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

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January 2008 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Eigg, Glenfinnan
Fishing Focus & Crofting Roundup
West Word ten years ago
Local Genealogy

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Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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Not to be reproduced without permission.

The long awaited and dreaded announcement of the list of Post Offices which will be closed was made on Tuesday 8th January 2008, to sighs of relief from the North West Lochaber communities. No Post Offices in our area are to close. In Lochaber only two villages are affected: Treslaig and Onich, and both Offices having been closed for some time. However across the Highlands there are 18 closures, a further 10 closures which will be replaced by an outreach service, and the provision of four new outreach services. As many as 2500 Post Offices across Britain will be axed. There is now a six week period in which campaigns can be mounted to save particular Post Offices, but if a local campaign is fought and won to save one it will be automatically replaced with another local post office for closure.

Mallaig Oral History Project Group are delighted to announce that they have been awarded two years of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund - a total amount of 37,900 - 85% of the total project costs of 44,450. The project will be run through Mallaig Heritage Centre.
The application was put together by a steering group including fishermen, ex-fishermen, pier workers and Heritage Centre trustees over the summer, and a final decision was made by the Heritage Lottery Fund on 20th December 2007. Partnership funding has also been promised by the Mallaig Harbour Authority, the Mackintosh Foundation, Highland Council amongst others. George Lawrie who is part of both the Oral History Group and a trustee of the Heritage Centre said "We are absolutely delighted. This will be great for the area - I just wish we had started years ago!"
This project will put together a history of Mallaig, as a fishing village between 1901 when the railway opened, up to the present day. It will focus on the living history - the living memories of some of the people in Mallaig and the surrounding area. It aims to document -using taped interviews and video recordings - the history of the people in this area who do not traditionally have a voice, and will provide a unique insight into this fishing community which grew up around the herring fishing at the turn of the C20th and survived as a herring port right up into the 1970s.
Mallaig really is a unique community made up by a majority of people who moved to the area with the fishing - principally from the East Coast - and mixed with the existing west Highland crofting community, many of whom also became closely involved with the fishing themselves as the port grew and prospered. Before the railway, there were only a scattering of people along the coast in Mallaig, and from these beginnings it has grown to a population in excess of 1000, which has managed to maintain itself predominantly through the fishing industry for over 100 years. The way in which the crofting and fishing communities have lived and worked hand in hand over the years will become an important aspect of the project as people become involved and memories of life in the area are collected.
The project hopes to involve as many people as possible, both as interviewees, and interviewers, and all age groups including the younger population and children whom we hope will take an active part, and this will give them a real sense of the history of their own area and the community here.
The project will produce a book and a DVD to document and make available the material collected in the project. No social histories of this area exist currently, so this will be an important and valuable addition to the history and culture of the area. This will be a real community project which we hope will reflect all aspects of the community we live in now and also celebrate the memory of those who have gone before.
Two part time jobs will be created, and many more people will be involved as volunteers. A launch date for the project will be set for February - look out for further information next month.


The islanders of Muck, in number around 35, are in the process of raising funds to build a multi-purpose facility to be used for a wide range of activities including sports, craft courses and community events. At present there is no public building on Muck. Look out for tickets for the Raffle which will be drawn on 22nd June, offering great prizes, including a stay in Port Mhor House Hotel and a weekend in a self-catering cottage. Call 01687 462364 or visit www.isleofmuck.com

Ten children from Knoydart aged between 4 and 11 have made a film which has been nominated for a National First Light Movies Award. The film, called MUNCHATREEAFOREST, was selected from over 100 films, and is now one of three films in the Best Film By Under 12's category. Munchatreeaforest is the only Scottish film in its category! Local readers of West Word can help the children win because the award is being decided by a public vote. Log on to www.filmstreetco.uk where you can watch the film and vote by Friday 11th January and saying what you like about the film.

