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

List of Issues online

February 2006 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
West Word ten years ago
Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy & History

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

It's official - we're the best Community Newspaper in the Highlands and Islands! We have won the title of Community Newspaper of the Year in the annual Highlands and Islands Media Awards. Chairman Robert MacMillan is attending the Press Ball in Nairn on 3rd February to receive the prize of 300 and a quaich. The award reflects on the whole community and all those who contribute to West Word be it an article, photograph, snippet, acknowledgment or advertisement - thank you everyone!
You can imagine how delighted we are to win a prize in the 14th Highlands and Islands Media Awards 2005. The award is for each and every one of you who have contributed to West Word to make it reflect so well the community it serves. The competition has eleven categories and a large number of entries in each. The entries come from far and wide as can be seen by the list of prize winners. Newspaper of the Year this year is the Shetland Times.
West Word's prize is a quaich and 300, 100 of which goes to the charity of our choice. As West Word is going to press Chairman Robert MacMillan and his wife Ann are attending the Press Ball in Nairn. The prize (and the trip to Nairn!) is sponsored by the UHI Millennium Institute.
Gordon Fyffe, Public Relations Manager of the Highland Council and Chairman of the Judging Panel has this to say:
'Once again we received an excellent response to the Community Newspaper of the Year Award. There are very many well produced community papers throughout the Highlands and Islands. The one to catch the eye was West Word with its wide range of community news. It is an excellent newspaper of record with something to offer every reader. Very well done to everyone involved with West Word. Keep up the good work.'
Charlotte Wright, Chief Executive of Lochaber Enterprise, which has been most helpful to West Word during its career and which was a major funder for our new equipment two years ago, sent us this message: 'West Word certainly deserves this accolade. As a community newspaper, it plays an important part in informing and entertaining the communities in North West Lochaber. We wish Ann and all the contributors to West Word continuing success for the future'.
Councillor Charlie King in his column this month calls it 'a well deserved award.'
We also received a letter of congratulations from Mallaig's Gordon MacLennan, who has contributed a number of nostalgic articles over the years (when are we getting the next one Gordon?) in which he says 'I am delighted and I cannot wait to tell all my friends here and very far away as they look forward to West Word arriving every month.'
John Sinclair, whose article 'A Language Landscape' appeared last month, had already e-mailed us with 'The paper has matured a lot in the five years that I have been reading it and it is really coming along as a record of a lively highland community'.
Every month we get messages from those renewing their subscription. Some received during the year are:
'Congratulations on another year of wonderful editions - evocative, informative and Just A Jolly Good Read!'
'Thank you for a great Community paper, I'd be lost without it.'
'West Word's always a good read - it's a great initiative and it stays bright and newsy.'
'West Word keeps us ex-Mallaigites in touch with news of home.'
'Well done yet again to the West Word team - looking forward to another year of news from my favourite part of Scotland.'
If anyone else has anything to say, please let us hear it!

The months of speculation are over, with the decision on 19th January by the Highland Council's Education Culture and Sport Committee that the 37 Gaelic Medium pupils attending Lady Lovat Primary School, Morar, should, from August this year, transfer to available accommodation at Mallaig Primary School.
The Committee voted in favour of the option with 17 votes to 6, ruling out the status quo and another option which would have seen a dedicated Gaelic Medium School established at Morar, with the English Medium pupils attending Morar moving to Mallaig. The issue has been hotly debated in the villages, with two 'schools' of thought. There are those who wish to see Morar as a dedicated Gaelic Unit and on the other hand Morar parents wanting to have their local school for local pupils. Parents of Gaelic Unit pupils have vowed to fight on.
Councillor Charlie King, the local member, spoke in favour of the transfer of the Gaelic Medium pupils from Morar to Mallaig. He highlighted that 25 of the 37 Gaelic Medium pupils attending Lady Lovat Primary travelled each day from Mallaig. There are two unused classrooms at Mallaig, which could accommodate the Gaelic Medium Unit. A third classroom, currently used half a day per week for music tuition, was available should numbers increase.
He was confident there was sufficient growth in the Morar population to sustain an English Medium school at Morar. Councillor Hamish Fraser, the Council's Gaelic spokesman, moved that Lady Lovat Primary should be developed as the Highland's first dedicated Gaelic Medium School. He was supported by Council Vice-Convener Michael Foxley.
At the end of the debate, Councillor Anderson agreed that the Committee should investigate the issues involved in establishing a bilingual school in Highland, with Mallaig a possible pilot. As the decision will change the pattern of provision for Gaelic Medium pupils from Arisaig, which is excess of five miles from Mallaig Primary, the matter requires referral to the Scottish Executive.

Council corner by Councillor Charlie King
Since the Education Committee meeting on the 19th January and the decision that Mallaig Primary School should be the home for the Gaelic Medium along with the English Medium pupils there has been much talk about Mallaig Primary School becoming 'bilingual'.
Many parents have asked me and Mallaig School Board wanting the position clarified. Below is a copy of a letter from Bruce Robertson, Director of Education, outlining the ideals of a bi-lingual school and this should put people's minds at rest. The Education Committee's decision has to be ratified at the full Council on March 2nd but I do not expect there to be any changes.
I would hope now that people can get together to make this a smooth transaction.
I am glad to see that the Boundaries Commission have had the good sense to take Kyle and Wester Ross out of the Ward. This Ward will now comprise of Mallaig and the Small Isles, Caol, Corpach, Banavie, Invergarry, Spean amd Roy Bridge. Under the new system this will now become a 3 member ward, and at the moment there are three sitting Councillors.
The future of the Lunch Club at the Mackintosh Centre has been agreed by the Area Committee. The Lunch Club will continue to meet at the Centre and the feasibility of holding a second lunch on a Friday is being looked at. This is a victory for common sense and proves the Lunch Club members' arguments were well founded and have been listened to. The Centre Club members confirming this in the next few days.
Congratulations to Ann and the team at West Word for winning the title of Community Newspaper of the Year in the Highlands and Islands - a well deserved reward.

To Mrs Eileen Simmonds, Chair, Mallaig Primary Board.
31st January 2006

Dear Mrs Simmonds,
I know that there was a discussion last night [at the meeting of the School Board] of the issue of a 'bilingual school'. I wish to clarify that this does not indicate any intention to have all pupils at the school educated through the Medium of both Gaelic and English.
Separate English and Gaelic Medium education provision will be made in the same way as the example is currently shown at Lady Lovat Primary School.
The term 'bilingual school' simply indicates our wish to see the full integration of all pupils in social and extra curricular activites. Our policy also requires that appropriate approaches to signage and such matters are respected by the school. We would also wish to see the pupils fron English Medium have a chance to take part in a Gaelic for Learners course (GLPS) to help whole school activities such as assemblies and concerts. We believe that all pupils attending a school should participate in the full life of the school regardless of the language through which they are being educated.
I would hope that the above will serve to clarify the Council's intention in respect of Gaelic Medium education provision at Mallaig Primary School. It would be very helpful to meet with you in the near future to discuss matters further.
Yours sincerely,
Bruce Robertson
Director of Education, Leisure and Sport, Highland Council

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland has confirmed boundaries for 18 of the proposed new 22 multi-member wards in Highland, distributing a total of 80 elected members into 8 three-member and 14 four-member wards. This is to accommodate the introduction of proportional representation and multi-member wards, using a single transferable voting system for the next council elections in May 2007.
The Commission is now giving the Council and interested parties until 9 February to comment on changes they are proposing in four multi-member wards, namely Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh; Caol and Mallaig; Inverness South; and Badenoch and Strathspey. In publishing the final draft of their proposals, the Commission is accepting the Council's argument that Lochalsh be linked with Wester Ross and Strathpeffer - rather than be linked with Mallaig and Caol. The Commission has confirmed that Lochaber will be divided into two multi member wards comprising Mallaig and Caol; and Fort William and Ardnamurchan. The change will result in Lochaber losing a Councillor: Mallaig and Caol will have 3, Fort William and Ardnamurchan 4.

Well, we're one month into the New Year already and it's been a busy month. Not content with celebrating New Year once the people of Glenfinnan did it twice. We had big celebrations for the Old New Year which many people agreed was better craic than the new New Year, if you know what I mean!
Proceedings commenced with a display of athleticism and vigour that you would be hard pushed to find elsewhere. The men of the village and their friends took to the water-logged pitch for a game of shinty and hunt the ball in a muddy puddle. A good number of spectators turned out to cheer them on but inevitably we were busy chatting and trying to keep warm and missed some of the action. Then everyone headed up to the bothy for a ceilidh. It was cosy with two roaring fires and the wee bothy was packed with people, food, roasting venison, drink and tunes. Later everyone found their way, by the light of the full moon, to the hotel for even more craic till the wee small hours.
On Friday 13th we had a birth in the village and celebrations over the wetting of the baby's head. Congratulations to proud parents Iain and Ingrid, and grandparents, Joan and Donald on the birth of Dinky the gorgeous Highland cow. Cow and calf both doing well! There has been uncertainty on the sex of Dinky but I think everyone has now agreed she is female. This is the first birth for the cattle club and I would imagine the first for the village in a very long time.
A group in the village has started looking into the possibility of acquiring the "Castle" for community use. I started going along to toddler group in Arisaig and there were 6 children there from Glenfinnan. The Gaelic Glenfinnan Group now renamed Glenfinnan 07, had its first meeting which Ingrid kindly hosted in her kitchen. I think these instances show that we really do need some kind of community meeting space in the village.
The first meeting of the Glenfinnan 07 project went really well with everyone contributing lots of ideas for a year long programme of events to celebrate and share our language and culture. We are sending an information sheet and feedback form to every household in the village. We really need to know what you think, if you support our ideas and we also need your ideas. This is a great opportunity for Glenfinnan to do something special as part of the Year of Highland Culture 2007. Once we hear back from you we will prepare and submit a funding application. If you would like to join the group or just come along to a meeting you are very welcome. Contact me or Ingrid for details.
The Community Council also met this month. We were joined by Allan Mackenzie from Forestry Commission. He asked us to consider our desires and plans for Callop forest once the bridge over the Callop was in place. Thank you to everyone who came along to the subsequent community meeting to hear from Allan and also Donald Donnelly from Access in Lochaber. We can look forward to the bridge being completed by the end of May. There will be felling work in the forest with the aim of regenerating the native pine species. It was clear that nobody wants to see the forest being over run with paths and other developments but that people would like a circular walk.
Good luck to William Scott who has left home and started army training.
Congratulations to Mandy, Ross and Duncan on the birth of Calum. Congratulations too to the proud granny and uncle, Fiona and Euan Stoddart.
Eileen O'Rua

Well, a busy New Year again, with a good crowd of locals and visitors filling the pub. It had been a while since anyone danced on the tables! Revellers were quickly dispersed to various parties throughout the peninsula: the Post Office said goodbye to the final visitors at 8am.
It's amazing how cyclical events can get here: we had stormy weather and power cuts almost a year to the day after the last time. This time, however, the electricity problems were caused by human error. Yet again, they were compounded by the fact that our village generator ran into problems. Everyone rallied round as usual though, and the pub did a roaring trade in fish and chips for those who only had electric cookers.
Meetings were all delayed, which meant that the following week we were having so many that we were running out of venues. Mark and Angela's house appears to be the most popular place to hold them: to the extent that when we 'phoned one person's house to find ut if he was coming along, it was explained that he was in a meeting in the room above us and would be down shortly! A great Burns supper, which was hosted, as always, by the dramatic and verbose Iain Wilson - don't stand too close to him when he's wielding that dirk. Everyone clubbed together, with the speeches, the food provision, and the ceilidh afterwards (the band being entirely homegrown). The raffle raised over 100 for the winner's choice of charity, which was the Knoydart Foundation.
As the month draws to a close, we have just been given the unfortunate news that Aramiska, who provided the satellite broadband service for Knoydart and the Small Isles has just gone into receivership. So we were all 'switched off' this afternoon. If you are in regular e-mail communication with any of us, this is the reason you can't get through. Time to pick up the 'phone, or even dig put the old pen and paper? I'm not sure how I'm going to get this report to Ann, as I can't get my head round dial-up at present: I think I may have to resort to actually printing it out and giving it to her in person
Tommy MacManmon

January is the month when we look to the year ahead and this year is no exception. Under the auspices of Camas teams of islanders are hard at work arranging next summer's programme of social events and the funds to pay for them. All will be revealed in due course when it is all finalised but one date which has been fixed is June 30th. This will be the night of the Big O ceilidh in the barn at Gallanach. On the bandstand will be Freland Barbour and the Occasionals, a new sound for Muck.
Two weeks earlier (though not a Camas event) on Sunday 17th is the Open Day, the 17th year in succession.
On the farm some fine and certainly mild weather this month is helping the cows and young calves. All the cattle are now being fed silage which is very easy to handle with a front end loader. Big bales were never a low cost way of preserving grass and since the oil crisis the price of wrap has increased by 10 per roll. One roll wraps around 30 bales. There is also the problem of disposing of the plastic after the bale has been fed. Here we use the small baler to make some massively heavy bales using wire to reinforce the twine. There are now several years in store. There is a recycling centre in Invergordon and next August I am hoping to dispatch a load there. Anyone interested in a place on the lorry? If you don't have a small baler stuff the plastic in a bulk bag which you flatten with the tractor. Then add more.
Lawrence MacEwen

The clear, cold weather of early January brought a good omen to the island: a school of bottle-nose dolphins appeared in Laig Bay, jumping, and cavorting as they sped along the coast towards the Singing Sands and the sound of Sleat. They were a joy to behold.
Compared to last year, of course, January has not been too bad, with a few nice days to allow the lads to advance on the roof at Brae Cottage. But the windy weather has played havoc with our Feis Eige story telling project. Dougie Beck and John Sikorski did manage to visit Rum and Canna but Eigg and Muck will have to be patient and wait for their turn in February. However the Clydebuilt puppet show "Norse tales" which was also part of the programme, was a great success with young and old. Highly recommended!
Burns' eternal memory was also celebrated in style in our new hall, with Colin Carr doing the address to the haggis and Maggie the toast to the laddies, with the usual singing and poem readings: fun was had by all.
The island representatives managed at long last to make it to Mallaig to meet up with David Taylor from Cal Mac and the new Mallaig port manager, Ian Gibbs. A number of issues were explored relating to the lifeline nature of the Small Isles ferry service at was felt to be a constructive meeting. We all hope progress on freight transport will be achieved soon, as the bogie idea has really turned in a bogey! But it is a challenge that we are sure Cal Mac should be able to address to the satisfaction of the four communities served.
The big disappointment of course is the demise of Aramiska's broadband on the island as everywhere it supplied in the highlands. It is amazing how quickly you take progress for granted, and when technology fails, it is all the more disappointing. Is this a warning that we should heed, Lawrence? You are right on warning of the danger of relying on complex technology, but do we have any choice? The only choice we have is to ensure the best possible training for the three people whose task will be to maintain the system, because if Eigg is to progress, it needs 24 hrs electricity, just as we need easy, fast and reliable internet accessIn the case of broadband, it would seem that it is a financial rather than a technological break-down. We will all follow the reaction to this fiasco with a lot of interest.
I guess that we may now have to wait until the islands' primary schools get upgraded, in which case, BT will consider providing the rest of the community with broad band. However, if it takes as long as it does for the school house renovation to even start, we may have to wait for a long time. Fortunately, our new Head, Hilda Ibrahim, seems to be armed with endless patience and is really enjoying her first few weeks on Eigg. "After living down south and doing all this commuting, I wanted more time to be creative and I look forward to do something crafty! And I am also closer to my daughters in Glasgow, which is really good," said Hilda, whose daughter Gehan, lost her husband Colin MacLeod last November: Colin, who founded the GalGael Trust in Govan, was a gifted wood carver and inspirer of people. He will be very much missed on Eigg where he was planning to come more frequently. Our deepest sympathy goes to the whole family, whilst we also wish Hilda the best in her new life on Eigg.
Camille Dressler

I apologise for missing the deadline last time. Hogmanay celebrations were in full swing this year, Wendy and Packy held a party at their house. Everyone was in high spirits, there was laughter, drinking, eating, drinking and err - drinking. Finally the rat squad returned on the 3rd January and the RJ`s boys returned on the 9th.
As Christmas came near Christmas parties were inevitable. On Canna we were lucky and had three! Our first was for the rat squad at the tearoom, the second was the primary schools party and the third was for RJ`s also at the tearoom.

Other Canna news:
Canna Primary had a wonderful visit from Dougie Beck (piper, storyteller, you name it) and John Sikovski (juggler, musician, step dancer). They came out to teach us some step dance, storytelling and the tin whistle. There were two sessions of step dance one in the afternoon for the pupils from 1.30 - 3.15 and the other was in the evening for anyone who wanted to have a go. This was from 4pm to 5pm. This session was well attended with most of the Rat Squad (I'm still trying to get over the shock of ALL! the men dancing, scary) Winnie, Magda and the Soe-Paing family Mr Sikovski and the two primary pupils also attended. Everyone (I think) had a good time and went home glowing.
Mr Beck and Mr Mikulski had to hitch hike to Mallaig and should be on Muck? If they are then thank you for coming and come again soon (not to soon pant pant).
The weather here has been awful for the past fortnight and at the start of the new school term the pupils had to be sent home twice and for that week Saturday to Saturday we had no boat but the CalMac ferry managed to deliver food and mail before we died of either Boredom or Cannibalism.
Best wishes for February
Kathryn Mackinnon

Rat Project Update:
Miss Bell head of the rat Project, has very kindly agreed to write a progress report for this month's issue.
As most of you around Mallaig and the Hebrides know, there are up to twenty rat-catchers resident on Canna at the moment. The main party is made up of Wildlife Management International Limited staff from New Zealand and UK with assistance from volunteers from the UK and around the world (including Australia, Germany, Holland and Taiwan). We have been on Canna since August 2005 and the project runs until the 31st March 2006. We have been busy establishing the bait station grid over the first two months, with over 4200 white or black tube stations out around the island. There is a bait station every 50 to 100 meters over the island, even on cliffs and steep slopes (some of which have been put in by abseiling teams). The Spanish John delivered the poison bait in early November and this has been placed in the bait stations. We manage to check every station every three days. Bait is constantly replaced, when it is eaten by Rats (or damaged by the weather). The baiting will continue until February. As the number of the rats has declined substantially since November we are also monitoring stations for any sign of surviving rats. Over 5000 monitoring stations (candles, soap and chocolate) are out around the island. The islanders and Visitors are assisting us with any sightings or information on the rats. The latest news photographs and progress of the project can be obtained on the website (www.nts-seabirds.org.uk).
Biz Bell, Dave Boyle and Paul Garne, Richards Wildlife Management International Limited Isle of Canna.

The team of experts from Phoenix Trust lead by their Architect, Kit Martin went across to Rum on Monday 30th January, and will be there all week carrying out their survey of Kinloch Castle.

A wonderful evening of tribute to Dr Shina Young in the Hall, with folk travelling from all over to attend. We wish her a long and happy retirement and we all look forward to reading a future article on her trip(s) to Peru with the Amazon Hope Project! There's a further fundraising event on 18th February with a coffee morning in the Hall.
The Hall's 200 Club has been running for ten years now and helps to pay the bills for the Hall. Many many thanks to all who have been in it for so long, we hope you've won at least once and if not, the odds have really shortened for you winning it soon!
The layby and railway crossing gates are in place on the Carnach stretch now - about ten years after first planned! From what I can remember, the idea is that the lorries which cut and transport wood from the plantations will go into the layby, which has a bend which will mean the lorry can come to a stop facing the crossing gates across the road. The driver will use an automatic control to open the gates, and then be able to drive straight across the road, thereby removing the need for any lorry turning on the narrow road or causing traffic disruption. This was considered the safest way to surmount the problems of a turn off from the single track road just after a blind corner.
Great news that Scottish Water aren't going to hold up the housing development in Arisaig. However it is a national problem and something radical has to happen to enable building to go ahead all over the Highlands. Many people in the middle of building suddenly found they couldn't go on with their plans. What on earth has all this been about over the last umpteen years with big hikes in water rates to improve the service when suddenly it's totally inadequate with no money to improve it?
Ann Martin

Thanks to Jackie Hail for sending us this report which he received from the British Geological Survey.
The following preliminary information is available for this earthquake:
DATE : 19 January 2006
ORIGIN TIME : 02:35 44.4s UTC LAT/LONG : 56.96 North / 5.61 West
GRID REF : 180.5 kmE / 791.7 kmN DEPTH : 3 km
LOCALITY : Mallaig, Highland (12 km east of Mallaig)
BGS have received only one felt report for this event, from a resident in Glenfinnan, who reported a "loud bang followed by a loud rumbling noise", indicating an intensity of 3 EMS.

Sticking my neck out in the winter of 2004, I predicted that we would have yet another good year for basking sharks on the West coast of Scotland - one of those enjoyable chances to take a stab at getting it right that might have so easily gone wrong. Joking aside, having completed 13500 kms of scientifically valid surveys with The Wildlife Trusts Basking Shark surveys since 1999, I did have some experience to call from. And having worked through a cyclical upswing in the early years in the English Channel, lessons had been learned in anticipation of the inevitable downturn that would follow. But a downturn in one area generally foretells an upswing elsewhere, with Scotland being the major beneficiary over the last few years.
And, in fact, the change is distribution was even more pronounced in 2005 than in previous years; of 180 sharks sighted, a mere 6 were in Cornwall, with 172 in the Western Isles, the other 2 being sighted in the Irish Sea on the way North. And if we had enjoyed better weather in the "summer" of 2005 we would have broken all records, I believe. With 94 sharks in one day around Coll and Tiree, anything was possible.
People often doubt whether such remarkable numbers can be possible; the answer is that they certainly can, but obviously such huge shoals are very rare. And as they are seldom seem in anything like those numbers except in remote places in ideal weather, you can imagine just why that would be the case. I have seen numbers like that only three times since 1988, and given that I spend half my life each year systematically looking for them, maybe that will give some idea of what a remarkable sight it makes. And for every big shoal I have encountered, I have met some lucky soul who saw them yesterday, or last week, just where we had hoped to go before the weather turned, or our engine broke down - but that's life, and good for them.
The shark hunters certainly saw them in big shoals from time to time, and Gavin Maxwell left a highly entertaining and vivid record of just such an occurrence in his book " Harpoon at a venture" - well worth a read. But as to whether there are more or less animals around these days is hard to say, although the general belief is that the high numbers taken in the North East Atlantic post World War II - nearly 82,000 between 1952 and 2004 - must have taken a toll on a species that breeds so slowly and irregularly.
But we are seeing a high percentage of big (8m+) sharks that are the elders of the shoals, and significant amounts of courtship behaviour, so there is currently cause for hope, at least in Scottish waters.
So despite the indifferent weather, we had a great season, and visited many of our favourite haunts, as well as exploring new horizons in the Outer Hebrides, where we had a very positive start between South Uist and Barra Head, with around 20 sharks sighted. Unusually for the season we also saw minke whales in reasonable numbers, together with a solitary humpback viewed at a distance in the Sound of Mingulay.
Which was strange, as we had seen so few whales (or indeed dolphins) during our normal travels around the Inner Hebrides, something like 10% of the numbers of 2004 (a good year), and considerably down on previous years. And yet the sharks had arrived early, and were around in bumper numbers - how could that be?
In the case of the sharks, it might de dismissed as merely part of a natural cycle, albeit in a very extreme form, but was probably also allied to movements of ocean currents that brought warmer water further North. For the cetaceans, probably part of a larger change in food abundance already reflected in poor seabird breeding seasons connected to sandeel. And maybe the change reflects a larger phenomenon connected to climate change, and which is making its presence felt with increasing force, affecting every level of the marine food chain from the tiniest plant plankton up to the whales that we all enjoy seeing. Time will tell. Oddly enough, whilst it was depressing to see so few whales, it was the lack of seabirds that really hit home. I was recently watching some of our film footage, of minke whales feeding off Arisaig taken in 2004, all of it accompanied by a cacophonic soundtrack of kittiwake and guillemot cries, rising and falling in crescendo as the whales erupted through their midst. That is what we missed so much this year - the sea was so quiet it felt desolate, devoid of its most raucous creatures.
And so I'll stick my neck out again, and say that I think it will, once again, be a good year for sharks in 2006. And that more in hope than certainty, we'll enjoy a better year for the whales and the seabirds, that are so much a part of such a wonderful place. As always, many thanks and best wishes to our many friends in the area, and we look forward to seeing you in the summer.
Colin Speedie

Photographs courtesy of Arthur Campbell.

They came from far and wide and packed out the Astley Hall on 21st January to pay their respects to Dr Shina Young on her retirement as local GP. All enjoyed a ceilidh featuring local musicians and singers, and a buffet.
Dr Young's retiral 'bash' began by Shina and her family being piped into seats of honour by Alasdair Robert. Fear an Tigh was Allan MacDonald and he introduced each item on the programme. Arisaig Primary School (right) performed a song to the tune of 'Dr Finlay's Casebook', and there was a Primary School video showing a tribute and song from Jim Hunter from Lochailort and a series of 'Doctor Doctor' jokes from the pupils. Ross Carr sang, as did local folk group 'Bunch of Tyne', and Katie Macnaughton played her great grandfather's bagpipes. The High School fiddlers, held up on a bus from Inverness, arrived in time to play a medley of tunes (right). Dr Michael Foxley made a speech reflecting on Dr Young's career, in which he said she was the traditional type of GP which is now sadly disappearing. Nurse Mary Boyle spoke on behalf of her colleagues and reminded us of the close working relationship Dr Young had held with the late Nurse Kath Cameron.


Presentations were made to Dr Young; a bouquet, a painting of Eigg and Rum, and a cheque for 1000 which had been donated by local residents. The money will go mainly to the Amazon Hope Project in Peru, which Dr Young will be joining for a few weeks in March, with some amounts to other medical charities.
The cheque was presented by Jenna MacLean, who was very nearly the only baby to be delivered in Arisaig by Dr Shina!
A magnificent cake made and decorated by Mrs Jackie Ross was ceremoniously cut and after a speech of thanks from Dr Young a wonderful buffet was enjoyed by all.

West Word - ten years ago
'The End of the Line for the Village Maid' was the stark headline above a picture of the prawn trawler on the cover of the February 1996 issue of West Word (50p - 32 pages). The headline was a pre-cursor for an article on page 5 on the decommissioning issue facing west coast fishermen, with the break-up of the fishing boat Starwood at Arisaig Marine commented upon.
The other story featured on the cover of Issue 4 Volume 2 was headlined 'Angry Eigg Islanders Lose Patience with Landlord' and the story went on to say 'The community has now totally lost confidence in Maruma'!!! (the exclamation marks are mine).
Lifeboatman George Lawrie penned a two page item on the life and times of the late Dod Christie - one of the characters of old Mallaig who worked on the Railway, mended shoes and boots, played fiddle in the local band and was a member of the Mallaig Lifeboat crew. The article was accompanied by an appeal for more information, photographs, etc. of Dod from his daughter Marina Kent Irvine in South Australia.
Photographs of three birthday boys appeared in the middle pages . Two, Douglas MacKellaig and Ian Coates, were celebrating their 40th birthdays while Duncan Coates was 15 - so now we know what their ages are this month!
Regular West Word contributors included Neil Robertson's 'Down to Earth' column, Paul Galbraith's Gaelic Place Names featured the Small Isles, and Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner informed us how slugs and snails move.
The local Police also had a regular column ten years ago with cyclists being warned to be sure to have lights and reflectors fitted to their bikes. See and be seen and wear your helmet is good advice now as well as a decade ago!
Eigg's Barry Austin had travelled from the most westerly railway station in the UK (Arisaig) to Puerto Montt, which boasts not only the end of proper roads in Chile but also the most southerly railway station in the world, and Glenuig piper Iain MacDonald talked of his forthcoming Antipodes tour with the Battlefield Band and of his ambitions to play his pipes on top of Ayer's Rock in Australia (I wonder if he managed it).
The story of the wandering Tarbet goat was told in rhyme via An Ode To Billy and An Ode To Billy II while another animal, 'Paderewski', aka Paddy the Cat won 25.00 in the Astley Hall, Arisaig, 200 Club.
Robert Grant and Peter Coull were in the throes of starting up a Clay Pigeon Club, and the other sporting news included Rugby, Junior Badminton and and Traigh Golf Club.
There was also a general knowledge quiz containing the following topical question: 'How old was Robbie Burns when he died?' If you don't know, you should be ashamed of yourself - I looked up the answer to confirm that he was 37.

Seven Weeks in 1908 by Alasdair Roberts
While looking through back numbers of the Oban Times, my attention fell on two 1908 meetings in the Astley Hall. The first was on 29 February (bachelors beware!) with Canon Chisholm in the chair, and it was addressed by a member of the Highland Temperance League - back for his annual lecture on the evils of drink. A fortnight later there was an illustrated talk on Admiral Hawke (who prevented a French invasion across the Channel) by the stationmaster at Lochailort. In his vote of thanks Arisaig's postmaster singled out 'Mr Lachlan Gillies who had manipulated the magic lantern'. Having once suffered a nightmare of jammed slides in the same hall, I saluted him across the years.
More technology followed, as advertised by the famous dog listening to His Master's Voice: 'There was also in evidence a large gramophone, and very superior results from Caruso, Harry Lauder and others were afforded the audience. Thereafter a dance, organised for charity purposes, was proceeded with and continued, with the usual refreshments, till a late hour in the morning.' The wind-up gramophone also provided dance music. Since the two Astley sisters Lady Gertrude (Nicholson) and Constance kept an eye on events in the hall named after their father, it is unlikely that the usual refreshments included anything stronger than tea.

Constance Astley
Constance Astley

Also in March, a ploughing match was held at Mains Farm. Most of the twelve competitors received prizes for the principal event, Best Ploughing. The money awards started at 1 2s., won by Dugald Smith, Kinloid, but the second prize which went to John MacDonald, Traigh, was a bag of flour. Hugh Campbell, Mains, came third with 13s., followed by Alex MacEachen, Bunacaimbe, and so on down to eighth. One of the prizes in another event was a pound of tea. I didn't have time to note all the names, including fifteen local gentry who put up the money, but was struck by the number of different competitions: Best Pair of Horses, Straightest Ploughing, Best Harness (distinct from Best Kept Old Harness), Best Feering. That called for the Scots Dialect Dictionary: 'Feer, to draw the first furrow in ploughing.'
Far from his Highland estates, Lord Lovat introduced a Crofter Bill to the Upper House at Westminster. He wanted to make it easier for crofters to get extra land, and to give security to lesser householders. With new possibilities being opened up by the Fort William-Mallaig railway, Lovat was in favour of tenants being allowed to take in summer visitors. The estate ensured a supply of water, but tenants were responsible for sanitation. 'Seaview', beside the cemetery, acquired an inside toilet to become 'the first modern house in Morar' - this according to the writer and photographer M. E. M. Donaldson who stayed there.
On the front page of the Oban Times the Earnsaig farm's 1,630 acres of rough grazing was advertised to let from Lovat Estates, with blackface sheep at valuation. This brings us to Mallaig. On 2 March 1908 a dinner was held to honour the first combined stationmaster and harbour master. Mr Grant was moving to Inverkeithing, where the Forth Bridge brought trains to Fife and close to a harbour and naval dockyard. Almost a full column is taken up describing the guests by place and occupation. This would be worth consulting for the history which is still to be written of Mallaig in the boom years. The 1901 census, available in the Heritage Centre, could be put alongside it.
Two other Mallaig stories were reported in the few weeks I looked at, both about legal matters with judgement given elsewhere. The first concerned the former housekeeper of what became the West Highland. There had been a dispute over MALLAIG STATION HOTEL PROFITS (the headline) and this Mrs Jessie Krupp, whose German husband was the hotel's first manager, claimed 132 7s 7d from John Menzies Ltd., 12 Queen Street, Edinburgh, in connection with five years' profits from the refreshment rooms at Mallaig Station. These were opposite the Marine Hotel. The case was continued (in Edinburgh) but I didn't follow it up. MALLAIG LIBEL CASE involved the good name of Miss Agnes Murdoch (26), manageress of the Marine Hotel. The man who besmirched it was Kenneth Beecham, an engineer employed by London and North Western Railways at Euston - very much the other end of the line - who was at the Marine in August 1907. Miss Murdoch's sister was book-keeper at the Station Hotel and the two were together for summer nights. Beecham alleged that there was impropriety between Agnes and a young man studying for Church of Scotland ministry. Miss Murdoch admitted he had walked her up the hill but made it clear that nothing occurred beyond a polite good night - as the would-be clergyman had already established in court. Mr Justice Sutton made no difficulty about awarding her 500 damages from the King's Bench in London.
This was my first experience of microfilm in Fort William library. Others should try it. You ask for a year (any year back to about 1875) and are allowed two hours, although I went into a second period because the place was quiet. Helpful staff set up the machine without being asked. Normally there's a device for copying part of a page but it wasn't working: it's expensive at 75p a time, but for these marvellous lists of names and places you could be tempted to spend a pound or two. With all the changes that are taking place in local health care, someone might be interested in going further with the Arisaig District Nursing Association which held its third annual meeting in March - further than the fact that Nurse Murray's work was appreciated. Perhaps a doctor of retiring disposition. . . ? Meanwhile I'm following up yet another story (about the Morar Gun Club and a marksman called MacLellan) from this same small window on the past.

Pictured left are members of the Mallaig Deer Shunters Motor Cycle Club who are hoping to raise thousands of pounds for Save the Children.
In June they will embark on The Great European Challenge, a two week motorcycle trek through nine Eastern European countries. They will leave on June 14th and during their journey they will visit a number of orphanages.
The group is named the Deer Shunters Club to keep in mind the danger of deer on Highland roads. They are also hoping to raise awareness of the number of motorcyclists killed each year on Britain's roads.
June 18th will be the fourth day of their Challenge and they are hoping that it will become known nationally as Safer Biking Day. PC John Bryden, one of the team, said: 'It is hoped that the entire country will gather to pay their respects to those who have been touched by tragedy on the roads. On the 18th we will be asking that the country reflects on its driving habits and become more tolerant and realise that many deaths on our roads could be avoided. We are asking motorcyclists to attach a small piece of red cloth to their bikes, and, if riding on the 18th, do so in dignified quiet reflection, paying their respects to those fellow riders who have lost their lives on our roads.'
People wishing to donate money and support the bikers' efforts can do by cheque, payable to Save The Children and sent to Mallaig Deer Shunters, c/o Springbank, East Bay, Mallaig PH42 4 or online at www.justgiving.com/mallaigdeershunters

Photo Iain Ferguson of the Write Image

A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
The MacDonells of Bracara

This branch of the the MacDonell family is descended from Alasdair an Tarbairt, (Alasdair Tarbert), younger son of Alasdair Dbh, MacDonell, 11th Chief of Glengarry, who fought at Killiecrankie and Sherrifmuir. Alasdair's elder brother, John, became the 12th Chief of Glengarry.
James MacDonell (known as Solomon) of whom we write here, was the g.g.g.g.grandson of Alasdair Dbh, 11th Chief of Glengarry.
The above James MacDonell, Bracara, descendant of Alasdair Tarbert, m. Mary MacDonell, dau. of John MacDonell, tenant of Bracara and they had ten children. The children were as follows.
1. Mary, a cook and housekeeper, was unmarried and died in 1961, aged 90+, in Seaview, Morar, at the home of her sister Bella MacDonell, (8. see below) wife of Capt. Archie MacLellan.
2. Duncan m. Sarah Gillies, dau. of Ewen Gillies, whose grandfather,Angus was in Easter Stoule, and Kate MacDougall, from Bracara. Sarah was an aunt of the late Canon Iain Gillies, latterly parish priest of St. Mary's, Arisaig from 1964-1983. Duncan and Sarah MacDonell lived at Rifern, Meoble, for many years. They had six children:
A. James who m. Agnes ?, and had two children, Duncan, u.m. and Sarah who m. ? Bayliss. Both James and Agnes MacDonell were killed in a car accident on their way back to England, after a visit to Bracara.Their dau. Lisa Bayliss, had a letter in the Nov. 2005 issue of "West Word" and hopes to visit Meoble this year. (2006)
B. Hughie, u.m. became the Meoble boatman after the death of his father in 1960.
C. Donald was a telephone engineer in Balloch, Loch Lomond. During WW11, he was a Special Agent behind the lines with SOE and was awarded the M.M. He married Patricia ? and had two sons and a daughter.
D. Flora was u.m., and was a local schoolteacher who died at the early age of 27 or 28 years.
E. Sandy was u.m.. As a prisoner of war in the salt mines of Siberia, he was badly injured by rifle butts wielded by his German guards. He was captured at St. Valery while serving with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.
F. Angus was a sergeant in the R.A.F and was killed in action whilst serving in the Mediterranean theatre of war.
3. Alexander or, Sandy, lived in Bracarina and was married to Flora MacDonald from Stoule. Flora was a sister of Hugh MacDonald, Mallaig Mr. Hugh was father of Donald, Sandy, and Mary, Mallaig Mr. Hugh and Flora had a brother, Donald, who remained in the croft in Stoule which he left to his niece and nephew, Marjorie and Hugh Matheson. The croft is now part of the Bracara crofts of Alastair Mackay. Sandy and Flora had three children, Mary, Donald and James. (Jimmy, Mary & Donald 'Handy) All three siblings remained unmarried and lived in the family home, the Old Schoolhouse, Bracarina
4. Mary Ann. m. Duncan MacDougall from Bracara. Duncan's sister, Kate, was the mother of Sarah Gillies, spouse of Duncan (2) (see above,) so you can see how the MacDonell, MacDougall and Gillies families of North Morar were connected. Mary Ann and Duncan MacDougall had five children who are:
A. Alistair dec. who m. Marjorie Goode and their children are A1. Alistair, u.m. and B1. Frances who m. John White.
B. Bella MacDougall m. Charlie (George) MacDonald of Bun a Caimbe and Hazelgrove, Arisaig. They had two daughters, B1. Rosemary, who m. Peter Bridge with two daughters, Stephanie and Olivia and, B2. Lillian, who is unmarried.
C. D. & E. The remaining three children, Mary, Flora and Neil MacDougall, (Neilly) all dec. remained unmarried.
5. William m. Lydia ? from Wales and they lived in Carlisle. They had no children and when William died, he was buried in Cille Chumein, (the old Morar cemetery). Upon his death, Lydia returned to her native Wales and was interred there.
6. Flora was the second wife of Ronald MacLeod, Leiter Mhorair, (Lettermorar) who had four sons by his first marriage. These sons were, Joe, John, Allan and ? Flora and Ronald had two children - Catherine and Hugh. Flora died aged 32, in her parents' home in Bracara after becoming ill with what, was possibly, appendicitis. Ronald left Leitir Mhorar and went to Locheilside. This family went on to establish businesses in Fort William, beginning with "The Rod and Gun Shop", which still operates today. Ronald and Flora's dau., Catherine, m. Duncan MacArthur and they had one son, Hugh. Hugh, m. Bunty? And they had two daughters. Hugh was headmaster of St. Joseph's school in Blantyre.
7. Sarah m. Trevor Davies and had two children, one of whom, Jimmy, was killed while serving in the R.A.F. in W.W.11. He was lost over the English Channel during the Battle of Britain.
8. Bella m. Captain Archie MacLellan Trinity House Pilot, of Seaview, Morar and had two children, Ronnie who m. Mary Nicholson from Skye and Molly, who m. Donald Buchanan from Barra.
9. Lexie m. Angus MacLellan of Woodside, Morar and had two daughters, Mary, who was unmarried and Nancy who m. Calum MacKellaig of Glasnacardoch and later, Morar Hotel.
10. Donald, b. 1888, was the youngest of the family and was affectionately known as Domhnall Hamish. Domhnall Hamish was a noted fiddle player. He married Elizabeth Hazely, an Englishwoman, who was governess to the Caldwell family at Morar Lodge.
They had three children, Mary who m. Paul Galbraith (Barra), Juliet who m. Jimmy Parks and Duncan who m. Helen Dempster from Mallaig. The family included Hugh Harkins who later m. Marjorie Ann MacDonald of Seacrest, Morar and they had two children, Hazel and Norman.
Moran taing to Tearlach MacFarlane for his comprehensive family tree connecting this family to the Glengarry MacDonell chiefs, to Mollie Buchanan, (Seaview and Kilbar, Morar) and to Hugh Harkins, Milton of Campsie, for their assistance in this local genealogy.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook

List of Issues online

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

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Reports from the coastal ranger, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel/Fax: 01687 462 720
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)


Copyright © 2002-2006 West Word
Page last updated: February 2006

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland