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

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February 2015 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
Local Genealogy and history

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

With no front page story this month, we thought we would print just two of the lovely photos that have appeared on Facebook during the snowy weather in February. We began to think the snow would never go but at least it came with sunshine and calm days.

Above is a view of Knoydart from the Western Isles. They have many lovely photos on their Facebook page.

Below is a view over Loch nan Ceall and Arisaig taken by Fiona Baker.
Thank you to both for the use of their photos.

Wooo! Snow at last! Its been a very exciting few days on Knoydart, with the most snow seen for 18 years, although the 2010 winter came close! I don't know about anyone else but snow just lends a certain magic to everything, particularly when there are no winds (for once) and it just peacefully settles. The kids have certainly been making the most of it and the dusty sledges have been hauled out from storage.. I think Robbie and Archie's new sledges deserve a mention particularly... They look like something resembling a snowboard base but with a handle like a scooter. I thought it was pretty cool.
Now, what else has been going on in January? The Forest Trust second phase of felling began, with the first phase happening back in 2007, and it is part of a long term forest plan that will help to stabilise the forest and also help to safeguard the power lines! There was a site visit which the kids attended to see how the felling is done and also admire the big machines involved in the work. Its funny, 2007 doesn't seem so long ago until you watch the film the (then) wee ones made, called 'Munchatree a forest'. Now the stars in that are all teenagers...
The volunteer day finally went ahead after being cancelled several times due to bad weather (and good grief, did we have some wild storms!) and there was a good turn out to make the owl boxes. Whoever made the traybake things for the tea break.... well they were amazing! And sticking to the subject of food for a minute, we had a great curry night in the tearoom the other weekend. Yum.
And of course, it was Burns night. My favourite Knoydart event of the year and yes, Iain Wilson DID get that kilt on once again...It was comparatively quiet compared to other years but that merely meant there was some semblance of elbow room and you weren't sat on your neighbours knee as you usually are. Speeches were as always, in a league of their own and I think Frank's Immortal memory will probably go down in history...
Think that's about it for now folks,
Heather Gilmour

The main social event for January was Burns Supper in the Hall organised by the Parent/Teacher Association together with teacher Julie Baker. And of course the pupils themselves. We are perhaps unfortunate in that the older ages are absent from Muck but even PI to 3 showed no lack of the ability to learn lines and to sing. It was a very enjoyable evening.
Two fairly inclement months are behind us but since November when the new system started we have had only one visit from a doctor which I am sure is a worse service than intended. We still have Sheena to keep the prescriptions flowing so perhaps it does not matter if the doctor never comes. I do feel however that we had been joined to Mallaig then anyone travelling could have attended the surgery there.
I see from the West Word calendar that Canna has taken the plunge and is hosting the Small Isles Sports. Great news with the added bonus that I can see Gerry's and Caroline's super lambs on the ground
Bye for now,
Lawrence MacEwen

Our year started off very quiet as lots of folk were off on the mainland but the remaining islanders got together to celebrate New Year by calling in on neighbours , having a dram. Very traditional!
We are looking forward to a busy year with lots of community projects to work on, including our Renewable Energy Project, Community Hall and Bunkhouse and upgrading our Campsite. Lots to do for so few folk!
Burns afternoon/night was celebrated in our community shop/social area, this space is like a tardis, much bigger than you think.
Thanks to everyone who organised the event, especially the performers- that's you Stewart, Gordon, Julie, Jack and the stars of the show, the Guthrie children with teacher Mrs Campbell. Colin Irvine addressed the haggis with gusto and well done to the four guys who braved the cold to wear their kilts.
Expecting the population to increase this year as the National Trust are appointing new members of staff and hopefully they will be here soon.
Geraldine MacKinnon

Who says life is always the same in the islands? In my 30 plus years on Eigg, no two winters have been alike. This year January, like December, has shown how wild the west can be. Personally I like stormy weather, and the feeling of being snug inside a cosy house by the fire with the Eigg book club book of the month (The Silver Darlings was a great choice this month) to get through the dark nights, but it's a sorry time for the animals, with little shelter for cattle or sheep and a dearth of food for birds. We all try to feed them as well as we can in the winter months, and it is always fascinating to see the interaction between the various species that come to our gardens. Pity the poor Barn Owl that found itself without a roof over its head after the gales in the early part of the month took away part of the roof at the Sandavore steadings, although our birdman says that it will make it easier to reach its hole in the wall after all. Other casualties were John the Post's polytunnel which got ripped, and the genny shed at Kildonnan which finally collapsed after looking very slanty indeed since the 2010 storm.
Weather did not stopped islanders from celebrating the bard's immortal memory on Friday 23rd, with Eigg parents preparing a lovely Burns supper to raise funds for Eigg Primary school trip to Edinburgh in the spring. Ailidh compered with customary gusto, quizzing our brains with wide ranging questions on wide ranging topics such Eigg Electric and car engines, local history and geology and the most fascinating Eigg trivia. Much singing was done, led enthusiastically by Norah and as to Colin - who addressed the Haggis (thanks to modern technology, the address was read on a computer screen as it was scrolled from the internet!) - he even graced us with a Ca' the Yowes solo, the like of which had not been heard for many years. Although John Booth's performance of the one and only poem ascribed to "Rupert Burns" might yet become even more memorable...
Horizontal rain did not deter either the indomitable Eigg girls who traipsed all the way to the sandstone outcrop above the Singing Sands so that wee Maggie and Maisie could add their initials to those customarily inscribed there. As the token male, young Dylan carried the hammer and chisel! This was a special Sunday birthday walk for me but before coming home to tea and a fantastically delicious layered cake created by Katrin, our talented German baker (think sponge, chocolate, pears, cream, pomegranate and glace cherries, ahhh), we all had a thought for Stuart Millar, who carved his initials there in 2010, and for Kathleen and the girls.
January's brief but intense snow showers transformed Eigg into a real winter wonderland which Greg Carr has now captured, no doubt for the next year's edition of his calendar featuring his Eigg landscapes that proved to be one of the most popular island presents this year.
The island children really enjoyed that snowy spell and there was sledging going on in the school playground and every available slope between Cleadale and the pier. Even the road was decorated with grinning snow faces and miniature snowmen to the delight of the youngest ones. And on the lawn in front of Eigg Connections Centre, Murray, Logan and Clyde build the hugest snowman ever.
But with freezing conditions, melting snow turned into dangerous black ice throughout the island. Gritting took care of hazardous slopes, but on Saturday 17th January, Gordon, Sue Kirk's dad, lost his footing on the frozen gravel just outside Lageorna and suffered a bad fall. It was the Eigg First Responders' first call out since the departure of our last locum on 3rd January and the start of the new medical cover scheme for the Small Isles. A RAF helicopter was scrambled, with the Eigg Coastguard team at the ready to help it land. No-one could be faulted for their care and diligence, but the freezing conditions in the helicopter and the shock of the fall and the operation must have taken their toll on an elderly man of nearly 87 years of age, for after a speedy and successful operation in Inverness to sort out what a turned out to be a broken hip, Gordon suffered a fatal heart attack the following Monday, leaving his family and the island in shock. London-born Gordon shared his time between his two daughters in London and Eigg. When back on Eigg, he absolutely loved being part of the craic at the tea-room, sitting there talking to people and sipping his beer before a wee doze, and often remarked how nice it was to see all this life around him. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to Sue and Gina and their families.
Camille Dressler

West Word's AGM
West Word held a successful AGM on Saturday 31st January, with one director, Anne Widdop, attending by Skype.
Welcome to the Board as a Director to Ruth Reavell, Morar. Ruth has had a varied career which includes being a Major in the Army, so she should be able to keep the Board - and the Editor! - under control.
The current Directors were all willing to stand again; Camille Dressler, Anne Widdop and Richard Lamont. Camille was re-appointed as Chair and Anne as Treasurer. The day to day running of the accounts is undertaken by Andrew Fleming, who also attended the meeting, in conjunction with Ann Martin, the editor.
Last year Anne W was instrumental in modernising us (with only a very little kicking and screaming) by putting the accounts and invoice system online, which has streamlined the day to day work done by Andrew and Ann M.
Last November Ann M changed the way subscriptions were posted out by taking out a Royal Mail account. Postage labels are printed to use instead of stamps - to the delight of our loyal volunteer helpers Anne Baillie and Miya Caushash, who now have to stick only one postage label instead of three stamps on each envelope - and then the mail is put into bags which are collected from the office when ready. This will save us a considerable sum per annum which means we don't have to think of putting up the subscriptions yet, as could have been the case.
The Board thank our volunteers, not only Anne and Miya but also our printers Morag and Ewen MacDonald, who have been helped in the last year by Nicky Parish. We couldn't do it without them.
We would all like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their efforts to keep West Word going: everyone who sends in an item, however small, to keep us up to date and informed of what is happening in all the corners of our community; our advertisers who are essential for our financial health; and of course our army of readers. We are a huge ambassador for our area, and everyone reaps the benefit from the many copies bought by people on holiday who find out where they can spend their holiday money while here!
If any of you have any ideas or suggestions for future copies, please don't hesitate to contact us.

We could have covered this story before Christmas before the rest of the country's media found out about it, but we didn't realise how big the hole was and how popular the story would be!
This 22 foot (7 metre) wide hole, 14 feet deep, opened up on the Golf Course at Traigh during the very wet period in December.
So much rain fell that an old drainage pipe couldn't cope and caused the collapse of the ground. Repairs are estimated to be in the region of 20,000 , only part of which will be met with insurers. The owners of the course are footing the bill and it is hoped work will start on Monday 16th February.

Giant Jellyfish
Sam Firth sent us the photo on the left of a giant jellyfish which she spotted on the beach at Bunnacaimbe on Sunday 17th January while walking the dog.
Sam says 'I thought readers would be interested too see just what weird and wonderful creatures you can stumble upon.'
See Sam's shoe beside it, for scale.


LIFEBOAT LOG - January 2015
This must be a first but there have been NO emergency call outs for the RNLI volunteer lifeboat this month. Being in a position like this gives the maintenance crew plenty time to carry out inspections and work which cannot be carried out usually. That is, of course, not to say that the lifeboat is not ready at a moment's notice to answer emergency calls. The volunteer RNLI crew maintains an extremely high standard of training and alertness. Tony Skea spent a week recently on a course in Poole as part of his ongoing in-house training as lifeboat mechanic. All RNLI volunteer crew must undertake regular training, whether it is here in Mallaig or in Poole at the RNLI training headquarters.
Jim Morton


Lovat Slipway
Work on the Lovat Slipway is now complete with contractor Fion Construction Ltd having been granted a Completion Certificate from Harbour Engineers Wallace Stone.
The Certificate states that work was completed on the 23rd of January 2015 and its from that date the Slipway became operational.
The Authority is indebted to the European Funding being provided for the project from the Highland EFF Axis 4 Programme and to Nevis Estate and The Highland Council for their financial input.

Shoreside Promenade
Having commenced construction work on the new Shoreside promenade on 3rd November 2014 TSL Contractors Ltd have, despite the vagaries of the weather, made excellent progress on the project and have confirmed that they will be off-site with the contact completed, later this month. The newly constructed footpath will allow pontoon users to move safely between the yachting shorebase and the Marina Facilities Building and also the village centre.


Incorporated into the Shoreside Promenade will be a seating area - with flower tubs - where visitors and locals alike can sit and relax and view the harbour.
Rockface lighting will also be a feature of the new development which is being financed by European Funding via The Highland EFF Axis 4 Programme, Nevis Estate, The Highland Council and, of course the Mallaig Harbour Authority.


Birthday Greetings
A small party was held in the Harbour Office on Thursday 29th January to celebrate the 65th birthday of Harbour Master James (Pimmy) McLean.
Mr McLean was presented with his birthday cake by Office Administrator Audrey McKay.
Come May, Pimmy will have been in the post of Harbour Master for 15 years. Happy Birthday!
Robert MacMillan
01687 462154


Are you feeling lucky? Did you enter either of the competitions in my column last month? If so read on to see if you have won and thank you for entering. I hope you all enjoyed your prizes!

Results Competition One
Four pair of tickets to visit Model Rail Scotland plus a pair of ScotRail return travel tickets to the first name drawn. First name drawn was Stewart Miller from Knoydart, second name was Pete Barrett from Morar, third was Jodie Gray from Mallaig, and fourth was Nancy Dunn from Mallaig, all of whom gave the correct answer to the question asked. I will have contacted them all with ticketing arrangements before West Word is out

Result Competition two.
Lots of entries but two winners only for this competition to win a Steam Locomotive calendar and diary. The lucky two are: first drawn, Mairi Illsley from Crieff and second drawn, Nancy Dunn from Mallaig. You should have your prizes by the time West Word is out. Thank you to all that entered.

Lochaber at work
I don't know if many people read the supplement issues entitled above that was included in the December 11 2014 Lochaber News? Well, I have just got round to reading mine, and how interesting it was!
Ferguson Transport had a very insightful two pages, included in which are their future aspirations. The intention is to take rail freight to Corpach and a feed system into the Central Belt, says Alasdair Ferguson, managing director of Ferguson Transport and Shipping. The company saw an opportunity with BSW Timber Group's multi million pounds expansion of its Corpach site to take out along term lease on the rail terminal adjacent to the sawmill to create an international freight hub. 'From April/May 2015 we hope to take logs by rail , as well as timber, to reduce road miles and continue with our aspirations for integrated road, rail and sea operations,' says Mr Ferguson. Following trials in 2012, the company is now offering rail distribution throughout the UK from Corpach to Grangemouth, where it works closely with Malcolm Rail terminal. 'We can load from a lorry to train with a secure load using swap bodies,' Mr Ferguson explains. The containers' logos are 'Ferguson Rail' in large white lettering on their red background, and sometimes you can spot one in the yard. Well done to the company that employs many Mallaig staff in their workforce. To find out more go to www.fergusontransport.co.uk.

ScotRail Club 55 continues
Just a wee reminder that full details of this offer were contained in last month's column. Leaflets are available from manned stations and you can go online or call 0330 303 011for full details. You can travel anywhere in Scotland if you are 55 years of age or over for 19 return! The offer is on until March 31. I know the weather does not encourage you to go far from the fireside, but the trains are comfy and warm, the staff are ever helpful. The craic can be good and just imagine how pleased a long distance friend or relative would be (yes, they would!) if you rang to say you were visiting them for £9.50 each way- it's got to be a steal!

Additional touring Train dates
Compass tours have now agreed to a development programme (which is extensive) with West Coast Railways. All bookings for forthcoming tours are being handled by West Coast Railways. Their first tour, into Fort-William is on Friday May 29th. This is a return day trip from Preston. It is well worth looking into their website www.compasstoursbyrail.co.uk The expansion of West Coast Railway Company Fleet continues...

SRPS Touring Train dates to Mallaig
On Saturday May 23d SRPS are travelling from Glenrothes to Mallaig and return with a short visit squeezed in. They are back the next Saturday, May 30th with a day return trip from Ayr. Their stewards and guides are always well turned out and very attentive to passengers. Find out more on http://www.srpsrailtours.com.

Network Rail (and others) working to keep us safe
Since before Christmas, seven days a week, our extension line and the line to Crianlarich have seen masses of work going on to replace track, clear trees, clear land slips etc, etc. Each time a train goes through a section there is workgang waiting to take possession. A big Thank you is due for attempting to keep us safe in weather that has been atrocious.
As I write this, West Coast Railways Class 37 with a snow plough is forging ahead of trains to clear a path, and points are having to be "scotched" manually by the train crews in each section. Please be patient if - you are travelling and running a wee bit late. You could be behind a 1mph freight train having to be helped on inclines to get traction in poor weather conditions to Fort William!! Very often our local train crews are working late, having to take buses and taxis to put themselves at the right place for us to continue our journey. Thank you each and everyone of you, we appreciate it.

Telent update
Telent - who were awarded the RRTB (Radio Electronic Token Block) contract for Scotland's Far north and West Highland Lines by Network Rail to deliver a replacement radio infrastructure frequently seen on the lines at present. This is to accommodate re-allocation of the existing radio frequencies to allow changes to European TV and allow enhancement to the signalling operation on our railways lines. The project is huge and includes the replacement of radio base station equipment at 46 sites and radio units on 100 trains, including 5 steam locomotives and must be completed to allow the existing radio frequencies to be re-allocated in December 2015. It is essential that both the existing system and the new system operate in parallel to allow uninterrupted service during the transition phase. We watch this unfolding story with interest!

First Group gives way to Serco
As from 2am on April 1st, First Group will hand over the Caledonian Sleeper service in Scotland to Serco. As part of the Sleeper launch, they have introduced a brand new logo, in the form of a white stag. A stag logo has been synonymous with the Fort William to London sleeper, sometimes called the "Deerstalker." And so Serco have decided to keep up this tradition. The new stag is white and has five point antlers, representing the 3 highland and 2 lowland destinations. A complete re-vamp is planned with new rolling stock to be introduced in 2018, but until then, the existing stock will undergo a refurbishment plan with upgrading of the compartment's interior, air conditioning and catering facilities. There will also be a change in motive power to haul the sleeper, sitting up, lounge and dining cars. The Class 67s will be replaced by refurbished Class 73s, originally used in the south of England. It is hoped that these locomotives will reduce the journey time to Edinburgh from Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen as they will not be hampered by bridge and viaduct speed restrictions as in the case of the class 67s.
Peter Strachan, Serco's managing director for the new Caledonian sleeper, said: "our new online booking and reservations system 'SleeperScot' allows passengers to plan and book their travel up to 12 months in advance, a first for all rail UK operators. The new Caledonian sleeper service will provide a great alternative to other rail options and flying for all UK travel. Customers will start seeing an introduced service soon after 1st April with new menus, soft furnishings and comforts. In 2018, the new fleet will be launched with a range of new features, including en-suite berths, pod flatbeds and a brasserie-style club car. Over 100 million is being invested, which is part funded by a £60 million capital grant from Scottish ministers. The new rolling stock will be manufactured by CAF (Construcciones y Auxillia de Ferrocarriles)." Serco have signed a 15 year franchise lease with Transport Scotland and have committed themselves to a better and more effective sleeper service for Scotland. Let's hope they keep their promise and deliver the goods!
For anyone wishing to speak directly to Serco with questions etc, they have released two phone numbers: 07718 195320 and 07718 194381. The two officials are Manfred Turner and Charles Carr.
Until March 2015, all Caledonian sleeper bookings remain with Scotrail, using their existing booking system. After April 1st, you can book via the brand new sleeper.scot website, which is much easier to understand and use and is available to view now.
See you on the train
Sonia Cameron

Regular readers of West Word will remember that at the talk and book signing at the Heritage Centre on 19th November, Dr John McGregor had on display a large number of fascinating documents, pre and post the Mallaig Extension, from his considerable research materials, a number of which caught my eye as of possible interest to West Word readers and I have the kind permission of Dr McGregor to use them. In December's issue we printed some correspondence between James Bell, the North British Company's civil engineer, and his general manager, William Jackson.
Here is an item about the steamers and the railway, with kind permission from Dr John McGregor from his research:

On 10 February 1906 David MacBrayne advised George Innes, the North British Railway's district superintendent at Fort William, that they considered it "not always safe" for their steamers Claymore and Clansman to tie up at Mallaig. Ferrying might become necessary - always subject, of course, to the weather - while the mail vessels stood off.
Stationmaster Grant had already reported how the Claymore ran aground on the evening of 6 February, at the angled wooden extension of the concrete breakwater-cum-pier, and stuck fast until 1 a.m. the following day. There had been a previous incident of the same nature. No damage resulted, but the captain now considered it "dangerous to come in at low water".
Innes thought the prestige of the West Highland line was at stake. He was well aware that the Caledonian Company lost no opportunity to compare Mallaig's allegedly makeshift and congested facilities with their "superior" arrangements at Oban.
The North British engineer (who personally had little faith in the Mallaig route - see December's West Word article) eventually undertook the minimum work required to ensure a safe approach to the pier in average conditions, and thus MacBraynes were placated. There was, however, no easy answer to the limited capacity of Mallaig harbour: at the busiest moments, mail steamers, fishing boats, chartered fishery vessels and landowners' yachts all jostled for room.
Ann Martin

Dr McGregor's books, full of interesting facts and photographs, are on sale in Mallaig Heritage Centre:

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative

Latest on CAP
The department have a new online payments and information system that allows you to claim and make applications , its easy to sign up though not accessible if you have a Mac . Once signed in you can find the new land managers option also the croft grant options available and can apply online. Anyone needing help with this can ask me , it should be much easier to use even if you are just using it for applying for beef calve scheme payments In the new CAP these payments for beef calves that were introduced in Scotland will be lower in 2016 for the first 10 calves. This unfortunately came about as Scottish government ministers looked for a way to compensate those on rough grazing for the extremely low payments on region 3 ground. By introducing a scheme for retained ewe lambs through voluntary coupled support they added two many categories to this programme , as a higher rate for islanders had been already added. They then were told by Brussels to drop one category so crofters with under 10 cows lost the higher payment that they have been used to getting. Payments will then drop in 2016 to around 80 a calve compared to this years estimate, around 122. The most unfair aspect of this is that islanders, rightly so, will receive around 135 a calve but as this part of the scheme was never consulted on, those living in equally inaccessible places , such as peninsulas will receive the low mainland payment. Had the island payment been raised as an option in the consultation crofters could have lobbied on the unfairness and pointed this out to Scottish government ministers.

Croft House Grant Scheme Consultation
The Scottish Government have launched a consultation to review the Croft house grant scheme. The rates of grant are very low compared to the cost of materials but more importantly the Scottish government dropped the loan element of this scheme despite a parliamentary review to reinstate it. Because the croft house grant scheme can only be given to houses on croft ground, [ not de crofted] it is very difficult for anyone trying to build a croft house to raise the extra money, as banks will not lend on ground unless they can take a standard security over it. The complications of crofting law make that impossible. Without the loan element it is very difficult to fulfil the intentions of the scheme. Anyone taking the time to respond to this consultation should make this valid point. The consultation can be accessed on the Scottish government website.


Twenty years ago - February 1995
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 five 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 1995 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!).
Robert MacMillan (written in February 2005)

Ten years ago - February 2005
The main theme of the 36 page issue was - storms! The headline, accompanied by a photo of devastation behind the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre, was 'The Worst Strom in a Lifetime'. The night of Tuesday 11th January 2005 combined hurricane force winds with an extremely high tide resulting in wide spread damage rom both wind and waves. According to the Snippets, the sea was running down the road from the Westbay Car Park, past the roundabout, Johnstons and Got It until it spilled into the harbour. The roof of Mallaig Marine World was damaged, leading eventually to its closure.
A double page spread of photos in the centre of the paper showed some of the result. The stores behind the Community Centre - the self same stores mentioned in the look back at twenty years above - looked as if they had been attacked 'by a giant tin opener' and life jackets in the Marine Training Centre opened inside the drawers! The bottle banks were thrown across the road and some of the bottles blew up to the roundabout! Cars in the West Bay Car Park were damaged by large rocks washed up and also by being moved about by the wind. The path along the main road out of Mallaig was torn up and the road at Traigh (then the main road) was undercut by the sea. In Arisaig some interesting old stories were recounted about the boat that left the Land Sea & the Islands Centre and went down the Rhu road, ending up smashed-it had been used to rescue whelkers in the 1940's who were marooned in storm on the islands in the channel. And the 80 foot, 120 odd year old pine tree which came down at the Larrachmor Viaduct had been part of the Home Guard's defence plans in the Second World War - the idea being to chop it down to block the road if the Germans ma it to Fort William
The islands and Knoydart didn't escape either - 120 trees down on Muck alone, and the new harbour lights bent out of recognition, the road at Inverie and their hydro-scheme,
Schools were closed, there was structural damage to buildings and caravans, and premises flooded. Our experience of the storm however was nothing in comparison with the devastating tsunami which had hit the Far East on Boxing Day, 2004. Fundraising efforts for relief efforts were going on all over the country and Lochaber was no exception. Arisaig was raising money to buy two fishing boats for a Sri Lankan community and items were donated locally for 'banana boxes' full of tools, food and clothes for Blythswood to send out.
The issue contained a two page questionnaire on the Community Minibus which was due to be replaced.
Ann Martin


Dear Editor,
Give or take forty years ago my husband and I were travelling from Fort William to Mallaig when the road had passing places and we came upon the church at Polnish. It was unlocked, dilapidated and had been knocked about a bit. In the vestry the cupboard had bits of old timber thrown awry. but there was amongst the rubble an empty little cardboard box which was deteriorating with damp. It had a little scottie dog on it and had, presumably held a piece of jewellery Inside the lid was inscribed in a well written hand 'For dear Miss Austin From Jim Xmas 1941'. I rescued the box and have kept it amongst my souvenirs ever since. I have often wondered what the story was behind the gift and wonder if any your readers can shed light in it.
Yours sincerely
Kate Colgrave

Dear Editor,
Would any of your readers know anything about an accident believed to have taken place on Loch Morar in the summer of 1890, in which a 12-year-old visitor named Oswald Watt was severely scalded on his legs by steam from a burst boiler on a launch returning a picnic party to Morar. I am very keen to establish a day and month for the incident, and indeed whether 1890 is the right year (another source says 1889).
Dr Chris Clark
PO Box 590, Jamison Centre ACT 2614, Australia

Where have our readers been recently? We know of quite a few who had wonderful holidays, meant to take West Word and didn't... and what about those who take the photo but don't get round to sending it in? It's never too late!

L to r: Willie Maclean, Mairi Macleod and Mal Macleod - meet the staff of Loch A Tuath News perusing West Word at the Highlands and Islands Press Ball in Inverness on February 6th. The team, from Back, Isle of Lewis, were shortlisted for the Community Newspaper of the Year Award. West Word wasn't but the editor went to the ball anyway! It was very interesting to compare the very different ways of producing our community newspapers!

What a great idea! Agnes Watson, a subscriber from Orkney, sent us this photo of her son Archie reading Lawrence's book A Drop in the Ocean!
Agnes says 'We love West Word in Orkney, always read how far it goes with folks to read. Well, we wonder if you would like to put this in west Word, how far has Lawrence's book gone. Our son Archie (ex Muck boy) took it to Turkey for a read. He says 'Great stuff Lawrence'!.'
The challenge is there folks...where do you read your copy of a Drop in the Ocean?!

And here's another idea... Lewis from Cnoc na Faire has checked out West Word at great length and has noticed there isn't a lot about animals. Lewis suggests something like 'West Pets', which could include photos of animals you come across during your day. Er - they don't have to be reading West Word though it could be fun!

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A mixed bag weatherwise with some very windy days, which unfortunately did not blow any rarities our way, although there was an Ivory Gull at Uig, Skye for a few days early in the month. Whooper Swans were present throughout the month on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. There were 14 present on the 4th. On the weekend of the 17th/18th there was a national survey of Whooper Swans; there were 8 adults and 3 juveniles on Loch nan Eala on those dates.
The Slavonian Grebes seem to have wintered on Loch nan Ceall, they were seen on several dates during the month, with a minimum of 6 birds present.
A group of 8 Canada Geese have been roaming the Traigh/Back of Keppoch area during the month, roosting on Loch nan Eala at night.
An early Gannet was seen on the 7th just off Mallaig Harbour during a particularly windy spell of weather.
On the 10th, 38 Herons were seen sheltering together in in the reeds by Loch nan Eala.
Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen by West Bay, Mallaig, and a single Greenshank was seen on several mornings on the Morar Estuary. A few more Snipe and Woodcock were reported towards the end of the month.
A male Hen Harrier and 2 Kestrels were seen near Millburn, Rhue, on the 27th. A female Peregrine Falcon was seen over the A830, east of Traigh Farm on the 22nd. Numerous reports of Sparrowhawks, taking advantage of the bounty that garden feeding stations have to offer in the form of small birds! Several reports of singles and pairs of Sea Eagles from the Morar, Camusdarach and Arisaig areas throughout the month.
Goldcrest and Tree-creepers were reported from a garden in the Woodside area of Morar.
Large numbers of Goldfinches reported from several gardens in the Morar area, also a few Siskins also appearing at garden feeders on the really wet days.

