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Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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December 2017 Issue
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MALLAIG'S ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND TO CLOSE
In an attempt to boost its profitability, The Royal Bank of Scotland is closing a third of its Scottish branches including the Mallaig branch.
RBS says more customers are now accessing services online or via mobile devices, and it has seen a 40% drop in the use of branches since 2014 whilst mobile transactions have increased by more than 70% over the same period.
Ian Blackford MP and Kate Forbes MSP are appealing to the Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Executive Ross McEwan to review the decision to close branches in Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh and Beauly. Ian Blackford said: 'The argument that these branches are not well used is far from reality. Information supplied to me by RBS is that Mallaig has 1,001 customers and has had 10,098 transactions in the last year; these are not small numbers. Without these branches the only option is for customers to travel long distances to access these personal and business services.'
Robert MacMillan, Arisaig, said 'I am really shocked by this news and so disappointed in the Royal Bank of Scotland. What will small local business owners who need to bank on a daily basis do? Our customers who rely on the personal touch by visiting a branch; or the elderly or infirm, who would have to get to the nearest branch in Fort William only to be met by people they don't know? With good reason not everyone trusts internet banking, and not everyone has a computer. I would urge everyone to contact their MP and MSP to protest about these intended cuts.'
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
So after last month's landslide there is now a temporary scaffolding pedestrian foot bridge in place, capable of taking a quad bike. This will at least make life a bit easier for everyone on the other side, in terms of getting shopping etc. across as well as making it safer. The long term solution is still being discussed at the moment though there are a few options. After the initial slip, a further eight inches of road came away so it is good that the bridge is now in place. From a renewables point of view, the go-ahead was given to start planning the re-erection of poles so that power can be restored to Glaschoile and to the broadband system as currently it is running on genny. This means that a few people on a rota are going up to the mast twice a day to refuel the genny in order to keep us online! I have to say it is much appreciated.
The rains also caused some damage to the Inverguserain track, with some parts being badly washed out, especially near the bridge, so it is to be driven on only when absolutely necessary and with a lot of care. Really not looking forward to the rest of winter if this is what's going down so far…
This month unfortunately saw another dramatic incident, with Davie Newton having an accident at work and was airlifted by helicopter to Broadford before being transferred to Inverness. Luckily he escaped with only a broken ankle, though that was plenty bad enough.
Bonfire night was successful, with a giant roaring fire that helped dry everyone off nicely after a torrential battering downpour which we stoically ignored obviously. It did clear up after that though and was a beautiful night, with a crackin' full moon.
Exciting news for our wee hall…. It's been nominated for venue of the year at the 2017 Trad Awards. It's a public vote, so here's hoping we are in with a chance. You can help us get there by going online to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/TradAwards2017 and vote for the hall!
At the end of this month we will sadly be saying goodbye to Fay and Alan who are leaving. Admittedly Fay has said she's leaving every year around now for the last few years but she's always come back again! This time it is for real though. I know I speak for everyone when I wish them all the best on their new adventure and it will certainly seem quiet without them! Also think Kilchoan Estate might struggle to find someone who enjoys cleaning as much as Fay does!
ISLE OF MUCK
At the end of October all the children set off down the road from Gallanach to Port. Along the way 'rather older' children appeared from ditches and from behind dykes, all with the aim of scaring the youngsters. It was Halloween.
A few days later on the beach, the sky was lit up by a short but brilliant display of light and sound. Fireworks brought to the island by Andrew Smith from Mull, one of the shooting parties who come every year, and made even more spectacular by the fact that dark clouds obscured the full moon and stars. Not that that was unusual in a more than forgettable autumn!
On the 17th in near gale winds we were surprised to see a small helicopter sitting on the road near Gallanach. Soon we learned that it was an eager fish buyer from Sainsbury's who together with Ben Hadfield, CEO Marine Harvest Scotland, had come to check out the Muck site. Sainsbury's have already stocked Muck salmon on their fish counter, every pack marked with the island name. They want the best!
On the same day at a little party in the schoolroom we raised over £100 in aid of Children in Need. Well done everyone; every little bit helps! That's about all this month.
ISLE OF CANNA
A difficult month for the island with what has seemed like continuous rain. In addition we said goodbye to Colin and David who have run the Tighard Guesthouse for five years. They have moved to Edinburgh to take up new opportunities. We are hopeful that there will be new people in the Guesthouse shortly.
On the farm Gerry has taken delivery of five Swarble sheep which I am sure will prove to be a hit with visitors.
All our boats are out of the water with the exception of Craig who is still managing to go out on the occasional good day and has been successfully catching squid.
I am starting to be plagued by our special Canna mice who have decided to take up residence in my shed and are having a field day with the sacks of bird food. Four have been trapped this week and of course all are released some distance from the house.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
November has been a busy month for Canna House Archivist, Fiona. First event was a presentation with John Lorne Campbell's biographer, Ray Perman, at the lovely 'A Write Highland Hoolie' in Mallaig. Some fascinating insights from a diverse range of authors and very receptive audiences to the 'Campbell's Story'!
The following week saw Fiona travel to Glasgow for the "Scottish National Gaelic Awards" where she was nominated in the 'Community, Heritage and Culture' category for her community singing work and the installation of the Fuaim na Mara project on Canna. The same night she was also presented with a Go Pro camera for her series of informative and entertaining 'Vlogs' from Mod 2017 in Fort William! This will be very useful in her filming work on Canna.
That same week saw Fiona deliver a presentation "Cleachd I neo Caill i/Use it or Lose it" at the annual British & Irish Sound Archive Conference at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Delegates were entranced by the story of John and Margaret Campbell and the importance of using the archives they left us, not leaving them on the shelf.
Fiona then undertook a workshop at the National Theatre of Scotland, working on potential ideas for shows using the archives. Finally Fiona concluded her busy week by participating in a Collections Care workshop for Property Managers at Pollok House in Glasgow.
ISLE OF RUM
As with Knoydart last month, the heavy rain took its toll on the roads on Rum. A major landslide washed away a section of the Harris track caused by the collapse of part of the canal out of the end of Long Loch - as a result a new (temporary) river was created diverting water which usually flowed to the Kinloch river, into the Kilmory river instead. SNH has acted with haste and contactors were here promptly to carry out repairs and the track is now back in place. Our collective fingers are crossed that the road lasts a winter's worth of rain.
After the success of Joss and Eve in the 'A Write Highland Hoolie' writing competition, Rum Primary designed a school trip so they could go to the prize giving at the West Highland Hotel; Joss came 2nd in the P1s to P4s and Eve came 3rd in the P4 to P7s. They had an action packed few days which included (much needed) swimming lessons, a workshop with Mairi Hedderwick, though I suspect Deb, the teacher, had more fun there; climbing instruction at the 'Three Wise Monkeys' climbing wall at Fort William at which Joss got to the top and Ashton and Eve explored the bouldering wall.
Comings and goings…. Hello to new guy Colin Kerr from South Uist. Colin works for SNH on the NNR and is living in the Whitehouse with David. Bye or even au revoir to the Goddard Family who are off island for the winter, visiting family and friends in the south of England and Ireland. See you in the spring !!!! The croft 3 menagerie have been gifted around the village which means more chickens for all of us and a few turkeys wandering around, already causing mischief in someone else's garden - still, turkeys ... Christmas ... the solution may be but a month away!
Help for the ailing Kinloch Castle may be at hand from the Kinloch Castle Friends Association - they are deep in negotiations with SNH and Historic Environment Scotland to come up with an asset transfer arrangement that will mean the castle can be repaired and regenerated at a more affordable level and start generating income for itself next year, even at a low level. This could mean in the short term we might see the popular bar or restaurant open again or some kind of hostel provision; it all sounds promising and any support is welcome.
An end of season village hall clean highlighted the need for some urgent repairs and a bit of TLC over the winter, so we need to sand and varnish the floor, which I don't think has been done for over 10 years, and re paint the exterior as well as get new furniture and more chairs. We have had a donation of a few hundred pounds to help with the costs but most of the sanding and painting will be voluntary labour.
We had a visit from Greg Barton from a charity called Chance for Change. He is potentially interested in using Rum as a base for some of their youth expeditions and possibly contributing towards making Harris lodge into usable accommodation, all very exciting and it would be great to see more people using Harris Lodge; personally, I really like Harris and the lodge and a few of us have been committed to looking after it to prevent it decaying further. It can be really cosy once you get the fire going.
Not sure about much on the nature front this month but the hind cull is underway and the pesky stags are back in the village …
ISLE OF EIGG
November, and it seems that the tourist season may have finally ended. The Tearoom has regained the space to put the pool table back. The nights have stopped "fair drawing in" and have drawn in. The fires are on and the temperature is dropping. Then it comes up again. Then down. The temperature has been yo-yoing up and down for months, but it's always wet and windy. We have only 2 seasons really, Sprummer and Wutumn.
Despite Wutumn being well under way, it hasn't stopped some from enjoying the outdoors. Eigg visiting regular Labhaoise McKenna (Leesha for the phonetically inclined) was up for a week and in swimming every day. I almost accepted an invitation to join her for a dip, but the hailstones put me off. It didn't deter Jackie Jobson, Betsy-Mae or wee Maggie though.
We managed to find a dry day for bonfire night. It was a perfect still, cold evening for gathering around a big fire under a full moon. The fact that we'd collected the wet wood on a wet day and left it in a wet pile actually worked out nicely: we could stand quite close to the fire as it was too damp to chase us away and burned long and slow into the night. As a known pyro-enthusiast I was charged with co-ordinating the fireworks display, and assisted by Stuart Fergusson and Rebecca Long. We followed the method that's always worked well for me: try and set off as many as possible, as quickly as possible, whilst attempting to keep all one's eyebrows and fingers. Apparently they were great (thank you Lidl), but I have no idea as I didn't have time to look up.
This month our local brewery, The Laig Bay Brewing Co., harvested their own hops, grown by Wes Fyffe on his croft. To celebrate, they hosted a free beer evening at the hall. Really it was a ruse to get beautiful Eigg folk photographed for pictures on their new website. This obviously went down well, and many a tasty pint of Eigg-brewed beer was supped in the name of helping out. I don't know whether the pictures were any good - if not there may be call to do it again…
The dark nights have also been a signal for those of us who play musical instruments (unprofessionally) to dust off our fiddles, whistles and guitars, get together and put the long evenings to good use - mostly trying to remember the sets we learned last winter before spring came along and we dropped our instruments and got busy with everything that spring brings.
Other wholesome community events in November have included a well-attended pub quiz, games night and pool tournament (results unknown at time of publication) at The Tearoom, and a joint birthday party for Ben and Hannah at the Hall, who turned 7 and 3 respectively.
Finally, the American TV network CBS were over in the summer doing a piece on Eigg's 20th anniversary of community ownership. When the producers finished the edit recently and showed it to their big-wig bosses in New York, they got a round of applause, which apparently never happens. Although the story has been covered many times by various news outlets over the years, this one may top them all in the "romanticized view of island life" department. The piece is to be aired at the end of the month and will be available on-line afterwards.
A WRITE HIGHLAND HOOLIE 2017
This year's Write Highland Hoolie, the second Mallaig Book Festival, drew a crowd from near and far, and all agreed that it was a resounding success. The event started at a lively pace that continued throughout with glasses raised to celebrate Mairi Hedderwick's Scottish Book Trust Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award. She then delighted a full house with her Art Rambles in the Highlands & Islands, before Angus MacDonald welcomed everyone during a delicious dinner.
Angus MacDonald, Polly Pullar and Alasdair Roberts
Saturday began with Words in the Landscape from mountaineer, author and television presenter, Cameron McNeish. Authors this year also included Andrew Greig, Kenneth Steven, Ray Perman, Polly Pullar, Lesley Glaister & Alasdair Roberts. This year, two authors, the great novelist Bernard MacLaverty and basking shark ambassador Colin Speedie, also gave talks to Mallaig High School pupils as well as the audience at the West Highland Hotel. And the venue was packed full of excited children, parents and grandparents for Mairi Hedderwick's foray with Katie Morag, and also for an interlude with Bookbug. A hauntingly beautiful Gaelic singing performance from Canna's archivist Fiona Mackenzie accompanied Ray Perman's moving story of The Man Who Gave Away His Island.
Appropriately, Fort William's new independent bookseller, The Highland Bookshop, joined the party whilst The Scots Magazine was media partner, and their award-winning editor, Robert Wight ran a popular feature-writing workshop, and judged the schools' writing competitions. Music and craic continued into the small hours with various musicians including Donald Livingstone and Elsa Jean McTaggart, whilst authors, including Andrew Greig, also took to the stage. The skirl of piping from Alasdair Roberts and Colin Graham, and squally bruised skies over the island panorama with snow-dusted Skye Cuillin, completed the romance and atmosphere of another unique hoolie weekend.
Photos by Fred Pullar
Organisers, Polly Pullar, Sine Davis, Ann Martin & Deirdre Roberts said they were thrilled to have included events for the younger members of the community and felt the weekend had been an outstanding success. Polly added, 'We feel it went well and we must continue to work towards this becoming an annual event that is an eagerly anticipated part of the community calendar with the continuation of outstanding speakers, further school involvement, and more local musicians.'
ESIN Chair visits Senegal
7th November 2017 Medivac from Inverie
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to convey paramedics to Inverie, Knoydart at 08:45hrs. An elderly resident had taken unwell and was to be transferred to Hospital for treatment. Arriving at Inverie at 09:10 the Paramedics were transported to the casualty location along with members of crew to assist in transferring the casualty. Once safely secured the casualty was brought to the Lifeboat in a local's Land Rover. The casualty and crew boarded the Lifeboat and returned to Mallaig, berthing at 10:30hrs. Local Coastguard were also in attendance and assisted with taking the casualty to the ambulance. Lifeboat ready for service at 10:45hrs.
14th November 2017 Medivac from Inverie
Launched by Stornoway coastguard to Medivac an unwell person from Inverie, Knoydart at 21:15hrs. Arriving at Inverie at 21:30hrs, the Lifeboat was met by the casualty who had been conveyed to the pier by a neighbour. The casualty was boarded and the lifeboat returned to Mallaig berthing at 21:50hrs. Once moored the casualty was transferred to a waiting ambulance crew for transfer to Fort William's Belford Hospital. Lifeboat fueled and ready for service at 22:00hrs.
17th November 2017 Assisting Casualty Who Had Leg Fracture
Lifeboat tasked to assist with casualty with lower leg fracture. Assisted paramedic and transferred casualty with injury to landing site where they were airlifted to hospital in Skye.
ON & OFF THE RAILS
Travel Magazine Wanderlust 2017 Awards
As locals we always appreciate the amazing journey taken on our railway track: well now it's officially named as the top (number one) rail journey in Britain, as voted for in the above magazine's awards.
The 164 mile route from Glasgow to Mallaig runs by Loch Long, Loch Lomond, Loch Eilt and lochs of equal beauty on its way to Mallaig. Mountains and moors slip past the window until we reach the coast with all its spectacular scenery. Now - on Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 - the travel magazine Wanderlust announced to the 'world' its annual awards, as voted for by public vote, and in the category 'Most Scenic Rail Journey in the UK' our 42 mile section of railway between Fort William and Mallaig secured 'top rail journey'. Hurrah!
It said "departing a short distance away from Ben Nevis, the Jacobite steam locomotive encounters some of the U.K.'s most dramatic scenery." True, of course, but the railway line and the scenery is available to all rail users whether it be ScotRail, the Royal Scotsman, S.R.P.S., Pathfinder Tours or countless other rail tour companies who book onto ScotRail and Jacobite journeys. We welcome you all. Enjoy our award-winning scenery and haste ye back!
The first (Mon)day of Christmas!
December 4th will see the festive Jacobite steam train service operating between Fort William and Mallaig (and return) on a Monday to Friday until December 22nd, then again from Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th it will run again! As I write this column - for the 20th November - preplanning is my mantra! Arrangements are now in place for Mallaig railway station booking office and waiting room to be decked out; local shops will be lit up - as will the streets - hopefully we are having the lights on in the daytime. Christmas trees will be in place, restaurants will have festive fare, and the West Highland Hotel's decorations will be splendid, as will all the bars. We really want to show the train travellers (and everyone else!) that the 'Port of Mallaig' knows how to 'twinkle'!! If you can help by hanging a decoration up, or putting pine cones and Holly etc in the village planters, then do, please!
Thanks to a lot of cajoling on my part we are to have a 'Santa's Grotto' every day Monday to Friday - 12 noon till 2 pm - in the entrance of the Morrison building. The Fishermen's Mission team, spearheaded by the area manager Karen Calder, are taking on the challenge of carrying out this major task, and the preplanning is now complete. Each day on The Jacobite the catering girls will inform children that Santa will be in the grotto waiting to see them. Tickets will be issued and will be redeemed in exchange for a chat with Father Christmas and a present. It will (of course!) run like clockwork and add to the festivities. If you want to assist 'Karen's team' contact her on 07917 754407. Carol singing is optional, and there will be a huge real tree, decorations, holly etc. Try and help if you can in any way. Thank you Karen and all, not only from me, from but from West Coast Railways as well. Let's make Christmas in Mallaig a real local celebration. Shop locally, and turn out to enjoy our efforts. Don't forget the pleasure of sending local fish by post, packed by Jaffy's at the railway station or Andy Race at his factory - you just make the purchase and they do the packing! The lifeboat shop is opening daily - as are all of the gift shops. Happy days!
