List of Issues online

February 2024 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

It was lovely to be shortlisted again for the Community Newspaper of the Year award at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards, and this year we were shortlisted alongside our newspaper neighbour, Ardnamurchan's Dè tha dol? So it was fun to catch up with their editor (and our former Rum columnist) Nic at the Press Ball! Congratulations to this year's winner, The Ileach, which serves Islay and Jura, and celebrated its 50th anniversary last October.
It'll be West Word's 30th anniversary at the end of this year, and we've just started thinking about how to mark the occasion: if you have a suggestion, please let us know!
The snow made the deliveries a bit tricky last month - thank you to Willie and Mike for helping out once the Morar road was clear enough ..!
Thanks, as always, to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing.
Kirsty Bloom

For once I feel as though January has actually gone by quite quickly. Often, that is not the case! It has generally been really wet and windy although we were blessed with a very heavy and beautiful snowfall for a few days. It was quite possibly one of the heaviest snowfalls I've ever seen here and I do wish it would happen more often!
The other highlight of January was the annual Burns Supper. Once again Iain Wilson managed to secure (exchange that for: coerce/beg/arm-twist/pressure) a great line up of people to make the speeches, which had a bit of a musical theme to them with Lachie, Terra and Toby bringing out the guitar to add a bit of extra entertainment to their speeches. Ben Nunn, newcomer of last February so therefore was not here last Burns night, was an easy target obviously for the Immortal memory and Sam the Yurt provided the essential piping in of the Haggis. The food was piping hot and plentiful, surrounded by friends and good craic and it's always a heart warming evening to share with your community. Thanks to everyone involved who always makes it such a special evening.
While the tearoom is closed (until March) Yasmine and Kira have been doing a stellar job of providing breakfast in the pub at "tea break time" when folks are crying out for a bacon roll and a coffee or good cuppa. Not only are they doing breakfast rolls but have been treating us to fresh pancakes, smoothie bowls and cinnamon buns.
The hardy tree planting team have been battling the weather conditions and the new woodland at Doire Fada in the Blackhills is coming along quite nicely and the team of six hope to have the 60,000 trees in by the end of February. As this new woodland is not inside a special fence it leaves the young trees open to being munched and destroyed by the deer so the stalking boys will be involved in protecting the area from any wayward hungry beasts. Another new woodland called Torr a Bhalbain is in the process of being created out near Brocketts monument on Kilchoan Estate as well and Calum Wilson has begun the mounding process. It's hoped that 120,000 trees will be planted by the end of March, all going well.
That's all for now folks, here's hoping we might get some better weather as February rolls in. For now, the sight of determined daffodils and snowdrops braving the elements does at least provide some hope that the end of winter may be in sight!
Heather Robb
Catriona Hunter

Hello Muck Calling . . . Well to say that the month has been unreasonably stormy is an understatement; we were just about able to round up our wild Haggis for the Burns supper (much better than farmed) who were scattered island wide and the three weary souls are surely glad that the game season is over for another year - joking aside, it definitely was good for turning round the freezer stock and some really creative meal planning with what was found at the bottom of some. But just as well with the ever increasing co-op mountain of shopping being delivered to the creaking, busting-at-the-seams CalMac small freight team, who must have been playing Tetris like champions.


Now it's time for some well deserved R & R as there is a wee break in proceedings before the patter of walking boots when visitors begin to return, although the Farm will be busy pretty soon with calving in these challenging conditions. The weather has affected us all somehow: the kids swim trip missed two days waiting for a break in swell conditions and even the high school children suffered either by missing days in class or being stranded - possible thoughts for a two weekly boat in January and February. . ?
Well folks that's it for another month,
Bruce Boyd

The past couple of months have been pretty stormy with what feels like an endless wind and so much rain that everyone seems to be in a permanent state of dampness. This is the grind of winter on Canna. The constant putting on of multiple layers to guard against the weather which have to be peeled off indoors and wrestled back on to go back outside. Mud is a feature. We did have a few days of snow however and the bright sunshine that followed bathed the island in a white, crisp blanket. Canna in the snow really is stunning!


Our new Visitor Hub is progressing well with the first concrete pour taking place before Christmas and we now have some walls rising up from the ground. We are finalising the designs of our Coroghan Barn project - WTA have done an amazing job of designing a building to suit our needs and the restoration of the beloved barn is inching closer. As part of the Coroghan Barn project, Highland Archaeology came and did a couple of trial pits. They discovered the old well which used to supply the Coroghan township that once stood there before being razed to the ground during the Clearances. A snapshot into the history of the island.


We had a Dark Skies art workshop just before Christmas. Residents painted the aurora borealis and stars in the night sky. We are nearly ready to submit our application to become a Dark Sky Sanctuary. Vicki has been diligently progressing this by doing light meter readings, gathering information and putting together the lengthy application. Thank you Vicki and watch this space!


A couple of weeks ago, Gareth put on a Burns Supper/late lunch at Cafe Canna. The community came together to enjoy a tasty haggis lunch and Gareth made a Clootie dumpling with homemade custard which was delicious. John Angus piped in the haggis. A few of us had a go at playing the bagpipes later on and all nearly passed out of puff - kudos to John Angus as he clearly has some lungs on him. Norah (the eldest in our community) joined us for lunch as did Hector (the youngest in our community); both had a grand time!
Our annual Canna 10K Trail run is taking place on Saturday 24th May. If you fancy doing a trail run through our stunning landscape, enjoying a hearty BBQ afterwards followed by an evening ceilidh, head over to the Isle of Canna website and sign up!

We said farewell for now to Pete Holden in January. He has left these shores to join his wife Liz back on the mainland. I asked Pete to write a bit about his time on Canna - see below:

'Would you consider writing a short piece about your time on Canna for West Word?' came the request. After nine very happy years of living on this beautiful island - where to start..?
It was May 2015 I came to Canna to be the National Trust for Scotland's resident Senior Ranger. That might sound a little grand as I was, of course, the only Ranger on the island. It's tempting to say that at the time, Canna had acquired a (probably undeserved) reputation as 'a difficult place'. Having already worked for the NTS for twenty years I was not deterred and was looking for a new challenge, not a rest...
I'd long had a fascination for islands, including the good fortune to spend numerous short stints as relief Ranger on St Kilda. My wife Liz and I easily settled into our new home.
Welcoming visitors and showing them the delights of Canna became a regular responsibility during the summer months. Puffin and kittiwake counts, monitoring eagles and keeping biological records were an enjoyable aspect of the job, which also held an inevitable slice of paperwork too. The autumn change in the ferry timetable and the quiet winters herald a different emphasis - a chance for maintenance, reflection and spending time alongside your fellow residents. One soon realises that island life is not just about the seascapes and the wildlife - it is being part of a community, sharing experiences and aspirations. On Canna, with its small population, everyone knows everyone else and needs to work together, sharing skills. Becoming a director and latterly treasurer of the Community Development Trust I hope I played some part in helping the island move forward. The community can feel justifiably proud of its recent achievements - generating its own electricity, continuing to run the shop and moorings, a visitor hub and new housing about to happen, a new bunkhouse planned and the formation of a working partnership with National Trust for Scotland, the island owners. The NTS itself experienced some challenging times - and after yet another 'internal re-organisation' that I felt I no longer had the energy or desire for - I decided to retire from my full-time job, somewhat sooner than originally intended - just because I could. This presented new opportunities and the decision to stay living on Canna as a resident was an easy one. Liz and I tended Canna House garden for a few years, and I found a niche undertaking general grass maintenance on the campsite and elsewhere, as satellite dish repair man, occasional sous chef and brewer for Cafe Canna and resident musician.


This year however, with the birth of a first grandchild and maintaining a house on the mainland too, I reluctantly gave up the tenancy of my wee cottage on Canna. I guess it's part of the fabric of island life - people inevitably come and go - my sincere hope is that someone new, with fresh ideas, will arrive on Canna to fill one of the latest job vacancies and enjoy living in Lag Nam Boitean as much as I have.
My favourite places on Canna? The view from Tallabric - Dun Mor (Puffin Stack) - Garrisdale - Coroghon and White beaches and cold water swimming - and looking out from my front door across the Sound to Bloodstone Hill on Rum.
Favourite memories? Too many to choose from . . . Perhaps I'll mention - a close encounter with a basking shark from the kayak - punk parties and music nights in Cafe Canna - hosting the Small Isles Games - ceilidhs generally - the weddings of Anna & Martin and Caroline & Craig - the Northern Lights - the One-Man pantomimes - surrounded by hundreds of guillemot chicks on the north cliffs helping the bird guys with the annual ringing . . .
Although now living in Speyside, possibly as far from the sea as one can be in Scotland, we still have so many friends on Canna, and I know that Canna hasn't seen the last of me just yet. See you all in May for the 10k Run - if not sooner ...
Pete Holden

