Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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February 2017 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Railway and harbour news

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Councillors in the Highlands have voted to introduce changes that would see several clusters of primary schools overseen by just one head teacher. Plans for five clusters across the Highlands have been approved but opposition by parents and calls for more consultation have led to the decision on two others, including the Mallaig cluster, being deferred.
The Mallaig arrangement involves the clustering of eight primary schools, which include four on the Small Isles and one in Knoydart, all only reachable by boat and therefore dependent on weather as well as journey time. The difficulties of travel to and between the schools are great and would mean the head teacher would spend very little time at any of the schools, and the likelihood of the pupils meeting up for school trips or joint events would be practically impossible.
Education chief Jim Stephen said the move was not about saving money, but about enhancing pupils' education.
The local authority has had issues recruiting head teachers to some schools.
The Highland Council plans to create one cluster of primary schools under Mallaig, overseen by just one head teacher, has met with strong opposition from the islands and our MSP Kate Forbes..
Plans for five ASGs (Associated School Groups) were approved, but two - Mallaig and Farr in Sutherland - were deferred.
The complete lack of consultation over such an extreme decision has been criticised by parents, community councils, parent councils and our MSP Kate Forbes.
Kate has criticised the Highland Council for only deferring decision on the two area that had occurred the greatest volume of complaints. She said: "I've received a lot of correspondence from parents, teachers and others who are deeply concerned at the lack of consultation so I'm stunned that only Mallaig and Farr were exempted. There hasn't been sufficient consultation in other parts of the Highlands and surely the sensible thing would have been to deal with it comprehensively across the whole region. These plans are significant and parents need to have answers before they are pushed through. "With plans of this significance, you have got to take people with you. That means answering parents' questions and asking about parents' concerns. What is being proposed is a significant restructure in the management of our local schools, and one would assume that major changes such as this must go through a robust consultation. We have to allow teachers, parents and other stakeholders the opportunity to have their say in a transparent and fair way.
"I have written to Highland Council asking for clarification on what consultation has taken place, what head teachers are expected to do, and whether the proposals will need the full backing of Highland Council."
Councillor Allan Henderson, in his West Word column, says of "the ill thought out proposal" that "the deciding factor on the day was that parents cared enough to write emails and send them to the officials who mattered. This is why consultation and engagement matters. Thanks to all who took the time to arrange meetings and attend them as well as sending the emails. I am sure the debate will continue through February."
Strong representations were sent from the Parent Councils of the island schools and the Small Isles Community Council, voicing fears about the fragility of the population and the importance of local schooling in people's decisions to stay on the islands and Knoydart.
Among a long list of objections, Camille Dressler, Chair of the Small Isles Community Council, writes "The island schools cannot and must not be treated in the same way as the mainland schools. In this respect, we would like to remind Highland Councillors of the island-proofing requirements which will be part of the forthcoming Island Bill by the Scottish Government. The Highland Council's duty is to ensure any policy impact on islands is considered carefully and with no adverse consequences."
Norah Barnes, Eigg Parent Council Chair, said in her letter to The Highland Council: "I have spoken to eight out of the nine schools in the Mallaig and they all said the same thing. They were completely shocked to hear about the proposal as there had been no consultation, and were all very worried about the negative impact on their schools and communities, particularly island ones. Mallaig High School are already facing teacher cuts, so there was a worry that more teaching hours may be lost as new "super headteacher" would be a non-teaching head."
Fliss Fraser, Isle of Rum Parent Council, wrote: "We are concerned by the monumental lack of consultation with parents of Rum Primary or indeed any of the Small Isles schools, it demonstrates a lack of respect and regard for the views of the parents and the welfare of the children. When Rum primary was initially clustered with Canna many years ago, a lengthy consultation was carried out including, visits to the island by representatives from the education department. This proposal being on a much larger scale and yet no consultation.
"The on-island teacher will be even more isolated, despite the barely adequate ICT, particularly, as she is a lone worker, with currently no classroom assistant or administrator. There is also the danger of island schools being overlooked in terms of the professional development of the teacher and in terms of the maintenance of buildings and equipment."
We await the result of the March meeting of the Education Committee to see if sense has prevailed. The meetings can be watched by webcam by going to www.highland.gov.uk

