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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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List of Issues online
December 2022 Issue
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Venue of the Year Award for Knoydart!
Congratulations to Knoydart Community Hall, who won the Venue of the Year award at the 20th anniversary of the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in Dundee on Sunday 4th December!
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! Hope you're keeping warm in this beautiful (but very cold) weather.
We've got prize-winning poetry from the book festival competitions for you to enjoy this month on page 14 -15. Do you remember Lochailort's postie, Mary Tipping? There's a lovely article about her on page 22.
As ever, my thanks to Morag and Ewen, and Henrik, for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for looking after the envelopes, and Ann and Robert for their diligent proof reading throughout the year!
It's been a quick month, and just like that we are fast approaching Christmas. The first post-covid Christmas Bazaar was held in the new hall for the first time, and had a variety of stalls from our very talented locals, as well as a great selection of homemade soup, bread and sweet treats. We made over £200 in donations for the school Parent Council which was fantastic. The Shop has a new manager, Christelle, who has recently moved to join our community and had been living in France for the past while. The shop is now stocking venison meatloaf and Christmas sausage meat for the festive season, and it's hoping to have a website up and running soon, which would allow Knoydart venison to be sold all over the UK!
In Foundation news, two new directors have been elected onto the board. Well done to Lachie Robinson and Jane Hollowood. Denise stepped down after a stint of two years, and Grant, who had been a director for seven years, helping to steer the Foundation through many of the hardships of the last few years, as well as the positive changes we've seen such as getting Millburn and the wee hooses - it's certainly no mean feat, so thank you to both of them.
November meant the start of tree planting season once again, and it started with the planting team enhancing the already existing native woodland at Millburn, planting trees that were supplied by an organisation called E-Forest who donate trees. Planting at Kilchoan's shelter belt has also begun and excitingly, the first lot of Jacqui's baby trees from the Tree Nursery are going in. KFT will also be buying trees in from a wee tree nursery in Glenelg and I think it's fantastic that they are able to source so locally.
You've probably all heard already thanks to the power of social media, but our wee hall just went and won venue of the year at Na Trads awards the other day! A few locals made the journey to Dundee to accept the award, and what an achievement for our community. Tickets for the Hogmanay celebrations are selling out fast, so if you're thinking of coming here, make sure to get on it before it's too late.
Happy Christmas when it comes folks,
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
Well folks we have made it to December, albeit with webbed feet and a slight lack of vitamin D but we are here!!
There will be a Community Carol Service held in our beautiful St Mary and St Finnan Church on Christmas Eve at 5pm where we will hear readings and join our neighbours in singing some Christmas Carols. This event is open to all who want to join us in celebrating the festive season. This will be followed by the Christmas Mass at 6pm. A big thank you to Frances Whyte for making this happen, what a star you are!! (Regular services continue on the 1st and 3rd Sundays each month at 1.30pm.) It will be lovely to see so many familiar faces and visitors alike, so come along, be in good voice and help us worship through song.
A big personal thank you to the members of the Glenfinnan Community who have kept me abreast in all the village events and shenanigans and on behalf of the wee birdies, thank you to our resident Twitcher Mr Joe Gillies, who makes sure our wee feathered friends are extremely well fed throughout the year. Great job Joe!
I would like to take this opportunity to send love to the families of those who sadly left us this year, to wish happiness and prosperity to those who have moved on to pastures new and to everyone near and far, I wish you a big Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from our wee Glen. Much love to you all and we look forward to seeing you in Twenty Twenty-Three.
Nollaig Chrìdheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur
(You don't need me to translate that)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well here we are heading into the Jolly Fat Man's season with some unseasonably sunny weather which was in contrast to a couple of weeks ago whilst during the last storm sadly 'The Little Red Boat' Quiet Waters was lost against the Port Mor rocks; thankfully nobody was on board, but still a shock nonetheless, and we wish Sandy all the best as he searches for a replacement vessel.
Remembrance Sunday was another day of silent reflection with Lady Haig Crosses placed at the three war graves; the Primary School also did lovely poppy painted stones as their own tribute.
Some of Muck's ladies have taken to click click clicking their knitting needles to support the Dementia UK November challenge to knit hats for the charity. They didn't disappoint with some fabulous designs and they have decided to continue the support and sell more throughout the year in the Green Shed community craft shop . . . Well done.
Santa's mail box has returned as by magic for kids of all ages to get in touch with him . . . festive treats and chocs are once again underway, trees and lights are springing up across the island and I think I hear some panto lines being rehearsed from the classroom. I for one can't wait! ????
Well folks that's all for this one.
ISLE OF CANNA
"Love is in the air, everywhere I look around . . ." The refrain of John Paul Young's 1978 hit is being heard in the fields on Canna. That's right, the tups are out! And with that, the promise of the fields being full of lambs in the Springtime. The waves crashing over the back of Sanday have been echoing around the bay area. At night, when it is particularly still and quiet the boom reverberates around and off the hills reminding us that the sea is there. The stars have been glorious this month too. The Northern Lights were seen last night with reds and greens aplenty. The Milky Way has shifted from running East/West along the island to Northwest/Southeast as the planet turns with the season. A reminder that we are all hurtling through the universe at the behest of astrophysics and quantum mechanics.
The resident flock of geese we have on Canna seems to have grown to twice their number this year. They cruise about the island in a hoard, honking loudly, which at night can sound quite terrifying but you always know where they are. The sound of the beating of their wings as they take off is quite spectacular and watching them landing on the water is amusing and less than graceful.
We've also had some swans take up residence on the island for a week or so. I think there were five at last count including a signet, however they have now left these shores for warmer climes no doubt.
The island is quiet at the moment. One of the things that drew me to Canna in the first place was that there was a lack of man made noise. When I first visited, I was having a walk around the island and I tucked myself into the lee of a hill and I just sat and listened. The only thing I could hear was the distant, low bellow of a cow and the odd sheep. I couldn't believe it and sometimes now I still can't believe it. On my occasional visit to the mainland, I am often overwhelmed by the amount of noise that we humans generate. No distant roar of a motorway here on Canna, only the not so distant roar of the sea!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Looking out my office window at the blustery, rain sodden Canna Bay, it is hard to think of a bright, fresh, crispy frosty Christmas time on the island! When I was trying to think of what to write for this Christmas edition of West Word, the poem For the Visitor's Book by Kathleen Raine came to my mind once more. I have used a snippet of it in the past, but I thought it might be nice to present the whole poem here as it presents a picture of Canna House as it was set for Christmas time in 1975. Kathleen was a frequent visitor to Canna and remained friends with the Campbells until her death in 2003. She wrote many of her works in Canna House itself and she often describes most vividly the island landscape around her.
Here in this poem, she describes the drawing room in particular and the thoughts and feelings that her surroundings evoke in her at Christmas time. I have inserted images of the things she describes to help the reader feel as if they too were present in Canna House at Christmas 1975.
Nollaig Chridheil to you all and a very Bliadhna Mhath Ùr to you all when it comes!
For the Visitor's Book
Canna House 1975 - For John and Margaret
by Kathleen Raine
The cards that brighten the new year, a Christmas tree grown in the wood
The crimson curtains drawn, the owl whose 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 sort among learned journals on the floor.
More formal state across the Hall, The silver of the House displayed
And ivory ladies, Chinese birds, Surveyed by Romney's General
Sir Archibald, whose following eyes, Seem with cool justice to appraise guests of the House who come, and go.
His scarlet, silver order sword, Give him the advantage as he stands relaxed.
In Scotland it is Hogmanay most warms the feelings of the heart
Religion older than the old, the cycle of perpetual things in years that pass and years to come
Here children sing from memory, ancestral island tunes, that praise those best of loves that never change
Though new men bear their fathers names, boatmen and herdsmen of these shores,
We feast on venison from a neighbouring hill, under that Campbell General's eye, the drone of pipes across the bay, the pibroch cattle of Kintail
Played by the piper of the Isle
ISLE OF RUM
The children of Rum Primary School write:
This term, we've had many visitors come to Rum Primary. Clarissa Shanahan, the first one, helped us paint our murals. From New York city, NY, in the United States of America, she was renowned for her work on famous Hollywood movie sets, so we were privileged and are very proud of our new mural. (See back cover)
In November, we baked for Children in Need and made chocolate rice crispy squares and fruity buns. We held a bake sale in the school and the money raised will go to charity. We are also making magnets, acrylic paintings, keyrings and artistic postcards which will be on sale in the gift shop. The profits from this will also be given for charitable purposes. Other visitors we had this last term were called Kenton and Joao, who taught us Cantonese and some "cool" science. Kenton gave us some lessons in Cantonese and taught us how to use chopsticks and let us eat sweeties with chopsticks! Joao taught us how to make ice cream and we made origami boats and hats.
We had a fantastic night at the bonfire. We prepared the burgers at the larder and they were just right for a cold November night. Of course, we also had a huge fire. We made Guy Fawkes from straw, used papier-mâché for his head and he wore a special old fashioned hat. The fireworks and sparklers were so much fun.
The weather has been blustery, and the ferry did not come for six days. We were glad to see the ferry come in on the Monday morning. We are preparing for Christmas and looking forward to a visit from Santa. We are performing a Christmas show called 'Baubles' and are excited to dress up and perform on stage. We are hosting a festive community lunch which we will be organising.
The weather is much colder, and we have few leaves left on the trees. The deer are much quieter at night times after the rutting season has passed. We have our fingers crossed for a rare appearance of snow over this Winter. Beth from Nature Scot has been teaching us about the mushrooms on Rum. We found baby Chanterelles, Hedgehog, Birch Polypore and Sulphur Tuft mushrooms. We learn how to identify trees from their bark and recognise them from their leaves.
By the Rum children
Andrew P7, Dylan P6, Bel P3, Dougal P3 and Fliss P1.
ISLE OF EIGG
November's bonfire night is always a bit of a high for our youngsters, and this year was no different: an impressive pile of wood from stuff that came out of An Laimhrig, a fantastic firework display and many seasonal treats shared out amongst the crowd of onlookers, Maggie's apple and custard doughnuts being particularly delicious! The next weekend saw the now famous Quiz night organised by Saira which gathered the whole island in Galmisdale cafe bar for a fantastically diverse potluck curry and so many questions it took the whole night to get round them all! Great fun was had by all. Before the month was out, Ben Cormack held his belated 40th birthday party at the hall with Johnny Lynch doing a great job of metal and 90's anthems - which he admitted was a bit out of his comfort zone, but nevertheless got a good number of islanders in their Goth make up to jump up and down with great gusto! Ben's head was certainly bobbing up and down, in best mosh pit fashion! In between all this, running, wild swimming, hatha yoga and qigong sessions have ensured we all remained limber and ready for another dance-athon.
November was also the AGM month for the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, and good progress was reported with the numerous projects that the Trust is involved in. Well done Becca, our Business Development Manager who seems to effortlessly juggle so many balls in the air, without ever dropping one! Particularly highlighted was our successful Nursery project funded by our Woodland Trust Carbon Capture funding, a first for a community trust, which Becca presented to the Woodland Trust AGM and attracted so much interest that she will be presenting it all again together with Tasha, our Tree Nursery manager, at the Scottish Parliament as part of the Woodland Trust's 50th anniversary bash! Another success is the performance of our enhanced solar farm: we now have a full 12 hours of power stocked to keep us going through the night, as opposed to six hours before the new panels were added. With all this rise in energy prices, we are very happy with Eigg Electric's performance which keeps our electricity bills to a very reasonable level.
And now in our enhanced surroundings of An Laimhrig, the Eigg Football posse have found a new use for the nice white wall of the new waiting room: it's an ideal screen to showcase the World Cup! Something to be said for having it in the winter this time round, despite the controversy around its location. This certainly would not be possible in the summertime, as that wall is awaiting some nice interpretation to keep our visitors informed about our environment highlights, should our funding application submitted to Crown Estate Scotland be successful. Another interpretation project is now coming to a close: our Voices of the Eigg Community Buyout, which ended with a well-attended webinar featuring Lesley Riddoch, Alastair McIntosh and Andy Wightman, all stalwarts of the land reform movement. The webinar is now available as a podcast on the Community Pioneers series and you can access it by going to this Eigg website page: http://isleofeigg.org/2022/11/podcast-of-the-power-of-eigg-story/.
It was great to have been able to use St Columba's church as a location for this Scotland - Year of Stories project. It demonstrated a very good use of the church going forward, if the community manages to purchase it through the vehicle of a purposefully set up SCIO, Solas Eige, which has lodged its application for a stage 1 funding feasibility study with the Scottish Land Trust. Thanks go to Stewart Goudie as our local minister, who has been super helpful throughout the whole lengthy process of expressing our interest to the Church of Scotland Trustees.
Last but not least, the twitcher community has been very excited by the sight of a lonely Serin spotted by Neil on his croft: a rarity and a first for this part of Scotland apparently, so perhaps another sign of climate warming as my yellow rose in full bloom? Talking about birds, our communication with the folks wanting to install a giant 25 m telecom mast "for the betterment of the community" carries on: they have accepted they could not locate it right on top of the nesting sites of our Hen Harriers, which are a schedule 1 protected bird, so have suggested other locations, where they say, our Hen Harriers could use the mast for nesting purposes: what is it about protection of a sensitive island environment and community consultation that they don't get? Anyway, Merry Xmas folks, all the best for the festive season to all the West Word readers and best wishes for a speedy recovery from her operation to Ann, our West Word chair!
Kinloch Castle update: IRCT continue to work for a better deal
Since last month, when we reported that the sale of Kinloch Castle to Jeremy Hosking had been put on hold by MSP Lorna Slater (Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity) after concerns over the terms of the sale were raised with her by the island's residents, the Isle of Rum Community Trust have continued to make progress in their fight for a better deal for the Rum community.
At the request of Lorna Slater, the IRCT have been carrying out a comprehensive consultation of the community's views on the subject of 'What would success look like?', with workshops held over a couple of days in the village hall.
An IRCT spokesperson said, 'We had an excellent turnout, with only four adults from the community who didn't participate. The outcome was that there was very strong support for a better deal than the present offer. Similarly, there was a strong interest in looking at all alternatives for the future of the building, which might not include restoration (at any cost!). The sale of land surrounding the castle's footprint to the community, to lease back to a prospective owner, or similar options, were also very strongly supported. In short, to us 'good' looks like: Community ownership of land for its future security; a beneficial development for the castle or its land where the community work with the developer; no removal of access rights across the front of the castle, which would divide the village in two; and a community led power supply. The current deal would not directly facilitate any of these points.'
IRCT are continuing to meet regularly with the Scottish Land Commission, NatureScot and Scottish Government to progress options, and say these meetings have been very positive and productive. IRCT say, 'We are currently working to combine our Community Consultation views with the previously used NatureScot appraisal format for offers they have had to date, to look at how the present deal might be workable for all parties and/or to look at how previous or other, new applications might work for all parties. This and, in parallel, exploring seriously other options than restoration with relevant experts in those fields. Also, as a group led by SLC, we are looking at alternative and more imaginative governance options than - for example - the current format of the proposed Castle Trust; a co-op or consortia model where community and others can have some control without significantly restricting operations of other parties, similar perhaps in some ways to ownership and leasing back of land, for example.
'The above involves a lot of input from community, and we are continuing to seek additional resources to facilitate this and allow greater and more efficient contributions, and indeed this search is also looking positive.
'We are hopeful that in early 2023 we can come up with some ways forward that fit better with the wishes of all parties than anything proposed to date.'
Scottish Islands Passport launches 'Meet the Makers' Guide to Islands
Discover new islands, and collect passport stamps!
'Meet the Makers', the first in a new series of island travelogues from the Scottish Islands Passport project, has launched in the run up to Christmas.
These paper travelogues allow people to explore the islands based on a variety of themes to compliment the more familiar geographical groupings, with 'Meet the Makers' celebrating the creativity and skills abundant across the islands around our coast. The travelogue introduces people to artists and makers on a number of Scottish islands from Shetland to the Clyde, with space for owners to collect stamps along the way using brass rubbing plates which have been installed on the islands. There is space for people to record their own thoughts and experiences in the dedicated journal section - creating a personalised keepsake of their island journeys. Future instalments in the series will explore the islands with a focus on built heritage, wildlife, and food and drink.
The brass rubbing plates, designed by island artists from around the North and West coast and fabricated by N-Graved of Shetland, are unique to each island and have their own stamp story, told both in English and in the language or dialect appropriate for the island they are located on. Working to the 'island-centred ethos' which was developed early on in the project, locations for the stamps were guided by feedback from islanders, with the team working closely with local community groups and businesses who host the stamps, as well as providing local feedback on the information you can find in the app and travelogues. With the first batch of plates successfully installed, the remaining will follow suit to cover all 72 islands in the project. While the brass rubbing plates were designed to be used with the project's travelogue series, islanders and visitors are more than welcome to try it out on any paper they have to hand.
The Scottish Islands Passport project started life as a LEADER funded initiative aiming to encourage potential visitors to consider the wide range of Scottish islands they can explore. As well as the paper travelogues, the project team, based in the Isle of Jura, have developed the free Scottish Islands Passport app in partnership with communities.
Sarah Compton-Bishop, Project Manager said: "It's been fantastic to continue working with community organisations and businesses from around the islands on this next exciting phase of the project. From early on we've heard that people are keen to have physical stamps and travelogues, so we're delighted to have received such great support in making that happen. We know that the experts for each island are the islanders themselves, so being able to continue working with local organisations to get their feedback and guidance for each island has been invaluable in making the project a success." 'Meet the Makers' will be coming soon to island retailers and is on sale now from www.isle20.com, where people can also find a blog series by Julia Welstead who met makers in the Outer Hebrides.
The Scottish Islands Passport project has been funded by LEADER, The Scottish Government, HITRANS and ZetTrans, and is a Programme for Government commitment.
For more information about the project and its island centred ethos head to www.islands.scot or follow the project on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Bothy Project: Neighbourhood Residencies
Back in the midst of 2020 the small arts charity Bothy Project saw a chance to share its off-grid residency spaces with a set of people who until that point had only been involved tangentially with the project. Read on to hear about Neighbourhood Residencies which created new local connections as well as wider connections across the communities of Badenoch & Strathspey, The Small Isles and Assynt & Coigach.
Bothy Project was founded in 2011 with the ambition to allow artists and other creative people to make and think about their work in unique and inspirational landscapes. In 2011 it built Inshriach Bothy, in the Cairngorms National Park, and in 2014 Sweeney's Bothy on the Isle of Eigg.
Until 2020 the residencies focused on artists, but the Neighbourhood Residencies saw people from all walks of life, living local to the bothies, invited to apply for a residency. We also expanded the locations involved in the project to include Assynt & Coigach as we were working in partnership with The Assynt Foundation, near Lochinver. The aim of the project was to create residencies useful to each community by creating new local connections and connections across the communities of Badenoch & Strathspey, the Small Isles and Assynt & Coigach.
The nine selected participants each had a weeklong residency in the bothy local to them, and then met online to share, discuss and reflect upon themes of specific importance to them and their communities. The discussion was captured in three podcasts and participants also designed a series of posters which will be distributed to organisations and groups across Scotland for public display in early 2023.
The Small Isles participants were Norah Barnes from Eigg, Fliss Fraser from Rum and Isebail McKinnon from the Isle of Canna, and their shared experience and chance for unbridled conversation to kindle a wish list for their islands - including shared contractors; a start-up bursary for women entrepreneurs and a way to share volunteers productively around the islands. Taking one of their ideas from the Neighbourhood Residency a step further saw the realisation of a new joint tourism venture Visit Small Isles - https://www.visitsmallisles.com.
Bothy Project Director Lesley Young said: "The Neighbourhood Residencies gave participants the chance to see their locality from a new vantage point, which has impacted each neighbourhood in exciting and positive ways. We're delighted Fliss, Norah and Isebail had such a positive experience at Sweeney's Bothy in Eigg with lasting benefits for their communities. We're keen to give more islanders the opportunity to go on residency and are working towards securing funding for more Neighbourhood residencies in the future."
The Neighbourhood Residencies project was initiated by Bothy Project, in partnership with the Small Isles Community Council, Isle of Eigg Residents' Association, Assynt Foundation and Cairngorms National Park Authority. The project has been supported by Creative Scotland, Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Highland Council. Find out more and listen to the podcasts at www.bothyproject.com/residencies/neighbourhood-residencies-2021/
Congratulations to . . .
the Isle of Canna Community Shop, winners of the very first Horace Plunkett Award at this year's Rural Community Business Awards! This is a special award that identifies the outstanding overall achievements of one community business, against Plunkett's three 'i's - Impact, Inclusivity and Innovation. A Plunkett Foundation spokesperson said, 'This community shop inspired the judges with their determination, resilience and creativity to create a community asset that is there, not only for 100% of the community, but also the thousands of visitors travelling to their small island. Many congratulations to The Isle of Canna.'
Spirit of the Highlands Tapestry
Locally stitchers have been involved in three community tapestries: The Prestonpans Tapestry, The Great Tapestry of Scotland, The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. Now it is the turn of The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands Tapestry. All these tapestries are designed by Andrew Crummy and worked with wool on linen. This Project is working with hundreds of volunteers from across the Highland and Island region. The aim is to produce an embroidered tapestry that captures the spirit of the area. The tapestry will consist of approximately 50 separate panels which will be stitched by community groups in every part of the Highlands and Islands. The local group includes stitchers from Roshven, Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar, Camusdarroch and Malaig. The chosen name for the local group is Maerl, the seaweed which carpets the surrounding seabed. This proved to be an apt choice as our panel is of 'journey stones' on a beach.
The construction of this tapestry is different from previous tapestries and enables individuals to work on pieces of tweed which are later appliqued on to the linen. This theoretically should speed the process up. The panel should be completed by late spring 2023. In addition the tapestry design is not as prescriptive as before and encourages those involved in journey stones to reflect highland living into their design.
We intend to photograph the various stages of the stitching but if anyone is interested in what we are doing we meet on the first Monday of each month in the Church of Scotland Hall, Arisaig between 1330 and 1545. You are welcome to come and see the progress and have coffee, tea and a chat. Registration for stitchers is now closed.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
4th November 2022
Coastguard requested search of Loch Eishort and its shore (southwest Isle of Skye) after red flares sighted. Lifeboat launched 21:15, on scene 22:10, nothing found. There had been a bonfire on shore and the Coastguard reported fireworks similar to flares? Lifeboat stood down and departed 22:45, returned to Mallaig, refuelled and tied up ready for service by 00:30.
13th November 2022
PLB reported going off in Loch Hourn, with no other details beyond the location and that it was still sending. Stornoway Coastguard requested a search of Barrisdale Bay area. Kyle RNLI Lifeboat also launched and located casualty as Mallaig lifeboat arrived on site. A group of kayakers had become disoriented in the dark and unsure of their position. Lifeboat stood down to return to station.
19th November 2022
Two young men lost a drone in the area around Elgol, Isle of Skye. They searched into the evening but were surprised how rapidly darkness fell. Neither of them had a torch and their mobile phone batteries were exhausted. One of them decided to return to find their car but became disoriented. He knocked on the first door he came to as he was worried about his friend, and a call was made to the emergency services which resulted in the request for the launch. The friend was later found safe, wandering the lane looking for his car. The launch was then cancelled by the Coastguard.