We wholeheartedly wish Pete the very best and he will be sorely missed here on Canna. If you ever get a chance to play him at table tennis . . . be warned, he's a total shark!
Margaret Willington

January brought us a spectacularly unusual heavy snowfall, it was a true delight for us here, as the light snow we usually get disappears as soon as it arrives. These several inches though, lingered for a few days, enough to make snowmen, giant snowballs and Buffy's wild snow angels, way out on the nature reserve. It was so quiet but for the squeak of the snow underfoot. Joyful and delightful. Then back to the wind and rain. Do we ever bore of talking about the weather, or the ferry?
It was exciting to see the ferry break from its usual aversion to rough weather, to go out in what we assumed was cancellation weather - Weather's colours were in the dark red hues and displayed large numbers. Impressive. Ali travelled on that particular day, five hours around all the islands; a quick chat with Maggie Fyffe from Eigg and she got her head down for the duration. Brave.
Burns night was its usual mix of poetry, interesting food and farce, in a good way though. This year new shopkeeper Stuart addressed the haggis; the owner of an appropriate Scottish accent, he did a good turn.
The volunteers came back or one did, along with a gang of new ones for more painting, path clearing, fixing, sanding and varnishing. It's been a really good effort from all of them, we've made new friends and met some very talented international people who are keen to come to Rum in the darkest, wettest months and put in some hard work. All put together by Alex at Rum Bunkhouse. Big pat on the back to him.
Wildlife news is confined to Ali and Sean doing local bird counts; they never win, Ali says, but they're the only ones who do it on foot, which must count for something.
The primary school is still in a relative state of chaos, as opposed to the long term calm and continuity the parents and community would like, but the children carry on like stoics, but they deserve better.
What to look forward to? The sun, some warmth, a beach clean - well it needs doing - and cups of fancy coffee at the shop, oh and the chickens are laying again.
Fliss Fraser


Flensburg Students
An international group of MSc students and their supervisors from Flensburg University in Germany are visiting Eigg for a month, carrying out individual study projects on our Eigg Electric System. The students have been shown around the system, and are holding various community consultation sessions to understand the needs and priorities of the community, ranging from electric vehicle use and tariffing, to the future possibilities of the integrated system and the potential for tidal energy on our island.
We are hopeful that the findings from their research will be beneficial for Eigg Electric as it moves ahead with its planned expansion and heat decarbonisation journey.

Winter Wonderland
January brought us beautiful weather, covering our island with cloud-free skies and snow-covered hills. The Eigg Primary and Nursery pupils in particular had a brilliant time enjoying snow and sun, with most walking - or sledging - to school when the roads were covered, and making ever-growing snow families in the playground.

This month we celebrated John, Camille, Struan, and Oran's Birthday.

We have been so lucky to have some amazing films shown in the hall this month thanks to the Small Isles Film club. With huge blockbusters like Oppenheimer, comedy classics like Little Miss Sunshine and heartwarming storytelling from Ken Loach's The Old Oak, we have been well entertained during the cold, dark January nights.

Free Meals
Thanks to our successful application for the cost of living crisis fund, we have been enjoying some excellent free lunchtime meals in the hall cooked by Dougal. Available to sit and eat together, take-away, or get delivered, the meals have been a lovely time to sit and enjoy a warm meal with those we might not see as often. Lifts over to the hall thanks to Charlie, and deliveries from neighbours have made the meals accessible and widely enjoyed by residents. A huge thanks to all, including Jen for the funding application.

SRN Mast
The shared rural network mast issue has been a subject of controversy on the mainland. However, following a long consultation process, and making our views and concerns clear, islanders eventually voted in favour, and have in fact seen some great benefits thanks to hard negotiations. All the work on site will be terminated by the start of March so as not to interfere with the bird breeding season. There are also environmental and archaeology specialists following the project carefully as we are mindful of the unique and precious qualities of our landscape.

A Thankyou To NHS, CalMac, and First Responders
There's been a few Eigg casualties this month, Liz with a broken arm and Brendan with a broken ankle. We are all wishing both a speedy and full recovery! A huge thanks to CalMac, NHS and helicopter staff for all their help. However the lack of a lift on the ferry is still of concern.

Warmer Homes on Eigg
Jen, our Warm Homes Manager, is making some brilliant progress in addressing the needs of our aging housing. We look forward to an improvement in insulation, and new windows and doors in the future.

Burns Night
Burns night was organised by Sophie in the tearoom, who put on a brilliant evening, and made a delicious feast of Haggis, neeps and tatties. We shared the beauty of Robert Burns' work with our Flensburg friends through a wonderful rendition of 'Tam O'Shanter' by Maggie, Saira, Sue and Norah, followed by the piping in of the Haggis by Katie MacRae and a good Burns song medley!
Eilidh MacGilp

Housing Project Complete
The houses at Creag Mhor Gardens were handed over to Arisaig Community Trust on 22nd January and the new tenants began moving in on the 23rd. ACT would like to thank all our funders, partners and those who contributed to the successful completion of the project. Hopefully they will be happy homes for the residents for many years to come.
Pamela King
Arisaig Community Housing Project

Pictured below are members of Arisaig Community Trust, the Communities Housing Trust, and S + K MacDonald Homes.



News from Mallaig Harbour
The Sprat pump has been dismantled and removed for another year. There were some landings of Sprats the first week the boats were back at sea after New Year, but only for a few days. Since then, it seems like it has been endless gales, with very little opportunity for the boats to be at sea in January. That is, apart from the few days of snow we had! The beginning of January also saw the sale of the Rebecca Jeneen, which will be a loss to the fishing industry locally. Looking at the figures from last year, which incorporate all species landed through Mallaig, 2023 was on a par with 2022, 2019 and 2018.


Some of you may have seen the Scottish Fishermen's Federation's publicity around their 'Pride in the Seas' exhibition, which features accounts and portraits from 12 advocates for the Scottish Fishing industry, including two from Mallaig, Willie-John McLean and Erin MacKenzie. As well as a social media campaign, the portraits are due to be exhibited at the Scottish Parliament later in the year. You can find more details on their website, www.sff.co.uk.
It's been another one of those months with a lot going on in the background, but not much visible progress yet. MKA Economics have been working on the Economic Impact Assessment, and will present their findings to our Board on Friday 9th February. We have to say thanks to all the local businesses and organisations who took some time to answer Mark and Leeanne's questions about how they interacted with the Harbour and what the constraints and opportunities are associated with the Harbour as it stands. It's been an interesting exercise to go through, not least in the context of a reducing population for Mallaig over the last 20 years. Hopefully we will be able to share the headline findings next month.
We've also been working with CMAL and CalMac to look at the detailed design for the overnight ferry berth, and the implications of the replacement for the Lord of the Isles on the existing infrastructure in Mallaig. The Marine Licences we have allow us to undertake works in the Outer Harbour until March 2026, but we're aware that building an overnight berth for the ferries will have to be done while the winter ferry timetable is in place, so we are lining everything up to enable us to do this at the end of the year.
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154

Lifeboat Log

10th January 2024
Launched at 22:35 by Stornoway Coastguard to investigate a report of flares sighted from the Artdtoe area of Ardnamurchan. Local Coastguards were also tasked to the Ardtoe /Kentra area. On-scene at 23:35 the first request was to investigate a flashing light in Kentra bay, this turned out to be a special marker linked to a timber extraction landing in the bay. A creeping line ahead search pattern was formed from Kentra towards Eigg by the Lifeboat. Once search was completed and nothing found the Lifeboat was stood down by the Coastguard and requested to return to base. Lifeboat berthed at Mallaig at 02:20 on 11th January.

16th January 2024
Launched at 18:00 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a grounded fishing vessel in the entrance of the Kylerhea narrows. Kyle inshore Lifeboat along with Rescue 151 were also tasked. On-scene at 18:35. Kyle ILB had already arrived on-scene and carried out a brief assessment of the casualty.
With the tide on the flood into the narrow entrance of the Kyle at about 5/6 knots the casualty was being pinned onto the rock. As Mallaig Lifeboat approached the casualty at 18:35 she was seen to list severely to port then roll upright again as the tide would appear to have pushed over the rock or shelf that the casualty was stranded on. Now free of the obstruction the casualty's Skipper was advised to steam to the south into Glenelg Bay to get out of the tide race and in to more open calmer conditions. The casualty vessel's crew carried out inspections throughout the vessel for signs of damage or water ingress. To everybody's relief no sign of water or significant damage could be found. It was decided by the Skipper of the casualty vessel to return back down the Sound of Sleat to Mallaig. With the situation under control Kyle ILB and Rescue 151 were stood down and requested to return to base. Mallaig Lifeboat escorted the vessel down to Mallaig, berthing at 21:15.

Photo by Kyle Lifeboat

19th January 2024
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg at 08:33. A female resident had fallen down a flight of stairs at her home and sustained a shoulder injury. On-scene at 09:30 the medics were conveyed to the scene by local Coastguard personnel. On further examination it was decided that the casualty required to be evacuated to the mainland via helicopter. Due to weather conditions and others tasking Helimed and Stornoway Coastguard, 948 were unavailable. Rescue 199 from Prestwick was tasked to carry out the transfer. On-scene at approximately 11:15, the helicopter landed in a field adjacent to casualty's home. With the casualty packaged it was merely a stretcher carry to helicopter. Rescue 199 departed Eigg for the Q E Hospital in Glasgow at 11:35. Lifeboat departed Eigg at 12:00, was alongside at the pontoon by 12:45 and made ready for service.

The Nurses' Hut
One hundred years ago, on January 18th 1924, an 'Emergency Hospital' in Mallaig was formally opened by the donors, Mrs Bird and Mrs Shaw Stewart. So we were reminded last month in the Lochaber News/Oban Times Nostalgia 'From our Files' section of 18th January 2024.
The 'hospital' was fondly called The Nurses' Hut by locals and it stood just about opposite where the Mallaig & Arisaig Health Centre is now, until it was finally demolished on 22nd February 2010.


It was donated to the community by Mrs Bird and Mrs Shaw Stewart in memory of their brother, Lieutenant Jack Caldwell, who lost his life in tragic circumstances on that same date six years earlier, on January 18th 1918. He was 23 and was the only son of William Caldwell of Morar Lodge.
Mesopotamia is now known as Iraq. On 12th January 1918, Lieutenant Caldwell was shot down in the desert, but he was not killed in the crash - he died of exposure while trying to get back to British lines.
The Nurses' Hut was a small, corrugated iron building, finished inside with white enamel and was fitted with a bed, stove, and 'all the surgical necessities' and was handed over to Miss MacLellan, Harbour View, representing the Morar and Knoydart Nursing Association.
The plaque on the door commemorated the presentation and told the story.

This hut was presented
to the Morar and Knoydart
District Nursing Association
M. H. Bird and V. Shaw-Stewart
in memory of their brother
Lieutenant J. H. Caldwell
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
and Royal Flying Corps.
Killed on active service in
Mesopotamia January 1918.

At the time of the presentation, only a single track road linked Mallaig with Fort William. The Hut was handy to the village and the District Nurse lived next door so it was extremely well used for clinics and appointments.
The plaque was removed when the Hut was scheduled for demolition, and it was intended it should be put on the wall in the new surgery. However the plaque had been damaged by what was thought to be a corrosive substance and it was sent away for renovation while a space was prepared for it in the surgery, with two spotlights ready to illuminate it when it came back. But it didn't come back and as time went on no-one seemed to know what had happened to it.
Forward to 2015 and the wonderful archive that is West Word online finally helped solve the mystery, albeit with some strange gaps in the final story!
A young lady named Catriona McIntyre was working for a Muir of Ord business which was moving premises, and she came upon the plaque in a cupboard during the clear-out!
Part of the company's business was dealing with confidential shredding and Catriona thought the plaque had come to them originally in bags of shredding from the RNI Hospital in Inverness when it was being cleared out. It had presumably been put in the cupboard for safekeeping as no-one knew what to do with it.
Catriona was determined to return it to its rightful place and searching Google led her to West Word and Robert MacMillan's articles about the Hut and plaque.
She and Robert met up in Fort William where Catriona handed over the plaque. It hadn't been restored at all but when my husband Richard looked at it he declared the disfiguration was only - glue!


Some TLC and much polishing of the plaque later, I, as then editor of West Word, took the restored plaque to Dr Iain Gartshore at the surgery for a rather emotional hand over. It now hangs in pride of place beside the appointment desk in the surgery.

There is another interesting little story about Lieut. Caldwell, who is buried in Baghdad, and commemorated on the war memorial archway at the old Morar cemetery. Thanks to eagle-eyed Malcolm Poole, curator of Mallaig Heritage Centre, his service dirk came back to the Centre in 2014 and is now on display at the Centre after 96 years of wandering!


Malcolm told West Word in August 2014 that to mark the centenary of the start of World War I, the Centre had been researching the backgrounds of the men and women named on the local memorials. It seems that when Jack Caldwell's effects were returned to his parents, the dirk remained with his kit, which was auctioned and the proceeds sent to the family's solicitor to form part of his estate. In 1987, the dirk was sold by an antiques dealer in Aberdeen to an American collector, who advertised it for sale online in 2013 - where Malcolm discovered it. It was inspected for the Centre by a museum in Massachusetts, the National Museums of Scotland donated 50% of its purchase price, and the Heritage Centre Trustees and Malcolm brought it home. The dirk is from Jack's time in the Cameron Highlanders, and the case bears the initials J H C.
Ann Martin

On and Off the Rails

Hello, it's me again!
Hunkered down indoors against the 'murk' that exists outside. I'm amazed that the Tête-à-tête daffodils are blooming and the Polyanthus and Cowslips are in bud, as are the Rhododendrons. It's too early for planting out the early tatties, and the ground where I'm putting them out into is covered in a carpet of baby tips of torn holly leaves, catkins from the beech nuts, and bright green new tips from the older Christmas trees - torn from the parent trees by Storm Isha last weekend. However, in the gloom of manky weather there is hope! Was I the only person in Mallaig last weekend to hastily pull on wellies and waterproofs, switch on the outside lights (and get a soaking) as the Network Rail Colas-powered 'Test and Protect Britain's Railways' Measurement Train arrived into Mallaig, with power car 43257 leading seven coaches of computer equipment and 43272 at the rear? After a quick Co-op 9pm shop and driver changing ends, it throbbed its way back to Fort William to stable at the Tom na Faire depot until 24 hours later, when it departed, maybe to Oban, before travelling south. Was it worth seeing? Of course it was!

West Highland Line Closure by Network Rail in March with Bustitution
The following day, Sunday 4th February, there were lots of movements as Network Rail shifted equipment and machinery to a depot on the main West Highland Line. I knew not why. However, all was revealed in a press release from Network Rail on Wednesday 7th February to announce the temporary closure of the West Highland Line between Crianlarich and Fort William/Mallaig. The line will close for nine days from close of service on 15th March until the resumption of timetabled services on the morning of 25th March. Preparations are in place for a compound setup at Rannoch for 26th February.
It is planned that (amongst other things) essential upgrade work will be taking place at Rannoch Viaduct, just north of Rannoch Station, as part of a £1.6 million investment to extend the operational lifespan of the structure, which was constructed in 1894. Engineers will work around the clock from line closure to re-opening to complete the project. Rannoch Viaduct is 208 metres long, second only in length to Glenfinnan Viaduct on the line. It is a curved lattice girder structure, which sits on nine granite piers and carries the line above Rannoch Moor.
New (hardwood) timbers will be installed, and the metal girders will be repaired, cleaned and repainted on site. It will involve 50 replacement 'way beams'. The existing baseplates and rail also being renewed. Wow!!
In addition to the work on the viaduct, Network Rail will also improve multiple sections of track between Tyndrum and Roy Bridge and between Spean Bridge and Arisaig. Signalling upgrades will take place between Fort William and Spean Bridge and drainage enhancements will go ahead south of Rannoch station.
ScotRail have arranged replacement buses during this essential line closure and will be doing everything they can to keep people moving during the work. The advice is to 'check before you travel'. Buses will replace trains between Crianlarich and Fort William, and between Fort William and Mallaig. Bus services will also connect Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge with Fort William. (No service at Rannoch or Corrour stations during the line closure.)
If you are travelling from Mallaig and/or Fort William during the line closure, please arrive at the station slightly earlier than the train departure time so that the coach driver can stow your luggage in the hold and still depart on time. Finally, thanks in advance to all the crews who are going to be working on all these projects to ensure we are safe on the rails.

Be aware and be prepared
Transport Scotland has confirmed that fares on ScotRail services will rise by 8.7% from April. ScotRail held back raising fares whilst many other operating companies introduced increases in January.
Caledonian Sleeper services have also been increased on average by 8.7% from 1st January, but the rise excludes seated tickets.
So . . . Do you need a reminder about purchasing a Highland Railcard? It is available from staffed booking offices for £15 a year. Available to persons aged 16 or over living permanently in these postcode areas: all IV except: IV12, IV30, IV31, IV32, IV36; all KW; all HS; PA20 to PA38, PA41 to PA49, PA60 to PA78, PA80; PH16, PH17, PH30 to PH44, PH49, PH50; FK20, FK21; and G83.
You need to take proof of residence, e.g. utility bill or bank statement, and a passport sized photograph of yourself to the booking office. Once issued with your Highland Railcard, you can travel at half price for the whole year and up to two children can travel with you for a flat fare of £2 return each. The Highland Railcard is available on the following routes: Mallaig/Fort William/Oban to and from Glasgow; and Wick/Thurso/Kyle of Lochalsh to and from Inverness (including Inverness Airport). That'll do.

