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February 2016 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
An early start: The Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association left Mallaig at 3am in order to make the MPA protest demonstration at the Government Buildings in Edinburgh on Wednesday 27th January.
SMALL ISLES MARINE PROTECTED AREAS DEVELOPMENT
The fishermen of Mallaig and indeed the whole of Scotland have, for several years, been consulting and attending workshops/meetings over a network of inshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the west of Scotland.
The Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association (MNWFA) has an interest in many of these MPAs, but the main area of worry has been the Small Isles MPA. As you will all know, Mallaig has been built on fishing and despite there being a far slimmer industry to that which we saw in the 1980s, it is still the harbour that is the focus of attention for business and tourism alike in Mallaig.
The fishermen were, therefore, worried at where the current policies were going when they saw the results from the consultation response in June of last year. The current MPA closure proposals could cost fishing jobs through the sale of fishing boats outside of Mallaig and land based jobs associated with fishing i.e. the Mallaig Boatyard and the people who work there or the shellfish buyers, the forklift drivers, the haulage lorries and many others.
The MNWFA and its membership, in general, do support Marine Protected Areas. However, they feel that any network should be coherent, based on scientific information and should factor in economics and safety and proclaim that is not a lot to ask when fishermen have been asked to give up areas of their traditional fishing grounds.
There was another consultation in December 2015/January 2016 run by Marine Scotland due to the public outcry in which Marine Scotland gave details of their preferred areas of closure and though work had been done to lessen the impact, important areas were still closed to the fishing industry.
The MNWFA was very happy, therefore, that the Fisheries Minister, Richard Lochhead, gave an opportunity to the fishermen to meet up with him in the Parliament Building in Edinburgh and listened to their points on the Small Isles MPA. Since that meeting on Thursday February 4th, the Minister has decided to hold off placing an order for the Small Isles. This effectively means that there will be another consultation held for this area alone.
The MNWFA will be putting in a response to the next consultation, but would very much appreciate if the readers of the West Word would contact their Councillors and their MSPs to give support to the Mallaig fishermen. The MNWFA office will also help in any way that they can and will assist you with any consultation response.
The MNWFA would like to extend their thanks to Dave Thompson MSP for his assistance. He has supported the MNWFAs cause and they believe that they would not be where they are today without his help.
Thomas Bryan-Brown (Chief Executive of the Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association)
Well now that January is over, it seems there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. It’s nice to see the evenings getting longer, if only fractionally, especially with all the recent storms. I think this month has to have been a record for the amount of boats being cancelled. It’s not often these days that we go two or three whole days with no crossings whatsoever. Makes you appreciate just how convenient it usually is. But, despite being a wet and wild month, at least we had the Burns Supper to cheer us up. One of my favourite annual events, it still didn’t let me down eight years on. Highlights of this year’s supper included Struan piping in the haggis with his very own bagpipes and then necking a very large dram, Jura none the less…. (I suppose I better add, just in case anyone is reading this who is thinking ‘my god but he’s only 11, that it was in fact only apple juice but in a Jura bottle. But shhh). Then Iain, as usual, gave a cracking performance while addressing the haggis, and we all enjoyed a splendid feed, after which came the speeches. Now this is something just about everyone here fears in January, that dreaded knock at the door by Mr Wilson, coming to coerce you into doing a speech. And yet, every year he succeeds, and the chosen few do a fantastic job, every speech and toast so unique to its owner. Piers and Jane did a great duet together then local musicians Mark, Andy, Liz and Galen (possibly I’ve missed someone here as well) played and we attempted the feat that is ceilidh dancing after such a huge meal. Wee Rossa was really getting into the dancing, if not quite ceilidh style, then definitely free style. It’s always good to start them young…
The next social occasion to arise was a French Toast evening in the tearoom. This was a lovely little evening where Cara cooked up plates of French toast and you could add your own toppings, for a small donation fee. On a Friday evening, after work, this was a brilliant idea, just what we needed when the hail was lashing down and the wind was howling outside.
What other exciting things have happened….Hmmm. Well, Iain and Jo have jetted off to New Zealand, to see Anna and Calum, which is amazing. They certainly couldn’t have picked a better time of year to go. The Millers have also gone off to get some sun, in North Cyprus. Lucky for them!
Think that’s all for now folks.
ISLE OF CANNA
Canna Coastguard team had two days training with Murdo McAulay from Stornoway this month and it is good to see the team go up to five members.
Water rescue and first aid were covered as well as equipment checks. It is so important to keep these remote teams going as we have no other immediate emergency service.
During one of our storms a seal pup was washed ashore entangled in a discarded piece of fishing net. The net was tight round its neck and mouth and its flippers were stuck through the mesh. Once cut free it was last seen making for open water and hopefully survived.
On the 17th, Sandy and Francis Taylor of Taylor Haulage came out to collect a load of cattle for the sale in Dingwall on the 20th. This was the third attempt at getting them off to market!
Criomagan (Crumbs…) from Canna House
January has been a busy month in Canna House and now we welcome a new member of staff, Indigo Carnie, who will be with us for six months. Indigo is our new Documentation Officer and will be spending her time documenting and photographing the contents of Canna House, which are not archive or library. She is used to island living, having spent much of her childhood on Coll so hopefully she won’t be put off by the recent antics of Storm Gertrude and Henry!
We have also started a series of Waulking song sessions in Canna House kitchen, learning some of the songs collected by John and Margaret Campbell. Even Pepa, Margaret’s last remaining puss, participates!
And as we enter February, a little criomag from Margaret Fay Shaw about “St Bride’s Day” or ‘Lady Day’, February 1st. “In Gaelic tradition, St Bride…was the foster-mother of Christ and her name is in many ancient prayers. The oystercatcher, the black and white shore bird with scarlet legs and beak is said to be her servant and is called in Gaelic Gille Brighde or servant of Bride. The story is told that he once concealed Christ from his enemies by covering Him with seaweed and for that service he wears a cross on his back. The seawater is said to become warm on her day”. A rhyme for Lady Day:
Latha Muire/Lady Day
Cuiridh Brid’ a cas ann
Cuiridh Muir’ a bas ann
Cuiridh Pàdraig a spòg mhòr ann
Bidh e blàth leòr an uair sin.
St Bride will place her foot in it (the sea)
Mary will put her palm in it
St Patrick will put his big hand in it
It will be warm enough then.
Fiona J Mackenzie
ISLE OF MUCK
February is always a quiet time on the island so this month I will digress a little from the normal. The subject is Facebook, one of a number of forms of communication fighting for our attention at the moment. Communication which started with Royal Mail and progressed through telegram, telephone, fax, email and text, but these are all private and Facebook is public; so it opens a door to advertising - for free. Eigg is an island which has embraced the possibilities of Facebook; the superb photography posted by Maggie Fyffe and Ben Cormack are aimed at showing the island at its best to potential visitors. The other islands are far behind, although on Muck, Dave, Julie and Toby have dipped a toe in the water. Farming is made for Facebook, although we do not sell direct to the public and it will be PR rather than selling a product.
The shooting season is over, culminating with beaters' days on Friday and Saturday, two of the worst days of the winter. These are the days when the beaters, who have supplied the shooting parties with birds all autumn, can do the shooting themselves. There was no shortage of islanders eager to take part in incredibly challenging conditions. We were joined by John Alick, the stalker who looked after those who had gone to Rum for the stags. After two days, when birds can fairly shift in a force 9 gale, we gathered at Gallanach Lodge for a superb supper, with speeches by Dave and Toby recounting the highlights of the season. And I cannot mention shooting without mentioning another who made it all possible: Ronnie Dyer. He, with Sheerwater and Briscoe, was involved with nearly sixty charters to Muck and Rum and did not fail with a single one: remarkable!
On 1st February, in another gale, we celebrated the immortal memory of Robert Burns in the hall, organised by the Parents/Teachers Association. Excellent haggis, superb puddings, songs and recitals by the children - even a new dance for the island choreographed by the pupils. A good evening!
That is all this month
MUCK PRIMARY SCHOOL
Our Christmas play went very well. Daniel was Joseph, Willow was Mary, Jasper was a King, Kitty was a King, Katie was a King and a shepherd, David was the narrator, Hugh was a shepherd, Judy was a shepherd and Tara the angel. The next day we had the Advent Spiral. At the end, we had at least twenty candles in the spiral including the middle one.
Our new climbing frame has arrived. We have measured an area for it in the playground. Also in P.E we have been learning different yoga poses such as the arrow, the tree and downward dog.
Ukulele and recorder lessons have started again, and we had a great time at Music Club. We really liked it because we actually got to play music. We were stamping and clapping along to the music, and it was good to have Hugh and Tara there too. As part of our Victorian topic we have been learning about the inventor Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone. We are coming up with our own inventions. We have also been learning about Victorian Designer, William Morris. He created patterns and paintings.
We have been learning about Sikhism, where they worship, which is the ‘Gurdwara’, the symbols they have, and the Holy book called the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’.
We have also been learning about Robert Burns and his life. We have created a ceilidh dance for the Burns Supper and we hope to teach this to the adults on the night. We think this is going to be great fun because it is a very lively dance!
On Muck we also had some snow, which is very unusual and exciting!
Muck Primary School
Molly teaching us ukelele
Muck Primary - Nativity Play
ISLE OF RUM
Happy New Year from Rum. A dramatic start to 2016 for some of us with Ady Goddard helicoptered off in the early hours of New Year’s Eve and taken to Glasgow hospital. Nic, Davies and Scarlett followed on the next ferry leaving an already depleted in numbers population behind to see in the New Year. Family Goddard would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on Rum and the wider community who offered practical and emotional support to us, from looking after the croft and animals, helping sort out extending the West Wheels car hire and getting stuff ready on the croft for our homecoming, along with sending well wishes and love. Everyone will be pleased to hear that Ady has made a full recovery after a gallbladder removal operation and is back to full strength carrying things up and down the croft hill once more! We went from a 3am wait for a helicopter wondering what on earth we were doing living in such a crazy place to realising that with friends around us like these we could never imagine living anywhere else!?
Meanwhile, life on Rum is getting into the swing of another year, planning events and getting ready for the season, which as usual we know will be upon us before we know it. The contractors are working hard on the Corrie Dubh path improvements for SNH, the Community Bunkhouse is already filling up with bookings for the year, Ranger Trudi is putting the final touches to the Ranger Events programme for the year with some exciting looking wildlife, astronomy and nature events scheduled. Work has started on extending and improving Jinty's shop - we're all looking forward to seeing the results of that. Mr Rhys is busy chopping up some of the fallen trees in the wake of Gertude and Henry - wonder which letter of the alphabet we'll have reached with storm names by the time the year is out?!
As ever Burns Night was celebrated in true Rum style with poems from Eve, Ali, Trudi, Mr Rhys, Nic and Ady. Dave addressed the haggis (made with Rum venison, of course) and a fine time was had by all. The quaich did the rounds more than once and many of us were still feeling the effects the following day!
ISLE OF EIGG
Following on from the festive season, the successive storms that have battered our island have not left it completely unscathed; a flattened poly tunnel, sheds walls and doors torn off, phones out of action and most recently a flying quad bike, which was miraculously undamaged, despite being deposited a fair distance below its normal parking place!
Despite all this, Damian is ploughing on extending the roof at Lageorna which will soon have a few more en-suite bedrooms, whilst Karl and Katrin are making good progress with their extraordinary half-moon shaped house.
Ian Leaver is also working on camping pods projects for the Trust in his new job as Eigg development officer and is now tackling our long suffering woodlands where the huge trees that were felled by the 2010 storm are still awaiting being dealt with!
A new Eigg marketing group has now started, just as the visitsmallisles.com site is also being consolidated and a new Eigg website is made ready for the 2016 season.
Meanwhile, if disruptions to the ferry service prevented some of the islanders to attend their Celtic Connections concert, technology allowed them to see some of the gigs on offer such as the Songs of Separation concert being streamed live during their tour, before their rapturous gig in Glasgow, which went down fantastically well. Songs of Separation featuring ten leading women folk musicians brought together by Feis Eige Bass tutor, Jenny Hill, for a week of composition and recording last summer, has its own Facebook page and you can now catch some glimpses of the show, including my favourite song, Soul and Soil by Rowan Rheingold, which I would really love our singing group to learn one of these days! But right now we are busy learning new songs with Norah and that keeps us going nicely, although there is talk of learning songs that the Ceilidh Club can play to as well, which would be very nice! There was some good singing at the Burns Supper organised by Saira at the Tearoom on Saturday 24th January, but it was the excellent quiz that she devised which was the highpoint of the night! We have extended our knowledge of Eigg trivia by miles and everyone will now remember the length of Ben Cormack’s hair: 88 cm!
Our weekly Qi Gong practice has also resumed and we are looking forward to expanding into weight training and other exercise with Larraine next month, so it looks as if most of us are keeping to our New Year resolutions!
The last week of the month saw a number of friendly gatherings for Eigg’s Aquarian birthdays: mine, Steven’s and Freya’s, respectively 59, 29 and 2 year old! Fun was had by all!?
Sadly it was the week we heard about the loss of our dear Eigg friend and former Chairman Simon Fraser. The likes of him will not be seen again.
It was also the week when our long awaited marine archaeologists turned up to check on the state of the Galmisdale wreck - just as the weather was breaking again.? Having collected the various planks and ribs that were ripped off the wreck by the suction effect of the pier causeway culvert, they braved the stormy waters and finally managed to deposit a few more sandbags to safeguard what’s left of it.
The next step is dendrochronology analysis. Should it confirm what they suspect might be a West Highland galley type vessel or perhaps an even earlier craft, a full excavation might be under way later on in the year. Watch out for an update in West Word, shortlisted once again for the Community Newspaper award! Well deserved, of course, and I hope we will win this time!
|Oak stakes and ribs from the Galmisdale wreck, showing the clinker built features which were recorded in 2002 when the wreck was discovered during the construction of the new Eigg causeway. Wessex Archaeology, who conducted the review of the site last year and the present rescue operation to stabilise the wreck, is funded by Historic Environment Scotland. Their interest is to check how the wreck remains relate to the vernacular Highland tradition of boat building, which itself has direct ties to an earlier Norse boatbuilding tradition.|
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR
The start of a series of safety measures has been initiated with the erection of new fencing encircling the harbour Building. The fence is set for completion later this month.
Two large signs have been erected and their message can be seen on the attached photo.
Other signs warning people a) off the harbour wall; b) of waves overtopping the wall; and c) urging folk to take care in the busy working environment that is the Harbour; will be in-situ soon. Zebra crossing markings and white/yellow line markings in and around the harbour will (weather permitting) be carried out prior to April.
A new road sign will be located in the approach to the harbour to inform drivers where to go to get the CalMac ferries or the Inverie/Knoydart ferries.
Two new generators have been purchased and arrived on site on Thursday 4th February. The generators will operate and provide lighting on the piers in the event of a breakdown in the electricity supply.
A Centenary Conference
PHILIP WEBB AND THE ARISAIG ESTATE
Friday 15th April to Sunday 17th April 2016
A year of events celebrating the work of the architect Philip Speakman Webb (12th January 1831 – 17th April 1915) will have its finale in April in Arisaig.
Arisaig House was Webb’s first country house, designed in early 1863, and his only one completed in Scotland. Webb was also commissioned to design a family memorial cross for the Astley family in 1883 and the Astley Hall in the village in 1891. This was extended in 1910 by Webb’s talented assistant, George Jack, who also worked on buildings in the neighbourhood.
The conference will combine visits and talks and opportunities to socialise and enjoy local food and scenery. It will be mainly based around Arisaig House, with talks at the Astley Hall on the Saturday, and visits to the Borrodale Steading (also by Webb), Làrachmhòr Garden and Polnish School. Delegates from AHSS and the SPAB are arranging their own accommodation and so local hotels and B&Bs promise to be busy that weekend. Arisaig House is providing an informal supper with music on the Friday and the conference dinner on Saturday. The after dinner speaker will be the architectural historian and author Michael Davis, chairman of AHSS.
The cost of the full weekend is £95, but there are cheaper options that don’t include the evening events at Arisaig House.
A more comprehensive summary of the Centenary Conference will be published in March’s edition of West Word, but in the meantime, full details and booking forms can be sought from:
AHSS, 15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BB
www.ahss.org.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org
tel: 0131 557 0019
Non-members are particularly welcome; anyone booking the conference AND becoming a new member of AHSS may deduct £10
CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
Crofters and Farmers unhappy with explanation on payment delays
At a stakeholders meeting on Friday 29th January the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, offered no hope to the misery being experienced by the Crofters and Farmers facing hardship from delays in processing the Basic Payment Scheme under the new CAP. Only a tiny percentage have received any payment and very few have received the letter of entitlements that was to be issued in mid-December.
Speaking for the SCF agriculture policy working-group, Brendan O’Hanrahan said: “The meeting was long over-due. Crofters are experiencing?real hardship due to cash flow problems and credit drying up. The lack of information has exacerbated the problem, as this has meant many crofters have no idea how long they’re going to have to hang in there for. While we appreciate the efforts now being made to allocate extra resources to deal with the backlog, we have to ask why this scale of a problem was not anticipated so that the emergency measures now in place could have been deployed much earlier.”
Croft House Grant Scheme
The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) is to be congratulated for its campaign to have the Crofters House Grant Scheme revisited and improved. The SCF took advice from its members before submitting a detailed response to the consultation on the scheme and the results look to have acted on the advice.
Scheme details include:
- Two rates of grant assistance for new house builds £28,000 and £38,000 using the HIE’s fragile area map to differentiate.
- Older croft houses that need improved to bring them up to a habitable standard can be claimed up to 40% of the total improvement costs, to the maximum of £28000 or owner-occupiers to be eligible on the same basis as tenant crofters.
- Support to be made available for houses with fewer than three bedrooms, based on an assessment of individual circumstances.
- Eligibility for the arrangement should be extended to include houses built on land adjoining or adjacent to the croft and to improve houses whose historical link to the croft has been removed by decrofting.
The SCF are currently in dialogue regarding the reinstatement of a loan element to the scheme and they hope to see that in the next session.
On and Off the Rails
As I start to write my column, I am reminded by my British Steam Trains Diary (what else would I have!) that we are entering a Leap Year (extra day) month. If February passes as quickly as January has for me, I won't mind having an extra day in the coming month!
ScotRail Value Advance Ticket Offer
January has been a month of 'it's good to talk' every time I have stepped out of the door, been on the phone or written a letter to anyone that would listen about the above offer! It was announced too late for the January issue of West Word, but I am grateful to the 'resting' Editor Ann for putting a link about it on the Facebook page as soon as I contacted her about it. Thanks Ann.
This 'Value Advance' ticket offer is a real reason for travelling by train. It is a new low-cost fare ticket for travelling on selected routes in Scotland. It is a single fare ticket, only on routes where reservations are allowed, but what a bargain! For example, Mallaig to Glasgow is £5 each way (£3.50 if you have a Senior Railcard, Disabled Railcard or National Railcard). It must be purchased in advance, either at a booking office or online along with a free seat reservation, so you have to know when you are travelling and when you want to return. At the moment, you can book up to twelve weeks in advance (April 20th as I write). The dates advance, and as there are a limited number of seats available to book on any one train, it is advisable to have a second choice set of dates in your head when booking. The routes you can book on currently are Mallaig/Fort William and Glasgow, Glasgow/Aberdeen, Edinburgh/Aberdeen, Inverness/Aberdeen, Glasgow/Oban, Inverness to Wick/Thurso or Kyle of Lochalsh. Single tickets cost £5 each way. The same offer price is also on Abellio's Greater Anglia line, if you happen to want to travel in that area. Ask at Mallaig or Fort William booking office or online. It really is that simple, what's not to like!! Just remember to ask for a 'Value Advance' ticket.
Model Rail Scotland 2016
The above tickets would be ideal if travelling to the show, which is being held at SECC Glasgow on Friday 26th, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th February (full details in January 2016 West Word). Model Rail Scotland 2016 boasts 50+ layouts, a free exhibition guide on entry, 150 exhibition stands, Gauge Societies, demonstrations and it is the 50th anniversary show! The show organisers have again allocated pairs of tickets for any one day of the event. Each pair can be used for adults or children. Extra tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day of attendance to go with them. If you require more details, go to: www.modelrail-scotland.co.uk. The closing date will be Friday 19th February and I will contact you by telephone on that day if you are successful.
Competition Question: Where is Model Rail Scotland being held this year?
It is as simple as that! Send your name, telephone number, address and day you wish to attend on a postcard to me, Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4RD. I will contact you by phone if you are successful. Good luck.
January 2016 Competition Result
The competition was to enter a draw to win a copy of the wonderful book, Disconnected! Broken Links in Britain's Rail Policy (ISBN: 9780860936640) by Chris Austin and Richard Faulkner @ £25. There were lots of entries for this, thank you, including Arisaig, Halifax, Lancashire, Southampton etc, but no one from Mallaig! Although I was able to assist two people in the area who wanted to purchase it!! However, there can sadly only be one winner and that is Anthony Fairchild from Rugby. Congratulations Anthony, your book is in the post. Well done.
ScotRail Staff Shortages
Abellio, who operate the ScotRail franchise, are still experiencing staffing shortages to maintain full service in our area and on the Oban line at present. This is due to current staff being overstretched in their shift hours that they are allowed to work as staff fall ill, take holidays or leave. New applicants for drivers and conductors are currently being sought from other areas internally and we have had the benefit at times of staff on secondment from Glasgow. New staff have to be eased into route learning, rules, pathing etc with an existing member of staff. This is happening, but it still means we have an occasional bus/coach replacement service thankfully. Three shifts in the past week have been affected. One incident involved a large group of teenagers being stranded in the dark at Arisaig when a train did not operate. The coach did not go to Arisaig Station AND the platform phone was not working (it still wasn't seven days later) for them to get information or help. Mobile phone calls to parents who picked them up saved the day, but it's a bit risky. Let's hope full staffing resumes soon.
Caledonian Sleeper Update
As I write this piece, Serco (the franchise holders of the Caledonian Sleeper service) are experiencing difficulties with their sleeper.scot website to the effect that Caledonian Sleeper tickets cannot be booked on it! If intending to travel, visit your local booking office or use thetrainline.com, but on this you will incur a booking fee. Hopefully it will soon be resolved.
Serco are also still experiencing difficulty with running a Sleeper service between London/Glasgow/Edinburgh/Fort William/Aberdeen and Inverness. The operating difficulties have partially arisen because of the West Coast mainline closures near Carlisle and now Lockerbie. A major viaduct has suffered severe damage meaning that all trains that use the West Coast mainline route are being diverted via Dumfries or on the East Coast mainline via York. Due to the complexity of the Sleeper train and its combined journeys into Scotland, its only viable route is using the East Coast mainline (which in its entirety is electrified), which means using Kings Cross Railway Station as its departure venue. Several other routes have been tried by leaving London Euston as its departure venue (as it normally does), but timings and route availability proved to be unsuccessful.
However, Serco have said that they will endeavour to try and maintain the Sleeper service as best as possible. I have monitored its progress after departing from Kings Cross on various occasions and there are definite inconsistencies in arrival times into Scotland, especially after departing Edinburgh and dividing into three separate sections - Fort William, Aberdeen and Inverness.
As I mentioned in last month's column, for three weekends in February, the Fort William Sleeper will arrive and depart in Oban. The dates for this operation are as follows: Friday 12th, 19th and 26th and Sunday 14th, 21st and 28th February. I do have the departure and arrival times of these trains, but due to the uncertain movements via the East Coast route, the best advice if you intend to use the service during these dates is to look on sleeper.scot or go to a ScotRail booking office and ask advice from them.
In my role as the above person, I have been working clearing the eight barrels at Arisaig lately and the under-planted bulbs are well on their way up! Whilst at Arisaig, I noted that the 'facility's' interior walls had become very mouldy in the moist, damp winter months. I scrubbed them down in time for a CRP meeting at Arisaig and reported it to ScotRail Management. Within a day, a visit was made by a job allocator from CPMS and photographs were taken. Two days later, a team of workmen arrived and repainted the whole cream interior and a great job they did too. Thanks chaps.
Mallaig booking office is currently experiencing a major refurbishment (see photos). Ann has been relocated to a portable office alongside the building and is coping cheerfully!
Taken on the first day as progress takes place.
The temporary booking office. Mallaig's very own Jean Duncan comes to terms with 'all change' at ScotRail!
Work in progress one week on.
News from Network Rail - Glasgow Queen Street
As all of us who use the West Highland line know our journey to Glasgow ends at Queen Street; however, due to electrification of the Glasgow - Edinburgh line, Network Rail is closing a section of line out of Queen Street i.e. the exit tunnel up to Cowlairs. Our trains will be diverted to Glasgow Queen Street low level. The whole upper section of the station will be closed to the public. This will commence on Sunday 20th March and will be in place until Monday 1st August, a total of twenty weeks.
This engineering task is huge and we wish Network Rail every success with this. Eventually, it is intended to electrify the Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh railway line, but it has to be done in stages. When the exit tunnel from Queen Street was built it was only designed with just enough head clearance for the steam engines of the day. In order for overhead wires to be installed, approximately 1.5m of track height has to be lowered. The affected routes are quite extensive so I won't list them in my column, but ScotRail has issued a very good leaflet called 'keeping you moving' and you can also view it by going to: scotrail.co.uk/queenstreettunnel.
I had planned to include an article about the refurbished class 73 locomotives, but to date I have no new news as to their trials, so I will wait until they are unleashed onto the Oban Sleepers in February and update in March.
See you on the train.
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
BIRDWATCH by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical January bird-wise, with the usual winter birds around. The weather in the latter part of the month was dominated by stormy westerly winds.
The Leucistic Great Northern Diver that was first reported back in early November, was seen on several occasions during the month, usually in the south channel of Loch nan Ceall. Other reports of Great Northern Divers came from Glasnacardoch, Camusdarach and Loch nan Uamh.
Leucistic Great Northern Diver
Wintering Slavonian Grebes were also seen in Loch nan Ceall on several dates, usually offshore from Millburn. Nine were counted on the 10th, when for once the loch was flat calm.
Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala throughout the month, usually seven to nine birds, but often hard to see as they fed in the reed beds. Good numbers of Teal on the loch, a single female Tufted Duck and occasional Little Grebes. Wigeon were reported from Morroch and Silver Sands. Goosanders were on the Morar River and Goldeneyes were present on Loch nan Ceall and the Morar Estuary.
Still at least one juvenile Iceland Gull present at Mallaig Harbour until the month end. More reports of Woodcock and Common Snipe from Morar and Arisaig during the month. Woodcock are often seen feeding on roadside verges at night, flying up at the last minute. Driving home late one evening, a Bracora resident came upon one sat in the middle of the road. The bird wouldn’t move. Assuming it may be injured, they go out to investigate. The bird was alert and appeared unhurt, but still wouldn’t shift. They picked it up and moved it to the verge, whereupon it promptly flew away! A Jack Snipe was not so fortunate, however. Its bedraggled remains were found by the roadside near Morroch, Arisaig on the 17th. The smallest member of the Snipe family, the Jack Snipe is a winter visitor to the British Isles, migrating from its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia and Russia. Several reports of Siskins on feeders again this month, with three seen in a wood-side garden on the 7th and at least six at Rhubana View on the 18th. A single Lesser Redpoll was also seen on feeders at Rhubana View from the 13th until the month’s end. Goldfinches were reported from numerous gardens, with flocks in excess of twenty birds in some. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were reported from Arisaig and Morar gardens. Jays were seen and heard in Arisaig and around Morar Lodge.
A young Owl was seen at Back of Keppoch on the 13th and several reports of Sea Eagles around Morar.
Here’s an interesting photograph of a diesel hauled passenger train heading into Mallaig Railway Station. I would guess the photo was taken sometime in the 1970s and it’s interesting to note the changes that have occurred since then. Gone is MacLennan’s Boat Yard. In its place is the new coast road into the village. Also gone are the railway sidings, railway signals and the old shed (bottom left) used as a store by the railway.
The roof of the now demolished railway hall can be seen mid left and the coastguard hut - sometimes referred to as the lookout hut - can be observed on the skyline. Sometimes referred to as the lookout hut. The coastguard hut is long gone as is the coastguard hill. In its place we now have the Mallaig High School and of course the school hostel.
As Bob Dylan once said “The Times they are a Changing”!!!
Worldwide West Word
Morar’s Eilidh Shaw shares her West Word with fellow Poozies band member Sally Barker near Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Poozies’ tour of Australia last month. Sally was a finalist in The Voice 2014, mentored by Sir Tom Jones.
Here’s Ewan & Morag MacDonald from Morar with their copy of January’s West Word, which they read cover to cover between all the sunbathing and cocktail drinking in Costa Adeje, Tenerife!
Sue, Neil and Struan from Eigg in St Lucia on Christmas Day enjoying a beer and a flick through West Word after a swim in the Atlantic rollers.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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