Model rail Scotland 2018 - dates for your diary
To be held at SEC Glasgow in February 2018. The proposed dates and times of entry are:
Friday 23rd: 10:30 am - 6 pm
Saturday 24th: 10 am - 6 pm
Sunday 25th: 10:30 am - 5 pm
Admission prices at the door are: Adult £13, child £6, family (2+2 for one day) £29
Advance ticket prices: adult £12, child £5, family £28.
Advance ticket holders can enter 30 minutes prior to official opening time.
To purchase tickets by post please forward a cheque or postal order made payable to AMRSS together with an SAE to arrive no later than February 15th to AMRSS, PO Box 9117, Shotts, ML7 9AF. Or you can order online at www.modelrail-scotland.co.uk
The show will have 50+ working layouts, 150 exhibitor stands, gauge societies, demonstrations, and a free exhibition guide. What's not to like? You can 'like' on Facebook, 'follow' on Twitter or just look at the website for more information.
A limited edition Bachmann Class XLVII ScotRail model locomotive will be launched and available for sale at the show.
ScotRail real-time digital display stand
Mallaig's mini 'Angel of the North' display of real-time train departures and arrivals is now all lit up and working. Hurrah!
And finally, but saving the best till last …
Have compassion, be non-violent, be kind, have respect. Remember everybody has something good inside them; they sometimes don't know how to show it.
Thank you to all who stick 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 Ùr!
See you on the train, Sonia Cameron
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Some of the Knoydart deer stalkers went on a bus-man's holiday, driven boar hunting in Belgium; Jim, Lewis, host Nicolas, Iain and Mike pictured.
Mr and Mrs Price, West Word readers from North Wales, took a copy with them on a recent trip to India. They said 'the Taj Mahal taken at sunset from the banks of the river Yamuna is a slightly different view to the one we are all familiar with.'
When Arisaig's Blair Martin first moved to South Uist, he stayed in Taigh Mairi Anndra, the cottage where Margaret Fay Shaw had lived with two local ladies, Mairi and Peigi, before she moved to Canna. He recently set out to find their three graves in the local cemetery, and found them in the end - via the internet!
BIRDWATCH October 2017 by Stephen MacDonald
October was fairly typical, with the continued arrival of our winter visitors and the last of our summer visitors moving south.
Five adult Whooper Swans on Loch Eilt early on the 3rd was the first report of the autumn. Five resting on the sea near Alisary, Loch Ailort later the same day may have been the same birds. Over the next few days, there were numerous reports of Whoopers flying over Loch Ailort, Arisaig and Morar. Seven were on Loch Nan Eala, Arisaig for a couple of days, with two adults still there on the 22nd. A female Tufted Duck and several Widgeon were also at the latter site on the 22nd. Still flocks of migrant geese reported flying over, but on the 22nd, three Pink Footed Geese were feeding alongside Greylags in a field at Back of Keppoch.
With much of the wader passage now over, the Redshanks, Ringed and Golden Plovers, Curlews and Turnstones reported are birds that will probably winter in this area. Several reports of Woodcock from the Morar area and also more sightings of Snipe, with six seen on a short walk around Loch an Nostarie on the 24th.
Redwings and Fieldfares were seen from the first week, although not in as large numbers as previous years. A Brambling was feeding alongside Chaffinches in a Morar garden on the 18th and a male Blackcap was feeding on fat balls in the same garden for several days from the 23rd.
From the 8th, a Kingfisher was seen regularly on the Morar River upstream of the hydro dam. Presumably it is the same bird from last winter.
Goldfinches were reported from numerous garden feeders; flocks of Siskins were feeding on alder cones at Rhubana and Loch Nan Eala, and on the 29th approximately 20 Redpolls were in the birch trees at Camasdarroch.
Several sightings of Sea Eagles from around the area, including two harassing the gulls around the fish farm at Loch Ailort on the 24th. Sparrowhawks making frequent visits to gardens in Morar and Lochailort. A late Wheatear was on the strand line near Traigh golf course on the 21st and 22nd.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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