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December 2019 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR MALLAIG MEDICAL PRACTICE
Dr Iain Gartshore, the sole GP at the Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice, has announced that he has accepted a Partnership in the Alness/Invergordon Medical Practice and will be leaving his position in Mallaig at the end of March 2020.
The Practice is currently managed as a private practice and NHS District Manager Marie Law is confident that other Doctors will be interested in taking it on; she says the NHS will do all they can to support this process. However, if the situation is not resolved prior to Dr Gartshore leaving then the NHS will step in, directly manage the Practice and deploy the resources needed to ensure the area continues to receive a service.
Local MSP Kate Forbes has raised her concerns about the situation with NHS Highland, saying 'There needs to be solid planning for all eventualities to make sure there is no impact on local people in need of GP services.'
Hat Trick of Awards for the Isle of Canna!
Congratulations to everyone on the Isle of Canna for winning no less than three prestigious awards in the last month!
Anna Rothach picked up the 'Gaelic as an Economic Asset' award at the Scottish Gaelic Awards in Glasgow on 19th November for her graphic design company, Graficanna.
Geraldine MacKinnon took home the 'Best Community Project' award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards in Edinburgh on the 5th December for Canna's renewable energy project, CREE, and Isebail MacKinnon went to London on 27th November for the Plunkett Rural Business Awards, where the Canna Community Shop was awarded the 'Horace Plunkett Better Business' award.
The Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification project (CREE) involved the construction of a new system based around wind, solar and battery storage which has drastically reduced fuel usage and running costs. During the first year of operation, the new system has generated over 138MWh of electricity, of which 93% was renewable. This has resulted in a 94% reduction in diesel usage, saving 100.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The generators ran for under 2% of the time (operating less than three times per month on average), compared to running 24/7 previously.
Community Energy Scotland has been supporting the community on Canna with this project since 2009 and said, 'We are thrilled that the SGEA judges recognised the persistence of the community in taking forward such a complex and ambitious project in a very remote location.'
The Horace Plunkett Better Business Award (sponsored by The Co-op) recognises a community business with innovative practices that respond to local needs and expectations, and has a plan for future development. The Canna Community Shop opened in 2013 and provides a vital service for residents, and for the many visitors who come to the island in the summer months. The shop also runs ten moorings for yachts in the harbour. Canna provides a much-valued service for all in an isolated location through its community shop.
Congratulations to all!
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
I hope everyone enjoyed last month's bumper 25th anniversary edition! I thought all our young contributors did a great job and it was fun to work with them all on the paper. Kids (and everyone!) - your contributions to West Word are always welcome!
This month's edition has also turned out to be a bumper one with so much going on locally. Eco Project news is on page 20; see page 27 onwards for news from last month's Book Festival and a selection of the excellent entries into the Writing Competition; and Christmas Greetings are on page 33.
Once again, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing and Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes this month.
A happy and peaceful festive season to all our readers and contributors!
November has been filled with community events and it's been great to have the time to relax and catch up with each other now that the calmer winter months are upon us.
Bonfire Night on Knoydart usually involves finding every waterproof item you own, traipsing down the beach in the torrential rain and wind, and constantly rotating around the fire to try not get soaked or frazzled! This year however, we were treated to a stunning night on Long Beach with calm weather, a toasty bonfire and a brilliant firework show - a huge thanks to all the volunteers who pulled it together.
We also celebrated Iain Biggart's 50th Birthday with a surprise party at Knoydart River Cottage. This party has been the talk of the village for months and is probably Knoydart's best ever kept secret - he still didn't know it was happening a couple of hours before everyone showed up! The house was packed, Kira kept us well fed with delicious homemade pizzas and Britta truly was the 'hostess with the mostess' - her rendition of "I Say a Little Prayer for You" accompanied by the Uke's was definitely a highlight of the night for everyone!
The final social gathering of the month was a 1960's and 70's inspired disco fundraiser for the hall. The Miller lassies are known for their extensive costume collection and they set up shop the afternoon before the party for folk to pick out outfits and get hair and makeup done - it was a great way to get in the groove and Jan's wig modelling was something to behold! Once again, the community turned out in style and it was fantastic to see everyone make such an effort. The tunes played until the wee small hours, and there were a few sore heads the next day likely due to the Pimms and 'Babycham'! A huge thanks to Bob and Morag for hosting a great night.
Other November news - Inverie Primary School was able to purchase new litter-picking tools thanks to generous donations from local residents, and celebrated with a beach clean with the Knoydart Ranger Amie. They collected four bin bags of rubbish in an afternoon - amazing effort! At the end of the month we also saw the establishment of the new South Knoydart Community Council, a great resource for Knoydart to have and we hope it will be very successful. Finally, the hall refurb is progressing well and updates are coming out thick and fast on the Hall's social media pages and via www.knoydarthall.com
Coming up in December - Getting us in to the festive spirit the Knoydart Foundation Shop is hosting a Christmas shopping event on Friday 6th December 3-6pm. Nibbles, drinks and 20% off selected items! Also, the Knoydart Forest Trust and Wood Knoydart AGM's will be on Friday 13th at the Tearoom, and Christmas tree picking will be held on Saturday 21st - more info on the KFT Facebook page.
Hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and New Year - and all the best for 2020!!
ISLE OF MUCK
Hands up anyone who hasn't dug out their winter woolies in the last month. It may have been unseasonably dry and settled but it sure has been cold! It's felt more like January on several days with a biting wind from a northern quarter. A bit unfortunate then that, despite the settled weather there seem to be a bit of a bottleneck as far as freight is concerned. One of CalMac's freight staff, when challenged about why larger items were still sitting in Mallaig, said it's wasn't their fault, they were at the sharp end. The disgruntled customer replied that actually we were at the sharp end, because we weren't getting the things we ordered! With Christmas not that far away how about clearing the back log by doing an extra run to Eigg Muck and Rum on a Sunday? At this rate, with the issues over getting vehicles on as well, there won't be room for Santa and his sleigh, never mind any reindeer! If you are in the accommodation business on an island you meet lots of interesting people but normally I wouldn't dream of writing about a guest that stayed with us. But this month there's an exception that proves the rule. We had a guest staying with us the other day that lives in New Zealand. He had travelled half way round the world to see the island his ancestors left 197 years ago. His great, great, (I can't remember how many greats it was) grandfather was the school teacher on Muck. He went from Muck to Nova Scotia during the clearances. The "new life" there proved to be as hard, at times, as the life they had left behind. Starvation was a very real threat, much as it must have been here on the Isle of his birth at the back end of the winter as, when all food reserves were exhausted, residents were reduced to picking limpets off the "Rock of the Last Resort", as it was known. For 37 years they struggled to build a community, a new way of life, a future for them and their children. Eventually they decided that life in Nova Scotia was unsustainable and, hearing stories of a land of milk and honey, sold everything they had, built their own boat and sailed to Australia. Australia turned out to be a bit short on milk and honey so onward to New Zealand. Nearly 200 years later they have a heritage centre at Waipu dedicated to those who endured the hardships that ended with their arrival in a land that offered them a future. Chatting to him over the two days of his stay started me thinking. The usual island moans about the ferry, the weather or something someone said that has irked is small beer indeed. Life on this island must have been a constant struggle and not that many generations ago either. I'll try to remember that the next time the ferry doesn't get in!
On 23rd we had a 30th birthday party for Vicky Mathers. It was fancy dress and the theme was the letter M. Many made merry as islanders dressed as Minions, musketeers, Mary Poppins, Mad hatters, monks, Madonna, mechanics, Maid Marion - and all manner of mad millinery all mingled in Port Mor House. The vote for best child's costume was a close-run thing but Tara MacEwen's Mermaid won the night. The adult section though was much more clear cut with Sharon Hawan's massive Marmite makeover amassing many more admirers than her nearest rival. Mmmm!
On the farm, the tups are in with the ewes and, judging by the number of ewes with red raddled crayon marks on them, it will be busy from the outset come lambing time. The teachers shortlisted for the school here came to have a look round on 25th and then headed back for interviews in Mallaig the next day. It's always a problem attracting teachers out here and so important we find a good teacher who will enjoy this lifestyle. Fingers crossed, as they say!
ISLE OF CANNA
First event of this month was the annual Guy Fawkes Night bonfire. Pete and Liz have had a busy autumn in Canna House garden, which provided an ample supply of hedgetrimmings to add to the burning pile, complete with guy. Later, we retreated to Cafe Canna, opened for the evening courtesy of Gareth, for a few drinks, games and tunes. (Look out for Cafe Canna's own brewed ale at an outlet in Mallaig this winter!) And there will be an even bigger pile of hedgetrimmings to come! Just as well we are planning another New Year bonfire in January.
On Sunday 10th, Remembrance Sunday, following Donald's suggestion, a group of us spent a few quiet moments in our wee island graveyard just up the hill behind the Square. Donald had researched the tragic story of the steam trawler William Humphries, which I have reproduced here:
"Exactly 80 years ago this month (21st November) the steam trawler William Humphries was sunk 75 miles off the coast of Northern Ireland with the loss of all its 13 crew.
The story of the William Humphries begins over one hundred years ago in Aberdeen when the Admiralty commissioned a number of steam trawlers for harbour defence and mine sweeping roles. Completed on 24th December 1918 by J Duthie Shipbuilding Yard, Torry, Aberdeen, the vessel was one of what were called "Castle" class trawlers. All were named after ordinary seamen who served at the Battle of Trafalgar in either HMS Royal Sovereign or HMS Victory. 21 year old William Humphries from Caernarvon in North Wales was a victim of the notorious press gangs and served in Nelson's flag ship HMS Victory.
The William Humphries did not stay a Royal Navy ship for long, being sold by the Admiralty in 1920 to a J Ritchie of Milford Haven. For the next 19 years the vessel was part of the British fishing fleet and changed hands several times. The St Andrew's Steam Fishing Company of Fleetwood were the last owners, acquiring the vessel on 4th August 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Her last voyage in the company of another trawler, the Sulby, ended between 0830 and 0920 on the morning of 21st November 1939. Both trawlers came under attack from a German submarine, U-33 under the command of Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky. The U-33 sank both trawlers with the use of her deck gun. The 13 crew of the William Humphries took to the only lifeboat.
What happened next is unknown but tragically all 13 died, probably of hypothermia. Sadly not all of crew were recovered however two were washed up and buried on Barra, three on Skye and one on Canna. This small graveyard is the last resting place of the Skipper of the William Humphries, Charles Horace Bridge, from Fleetwood, Lancashire."
Fiona sang a few words in Gaelic, from a song written in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme, as we stood, in quiet reflection, by the graveside.
Gerry was off to mart again, with more calves. This trip however, also saw the end of Hamish the Aberdeen Angus bull's time on Canna. Hamish, I always thought, never quite appeared to be one of the smartest of the bovine race, though there could never be any doubt that he knew what he was here to do. I think I shall miss him, standing immovably in the centre of the track, or forcing his head through the netting, half-removing the fence posts from the ground to get at the richer grass in the garden, almost taking out the washing on the line in the process...
Congratulations go to Anna, (Naidheachd sgoinneil..!) who was a winner in the 'Gaelic as an Economic Asset' Arts and Culture Award at the ceremony in Glasgow on the 18th, for her Graficanna design company.
And, as reported in the last issue, Gerry will be off to Edinburgh on the 5th December to the finals of the Scottish Green Energy Awards, to see if our CREE (Canna Renewable Energy and Electrification) scheme can pick up the 'Best Community Project' prize, out of four finalists.
And still on awards . . . Canna's Community Shop has been named as one of three finalists in our category for the 2019 Rural Community Business Awards, hosted by the Plunkett Foundation. Isebail gets the honour of travelling to Burlington House in London (home to a number of learned Societies) on the 27th November. We believe we are the only nominee present from Scotland.
And finally . . . Seasons Greetings and best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year to all our neighbours and readers of West Word, from everyone on Canna. (Nollaig Chridheil..! as one of Anna's t-shirts would say..)
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
November saw Canna Archivist, Fiona Mackenzie, head to Glasgow to the Daily Record National Scottish Gaelic awards, with her project #GaelTrail, as a finalist in the 'International' category. This category is for projects or individuals who promote Gaelic best overseas. The event, held in the Marriot Hotel, celebrates all those projects, businesses and organisations who work year-round to use and promote the Gaelic language and culture. This year was especially important for Canna itself as island business Graficanna was also nominated in the 'Gaelic as an Economic Asset' category.
Having a table just for Canna on the evening was a first and showed that even a wee place like Canna can still have major national and international impact! Just being nominated is an achievement in itself and although #GaelTrail did not win the award this time round (Canna House won the Event of the Year in 2018), the table was delighted when Anna Munro of Graficanna won her category!
A favourite poem of Margaret Fay Shaw's was written by her friend, poet Kathleen Raine, for Christmas in Canna House. Here is a criomag from the poem, describing Christmases past in the House.
Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh Uile!
The cards that brighten the New Year, a Christmas tree grown in the wood
The crimson curtains drawn, the owl who, porcelain, holds a lamp
To read the music on the Steinway Grand piano with its slipping scores of Couperin, Chopin and Ravel
John and Margaret Campbell made this room to house the things they treasure
Records of Scotland's speech and song, lore of butterfly and bird
And velvet cats step soft among learned journals on the floor.
For the Visitor's Book. Kathleen Raine
Kathleen Raine outside Canna House
ISLE OF RUM
It was great to see the West Word was 25 years old last month and see the kids write the articles; it looks like they enjoyed it. The Rum children had fun putting their article together.
November was dominated for some by the decision of SNH not to proceed with asset transfer application of Kinloch Castle to KCFA. Perhaps not an unsurprising decision as the amount of initial funding was high and SNH decided the ultimate success of the business plan hinged on this, but still disappointing. What will the future hold for the castle now?
Our Bonfire night and BBQ was dry and clear and well attended. It was great to see all the Mowi Crowd and the Rhododendron contractors there too. On that note…IRCT and SNH have started a joint Rhododendron eradication programme for the village. This is significant and will make a huge difference to how the village looks and make woodland management a lot easier. This has been a long time coming. Looks like the fellas will be here for some months tackling it all.
On the back of the recent press coverage over non-landing cruises to the Small Isles, there is furore with Transport Scotland over their inability to understand how these cruises affect all of the islands during the busy summer period. This has led to a flurry of letters, with our replies from MSPs and Transport Scotland all saying different things! We collated our replies, pointing out inconsistencies and asked our local councillor, Denis Rixson, to raise them at the recent Ferry User Group meeting. We'd like to think this could all be resolved before the next summer timetable begins.
Progress on our new houses has been significant: one at least has a roof on and windows were delivered last week. The long spell of dry weather has helped and we are still on schedule. The builders have taken residence in No. 1 Kinloch Cottages for the winter in preference to a caravan. A warm house should help keep them happy!
We were delighted to hear that Ali and Sean Morris won an award from Edinburgh University for their work on the Kilmory deer project. Congrats to both for all the work you put in, long may it continue!
Something new for Rum… we have Scouts! Joss and Eve and will soon be invested into the 11th Lochaber Isle of Rum Scout Troop. Along with Scout leader Jenny, they are very excited and are looking forward to lots of activities and meeting up with the rest of the Lochaber Scouts for camps!
Last month we said goodbye to Trudi and Steve, who have moved to pastures new. Trudi has been the IRCT ranger for the past 4 years, and next year we will be looking to recruit another for this exciting seasonal position.
November birthdays were Joss (10) and baby Aila (1).
Merry Christmas to everyone from Rum.
ISLE OF EIGG
First of all heartfelt congratulations to the Mallaig High editing team: they did a fantastic job of producing a very special edition celebrating the paper's 25th anniversary! And Eigg Primary of course has excelled itself! So great to see all these pictures of folks 25 years younger!
Eigg Primary has been busy this month, preparing for the fundraising at the Christmas Market on 29th November, where the community gathered together to sample a variety of cakes, tasty street food, seasonal drinks: the school funds are now replenished! Lots of nice things to buy also, from Justine's latest art photographs - no digital tricks there - the real stuff - to Catherine and Pascal's baskets, Hilda's embroidered creations and Amanda's natural cosmetics and candles.
A few days later, it was off to Lageorna for a lunch in aid of the baby foodbank in Glasgow: again. a sizeable amount was raised, £294 altogether! It was so lovely at Lageorna, we all wanted to do it again soon! There is no lack of good causes in these hard days of austerity and climate emergency...
Much thought was given to serious topics this month, and following MOWI 's visit, where they were asked searching and well informed questions, residents finally voted by a majority of 87% of the votes against any proposal to site a fish farm off the coast of Eigg. A really momentous decision for the island! Then it was the Island residents signing of the Transition pledge as part of the Clean Energy EU islands programme. And finally, at our latest residents meeting, we also agreed to adopt the Climate Emergency declaration penned by Laura and Dougal. This is a great follow-up on our Eiggstinction Rebellion awareness raising last summer, and now we need to look at what can be done at community and individual level.
Having attended a brilliant workshop on climate change and communities at the European Rural Parliament in early November, where I was pleased to have been invited to speak about Island revival in general and Eigg in particular - I was impressed by the message of the workshop leaders from ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability. Davie Philip from the Irish eco-village of Cloughjordan stressed that the challenge of transitioning to a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Society requires not just action at national and international levels but, most importantly, it requires ongoing, long-term, deep engagement at local community level.
"Community led initiatives across Europe and elsewhere are actively envisioning creating and living within alternatives that are rooted within sustainability, equality and social justice. These initiatives must be supported and become the basis of a new normal if Europe is to achieve its ambitious targets on climate action and sustainability," said Francesca, the other workshop leader. I wish we could hear more of this discourse from our politicians rather than the usual campaign hype that we are being subjected to in election times.
So we have an ambitious programme on our hands, and plenty to keep us busy this winter if we are serious about such engagements. Sorting out the way we deal with our waste as part of the first phase of the new pier redevelopment might very well be the first challenge to address now that a new architect team has been appointed. The team, WT Architecture, came to have a look at the site and seem ready to tackle what is not going to be an easy task by any standards: good to see a start being made! We are also looking forward to a visit by the Lochaber Environmental Group, who promised to come in the autumn and will now be coming in the new year, as it is a case of joined up strategies and working together to achieve a common goal.
In the meantime, it is the season of merriment starting and we are all looking forward to the Christmas show on the 17th and Santa's visit after the Christmas community meal on the 20th. So from all of us on Eigg, here's WISHING ALL OUR WEST WORD READERS A GREAT FESTIVE SEASON!
Success for Dawn at the Scottish Gaelic Awards
In last month's West Word, Mallaig High School pupils reported that Mallaig Primary School (Gaelic Medium) teacher Dawn MacPhie had been nominated for an award at the Scottish Gaelic Awards - and she won!
The award was for 'Innovation in Education' and recognises Dawn's dedication to teaching Gaelic. Dawn has developed her own phonics programme for the children, which produces fast results for children entering Gaelic-medium education, and also a new writing programme which has led to an increase in the quality and volume of her pupils' work. She has also implemented a play-based approach to learning which is proving very successful.
The West Word area was well represented at the Gaelic Awards this year with Anna Rothach also picking up an award (see cover) for her Gaelic slogan t-shirts, badges, cards and Christmas jumpers. A nominator said 'Anna could have chosen to go down the graphic design route in an English world, but has focussed her business towards Gaelic, and in a rural community, helping to build the profile of her brand and the island'. The Canna Folklore Archives were also nominated for an award for the project #GaelTrail, in the 'International' category - read more about the night in Fiona Mackenzie's column.
Timber 'Eiggxport' - Timber Harvesting on Eigg
Firstly, I cannot take credit for the somewhat amusing play on words in the title - this must be handed to Wood Knoydart. It does however, begin to paint the picture of just what a collaborative effort came together here on Eigg this autumn, to successfully pull off the first in a programme of timber harvesting in Eigg's conifer plantation.
Our plantation sits roughly in the centre of the island and was established by one of Eigg's previous landowners (1983). The trees were never actively managed and are now reaching a mature height, so as with any crop, they require harvest. With Eigg's remote island location, very fragile infrastructure, schedule one protected wildlife, busy visitor seasons, wintry weather conditions and a modest volume of timber to contend with (in commercial terms), the project faced significant challenges to get on its feet.
For a while it felt a little like 'solve one problem, then the next, then the next.' Not to be deterred however, we decided - with the support of Community Woodlands Association - that we would stick to delivering the project collaboratively with partners, rather than contracting the services of a management company. It still felt like the right solution for the community.
It took time to find the right partners, though the first had been waiting patiently in the wings for something like six years! Ian Shaw of Glencoe Timber Ltd - an independent, very experienced harvesting contractor - first came to Eigg to see what could be done to reintroduce access to one of Eigg's favourite woodlands, the 'Manse', after the devastating storm some eight years ago. We have been grateful to have benefited not just from Ian's expertise, but also his unerring positivity! Both he and the members of his team, Tracy, Mike and Leszek all became familiar faces during their stay. We required permissions from Highland Council to use both the road and the pier to extract the timber and we needed a ship that could use the pier in just the same way as the CalMac ferry; this was tricky. Luckily however, an introduction to Troon Tug Co. was just the fit. The Red Princess - a 64m landing craft - rather dwarfed the pier on each of her visits! They, just like Ian, showed a real willingness to help our small community succeed. It was our neighbouring community of Knoydart that completed the on-island contractual team, through Wood Knoydart. Not long out of successfully concluding a similarly sized project on the peninsula utilising their new timber trailer and crane, they had heard of the challenges we faced and proposed their first 'overseas' project. Drawing on the experience and support of Ian, Grant and Lorna, this showed a lot of what community-to-community working can look like. Ian became a common sight on Eigg's road, moving timber safely down to the pier!
Glennon Brothers were the final jigsaw piece. They were swift to offer up support, noting the innovative approach within the industry.
With the chain complete, work commenced at the start of August - a busy time for Eigg! The operation seemed to slot in fairly seamlessly with normal Eigg life and we worked hard to try and minimise disruption, thanking everyone for their patience and support. Residents shared their enthusiasm and support for the project as it progressed and we certainly answered a lot of interested visitors' questions.
The cutting and transport was complete as we started into October, with the final cargo collected just a day before Halloween. In total around 2,200 tonnes were exported, with additional materials retained here on the island for our woodfuel enterprise.
As the project has wrapped up, I have been rather in awe of its success. The strength of the relationships built over its course and the level of planning that went into the project was evident from start to finish. For me, in the role of project manager, I have been so fortunate and lucky to be a part of this project; the experience, expertise and the will to succeed shown by everyone involved has been truly impressive. It also made for some good fun along the way!
The positive impacts will be widely felt. From providing the community with between 3-5 years of firewood, building on local skills and knowledge, contributing to both Eigg's and another local community's economy, and giving Eigg's community the opportunity to restructure and diversify its woodlands - to name a few.
Now attention turns to planting, as what comes down must be replaced. The ambition is to replant with as many home grown trees as possible from Eigg's own Tree Nursery.
I have to mention of course, the swan song of the project; the clearing of Manse Wood. Ian Shaw was able finally to complete the work that first brought him to the island. Ian's careful approach has reintroduced access to this beautiful woodland and will hopefully aid some natural regrowth, to support additional planting.
I sign off with a huge and very sincere thank you, to all the partners involved in turning this community ambition into reality; highlighting just what can be achieved through working together.
Rebecca Long, Development Manager, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.
Eigg Residents Vote on Fish Farm Proposal
Following a meeting with MOWI, who have obtained a Lease Option Agreement for a proposed site at the north end of Eigg, residents have decisively voted against any fish farm development off the coast of Eigg. (87% voted against such a proposal).
Concerned residents undertook research into the potential impact of fish farms on biodiversity, wildlife, waters and coastline around the island. A farm of the size proposed (16 x 160m cages) could be devastating to our marine environment. Negative impacts on tourism and 'green' businesses, which are vital to our economy and community, were of further concern. A wide range of related questions were put to MOWI, who have subsequently assured the Isle of Eigg Residents' Association that the Lease Option Agreement will not be pursued in light of the clear lack of community support.
An ongoing concern for Eigg Environmental Action Group is the cumulative impact of more fish farms in the area. The Small Isles are amongst the very few islands in Scotland given National Scenic Area status and form one of the most environmentally protected areas of sea in Scotland. It is vital that the cumulative impact of fish-farm expansion in this area is taken into account if we are to successfully protect our islands' unique coastal landscapes and precious marine environment.
We hope to work together with other island and coastal communities in Scotland who are being targeted by industrialised fish farm developments and are looking for alternative small scale, sustainable solutions.
Eigg Environmental Action Group
A Write Highland Hoolie! Mallaig Book Festival
Friday 8th - Sunday 10th November 2019
The fourth Mallaig Book Festival was such a success that we're already planning the fifth! Put Friday 6th to Sunday 8th November 2020 in your diaries now! Many thanks to all of you who came to join in and give your support. We're busy fundraising now, and you can help by selecting us as your Co-op Community Fund cause.
There was something for everyone at the Hoolie weekend with authors covering a very wide range of subjects, plus Bookbug for toddlers and music in the evenings. Our expansion into the Primary School proved to be very rewarding. All the children from the surrounding primary schools, as well as those in the Small Isles, were invited to Mallaig Primary for these events. Author-publisher Alan Windram, whose One Button Benny won the Scottish Book Trust's Picture Book of the year, proved incredibly popular with his performance where all the children participated with singing and dancing.
Three authors held events in Mallaig High School. Illustrator Kate Leiper held an art workshop for senior pupils, while Mick Kitson - author of the Saltire prize winning Sal - also held a captivating event, as did Theresa Breslin, who was not only awarded the Scottish Book Trust's Outstanding Achievement Award this year, but also an OBE. Kate and Theresa went to Mallaig Primary School on the Friday afternoon and did a special session there together featuring their latest book collaboration, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends.
Former Edinburgh Makar, Ron Butlin, judged the children's writing competition. We held a tea party and prize giving on Sunday afternoon, opening with some wonderful Gaelic singing from the youngest primary school choir. Mallaig Primary School parents laid on a sumptuous tea and donations for this went towards their school projects. On Monday morning, Ron Butlin held an event in Mallaig Primary School to round off what was a really memorable and happy weekend.
We hope to expand our children's section of the festival even further next year as we believe that giving children a love of literature is paramount. The strengths of our festival are that it is small, and therefore personal. Visitors are able to mingle with authors bringing a unique atmosphere that sets us apart from the wealth of other book festivals around Scotland and visitors are returning year after year. At night when the music and drams flow, both visitors and authors join in - some with songs, and some with recitals and stories, as well as impromptu playing.
We must thank our generous sponsors, without whom there would not be A Write Highland Hoolie!
D C Thomson Charitable Trust - The Soames Family, Camusrory, Knoydart - The Mackintosh Foundation - The Arisaig Fund - The Gower Trust - Morar Community Council and Community Trust - Northwick Estate - The Scots Magazine & Robert Wight - Lochaber Housing Association - Isle of Harris Gin - MOWI
And the support of Mallaig High School, Mandy Tevendale, Valerie Campbell, Fiona MacInnes - the Primary School cluster, Deirdre Beck - Bookbug, Anne Nicholson & Judi Cairns - Kenneth MacKenzie - Malcolm Poole & Mallaig Heritage Centre - The Highland Bookshop - Clare Mackie - MacDonald Orr Designs - West Word - and last but definitely not at all the least, The West Highland Hotel and the Davis family. Polly Pullar, Ann Martin, Sine Davis and Deirdre Roberts.
Harry Otter and his Escapades
Many of us are now aware of Harry Otter and his escapades around Mallaig, so here's a bigger picture of Harry's story.
Harry Otter had been seen on several occasions around the harbour area, doing what otters do best - eating discarded/dropped fish, sometimes even being fed fish by many. It had been noted that Harry had a pretty serious back right leg injury and although was still fully mobile, had a fairly bad limp and wasn't using that leg as it must have been too painful.
I had a phone call from the I.O.S.F. (International Otter Survival Fund) at Broadford, Skye, advising me that they had received a report from Julie Macrae at CalMac, where he had also been seen, and photos were duly forwarded to them. They were naturally very concerned and I was asked to keep an eye on him and if possible, try and get him into a crate and over to Skye for him to receive the best possible care and attention which he so desperately needed. There were many others who had also been in touch with them, also concerned for his welfare.
Despite many sightings of him over the course of a few days, circumstances were just not ideal nor feasible to attempt any sort of attempt at crating him safely. Plans were afoot to send me over some antibiotics and worming tablets to be on the safe side - but would he even have been interested in a fish containing them when so much more was freely available?
Friday 15th presented the ideal opportunity as he had been fed fish by staff from Andy Race Fish Merchants and was curled up, belly full, snoozing behind some fish boxes in the compound. Lewis (husband) took me straight down in the van along with a medium sized dog crate suitable for his size. By that time he had awoken from his slumbers and was definitely not too keen to be corralled into a dog crate, but after several attempts we managed to corner him between two fish boxes with the open dog crate forming the third part of a triangle and the only option for him to move into - which he easily did.
Permission was sought (and granted) from CalMac for me to take him over to Skye and hand him over to the I.S.O.F. waiting on the other side. A calm quiet crossing until the public service announcements near Skye came over the loud speakers accompanied by the car alarms - he didn't like that one bit, and turned from a calm otter into an otter possessed with getting out! A collapsible dog crate has now been found not to be a great problem for a determined otter and after pulling off one of the carrying handles he also decided to pull down one of the sides in his attempt to gain his freedom. Not wanting to lose him before getting him collected, I realised that the side would have to be put back to its original position to secure him once again, so whilst he was busy at the other end of the crate - or so I thought - I quickly tried to pull the side back, only to find that our little Harry Otter was a pretty quick agile little guy and he quickly found my fingers! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Sadly Harry Otter didn't survive beyond the week-end. On arrival at I.O.S.F. he was found to be a young dog otter and underweight - less than five kilos.
He was sent to S.R.U.C. - (veterinary diagnostics) to carry out a post mortem to determine the exact nature of his injuries which had clearly caused his demise. The following initial statement was received by the I.O.S.F. and forwarded to me -
"The otter from Mallaig had a severe [de-gloving] injury to the right hind leg exposing bone. It had become deeply infected. It also had a soft tissue wound under its chin. The damage done occurred at least some days before it was found and it was in very poor bodily condition. Consistent with a vehicle strike."
As yet any internal injures he may have suffered are unknown, but given the injury to his back leg alone, it would have been impossible for him to hunt fish successfully and thrive in the wild. A likely reason he was making the most of the fish on offer around the harbour.
It is always a difficult decision to make - do you help or don't you? In this case I think it was the absolute right decision to have been made to try and help a wild animal quite obviously suffering.
My thanks goes to all who kept an eye on him whilst he was around the harbour area and all who helped in anyway with him. My fingers? A tetanus booster and antibiotics for a week are a small price to pay and there aren't many who can claim they've been bitten by an otter! I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Rest in peace Harry.
Marion Affleck (Marine Mammal Medic, Mallaig)
Mallaig Harbour News
The good news this month is that there have been landings of sprats all month. The first landing was the 5th November and there have been landings most days since then. It has of course been a perfect spell of weather for the sprats with settled colder days for most of the month. It's great to see the activity on the pier - and there has been no shortage of visitors interested in what's going on, not least the seals who very quickly realised which berth was for the Sprats landing and have been hanging about each day waiting for their share!
The Lord of the Isles has been in dry dock in Edinburgh for much of the month, which has meant that there have been no sailings to Lochboisdale, but she arrived back in Mallaig on Sunday 24th November, so normal service has now resumed.
I had a day in Inverness on Monday 11th November, at a workshop about the draft of study commissioned by Highland Council, and part funded by the Fisheries Local Action Group, to identify the scale, structure and economic contribution of the fishery and aquaculture sector in smaller communities, and the level of reliance these communities have on these sectors. In part this study was intended to provide evidence for the Highlands to make an argument for continued funding when we leave the EU. It was interesting to hear the different perspectives round the table, and to understand the contributions that different industries make, so hopefully the finished study will provide a good basis for arguing the case for future support.
That week I also attended the British Ports Association Scottish Ports Group meeting in Edinburgh on Wednesday 13th, which was followed by a parliamentary reception. Lorna Spencer, one of our Board members, and a previous Chair of the Scottish Ports Group accompanied me, and it was a really good opportunity to meet people from other Ports and Harbours, and to understand a bit about what is going on elsewhere in Scotland. The Parliamentary reception was held in the Garden Lobby and included speeches from the British Ports Association and the UK Chamber of Shipping on the importance of the maritime sector, which were echoed by Liam MacArthur and Michael Matheson. It was rounded off with a tour of the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament, which is a very impressive space, and I was quite proud to see Maggie Fyffe's portrait hanging on the wall on the way in!
One of the topics on the Agenda was the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020. This is one of the Scottish Government's themed years, and is obviously very relevant to this area. There are a number of events planned throughout the country but there are other opportunities for businesses and organisations to get involved, and lots of information on the VisitScotland website. Even if you just use #ycw2020 in your social media posts, or download the logo and add it to your marketing, it's a great chance to promote the area!
Finally, we'd like to wish all the Harbour users a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes!
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
9th October 2019
Launched at 18:20 by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie, Knoydart. A female was to be transferred to Hospital in Fort William. Lifeboat berthed at Inverie at 18:35 to be met by the patient and a colleague. The patient was boarded and Lifeboat returned to Mallaig, berthing at 19:00. Patient transferred to Ambulance and taken to Belford Hospital, Fort William. Lifeboat ready for service at 19:10.
10th November 2019
Launched at 21:16 to convey paramedics to Airor on the Knoydart peninsula. After clearing the harbour, it was found that weather conditions along with a low spring tide meant that a Y-Boat transfer at Airor would be unsuitable. Coastguards liaised with Ambulance service to have the patient transferred to Inverie pier where conditions were far better in the shelter of the NE wind. Once on scene the patient was brought onboard clearly in pain and attended to by the Medics. Departed Inverie at 22:25 and docked at the pontoon in Mallaig at 23:00 where the patient was transferred to Fort William's Belford Hospital by ambulance. Lifeboat ready for service at 23:15.
17th October 2019
Tasked to convey Scottish Ambulance personnel to the Island of Eigg to recover one person suffering from breathing difficulties back to the mainland.
BIRDWATCH October 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
Typical autumnal bird movements during October. Wader passage dwindled rapidly. On the 7th, four Golden Plover were in a field by Traigh golf course and on the 27th, three late Whimbrel were on the beach at Camusdarroch.
Substantial numbers of Pink-footed Geese continued to pass over during the first week, with reports from Arisaig, Morar and Loch Ailort. On the morning of the 1st, 560 plus in five skeins passed over Loch Ailort in less than one hour. On the 2nd, three Pink-feet were in a field at Traigh feeding alongside the Greylags. On the 11th there were still two lingering there.
Whooper Swans were reported throughout the month. On the 13th, four were seen flying south over Rhu, Arisaig. Early the following morning four were seen resting on Loch nan Ceall. On the 25th, 41 (20 + 21) were seen on Loch Ailort. Interestingly the second group had a Pale-bellied Brent Goose tagging along with them. Other sightings included nine over Camusdarroch on the 26th and two over Morar on the 27th. In the Back of Keppoch - Invercaimbe area, a juvenile Whooper Swan was with a flock of Greylag geese during the last week of the month.
From the 11th several Goldeneye were on Loch Morar and from the 29th a juvenile Long-tailed Duck was seen around the salmon pens on Loch Ailort. Numbers of Great Northern Divers built up as the month progressed with most reports from Loch nan Uamh, Loch nan Ceall and offshore from Traigh. On the 26th a Leach's Petrel was seen about two miles west of Arisaig.
Huge arrivals of migrant thrushes by mid-month, predominantly Fieldfares and Redwings. They soon stripped the Rowan trees of their berries and the bulk of them had moved on by the end of the month.
Mid-month there were good sized flocks of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls feeding on birch and alder in the Loch nan Eala area. News just received this month of a Lesser Redpoll ringed in Morar on 20th May 2017 which was found freshly dead on the 2nd April 2018 in Jallais, Maine et Loire, France - 1,136km SSE from the ringing location. The bird was an adult female and would have probably spent the previous winter in France.
Several reports again of Tawny Owls in the Woodside and Rhubana area of Morar. Several sightings of Sea Eagles from throughout the area, including an adult low over the swimming pool/High School on the 12th. An immature/female Merlin was seen on two occasions hunting over fields at Back of Keppoch and at Traigh.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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