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

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February 2008 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Arisaig
Crofting Roundup & Fishing Focus
West Word ten years ago
Local Genealogy & History

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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Life will never be the same on Eigg again, and in this respect it can only be a good thing. Islanders have at last joined the 21st Century and will now be able to enjoy the little things of life which we take completely for granted.
No doubt there will be a rush of electrical equipment being delivered to the island, appliances which the residents have not been able to use because their power was provided by expensive diesel generators and gas bottles. Toasters, vacuum cleaners, mixers, washing machines, bedside lights, microwaves - the list is endless. Washing will no longer have to be done in a big sink with a scrubbing brush and a mangle!
The Isle of Eigg Electrification Project switched on for the first time on 1st February 2008, allowing power generated from renewable energy sources around the island to be supplied to all residents, through the new island wide high voltage distribution network.


The system will generate over 95% of the islands annual energy demand through a combination of Hydro Electric, Wind Power and Solar Energy, which is believed to be the first time that anyone has successfully integrated these three renewable energy sources.
To ensure that constant power can be provided, a battery storage system has been designed which will compensate for short periods of up to 24 hours, where energy from renewable sources is not available. Two 80kW diesel generators have also been installed to provide emergency back-up and to supplement the supply should the output from the renewable sources be lower than the demand.
Each of these systems in their remote locations, and the 45 households, 20 businesses and 6 community buildings on the island, are linked to together by 11km of buried cable that forms a high voltage network, linking generation with consumption. John Booth, Director of Eigg Electric and who has been the co-ordinator of the project on the island said, "This project is the culmination of 10 years of achievement since the purchase of the island in 1997. Eigg Electric gives us the green light to our future"
Eigg Electric commissioned Synergie Scotland Ltd to manage the whole project in August 2005. Ian MacGillivray, Managing Director of Synergie Scotland Ltd said, "We have been delighted to have been involved with such a unique and technically challenging project and we compliment the people of Eigg for their vision and determination to deliver a project with such a wide community benefit."
The project design and some enabling works were carried out during 2006 and early 2007, before the main design and build contract was awarded to Scottish Hydro Contracting in April 2007.
Ian Cartwright - Regional Manager, Scottish Hydro Contracting said: "Scottish Hydro Contracting were appointed to design and install an electrical generation and distribution system to supply approximately 60 properties owned and occupied by the residents of Eigg which is a community owned island. The system will be owned and operated by Eigg Electric with some on going maintenance and HV switching by Hydro Contracting."
John Hutchison, Chairman of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust said, "The Eigg Electric team has done an excellent job on behalf of the resilient Eigg community. We are also grateful for the financial support from European Regional Development Fund, HIE Lochaber, Highlands & Islands Community Energy Company, Big Lottery, Scottish Community Household Renewables Initiative, Energy Saving Trust & Highland Council. Thanks also to Triodos Bank for assisting with financial arrangements" The system is fed from 3 main energy sources: Hydroelectricity, a 100kW hydro scheme at located at Laig, and 2 smaller 6kW schemes at Kildonan and the pier; Windpower, a 24kW wind farm comprising four 6 kW Proven wind turbines on 15m masts are located at Grulin on the south of the island; Solar energy, a 10kW Photovoltic Array at Glebe.
The total cost of the scheme is £1.6 million and the generation system comprises a new 100kW Hydro Scheme, 4 off 6kW wind turbines, 9.5kW photovoltaic system, battery inverter system and two diesel generators. The distributing system comprised 9 HV to LV transformer stations, 11km of HV cable and 9km of LV cabling and meters and changeover switches in each property.

What a Hogmanay! Squashy Bag Dance Band did themselves proud, and DJ Dolphin Boy pulled out the stops as always. Local contributions included log candles outside the hall, and a fireworks spectacular which was pretty amazing by Knoydart standards. Lots of people around; great to see so many familiar faces. A brief hydro power cut on the night itself failed to dampen spirits.
All quiet now, although it does seem a busier winter on the visitor front than past years. The days of weeks going by without a visitor in the peninsula seem to be past. As an example, we had over 100 people at the Burns Supper, which was highly entertaining. Jim the Ranger had some post-speech grovelling to do in regards to his Toast to the Lassies...
The children are looking forward to their trip to the film awards ceremony in London (March), and have received funding from Scottish Screen to help with travelling expenses. You may have seen them on the front cover of the Oban Times the other week, crossing everything in hope of winning the prize for best film in their age-group.
Lots happening here in Knoydart over the next few weeks and months:

Great to hear about Eigg's recent power successes - good luck to Maggie with her new hoover.
Finally, reports of a man running across the street in the wee small hours in a fetching pink (or was it violet?) nightdress are coming into the newsdesk. Unfortunately, I can't reveal who the culprit was for personal safety reasons - perhaps Davey will have more bottle than me next month?
Tommy McManmon

It's back to normal on the island after the break and time to plan for the future. Jenny and I are now in Tigh Lachlan, right next to the farmhouse. It has been a big operation sorting out the accumulation of decades and moving even if it is only 50 yards! Our new telephone number is 01687 460057, which BT finally gave to us on 17 January after a month of pestering.
Heartened by the award of a lottery grant to cover feasibility studies and business plan, together with architect's drawings, the Community Hall team are hard at work progressing the project. Central to the fund-raising, which received such a great boost at New Year is the Community Hall raffle. Island and local businesses have donated some wonderful prizes (see separate article) and the draw will be at the Open Day which is on 22 June 2008.
Pascal Carr and Eileen Ferguson have shown that on Eigg commercial vegetable production is a real possibility on the West Coast. Now aided by a large area of polythene, 2 tonnes of compost and a strong back, Dave Barnden is hoping to ensure that the Craft Shop can drastically reduce imports of vegetables. Together with Sandy Mather's seafood, lamb and free range chicken from the farm, the concept of local food is fast becoming a reality. Talking of local food it does seem incredible that the Farm Shop at the Ben Nevis Auction Mart sources most of its vegetables in Elgin.
On the farm, over 5 acres of swedes are still waiting for a dry spell to use our tractor mounted harvester from Aberdeenshire. The geese have done some damage but Toby's gun has made them very nervous and the damage is much less than last year. Some of the crop will be grazed by the black ewes and we are hoping to save on concentrates.
The latest dark cloud on the agricultural horizon is fertiliser at over £300/tonne if it is obtainable. Perhaps the answer is more housed livestock and more dung. It is a shame that seaweed is so low in nitrogen and of little benefit to grass as there is plenty here!
Lawrence MacEwen

Here's me feeling a bit guilty for not writing last month, and only just making the deadline today…time just seems to be flying by, much like the weather of late. It's not often we see snow here and it's been a devil to keep the fire in through these northerly gales. The recent 'sodden' weather has made the going soft to say the least and it's been a struggle just to move around. Even the quad bikes have to exercise some careful route-finding about the place. On the bright side, the days are getting longer (though most of the time they just appear to have shifted sideways); the Cuillin in both directions are displaying their seasonal alpine character and will occasionally glow vibrant given the odd glimpse of winter sun. Most of the time, though, it rains.
Earlier this month we saw the entire contingent gathered on the pier to welcome the new arrivals. There had no doubt been celebrations on the Loch Nevis as the pair appeared to be carried up the slipway and bundled into a waiting landrover. Time is slipping by indeed as a large proportion of mine seems to be taken up in monitoring the antics of the newcomers, most of which appear to take place at some ridiculous time of the night. So far they haven't said much and barely cracked a smile since their arrival, preferring to keep tight lipped and fussed over by the rest of us. I refer of course to the twins Meggie and Jack, who continue to appear blissfully unaware of the whole proceedings. Aah, bless.
More new arrivals later in February as the gardener and his family arrive from Wales, bringing a much overdue and needed boost to the population. Human resources seemed to be approaching dangerously low levels over the festive period, as folks took themselves off briefly to the mainland for one reason or another; some through necessity, others by choice when it happens occasionally. A hardy few left here then, to take care as they must of the necessary duties and responsibilities that come with day to day life on a small island.
The year passes on the farm also. It's been time to carry out required maintenance and get all the tricky jobs done and dusted before the worst of the weather sets in. Moving the animals about might not be easy but it's better to keep them and the land in good condition. Two highland calves arrived early last month…more mouths to feed! Despite the weather, the roof is finished on the barn at Tarbert and looks like a job well done. Conditions were, er, somewhat blowy further round the West End on the final rounds of the rat monitoring. The team from Wildlife Management will be back here next month to do the final checks and to remove the several hundred monitoring stations. Job done, almost!
Geoff Soe-Paing

