA
This has been a quiet month here on Canna as everyone starts to think about preparing for winter.
There has been plenty of wood gathering to try and build up supplies for the coming months.
We have had a few beautiful days of cold sunshine and we have all taken advantage of it with what appears to be almost half the population out in kayaks to make the most of it.
The primary school held a Rainforest Assembly which was hugely entertaining and a big thank you to the children and to teacher, Martin Merrick.
Unfortunately we had a serious oil spill in the harbour caused by a fishing vessel with a cracked diesel tank. Fortunately the oil and diesel dispersed within a couple of days and there does not appear to be any environmental damage. Thank you to the skipper involved for phoning us and apologising which was appreciated.
As part of the changes within the National Trust for Scotland we have a new Property Manager, based on the mainland, Duncan Stevenson. The outgoing manager, Louise Logan, came across to say goodbye and we wish her well in her new job south of the border. Also she is due congratulations as she has just announced her engagement!
The last shipment of cattle has now gone to the mainland and Gerry will be over for the sales in early December.
Although Christmas is a few weeks away we have some innovative Christmas trees appearing on the island!
We would like to wish everyone in the Small Isles and the mainland a Happy Festive Season and we look forward to seeing you in 2017.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
For Canna Archivist Fiona Mackenzie, November started with presenting a paper at the major European conference " Europeana Sounds" at the ancient Vilnius University in Lithuania. Fiona unearthed an unpublished paper which Margaret Campbell wrote in the 1950's, entitled " Saving the Songs". The paper described the physical processes and challenges which were faced by early 20th century folksong and folklore collectors, the type of equipment available to them, the cost, the logistical nightmares and the political intrigue of 'folklorist wars'! The paper fitted well with the conference theme of "Saving Europe's Sound Archives" and Fiona re-presented the paper, with an introduction and illustrated it with photographs of the equipment which is still in Canna House along with scans of the original brochures, receipts, correspondence and instruction leaflets! Fiona also used original sound archive examples of the material recorded using that equipment, Margaret's film and photographs of recording sessions in Scotland and in Nova Scotia and also sang examples of some of the recorded sounds.
On return to Scotland, Fiona went straight to the Museums Association Conference in Glasgow where she presented, together with Prof Hugh Cheape and journalist Ray Perman, "The Campbells of Canna", a 3 way approach to the lives and work of John and Margaret Campbell. The presentation was extremely well received by the audience and even earned the plaudit from host Lesley Riddoch - " Wow!"
The whole Canna Community was invited to Canna House for a session with Documentation officers, Indigo and Liz, and Fiona, entitled "So what HAVE we been doing in Canna House this year?" Liz and Indie demonstrated the documentation process for the material collections in the House (everything that is not archive or library), and Fiona presented the paper from the Vilnius Conference to the residents. Mince pies and shortbread accompanied the sessions! The Guthrie children battled it out in the " Who can write the smallest" competition!
And finally, from the Canna House team, Nollaig Chridheil Dhuibh Uile - a Happy Christmas to you all!
ISLE OF RUM
In a typically British fashion we have all been talking about the weather during November. In an untypically Rum fashion it has been exclaiming over how mild, dry and still it is though - definitely the kindest November any of us can recall - Ady has been speculating that we may even have the midges back if it continues like this! As you all have seen from a distance Rum had its first snow fall of the season on the peaks early in the month but as I type this looking out at Hallival and Askival - our highest peaks, all the snow has gone again. It's a most unseasonal view, but I'm certainly not complaining. For once it seems to be the rest of the UK suffering the extreme autumn and winter weather conditions.
We celebrated Bonfire night, unusually actually on November 5th as for once the closest Saturday to that day was the 5th itself! The usual barbecue featuring plenty of venison, mulled wine, bonfire toffee and fireworks with a towering bonfire and a guy made by Rum primary. Our monthly bring and share meal had an American Diner theme and was well attended by locals and visiting volunteers alike.