A scene from the film, which is a documentary about conservation and regeneration

Hello. Well, another year another alternate writer for West Word. It's Boxing Day night as I write this, the annual carol service on Christmas Eve has been and gone but festive cheer is still plentiful round Inverie Bay and the Peninsula as a whole. Of course festivities began early here with the wedding of Alasdair and Anita on Friday 21st. Congratulations again to them. The New Year influx has yet to arrive and we're bracing ourselves for the full on onslaught that only Tam and the Squashy Bag Dance Band can supply; what with the support of DJ Dolphin Boy Hogmanay is expected to extend well into the daylight hours. This will cap off a busy year for the local arts group who earlier in the month had organised a great weekend feis. The workshops were all a massive success, but for me the highlight was standing at the bar of an afternoon listening to Aonghas Grant and Ian Fraser fiddling off each other. Thanks to all though. On the arts front the local kids' film "Munchatreeaforest" has been nominated and shortlisted for a First Light Movie Award in the under 12's category. You can vote for it to win by sending an email to info@filmstreet.co.uk telling them why the film should win. The film can be viewed at http://filmstreet.co.uk/atricleview.aspa?Pageld=675&nodeid=220www.filmstreet.co.uk. The award ceremony is on the 4th of March and a good few of the participants shall be heading to London for that. Maybe it's all the excitement but it does seem to be an odd symptom of living a boat trip away that curries become the most desirable food on earth. This may explain the report of rutting stags at the table of Mallaig Spice during a local staff night out. What else has gone on through December:
The goat survey came back. Of 47 returns (the highest response yet to a consultation paper) 40 were in favour of putting together a management strategy which would include some culling, while 7 were not.
Kenny was taken away in the lifeboat after an accident at home. He'll be a while at Raigmore but his recovery is going well and our best wishes go to him. There can never be enough thanks to the lifeboat crew and medical support in these situations but - thanks.
We also had a display of the proposals for the regeneration of community property at the east end of the village and a meeting to go over the possibilities of both the shared equity sale of land policy and the funding approaches to the renovation of Manitoba cottages. Much to think and talk about. The feasibility study for the Renewables' hydrogen project is up and running, the recycling scheme almost there and the planning permission for the conversion of the Pier Store to a pottery/tea room is in. The Forest Trust planted a new enclosure up at the Folach and plans for the Long Beach took shape. The boats bar Gripper are out of the water for maintenance at Doune and the landing craft still holds steady to Airor Pier. But it's quiet in the winter. Hope the New Year is kind to you all
Davie Newton

73 persons thronged Port Mor House to celebrate the arrival of 2008 and it was good to see so many exiled islanders among the crowd; Mandy and Ian Ketchin, Barbara and Simon Graves, Ian Smith and partner Margaret, Emma Walters and Graham Moss, Charlie and Mhairianna MacKinnon and lots of children. They were entertained by an evening of dancing, karaoke, and fund-raising for the new Community Hall. The evening saw the launch of the hall raffle which will run for the next six months and will feature some impressive prizes donated by island and local businesses. More on this in future West Words.
But on the night there were competitions such as a panel of portraits of islanders aged on average six months. Not easy, but Amy MacFadzean got an impressive 15 out of 20 correct, and we all had a go at guessing the birthweight of Mary and Toby's new baby. The highlight of the evening came when 330 was paid to see one islander lose his 25 year old beard. Altogether 870 was raised on the night bringing the total to date for the hall an impressive 2900.
Next day nearly everyone managed to make it for the traditional hockey match. As the tide was too high for the beach the Calf Park had to substitute. Despite the very young age of some of the players there were no injuries in over an hour of play. Earlier, on the 9th December the Christmas season started with a weekend in Inverness for most of the island children, and Jack and Beanstalk at Eden Court, where Jamie MacEwen reached the stage to be interviewed. The Friday of the departure was a poor day with a heavy swell but Captain Tony made a special effort to come in to Port Mor and collect everyone. Tony has always displayed a high level of seamanship with the Loch Nevis and it is sad to hear that he is to be transferred to another route. The 19th December was the school Christmas party where the highlight was the nativity play; another fine production by Eileen Henderson, with fine acting and an almost word perfect performance by all the pupils, many of which are very junior. Games, Father Christmas and lots to eat made for a very enjoyable evening.
Now an official announcement; Toby Fichtner-Irvine and Mary MacEwen had a son, Jasper, born on 17 December weighing 10 lbs.
I have now run out of time. Don't miss the February West Word for more exciting news from Muck
Lawrence MacEwen

December has flown by here on Eigg in the usual pre-Christmas flurry, with sadly as yet no big switch-on of our new power supply. We are assured that its only last minute temporary glitches which will be sorted out by the middle of January. A quite month on the wildlife front - of interest might be the school of seven bottle nosed dolphins which followed the Loch Neibhis from Rum to Eigg on the 29th, much to the delight of the passengers. A Sea Eagle was seen over the North end of the Island at the end of the month on more than one occasion, and Merlins have been spotted sporadically by John Chester throughout December. Sinister reports of Yellow Flag Iris flowering have also been received, and Primroses have been continually in bloom.
Other seasonal visitors arrived in droves - it was great to have so many friends and family here to share the season, and it's fab that now that so many of us are fast approaching our dotage we are all reaping the benefit of our fruitful loins with so many young folk around to keep us "with it" and cool! Have to teach them how to do the washing up before next year though.
Christmas celebrations were kicked off with a fantastic Christmas meal in the Old Pier Tearoom, ably provided by Stuart Ferguson and his team who catered for a room packed full of satisfied punters. Well done Stuart, especially as it was your first time! Bless. The Tearoom was just about full to capacity, as were we after we had finished everything on our plates
The school performed their Christmas play on the 14th in the Community Hall to a packed House and great performances were given by all, from the nursery class to the adults. However, a special mention must go to Lachlan MacFadyn who gave us a great Santa impersonation. The grand finale was a localised version of a Partridge in a Pear Tree, which featured such seasonal delights as cancelled boats, gales a blowing and rats a gnawing. Swiftly following on was a very funny adult production of Cinderella starring Gwen, Sue, Neil (in a fetching pink wig) and Scruff (out of character as the good fairy?), so altogether we were treated to a truly spectacular evening's entertainment. Mince pies, soup, sandwiches and mulled wine were served afterwards, and the evening impressively raised over 80 which will go towards developing the School grounds. This event also saw the launch of the school's social enterprise project, the cookery book "Favourite recipes from the Isle of Eigg" which, surprisingly enough, features favourite recipes from the Isle of Eigg, and is available from the School for 5.00.
The real Santa paid his customary visit to the children of Eigg on the Saturday before Christmas, and was piped into the Hall by Donna in grand style. After presents had been opened and teas consumed, music was provided by Tasha, Grace, Stuart and Stuart, wittily billing themselves as Eigg Double Joke (geddit?).
A successful ceilidh was held in the Hall on Hogmany, with some great music from Alistair White of the Battlefield Band on fiddle, Ewan Hemingway from Beauly on keyboards and of course not to forget our own Damien on banjo. Donna piped in the bells with much gusto, and we had some now traditional delicious hot rolls in the wee small hours.
Local Greenpeace activist Bob Wallace is of sailing the high seas on the Rainbow Warrior. Happy birthday to Bob, also Joanne, Angus, Murray, Clyde, Bernie and Eddie.
Sue Kirk and Briony Kirk

Bliadhna mhath r!
We had plenty to keep us going last month with the senior citizens party, the children's party and the Glenfinnan 07 Grand Finale Ceilidh at the Princes House Hotel. The children performed very well and confidently at the ceilidh with songs and tunes on whistle, fiddle and clarsach and the Gaelic class sang beautifully. We all enjoyed a very tasty hot buffet and then music from the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band with songs from Rachel Walker and local entertainer Joe Gillies. Thanks to everyone who came along to these events and to Santa for bringing presents and festive cheer.
Shane Owen O'Rua and Seumas Alec MacFarlane had a double Christmas christening on 23rd December at the church in Glenfinnan with Father Roddy Johnstone. Neither of them squealed when they were splashed with icy cold water! It was a lovely service and then we all went to the Princes House for hot soup and sandwiches and a few drams. When Santa was doing his rounds he made an unexpected call to Joe and Gry. When they opened their curtains on Christmas morning they looked out and saw an old friend on the gate post. Their garden gnome had come home after a mysterious absence of two years.
Where he has been and what he has seen, he will not say;
but they sincerely hope he is home to stay!

Congratulations to Duncan, Manja and Sne on the birth of Ella on 31st December. Ella is the fourth baby to arrive in Glenfinnan in 2007!
Just when the New Year celebrations started to dwindle we all got together for a party to celebrate Iain MacKellaig's big 4-0 on 4th January. The Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band turned out and gave us some cracking tunes. Iain did well to blow out 40 candles but then he is an athlete and has a good set of lungs on him. He didn't give us a Highland fling but maybe he's getting too old for that kind of thing. We did manage a strip the willow that went on and on and helped us fulfil our New Year resolution to get more exercise. They should make ceilidh dancing an eligible sport for the Commonwealth Games.
Wishing you all the best for 2008!
Eileen O'Rua

2007 Gaelic Song & Music Project
After several months of workshops in song writing, song and music fifteen local youngsters took 'Orain: Sean is Ur' on tour to perform six concerts in four Lochaber venues. Youngsters were accompanied by musicians Anne Martin, Ingrid Henderson, Ross Martin, Iain MacFarlane and Jamie Attridge. The first concerts took place in Mallaig High School on Wednesday 28th November, kicking off with an afternoon performance for local schools. Around fifty primary school pupils joined the performance on stage for three songs. The songs featured in the concerts included new material written by youngsters during the year - a process that also involved the primary schools of the area including Knoydart and the Small Isles. Also featured were two newly commissioned songs - Taladh dha Mhac by Alasdair Grant (Roy Bridge) and An Caol Loch Eilte by Allan Henderson, along with existing Lochaber Songs from the archives. New words were written for existing music from further afield. Tama Oma, a song based on a Senegalese drum written by Australian based Fiona MacKenzie became a tri-lingual piece for voice featuring harmonies. When the Sun Sets Over the World by Winston Wuttumee, a Canadian Cree Indian, was given new Gaelic prose.
On Thursday the youngsters travelled by Shiel bus to Ballachulish Village Hall, Friday saw two concerts at rainn Shuaineirt (The Sunart Centre), Strontian and the tour finished up on Saturday at Roy Bridge Memorial Hall. It was great to see local faces in the audience at the different venues. The youngsters worked very hard preparing for the concerts and gave fantastic performances. Well done everyone! The performers were: On guitar - Murdo Colston, Callan MacBeth and Alistair Begg, On Fiddle Jacqueline Campbell, Eilidh Colston, Megan MacLellan & Connie Grant, on Piano / Fiddle Rebecca McLean, and the singers Isabella Moore, Maxine MacDonald, Rachel Dempster, Margaret MacIver, Clare McLean, Kenna Robertson & Rachael Robertson. Thanks to all who helped over the course of the tour, including John MacBeth & Martin Sullivan at Mallaig High School, and Allan MacDonald who helped supervise. Thanks also to all the local primary schools and parents of those youngsters who joined us on stage.


First ScotRail Train Driver John Hynd has won the rail industry's highest award against strong opposition. He was nominated along with nine other train drivers from across Britain's rail network. Although based at Fort William, his duties include driving between Crianlarich and Mallaig, and the Caledonian Sleeper Service between Fort William and London Euston, which he drives from Fort William to Rannoch and return.
Ms Mary Dickson, Managing Director of First ScotRail, John's boss, said 'Offering to help people in need is second nature to John and sets him apart as a special individual who does all he can in promoting the railways. All of us at First ScotRail are so very proud of him and his success in obtaining the highly coveted award. I would clone him if I could!' she added.

The third stage of the new bridge across the Borrodale burn.
Concrete now covers the timbered mould over the steel trusses.

FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary of the M&NWFA
December Council

I attended the annual December council in Brussels, where quotas and effort are decided, along with a delegation of four other members from MNWFA. Our boys joined the large Scottish Delegation which was the biggest I have seen and outnumbered our English colleagues by about 5 to 1! It is important that The Scottish Government and the Marine Directorate have a large and diverse industry cross section to call on for advise and information. The MNWFA contingent enjoyed being part of the process and we hope the level of representation is repeated in coming years.
The proposed 25% cut in un-derogated west coast 70mm to 90mm nephrop gear vessels which would have cut days from 227 to 170 has been pinned back to a 10% cut which will give the fleet some 204 days per year. However, in a landmark initiative suggested by Scotland, we will now have the chance to participate in Devolved effort management schemes- starting from 1st Feb 2008 - which can be spatially applied to specific area fisheries and will be managed exclusively by Scotland. The scheme places a great onus on our fishermen to act responsibly but be rewarded with enough days to fish stocks which they depend on. Any vessels taking part in the new effort schemes could possibly have their 2007 effort pattern rolled over for 2008.
The December Council negotiation was the most open and transparent that I can remember with ALL represented Associations, working in close harmony with the Scottish Government and the Marine Directorate. The advisory Group setup which was employed this year ensured input from all sectors. The Scotland House facilities and staff were made available to industry and this was a far cry from previous years when we all had to sit around in hotel lobbies and wait like lemmings to be summoned and patronised by our political representatives.
This year was different; I am proud of our industry in its conduct, proud of our Government for standing up for us at long last and proud of the Marine Directorate staff who all worked extremely hard to ensure we were properly represented at Council.

The main parts of the deal agreed today which affect Scotland are:
* allowing Scotland to flexibly allocate days at sea to the Scottish fleet as it feels appropriate
* the go-ahead to develop a new system of Conservation Credits, aimed to be in place by February 1 2008; this will enable the overall days at sea allocated to Scotland to be managed more sensitively and reward initiatives to promote more sustainable fishing opportunities by reallocating effort across the fleet
* the option to bring forward a Discards Reduction Plan based on measures to reduce cod discards and to gain additional fishing opportunities
* headline cut at days at sea of 10 per cent for the prawn fleet
* headline white fish fleet cuts of 18 per cent on the west coast and 10 per cent in the North Sea; in Scotland these will be 10 per cent and six per cent respectively because of decommissioning
* the above cuts affect only a minority of Scottish vessels

Audrey's lambs out to play in the snow last year

Crofting roundup By Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member

Shucksmith Inquiry Meeting to be held in Arisaig
On 11th Feb in the Astley Hall there will be one final meeting to consult on the Shucksmith Inquiry. It will be conducted in the same format as the Glenuig meeting as this has proved a successful method throughout the Inquiry. Information gathered from meetings and surveys throughout the summer has now been concluded and prepared for publication as the 'Vision for Crofting.' The Arisaig meeting will allow crofters and others to comment on whether this is an accurate assessment of crofting and as the Shucksmth Inquiry has proven to be a very listening body we can hope that if there is fundamental change needed in the final assessment Arisaig Crofters can be part of this influence! There are to be only 5 meetings in total in Feb and Arisaig and Beauly are the only two mainland meetings in the whole of the crofting counties! Expect it to be very well attended and there will be a few far travelled people looking for bed and breakfast. The Inquiry is expected to end by Mid April, the White Paper for the new bill by July/August and by this time next year we should be looking at the new Bill itself.

Croft Food Producer of the Year 2008
The Scottish Crofting Foundation are to launch a new award to be given annually to the best producer of any food product produced on a croft or holding of similar status. The prize is 1000! Nominees do not have to even be members of the SCF but part of the prize is a year's free membership! So send in your nominations to Marion Macleod at The Scottish Crofting Foundation, Lochalsh Business Park, Auchtertyre, By Kyle of Lochalsh, 1V40 8EG If you have any questions about who or what would be eligible please call me [01687 450375] or Marion at Kyle [01520 722 891] Nominations must be in by the end of March

Crofters Training Programme
The training programme was announced last autumn and the modules and training of advisors will be completed by spring. While it may seem ironic that a crofter should want to train to be a crofter and unthinkable to some that you can train somebody to even become a crofter, the programme has two big plusses in my opinion. One is that crofters themselves can become trainers and advisors so passing on invaluable skills and advice. The other is that when you assemble all the skills gained from everyday work on a croft and add to them the extra skills that are part of the programme [forestry, conservation etc] it is advantageous to employers and employee to have all these accomplishments named as a straightforward qualification easily referred to. Promotion of the training programme will be taking place throughout the winter and spring with sheep, beef, grazings and horticulture awareness days. The Crofter Induction courses are still taking place and there will be one for this area held in Ardnamurchan through the winter.
Just contact Calina Macdonald at the SCF headquarters in Auchtertryre

New Assessors
The Crofters Commission has appointed 72 assessors for the four areas of the crofting counties. Some of the assessors have been re-elected but there are many new assessors as part of a drive by the CC to bridge the gap between the Commission and local communities. Pressure on the CC has never been so intense to use their powers of regulation to end croft speculation, absenteeism and neglect. Crofters see grant schemes slipping away, this month a million pounds has been lost from the Croft housing scheme, and the Bull scheme is also in jeopardy. The Commission is also under pressure to come up with a mapped register of crofts, this would be an expensive exercise for the Commission and they are looking for ideas as to how to achieve this register. They need our help it seems So with this pressure we can see the appointment of a revamped body of assessors as a kind of olive branch, or is it a branch thrown in the hope of saving the Commission. Either way it does give more of a voice to crofting communities.
As an assessor for this area, down to Moidart and including the Small Isles, I have been told that there will be regular meetings between assessors and area Commissioners [Robin's Currie and Callander] to discuss any local issues that may come up. They want to hear of the 'silent demand' for crofts in the area, i.e locals who would love to have a croft but know that financially it is beyond their reach to buy one on the open market. As an assessor I can pass on signs of any demand or of any local issues. It came as a surprise to me at the assessors seminar to learn that an apportionment that has been developed for house sites but that has not been decrofted, can have ten owners of the different sites but the Commission can still put in one tenant to use that apportionment if there is no crofting tenant ! Recently the case in Skye and also at Big Sand in Lewis show that tenants can be put in to work crofts that have been bought and paid for on the open market, this is a new move by the commission and is a result of pressure from the SCF and crofters who are concerned with the amount of croft land being used for house sites and 'amenity ground'. It was heartening to hear at the seminar that this view is unanimous throughout the Crofting counties, at least from the 71 other assessors present.

West Word - ten years ago
Two stories adorned the front page of the first edition of West Word in the year 1998. The main story told how Councillors Foxley and King - who had both been campaigning for years for improvements to the Small Isles service - were delighted that European Funding (via the Objective 1 Programme) to the tune of 2.69 million had been secured towards the cost of upgrading the lifeline ferry service.
Mallaig Lifeboat Celebrates 50 Years by Launching Appeal for New Boat was the headline of the other story gracing the front page. This told of an upcoming celebration to mark Mallaig's 50 years as a Lifeboat Station and also the launch of a 1.5million appeal to help procure a new Severn Class Lifeboat for Mallaig to replace the Arun Class Davina and Charles Matthews Hunter in two years.
Stand-in West Word Editor Jacqueline McDonell was bemoaning power cuts on the page 2 editorial and on the same page Dr Foxley was bemoaning not only the quality of tap water in the Mallaig area but also NoSWA's capability to improve it!
The Highland Council's Coastal Zone Management Strategy Document, advocating a new approach to dealing with coast management (the border zone between land and sea) was launched on 15th December, whilst Glenfinnan's John Barnes, in his On the Rails column, centred on the appointment of Mr Dan McGrory as the new Rail Development Project Officer for the West Highlands.
A two page review of the main news stories carried by West Word during the previous twelve months featured on pages 5 and 6, and later on in the 28 page issue there was a Review of the Year Quiz - 4 questions from each of the last year's West Words.
Mother and daughter Mhairi and Lianne Stewart between them provided a Gaelic article around Liann'e appearance on the BBC TV show De a Nis and the performing spotlight was shared by Eigg's Joanne Kirk and Arisaig's Alexander MacMillan appearing at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness in the panto Cinderella.
Keeping on the footlights theme, the Mallaig High School Pantomime Sleeping Beauty received great critical acclaim with Jim Morton's performance as Nurse Pinchme garnering prise from all and sundry.
All the Christmas Festivities in the various communities were detailed in the Round and About columns, and the Christian Aid Christmas Sale of Work in Mallaig Hall raised 1333.60, bringing the total raised by Mrs Corson and Mrs MacGillivray over the year to a splendid 3120.50.
Alan Eddie won the gallon of whisky at The River Fund Dance in the West Highland Hotel which, along with an earlier raffle, raised over 800 for the Fund while the big winners of Shona and Gerry's Big Raffle in The Crofters Rest, Arisaig, were the local Senior Citizens' and the Children's Christmas Parties which benefited from the proceeds.
Pen pictures of Nevis Radio's Neil MacLeod aka Oliver Sudden and Stewart Gordon adorned page 12 with Oliver Sudden's response to Have You Met Anyone Famous? Being Yes, Roddy Dendron (that well known gardening expert)!
The great winter constellation of Orion will dominate the southern skyso began Ross Campbell's Heaven's Above column, and this was followed by Giles Trussell's adventures in the Venezuelan Alps, where he took the Merida Cable Car - the highest in the world - at Alto de la Cruz (4200m) with both he and Ann suffering the effects of altitude.
The Reasons Why was a three way contribution by Helen Dores, the Van der Zanden family and Julia Moore on the reasons why they had 'upped stakes' and come to live in this part of Lochaber (Maybe we shold do something similar this year, Mrs Editor?) Leaded/Unleaded by R D Greenaway occupied the Environment page and Auntie Mary had to contend with the question 'why do birds moult their feathers?'
The Old Library recipe this month was the homely Lancashire Hot-Pot. This appeared on page 23 as did Neil Robertson's Down to Earth column which dealt, among other topics, with how best to deter crows, seagulls and rats from feasting on bird tables. Times Past was a page of nostalgia by yours truly, inspired by the finding of a West Highland Free Press dated 12th December 1975. The article was accompanied by a photograph of Jessie Hepburn on the cover of her recording of Song of the Mermaid.
West Word congratulations were proffered to Morar's Donald MacLellan, whose personal project of photographs titled Black Power had been chosen to be exhibited at London's National Portrait Gallery. It's interesting that history is set to repeat itself as later this year Donald will be exhibiting on the National Portrait Gallery once again!
Shinty, golf and gymnastics were among the sporting items, with the Swimming Pool pursuing, quite successfully it would seem, their Rookie Lifesaver Initiativeand yes, the famous West Word Calendar for 1998 was included in the cover price of 75p.
Happy New Year!

A Little Genealogy - A Look Back at 2007 - by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
January, February and March were concerned with the genealogies of the MacEachans of Eachainn Buidhe and therefore of Iain Bn, Gaoithe Dail. I was seeking to tie in the family of Tommy MacEachen, Arisaig Post Office, to this family as, Tommy's ancestor was cleared from Gaoithe Dail several generations ago. However, I was unable to make this connection but the possibility still exists, subject to further investigation. Thanks to Tearlach MacFarlane for his wonderful family charts of Clann Eachainn Buidhe.
The Glennan MacEachens (Feb. 07) was another branch which was successfully tied in. Moran taing to Mary MacLennan, ne Kennedy, ex-Roybridge, now living in Brechin who gave me a lot of information on this branch of the family. The article on the MacEachens of Rhu and Tullochgorm, Arisaig, featured in the March edition was, as I thought, wrongly, the last article on MacEachens. More MacEachen enquiries were to come the way and continue to arrive! In April I mentioned the MacDonalds of Camus a Ruighe and Colin Smith from Australia came to visit us in Arisaig to tie up some loose ends. I also had an email from James MacDonald, in USA, giving me the names of fifteen siblings of Archie Gillies, Ardnamurach, who emigrated in 1871 to Nova Scotia along with his brother John and three sisters, Marjory, Catherine and Jessie. It was the second time that James had picked up the Ardnamurach Gillieses from West Word genealogy column.
In May, I was writing about the MacAskills of Eigg and North Carolina regarding Hector MacAskill who emigrated there in 1820. His descendant, Marshall W. MacLeod was hoping to visit in August. Alas, he didn't manage to come - perhaps in 2008, Marshall. Also Christopher and Kelly MacIsaac from the USA stayed with us looking for MacIsaac, Canna connections and Morar MacLellans which were followed up in subsequent articles.
In June the MacAskills were again alluded to and I thank Marjory MacInnes, Dunvegan, for her information. In July, it was the MacLellans of Bourblach which we were researching and we connected four families of MacLellans in Canada and the USA. Gary MacLellan did visit Morar and Seaview although, I missed his visit. No article for August as Arisaig Games and Clanranald Gathering devours the whole of the month of July but in September we wrote about John and Jana Cameron from Australia who visited us in July and thoroughly enjoyed the aforementioned Games. They were looking for information on the Camerons of Tarbert, North Morar. (Possible connection to Floyd MacDonald, Creignish, Cape Breton, who had Meoble, Cameron connections in his sloinntearachd. Floyd stayed with us in summer 2003 and died in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in January 2004). Willie and Heather Simpson looked after John and Jana and took them around Loch Morar and particularly the ancient Meoble cemetery to visit th site where John's ancestors were buried. They went home with a copy of Blessed Morar by Paul Galbraith which contains birth accounts of the later family members born between 1833, when records began and the family's emigration in 1852. They had also hoped to be in contact with Warren MacPherson in New Zealand.who is descended from the MaPhersons of Tarbert Inn, as is John Cameron, also. When last we were in contact, John had had no response from Warren but, perhaps he has had by now.
In October, I compiled an account of the Skye family of my mother, Mary MacLeod from Harlosh and was touched to discover that Seacrest, my family home in Morar, was so named for my mother's childhood, Skye home.
November's article endeavoured to answer the plea of Janet Conlon in Australia, looking for "Scottish cousins out there. We managed to come up with some information for her but still haven't been able to connect her emigrant Gillies ancestor to present day families in this area. Earlier Christina Ball paid us a visit with MacEachen family information. Unfortunately we could not connect her ancestor, John MacEachen, Sheriff's Officer, Back of Keppoch, Arisaig, with present day MacEachens but were able to put her in touch with Janet Conlon whose people emigrated at the same time and on the same ship as Christina's ancestors. The two families were neighbours in Arisaig, and were friends and possibly relatives in the Old Country and Australia.
In the course of the summer we took Rosalie MacEachen, her husband, son and brother to Arienskill from where their Boyd relatives (also ancestors of Allan Gillis, Ottawa who contributes to West Word) emigrated in 1790 and to Arnipol and Glen Mamie, ancestral, home of their Vamy (Mhamaidh) MacGillivrays who also emigrated in 1790.
In conclusion, very many thanks to everyone who patiently trawls through memories in order to accommodate our "buraching" amongst the ancestors. To those of you who haven't yet received a reply to a query, please don't despair. Sometimes the backlog takes a wee while to "unjam"
We would like to wish all West Word readers Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath r.

A backward glance by Gordon MacLennan
Last week while sitting in the waiting area of the Health Centre where there is always a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere it made me think of the waiting room at Winburg where everyone was packed in and many had to stand in the corridor, and as Sheena B said, 'I've been sitting here so long I've forgotten what is wrong with me'. When Dr Jean MacRae was the local Doctor and she got a call from Bracara there was only one mode of transport available - her feet!
To get back to the new Centre where many of us were waiting, the topic of conversation was the Sunday threat of the Stornoway - Ullapool ferry running and Hugh, who was in the company and is a seaman on the ship, told us he gets paid for working on a Sunday even though the boat is tied to the pier. In January CalMac will issue a statement on the subject. In Stornoway everything is closed on a Sunday, including the Golf courses. They were all taken aback when I told them there used to be a similar situation in Mallaig - getting drenched going to the Church while the car was locked in the garage. Sunday papers were slow in arriving and then very few were sold. One lady doing B & B in the Islands had a problem when one couple decided to move on during Sunday but the hostess could not accept money on the Sabbath so she told the visitors to leave the payment on the mantelpiece and she would get it on Monday.
Many years ago there was a set of strong swings on practically the same site as the present Play Area and every Saturday night without fail I was handed the keys to go down to padlock the huge chains to the iron uprights. I was too young and too nave to understand why the Church had the authority to deprive young people from swinging through the fresh air on a Sunday. 'The Good Old Days'. Today, the Mallaig & Morar Games are held on a Sunday. I can recall what happened 70 years ago but I'm not so sure about last week - but I do remember so many people getting uptight when they heard there was a move on by all the local pubs to extend their closing time. What a disgrace. Cries of 'What is the world coming to', they did all they could to prevent it but in the end they were defeated and the Pubs were allowed to stay open till 9.30pm. safely locked up on the Sabbath so the Sunday drinking was done behind the curtains! If alive today, the same objectors would have been pleased to learn that recently, by early evening, all the Licensed premises were in darkness and anyone desperate for a drink would have had to hire a taxi to Arisaig.
As a very young kid in School, when the Inspector arrived from Inverness, we were always asked the same question: 'What is heavier - a ton of Lead or a ton of Feathers?' but this time we had a very pleasant Inspector called Murdo Morrison, and his first question was 'Can anyone tell me the name of the Gentleman who lives in Mallaig, never wears a jacket and ALWAYS wears his coloured braces over his jersey?' - of course everyone shouted the answer 'Sandy Johnston!' The family lived in 'Burnmouth Villa', now called 'The Moorings'. My brother Douglas who is 91 gives me old news on a weekly basis and last week told me that before Alex MacLennan operated the mail service to Knoydart, the Johnston family had the contract and rowed their Coble twice a week to Inverie, and that was even before Douglas was born!..
On display in the front window of Burnmouth Villa was a stuffed Eagle which attracted attention from the young kids. Thanks to that jovial young gentleman Allan, the Johnston family still prosper in Mallaig and this does not happen often. The Mallaig Doctor was based in Inverie as was the very first County Councillor, and when asked how much he was being paid he replied 'Nothing but the Honour and the Pride!'
Terry Wogan has been writing about the problem he has now trying to open anything because there is wrapping then more wrapping, and so it goes on. I wonder what the Health & Safety people would say today if they saw a man hauling a 2 CWT (that's '2 hundredweight', young readers!) bag of sugar into the shop or saw the butter arriving in casks. It makes me sad to think back to the busy days in Mallaig when it was the busiest Herring Port in Europe, when we all worked long hours, when everyone was happy and the village was heaving and so vibrant. It makes me sad to see the village just so quiet now and the other night when I walked down the pier there was a loud silence. When I saw a man coming off a boat I went to speak to him, but had to turn away as I could not understand Spanish.
Must get this to the West Word office ahead of Angus Macintyre's interesting monthly article, although the Editor tells me he is never late!

We're delighted to print another of Gordon's reminiscences - it's been too long since the last one! It would be nice to revive the Backward Glance series.Ed

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