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR DECEMBER 2022
The Sprat pump was installed but so far there haven't been any landings of Sprats, which is always disappointing. Not only do Sprat landings give a good boost at the end of the year to the fisheries, it would also have been a good test for the ice plant, which was shut down for a week in November while we installed a new gearbox and undertook various other bits of maintenance. Although we think of the ice plant being 'new', it has been in operation for almost four years now and so was needing some TLC. As with all things Harbour related, there had to be a challenge around the works! Despite us and the boats being organised, with ice orders made for the preceding Friday to last the fishing boats through the planned shut-down, the Ronja Challenger used the berth overnight on the Thursday and had an engine breakdown, which meant it couldn't move on the Friday morning to allow the fishing boats in. Thankfully the Harbour staff had a plan 'B' and the new ice bins we had ordered in anticipation of a busy sprat season were filled and put in the chill for the boats to access as required.
I attended the Aquaculture and Innovation Day as part of Lochaber Ideas Week. Servicing the Aquaculture industry is a big part of the Harbour's income and it was good to meet with others involved in the industry and to see some of the new ideas that are coming through. As we are looking at development in the Harbour, it's useful to understand some of the innovations that might be taking place in the Aquaculture industry, so that we can adapt our plans to support these. The idea of 'active' fendering systems for example, which use tidal motion to generate electricity, is something that we might be able to consider down the line. Some of the ideas being talked about, such as these 'active' fenders, are just at concept design, while others, such as a hybrid system which uses the diesel generators on fish farms to intelligently charge and discharge batteries, and therefore reduces reliance on these diesel generators, saving money and reducing carbon emissions, are already well established.
Although the fishing has been very quiet, there is still a lot of activity on the Harbour - with lots of interesting loads of cargo for Knoydart recently. One of our Board Members, Jim Wilson, has been working with the Knoydart Foundation (Knoydart Renewables) on their project to provide energy security, so we took delivery of a new transformer recently, as well as miles of new cabling and the pipework for it to be buried in. There's also roof trusses and lots of insulated board, which we are presuming is for someone's new house. Sometimes I think that it should be a condition of building materials being loaded over the pier that we get a photo of the finished project - it would be interesting to chart the progress over the years!
We've had a visit this month from staff at the Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMC), part of the UHI based in Fort William, who are able to support Small and Medium sized enterprises throughout the Highlands and Islands. The Centre can provide a range of services to help local businesses, including 3D scanning and printing (at scales up to full building size!); Project Support and CAD and CAM services. Although we don't really manufacture anything on the Harbour, we do have some ideas that they can hopefully help us with - including streamlining processes in the feed shed to manage stock better. Another example the AMC used was being able to 3D scan boats to allow organisations to consider how any changes that they might be proposing to make to the layout on deck (or below) would impact the vessel. The Advanced Manufacturing Centre is happy to help all sectors of business, and are really approachable and helpful, so if you have anything you think they can support you with - get in quick as there is EU funding available for the next few months.
Wallace Stone have been in discussion with potential contractors about how the works in the Outer Harbour might proceed, and have provided us with some potential options. As a Board we are going to consider these, and the associated disruption that they might cause, and we will then be talking to wider stakeholders, hopefully early in the new year.
Finally, we'd like to wish all Harbour users, and the wider community, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year when it comes.
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
An earlier than usual column from me this month - as we still have one more week to go to see out November yet. But hopefully I have got an early Christmas present to report on!
On Thursday 10th November I was happy to hear that (finally) the RMT Union made the announcement that it was to ballot its ScotRail members involved in the forthcoming December strike dates. Negotiations had reached the stage on reforms that would free up monies to allow pay increases, meaning that the workers would not (eventually) have to cover overtime, rest day working cover, sickness cover etc by taking on (when trained) more staff, plus other improved terms and conditions, and that whilst the ballot was taking place strikes would be put on suspension. The RMT said the result of the ballot would be announced on Thursday 24th November.
So, here we are on that date and true to their word, the RMT, late in the evening, has announced that members have voted in the majority to accept the improved offer made by ScotRail.
Phil Campbell, ScotRail's head of customer relations, said that he was 'delighted'. He went on to say, 'We worked hard to put forward an offer which recognises the hard work of staff, as well as our financial challenges faced by the railway as we recover from the pandemic.'
He continued, 'ScotRail, our staff, and our customers want to have a reliable, safe and sustainable railway that supports that the communities across the country and the economy. By reaching agreement with the RMT we can now fully focus on delivering a service which our customers expect and deserve.' My thoughts are to hope that it is employment that the staff can be proud to represent and be happy in their work.
However, a continuing dispute involving terms, conditions and increased pay involving RMT members and Network Rail remains live and ongoing, meaning, as I write, the travellers could still face disruption on the railways, if a solution is not reached. If Network Rail and RMT announced more strike days, then no ScotRail services (or any other trains on the lines) can operate, even with fully staffed trains. Let us hope a solution comes very soon.
