Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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February 2005 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Muck, Rum, Eigg, Arisaig
Local Genealogy

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The night of Tuesday 11th January 2005 will certainly go down in local history.
Thanks to photographers Moe Mathieson, Angus and Nancy MacDonald, Sue Barrett, Alastair MacLeod, Robert MacMillan and Ann Martin for these photographs.

A giant tin opener seems to have attacked the stores at Westbay, ripping the backs from them.
Rubble from the sea wall and the workshops covers the road behind the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre, which was flooded.

photo photo

The cycle/walk path beside the main road into Mallaig was torn up and strewn with rubble.

The bottle banks ended up, empty, in front of the Community Centre. The bottles had flown along the road as far as the roundabout like glass missiles.
Cars in the Westbay Car Park were damaged by rocks and by being tossed against lamp posts etc by the waves. This view from the back of the Community Centre shows how the sea piled the rocks in. The surface of the car park was left in little peaks of tarmac.

boat Not just any old boat. This is the sad end of Barbara Mathieson's dinghy which has been outside the Land, Sea & Islands Centre for the past five years. It was seen at the height of the storm blowing along the white line of the road, and 'if it had had indicators it would have signalled right', it turned smartly down the Rhu road where it came to rest across the road. 'Aye, it was going home,' has been the comment of a number of folk. Many local folk have memories of this venerable craft, especially those who can recall its daring rescue of whelkers caught by a storm out on the islands in the channel.
Tommy MacEachen remembers he was in school and they had to pray for the whelkers out in the elements. Big Alan and Johnny Duncan pulled the boat out of its shed and 'flew out like a rocket', rowing with the wind behind them to rescue the folk, whose boats had blown away and who were trapped by rising tide. All were saved and taken into Gorten because there was no chance of the boat returning against the wind. Tommy thinks this was about 1947.
If anyone else has a particular memory about this boat, please let West Word know.

photo photo

The old pine which fell at Larrachmor Viaduct must have been about 80 feet tall and could have been 120 years old. It held up traffic for five hours - workmen had to go back to Fort William for a bigger chain saw! The 'stump' - about 8 feet high - has been stood up again.
Alastair Portnadoran tells the tale that in the Second World War, the Home Guard in Arisaig was made up of World War I veterans. They were issued a manual, and one of the instructions in it was that, if the Germans made it to Fort William, they were to be sure to go to cut down this very tree to block the road into Arisaig. Alastair has often laughingly pictured two old men with a cross saw desperately working away while German troops passed by. 'Ach, we're too slow Angus..' Anyone able to draw the cartoon?
Well, what the War didn't take down, the Big Gale did.

The road at Traigh has been undercut by the sea which has exposed a cable.
Fragile sand dunes were badly damaged, both at Laig Bay on Eigg and at Camusdarach (above), leaving cliffs where there should be slopes. Can you make out Ranger Angus' 'Bridge to Nowhere'?

The Highland Council has made an Order in terms of Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, because works are proposed to be executed on the B8008 to redeck Traigh Bridge. Scottish Executive have agreed to undertake long awaited maintenance on the bridge prior to handing the road over to the Highland Council, and it is hoped they will also deal with other essential repairs along that stretch of the B8008. Now that the road, single-track in places, is no longer the only route to Mallaig, the repairs can be tackled more easily. The effect of the Order will be to temporarily prohibit the passage of vehicles over the section of the B8008 road at Traigh Bridge, during the course of works. The alternative route for traffic will be via the other parts of the B8008 and A830(T). The order will come into force at 8 am on 14 February 2005 and will remain in force until 6 pm on 8 April 2005 by which time the works are expected to be complete. A copy of the order can be inspected at the Service Points in Mallaig and Fort William during their normal opening hours. It is hoped that while BEAR are doing this work they will carry out the repairs needed to the section damaged by the recent storm.

Testings of rock for later blasting of the new road line may cause temporary short hold-ups at Beasdale Bridge and the Larrachmor Viaduct on the A830 on a few days this month provisionally set as Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd February. Keep an eye out for notices in the Lochaber News and Oban Times and in the Mallaig Service point for definite dates nearer the time.

The storm has dominated West Word's pages this month and you can read individual accounts of the effects on Eigg and Muck and Rum as well as seeing the some of the evidence on the mainland. The Mallaig & Morar Community Centre was flooded, as was the Police Station. Trees felled everywhere - 120 on Muck alone, while on Eigg the tree bearing the weather station blew away. Lasting damage to fragile sand dunes and roads littered with stones and branches. Huge boulders moved like toys to rest on the pier and the road. Electricity in Mallaig and mobile phone reception in the area were out for several days. Schools closed. The road past Traigh closed for several days. TV programmes were off and have only just been restored to some kind of normality.
But it could have been so much worse - no-one was killed or badly injured.
Thanks go to printers Alasdair and Ewan this month.
Ann Martin

January has been a testing time on the island. Hardly had the New year celebrations ended when 30 guests were left on the slipway when Loch Nevis sailed direct from Eigg to Rum omitting Muck. She did however call four days later on a much poorer day when we all saw the reality of a ship with no keel aft. As she entered the channel at Port Mor the swells started to hit her on the beam. Each time the stern slewed sideways, which must have been disconcerting for those on the bridge who sensibly opened the throttle. She made it!
The next call was on the 18th and by then it was the Sheerwater for the hurricane had struck. It is hard to be certain that this was the greatest storm ever to strike the West Highlands. I am inclined to the opinion that the wind on the 16th (?) December 1949 was stronger but that this time the sea was the biggest ever. Certainly apart from 120 trees felled and some slates off roofs, all the damage was caused by the water. Our £6 million ferry terminal bore the brunt. Huge seas came right over our brand new waiting room cracking the walls,, destroying doors and windows and stripping hundreds of slates from the roof. Huge boulders from the rock armour were repositioned on the road whose surface was regarded in heaps. The gangway disappeared from the alignment structure and of the colossally expensive beacons which mark the entrance to the channel, one was broken in two and the other bent sideways. Highland Council engineers responded to the disaster with alacrity and, as soon as the weather faired, had a team of divers n the scene to check that nothing dangerous to shipping lay beneath the water. For the present however Loch Nevis will to be calling and Highland Council have chartered Sheerwater to take her place.
You do not need to be a West Word reader to know that the Nobles are gone. Not everyone who makes Muck their home will succeed bust most do and as many a celebrity has discovered to her cost, life is easier if you are not surrounded by the media. We all wish Nick, Jill and the girls the very best in their new home.
On the farm my new Luing bull from Arisaig is leaving some very promising calves. It will be interesting to see how many are polled (without horns). Removing the horns from calves is a chore so polled calves are a bonus.
Lawrence MacEwen

After a cracking hogmanay ceilidh played by the remarkable Eilidh Shaw and the Squashy Bag all stars… and another ceilidh on the second, we all battened down the hatches for the storms. Damage in the village was limited to fallen trees and a three man struggle to keep Sandy's boat from disappearing into the night. Our pier, remarkably, survived without any damage, and the mayhem and disappointment expected from cancelled ferries was also minimal. The Lodge down at Harris took quite a battering, a lot of the slates came off the roof causing it to leak quite badly into the living room. Repairs are currently underway, as any further damage could prove disastrous. We would hate it for it to go the same way as Papadil Lodge, now a ruin. The Bullough's mausoleum remains intact, though this too is in need of repair before it falls down. Actually getting down to Harris is in itself becoming harder, as the road is in a shocking state, It is only just passable and also requires urgent attention as it is the only way to get down to feed the cattle. Whether or not this overhaul takes place remains to be seen as it will cost a fortune.
Comings and goings: Adrian Kay, the Castle manager and Aileen have left for pastures new, Ade has taken up a new position with the NTS at the Glencoe visitors centre. It appears that the uncertainty over the future of Kinloch Castle doesn't promote the most secure environment to plan ahead, this is unfortunate for us, but we wish them all the best.
We also have a new resident, Chris Rodger, who has taken up the job of visitor services officer and moved into Foxglove cottage. Chris, previously of Lairg, is fitting in nicely. His interests include ferrets, eating out, lego and he's also a keen amateur DJ. Richard Kilpatrick and his family will be arriving soon to take up the position of deputy reserve manager and oversee the habitat restoration proposals.
We held our Burns night last Friday, it all went with a swing. The ghillies Karl and Portia put the boat out with their unrepeatable, but very funny, toasts to the lassies and lads, while Ed's toast to the haggis sounded Scandinavian and then Dutch, finally we had to get him to stop…
Finally a quick word about the Rum Music Festival being held this May on the 13th to 15th. Preparations are well underway, so make a note in yer diaries as the line up is stunning.
Fliss Hough

After the excellent Hogmanay celebrations on Eigg, the constant gales and storms of the first half of January had a fairly depressing effect on human spirits and a considerable effect on the island wildlife: many bird species - gulls in particular - disappeared almost completely! (A dead Glaucus Gull was washed up on the 24th, an unfortunate record as there are precious few sighting of live ones). The Hurricane of the 11th - wind speed of 105 miles an hour was recorded at Grianan before the tree on which the recording device was fixed was blown away - did not inflict as much damage as it did in other coastal places: mighty waves carried away dinghies and Dean's kayak, and threw enormous boulders on the new slipway, but thanks to its retaining wall, the pier centre escaped unscathed, otherwise there was a serious risk of damage to the foundations, let alone the rest of the building; on the north side of the island, an old caravan was literally flattened and quite a few sheds got damaged, but it was the Laig dunes which suffered the most, loosing at least 6 feet to the extremely high tide. A large number of trees came down of course, including one of the very large Austrian pines in the Manse wood, which proved on examination to be 80 years old. It was enough of a taste of the overwhelming powers of nature for people to feel even more in sympathy with the tsunami victims on the other side of the world (for whom the sum of £200 collected at the Hogmanay raffle was donated to the disaster fund).
As we ponder on the possible occurrence of similar storms in the years to come, according to the predictions associated with global-warming, the world goes on: woodcocks re-appear in the woodlands and Greylag geese in the fields -this time accompanied by a White Fronted Goose. The first primroses are bursting through (the first flower was recorded on the 17th). It has been a gruelling month for farm work, and the few good days at the end of the month were put to maximum use! The weekend of the 12/13th saw the return of the Lancaster family to Eigg: family and friends gathered at the tea-room to have a wee tune for Brigg and climbed to his favourite place at Loch nam Ban Mora the next day. It was a lovely way to remember a much loved young man. Then followed the traditional commemoration of Scotland's national poet: the Eigg Burns' night was organised this year to raise funds for "Spirit Aid" which helps children in Afghanistan. We all felt it was such a nice night that we now want to take this idea further and have a regular themed dinner at the tea-room to raise funds for charity. After the surfeit of commercialism that now surrounds the Christmas season and which is hard to avoid even when living on a remote island, it sounds like a great New Year resolution!
Camille Dressler.

Start sharpening those brains and honing your teams - or is it the other way round? Yes, there's going to be one last bruising session with Malcolm - the last Crofters Rest Quiz as we know it! Come on down on Friday 11th February to be baffled, bewildered and bolshy as Malcolm rolls out his last challenging list of questions and help raise money for the Tsunami Disaster Appeal at the same time!
It's amazingly over seven years since that first Quiz - where does the time go? I know my team and I have watched ourselves getting deafer, blinder, and more out of date with our General Knowledge - sorry girls, but you know it's true! Goodness knows how much prize money has been paid out, how many good causes supported, how much beer drunk… Let's have a great turn-out for old time's sake - see you there at 9pm!
Thank you to all those good people who has been tip-toeing through my door (I never hear anyone!) and leaving donations for onward transmission by Blythswood to the Far East, I've taken in a number of carfuls and still they come. Although Voluntary Action Lochaber's stuff has gone off in a lorry I can still take items straight to Blythswood's shop in Caol as at least one further lorry will be going soon.
At last the Hall has its stage lighting! The twelve spots - six on the stage, six in the main part of the hall - and all the paraphernalia that goes with them were installed last week in a mammoth operation. The poor guys were there all day until about 10.30pm, then again the next day until early evening, crawling about in the roof space with cables and getting very dusty. The result is very good - come to see the difference on Thursday 24th February and listen to four of Scotland's outstanding young performers in concert! We will be providing a few more things in the weeks to come - projector and screen, removable window coverings for the main hall, display boards for displays and exhibitions, and a noticeboard for outside the building which everyone can use to advertise their events. All this is thanks to a grant of £4100 from the Millennium Commission, who funded the original renovations and who are making this sum available to all halls who were successful in that programme who come up with an 'enhancement of the original project', and a grant from the Community Economic Development programme for £2696, to make up the difference.
Arisaig luckily escaped the brunt of the storm, although with what later turned out to be half the village I spent several hours on the other side of the big tree which came down. Not the best experience I've ever had, parked under huge and elderly trees, nervous of getting out of the car and hearing bits dropping onto the roof. Thanks to James Colston a number of sturdier vehicles came home an alternate way, and thanks to Jeremy Benfield I got home two hours earlier than I would have done.
Ann Martin

In the absence of a Knoydart column, why not check out their webcam at www.knoydartshop.com

Congratulations to…
….Iain Ferguson of The Write Image on his award as Photographer of the Year in the Highlands and Islands Media Awards. Iain's photographs appear in the national press and he can be seen weekly in the Lochaber News and very often in West Word too. He generously sends us any photos he has which are of interest to us. Iain will receive his award from Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer George Reid at a ceremony this month.

News in Brief…

VAL's Lorraine Wheelan and Flora McKie help load the lorry.
Back row (l to r): Blythswood's Kenny Mathieson and Inverness depot lorry driver Donnie MacInnes.
Front (l to r): volunteers Roddy Munro, Bob Lawson, Lorraine, Flora and Kenny Murray.

The whole country seems to have responded to the sights on our TV screens after the devastating Tsunami in the Far east, and Lochaber has certainly done its share, and is still collecting.
In Arisaig, a hurriedly arranged soup and sandwiches and Sale held by the two churches brought in £1600 initially, and the sum stands now at over £2200. The idea is to use the money to buy a couple of fishing boats in Sri Lanka through contacts of Ranald and Su Coyne, which will give work to craftsmen as well as supplying local families with a livelihood. Hopefully we will be able to carry a story about the boats in a later West Word.
In Fort William, Voluntary Action Lochaber (VAL) joined forces with Blythswood to collect items to fill banana boxes to send out to the stricken area, and their café resembled a disaster area itself for a while as items poured into their centre at An Drochaid. Ann Martin, who is VAL's Community Development Manager as well as Editor of West Word, put out the appeal in Arisaig too and has been amazed by the response. Every time she has opened her door, there have been more boxes and bags in her porch, everything ranging from small handtools to soft toys, from bandages to soap powder. The VAL collection is now on its way to the stricken area, but anything else collected will be taken into the Blythswood Shop in Caol where more banana boxes are being filled for the next lorry.
In total the load lifted from An Drochaid was 38 banana boxes for men, women and children, 9 boxes of food, shoes and miscellaneous supplies, and 8 bin liners full of clothes, groundsheets, tents etc. Notification of where their collection is going will be forthcoming, even to the camps where it ends up.
Highland Council is organising 'Big Heart Day', a Highland-wide day of school fundraising for the Tsunami Disaster Appeal - and is inviting other Council employees and local businesses to join them. Wednesday 9th February has been designated as Big Heart Day Highland when every class in every school across the Highlands (220 schools) will be given the challenge of raising an average donation of £1 per pupil towards the Appeal. This could raise £33,000.
Bruce Robertson, Director of the Education, Culture & Sport Service,said: 'A variety of sponsored activities will be considered. As a special incentive, we are suggesting that, whenever a school reaches its Big Heart Day Highland target of an average of £1 raised per pupil on the register, pupils will be given a unique opportunity to 'decorate' a member of the school staff. 'Staff rooms across the Highlands are being asked to consider a volunteer member of the teaching staff to be 'decorated' and this could take the form of everything from a face painting session to a spell in the stocks! Big Heart Day Highland is all about having fun for a very worthy cause and if any adults want to get involved and help the schools in the Highlands reach their targets, the Council invites businesses and organisations to organise a Big Heart Day at work.' Organisers of workplace Big Heart Day Highland events are asked to send cheques made payable to the DEC Tsunami Earthquake Appeal to their local school.
And West Word looks forward to featuring some photos of such events!
The Christian Aid Tsanami Disaster Appeal held recently raised £1,938. This came from collection boxes in Co-op, Spar, Steam Inn and Chlachain Bar. The family of the late Forbes Runcieman donated the funeral collection to the appeal. Included in the amount is £1,050 from bag packing, organized by Pat and Kenneth MacKenzie, in the Co-op on Hogmanay - a fantastic amount and goes to show how generous the people in the Mallaig area are. Thanks also to little Megan who gave her pocket money to Christian Aid.

West Word - Ten years ago
Robert MacMillan

It was all systems go for the area according to Issue No 4 of West Word as it brought news of five developments either happening or about to happen. The front page story of the February 1995 edition was headed 'Fears Grow Over Arisaig By-Pass Threat' and as that title would suggest the story expressed the views of the Arisaig community, concerned that the route of the new road would have a detrimental effect on businesses in and around the village. On page 4 a plan of the Highland Council's Westbay development was shown, as was the information that the contract to build the 5 workshops/units had been awarded to O'Brian's.
Manager Robert Stevenson provided an update on the formation of the West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation and on how he hoped it would be recognised as an EC Producers Organisation in March.
The inaugural meeting of the Road to the Isles Agricultural Show group was reported on, stating that after a very successful gathering, the first Agricultural Show was set for Saturday 10th June. The following office bearers were to guide it there: Chairman - Hugh MacDonald, Secretary - Sheila Henderson, Treasurer - Fr Tom Wynne.
A meeting to form the Road to the Isles Marketing group was advertised for the West Highland Hotel on 9th February 1995. Other items revealed in the 32 page West Word of ten years ago included an exclusive interview with BBC TV's John Craven who was in the area for a Countryfile Report on the state of the fishing industry. Paul Galbraith provided 'Glimpses from the Past' in both English and Gaelic, and another glimpse from the past was on show via a photograph of the Clanranald Shinty Team of the early 1950's. The Snippets (barely half a page) recorded that Willie John McLean had lost his lucky yellow sprat wellies!!! The local police were critical of Mallaig drivers who were ignoring the non-parking zig-zag markings on either side of the zebra crossings (some things never change!).

front cover
The cover of the February 1995 issue showing an early photo of St Mary's Church, Arisaig. No clock! No trees!

The page long feature on Twenty Four Years of the Mallaig Coastguard was finished off by a letter from Traigh Farms' Bill Henderson praising the Coastguard team for saving an injured cow and calf.
The West Word limerick competition was won by Alastair MacNeil, Primary 7, Lady Lovat Primary School, Morar, who won a £5.00 book token for this effort:
There was an old man from Mallaig
Who went on a boat to Loch Scavaig.
He never came back
Because he lost the track
And was found in a pub in Brevaig.

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
I wonder if anyone can help with information regarding the following families.
MacPherson, MacDonald
Allan MacPherson, b. 1831, son of Martin MacPherson, Innkeeper, Tarbert, Loch Nevis, married Anne MacDonald ca.1860. Ann was the dau. of John MacDonald and Kate Campbell, Tigh na Mara, Arisaig. We cannot trace Allan and Ann after the 1861 Census. Are there any descendants out there?
MacKinnon, MacLellan
Flora MacLellan, weaver, Brinacory, b. 1825, married Neil MacKinnon, Ag. Lab., Sleat, b. 1803, in Bracara. They settled in Tarbert, Loch Nevis and had at least 6 daughters. Catherine b. 1845, Marion b. 1846, Mary b. 1849, Isabella b.1852, Ann, b. 1854 and Margaret, b. 1858. I haven't found any sons. Has anyone got a MacKinnon g. grandmother from the North Morar area?
MacDonald, MacEachen
Anne and Angus Cameron, Moss of Keppoch, Arisaig, brought us a note which they had received from Miss Betty MacDonald, formerly of Mains Park, Arisaig.. Betty wished An Comunn Eachdraidh Arasaig to record the details of her father's unmarked grave in The Graveyard Plan which we are compiling. Her father was, Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald, 4, Kinloid, Arisaig, and he died in 1933, two years before his own father, Donald MacDonald, of The Shieling, Arisaig. Betty thinks that, as Alexander predeceased his father, the family grave was kept for his father and that, a consequence, her father, Alexander, was buried in the grave of a MacEachen cousin of his mother's. His name wasn't added to the headstone and, unfortunately, the headstone for that grave, which is an imposing sandstone edifice, has lost its earlier inscription/s. However, affixed to the back of the stone is a marble slab containing the inscription. Quote. 'Donald MacEachen, born 5th May 1788, died May 4th 1878 aged 90. He worked for more than 70 years on Arisaig Estate. To his memory as a faithful servant and friend, the above lines are inscribed by Gertrude, Constance and Beatrice Astley. "He that is faithful in a few things shall be made ruler over many things" ' Therefore, a close MacEachen connection to Alexander MacDonald is very probable.
In 1861, a Donald MacEachen, head gardener, aged 73, was living in no 4, Carnach with his wife Mary, and 3 unmarried children; Ronald 34, Flora 30, John 24. and grandson, John MacEachen, b. Kilmallie. Was this Betty's grandfather and family? In 1881 and 1891 we find the 3 unmarried siblings still living in Mains, Arisaig. Can anyone connect Betty's family to 'Old Bella' MacEachen who used to live above the Old Library as it seems that a connection is likely? Donald 'Dearg' and Charlie 'Gille Fhein' MacDonald late of 'The Shieling', Arisaig and Betty's uncles, are buried in Morar Cemetery, due to the cemetery of St. Maol Ruadh being closed at the time of their deaths. Does anyone know the situation of the graves of Betty's grandfather, Donald MacDonald and her aunt Margaret Ann?
We wondered at the stature of the MacEachen sandstone headstone under which Sandy MacDonald was buried in 1933, with his mother's people.. At the time of it's erection, which was possibly pre-1878, only the more prosperous of the community could afford such a large memorial. Is it possible that the MacEachens buried there, are descendants of the MacEachen MacDonalds, who had the tack of Druimindarach from 1638 - 1745 and Druimindarach and Brunerie after the '45? To continue the possible connection; after the '45 Charles X MacEachen, successor to Druimindarach and Brunerie, due to his activities in the Rebellion, was deposed in favour of his brother, Alexander. Charles was married to Mary MacDonald of Dalilea, niece of Alasdair MacMhaighster Alasdair, and is recorded as living at Kinloid after the 1745. The connection is maintained when, on 7th July 1834, Charles' and Mary's son, Father John MacDonald, aged 82, died at Kinloid. Charles' nephew, Dr. Alexander X1, known as An Dotair Ruadh, began the practice of his profession in Arisaig before departing for the Island of Lewis. He afterwards took up the lease of a farm in Sleat.
The family had, at some time, reverted to the surname 'MacDonald' but it is possible that many descendants still go by the patronymic 'MacEachen'. The above Druimindarach connection to the MacEachen grave is speculation but, any information about, or corrections to, this most interesting subject will be very welcome.

West Word is now receiving a number of emails and letters each month from people researching their family tree. We hope our readers will respond if they have any information. This is for genealogical purposes only and is not intended for people looking for friends they have lost touch with.

I'm looking for….
….information on my ancestors' marriage at Knoydart Roman Catholic Chapel on 24th January 1846. My great great grandparents were John McLellan and Christine MacPherson.
Lucia Wallbank, Angus montlucia@msn.com

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The paper version of West Word contains 36 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
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  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, book review, letters, snippets,
  • Feature articles, local events
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