A team of folk spent an afternoon giving the village hall kitchen a thorough and much needed tidy up and clean in preparation for the party season - next we'll be donning our rubber gloves and brandishing our dusters to give the hall the same treatment. We're planning at least one event every month for 2017 so the hall should be seeing a fair bit of action - be great to see some visiting locals from the other isles and mainland coming across - keep an eye on Isleofrum.com for info on our events.
Young Joss Fraser celebrated her 7th birthday with a party and giant bubbles, Rum's resident numbers may be at quite a low figure but we do have a good number of children with four in the school and a toddler on the island, in fact the under 18s are making up about a third of the population here just now. SNH have almost finished the hind cull for the season so lots of us have freezers full of venison. That has not stopped the odd deer still roaming the village though now the rut is over and their minds are back on seeking out the best food again.
Crafternoon - the Rum version of a weekly stitch and bitch, or knit and natter. has started up again for the winter with us working on stocking up the craft shops with items for next year as well as making blankets to see us through the winter and Christmas presents - Ali has made a fine selection of crochet brussel sprouts and Christmas puddings which she is putting in crackers for her family Christmas dinner! Ranger Trudi's still leading a steady stream of volunteers working on various projects including a much needed tidy up of the north side nature trail and planning next years Ranger events programme. Croft 3's resident turkeys are breathing a sigh of relief that for the first year they are safe - successful breeding this year means they get a reprieve from being Christmas dinner in the hopes that instead they can provide many Christmas dinners for the future next year by breeding again!
To all our neighbours in the wider West Word community a Merry Christmas from all on Rum.
ISLE OF EIGG
The month of November started with a bang, as to be expected, with a massive bonfire near the Bealach Clithe on 5 November which delighted young and old. Not only was it a very enjoyable night on a clear starry evening, but the serious height of the bonfire topped by the guy made by the island Primary school kids, had the merit to show how much an impact a mobile mast would have on the landscape if it should be built at that location as was initially proposed! Made us all think in any case…
Remembrance Sunday was another story: the weather was appalling and the courageous folks that paid their respects in particular this year to the many people of Eigg who lost their lives in the battle of the Somme, were delighted to run back to Libby's kitchen for a hot beverage and a cake, raising £32 for the British Legion. Ailidh's Sunday brunch at the pier also helped with the warming up, turning a horrible dreich day into a lovely occasion.
November then became a real month of giving this year, as our many fund raising events at this time of the year showed that islanders - and island friends - can put their hands in their pocket when the cause is right! Lorraine and Katrine raised £350 for Medical help for refugees by running their half marathon down south. They had been training hard, and it paid off: 'I totally enjoyed my second half Marathon,' said Katrine, who switched to running as a distraction from house building this summer and competed in the Mallaig event earlier on, 'I look forward to the next one!' Lorraine, who started the Eigg running club, has now resumed her weekly popular circuit training at the hall, so we will be superfit or at least, we will be able to keep the excess of the festive season in check!!
The Eigg Primary school quiz night on Friday 18 November was very successful, raising £400 for the school and £200 for Children in Need. Then it was the Macmillan coffee morning at the Eigg Health centre, which raised £158.20, thanks to the lovely baking that was donated for the occasion.
Last but not least, the pool tournament on Saturday 26 at Galmisdale café was a hoot, but the winner, Stuart MacCarthy, did not get much change from his prize money after he bought a round for all competitors and onlookers! Well done, Stu!
We are now looking forward to the festive season and perhaps a bit more wind and rain to get our renewables up to speed, since this lovely period of calm weather has been very enjoyable, roses still flowering in many of our gardens, but we have been on red alert to keep our consumption on the slow side for quite a while now. We should be careful for what we wish though, as we are expecting many returning islanders for the Christmastide, and it would not do to have too much ferry disruption then!
DATE IN YOUR DIARY FOR NEXT YEAR:
A Write Highland Hoolie!, Mallaig's Book Festival, will be on Friday 10th to Sunday 12th November 2017 in the West Highland Hotel.
Surely as unusual sight?
Photographed by Moe Mathieson on a frosty day last month, these dozen or so Heron are on a rock near Camus an 't Allen, Arisaig.
The Editor saw them too and counted 23.
Letters to the Editor
All political parties spin - but when they state an untruth they should be called out. In November's West Word our SNP MSP Kate Forbes writes:
...the Westminster Government is taking retrograde steps by reducing the number of MPs in the Highlands from three to two.
This propaganda is a travesty. The total number of MPs at Westminster is being reduced and there are cuts in each of the constituent nations. (Scotland is losing 6 MPs).
But the decision to disproportionately reduce the number of MPs from the Highlands is being taken in Edinburgh not London.
It's all there for anyone to see on the website of the Boundary Commission for Scotland, Edinburgh.
Denis Rixson, Mallaig
Dear West Word,
The Boundary Commission. Or as I'm renaming them, the Obfuscation Commission.
What on earth are they thinking about? Here's my response to their proposed new constituency of Argyll, Bute, and Lochaber, or, as I'm now calling that, The Lordship of the Isles, An Darna Fheuch.
Firstly, if I didn't know what Argyll, Bute, and Lochaber actually meant, I'd have no idea from the maps they provide. It is an utter mess with lines going all over the place. Use a simple flat map, and shade current or proposed constituencies. That a government organisation, with all the GIS assets at your disposal can come up with this tripe is truly, truly, shocking.
Secondly, if you think that a constituency going from (I assume, because it's not at all clear) Knoydart to Bute, is a good idea, you're plain basic stupid. And I'm not just being unnecessarily abrasive, either. These communities have utterly different needs and characteristics.
Do you really think that recreating the Lordship of the Isles with one MP and a small staff is feasible? To get to Bute from Knoydart is a four hour journey by boat and car to Glasgow, then heavens knows what from Glasgow to Bute.
This is, I am afraid to say, sheer idiocy.
When West Word informed Chas that Knoydart was not included with us in the proposed changes, he added: 'Well, that's proper stupid and shows that it has also been a paper exercise by people who don't know how to think 'people' or 'community.'
Dear West Word,
While on holiday at Camusdarach this summer we drove round to Rhu and a lonely boathouse, parked up and walked to Port nam Murrach beach. Halfway round the walk my husband called the dog to put her on a lead as there was a man in a brown jacket walking in front and just went round the corner. We approached the corner and the roadway stretched out in front of us and no one in sight!! To the left was a stone wall with cows in the field and on the right nothing but thick bracken. Was he seeing things? He swears he saw a man, I didn't and the dog hadn't reacted. I tease him quite often about it but he is adamant. Has anyone else seen this figure, was it a ghost (which I believe it must have been)? Would be interested to know if anyone else has seen him.
Christine Hill, Somerset
Mallaig Pool & Leisure November Newsletter
Although the swimming pool was closed for building works for the majority of November, life was as busy as ever at the Leisure Centre. Remaining true to November tradition, we inadvertently celebrated Guy Fawkes Night and the infamous Gunpowder Plot in our own unique way when our ancient relic of a boiler spewed out the equivalent of thirty-six barrels of soot when it was getting removed!
It's cold outside…
…however, it's positively balmy at the Leisure Centre. On Monday 7th November, the Korries Plumbing team arrived to install our super duper heating system. Our old oil burner was removed and replaced with a brand new efficient version, which we need for backup in the event of the Biomass system failing. On top of that, a new air handling unit has been installed, which will circulate warm air to areas of the building where we need it most (swimming pool hall, changing rooms, shower area etc). The team at Korries were absolutely fantastic and even affected a major cleanup operation after the 'gunpowder' incident. We thoroughly enjoyed having Korries around and would highly recommend the company as they proved to be professional, reliable, efficient and really good fun. We will definitely use them again in the future.
Christmas opening times
The Leisure Centre will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day before reopening on 27th December - 30th December from 12pm - 4pm. We will also be open on New Year's Eve from 12pm - 3pm with swimming, fitness classes and the gym open as normal from Tuesday 3rd January 2017.
Just a little reminder that the final swimming lesson of term 2 ends on 14th December. Term 3's swimming lessons will begin the week beginning 16th January 2017 and parents will be contacted with their child's allocated spot before the Christmas break.
It has been decided that it is an absolute necessity for our poor old gym to be brought into the 21st Century as soon as possible. Therefore, the gym and fitness studio will have a lick of paint and new flooring, but best of all, brand new gym equipment has been ordered and will be getting installed early next year.
With our fancy new heating system and our gym and fitness studio scheduled to be whipped into shape, the more we gazed at our bleak and uninspiring reception area, the more we realised that something had to change there too. We currently have big plans for the top floor of the Leisure Centre to be converted into a new reception area, café and community hub; however, we are unable to progress with this work until we raise more money throughout 2017. As most of you are probably aware, the current reception setup looks very similar to a visitors' area in an American prison where a huge pane of glass separates our staff from Leisure Centre users. I think most of you would agree that this unwelcoming arrangement needs to be addressed as soon as possible and as a temporary measure, we've decided to take down the glass and give the reception area a bit of a makeover to create a more open, welcoming and positive space for staff and customers alike. This work is scheduled to begin early next year.
Throughout November, Leisure Centre staff have been beavering away at improving the service they offer to Leisure Centre users. We were really pleased when the lovely Donna MacIver agreed to join the team and we were double pleased when she passed her NPLQ and Swim Teacher Training, which means we now have another committed swimming instructor in the team. Great to have you onboard Donna! We were also super impressed when assistant manager, Mairi, passed her Fitness Instructor exam, which means we now have another member of staff who is qualified to take fitness classes, so expect lots more on the weekly timetable over the coming months! Paula, our marketing administrator, travelled down to Perth to attend an Event Organisers course and brought back lots of useful information and knowledge which will hopefully help make 2017's Road to the Isles Half Marathon the most successful yet.
New subscription scheme
With all the changes afoot, we are really excited to offer the community the opportunity to take advantage of our brand new membership scheme. Signing up for membership at Mallaig Pool & Leisure Centre means that all-inclusive members benefit from full access to the swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, gym, fitness classes plus swimming lessons for adults and children all for £20 per month for adults and £29 per month for an entire family (two adults with an unlimited number of children)! On top of all that, because we've teamed up with High Life Highland, you can also use your Mallaig Pool & Leisure card at leisure centres across the Highlands and to gain entry into a number of libraries, museums and much more! There's no minimum contract length, no joining fee or hidden costs and what's more, by signing up you're helping to support your local leisure centre. As an extra added incentive, if you sign up before 15th December we'll give you the month of December completely free. What are you waiting for!
It's time to dust off your Santa suits and come and join us for our annual charity 5k Santa Dash! Our fun, free, festive and family orientated event is open to everyone and we're hoping for a bumper turnout with better weather this year. So what are you waiting for? Why not don your Santa hat, wrap some tinsel around your neck and walk, jog or run from Morar train station to the Steam Inn in Mallaig where a roaring fire, a cauldron of mulled wine and warm mince pies will await. There will be no entry fees as we will be collecting donations for the refurbishment at the Steam Inn instead. The Santa Dash starts at 12pm at Morar train station and there's a bus that leaves Mallaig at 11am, which will get you to the start line in time. Unfortunately, there's no public transport from Arisaig, but do get in touch and we'll see if we can organise transport for you. Drop into the Leisure Centre to fill in your entry form.
We didn't think it was possible to even come close to October's fundraising efforts, but once again November proved that the people of the area are a mega generous bunch!
The team at Arisaig Hotel hosted their first ever clothes swap shop on Thursday 17th and all donations on the night came directly to us. The kind people of Arisaig donated a total of £114.16 and walked away with bags upon bags of great clothes.
Even though the swimming pool was closed for the majority of November, our little blue charity box in our reception still managed to be filled with £77!
The Friends of Mallaig Swimming Pool's 'Hats, Gloves and Ties' event on Saturday 19th proved to be a roaring success. All those delicious afternoon teas brought in a whopping total of just over £300 and everybody had a wonderful afternoon.
It wasn't just local fundraising that was going on throughout November, we were also really grateful to receive a letter from the Green Business Fund saying that they were going to award us £10,000 to go towards purchasing energy saving equipment!
Altogether, just over £10,500 was raised in November. Thank you all very much!
On and Off the Rails
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
As I trundle through the streets of Mallaig with my trust Co-op cart laden with pot-grown Christmas trees and hand made window garlands and wreaths destined for the Railway Station, it certainly feels like the Season is upon us. The Railway Station Booking office is looking festive, as are the shops and restaurants. The West Highland Hotel is looking splendid to welcome parties of guests wo have travelled by train to their planned themed evenings, and the frosty, sunny days with very little wind has made for perfect photography from the train.
Railway passengers will be visiting us for onward travel to Knoydart, Skye and the Small Isles, and they won't be disappointed by the welcome they receive. 'Tinsel and tartan' coach parties visit the Station to gather timetables and plan a return visit by train, vowing "next time we will stay over". If only the sprats and salmon still travelled the same route it would be perfect!!
As I write this, Steve and I are heading off by train to Glasgow and Edinburgh for a few days. I really look forward to seeing (hoping) that some of the stations will be decorated. Part of our planned trip is to take in an evening at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) where Louis Wall, a multi-award winning Station gardener for many years with ScotRail, will be the invited speaker. His talk is entitled 'The Station Gardener' and, I am sure, will be full of anecdotes, illustrated with photographs. Louis has featured on Beechgrove Garden, Michael Portillo's Great Railway Journeys, and is regularly called upon to train and encourage budding Railway Station Adopters. He heads up the South West Railway Adopter Gardening Group (SWRAG). It will be an enjoyable evening.
News in Brief
At Mallaig and Fort William Booking Offices, ScotRail printed Christmas alterations timetables should be available for collection after December 10th. It is as well to be aware of any alterations, including over the new year. The dates will be available online after that date also.
The Jacobite Santa specials will run from Fort William, steam hauled, with Father Christmas on board, twice daily, from Fort William to Glenfinnan and return, on the 20th, 21st and 22nd and now the 23rd December also.
After Christmas, The Jacobite will operate (still decorated, but without Santa!) from Fort William to Mallaig and return. Into Mallaig at 12.20pm, it will operate steam hauled on the 27th, 28th and 29th December.
West Coast Railway Co. are accepting bookings for four days of Easter special, steam hauled Jacobite trains from Fort William to Mallaig and return on the 14th, 15th , 16th and 17th April. The First Class Coach will be Harry Potter themed.
and finally - but saving the best 'til last…
Steve and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ùr.
See you on the train or at a Railway Station in 2017. The kind comments I receive from local residents and businesses encourage me. Further afield, thank you for your kind letters, photos, postcards, competition entries, packets of seeds and plants. I strive to promote the area by being kind - Mallaig has been good to me - thank you.
As Winnie the Pooh mused: "A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference."
Paul Freer from Glenfinnan (and Birmingham!)
showing off his recently acquired 'Lucas' fireman's shovel.
Paul has recently been passed as a Train Guard
on West Coast Railways and also doubles as Relief Fireman, and often works The Jacobite Steam Train.
Congratulations Paul on your recent 'promotion'!
Photo Steve Roberts
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR - DECEMBER 2016
The MV Lord of The Isles was one week late in returning from dry dock so was due to re-commence on the Lochboisdale to Mallaig winter service (3 crossings per week) on Wednesday 7th December 2016. Unfortunately bad weather meant the crossing did not take place.
The South Uist/Mallaig connection is due to continue each Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday throughout the winter. The final run of the winter schedule being on Wednesday 29th March 2017.
There will of course be no sailings on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
However at time of going to press CalMac have not yet revealed the timetable or the vessels they will deploy on next summer's Mallaig - Armadale Service. Harbour Chairman C. King and CEO R. MacMillan questioned Humza Yousaf MSP Minister for Transport and the Islands, whilst attending a Transport Forum in Corpach organised by the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce. He was fully aware of the issues surrounding the Skye Ferry Service and admitted the situation needed to improve for 2017.
The 54 metre ferry Loch Fyne arrived at the port on Sunday 4th December for several days of trials and tests with regard to docking at the Mallaig Linkspan. The carrying capacity of the Loch Fyne is in the region of 36 vehicles!
It's been a most successful sprat season (so far) for the four local boats that are prosecuting the fishery with landings exceeding those of the 2015 season. As at 30th November the Rebecca Jeneen (OB38); Caralisa (OB956); Independence (OB196); and Mareather - formerly the Aubretia - (OB503) have landed in excess of 1300 tonnes of sprats compared to 1000 tonnes for the same period last year.
Sprats being landed at Mallaig, November 2016. Photo Moe Mathieson
Rebecca Jeneen (left) and Caralisa. Photo Moe Mathieson
Fisher Associates were appointed in March 2016 to develop a masterplan for Mallaig Harbour. The fundamental purpose of the masterplan is to provide a structured framework for the physical development and transformation of Mallaig Harbour over the next 20 years. It will enable Mallaig Harbour Authority to make informed decisions to meet changing markets, grow new markets, and safeguard the Harbour as an essential economic driver and community asset for future generations.
Mallaig Harbour Authority carried out a public consultation exercise in September 2016 to give residents and businesses an opportunity to find out more about the masterplan and to express their views. Following an overwhelmingly positive response, the masterplan is now being finalised, taking on board the comments and views expressed during the consultation. It is envisaged that the final masterplan will be published early in 2017.
Harbour Chairman Charlie King, Board Members and staff send Christmas & New Year greetings to all Harbour Users and, of course, to all West Word readers.
CEO 01687 462154 firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday 26th November saw a jam packed village hall in Inverie for a screening of ex-Knoydart resident Sam Firth's new short film Creeling.
The screening was an opportunity to thank the cast and crew but also the residents of Knoydart for their help making the film. The film is Sam's first drama and although Knoydart has seen a lot of television crews in its time this was the first film production of this scale to hit the peninsula. It was developed through the Scottish Talent Film Network and produced by Ciara Barry of Barry Crerar films who was there to introduce the film.
Cast and crew of the film
It stars Mallaig High School student and Eigg resident Hannah Lily Morrison who Sam met when she worked on a schools film project with Eigg Primary school six years ago. The film was mainly shot on a creel boat owned by Glenuig resident Phil Morphew who was also there for the screening.
Creeling is about a young teenage girl with a crush on a local lobster fisherman and a trip they take together on their boat. Sam Firth describes it as "a classic coming of age story about dealing with secret passions and forbidden love and with the demands of one's family against ones own desires. It is also about the hazards particular to being a girl; when the line between being safe and unsafe is a fine one and very confusing. Many girls learn to regard their own desire as dangerous. I wanted to explore this without being hysterical. Ultimately it is about two people navigating a difficulty in their relationship". Sam and Ciara are hoping the film will screen internationally in film festivals around the world and open doors for them to make feature films.
This is the fourth short film Sam has made in Knoydart and she and Ciara Barry would like to take this opportunity to thank again any Knoydart residents who couldn't be there at the screening for their help and patience while they were making the film.
Sewing Squares The Next Step
Re-Act, Refugee Action Scotland are a group of unpaid volunteers in Edinburgh, Fife, Lochaber, Linlithgow, Falkirk and East Lothian operating a not for-profit international humanitarian aid project working to help bring vital supplies and support to the displaced refugees across Europe.
Here in North West Lochaber people have been working at home knitting garments and blankets to keep children and babies warm and teddies for the children to cuddle since the start of the Syrian War. Latterly people have been sending us squares from all over the UK to sew on into big blankets. Now that Re-Act have their own lorry and can make more regular trips they have built up a good network within the refugee camps with the assessors and co-ordinators. It therefore seems that our next step should be to send adult activity packs containing the wherewithal for groups in camps to make their own blankets. The activity packs would include enough knitted squares to make a sizeable adult blanket or two children's blankets; yarn to sew them together, knitting needles to sew additional squares or strips (much as we did at Sew Square Saturdays), balls of wool to knit up small garments and so on. We are looking for the following:
- old or new knitting needles/crochet hooks any size
- packets of big-eyed needles for sewing
- balls of new wool any colour or odd balls of wool left over from projects
- small scissors
- measuring tapes
- buttons and ribbons for baby garments
- anything else you can think of that should be in a knitting/crochet pack.
This idea has grown from many suggestions and will no doubt grow and develop as people consider various options. Please feel free to make suggestions.
Loving Hands Charity designers are allowing their knitting and crochet patterns to be used as required. Thus there is no problem with copyright. These patterns will be translated into Arabic and Farsi by Re-Act. If anyone has their own pattern and would like to contribute it that would be excellent. Perhaps someone might want to put together a booklet that we could translate and copy?
Current drop off point for donations are churches in Arisaig and Mallaig and Morar, Aye2Aye in Main Street Fort William, Caol Launderette. Instead of Sew Square Saturday I hope to organise Size Square Saturdays. Watch this space.
Keep knitting please!
Further information: email@example.com 01687470368
How did Mallaig & District Canoe Club start?
It all began in the winter of 1994/5, when Mallaig and District Swimming Pool manager Frazer Coupland decided to run a series of pool sessions. Only a few of the dozen or so budding paddlers had ever done any kayaking before but between them and Frazer, they learnt the basics in the cosy warm atmosphere of the pool when the weather was often howling outside.
With the arrival of spring, Frazer organised two professional instructors to take them out and sample some real world paddling on the river Oich. Despite a few capsizes in the freezing river, they were all enthralled and over the summer had their own local sessions in the Morar estuary and elsewhere. By this time, Frazer had admitted that there was nothing further that he could teach the budding paddlers and if they wanted to progress, they should form their own club. So, one evening in September 1995 in the Arisaig Hotel, our local canoe club came into this world. A lot has happened since then!
In the Spring the club will be running Introduction to Sea Paddling sessions. Watch out in West Word for details, as well as our regular 'Paddler!' column!
The People and Gentry of Morar
Deirdre tells me the same highly efficient foursome are going to produce a second Mallaig book festival next year. Good news. Possible speakers/authors having already come under discussion, I thought of drawing attention to a new book of my own, The People and Gentry of Morar.
By the people, I have in mind generations in North and South Morar named MacDonald, MacDonell, Gillies, MacLellan in particular. The 'old inhabitants' include significant nineteenth-century incomers like the MacKellaigs and MacKays. Census information, log books and local stories show who was who. One theme is the decline of Gaelic through compulsory education, with schools in remote places. The book will carry on from Tales of the Morar Highlands. The gentry start with the Frasers of Lovat, highest on the social scale and benevolent landlords for North Morar. There is an anti-Highland Clearance theme here, echoed by others who came in and loved the area. Those regular residents (some full-time) represent English culture and they left records. The Caldwell family at Morar Lodge married into the Shaw-Stewarts of Traigh in South Morar. That district extended well into what is now Arisaig: Arts and crafts Astley-Nicholsons also played a part. The Bowmans at Garramore and Camusdarrach kept summer diaries now published as Going the Other Way: A Family History in Morar and London, 1879-1928.
The People and Gentry book will be produced locally by Mallaig Heritage Centre. I have just had a marvellously detailed email from a family historian in Ontario in which she praises Chapels of the Rough Bounds: Morar, Knoydart, Arisaig, Moidart. Curator Malcolm Poole who put it together must share that appreciation. I hope the committee will let me speak about his work and mine.
October 2016 BIRDWATCH by Stephen MacDonald
Overall, a fairly dry month, with mainly light or easterly winds, with several periods of frosty weather.
Still a few small groups of Redwings and Fieldfares roaming the area for berries. The only report of Waxwings was a flock of 20 - 25 seen around Rhubana View, Morar, early on the 23rd.
The first Glaucous Gull of the winter, an adult, was seen around Mallaig harbour on the 14th. It was reported on several occasions after that. Another bird, this time an immature, was seen on the 29th.
A female Blackcap was seen feeding on elderberries in a Woodside Garden, Morar, on the 12th, and presumably the same bird again on the 14th.
Up until mid-month, there was still Whooper Swan passage with several reports from around the area, including 10 south over Morar on the 2nd, 2 south over Loch nan Ceall on the 6th, 4 south over Mallaig on the 18th and 7 that landed briefly on the sea in Loch nan Uamh, just off Druimindarroch, also on the 18th. A single adult spent much of the month on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig.
The female Long-tailed Duck was on Loch nan Eala until at least the 7th, and 9 Canada Geese were there on the 16th. Greylag Geese were widely reported, including a flock of 104 at Achateilasaig on the 23rd.
Offshore from Millburn, Loch nan Ceall, in calm conditions on the 7th, there were at least 8 Slavonian and 2 Little Grebes, 1 Black-throated and 5 Red-throated Divers and 30 plus Red-breasted Mergansers.
Goldeneye and Goosander were reported from Loch Morar during the second half of the month.
12 Purple Sandpipers were on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig, on the 4th. Turnstone were also seen there on several occasions. 40 Ringed Plover were at Traigh boat house on the 23rd and up to 16 were on the Morar Estuary. A single Greenshank was on the Morar Estuary throughout the month.
Most Pied Wagtails clear out for the Winter, but at least 3 were feeding around the cattle sheds at Mains Farm, Arisaig, on the 16th. A single Grey Wagtail was seen by the burn at Traigh Golf Course on the 23rd. Dippers were reported from Loch Morar and the burn at Camusdarach car park.
Frequent and widespread reports of Sea Eagles throughout the month. Numerous reports of Sparrowhawks from gardens, including a female that was found dead on the 22nd at Lovat terrace, Mallaig, probably a window strike.
A female Hen Harrier was seen on the 25th near Glen House, Arisaig.
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Two gardeners asked what plants adult Chequered Skipper butterflies like to feed on in West Lochaber, in case they can encourage these, and other butterflies, to visit their gardens.
The Chequered Skipper butterfly (Carterocephalus palaemon) is only in the adult form for two or three weeks in May and June in Lochaber. At this time the eggs are laid and the larva, or caterpillar as immature butterfly and moth juveniles are called, hatches and feeds on purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) grass until the weather becomes too frosty in the autumn. The fully-grown larva overwinters inside a shelter made by spinning several leaves together. It emerges from its shelter in April in the following year, and without additional feeding, enters the pupal stage - often hidden in a Molinia clump. Here it remains until the weather conditions become warm enough in May or June and the adult emerges from the pupal case.
Usually the temperature rising during the days in May and early June allows herbs to have flowers sufficiently advanced to have nectar which an adult butterfly sucks out with its long proboscis. In cool springs the adults may emerge a week to 10 days later than usual and this seems to be related to the ambient temperatures and their effects on flowering herbs.
Typically Chequered Skipper butterflies in West Lochaber feed on nectar from wild hyacinths, foxgloves, bird's-foot trefoil and thistles. Other butterflies also feed on these species and garden plants such as buddleia. So, having sunny areas in your garden with wild flowers will encourage butterflies to feed there.
Dr Mary Elliott
Reference: J. Asher et al 2001 The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
We love this feature, thank you to everyone who has kept it going since November 2008 - eight years! - we've been to so many places around the world from Greenland to the South Pole, down a gold mine and a pothole and read by an astronaut at Cape Kennedy. Keep it going!
Mallaig's Audrey McKay took her copy to Greece and is seen here at Ancient Olympia - just before she got into trouble for breaking the rule which doesn't allow photos with any form of advertising. 'What photo?' said Audrey.
Flo Cargill also packed her copy in Mallaig and brought it out to read at the Tsunami Memorial in Khao Lak, Thailand.
The ConnXion Dance School made sure they took a copy to the Big Dance Show in Eden Court last month and are seen here with dance teacher Morag Lemons.
The Burton family of Lochailort (Gary, Katie, Maia and Eoin) took a copy to the beautiful Caribbean Island of Grenada where they helped celebrate Mark and Kirsty's wedding.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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