After months of information gathering which included meetings with stakeholders, harbour users, public meetings, in depth phone calls, meetings with agencies and individuals, Consultants Fisher Associates submitted the Mallaig Harbour Masterplan to the Board of the Mallaig Harbour Authority at a meeting on Friday 20th January. The Authority was happy to accept the Masterplan and are confident that it points the way ahead and becomes the blueprint for the Harbour's future development.
"It's vital that the Authority looks forward," says Harbour Chairman Charlie King. "We have a duty to safeguard the future of the Harbour, which, as we all know, is the key to the prosperity of the village. Fishing, Fish Farming, Ferries, Yachting and Cruise Liners are industries vital to Mallaig's future, so it is only right that we put down a marker to Government, Government Agencies and MSPs on what we consider to be the best for the Port of Mallaig." A copy of the Masterplan is available to view on the Harbour Authority website, www.mallaig-harbour.com Harbour CEO Robert MacMillan expressed his thanks to EMFF, HIE and Nevis Estate for their financial contribution to the Masterplan.


Well, my last issue - although I will help with the next one, it will be with the new Editor in charge. At this point I can't tell you who it may be, interviews are still to take place, and as I haven't been involved with the process I don't know anything about it!
Suffice to say that West Word will be different, and that's a good thing. After 18 years in the Editor's Chair I have got very tired and this shows I feel - the paper needs someone with energy and enthusiasm and fresh thoughts and ideas. It's a very exciting period in West Word's life and I hope you will make your views and ideas known on what you want to see in it and how you would like to see it develop. The new Editor will be holding some focus groups to give you all the opportunity to feed into the process.
But I am sad of course! I have made many friends, not least among the subscribers, most of whom I have never met, though it is always very pleasant when occasionally they have called in to the office to see me. I've spoken to more on the phone and had email exchanges with even more. Already I've had some lovely messages (which reminds me, I forgot last month to thank those of you who sent me Christmas cards! Always much appreciated.) Contributors too have become friends and I want to thank them for all their cheerful submissions. If anyone wants to say in touch with me, my home email is ann.martin6@btopenworld.com and any correspondence addressed to Ann Lamont, Arisaig PH39 4NP will find me.
There are plans in the pipeline about the printing, and I think it may be that Ewen and Morag are 'retiring' from that with me. I want to thank them for 16 years of hard work, support, kindness, cups of coffee and TLC when I needed it! I don't know what I would have done without them. Thanks also to Anne and Miya for the envelope labelling, they have saved me a lot of tedious time over the years and have never failed me, even at very short notice.
It's goodbye and thanks to everyone, past and present, that have made West Word what it is and have made it a very enjoyable occupation.
Ann Martin

Well it's been an exciting month really, kicked off by a fantastic New Year weekend featuring Fras, Sketch and Angus Binnie. It was certainly busy, both on Hogmanay and New Year's Day where the tunes kept going. It was a good chance for the local musicians to join in as well. Struan (12) is really quite amazing on the bagpipes. All in all, it was a craicin' start to 2017.
Now without further ado, I'd like to welcome Ossian Alexander Wilson, whose story is probably the most exciting piece of news you'll hear all year from Knoydart (at least in my opinion). Wee Ossian arrived 6 days early, at home at Inverguserain amidst the raging storms at 7.56am on the 11th January. This was entirely unexpected, but hats off to Anna and Iain and Jo who took the whole thing entirely in their stride (Of course they did, they're farmers) and Ossian came into this world in the most relaxed chilled out manner you could possibly imagine. It was truly a magical day, one I'll never forget, and as it happens, he is the first baby to be actually born on Knoydart in a very long time (at least 30 odd years). Anna is doing well, and Ossian, well, he'll certainly have a great story to tell.
Following the excitement of Ossian's arrival, we had our annual Burns Supper, still my favourite night of the year. The hall was packed and as always the food, the speeches (by those who were unable to escape Mr Wilson) and the music was fantastic. It's just the one event which seems to bring everyone in the community together and it's always a good challenge to see just how many chairs you can actually squeeze in…
One bit of sad news also this month, Poor Old Puzo (Ian and Amie's dog) was sadly put to sleep. Strange not to see him bumbling around the village anymore but at least he's not in pain.
Lots of things happening on the holiday accommodation front this year: Iain and Britta's Knoydart River Cottage is now taking bookings and will be open from May, The Gathering by the Loch (formerly Lochside Cottage, now owned by Cara) is up and running and Ivy Cottage is also ready to go. Check out the visitknoydart website or facebook page to get more updates.
That's all for now folks.
Heather Gilmour

Saturday,28th January was 'Beaters Day' on Muck. This is the day which marks the end of the shooting season. The day when the islanders of all ages, who for the last four months have encouraged the birds to fly in the direction of the shooting parties, can exhibit their own shooting skills. Duck, pheasants and partridge all reared by Toby, Mary and Lewis, and most of them ending up on the tables of Skye and Lochaber. 23 parties (of mainly, but not exclusively men) travelling from all parts of Britain to Arisaig and crossing to Muck on Sheerwater and Briscoe, under the care of Ronnie and Charlie MacKinnon. 46 charters and all arrived on Muck. None were cancelled due to adverse weather. On Beaters Day islanders were joined by the stalkers who during September and October had looked after the parties who had come to Rum to shoot stags. The day ended with dinner at Gallanach Lodge and a party after.
Two days earlier Muck celebrated the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns in the hall. An event in aid of school funds. Haggis, neeps and tatties were the basic ingredients but the many skilled cooks on the island produced a wide range of other dishes as well. Laura and Dean Marriner played and sang; and the children sang and recited as well. It was a good evening!
Lastly Ann, I would like to say how much I have enjoyed working with you. I would like to wish you a retirement full of other interesting occupations and see you on Muck before too long.
Lawrence MacEwen

After recovering from all our travel woes in December we were grateful for a relatively peaceful start to 2017 once the hangovers cleared…..
The 1st was a glorious, sunny day and a couple of folk even braved a quick plunge. I felt a wee bit of sun bathing was more appropriate (complete with some bubbly).


The month continued with more rain, wind and even a light covering of snow. Almost everyone is back on the island now and we all celebrated the new year with a Burns Supper in the newly redecorated shearing shed which we are now using as a community space.
A great night was had by all with young Ryan Guthrie saying the Selkirk Grace, Pete addressed the haggis, Donald, the Immortal Memory, Gordon, the Toast to the Lassies and Indi replying. Songs from Fiona and Katie Mackenzie, Erin and Julie sang and danced and even wee Gordon recited a poem. Despite the cold and the logistical problems of serving up hot food in a shed, we soon warmed up with plenty of dancing (with a few bruises sustained along the way).


Even the two resident ponies seemed to be slow to recover the following morning.


Hopefully this was the first of many good nights to come!
Donald MacKenzie

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
January well deserves its Gaelic name of 'Mios marbh' - The 'Dead Month'! Canna House has been a quiet place with curtains drawn against the gales whilst documentation and archival work goes on inside. The documentation project is drawing to a close and both Indi and Liz have done an amazing job with the accession and documenting of almost every item in the House, that which is not Archive or Library resources. This information will be enormously helpful not just to us in Canna House but to the National Trust for Scotland in general as well as providing the basis for much important research.

Indigo Carnie documents some silver

The children of Canna School now come regularly to the House to explore the various ways the Collections can enhance their studies and projects. Every week, we look at Art and objects, photographs and films, we have at least one song and also at least one chapter from John Lorne Campbells novel The Wikked Willis Saga about the fierce Canna 'Viking' cat, Wicked Willi. This fits in very nicely with the current school project of The Vikings!

The pupils of Canna Primary School and their teacher, Mr Martin Merrick

February 1st is St Bride's day and Margaret Fay Shaw says this about this day :
"Cuiridh Brid' a cas ann. Cuiridh Muir a Bas ann. Cuiridh Pàdraig a spòg mhòr ann. Bidh e blàth gu leòr an uair sin. Bride will place her foot in it; Mary will put her palm in it. Patrick will put his big hand in it, It will be warm enough then." The sea water is said to become warm on St Bride's feast day. In the old style this was eleven days later than at present. Actually the sea is coldest in Spring and warmest in the Autumn. In Fr Allan MacDonald's papers, there is a version of this saying in which the last line is: 'S thug Padraig a'chlach fhuar as. St Patrick has taken the cold stone out of it", which makes better sense."
Fiona MacKenzie

The biggest issue dominating the Small Isles at the moment has been the new cluster proposals for the Small Isles schools whereby a super cluster of eight primary schools would be managed by one head teacher based in Mallaig; This simply isn't tenable for the islands for a whole raft of reasons and the parent councils from all four schools have written to the council to object, we now believe an alternative proposal is being tabled, we hope it is something less objectionable and at least we are being consulted in advance this time.
Kinloch Castle hit the headlines again with the news that it could be demolished. This sparked a lot of controversy on social media and the membership of the Kinloch Castle Friends Assoc. has risen dramatically. In any circumstances, it is most unlikely to be demolished; moreover the media interest has provided a handy springboard to launch an appeal to save our beleaguered 'big house'. For more information please contact www.kinlochcastlefriends.org Whilst many discount the heritage value of the castle, as its history is steeped in rich English privilege and exclusivity, it is nonetheless here and judging by the number of visitors, still holds a great deal of interest to many. There is a huge opportunity for it to be turned around into a number of viable futures including holiday accommodation, venues for conferences, weddings and student groups to name a few, but to achieve this will be an uphill battle. All help is very much welcome; it would be a shame for it to deteriorate even further.
On a more Jovial note, our Burns night celebration was full of energy and enthusiasm. Our amazing homemade staggis was addressed by Jed, who having the right accent for the job, made a reasonable stab at it. The toast to the lassies by Steve Robertson was the best I've heard and had us all howling and Nic's long poem, which was more of a rhyming saga of tales on Rum, was just brilliant. Rum primary provided an illustrated immortal memory of Burns and special X factor prize for performance goes to Ashton. It was nice to have visitors over from Inverness and Stornoway who were delighted with our hospitality.
We would all like to say very happy retirement to Ann Martin for her stellar work at West Word and also a get well soon to Ronnie Dyer.
Fliss Fraser

After the heavy winds of the Christmas tide, it was great to have some calm weather on the island for a while and survey what there is to be done in the New Year. Lots of building work resuming, and ideas for new build, with Sam Foster's return visit to Eigg to check with the islanders on the various options for the mixed housing proposal near Sandavore. Very exciting.
Our running and fitness buddy Laraine gave us an opportunity to shift the pounds put on during the season of excess, by putting on not two but three new weekly circuits! She is also encouraging the islanders to take the Couch 2 5K challenge and expand the Eigg running club. Meanwhile, I continue sharing my Qi Gong practice with an emphasis this winter on a tendon and muscle form. So expect a lot of super-fit Eiggach this spring and hopefully a few entrants for the Road to the Isles running events. The other exciting thing is that if we can get access to the former NHS surgery for our gym and if the meaningful trip to the mainland materialises as promised by Transport Scotland, we could become part of the Highlife scheme and go swimming and fitness training in Mallaig on a regular basis!
Fitness is of particular interest to me as I celebrated my 60th birthday this month, It started at midnight on the 25th, as a continuation of our now annual Burns Quiz night at the pier - well done Saira, that creamy whisky sauce for the haggis was delicious and the quiz questions were almost easy this year - and got better and better: sauntering in the lovely sunshine to my birthday lunch invite at Lageorna, looking forward to catching up with Sue, Eilidh and her two wee ones, I was greeted by the whole womanhood of Eigg (or near enough) jumping out of the kitchen to sing their birthday wishes! What a brilliant, heart-warming surprise and what a great Ottolenghi-style lunch we all had! Many thanks to Sue and all the Eigg girls, it did make my day, which ended up at home for a wee boogie as a warm up to the Big Birthday tropical night next month! It all made me feel so very privileged to live in a such a warm and caring community!
It was a sentiment that Lucy actually expressed very well at the end of our march on Saturday 21st January in solidarity with the US women marching in support of women's rights, protection of the natural environment and all other causes threatened by the new world order. It was a sobering thought that the Eigg women and men were part of a worldwide participation of 4.8 million in a march which became the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history! I think ours might have been the second smallest in the world…
In fact we do feel so lucky that we are all ready to fight to retain what contributes to our quality of life, as shown by the swift and concerted island reaction to the Highland Council's plan to save money by cutting down drastically on the quality of our children's education by seeking to impose their new cluster head system. Voting on the issue is now postponed to March so the fight is not over yet, but it is a small victory to have got the councillors to stop and consider our views.
Just imagine what it will be like, when more services yet will get the chop after 2019 as European Structural Funding disappears from our communities, thanks to a UK government that has little or no interest in this part of the country. So good luck to Michael Russell MSP and his team, as negotiating Scotland's place in Europe does look increasingly difficult. Fighting for more devolved powers for Scotland seems the only way forward right now. Might be that we can look forward to some more marching then, as well as all that running…
Camille Dressler

The Eigg Runic stone, continued!
The story in last month's West Word was picked up by the Western Isles news agency and ended up both in The Telegraph and The Sun on Monday 23 January! But we are not getting further forward in solving the riddle of the inscription. One expert swears it refers to a runic version of the name Furguson, or Ferguson, the Eigg Fergusons deny any knowledge of the stone or association with it, and it might not be very old at all… Who is having a laugh then?
Camille Dressler

Saturday 21st January 2017 saw women around the world marching in solidarity with the women of Washington, USA, who were demonstrating outside Trump Towers on the first full day of President Trump's administration.
Among the millions of supporters, it is no surprise that the women of Eigg showed their support for the women of the world.
A small march on a small island - but it caught the attention of the media. Over that weekend, the tweet of this photo was retweeted 1400 times and liked 4000 times. And it received a reply from actor Ewen MacGregor! He said 'Sisters of the world unite. Fantastic', and when they thanked him he replied 'No. Thank you!!! Xx'



Model Rail Scotland 2017
This annual 'must go to' event will be on at the SECC Glasgow - soon to be renamed the SEC - from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th February. In previous years, I have been able to run competitions for tickets to it but, sadly, due to financial constraints, this year there are no competition tickets being allocated to the Media for this purpose. I can only say that at £11 for an advance ticket. it is still very entertaining and enjoyable to go to. See November's West Word for more details, or go to www.model-rail-scotland.co.uk

West Coast Railways Jacobite 2017 Season Dates to be Extended
Can you believe that by the time you read this, it will be less than nine weeks to Easter and the commencement of the 2017 Jacobite season? Well, it's true!
The Easter Special service announced in last month's West Word is now to become the first date of the regular Monday - Friday morning Jacobite! Read on…the dates are now…
Easter Special: Friday 16th to Friday 26th April 2017
Morning Service: Monday to Friday 24th April to 27th October and weekends from 17th June to 1st October 2017.
Afternoon Service: Monday to Friday 15th May to 15th September and weekends from 1st July to 3rd September 2017.
Currently no Jacobite planned for November 2017, but Festive Specials commencing Monday to Friday 4th December to 22nd December and Wednesday 27th December to Friday 29th December 2017.
All services running from Fort William and Mallaig!
So there you have it, start planning your staff levels, stock levels, event dates, Christmas themed events etc. now - while you have time!! B&Bs and Guest Houses, Hotels and Backpackers Lodges, you have been warned. Mallaig, are you ready for this increased tourism opportunity that West Coast Railways have planned? Along with ScotRail, we should be very grateful for our Railway and the tourism opportunity we are being given. Let's not forget the job opportunities it opens up for us, let alone the staff involved in running and hosting the railway services that we have on our line. My priority will be producing the Off the Rails: a Visit to Mallaig brochure which is given out on the trains, and how the heck can I produce Station Gardens at Mallaig and Morar in less than nine weeks!!!
For full details of bookings on The Jacobite, plus prices etc, go to www.westcoastrailways.co.uk Gift vouchers are available, plus if you have an event planned they now have a 'Places to stay and things to do' extra section. Or telephone them on 0844 850 3137.

January Competition Result
The winner of the hardback book Steam Across the Highlands by Brian Sharpe is Alison Bowditch from Coventry. Hers was the first drawn correct entry from the postcards received. Thanks to all who entered. The answer to the question 'Name the original BR Loco Number and the Loco Number now of The Flying Scotsman is 4472 and 60103.
Enjoy the book Alison!

Times they are a-changing
I will write more about this next month, but it is an 'Every time we say goodbye' song moment, for me personally, to be reporting a change of position for the person who urged me to become a 'Station Adopter' many years ago, John Yellowlees. John was then External Relations Manager for ScotRail, then First ScotRail, then Abellio ScotRail - changing his job description this year to External Liaison Manager. Throughout, John has inspired, cajoled, persuaded and flattered hundreds of volunteers to adopt Railway Stations for the benefit of staff and travellers alike. But all is not lost - Hallelujah! - as, following his retiral from spreadsheets etc., on 27th January he arose like a 'Phoenix from the Ashes' to become ScotRail's first 'Honorary Rail Ambassador'. On Friday February 3rd, Steve and I will be proud to be with him in Glasgow to celebrate his career, hear more about his exciting new position, enjoy his friendship for life and find out the future plans that Abellio ScotRail have fro Station Adopters. Watch this space.

Network Rail - Track Improvements
Network Rail have announced a major track improvement between Mallaig and Arisaig.
The work started on January 14th and will continue until February 24th. Most of the work will be around the Morar area, with new railway sleepers, chairs and ballast being replaced. Most of the materials are being conveyed in by road and stored next to the Heritage Centre sidings at Mallaig. There are several road/rail machines stabled at Mallaig that are transporting the required materials to various locations along the track. It's good to know that most of the work is being carried out in between the timetabled trains, allowing ScotRail to operate as normal.
The planned times are from 8.30am - 5pm and 10pm - 6.30am, although some work has been outside these hours. To date there has been no disruption to passenger traffic.
With the planned extension of The Jacobite steam trains, the improvements are most welcome. Also, to date there are fifteen Royal Scotsman Touring Trains running from Edinburgh to Mallaig between May and October this year. These are now hauled by two heavy Class 66 Locomotives - top and tailed - between Fort William and Mallaig. These locomotives weigh 127 tons each, and add to the wear and tear on the rails and sleepers.
All this investment by Network Rail will ensure that our Railway has a strong and secure future for years to come.

New DVD from Locomotive Profiles
For rail enthusiasts who take a particular interest in the signalling aspect of railways, Locomaster Profiles has just released an excellent DVD showing the workings of the latest Signal Boxes on the rail network, before their recent closure. It features Banbury North and South Signal Boxes. Before the RETB (Radio Electronic Token Block) signalling system became the norm in the West Highlands, the control of both passenger traffic and freight was controlled by Signal Boxes similar to Banbury, one of which is still in use at Fort William Junction. The DVD gives a fascinating insight as to how these boxes and their workings controlled our railways for over 100 years. Visit www.locomaster.co.uk or send a cheque or postal order to Locomaster Profiles, Freepost SL 2253, Langley, Slough SL3 6BP, phone 01753 545888. Price £19.95, post free.
A good example of how Signal Boxes operated on the West Highland Line is at Glenfinnan Signal Box where Nick Jones has simulated the old lever system onto a computer screen, but with the Signal and Point levers (the originals) being used to operate a computer generated display. The Box is open to the public most Jacobite working days, but can be viewed and operated by appointment out of season by contacting John Barnes at Glenfinnan Station Museum on 01397 722295.

Test Evaluation Train
Wednesday 25th January saw a Network Rail Test Train on the Fort William to Mallaig Line. I say 'saw'; it was 8pm and dark, but it was enough of a thrill to run up the garden and watch it (and smell it!) go out from Mallaig! It consisted of two Class 37 locomotives - top and tailed - and four coaches bristling with equipment, recording a full inspection of the line, tunnels and bridges prior to the major work referred to earlier in my column. How else did you get so excited on Burns Night?!
See you on the train
Sonia Cameron


The Mallaig Harbour Masterplan is now complete. It was submitted to the Harbour Board at a meeting on 20th January 2017 and, following its approval, was placed on the Harbour Authority web-site on Friday 27th January 2017 where it can currently be viewed.
The next development phase that the Authority require to undertake is the Masterplan Business Case and discussions on this are already underway with the Scottish Futures Trust.

Chris Fisher of Fisher Associates who produced the Mallaig Harbour Masterplan;
Charles King, Authority Chairman; and Neil Rutherford, Senior Associate Director, Scottish Futures Trust.

Jarys Wharf

I received this email last month...

My surname is Jary. I was unaware of any Scottish connection but was surprised to see that there is a wharf in Mallaig with the same name. I wondered if you had any information about the wharf and how it came to be named.
Chris Jary

To which I replied...

Afternoon Chris
Nice to hear from you! Unfortunately I cannot help you re information regarding Jary's Wharf here at Mallaig Harbour. Despite all my efforts over the past few years no one can shed real light on why that area of the harbour is known as Jary's Wharf.
The Steamer Pier was constructed in 1901 in conjunction with the opening of the West Highland Railway Extension between Fort William and Mallaig and Jary's Wharf was the initial wooden structure adjacent to the Steamer Pier.
I was born in Mallaig in 1948 and just grew up knowing that area being called Jary's Wharf. The oldest fisherman in Mallaig is in his 90's but has no real hard and fast information on why the name Jary was used. He thinks that Jary was a fish merchant attracted to Mallaig to buy (or sell) fish due to the introduction of the West Highland Line. Fish Merchants came (mainly) from the East Coast of Scotland but also from England so there's no way of knowing Mr Jary's nationality.
Sorry I have no concrete information to offer you. I could put an item in our local monthly community newspaper in the hope that someone will know the background to Jary's Wharf and you could contact the Mallaig Heritage Centre on 01687 462085 who may be able to give you some more information.
Robert MacMillan


Since I sent off the email to Chris Jary I have talked (again) to Mr Petie McLean, a retired fishing skipper who first went to sea in 1940 aged 14 and he is in no doubt that Mr Jary was what they called a "Fresher" - meaning he bought/sold fresh herring and by definition was not involved in the kippering side of things. I was told this by someone I met in Aberdeen many years ago says Petie and I have no other information.
Can any West Word reader help Chris in his quest to learn more about the naming of Jarys Wharf?
Courtesy of Mr McLean here is an old photo (1920s?) of Mallaig Harbour with Jary's Wharf visible on the right.

A new vessel in Mallaig Harbour is the salmon wellboat Ronja Nordic, deputising for the Nordic Pioneer.

Robert MacMillan
01687 462154


Arisaig's Tom MacKinnon continues to take us with him on his travels! Last month he told us he had met up with his Eigg cousin David Kirk and friend Swantje and they were pictured on cold and windy day at the most southerly point of New Zealand. Tom has sent this photo, which he tells us is the same group conquering Mt Luxmore in Te Anua. It's the first part off the 32km Kepler trek (one of the nine 'great walks in NZ) , and a much finer day than last month!

Steve and Catherine Brown, also from Arisaig, found time to read West Word at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, on a recent birthday trip to the US (happy 50th Steve!).

BIRDWATCH January 2017 by Stephen MacDonald
A very mixed bag weatherwise, a few days of wintry weather but some unseasonably mild spells.
Still good numbers of Slavonian Grebes on Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig, with up to 12 birds counted some days. Little Grebes were also present, and on the 8th, a sighting of 2 possible Great Crested Grebes. A female/immature Velvet Scoter was discovered there on the 7th and was still present on the 23rd. A White-billed Diver was reported by a visiting birder, it was seen just off the West Bay car ark, Mallaig, on the 27th.
The Leucistic Great Northern Diver that spent the winter of 2015-16 at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall has apparently been found on the West Coast of Ireland. It was first seen on 4th January near fish farm cages at Kilkiernan, Co. Galway. Photos in Ireland and of the Arisaig bird look remarkably similar. Immature Glaucous Gulls were reported from Loch nan Ceall on the 7th and Portnadoran on the 11th. Immature Iceland Gulls were seen on several occasions in Mallaig Harbour and an adult 'Viking Gull', a hybrid between a Glaucous and a Herring Gull, was present throughout the month in Mallaig. This bird has a damaged leg and has been seen in previous winters.
Numerous reports of both Woodcock and Snipe from Morar and Camusdarach areas again. Still a wintering Greenshank on the Morar Estuary, and also a report of a Ruff there on the 22nd. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen on several occasions on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig. Siskins were still visiting garden feeders in Morar, although no more Redpoll sightings after the first week. Large numbers of both Goldfinches and Chaffinches reported from garden feeders.
Great-spotted Woodpeckers were heard 'drumming' on several occasions fro the 21st in Arisaig, and Song Thrushes and Robins were heard singing also.
Sea Eagles were reported from Camusdarach and Loch nan Uamh. Sparrowhawks reported on several occasions hunting in Morar gardens. After the strong Westerly winds during the second week of the month, there were a number of dead sea birds washed ashore at Traigh and Back of Keppoch, including Puffins, Guillemots and Fulmars.
Interestingly, at the same time, also discovered along the tideline between Traigh and Rhue were thousands of Valella Valella, or 'By the Wind Sailors', a jellyfish like marine creature that normally lives far out to sea (see below).


Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
A visitor was asking what the grey fluffy stuff on some tree branches is.
This is a lichen called Usnea. It grows prolifically on trees in Lochaber and the west of Scotland where the air is clean and damp. A lichen is a plant formed by a symbiotic, that is mutually beneficial, relationship between an alga and a fungus growing together in a definite arrangement. The alga is usually blue-green or green and provides energy from photo-synthesis; the fungus fixes nitrogen and provides shelter. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants containing the green pigment chlorophyll are able to make food from water and carbon dioxide, using energy absorbed from sunlight.


The photo shows Usnea growing on both deciduous and larch trees. Usnea is an epiphyte, a plant which uses another plant as a suitable base on which to grow, it has no roots and is not a parasite and the foundation plant is not usually adversely affected. Epiphytes also grow on rocks, bare ground, and buildings, showing that they do not need other plants to survive. Examples include lichens, mosses, liverworts and ferns growing on trees and rocks.
Epiphytes need clean air and are sensitive indicators of air pollution as they quickly show signs of stress or die. An epiphyte obtains water, and sometimes nutrients, from rainwater and as it contains chlorophyll it is able to make its own food by photosynthesis.
Lochaber is one of the best places in the British Isles for epiphytes, both in the diversity and quantity present. This is because the clean air and damp, relatively mild climate is very suitable for lichens, mosses, liverworts and ferns to grow. The mature oak woods in the Atlantic coastlands are particularly rich, with many unusual species.
Dr Mary Elliott

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