List of Issues online
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
Visit West Word on Facebook
List of Issues online
February 2021 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
VACCINATION CENTRE SET UP AT WEST HIGHLAND HOTEL
Local residents are receiving their first Covid-19 vaccinations with a panoramic view! The Terrace Restaurant at the West Highland Hotel in Mallaig has been converted into a vaccination centre, and the first round of inoculations took place on 29th January. A total of 132 people from the over 70's and vulnerable groups were vaccinated, and a further 146 received their jabs on 12th February.
The Hotel's Sine MacKellaig Davis said, 'We're very happy that the restaurant can be used for this purpose and we'll keep going, as and when needed, until the hotel is able to open again. All over 70's and vulnerable members of our community, and also the majority of the over 65's, have now had their first jab. It feels like quite an achievement!'
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
The West Word committee and I would like to thank the Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig Community Councils for their efforts in funding and distributing this issue to all the households in their areas. I hope everyone enjoys their free copy! Remember - it's your paper, and we're always happy to receive contributions - photos, articles, news, announcements, items wanted or for sale - all, and more, are welcome!
West Word has a new mobile phone - my apologies, the old number hasn't been working for a while. The number is 07310 857802 - please text, call or WhatsApp if you want to get in touch.
As ever, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes - and to Lucy for the Wordsearch!
I don't know about anyone else, but I personally have felt this January has lasted an age. January is often notoriously slow and long but this year particularly has felt slower than normal. Despite this, there have been some good times. We had the heaviest snowfall in years - what can only be described as Narnia Snow - which delighted everyone, young and old alike. There were snowmen (or, should I say Snow People these days?!) of varying shapes and sizes around the place, and plenty of sledging to be done. It felt like some much needed lightness in amongst the gloomy grey days. Now it's all gone but the sun has been shining and the nights are noticeably stretching. The daffodils are starting to keek through the frozen mud and things are looking up. Last week all residents over 50 were offered the first covid jag so a large proportion of the community has now been vaccinated. We are still lucky to have had no cases of covid here and hopefully it will remain that way!
On other news, some of you may have heard that the Old Forge has come on the market again. It has been owned since 2012 by JP but now it looks as though things will be changing. Watch this space for more news on this!
The Shop is undergoing a makeover now that it has been expanded into what was previously the visitor display room. Johann has been busy making bespoke displays for all the fantastic local arts and crafts which will soon be available. In the shop there is a new (yet to be filled) self-serve unit which will allow people to bring a container and weigh out as much as they need which is in line with the shop's aim to be as green and self-sustainable as possible. And, finally, a wee bit about the highlight of January - the Burns Supper. Obviously this year we were unable to be squashed up together like sardines in a tin but like with all these events in the last year, it was hosted on Zoom. And, it went amazingly well. It allowed estranged Knoydart friends and family to take part from all round the world - there were surprise guest speakers from Canada, New Zealand and America. It was good to see these old familiar faces and it didn't matter if you were in Canada or the cottage down the road, everyone was on the same page (quite literally a web-page haha) So well done to all those that had a leading role in making this happen; it might not have been the usual Burns Celebration, but it was a celebration none the less.
Slainte Mhath folks.
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
"It's, oh, so quiet . . . shhhh, shhhh, It's, oh, so still . . . shhhh, shhhh, you're all alone, shhh, shhh and so peaceful until . . ." Well hopefully Easter but really it is anyone's guess.
Our little village, like all around, has been very, very quiet of late. I must admit going out for little walks and meeting the occasional neighbour getting a breath of fresh air has been a tonic during these times.
While out on my walks I am also pleased to see the work on the Wee Harry Potter Bridge continue. This is going to be a huge asset and I can't wait for it to be completed. I hope we can have some sort of mini ceremony to thank the committee who have worked so hard on securing this for our village.
The infamous pothole, the gift that keeps on giving, is back! Take care when you pass the Trust building as it is expanding faster than a waistline during lockdown. The National Trust remains closed during the current restrictions.
We have seen some lovely pictures of the Red Squirrels that have set up home in the village. I can see a 2022 calendar on the horizon! Watch this space as we have lots of exciting plans for Glenfinnan 2021!
With February comes Valentine's Day so thought I would leave you with a wee poem:
Roses are red, Violets are smelly, when you come to Glenfinnan, don't forget your wellies.
(It has been a really slow news month!)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck calling . . .
. . . Well here we are in a brand new year and in the same great predicament as last six months, but I did make new friends and thanked them from the bottom of my heart for allowing us to remain in Tier One when all of the UK was pretty much a no travel zone and from 26th December putting us into Tier Three which made no real difference except most small businesses on the small Isles were allowed to trade to ourselves!!! but I badgered my new friend Ms Forbes MSP and my mate Highland Council until we all shared the same point of view . . .??
On another positive, Home Schooling is back and no doubt much, much easier second time round as you parents will have had practice ?? and prepped lots of interesting things to do.
Muck has had a mini makeover with pretty much all the gardens having been pruned cut and trimmed within an inch of its life, some new walls and fences appearing as we all look toward spring. I don't know if things will ever go back the way it was pre-Covid but all we can do is prepare masked up, gelled up and pretty much fed up; however us in the over 50's club did get our 1st vaccine jab so better look out our tinfoil hats in case the conspiracy theorists are right and we are 5G'd with smart blood ??
Well folks that me off my soap box for another month!
ISLE OF CANNA
It was a frosty start to the month (no, not talking about the football) with plenty of views of the snowy Cuillins, and even the shoreline freezing over. That didn't deter a few our hardly lot from taking part in a New Year's Day dunk, swiftly followed by a quick dram! The Aurora Borealis was another great January highlight, unfortunately not bright enough to photograph - apart from one from a disappointed islander (who shall go unnamed) mistaking the green glow of the fishing boats at the pier for the northern lights!
Wildlife-wise, the northern diver is still about and we've had appearances from a lonely little grebe too who's been sheltering from the gales. Not all good news though: a male mallard was found starved on the shore after having been choked by a plastic ring - a good reminder to us to pick up a few bits of plastic when out and about and encourage visitors to do the same.
On a lighter note, spring is approaching faster than you'd think; the nights are getting lighter with lots of snowdrops shooting up and even some primroses adding a bit of colour. Prep is underway at the Café too, to get set up for what we expect to be a busy season: will need to make the most of the peace and quiet while we can!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House January has been a quiet month, with work continuing to pack the collections and Library in Canna House. The collections will be eventually temporarily relocated to a secure compound near the pier on Canna, which will be constructed in early Spring.
Site of proposed 'camp' shown at time of construction of wind turbines, 2019
I have been working on a documentary about Margaret Fay Shaw for Radio 3 which was broadcast at the end of January and will be available for some time on BBC Sounds. Entitled "Margaret Fay Shaw's Hebridean Odyssey", the documentary entailed me travelling to South Uist to speak with people who knew Margaret and the life she led there in the 1930's. The documentary is illustrated with music from the archive, live song from singer Paul McCallum and the Loch Nevis ferry!
February of course was a month filled with Hebridean customs and folklore traditions. La Fheill Brighde or St Bride's Day begins on the evening of Feb 1st, concluding on the evening of February 2nd and is also known as "Imbolc" the Celtic feast of Spring's awakening. Maragret Fay Shaw collected tradition and stories related to St Bride and published them in her book "Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist" in 1955.
Here is a favourite image of Margaret Fay Shaw on Mingulay in 1933, holding an oystercatcher chick.
We cannot be sure, but suspect that the image was taken by the then owner of the island, John Russell, pictured below.
ISLE OF RUM
Usually after the celebrations of Christmas and New Year we settle down slowly into a post festive routine, bracing ourselves for the more empty months of January and February, frantically searching for something to raise spirits . . . usually Burns' Night does the job. This year was/is different; with limited festive celebrations, no Hogmanay get together and no Burns' Supper on the horizon, the mood has been subdued with a feeling slowly spreading of resignation to this new normality. Fortunately a few of us slapped ourselves around the face and pulled ourselves together to try to tentatively plan for whatever this year will present . . . Bring on the community Zoom meeting! First time we have tried this for a community meeting and to be honest, first community meeting in a long time too and first community meeting for our new residents. Community meetings are a bit like a gathering of ents (LOTR), long, we talk a lot and don't decide much. This one has resulted in some potential action though: The community polytunnel will get measured into plots for the forthcoming growing season and the village hall, poor village hall, will get some nurturing. It has been closed for best part of a year now; Jed has become an impromptu caretaker and took the initiative to clean up, so at least the base line from where to start is a bit better. We need to find ways for the hall to continue to operate for all the things it does, but safely with some social distancing. This is not easy when it has multiple uses and is generally open for the public to go in at any time - we may have to review this too. The regular cleaning, if the season picks up, will be intense and our budget for this is small.
In other bursts of activity, Ali is all over a long overdue website upgrade at the same time as continuing her (and Sean's) mammoth virtual Land's End to John O'Groats walk. Sean has nearly finished, which is monumental; he's probably due a new pair of boots after that!
Alex (one of the new residents) has opened up a local bakery; fresh bread of several varieties can be purchased twice weekly and delivered to your door. This is great and another local business to support.
The kids went back to home school, which is a struggle for all working parents, but we are all just about getting through. The advent of music lessons from the Feis is great; I can hear fiddle music floating through from Joss's chrome book as I write. It's hard for the older children though who are suffering a bit more than the little ones.
Lastly, the vaccine rollout has reached the Small Isles; some have had it already but the vulnerable and over 50's on Rum are receiving it tomorrow. Some good news at least.
ISLE OF EIGG
A great start to 2021 weatherwise; everyone has enjoyed the warm sunshine and blue sky brought by the frosty weather, and the bit of snow which has led to the appearance of a strange creature like a snow mermaid at Laig. (See photo!) In the Forestry project, Saira and Angie are busy planting deciduous trees to link the new forestry and the old at the back of Sandavore. Volunteers have also helped out by grubbing up brambles there; an opportunity to see a part of the island rarely visited, which proved to have been well used, owing to the remains of lazy beds and shielings huts, the latter being excluded from the plantation scheme.
New Covid restrictions coming into place have put back the start of phase 1 of our pier centre extension, but it's all going to be happening in March now, together with putting the new solar panels from our successful CARES application. An All Eigg Interpretation team has also been successfully recruited - led by Elaine Hall who is responsible for the Canna House and the Glenfinnan Centre interpretation - and we are looking forward to work with them in the spring. After the swift reaction of the community on Eigg and the rest of the Small Isles to CalMac's ill-informed plans to bring changes to our freight service last December, the good news is that CalMac will be working with the four communities of the Small Isles on an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) through a steering group to be led by the Small Isles Community Council. We are presently looking at the Terms of Reference for this work at the moment, and it will be a very interesting process to follow as it could provide a blueprint for other "voluntary" ICIAs. Basically we are all in agreement that we need to identify a solution that is going to work for our four communities and CalMac and for the next 10 years at least. This is going to involve a lot of stakeholders both on and off the islands, but the long and the short of it is that it cannot leave the islands at a disadvantage.
The depressing thoughts of having to face yet another poor season is now lifting slightly as the vaccination programme is getting under way, with a sizeable number of Eigg's population - basically everyone over 50 - now being jabbed!
Life on Eigg has certainly not gone yet back to normal and as part of this column, Dylan, one of our few Eigg teenagers, is sharing how life on Eigg is for him now that schools are closed again!
The one positive that many have been in agreement with is the benefit of Celtic Connections being available online! This has really brightened up our January, and it was lovely to see Gabe, Damian and Brendan featuring in the Home on the Sea gig, as well as all the great bands that we love, including Shooglenifty with Eilidh and Kaela in such great form!
As I am handing over to Dylan, this is an opportunity to say goodbye to West Word readers, as I have managed to fulfil one of my New Year resolutions, which was to get other voices from Eigg to share the fun of writing for you all!
My Eigg Covid life
As a teenager on Eigg, general life during COVID is pretty similar to any other's; far fewer social interactions, more boredom and time to yourself. I tend to fill this void with music and walking. Even before lockdown music was a large part of my life on and off the Island. I am always listening to it, which can sometimes cause communication and other problems between me and my mother; so far we are only part of the time peeved at each other. Unfortunately I don't often hang out with anyone, the majority of my interactions coming from passing others on the road when out.
I walk everyday with the accompaniment of music or an audiobook. There are many beautiful and interesting paths on the island, many of which are mere sheep's trails forging a way through thick heather which results in twigs and bits getting in between your shoe and sock, sometimes even in your sock. Most commonly I walk along the cliff overlooking my house. I often post the pictures I take on social media, wanting to share the things I see with others, but unfortunately my camera rarely gives it justice. Walking is one of my favourite pastimes so long as it's not raining, then I prefer reading and watching films like a normal person.
We have online school during the week which is workable but unsatisfactory and nowhere near as enjoyable as normal. I tend to be unmotivated and as a result schoolwork tends to suffer. But it could be worse, I think. In other news, my cat is starting to get grumpy and grouchy; then again he is getting old. We have a croft with 14 sheep, one of which is missing, likely having got in with the tups.
On the island there has been snow and for a couple of days some of the ponds up on the top of the ridge froze over enough for me to stand on which was amazing. In winter we always get a pretty view of Rum across the water, big and snow-capped. My home is beautiful, so all in all we don't have it too rough.
Funding boost from The National Lottery Community Fund for Road to the Isles Marketing Group
RTTIMG applied to National Lottery Community Fund - Covid-19 emergency fund to provide meals to those adversely affected by the pandemic. At the time of application, Mallaig did not have a community council and the committee were acutely aware that people in our community might struggle to cook and shop due to shielding or other contributory factors. We have since joined forces with Mallaig Community Council and the Morar and Mallaig Resilience Group. The Community Larder and the volunteers have helped with food packs, delivery and requests via the resilience phone line and the MallaigCC email.
We have also received donations from local businesses and individuals in the community to enable the larder to remain open.
Sine MacKellaig Davis, Chairperson of RTTIMG, said: "We are delighted to have been supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. It's a highly competitive funding stream and we are very fortunate to have been successful, largely due to our administrator, Pamela Burns whose foresight ensured we were prepared for the worse case scenario. The NL funders recognised our rurality and that many of our community may have difficulty in shopping and cooking for themselves during the pandemic. We knew our members would rise to the challenge and support our community. We have professional chefs, kitchens and all the necessary components to prepare meals following the stringent hygiene and food standard requirements. To date our volunteers/businesses have made over 900 meals. We are very grateful to all involved for gifting their staff, kitchen and delivery service. It has enabled us to provide meals at cost, thus allowing the funding to provide more meals and for a longer period than initially anticipated. Our RTTIMG members are resilient and whilst our businesses are experiencing a desperately challenging time we want to help support the community in which we live and work. In particular those over 70 years old who have been shielding and missing family at this time. We know in 'normal' times they would be the very first to help with a big pot of soup, stew or hotpot."
The National Lottery Community Fund, Scotland Director, Neil Ritch: said: "In these uncertain times our priority is to ensure that National Lottery money continues to flow to charities, voluntary sector organisations and grassroots groups. I would like to congratulate Road to the Isles Marketing Group on their award; theirs is an important project which showcases the vital work that's being done in communities across the country."
RTTIMG are hopeful that the funding will allow meals to be provided until approximately early March 2021. A special thanks to Sandra MacLean, Sheila Gillies and Isobel Morton who have been looking after the larder on Tuesday and Thursdays over the past few months and also delivering the meals in the locality. We couldn't do any of this without our wonderful group of community volunteers.
Arisaig Community Trust News
Land, Sea and Islands Centre
We are sorry to announce that Alison Stewart will be standing down from her post at the LSIC at the end of January this year. We are extremely grateful to her for all her hard work in making it the successful asset it is today. We will be very sorry to lose her, as we're sure members of the community and returning visitors will be too. The position will be advertised on our Facebook page, other local pages and on the ACT/ ADCC noticeboard in due course.
We have been disappointed to hear that our grant application to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund has been unsuccessful. On the positive side purchase of the land from the MacMillan Estate Trust has been completed and our planning application for the proposed scheme has been approved, without conditions, by the Highland Council. In addition we have received a grant of £1000 from the Co-op Bank to be spent on an accessible picnic table and interpretive signs.
As a community we are now faced with a choice - do nothing or do something. ACT would like to hear your views on whether to simply leave things as they are or to start a community DIY effort to improve the shorefront area - such as new benches, signs and planters. To this end, we have put a simple survey question on our website. Go to www.arisaigcommunitytrust.org.uk and choose Shorefront Project from the drop down Projects menu. The Poll Link button will take you to the short questionnaire. Alternatively, put the following link into your browser and it will take you direct to the form: https://www.arisaigcommunitytrust.org.uk/get-involved-2/forms/
The poll will be active until the end of February. We appreciate that not everyone has online access and this is just a simple snapshot to gauge whether or not there is appetite for action. If there is, we will make sure there is consultation and involvement as the project moves forward. If you have suggestions for action and/or would like to volunteer your time then please email us at email@example.com
We'd love to hear from you.
ACT are very pleased to have awarded the contract for our community housing project to S & K MacDonald Homes, of Acharacle. As a design and build contract, they have responsibility for the construction of the whole site: six homes for rent, servicing of four self-build plots, building the access road and installing all the utilities.
"S&K MacDonald Homes are delighted to have been awarded the contract for the 6 new homes at Station Road, Arisaig. We are excited to have the opportunity to work with Arisaig Community Trust, and once again we will be working in partnership with Kearney Donald Architects on this project. We look forward to our local team getting started as soon as all the details are in place."
The total project costs are over £1million which we are meeting with grants from the Rural Housing Fund, Quaker Housing Trust and a loan from Ecology Building Society.
In other positive news, our land transfer from the Macmillan Estate Trust is almost complete and we are grateful to the Estate and their representatives for working co-operatively with us in getting this finalised.
We are still open to receiving Expressions of Interest for the four self-build plots. A significant number were received in December and January and we will be passing these on to Communities Housing Trust to take forward financial assessments. If you have already applied, it will likely be a few weeks before they are in touch so don't worry if you haven't heard anything yet. The applications will all be done anonymously and ACT do not have any involvement once names and contact details are passed on.
The number of potential applications shows how great the housing need is in this area. With the uncertainty around the upcoming tourism season, if any property owners in the area are considering renting their self-catering houses to local individuals and families, please get in touch and we can assist. Communities Housing Trust also run a housing management service for long term tenants.
Please note: Our new email for all housing contacts is: firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR FEBRUARY 2021
I wrote last month's news between Christmas and New Year, before the new restrictions had been imposed on us all, so by the time you read it, it would have already been out of date! Most of our staff are now working part-time and are back on furlough for the remaining hours. This means that, although there are usually two members of staff on the Harbour, it might take us a bit longer than usual to get things done. The office is closed, but someone will be in and out periodically, and you can still contact us by phone or email. It is slightly different to the first lockdown, in that the ferries are still operating and the fishing boats are not tied up in the way they were last March, but it's still much quieter than we would expect.
Because I wrote last month's piece before New Year, I also didn't get the chance to thank the crew of the Ronja Commander for their amazing fireworks display at midnight on Hogmanay. Those of us who are lucky enough to overlook the Harbour were treated to almost 10 minutes of fireworks, which was definitely the highlight of an otherwise very strange Hogmanay!
The Sprat fishery continued into January, with the last landings on the evening of Tuesday 12th January. I mentioned last month the uncertainty around Brexit, and the difficult start to the year has been well documented elsewhere, but I have spent quite a bit of this month gathering facts and figures to evidence calls for support for the fishing industry. The issues around paperwork and difficulties exporting have added an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging market for our fishermen. We now have all the landing figures for the year, and for calendar year 2019, landings through Mallaig totalled £4,768million, £3.919million of which was shellfish, £525k white fish, and £325k pelagic. In 2020 the equivalent figure was £1,402million, of which £1.084million was shellfish, £88k White fish and £231k pelagic. This is a reduction of 70% in a year, and while it impacts on the Harbour, it has much wider impacts for the community, and all those connected to the fishing fleet.
In more positive news, we have been awarded funding through the Ferries Accessible fund to install a passenger shelter at the top of the new passenger pontoon. We've commissioned Falco, who installed the shelters for CalMac in 2019, and we're hopeful of having the shelter installed in the Spring. Thanks to those on Knoydart and the Small Isles, and the Lochaber Disability Access Panel who have been working with us, and who provided letters of support.
Finally, just a wee reminder to parents that if your children are playing on the pier, especially in the evenings when boats are landing, please remind them to keep out of the way of where boats are landing and forklifts operating - for their own safety!
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
5th February 2021
Launched at 13:55 for the first call out of 2021 - to assist a fishing vessel which had fouled its propeller between Mallaig and Eigg. The Lifeboat was quickly on the scene and towed the vessel back to Mallaig harbour. Lifeboat berthed at 15:50.
We are still very much under restrictions as regards to Exercising and face to face events, and other forms of public interactions. Fundraising has changed in that people are using the internet and other online means to raise much needed funds to keep the Lifeboat service running.
Just like everyone else we have gone down the route of Online meetings. Using online portals is now very much the norm whether contacting Operations in Poole, Management at our base in Perth, or just chatting to our Colleagues across the UK.
Going forward into 2021 let's hope that we can start opening up our Shops and Stations to the public and find some sense of the normality that we have missed over the last year. As ever thank you for your continued support thus far.
Michael Ian Currie
Funding boost for the Fishermen's Mission
Following an announcement by Fergus Ewing SNP and Marine Scotland, the Fishermen's Mission are pleased to confirm they have been offered access to a fund of up to £300k to help in their welfare work with fishermen working across Scotland. This fund will help support the services offered by the Fishermen's Mission, working with fishermen who are dealing with mounting debts around rent, mortgage and utility bills.
David Dickens, CEO of the Fishermen's Mission said, 'I would like to personally thank Marine Scotland for their support. This fund will be of real help to us. Last year alone it cost us over £600k to provide our services in Scotland, where we have a very strong presence.
'During this exceptionally difficult year we already accessed grants totalling £322,000 in Scotland. We have needed to look to our reserves to help us to continue providing our services.
'I would take this opportunity to say that if you are an active Scottish fisherman and you are struggling to provide for yourself or your family then please get in touch and see if we can support you'.
Karen Calder, Area Manager for Mallaig and Skye said 'It's been a tough year for our fishermen and we have been kept busy here at the Fishermen's Mission. Although our Centre has been closed and we have been working from home we have still distributed over £43,000 in grant support to our fishermen and their families in our area alone.
'We are pleased to know that we can access this fund from Marine Scotland to help us continue this work. I would like to take this opportunity to personally urge fishermen and their families to get in touch if you need a bit of support.'
Contacts in the local area are:
Lochaber: Karen on 07917 754407 or KarenCalder@fishermensmission.org.uk
Skye: Carol Jones on 07469 118637 or CarolJones@fishermensmission.org.uk
Oban: Chris Holden on 07788 674376.
The Fishermen's Mission is the only national charity that works solely to provide financial, practical and pastoral support to fishermen and their families around the whole of the UK coastline. They also provide a 24/7 emergency response for accidents and emergencies at sea. For more information please visit www.fishermensmission.org.uk or call freephone 0800 6341020.
The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was a civil defence organisation formed in 1925 for the visual detection, identification, tracking and reporting of aircraft over Great Britain so although no one can tell me when the Mallaig Station was actually formed I know that George Lawrie, whose family arrived in Mallaig in 1939 (Mallaig being considered a safe place in time of war) and never left, became a member of the Mallaig ROC in the early 1950s when Bertie McLean (D & W McLean) was the Leading Observer/Instructor, and Donald Boyd (BR) was Chief Observer. Another member of the team at the time was Donald Sandy MacDonald from Morar.
Mallaig was Foxtrot 1 recalls George with Arisaig (F2), Glenfinnan (F3) and Fort William (F4). Locally we would meet weekly and the initial observation post was on the hill above the doctor's house. Up there, there was a small building with a corrugated iron roof which we had to remove to obtain maximum use of the telescope which was fitted on a pedestal in the centre of the lookout post! We also had a chart table and once we located a plane via the telescope we could plot the bearing, altitude and type of plane we were observing.
We eventually moved to an underground bunker which was situated at MacKellaig's Garage at Glasnacardoch. We were 15 feet below the ground with basic supplies stored there in case of emergency; there were four bunk beds, a telephone line, and radiation level indicator in the case of a nuclear attack - which thankfully never materialised, says George.
Some of the ROC members at that time were Willie Wilson, Ewan Campbell, Ronnie MacKenzie, Charlie MacGillivray, Archie Lawrie and his wife Flora, John Henderson (Boatyard) and Helen McCabe.
ROC members attended training courses and seminars with George on one occasion organising a trip to a training camp in Peterborough for Archie, Flora, Helen and John back in the 1960s.
"Sadly the ROC is now just a memory from the past," says George, "Something that the younger members of the community will never even know existed." The Royal Observer Corps was disbanded nationally at the end of December 1995 when the Corps civilian volunteers were stood down.
Arisaig ROC observation post. KB
Timing is everything they say so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when writing up on the Mallaig ROC what should appear on the 'We love Arisaig' Facebook page but a picture, posted by Neil Wallace Cameron, of the WWII observation post still standing on the hill above Keppoch, Arisaig. Also posted that same week was a video, taken by Anne Macdonald of an unidentified military aeroplane trundling over Kinloid and Craigmhor. I'll bet the plane wouldn't have remained unidentified for long if the Arisaig ROC was still operational! George Lawrie recalls Alan MacVarish, Chief Observer, Billy Dyer, Leading Observer, and Roderick (The Gardener) MacDonald all being active members of the Arisaig (F2) ROC. Happy times and happy days indeed!
I commenced employment with David MacBrayne Ltd in the summer of '64 (or is that the title of a song?) A new Ro-Ro ferry was to be based at Mallaig, and with increased throughput of cars and passengers expected, staffing levels at the Mallaig office and Mallaig pier were also increased. Three ferries of similar design came into service in the mid-60s. The Columba at Oban; the Hebrides at Uig, Skye; and the Clansman at Mallaig all helped revolutionise travel to the islands. "But did you know, Robert," says George Lawrie, "That all three ferries were designed as floating radiation proof shelters?" "No, I didn't know that," says I, "But thanks to you I'll inform all West Word readers"!!!
After almost 30 years of presenting Nevis Country on Nevis Radio I have decided to hang up my headphones and retire. I have been off air since March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions and I had hoped, like everyone else, that the coronavirus would abate somewhat in 2021 and that life could return to normal but here we are in another lockdown so I've just decided that now is the time to ride off into the sunset.
I remember my instinctive/off-the-cuff response when, after a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Inverlochy Castle, Raymond Hervo told me that plans to create a local radio station in Fort William were well advanced. I told him of my great interest in country music and that if he ever needed a presenter for a country music show "I'm your man"!
He did call me and after initial training I was "on air" with Nevis Country every Thursday evening for one hour. Nevis Radio had restricted hours back then and also a limited transmitter range so at this particular time could not be heard in the Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig area.
As the radio station grew and transmitter range improved, Nevis Country was relocated to a two-hour slot on a Saturday afternoon but it would soon occupy the favoured Sunday afternoon spot and be increased to a three-hour show.
Over the years I have met and interviewed many country music stars from America, Canada, Australia, UK and Ireland and I will forever be indebted to Nevis Radio for granting me that privilege!
Over the next couple of months I'll probably include a tale or two about some of my Nevis Country highlights but for now it's adios to Nevis Country; "This is where the (west coast) cowboy rides away."
The photograph may not be too distinct but this board was uncovered during renovations at Mallaig's Marine Bar last month. It was behind a shored-up fireplace and obviously placed there by one of the workmen - one with a sense of humour, obviously!
BIRDWATCH January 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
Overall a fairly cold month, with some settled frosty spells. Nothing out of the ordinary birdwise, although there was evidence of some bird movement caused by snow cover, frozen ground and ice-bound waterways.
At the start of the month there were six adult Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala, but with the loch frozen for long spells the swans moved off for a period of time. However by the last week of the month at least three Whoopers were back on an ice-free part of the Loch. Three Whoopers were seen briefly on Loch Ailort, then on a clear patch on Loch Eilt on the 8th.
Goosander numbers increased on Loch nan Ceall, where up to ten males were seen on the 27th. Several were also seen on Loch Morar and Loch Ailort. There were regular sightings of wintering Slavonian Grebes, with eight on Loch nan Ceall on the 4th and seven counted on Loch Morar on the 5th and 8th. Little Grebes were seen on the Morar Estuary, Loch Ailort and Loch nan Ceall.
On the 10th three female/immature Common Scoter were seen on Loch nan Ceall, with four there on the 23rd.
Increasing numbers of Woodcock seen as the month progressed, mostly from roadside verges, but 14 were counted in a field in Arisaig. Several reports of Common Snipe seen feeding on patches of unfrozen ground along Loch Morar side. Jack Snipe were seen on a couple of occasions on the Rhu peninsula.
A single Bar-tailed Godwit and up to three Greenshank were still wintering on the Morar Estuary.
The juvenile Glaucous Gull was still around Mallaig Harbour until the 6th at least. An immature Iceland Gull was seen on the shore at East Bay, Mallaig on the 17th.
Still good numbers of finches using garden feeders, with small numbers of Siskins reported from several gardens. A single male Reed Bunting was seen in a garden near Woodside, Morar on the 30th.
A Barn Owl was seen hunting around Arisaig village on the 27th. Tawny Owls were reported from Morar and Arisaig.
A male Hen Harrier seen near Arisaig on the 27th was the only report.
On the 31st a Kingfisher was seen on the Morar River upstream of the hydro dam, the first report from there since last winter.
WORLDLY WISE WEST WORD
Natalie Vardey was spotted with her copy of West Word when visiting Barscobe Castle in the Glenkens area of Galloway. Her eyesight was good enough to see it was built in 1648 by William Maclellan and his wife Margaret Gordon (both local families).
It is an area full of landmarks related to the dreadful 'Killing Times' of the Covenanters. Their son was involved in a local rebellion which resulted in a defeat at the battle of Rullion (or The Pentlands) in 1666. It is said that the lime tree avenue is haunted by the ghost of another member of the family who was murdered in the castle but Natalie says it was so bitterly cold when she was there that no one, living or dead, was about!
The board reads:
A Grieve (Ltd) Joiners
George Chisholm (Foreman)
Donnie MacDougall (Blowhard)
Walter Salmon (3rd year apprentice joiner ha-ha)
1964 21/02/64 9.15pm.
Alexander Grieve was the local joiner/undertaker at that time and the workshop was located close to where the Mallaig Medical Practice building is now. Foreman George Chisholm was from Fort William, Donnie MacInnes was an electrician and Walter Salmon, I think, is the only one of the team still alive.
Renovations in the Bar are well underway but I believe are being held up due to Covid-19 transportation restrictions. Toilets are being upgraded, a wood burning stove installed, new gantry, new ceiling and a more attractive entrance are also planned.
When I was but a youngster (15/16 years old) I worked as 'Boots' at the Marine Hotel and it coincided with the Hotel's purchase of the shop below them, Archie MacLellan's general grocery store. I helped (?) John Dempster (Joiner) strip out the shop, revealing the rock face behind the wooden façade, and I believe that part of that rockface will become a feature in the new look Marine Bar.
Maybe Nancy should invite Walter Salmon to officially open the new look Bar when it is completed later this year?!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook
List of Issues online
Visit West Word on Facebook
Copyright © 2002-2021 West Word
Site designed by
Page last updated: February 2021
The Internet Guide to Scotland
Copyright © 2002-2021 West Word
Site designed by