Falling numbers at the Croileagan (Gaelic Playgroup) has resulted in it finishing its Friday morning session in the Astley Hall - but undaunted Lynne has been busy and has put together an After School Group which caters for older children as well as babies and toddlers. They meet on Fridays 3.30 - 5pm and the first couple of sessions have proved popular.
The Monday Youth Club (as they all do, all the time) is struggling to continue, not because of the lack of children - attendances are excellent - but because of a lack of helpers. If you can spare a few hours to help out, let them know - if there are enough helpers, it wouldn't even be every week.
Still no news on the Hall lighting!
I'm looking forward to Tasha's 'Feel Good February' day of massage treatments on the 21st, especially as my lovely son and daughter-in-law gave me a gift voucher for massages from Tasha for Christmas. It's great to have something like this coming to the Hall so I hope lots of you take advantage of the chance so that she will come again!
Ann Martin

The Muck community were delighted to receive an Investing in Ideas Lottery grant to help us to accurately cost and prepare an application for funding to build our Community Hall. This will help us to pay for the initial services of an architect, various technical advice, business planning etc..
Lawrence has already mentioned in last month's West Word the Fundraising events we did at New Year. Anyone interested in giving him/us money retrospectively for his beard being shaved off knows where we are!!
Raffle tickets in aid of the Community Hall are now available. Please get in touch with Mary at hotel@isleofmuck.com or 01687462365. We have some fantastic prizes donated:

A bottle of malt has been promised as well and there could be more prizes winging their way here at this moment!
We have been delighted by the generosity of the local businesses listed above - thank you SO much. If anyone else would like to contribute a prize, please get in touch with Mary. The Raffle will be drawn at the Isle of Muck Open Day which is on June 22nd. Thank you everyone.

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member
Letter from Ulliam Smith - Crofters Commission
"This Letter is to inform you of some important meetings concerning matters of significance to crofters and croftland
The Committee of Inquiry on Crofting has arranged a series of public meetings at locations around Scotland to share its developing vision for the future of crofting in Scotland and discuss a number of outstanding issues Among the places to be visited are:
Arisaig [February 11th 6.30 pm]
Skye [ February 12th]
Inverness [February 19th]
These meetings should provide an opportunity to discuss the vision set out in the Committee's paper ' Towards the Future of Crofting' which should be available from Feb 4th on the website www.croftinginquiry.org.uk Responses to the issues still under discussion should be submitted to the Committee by 28th February 2008

A series of local 'surgeries' have been arranged to enable people to discuss the Local Plan content with a planning official. A Ward Forum meeting is also proposed for February 4th. To assist your Township in advance of attending your local 'surgery' you should consult the following computer website www.highland.gov.uk/whilp and view the appropriate parts of the Deposit Draft of December 2007. Objections to the plan can be sent in writing to The Director of Planning Development, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX before 14th March 2008

Training days have been arranged throughout Scotland to provide important information for crofters and farmers on matters of importance to them as landmanagers.
One of these meetings is to be held at Keppoch Farm, Roy Bridge on the 4th March 2008. Anyone who wishes further information or who wish to book a place on any of these training days should contact the S.G.R.P.I.D office Benbecula [01870 602 346] or email crosscompliance@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
Please contact Ulliam if you have any general questions about this letter [01463 663429]

Just to add that the test required to move livestock over 40 miles but under 8 hours is to be held on 14th February. It is a test with multiple choice answers and you do not need to bring a trailer.
There will be a separate test for horses and cattle/sheep [classed as one species]
To book: telephone 0131 333 2040 and ask for Penny.

FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary of the M&NWFA
The weather so far this year has been horrendous with some vessels only managing to go to sea for 2 days in all of January. The prices for fish landed have been high but alas supplies have not been plentiful.
A NEW committee is being formed to manage the fishery of the Inner Sound of Raasay, between the Isle of Skye and the Applecross peninsula.
The committee is trying to head off further conflict between mobile and static gear fishermen, following proposals by creel fishermen to close an area from Applecross to Loch Hourn to trawlers all year round. The area is currently closed to trawlers from October to April, but the Highland and Islands Fishermen's Association wants the closure to be made year round to mirror the situation in Loch Torridon. Mallaig and North-west Fishermen's Association has challenged the information on which the proposal is based, and claim it would have a serious effect on the livelihoods of their members.
We had 20 people at a meeting in Broadford on Friday, which was surprising given the terrible weather we had at the weekend. Another 10 sent in apologies and it was heartening that so many of them were young people prepared to take on the management of the fishery. We have counted 51 trawlers with local connections fishing in this area. We set up a committee with representatives from all over Skye and Lochalsh, and we intend to call another meeting in the first week of March and invite static gear fishermen to join the committee so that we can work together. There are a number of proposals had already been made which will be put to the March meeting. It is important that everyone is involved in managing this fishery rather than a select few. We want to ask for further scientific research on the six month closure of the area. Initially it was done to protect herring, but there has been little or no recent research on herring in the area. We want some independent research carried out into the nephrops fishery in the area as well. Until now all the research carried out has had a specific aim, rather than being objective and taking an overview of the effects of all types of fisheries.

West Word - ten years ago
'Work on the new Arisaig Causeway Underway' was the headline on the front pahe of the February 1998 edition of West Word (Vol.4 Issue 4).
Andy Race, at that time a Lochaber Ltd Director, was pictured with the plans for the new development at Arisaig Marine which included a causeway and new berthing facility with a total project cost of £35,000.
'David Stewart MP to meet with the new Road Minister Henry MacLeish to continue pressing for the upgrading of the A830' is a quote from another front page story and it's interesting to note that 10 years on the upgrading of the last remaining single track section of the A830 is well underway! David Stewart also commented on the Mallaig Road in his Westminster Diary on page 9.
On page 2 Michael Currie (RNLI) is pictured receiving a cheque, value £50,000, from John MacMillan on behalf of Sir Cameron Mackintosh - a donation towards the new Mallaig Lifeboat - and this is one of six items on that page which also included news on 'Looking Ahead For The Highlands' (a new discussion paper produced by The Highland Council); Steam Train Looks For New Marketing Initiatives; Taking Gaelic Into The New Millennium; The Pet Fostering Service, Scotland; and West Highland Hotel Welcomes Dutch Visitors. A pretty mixed bag I'm sure you'll agree!
Hugh Allen's Local Fishing News talked of the sadness of the news of the passing of William John Manson MBE, a founding father of the Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association. (Hugh also penned an obituary which took pride of place on page 15.) Like January 2008, the Mallaig Lifeboat was called out on four occasions - three medivacs and one creel boat, Silver Fern, suffering from engine trouble off Arisaig Point.
Disappointment at Malcolm Chisholm's resignation as Roads Minister was expressed in Charlie King's Council Corner, but the case for upgrading the A830 will go on, he states, to convince the new Minister Henry MacLeish that urgent action is required! However, the main thrust of Council Corner was the breaking news that Highland Council will sign an agreement on the 9th February with all parties involved in the St Elmo's and The Croft area which will pave the way for the creation of a new Health Centre.
Sonia Cameron and John Barnes combined to bring readers the 'On The Rails' page telling of the Freedom of Scotland Travelpass, West Highland Railcard and the Model Rail Scotland being held later in the month at the SECC in Glasgow.
An advert for a new home-made pizza takeaway at Mallaig's Tigh-a-Chlachain was spread across the bottom of two pages whilst plans were getting underway for the 4th Road to the Isles Agricultural Show.
The end of Wm Simpson & Sons (Oil Merchants) was documented on page 7. They had been acquired by Denholm Fishselling Ltd who had unveiled plans to install fuel storage tanks and permanent fuelling points within the new Harbour Development. Information on the new Credit Union which was in the process of being set up was carried on page 8 alongside a report (with pics) on the upgrading of the Loch nan Uamh/Polnish section of the A830 by Graham Maw, Resident Engineer, Halcrow Crouch. Mallaig Primary School pupils, April 1948, was the flashback photo in the middle pages, also adorned by 'Transient Skies', a poem by John Alick MacLeod Campbell, and silver wedding anniversary wishes to Alistair and Ann Gillies (West Highland Hotel) and Alasdair and Mhairi MacLeod (Morar Hotel), both couples must now have just celebrated 35th wedding anniversaries, so congrats again!
A single page green coloured flyer highlighting the local campaign for a new Hall in Mallaig was included in the 28 page edition. Another anniversary of a somewhat different type was explained on page 17 when Arisaig Postman Gep MacMillan was pictured receiving a Long Service Achievement Award from Royal Mal in recognition of 15 years' service - well, I guess it's now 25 not out for Gep!!
Burn's Night Fun and Games article included a photograph, a poem and some words of explanation from Morar's Roy Stewart, who is in the picture along with some other Burn's Night attendees and 'Jean Armour' - a calf they helped deliver at Traigh Farm. Mallaig & Arisaig Primary Schools, along with Mallaig High School, provided all the School News and there was a 2 page spread on the 1997 activities of the Mallaig Encounter Group, and a look ahead at what they would be doing in the current year. Baked and Steamed Moroccan Cod was the month's mouth watering recipe from the Old Library, whilst that lesser known delicacy the Slow Worm was described by Dr May Elliot in her Creepy Crawly Corner.
Christian Unity Week was the topic for Fr MacKinnon's Message whilst Geoff Thomas provided the news from the Fishermen's Mission.
Pre-school children at the Rainbow's end Nursery provided a page of self portraits (very interesting) and there was a Competition page - collective nouns, wordsearch and word meanings!
The local newshounds had provided the happenings in their areas (Canna, Knoydart, Muck, Eigg, Morar, Arisaig and Mallaig) via the Round and About section, and I'll just end this review with a 10 year old quote: 'Tom McClean is bonkers! Brave but bonkers!' - Kris Akabussi, presenter on the BBC TV Show Record Breakers Gold.

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)

A couple of letters this month, which I am hoping to have information on for next month's West Word.

Dear Allan,
My name is Marie Watson nee Macpherson and I believe we are related through the marriage of my g.g.grandfather Martin MacPherson to your g.aunt Ann MacDonald (or should that be g.g.aunt?) Anyway, that means we have common ancestors in Ann's parents.
I came across your article on the net in West Word where you related meeting my first cousin Warren MacPherson and his wife Denise in Morar a few years back. I was excited to see this as I am working on my family tree at present.
I will give you a brief resume of what I have come up with so far. Martin and Ann had 5 children, Alexander, Allan, Donald, Mary and Christina (Christy.) Donald is my g.grandfather and on the 7th Jan 1869 he married Janet Cameron who was b1849 in Fort William. They had 9 children, some were born in Scotland and some in NZ - I still need to find out more about this. I do know my grandfather, Allan was born on the 30th of Jan 1873 in Glenelg and travelled out to NZ when he was 3 years old arriving in Timaru in the South Island of NZ. They settled in that area.
Donald's brother Allan b.1826, Glenelg, travelled out to NZ with them - I think he remained a bachelor. Donald was an innkeeper and farmer and was buried at Waimate (near Timaru, NZ) on the 15th June, 1906. On his gravestone are the words "Native of Glenelg, Invernesshire, Scotland." His wife Janet died on the 6th Oct. 1944 is buried along side him and Donald's brother, Allan is there too (he died on the 23rd Nov 1891.)
As I said Donald and Janet had 9 children. I know some of the other son's details, Alexander was born in 1880 in NZ and died on the 10th May in 1956 at Waiho Forks, NZ. Martin was born 1880 in NZ and died 2 years later, he is also buried in the Waimate cemetery.
Donald Gregory was b. 23rd July 1882 in Waimate, NZ and died 26th Nov 1956 in Waimate. He trained as a doctor at Otago University, Dunedin, NZ. He became an All Black and played one game for NZ against Australia. He did not travel away with the All Blacks but while working (training?) as a doctor in London he played for London Hospital and was chosen to play for Scotland and played against England and Ireland. He worked as medical officer at Weston Hospital in London, returned to Christchurch, NZ, before World War and retired to his home town, Waimate.
I still have to research the 5 daughters of the family. I think Kittie (Catherine?) was the youngest, an artist and teacher she remained single. I am fortunate to have on my wall an excellent portrait she painted of her father Donald in his kilt. I do some oil painting myself. Another daughter was called Jessie.
My grandfather is Allan MacPherson who was farmer at Hook, near Waimate and he married Anna Cambell from Geraldine, NZ ,in 1906. They had 4 children Jessica (Jessie,) Elizabeth (Buff,) Alan and my father, Donald Campbell who was b.22 Feb 1913 in Waimate and d.30 July 1996 in Christchurch. He was brought up in Waimate but went south to Southland to work as a young man and then bought a sheep farm at Springhills next door to his brother, Alan ( Alan is Warren's father and Warren farms the family farm there. He has bought neighbouring properties and now milks 1500 cows.)
My father married Margaret Hennessey in 1940. She was b.28 Nov 1914 and was raised in Orepuke, Southland. They had 8 children, Neil b.1941, Keith b. 1942, Brian b.1944, Gregory b.1946, Marie b.1947(me), Barbara b.1948, Colette b.1951 and Ian b. 1957. My parents sold the farm in 1974 and retired north to Rangiora (near Christchurch) to retire and are buried there. My mother died 22 July 1993.
Going back to Martin's family in Scotland I don't have any information about his oldest son, Alex who remained in Scotland, I guess. You mentioned a grandchild, Simon MacEachen - this must have been Mary's son. I tracked down Martin Macpherson staying with his daughter, Christina McPhail at 2 Scoters, Knoydart in the 1871 Census. He was listed as a visitor and a retired innkeeper. There was no mention of Ann, perhaps she was deceased? Christina's husband's name was Neil McPhail and they had 4 young children, Alexander b.1867, Allan b.1869 and twins, Ann and Sally b.1871.
I am very interested in finding out more about the McDonalds. Am I right in thinking that Ann MacPherson nee MacDonald's parents were Ronald and Kate Campbell and that Ann had a brother John and a sister Mary? I would love to hear any information you have.
My husband Martin and I went to England last year to visit his father and we spent a great week touring around Scotland. We visited Glenelg and Skye but unfortunately did not make it to Morar. We also spent time at the MacPherson Museum in Newtonmore. We thought the Scottish scenery was spectacular - some of it reminded us of NZ.
Looking forward to a reply,
Marie Watson, Christchurch, New Zealand.

The second letter was sent to West Word's Editor. It reads:

In the early Spring, my brother and I are anticipating paying a visit to Arisaig and hopefully you might be able to answer one or two questions or point me in the right direction. We wish to go a little further back in our family history if possible.
I know my father was born in Glasgow in 1877, his family moved to Liverpool when he was quite young, but a Mrs Thomson in Dumfries Library supplied me with further information regarding my grandparents, which I will detail: My father, John Gillies, was born in Glasgow in 1877. His father, my grandfather, John Gillies, was born in Glasgow in 1856. My g grandfather, Angus Gillies, was born in Arisaig in 1811 - 1813; also a sister, Ann Gillies, born c 1813. My g g grandfather, also Angus Gillies, was married to Elizabeth Gillies - no birth dates known. On the same day, 9th June 1815, as Ann Gillies was baptised in Braegirdle, Inverness, an Annie Gillies, daughter of Lachlan Gillies and Chirsty(?) McRae was baptised, giving rise to the idea that Angus Gillies and Lachlan Gillies were brothers.
Mr S Gillies, Wirral, Merseyside.

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