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

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January 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Glenfinnan, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago
Fishing Focus - Birdwatch - On and Off the Rails
Local Genealogy & History

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Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

STOP PRESS: West Word has won Community Newspaper of the Year for 2008 in the Highlands & Islands Media Awards!

Isle of Eigg's own Maggie Fyffe has been recognised for her community efforts for the island by an MBE in the New Year Honour's List.
Maggie was a key player in the community buyout of the island in 1997, and she has continued to work on the islanders' behalf on a great number of projects. She said 'I'm amazed to receive an MBE but I feel it belongs to the people of Eigg as much as to me'. Congratulations Maggie, it's well deserved!
Maggie Fyffe

photo Congratulations to Eigg Electric which won a Green Energy Award in the best community initiative category. The ceremony was held in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on December 4th - in the photo is John Booth, Jackie Bird & Adrian Chatterton of Eon Climate & Renewables (the sponsors). Photo courtesy of Rob MacDougall

On 30th December 2008, history was made when Diane MacDonald of Arisaig took the 4.05pm train out of Mallaig to Crianlarich on her first official shift as the first fully qualified woman train driver on the West Highland Line.
Diane, 24, started her career some four years ago selling refreshments on the train. She became a cleaner on the sleeper, then worked in the Booking Office and as a conductor. Her driver training started last February and now nine months later she is a fully fledged train driver.
An inspirational run up the career ladder! Congratulations Diane!

Consulting Engineers Wallace Stone (Dingwall/Glasgow) are currently working on a Study which, when complete, should point the way forward and set the template for the construction of a yachting facility at Mallaig.
The Study, jointly financed by Mallaig Harbour Authority, Mallaig Boatbuilding & Engineering Co, Nevis Estate, The Highland Council and HIE Lochaber, is underway and main harbour users have already been consulted.
Later this month draft plans and proposals will be displayed publicly in Mallaig and input and ideas sought from individual harbour users and members of the public before the plans are finalised within the next 4 -6 weeks.
"In many ways the Study is the easy part" says Port Manager Robert MacMillan. "Getting the money together to put it into place will be more problematic however the final plans will be drawn up with the ability to introduce a phased development with an initial aim of being able to cater for up to 60 yachts in the Inner Harbour Area.
It will mean clearing all existing moorings which are a bit haphazard at the moment and regulating and relaying them in conjunction with any new development."
He went on "With the plans not yet completed it is way too early to talk about implementation or timescale - but the Authority will be actively seeking finance via Europe and the Scottish Government once plans have been finalised."

Ten years to the month after the Government launched their Land Reform White Paper, residents of the Isle of Rum will have the chance to follow in the footsteps of Eigg and Knoydart and have some community ownership on the island.
Environment Minister Michael Russell has announced that the Scottish Government is ready to transfer land and assets worth around £250,000 to the community from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) along with responsibility for the development of these assets.
The transfer of the community hall, village shop and tearoom, campsite and surrounding land will take place after February 2009 providing there is a positive vote from the community. The ballot will be held in early January and the transfer will allow the trust to develop visitor accommodation and designate land for crofting.
Speaking during a meeting of the Isle of Rum Task Group in Arisaig, Mr Russell said: 'In June this year, I announced that the principle of a transfer of land and assets to the Isle of Rum Community Trust had been agreed.
'I am delighted today to announce further progress towards realising the goal of establishing a viable community with a thriving local economy.
'The planned transfer of land and property in Kinloch Village and Glen will provide a platform for development of a thriving and sustainable community. It will create opportunities for local enterprise while improving the facilities and services available to visitors to the island.
'I should like to take this opportunity to commend the Task Group and the Trust for the progress that they have made over this past year.
'The support and commitment of SNH has been significant in helping to move the process forward, as has Lesley Riddoch's contribution as Chair of the Task Group. I am pleased that she has agreed to continue to support the community as we more towards the first phase of land and property transfer.
'Much has been achieved in the last year, but there is much still to be done to conclude the final arrangements and to build towards the transfer of other assets to community management in the future.'
Andrew Thin, Chairman of SNH said:
'I am delighted we have got to the stage where we are almost ready to transfer land to the Community Trust. So many people have put in so much time and effort into this process and I believe we have the right solution at the right time.
'This is a key step in the establishment of an independent community and economy for the island and we look forward to working closely with the Trust on its future plans.
'This will also allow SNH to get on with the business of managing the island's outstanding natural heritage and working with the community to enhance the visitor experience.'

Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Association (MMCCA) are currently investigating the possibility of installing two wind turbines to provide electricity to power the community centre.
The turbines would be situated on the waste ground at the far end of the car park (where the buses park), so would be opposite the 'Railway Buildings' and Health Centre. This land is owned by Highland Council, who have been supportive of the idea. We have also had representatives from Community Energy Scotland working with MMCCA, and they have indicated that this would be a suitable place for turbines.
The turbines will be about 9 metres tall (the same height as the street lights in that area) and have a diameter of 5.5metres. A picture is included to give an idea of the scale. The type of turbine that we would be going for is also a very quiet design, which would only be audible from close by, and would not be heard above the noise of the traffic and the sea from the houses.
MMCCA appreciates that wind power is a controversial issue, which people often have strong opinions about. We are compiling a questionnaire for those who live close by, and in January we will hold a public meeting to try and answer any questions that the community may have. We will also make copies of the questionnaire available in the Post Office so that any member of the community can go in and make their opinions known.
We do not want to go ahead with the project if there is not community support for the turbines, and, as yet we have not applied for planning permission or undertaken a detailed feasibility study for the project.
As all of you will know, the cost of energy has increased substantially since the Community Centre opened. At that time, we installed night storage heaters throughout the building, with electric overhead heaters in the main hall. In our last accounts, heat and light cost MMCCA £6,500, and we made £10,500 from lets to community groups etc. throughout the year. You can see that energy costs are a significant issue for the hall, and over the last few years, we have made an annual loss of approximately £2,500.
Rather than continuously fundraising, we want to do something that will make the hall more financially and environmentally sustainable, and installing wind turbines is the obvious answer. Some of you might ask why wind rather than solar panels, biomass boilers etc. and the answer lies in the heating that we have in the hall. To take advantage of other renewable energy sources, we would have to have a 'wet' heating system i.e. one with water filled radiators rather than night storage heaters. Wind power is the only renewable energy compatible with our current heating, and the hope would be that we would use most of the output from the turbines to power the community centre, and sell any left over to the grid, which would provide another source of income for the Community Centre.
We hope that most of you will support the project, but if you do have any concerns whatsoever, then please speak to one of the committee members or e-mail mmcca@btinternet.com and we will try to address them.

Writing this on the 8th of January, I doubt very much if it will make it in time. So apologies to Ann for a tardy missive - my excuse being, as you may expect, a tremendous Hogmanay. Lots and lots of visitors made it over for a fine cold night, with log-candles burning outside the village hall as the Squashies played away inside. The fact that most of the band were just as inebriated as the customers only added to the atmosphere. The bells were marked by a real church bell, and Terry did himself proud as Knoydart's latest pyromaniac by setting off some fantastic rockets. The subsequent enthusiastic universal cheek-kissing unfortunately led to one of the worst weeks for colds and flu. Only to be expected - we're used to catching a sniffle or two at New Year here in Knoydart. All was rounded off by DJ Dolphin Boy in his usual inimitable style.
Of course, other things happened in December. