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December 2020 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
JACOBITE HOARD DISCOVERED ON RHU PENINSULA
A stockpile of munitions, including 215 musket balls and a number of gold and silver gilt buttons and coins, intended for Bonnie Prince Charlie's army, has been discovered recently on a croft beside Loch nan Uamh. Metal detectorists Paul Macdonald, David McGovern and Gary Burton from the Conflicts of Interest battlefield archaeology group uncovered the cache in September this year. 'Arms were landed a couple of weeks after the Battle of Culloden and never saw service, but were rapidly distributed and hidden locally. From what the finds tell us to date, the musket balls were cast for use, yet never fired and correspond with the same calibre of musket balls landed nearby with French arms for the Jacobite Rising by the ships Mars and Bellone on the 30th April 1746,' said Mr Macdonald.
'The now-ruined croft where they were found was once inhabited by the famous Clanranald bard, Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair, who was an officer in the '45 Rising and served as Gaelic tutor to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. He lived out his later years here at this croft until his death in 1770. The find has been reported to Treasure Trove and will hopefully find its way to a Scottish museum.'
Be part of Scotland's first Co-operative Brewery!
After a long-time in the planning, The Isle of Eigg Brewery's Community Share Offer is now live (and since the publication of the printed edition of West Word the Brewery has reached its target! - Ed.) Set up by Eigg's Stu McCarthy and Ben Cormack, the brewery wants to make great-tasting beer for social and environmental good and is looking for investors.
'We want The Isle of Eigg Brewery to be more than a brewery,' says Stu. 'Somewhere that makes tasty, exciting beer, but whose profits are directed back into the local area and the people who support us. So for a start we'd employ three islanders in three years and create an annual grant for local business start-ups. Beer is about community. The success of community-owned pubs shows this. A local brewery is about that locality and could bring lots of indirect benefits across Lochaber.'
They plan for a building in the heart of the island, with PV solar panels (and Eigg Electric's renewable system in the winter) to make 100% renewably-made beer, with the first brew ready by next April.
'The idea of a co-operative brewery reaches out beyond Eigg,' Ben added. 'We're owned by our members, many of whom we hope will come from this area. We want to make beer that people in Lochaber can literally call their own.'
To grab your share or help support, you'll find everything you need to know at: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/eiggbrewery
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
In last December's Letter from the Editor I wrote how much was going on locally. Well, this year might be rather different, but there's still plenty to read about in the paper! Your Christmas messages are on pages 14-15, Book Festival news is on page 17, and there's some great art work by Muck and Eigg primary schools to look out for!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Here's hoping next year turns out to be a lot more 'normal' than this one.
As ever, thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, and to Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes.
Can't believe we are on the countdown to Christmas now. It's been a quick month really (despite all the rubbish weather) and usually would have begun with bonfire night and the annual Long Beach fire but, like so many things this year, it didn't go ahead. Some nice fireworks were let off down the end of the pier though to at least mark one of the most loved community events. Here's hoping next year will be bigger and better than ever.
The Christmas craft fair did go ahead, with 15 stalls set up in the hall, selling products from our very talented locals. It was a one household at a time situation but the weather stayed dry which meant coffee and cakes could be had outside in a socially distanced manner of course.
The foundation had good news, announcing that they have been successful in their application for funding to purchase Millburn Cottage and the surrounding land. All being well, hopefully everything will be finalised at the start of February.
Knoydart Forest Trust have a new scheme on the go, "KnoydarTrees". The long term vision is to connect the woodland habitats across the peninsula which in turn would help to regenerate the woods and improve biodiversity, as well as it being, you know, good for the whole planet. A new woodland entirely will start to be established at Coire Sgreucha (I've no idea how to pronounce that so don't worry if you don't either!) which is out Glen Guiserein. As this is an area where there are lots of deer around and not much seed source a temporary fence will be erected to allow the new trees a chance to thrive. If anyone's interestedly you can actually donate to the Plant KnoydarTrees scheme by going to www.knoydartforesttrust.org/donate.
Christmas will be a different affair this year for so many; families and friends not able to see each other the way they'd like, no parties, no big build up to Hogmanay . . . But, I hope everyone manages to have some kind of fun in their own small ways and here's hoping 2021 will be better. For now, appreciate the small things and be glad we live where we do in this small part of the world.
Peace out folks,
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
So what has been happening in the Glen of late? Not only are our feet almost completely webbed with the tremendous recent rainfall but we have also become very skilled drivers, dodging the pothole at the National Trust building that just would not go away, but I am pleased to announce that it has now been filled in!
Firstly I have an unpleasant report of theft and vandalism. It was discovered one morning that the Wee Harry Potter Bridge donation boxes at the start of the glen road had been broken into and a small amount of money was taken.
Due to Covid restrictions, Remembrance Sunday was a quiet and reflective affair. Mr Charlie MacFarlane laid a wreath at our war memorial accompanied by his son, Mr Iain MacFarlane, who played a wonderful slow air on the bagpipes to commemorate the day.
Later on that evening were treated to a delight for the eyes as the Glenfinnan Viaduct was lit up in red in tribute of all who lost their lives during war. The Stage Group Co., who worked with Network Rail, streamed the event live for us all to see. Thank you to Martin Whyte, Rory Kay, Ali Hodnet and Lauren Fulton for their hard work to make this event happen.
We have had a couple of incidents with deer colliding with vehicles on our local roads of late. Please take a little extra care when driving through the Glen.
The New car park in now completed! The tender for the footpath and Wee Harry Potter Bridge has been awarded to a local Mallaig business - Coast Construction Management - and work on these projects is expected to start in the New Year. The footpath and bridge will be accessed through the new car park and will reduce the foot traffic along the busy A830.
Finally, don't know what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? Now available is "Building the Mallaig Railway, a Photographer's story." Written by Hege Hernes. This wonderful book is jammed packed with lots of old photographs dating back to 1900. It casts a light on the lives of the people who built our railway, the work they did and the sacrifices they made. It really is the perfect coffee table read! For a copy please contact Hege Hernes at Glenfinnan Station. https://glenfinnanstationmuseum.co.uk
I am super excited to announce that released on December 5th was the third CD from The Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band - The Road to Glenfinnan. Get those dancing shoes on, grab Grampa and have a whirl round the living room! Please buy your copy from Mallaig Art Shop or buy directly online at www.oldlaundryproductions.com
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur.
ISLE OF MUCK
Hi Muck calling......
Well hasn't that been a rapid month? . . . We have all pretty much been keeping within our own walls at the moment or does it just seem that way? Without a regular ferry through November due to the elusive perch, the pilgrimage to the pier for the normal news catch-up just wasn't the same. GOOD NEWS though - the pole has been recovered and sent on its holidays for a makeover, and has been replaced by a temporary marker to surely allow CalMac to enter the harbour.
Christmas fever has hit Muck with trees and lights appearing in windows, and the smell of mincemeat and gingerbread is in the wind. With the first Sunday of Advent just past us, Santa lists and letters will ferociously be being scribbled and tweaked. The Tearoom is still muddling along three days a week, with the rest of the week set aside for chocolate and Christmas orders being sent as far away as New Zealand.
Lastly just a big shout out to Colin and Gareth for venturing across the water to Eigg and Rum to collect our freight and post.
Well that's our news this month! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a covid free New Year.
Kind and warm regards
ISLE OF CANNA
Bonfire night and fireworks (socially distanced, of course) were just what we needed this month to cheer us all up. The bonfire had been accumulating since last year and was huge. Thanks to Gareth for supplying the fabulous fireworks. Already starting to build next year's bonfire with all the hedge cuttings from Canna House garden as Pete and Liz have been giving the Escalonia tunnel a much-needed haircut!
Gareth at CafeCanna also treated us all to a fantastic roast lunch using Canna Beltie beef, veggies from Canna House Garden, rhubarb from Change House garden for the crumble, and Pete's redcurrant pie was an extra wee treat. This was all washed down with a few pints of CafeCanna's own brew, The Jack. I won't say too much about the arm wrestling . . .
Our contractors have been over to service our wind turbines and we have had a bit of extra training in lowering and raising the turbines and looking at how they are serviced. Lots still to learn. Steve Wade from Wind and Sun has also serviced our batteries and checked the solar panels and Jamie MacIntyre from Fort William has also been over to service the generators, so all going well things are all set for winter.
Our lone magpie is still around although there have been reports of a pair sighted; very unusual for Canna - interesting to hear if there are any in the other Small Isles.
Five new tups have arrived from Dingwall Mart, three Cheviots to go with our main flock and two Texels for crossing to produce a good butcher's lamb or breeding stock, as a Cheviot X Texel produces a good shapely sheep.
We have set up a weekly table tennis night for Thursdays, with a very competitive league. Some folk are very good but there is lots of room for improvement. Good fun though.
The Community Development Trust and our Development Officer, Andrew Prendergast, are working on lots of exciting projects for the next few years and despite Covid these are moving forward. Having Andrew on board has been a huge bonus for us and this type of support should be available to all small communities and funding should be readily available.
Wishing our neighbours on Rum all the best with your new residents and hope it all goes well.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
November gave me the opportunity to take a trip over to North Glendale, South Uist - the first obviously, this year - and to revisit the places where Margaret Fay Shaw lived for nearly six years from 1929. January will see the production of a new Radio 3 documentary about Margaret and as part of this, the production company invited me to go to Uist and speak to people who knew Margaret and the life she led there. Thankfully, the Covid outbreak on the island was declared over and allowed us to go for a weekend. I was also delighted to be given the use of "Taigh Mŕiri Anndra" for the weekend, the house where Margaret lived with the Macrae sisters, all now renovated and operating as a lovely holiday cottage.
En route to South Uist through Skye, we were able to rendezvous with North Glendale resident and Gaelic singer, Paul McCallum, who knew Margaret very well and whose mother Flora looked after Peigi and Mairi Macrae when they were older. In his interview he gave us a good insight into the reasons for Margaret's drive to learn to live as a crofter and also her musical expertise. We met up with him in Broadford, where a wheel puncture had to be dealt with before finding somewhere quiet enough and out of the wind, to be able to record him talking and singing too. The glories of showbiz . . .!
The weather during our stay could not have been more glorious and it was a pity we weren't making a TV documentary instead of radio as the island was stunning in its Autumn colours.
During our time there we were able to speak with the current owner of Taigh Mairi Andra, Maria, and get her to tell us the fascinating story of the renovation of the cottage. She is keen to tell her clients the story of the house and I have given her prints of some of Margaret's photos of the house to help tell the story. One of the most interesting aspects of the trip was comparing the cottage and its surroundings today, to what it would have been like in 1930 when Margaret lived there. The landscape has not changed much; there are a few newer houses and most of the original croft cottages have disappeared (although there are now several in the glen for holiday let), but basically the landscape is as it was. Even the animals have not changed.
And we might very well wonder what on earth Peigi and Mairi Macrae would make of the latest technology now installed in the cottage! Wifi, showers, 4G, TV and hot running water! A miracle :0)
ISLE OF RUM
The shocking announcement from CalMac to potentially ravage our loose freight provision came as a huge surprise. A proposed maximum weight reduction of 90% and a cost increase of 450% is hardly reasonable and made us all quite angry as thoughtless changes such as these would make life on the Small Isles very difficult and a lot more expensive. Despite the Islands (Scotland) Bill designed to help iron out inequalities for life on the islands, it still seems there is a massive lack of understanding of how we live and how much we rely on our lifeline ferry service. Needless to say, action is being taken.
Two of our four new families arrived in November. Sareth Brown and Hywel Lewis with their children Dylan (8), Isobel (5) and Edwin (2 months) moved in first. Some of you may remember that Hywel and Sareth lived on Rum some years ago and have been wanting to return for some time, having detoured in Aberdeenshire, Devon and Derbyshire on their way back. Alex Mumford and Buffy Cracknell were next. Due to the lockdown, they hadn't visited Rum prior to moving here and only had some comprehensive videos made by Ali and Eve to go by. A leap of faith for such a big move, especially when you move here in the rain and Rum isn't at its best in November… A gang of us turned out to help with moving in and were repaid by a fabulous batch of Alex's scones as a thank you. so far, so good!
Alex and Buffy in Kinloch Glen
Another new person is recently recruited long term supply teacher Mathew Macdonald who is settling in and taking the helm at Rum Primary with its majestic school roll of four, soon to be five. Sadly as the Schoolhouse has been deemed uninhabitable (not according to us), Highland Council are looking at installing a static caravan as replacement accommodation for Mathew. Longer-term plans such as a new house are being considered. In other school news Alex has been recruited to the clerical post and Dave B (chainsaw) is the new facilities person - looks like there is a complete team at last. That said, we are missing Mrs I and hope she gets well and back to school soon.
Ali and I have rebooted the 'Rum run club', was just the two of us but now we are a gang with Hywel, Buffy and even Kim fancying stretching their legs on a semi regular basis. Go us. I managed to run 100 km last month and Ali has signed up to run the length of the country remotely in 8 months, which is quite a big undertaking.
We are looking forward to the Atkinson and Barley families moving in December for a full complement and a busy new Rum.
Now it's time to go and get a Christmas tree…the festive period seems to have grabbed everyone earlier than usual but that is no surprise with the year we have had.
Some happiness, love and a big hug are what we all want for Christmas.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year to everyone from Rum.
ISLE OF EIGG
November seem to have come and gone extremely fast: it's perhaps because I have been sitting zoombified at my computer for most of it, as it was a heavy month of online AGMs and meetings! Who says lockdown has slowed us down? Amongst all this was the European Small Islands three day AGM, which featured for the first time ever an island culture zoom mash-up curated by yours truly, featuring Tom Muir, Orkney storyteller extraordinaire, the Estonian's version of Hallowe'en - St Catherine's day, where everyone guises dressed up in white with strange rabbit like white masks on, school children animation in the Greek island of Tilos and the amazing cultural life of Gaelic speaking Cape Clear island in Cork. It finished with a really extra special set by DJ Dolphin Boy, which was so popular, it was extended by another 30 minutes! The wonder of zoom technology, bringing us together from all corners of Europe without having to leave our sitting rooms.
At the very end of the month, we had the Lost Species Remembrance Day on 30th November, with On the Brink, an event which brought together on youtube a host of great speakers movingly telling us about yet another species threatened with extinction: we were very proud to see alongside Margaret Atwood, Ben Okri and Emma Thomson, our very own Laura Coleman, known to readers of this column for the charity she champions in Bolivia: IntiWarrassi. Her talk about the plight of Peruvian spider monkeys which her charity is helping to rescue was extremely moving.
In between all this, we also had our first online IEHT AGM, with our new chair Ailsa Raeburn, also chair of Community Land Scotland. It was a great event and I would vote to include Ailsa as an honorary Ban Mora, a big woman of Eigg, as she presented our achievements with pride, without shying away from our challenges, one of which is to continue developing our island vision for the next decade in these rapidly changing times. It will help greatly that we are almost done with our Eigg Clean Energy Transition Agenda, which ought to be informing a lot of what we will be doing in the next few years.
Our CETA mission is: Eigg is a thriving community, self-sufficient in clean, locally owned energy. Eigg's homes and businesses are energy efficient and its transport low carbon. The island's food and waste management systems contribute to an efficient and effective circular island economy, which Eigg residents embrace and share with knowledge and pride. Watch this space! A first step is to identify where we are going to locate the 120 Kw of new Solar panels which will effectively almost triple what we already have, and work on this is under way.