Kin Connections by Marlene MacDonald Cheng (mcmcheng@shaw.ca)
Hello everyone. I hope all of you had a joy filled Christmas, and I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2015.
In 1818, a family who originated in Morar, Scotland, decided to emigrate to Cape Breton. The head of the family was Donald MacLellan and his wife was Ann Gillies. They had been living in Glasgow for fourteen years, where their son John (born in 1804) was attending school. They heard about possibilities 'across the pond'. The Governor of Cape Breton was searching far and wide for people who would come and settle on the unspoiled land of Cape Breton. Donald, Ann, and their son John decided to take the plunge.
On arrival in Cape Breton in 1818, Donald and Ann were eager to start a new life. They sought out MacLellan and Gillis relations, and no doubt stayed with one of those families until they could acquire land on which to build their own home. They soon received a grant of 250 acres at West Lake Ainslie (usually called "West Lake"), a lovely area close to the present town of Inverness. The lake was named after a man with surname "Ainslie"; he was the last Governor of the Island of Cape Breton.
At that time the land around West Lake was full of wild animals - bear and deer were plentiful, and moose were often seen. The lake was teeming with fish, mostly trout and alewives. In autumn salmon came to spawn in the warm waters of West Lake. The maple trees provided their bounteous sap in the spring of the year. One can imagine the dangers that they met in the early days of settlement, but there were benefits as well. Certainly they had enough to eat. The native Mi'k maq people were very kind to the new settlers, showing them how to survive in their new environment - how to clear land, how to tap the maple trees, when to expect salmon in the Lake, and so on.
It appears that Donald and Ann (Gillis) MacLellan had just the one child, John, who became, over time, was much respected by the people of Inverness County. In 1830 at the age of 26, John was appointed Justice of the Peace for the County of Inverness. Thereafter he was known as "Squire MacLellan". He was very busy with his magisterial work, attending the Court of Sessions on a regular basis. Indeed, his Glasgow education served him very well.
At the age of 28 (1832), John married Margaret MacLellan, a daughter of Captain Angus MacLellan, who also was from Morar, Scotland. Captain Angus had come first to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, with his parents, but they later removed to West Lake Ainslie, settling close to Donald, Ann and John. Captain Angus was married in Scotland to Catherine MacLellan, and they had a young family when they arrived in Cape Breton. All together he had four sons and five daughters, of whom one was Margaret, wife of John. Captain Angus MacLellan's family could read and write somewhat, but their English was said to be "of a special brand". (J. L. MacDougall, History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia)
John MacLellan and his wife, Margaret, lived for a few years with John's parents at West Lake Ainslie. In 1841, they decided to move to the Judique area, where they raised a home and farmed at Hillsdale, back of Judique. They had four lovely children: Archibald, the only son; Ann, Catherine; and Margaret.
Archibald MacLellan, son of John and Margaret MacLellan, was born on 30th of January 1833. A dutiful son, he stayed on his father's farm at Hillsdale for his entire life. He married in 1862 to Catherine MacEachen, daughter of Big Peter (Peadair Mr) of River Inhabitants, Cape Breton. They had eight children: John D., Donald (called "Dan"), Charles, Alexander, Sarah, Margaret, Annie, and Mary.
In 1885, Archibald, following in his father's footsteps, was appointed Justice of the Peace for Inverness County. Archie's son, John D., was Road Inspector for Inverness County and later, in 1908, he was also appointed Justice of the Peace for Inverness County. Archibald died on 29th of April, 1914, at the age of 81.
Ann MacLellan, daughter of John and Margaret MacLellan, married Allan MacDonald (son of Andrew). They had 9 children: Margaret, Andrew, Catherine, Marcella, Maryanne, John, Hugh, Archy, and Anne. Ann (MacLellan) MacDonald died in 1900 at age 65; her husband Allan died in 1901 at the age of 64.
Catherine MacLellan, Ann's sister, married Alexander MacInnis, Stone Mason. In Gaelic he was called "Alasdair mac Innis Clachair". They had 9 children: Donald, John, Margaret, Christy, Flora, Archibald, Annie, Hugh and Mary.
Catherine was born in the year 1839 and died the 20th of February 1921, at the age of 82. Alexander was born about 1833 and died on the 3rd of August 1907 at the age of 74.
The last sister, Margaret MacLellan, was married to Alexander MacDonell (son of Christopher). Margaret died on the 9th of June 1910. She was 58 years old, making her birth date about 1852. I have not been successful in finding more information on Margaret.
John MacLellan died in 1882 at the age of 77. His wife, Margaret (MacLellan) MacLellan died sometime between 1881 and 1891.
If anyone knows anything about Donald MacLellan and Ann Gillies, I would very much appreciate hearing from you. I am trying to sort the people who lived in the Morar area from about 1772 to 1850. Thank you.


Thank you to Iain MacQueen for this photo of Arisaig's St Mary's Primary School circa 1954 - 55.
Several times over the last few years we have printed a plea from James Clark of Stockport in Cheshire, hoping to find a photo of himself and his two brothers, Tommy and George, in Arisaig in the 1950s.
James has told us that they were boarded out to Mr and Mrs Gillies at Kinloid Farm, Arisaig. James had his confirmation at St Mary's Church and that he was about 6 years old when they arrived in Arisaig, Tommy was the oldest and George the youngest.
Back row (l to r): James Clark; John Baxter; Brian Chapman; Alan Davidson; James MacEachen; Cathie MacQueen; Robert Dinning; David MacPherson; Margaret MacKinnon; Bruce MacPherson; Allan MacDonald; John Wilkinson; Ian Alistair MacDonald.
Middle row (l to r): Finlay Dempster; Robert Craig; Margaret Davidson; Donald John Dempster; Philip MacPherson; Anne Davidson; Sandy MacDonald; Johnny McAuley; Lennox Burke; Richard Craig; ?? Clark.
Front row (l to r): Rosemary MacDonald; Margaret Craig; Mina Dempster; Ann McCafferty; Archie MacEachen; Teacher Cissy MacDonald; Headmaster Simon MacDonald; Cathie MacEachen; Jimmy Connolly; Maureen Darby; Catherine Murray; Mary Ellen Dempster.

Arisaig & South Morar Record of Service 1914 - 1918
As interested readers will know, we have been including excerpts from the Record of Service Scrapbook which was discovered in the Astley hall in 2000, eighty years after it had been compiled by Lady Gertrude Nicholson. As these three very different entries show, the information is varied, from very short pieces to memoirs and diary entries a few pages long. Not everyone listed in the illuminated frontispieces has an entry; not everyone has a photo.
It would be most interesting if any reader of West Word can give us local connections. Lady Nicholson's compilation was in memory of her two sons, who both died within six months of the start of World War I. In December's issue we carried the entry for Lieutenant Arthur Stuart Nicholson, killed within a month of the start of the war. There is a memorial to them both in the Church of Scotland, Arisaig.

Lieutenant William Dukinfield Nicholson
2nd Batt Cameron Highlanders
27th Division

Lieutenant William Dukinfield Nicholson was the second son of Sir Arthur Nicholson KGB and Lady Nicholson of Arisaig, Inverness-shire, and was born May 24th 1888, and educated at Marlborough and Magdalen College, Oxford. He took to the river at Oxford (like his father before him) and rowed in the 'trials' in 1909, and was in his College 'Eight' which went head of the river in 1910, and won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley, after a memorable race with Leander. He took his degree with honours in History in 1910.
In 1907, he joined the 3rd Batt. Cameron Highlanders, and in 1910 was passed to the 2nd Battalion then stationed in India. There too he maintained his reputation both in rowing and running and gymnastics. He ran second at Calcutta in 1910, for the Championship of India, 'Half Mile'. He was Captain of, and rowed No. 6 in, his Regimental eight, which in 1914 won the championship cup for eights at Poona, when he and a friend won the race for 'Pair oars'.
In Non 1914, the Battalion returned from India, and went to Winchester where they were till Dec 19th, when they went to France with the 27th Division, arriving at Havre on the 20th. Thy went on to Aire the next day and went to the Front from there on Jan 5th, 1915.
Lieut. W. D. Nicholson was killed on February 23rd, 1915, near Dickebush, when trying to bring in a wounded comrade. He was buried near Dickebush in a Military Cemetery, with many others belonging to the Cameron Highlanders.



160924 Private John McLaren
R.A.S.C. Motor Transport

Served from Feb. 1915. Was accidentally injured in Aug 1915 while mounting an Anti-air-Craft Gun during an air raid in London, and being in consequence unfit for active Service, was transferred to the Home Service Battalion, as Mechanical Engineer.

Private Harry Hay Campbell
4th Batt. Cameron Highlanders

Private Harry Hay Campbell had enlisted in the 4th Cameron Highlanders on Nov 25 1910.
Was mobilised Aug 5 1914
Landed in France Feb 20, 1915
Wounded at Festubert May 17, 1915
and discharged Dec 6 1915


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