Currently - across Scotland - I note that 94% of journeys are now being taken by road, not rail. ScotRail have to encourage the public to come back to travel 'on the rails', meaning that current timetables do not have to be cut. It is a mammoth task. We have to believe that we can make a journey, by train, in the knowledge that we can enjoy the experience and return without stress. Wouldn't that be nice. Happy customers, happy staff, happy railway service!!
Cairngorm Funicular Railway
The funicular owners, HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise) have announced that trains are now being tested on the track, albeit as empty stock at present. Safety certificates will be needed from the U.K.'s Department for Transport before it can be opened to visitors. The Scottish Government agency say that trains could be fully operational again in early 2023. It will claim its place again as the U.K.'s highest railway. It was opened in 2001, and repairs to the railway started in April 2021. The funicular railway connects a base station with a restaurant and a ski area, 1,097m (3,599ft) up Cairngorm Mountain near Aviemore.
Jacobite 2 x DVD 2019 - 2022 Draw
As I am writing this column before the set closing date of Tuesday 30th November I cannot announce the winner of the draw. However. the eventual winner will receive their copy before Christmas. Postal strikes will not deter me from getting it to the lucky person!
Mallaig railway station - booking office/waiting room
By the time this issue of West Word is out, Ollie at the booking office will be lit up for Christmas!! I have arranged for an 8ft lodgepole scented pine Christmas tree (with roots) to be delivered to the station in early December - maybe with real pine cones still on it, if they don't fall off in transit! I hope that it will make visitors and locals smile as they (hopefully) start to return to train travel again and make a wee bit of festive cheer. Let's hope the installation goes smoothly! The rooms above the Mallaig booking office/waiting room are currently vacant now - for the first time in many years - as Mallaig Fishermen's Co-op and West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation have relocated to the Denholm offices in Mallaig Harbour premises (Denholm's offices having been converted into smaller spaces). I wonder who the next tenants will be upstairs - with their own entrance - at Mallaig railway station?
I have been meaning to mention how much I enjoyed the 'British Railways Station Totem signage boards' installed on the exterior walls of the Steam Inn - proclaiming their name. They look good!
Finally for 2022 I believe that the best that we can do in our allotted years is to contribute to our community, and contribute to a fairer world. Merry Christmas if you are celebrating, stay safe and well in 2023. I will certainly try!!
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ùr!
See you on the train,
Lochailort's Popular Postie
There were two reasons for celebrations in the Lochailort community during 1966. Firstly, after more than a century of constant canvassing and lobbying, the Scottish Office and Inverness-shire County Council, finally agreed to fund the completion of the last twelve-mile section of the A861 beginning at the head of Loch Ailort and finishing at Kinicarra taking in Roshven and Glenuig as it went: secondly, their well-loved, 70-year-old postwoman had decided to get married.
The superb two-lane highway with its spectacular views across to the Arisaig Peninsula and the islands of Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna and Skye, was opened on 29 July by the Minister of State for Scotland, George Willis M.P. Mr Willis described it as the longest completely new road to be built in Scotland since the days of Thomas Telford, 150 years earlier.
Miss Mary Tipping, the post woman for Lochailort and district for over 20 years, wed 67-year-old road foreman Mr David Miller, Dunfermline, who helped build the very same road which in the end was to make her redundant. They met for the first time when Mary delivered a letter to him at the camp where he lived. Their friendship blossomed and by December that year the wedding invitations went out to friends who arrived at Inverailort by boat, car, pony, bicycle and on foot. There, courtesy of Mrs Cameron-Head - the hugely popular, resident laird - Mary and David had the honour of being the first couple ever to be married in the castle's beautiful upstairs chapel.
For weeks friends had lent a hand for Lochailort's wedding of the year. Venison and mutton from the estate, wild seatrout caught in its fabled salmon river and fruit and vegetables from the castle's Victorian walled garden, was served at the reception which took place in the 300-year-old front hall. Mrs Cameron-Head, who was no snooty landowner, supervised preparations explained: "We all love Mary and we are doing this as a community effort in the real Highland tradition. It will be our wedding gift". After the ceremony, which was performed by Father lain Gillies, parish priest of Arisaig, the couple signed the register in the drawing-room where guests who were unable to get into the chapel were waiting. From there they were piped through the library into the panelled ballroom by 13-year-old Angus Macdonald from Glenuig.
During the evening Mary was presented with a gift which had been subscribed to by friends from as far away as Canada and America to mark their appreciation for her efforts to deliver their mail in all weathers. As the homely rooms of Inverailort Castle, which were festooned with flowers and hung with local clan banners, echoed to the lively music of the Roshven Ceilidh Band, guests mingled to wish Mary Tipping and her husband every happiness.
Mary came to Lochailort from the Glasgow area to help look after her sister's family and stayed until they grew up, living at first in a railway house at Polnish adjacent to the West Highland line, before moving to a cottage behind Glenshian House, which had been a field hospital during the time the navy and the commandoes were training in the area. Later it become a private fishing hotel run by the hospitable and popular McRae family.
Letters and parcels came and went by train from Fort William and were sorted at the Lochailort railway station by Mary who loaded as much as she was able onto the pannier of her heavy post office bicycle. Her route took her as far west as Beasdale and to Corriebuie at the east end of Loch Eilt and included Lochailort itself - a distance which often involved pedalling some twenty-five miles daily regardless of the weather. Mary Tipping was a local treasure and a welcome sight. Not content to put a letter into a box unannounced, she made a habit of calling at every home along the way to make sure the occupants, especially the elderly, were safe and well. Officialdom, which has ruined so much of the Highlands since the 1960s, was thrown to the wind - and rightly so in scattered rural communities where everyone looked out for each other. Mary was unofficial social worker, nurse, doctor, helper, confidant, carrier of news, and scribe whose kindness and thought for others, rich or poor, weak or sprightly, knew no bounds. Had she been alive today there is little doubt that her name would almost certainly have appeared in the Honours list.
Not long after her wedding and the completion of the new road, the postal service was reorganised and served by a Royal Mail delivery van. Mary couldn't drive and had to resign. Retirement must have been welcome but at the same time she would have missed her friends and they her. A hearty farewell party soon followed at which this tribute was given:
The Lochailort Postie
We have met here tonight to honour a friend,
Whose services to us have come to an end,
A kenspeckle figure in this part of the coast,
You know who I mean, "Tis Mary the Post".
For twenty long years in all sorts of weather,
Through the burns, o'er the braes, through the bogs and the heather,
She has plodded her way, and it's her proudest boast,
In snow, rain or storm, not a letter was lost.
Her bike with its burden no more will be seen
Tearing down the school brae like a flying machine,
For Mary's red bike is replaced by a van,
And Mary herself, sad to say, by a man.
Now Mary I'm sure would be the first to concede,
That a van in her place could fulfil a long need,
But come wintry weather, the frost and the snow,
You can aye shove a bike where a van widnae go.
And you can't hide a van in a ditch or a hag,
With bracken to cover the Post Office bag,
And to hide it completely is harder by far,
At the back of Glenshian when the Posts' in the bar.
Now time marches on, things get faster each year,
And the Post Office too must get into top gear,
So Lochailort will never again see the like,
Of "Wee Mary Tippin" astride a red bike.
This part of the country is steeped in romance,
Right back to the days when the prince came from France,
There are songs, there are stories and legends galore,
Now the saga of Mary will add to the score.
Let's wish her good luck, good health and good cheer,
May good fortune attend her for many a long year
So, fill up your glasses, and all drink a toast,
From the 'Folk of Lochailort, to Mary the Post'.
NOTE. Mary Tipping died on the 9th of April 1968 aged 71 and her husband on 22nd March 1976, aged 76. They are buried at Hillend, Inverkeithing.
BIRDWATCH November 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly mild and wet month that was fairly quiet birdwise.
Still a few reports of Whooper Swans heading south at various times throughout the month, with over 80 birds seen in three groups over Arisaig on the 1st. A single adult was on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig all month. On the 4th, nine Whoopers were seen over Arisaig accompanied by three Geese, which were probably Greenland White-fronts. Wigeon were reported from Loch Ailort and the Arisaig area. Red-breasted Mergansers were seen on Loch Ailort, Loch nan Ceall and the Morar Estuary. A single male Goosander was seen on the 'Caimbe' at Back of Keppoch on several occasions during the last week of the month.
Just the usual wintering waders reported with Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, Redshanks and Greenshanks seen at their usual haunts around the coast. Increased reports of Common Snipe on marshy ground and also an increase in Woodcock sightings, mostly seen at night on roadside verges. On the 19th a Moorhen was seen feeding in sheep pens near Loch nan Eala. On the 27th a Grey Phalarope was seen on the Oberon Bank from the MV Orca.
A late Great Skua east of Muck on the 6th and a late Puffin in the Sound of Sleat on the 13th were the only seabird reports. Only small groups of Fieldfares and Redwings seen during the month, although there were larger than usual numbers of Blackbirds reported.
An interesting ringing recovery of a Common Tern, ringed as a chick on a rocky islet near Airor, Knoydart on the 30th June 2018. It was trapped in Senegal, West Africa on the 8th April 2022 by a team of South African ringers operating there, 4664km from where it was hatched!
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Isabel and Jimmy Morton took their copy to read whilst away enjoying a week with friends at Kilconquhar Castle in Elie, Fife.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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