Apart from all this, Bonfire Night seems to have initiated a new way of socialising in the outdoor around a fire this winter. Thanks go to Dougal for our Pizza Friday/ Saturday and Stuart for his various take-away offerings! Another great bonfire outdoor day was the Eigg Orchard Day when brambles were cleared, the last of the apples gathered, fresh juice was pressed and an initial batch of cider was sampled! As to our dried Eigg apple slices, they are fast becoming the must-have snack of the season!
For the Eigg aficionados, Charles Delcourt's lyrical photographs of Eigg have now been published in a bilingual edition and the beautifully crafted book - simply titled Isle of Eigg - is available from the Isle of Eigg Craftshop at a special offer price of £30, and bound to become a new classic in landscape and portrait photography. His photo exhibition is now touring Europe, with Paris and Hambourg after Strasbourg and Vienna, and there will be one at the French Institute in Edinburgh as soon as possible, with an online event on 8 December celebrating l'Entente Cordiale and the 5th anniversary of the Paris COP 21. The plan is for it to come to us too, and it would be a fitting celebration when our new pier will open in summer 2022! Of course there is also the wonderful Eigg photography by Greg Carr showcased on his annual calendar offering, featuring great pictures from the air this year! And for another Xmas present a bit more unusual this year, we have the share offerings by the Eigg Cooperative Brewery! Great to see the brewery featured on national media with 57 % of their funding secured already! Good luck for the final push!
Fighting rat attacks - they are awful for trying to get into houses at this time of year, coping with allegedly cutting-edge green pellet fuelled stoves that refuse to work in the Lochaber Housing Association houses - and reacting to the extraordinary badly handled communication from CalMac regarding our loose freight which if we take it lying down would bring our freight costs up by a mere 400% - has occupied the rest of our time this month. Regarding the latter, we are pleased to see our swift reaction resulting in the immediate removal of the announcement, and an apology which was felt to be hardly sincere, all this done during the annual leave of our area manager with whom we enjoy a good relationship. What is going on? CalMac spends thousands of pounds on their tourism coms, and when it comes to a lifeline service, they come up with a statement which has managed to upset everyone, further eroding the good will earned by their efficient Covid handling, but already and sadly dented by the numerous cancellations this month which created havoc with travel plans, shop and farm supplies. Expect a robust campaign from Eigg and the rest of the Small Isles, following on from the recent piece that made it to the Herald's front page! CalMac management: read the National Island Plan and the Island Act (2018), Annex A clearly states David MacBrayne Ltd actions are subject to Island Impact Assessments, in case you didn't know!
Arisaig's First Christmas Festival
The Christmas Festival only came to fruition when, a couple of weeks before the event, Josh and Paula briefly joked about how the tree in the hotel carpark would make a truly magnificent Christmas tree. Before they knew it, Josh had ordered 200m of fairy lights and then it seemed crazy not to celebrate his purchase in some way. Arisaig Christmas Festival was born!
After a year of such misery, we felt the village deserved a little bit of sparkle and we've received such lovely feedback since the event. The community effort was huge! Massive thanks to all the fantastic stallholders, to Alex Maclellan and Tom Auty for decorating the tree, to Dave Dunnitt for making the incredible star, to Audrey and Chris for feeding everyone delicious wood fired pizzas from their cool vintage van and to Ann Martin and the Astley Hall for donating gifts to all the children.
Thanks also to Eilidh, Ross, Angus, Ellie and Aurora for the music and to Arthur for being such a sensational Santa. It's definitely something that we hope to do bigger and better next year. Watch this space!!
Letters of support needed for Kinloch Castle funding bid
Do you want to be able to stay Kinloch Castle once again? Sleep in one of the best bedrooms? Help to create employment on Rum and new business opportunities? Help to bring more residents and visitors to the island?
Kinloch Castle Friends Association aim to create a quality bed and breakfast venue to sleep over 50 so that once again bigger groups can visit Rum, and they are asking for letters of support which will form part of a submission for a funding bid to Historic Environment Scotland and other bodies. They also plan to reinstate the bar and create a meeting room where groups can gather, study and learn about the island; to create somewhere that visitors can stay while enjoying locally run businesses providing a variety of services. Where people can eat food produced locally, some grown in the walled garden brought fully to life.
KCFA say, 'Please write a letter or an email in support of the restoration of Kinloch Castle so that it can become once more a thriving business but also a place which can be used by the whole community.'
Send your letters of support to Caroline Duckworth at: email@example.com
Arisaig Community Trust News
An 'Aire' For Arisaig
ACT has started a new project to develop a motorhome service area just outside the village, otherwise known as an aire. The proposed site is just off the A830 at the turn to Kinloid, between the main road and the railway line. The aire will provide overnight parking for up to 30 motorhomes and have facilities for the disposal of toilet waste, grey water and rubbish including glass recycling. Motorhomes will be limited to a two night stay. If finances allow we will also build a small toilet block to provide showers, a self-service laundry and an additional set of public toilets for the area. To date we have conducted a site investigation, a topographical survey and had some preliminary site plans drawn up. A pre-application advice request to Highland Council planners has been favourably answered and the landowners have indicated their willingness to sell us the land. We are now doing more detailed design work and setting about the task of raising the necessary funds. If all goes well (and it never does!) we hope to have a basic aire open by late spring next year. As well as providing facilities for motorhomes the site will also be used as a park and ride facility for long term day parking. The site is a ten minute walk from the village.
Our recent, small scale, community survey has elicited many supportive comments and quite a few helpful suggestions so thank you to all those who have taken the time and trouble to respond. Any further comments are welcome, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
One way that we hope to fund this project is by way of Community Shares. With an investment return of around 2-3%, shareholders would become voting members of the company and can influence how it is run and managed. These would be open to local people. In addition, we will launch a Crowdfunder early in the new year with rewards to receive free night's stay at the aire.
This initiative will go a small way to addressing some of the issues being created by the ever increasing numbers of visitors we are seeing each year. Toilet waste has been a particular challenge and we hope that this facility together with the new one in Mallaig will largely prevent the illegal dumping of effluent in our area. Look out for a further update in next month's edition.
Steve Westwood, Project Manager
ACT is very pleased to announce that we have been successful in securing a grant from the Rural Housing Fund for £782,034 towards the cost of building six affordable homes for rent and four discounted self-build plots. We have been working with our preferred contractor S&K MacDonald Homes, of Acharacle, during 2020 and will be contracting them for the project soon following this funding award. A planning application was submitted in early November and all the plans and documents are available on the council planning website and on our own website.
Expressions of interest for the self-build plots will open in January, first by getting in touch with ACT; we will forward your information to Communities Housing Trust (CHT), who will manage our allocations and keep in touch with you directly. We will not hold any personal details on those who are interested or apply. There are some criteria to consider before applying:
- The home you build must be your primary residence
- You must be able to fund the building of your home (self-build loans may be available)
- You must demonstrate that you cannot compete on the open market
- You must have a local connection (living, working or have family in the area)
These plots (sized between 0.18 and 0.2 acres) are designed to give individuals and families a boost onto the housing market and will be listed for a fixed price of around £25,000 with a rural housing burden attached. If you are not sure whether you meet the criteria, CHT can advise on this.
An allocations policy will also be in place for the rented homes, which we hope will strike a balance between genuine housing need and local sustainability: the need for key workers, school roll, staffing for local businesses and housing turnover in the area. We will publish more details of this on our website later in the project program.
Our facebook and website will be up to date with project developments and you can get in touch with us at email@example.com
Housing Project Officer
A Write Highland Hoolie: Mallaig Book Festival
Along with everything else, as you know A Write Highland Hoolie was cancelled this year.
Due to the unique nature of our festival, we decided against running virtual events instead as we strongly feel that much of the Hoolie depends on our warm ambience. However, close to the time when the Hoolie should have taken place, the local primary schools (Mallaig, Arisaig, Lady Lovat, Inverie and the Small Isles) had virtual visits from two of Scotland's foremost children's authors and performers: Alan Windram (left) and Renita Boyle. Dividing their time between younger and older classes, Alan and Renita captivated the children both with their knowledge of their craft, and also with their formidable talents on the (Google Meet!) stage. A total of 113 children were able to take part.
Dougie Beck, a teacher in Mallaig Primary School, who helped organize it, tells us the event was both fun and a valuable addition to the core curriculum: 'We always look forward to the wonderful workshops the Hoolie organises for us, and, even in these strange times, they have managed to do us proud yet again. The choice of authors was spot on: Alan gave older classes a fascinating workshop on the craft of the writer, his own development as a writer and the process of taking an idea from a seed to a finished book, but then jumped straight into an energy-filled musical performance for younger classes. What can I say about Renita? Just pure energy from start to finish. All the children loved her! Again, older children benefitted hugely from a curricular point of view through her analysis of what makes a good story, delivered in a fun and accessible way. We cannot wait until next year!' The Hoolie also organised a writing competition for local children on the theme of 'Lockdown' and, in an effort to allow children to express themselves freely, we allowed pupils to choose their own medium for this. Around 80 entries, in Gaelic and English, were received in a variety of formats including blogs, vlogs and pieces of prose. Winners will be announced in West Word, on our website and via social media in the New Year.
We very much hope we will see you at A Write Highland Hoolie in 2021 over the weekend of 12th - 14th November. As before the event will take place in the West Highland Hotel, Mallaig and will be a fabulous weekend of superb books, good music and fine food.
A Write Highland Hoolie team
11th November 2020
Requested at 09:20 to undertake a shoreline search of the entrance of Loch Nevis as part on an ongoing incident. A male and his dog had been reported missing the previous evening and had not been located by the Coast Guard search teams which had gone out to try and locate him, including the search and rescue helicopter from Stornoway. The lifeboat proceeded to search the shoreline from Mallaig harbour along the coast towards Mallaig Vaig and Mallaig Mor. As the Lifeboat entered Mallaig Mor bay the crew noticed two persons sheltering in the doorway of a house above the shoreline. The female began to wave to the lifeboat and make her way down to the beach assisting the other person who had a dog on a leash. The crew quickly launched the Y-Boat and two crew proceeded to the beach to recover the casualty and his dog. Once onboard the casualty was given dry clothing and something to drink while the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig. Holly the dog was also grateful for a bag of ready salted crisps and a good slurp of water. The casualty had taken shelter in a rocky crevice on a hillside and awaited for daylight before he managed to find his way down to Mallaig Mor. With the situation resolved all teams were stood down and requested to return to base. Once alongside the casualty was handed over to police who would transfer the casualty to Fort William for a check up at the Belford Hospital. lifeboat ready for service at 10:30. (Read more on page 17)
18th November 2020
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard at 04:01 to convey Police to Rum to deal with an incident. Departed at 04:55, On scene at 05:40. Departed Rum 07:15, back in Mallaig 08:00.
4th December 2020
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 11:15 to the Isle of Muck with Paramedics onboard to assist in the transfer of an injured youngster. The casualty had sustained a nasty injury requiring medical treatment on the Mainland. On-scene at the slipway at Muck at 12:00 the casualty was boarded along with his mother into the care of the medics. Lifeboat departed Muck at 12:05 for the return passage against a strong Northerly headwind at reduced speed to try and make the passage as comfortable as possible. Lifeboat berthed at Mallaig at 13:45. The casualty was taken to Fort William's Belford Hospital for treatment. Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 14:15.
In what has been an extraordinary year Shouts have been down by half; to date we are sitting at 23. Last year we were averaging one shout a week. This was due to the fact that because of Lockdown everyone was confined to barracks. When restrictions lifted in 15th of July it was quite comical to see the purple symbols on AIS for yachts and leisure craft all generally heading West and Northwest. Thankfully our shouts have been of a minor nature: Medivacs, Breakdowns, Strandings and the occasional tow job. Added to this we also had, like everyone else, to adapt to working with Covid PPE.
Our administrator finally got the go ahead to open our page and it is now up and running. So if you want to visit search for Mallaig RNLI lifeboat and have a look see.
To finish may I extend my thanks to everyone who has continued to support the RNLI through this most difficult year for all charities when all Open days, Gala days, Station visits and face to face fundraising activities have come to a standstill. Through the use of media and online portals along with some very innovative ideas of how to fundraise, donations and are still coming in to keep the RNLI doing what it was set up to do, "Saving Lives at Sea".
Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year when it comes from us all at Mallaig RNLI Station.
Michael Ian Currie
The month started with our public meeting on Thursday 5th November as part of the Marine Licencing process for the Outer Harbour Development. Although the formal consultation period has now passed, the information is still online; you can access this through our website, and if anyone has any comments, then please feel free to send them to me. We've been having conversations with some of the key users of the Harbour to see what their requirements might be for any new development. There will obviously be financial constraints to what we can and can't do, but any feedback allows us think strategically about the development.
November has seen the Outer Harbour being very busy with Aquaculture vessels, reinforcing the need for additional berthing and quay space. In some instances this has been due to vessels seeking shelter from the bad weather, but there have been a range of activities ongoing throughout the month. The first landing of Sprats was 5th November, and the fishery has continued throughout the month - the weather hasn't been very consistent, but there have been some landings so it at least has been a bit of a boost to the end of the year. The sprat pump and the way they are landed always generates a lot of interest and activity on the Harbour.
Although the Marina is technically closed, we had a yacht arrive on Sunday 15th November, which was accompanying a stand up paddleboarder! Jordan Wylie is attempting to circumnavigate Great Britain on a stand up paddleboard, raising money for Frontline Children. As he reached Mallaig, he was on day 114, and had travelled just over 2,000km! Unfortunately, the weather wasn't kind that week, and there were a few days that he was unable to make progress. If you want to follow Jordan's progress, you can do so at www.thegreatbritishpaddle.com.
We also had the Orca III, the latest addition to the Mallaig Marine fleet, on the pontoons for a few days.
We were due a visit from the Screen Machine this month, but unfortunately the weather scuppered this too, as the ferries were cancelled. I suspect that we must be the only place on the mainland that the Screen Machine can't access without coming by ferry!
Some of you may have seen the posts from Lochaber Archive Centre in October, some of which focussed on Mallaig and the Harbour. There were two entries from the Mallaig Police Daily Occurrence Book. The first was from 27th July 1914 and states that the Skipper of a steam drifter had 'called at my station, and reported to me that two herring nets belonging to him had been maliciously cut with a knife while … drying on an old mast on the fore-shore at Mallaig, value for £2:13: each, found no trace.' This generated a fair bit of discussion in the office about nets drying around the Harbour - something I can't remember, but some of you might!
The second entry dates from 07th September 1914. PC MacLean records:
'…At 11am received a telephone message from Mr Durie, Stationmaster, Morar, that two men who had the appearance of Spys were then at Morar, photographing Morar Bridge etc. I proceeded there and on making enquiry learned they were two Glasgow men who had a Yacht in Mallaig harbour.' It's interesting to think that yachts were arriving in Mallaig over 100 years ago - no dedicated shore facilities for them then!
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On and Off the Rails
At the point of committing pen to paper, and wondering how to start my column, telephonic communication came through from John Barnes (my ex boss!) of Glenfinnan Station Museum. The resulting news put my column on hold for a day! Six hours later my first Christmas present, gifted by John and his wife Hege, highly anticipated, was delivered to me.
One day later and I have calmed down a bit, but am truly delighted to share the news of my gift with you.
Since 2010 Hege Hernaes has been curator for Glenfinnan Station Museum. In July 2017 she received an email with an interesting attachment which made her curious. It was from a gentleman called Michael Holden who had purchased, from an auction house in Cornwall, boxes of unlisted, unlabelled treasure in the form of old photographic albums of cellulose nitrate negatives. The attached photograph featured 'Cooper & Co's Railway Stores', and Michael thought it was taken along the West Highland Line. Could Hege assist him with its identity? Coopers ran a chain of shops that used to serve the many navvies on the Mallaig railway at the dawn of the 20th century. But no visual record of these stores had been known to exist! Contact was made by Hege!
Fast forward to now, and the end result is an A4 size book entitled Building the Mallaig Railway - a Photographers Story. This mammoth task, achieved by Hege with her tenacity and a genuine desire to record historical facts in a presentable way, features many full page photographs, runs to 136 pages and is so well researched. What a gem of a book it is.
In one chapter entitled 'The power of water, the strength of concrete' eight pages are dedicated to the building of Mallaig pier - under construction in 1900 - with full page photographs from the collection including the construction of what is now the West Highland hotel.
Hege's research saw her seek help locally, nationally and internationally. Assistance and help with accreditations is forthcoming whether it be from Police records, railway records, medical records etc. No stone has been left unturned.
I cannot stress what a blessing it is that those negatives were saved. The book is an heirloom and full tribute to the life blood of 'the Navvies'. Every home in the area should have a copy of this book to hand down to the next generation! It is that humbling and so important. Thank you Hege. The foreword in the book is written by Sir Andrew McAlpine, Concrete Bob's great great grandson. Andrew is also the son of Sir William McAlpine, who generously fed his insights into the background research before he sadly passed away in 2018.
Hege's book is available from the Glenfinnan Museum for £30.
The West Highland Line on TV
BBC Alba has commissioned a one-off one-hour documentary specifically about the Mallaig line's past and present. The presenter is Ingrid Henderson, who is a "Glenfinnan local". She has been commissioned to compose the music for the programme. The working title is Ceol na Loidhne which roughly translates as Song of the Track. Hege and the photo archivist Michael Holden were interviewed at length for the documentary. This took place in October 2020. As yet no date given for viewing.
Caledonian Sleeper news
The Sleeper service is currently suspended from Fort William to London Euston. Serco are operating a reduced timetable due to Covid-19 and according to the website the service will resume on 16th/17th December.
An alcohol ban has been in place on ScotRail services as a temporary measure since Thursday 12th November. The new measures were introduced to help maintain physical distancing required while travelling and will also support greater use of face coverings at all stages of the journey. It will be reviewed continuously as government guidelines change.
We are to have a new booking office person (trainee initially) in Mallaig. There were a high number of applicants for the position. There was no mention of being able to deal with seagull excrement on the application form!!
As of November 30th no press releases are available detailing the timetable over the Christmas and Hogmanay season.
Big Bus Story - well, it is "Off the Rails" as well!
Shiel Buses - our local, very useful bus company who have kept going for us when needed in these pandemic times, have taken delivery at their Fort William depot of a new CityLink liveried Mercedes-Benz 'Tourismo' coach. This is the third purchase in this fleet of coaches and will be used to operate their service between Skye, Fort William and Glasgow. I'm not sure about Inverness.
Director David MacGillivray (always with a smile) says, "The support we receive from the after sales team together with the Tourismos' performance since 2018 made the decision to purchase another in 2020 an easy one." Shiel Buses is supported by mobile technician Ross Meechin. He operates in the Highlands for supplier EvoBus (UK). Thanks to Shiel Buses for their belief in progress in the public transport industry, and good luck in 2021.
Children's Competition Time
David Hurdle is not only a transport planner. He hides his light under a bushel! He is also an author of repute. He has written a book for young children, perfect for reading to them at bed time. It also would be good for reading practice, as the typeset in the short bus stories (the stories are short, not the buses!) is well spaced.
To get the wee ones interested in the public transport industry (maybe) David (born in Dumfriesshire) is offering to post out from Norfolk, where he bides, three copies of his latest book.
Do you feel lucky, children? If so, pop a postcard or a stuck down envelope with your name, address and parent's telephone number into my post box at Fasgadh, 5 Marine Place, Mallaig, PH41 4RD before Friday 20th December and we will see if a copy of Little Bus Stories gets to your house before Hogmanay! It is not a competition - just the luck of the draw - and free to enter!
And finally . . . Have compassion, be non-violent, be kind, have respect. Remember everybody has something good inside them; they sometimes just don't know how to show it.
Thank you for being part of my life this last twelve months. I love reading all the letters you send - and I will be with you to help when you need it. With support we will come through this past year stronger.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ůr.
The Astley Hall
It's been hard having the Hall shut since March, but it isn't the first time in recent years that it's been out of action. Last time it was for over a year. I'm looking back to 5th December 2000, exactly twenty years ago as I write this, the day of the unofficial reopening of the Hall after its extensive renovation which had taken 13 months.
There will be many Arisaig residents now who never knew the old Hall - dusty, dirty, cold and draughty, with only a sink and a kettle in the old club room and inadequate toilets. The floor of the club room was rotten, and the roof leaked so we had to be careful where we put the whist tables!
We were successful in winning a hard-fought award from the 21st Century Halls for Scotland Millennium Project, receiving from it £228,000, just under 50% of the total cost. The local community had to raise £47,000 as their contribution and with a magnificent effort from everyone this was achieved. The balance came from Historic Scotland, The Scottish Executive, The Highland Council, Lochaber Enterprise, the Crofters Commission, Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, and Scottish Natural Heritage. The final cost was £497,000.
The main Hall is a Grade B listed building with a prestigious pedigree. Commissioned by Constance Astley, the daughter of the then estate owner, it was built in 1893 by renowned architect Philip Webb, a partner of William Morris. Webb was a key artist in the Arts and Crafts Movement, and with Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings; he is sometimes called the Father of Arts & Crafts Architecture. A friend of the Astley family, he designed the original Arisaig House, its Bothy and the outbuildings at Borrodale House, but the Astley Hall is the only building in Scotland still as he designed it. We often have architects come to have a look! It had to be carefully restored, and Historic Scotland kept an eye on it. We were lucky to have architect Mandy Ketchin, then of Muck, and contractor Pod Carmichael of Glenuig, both experienced in the care of historical buildings. So carefully did the main hall have to retain its character that we were horrified that we had to re-tar the outside walls, only to be reprieved at the last minute by the Fire Chief declaring that was a fire risk, and black intumescent paint was allowed.
The club room was built around 1910 by Webb's associate George Jack, who also designed Faire na Sgurr for Constance Astley. It wasn't listed so the interior was gutted and an extension built in front of it to make what is now the club room. The old club room became the present kitchen - if you look up in the kitchen and lobby you will see the roof beams of the original extension.
We opened unofficially in December 2000 so the Hall could be put into use again, in time for the New Year Dance. (The Dance the previous new year had been held in the road outside the Coffee Shop, where Alan and Elizabeth MacDonald kept the soup and sandwiches coming and we did a strip the willow in the road lit by the Christmas Tree. There were fireworks at midnight.) The official opening wasn't until November 2001 when all the finishing touches had been done and we could invite all the funders and movers and shakers, but by then the Hall had had a very busy year of activities. I must mention here the rest of the Gang of Four who met every month in my house for the duration the works, with Mandy's team - Tommy MacEachen, Anne Cameron and Donnie MacEachen. I must also mention Iain MacKinnon who kickstarted the idea of 'doing something' to improve the old hall and started the 200 Club.
Anyway, back to twenty years ago . . . We held a ceilidh, free to everyone, with music from Ross and Eilidh and a buffet. We'd only just got our Public Entertainment Licence the day before, so there had been some nail-biting moments.
While in lockdown we have taken the opportunity to carry out some necessary repairs and improvements. All the wooden floors are being restored as I write, so when you do return you should notice a difference. This operation has kept us back a bit, with unforeseen hold ups, and a few hires unable to take place because of it. However, in January the Toddler group should be back, and hopefully Arisaig Primary School will be using the Hall one day a week as a gym while their new one is being built.
It would be lovely to have a free ceilidh for the village to celebrate a proper re-opening when Covid regulations relax enough, just as we did twenty years ago. Watch this space!
BIRDWATCH November 2020 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical month bird wise, with the usual winter visitors still arriving, although there as been a distinct lack of Fieldfares and Redwings; no large flocks reported this year, possibly due to the poor Rowan berry crop this autumn.
Again Whooper Swans were widely reported as late birds continued to migrate south. On the 2nd, 35 landed on Loch Ailort for a few hours, then another two groups of 14 and 20 flew over. On the 15th a flock of 33 flew south west over Loch Ailort and at least six were present on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. Passage continued right to the end of the month, with eight south off Camusdarrach on the 27th, eight south over Mallaig on the 29th and still at least five on Loch nan Eala on the 30th.
Numbers of Great Northern Divers built up on Loch nan Ceall and off Camusdarrach, with 28 at the latter site on the 15th. Wigeon were reported from Silver Sands, Invercaimbe, Loch nan Ceall and Loch Ailort where 21 were present on the 13th. Wintering Slavonian Grebes increased in number on Loch nan Ceall as the month progressed with nine there on the 7th and at least 14 plus six Little Grebes on the 29th.
In Mallaig on the 13th, the first Glaucous and Iceland Gulls of the winter were reported. Both birds were juveniles and lingered till the month end, no doubt attracted by the Sprat landings. A late Great Skua was seen in the Sound of Arisaig on the 4th.
Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers were reported regularly from West Bay, Mallaig, with 18 Purple Sandpipers there on the 29th. Ringed Plover were reported from Traigh, Camusdarrach and the Morar Estuary. Six Dunlin were at Camusdarrach on the 27th. Greenshank were seen on the Morar Estuary throughout, with four there on the 15th.
A male and female Blackcap feeding in a Woodside, Morar garden on the 12th was the only report.
Good numbers of Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch reported from garden feeders with just the odd Siskin reported. Great Spotted Woodpeckers reported from several gardens in the area, including one at East Bay, Mallaig on the 28th.
A Barn Owl was seen at the usual cliff site in Mallaig again.
Sea Eagles were seen on several occasions at various coastal locations, including Morar Estuary, Traigh, Arisaig and Loch Ailort.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Angus MacDonald took a copy along to the wonderful new Highland Cinema in Fort William!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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