Friends of the West Highland Lines Winter/Spring 2024 issue now out
Entitled West Highland News Plus, it is the only magazine spotlighting the West Highland lines and ScotRail network past and present - plus - on the Waterfront. Priced at £4 plus postage, I will gladly send you a copy. Just telephone me on 01687 462189 and let me know.
This issue is 60 A4 pages jam-packed with great colour photographs, and well researched news items. I really enjoyed the pages dedicated to Scottish Heritage Railways. Eight locations, well documented, I found interesting.
One item covers the purchase by Locomotive Services Ltd of a Class 37/4 37409 from Direct Rail Services (one of several Class 37s put up for sale). The locomotive was a stalwart of the West Highland Lines in the 80s. It will remain in its large loco livery and is expected to be reunited with its Loch Awe nameplates.
Another item that had slipped by me was that commencing last November, cyclists can book their bike on board a ScotRail train through their train operator's mobile app. Previously the only way to reserve a space for bikes was to go to the ScotRail website or call them. Now cyclists can make reservations via the ScotRail app.

Branch Line Society Tour includes Mallaig
On Sunday 10th March on the last day of a three day charity tour around Scotland, after overnighting in hotels in Fort William, 220 guests will visit Mallaig for a brief 'photo opportunity' visit.
Thanks to SRPS Diesel Group, the Class 37 37403 Isle of Mull operated by GB Railfreight will be at the head of the all-first-class coaching stock. It will come in to Mallaig at approximately 10am. I have arranged for the train to be piped in, and after the 10.10 Sunday ScotRail Sprinter has departed the guests will watch the loco run round and change ends, whilst the piper plays to the guests on the platform. All too soon (after 30 minutes) they will depart for Fort William. They then traverse on to Glasgow, eventually (after more photo stops) arriving in beautiful Wemyss Bay station, and then finally back to the Boness and Kinnell Railway at the end of the tour, at 23.20!
On board, there will be a Real Ale and Cider Bar with a selection of Scottish hand pulled real ales, whilst the Buffet Car will offer a wide range of hot and cold drinks, snacks and light refreshments, as well as freshly cooked hot food!! All profits from the tour will be donated to Martin House Hospice and Great Ormond Street Hospital. What an altruistic gesture on their part. Full details of the tour's positioning and the main tour are online at branchline.uk. What a way to start Mallaig's touring train season for 2024!

I have eight Saturday dates for the Belmond Royal Scotsman in 2024 plus eight Saturday dates when Locomotive Services Ltd's blue HST Midland Pullman will visit us. I will advise you of their arrivals nearer the time.

Jacobite News - 2024 As we go to print, it is not clear what dialogue is taking place between West Coast Railway (WCRC) and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). However, I have had news from an informed source, which I will pass on to you.
Efforts by WCRC to obtain a further exemption from central door locking from the ORR have been dismissed. The decision in December means that the heritage train company cannot operate hinged door carriages on the main line unless central door locking is in place.
My informed source understands that WCRC has, or is about to, embark on fitting one set of MK1 carriages with a form of CDL. (Possibly magnetic CDL operated by the guard, not involving CDL from the locomotive.)
Advance bookings for this year's Fort William to Mallaig service are at a healthy level. The seasonal service is planned to start on 28th March 2024 running as the morning service, seven days a week. Currently no standard class seats are unsold, until July.
Similarly, seats on the afternoon service, due to start operating on 6th May, are sold out until 14th June.
I really hope that both parties can agree terms and conditions to the point where we can heave a sigh of relief - and then only worry about whether the steam locos can run at what speed restrictions - or whether a diesel has to operate from the rear due to 'muir burning' …!
Give me a minute whilst I have a herbal tea to calm down, before I continue to finish the column!

Meanwhile . . . Riviera Trains' carriage sets - with full kitchen catering - have CDL already fitted and fully comply.
Locomotive Services Group are fully compliant with CDL too. And both have toilet retention tanks fitted.

More TV Filming
A TV series about the Royal Scotsman Luxury Touring Train featuring Scots acting legend Alan Cumming is now in preparation. Commissioned by Channel 4. No date for transmission yet!

See you on the train - or hopefully, soon replanting at the station!
Sonia Cameron

Birdwatch January 2024 by Stephen MacDonald
A vey mixed bag weatherwise, with dry frosty weather for a few days, then about a week of snowy weather, followed by much milder weather that was very windy and wet at times.
A Little Egret was first seen at Invercaimbe on the 3rd and was seen there most days, although it was also reported from Camusdarroch and Loch nan Ceall on several occasions until the last sighting on the 16th, when it was seen in flight over Loch nan Ceall.
The female Blackcap seen during the last week of December was seen on the first three days of the month in the same Morar garden before it moved on.
The usual winter wildfowl were reported during the month, although the Whooper Swans that were on Loch nan Eala at the beginning of the year disappeared when the loch froze over and have not returned since.
The lone Barnacle Goose was seen at Traigh and Back of Keppoch on several occasions. On the 13th it was at Traigh along with 30 Canada Geese, 175 plus Greylags and a single Pink-footed Goose.
Goldeneyes and Goosanders were seen on Loch Morar regularly and two Goosanders were seen at Invercaimbe on several occasions. Slavonian and Little Grebes were present on Loch nan Ceall throughout the month. Two Common Scoter were seen there on the 21st. At least 12 Great Northern Divers were seen off Camusdarroch on the 7th.
The wintering Greenshanks and Bar-tailed Godwits were present on the Morar Estuary all month. Bar-tailed Godwits were seen at Traigh on several occasions.

Bar tailed Godwit - photo by Stephen MacDonald

Curlews and Redshanks were seen on the Morar Estuary, Traigh, Back of Keppoch and Loch nan Ceall. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen at West Bay, Mallaig. The latter were also reported from Camusdarroch, Traigh and the head of Loch nan Ceall. Numerous reports of Woodcock from throughout the area.
A few reports during the month of Siskins returning to garden feeders in Morar and Arisaig. Yellowhammers were reported from Invercaimbe.
Barn Owls were seen in the Woodside - Rhubana View area of Morar and also in the Back of Keppoch - Silver Sands area. Tawny Owls were heard calling in Morar and Arisaig. A female Hen Harrier was at Invercaimbe on the 7th. Sparrowhawks were widely reported.
A Kingfisher was seen near Allt an Loin, Loch Morar during the last week of the month.

Ardnamurach bothy
I have spent a lot of my adulthood using, maintaining and renovating our open bothies, of which bothies in Knoydart, on Skye, Rhum and the Arnish peninsula make occasional appearance in your pages. I have enjoyed browsing the on-line copies of West Word in continuation of an interest provoked by the Covid Lockdowns. Yes, my use came to a halt for a temporary but long period, some of which I spent investigating the use of open bothies by hill walkers, climbers, cyclists and the like before the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) was formed in 1965. The past Newsletters and Journals of Climbing, Walking and Outdoor Clubs have been a rich source of accounts of such use. My interest has continued post-Covid, there are still grey days of winter providing the opportunity, and I have recently come across accounts of the use of Ardnamurach (on south Loch Nevis-side between Kylesmorar and Finiskaig) as an open bothy in the 1950s into the 1960s. The house was lost to fire in the early - mid 1960s. Ardnamurach appears on your pages a number of times in a family history context.
I now ask: Does any reader have any knowledge of the occupation of Ardnamurach from WW1 forward and when was it was abandoned? and then, Have you any knowledge, distant memories provided by now gone relatives, neighbours, etc. regarding the use of the house as an open bothy? And as an absolute bonus, does any reader have a photograph of Ardnamurach before it was lost to fire? - hidden away perhaps in a family album or in the collection of loose photographs not looked at for a long while since your relative passed away? Any information and help that can be provided will be appreciated.
Richard Genner (Scotland)
To contact Richard about his request - please email the editor and she will pass on your contact details to him.

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

The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport, wildlife, politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

For 12 issues: £36 anywhere in the UK
£55 for Eire and Europe / £75 for the rest of the world.
Contact the Editor to subscribe.

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel: 01687 462 720
Mobile: 07310 857802
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)

Mallaig & District Newspaper is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation No. SC048780


Copyright © 2002-2024 West Word
Page last updated: March 2024

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland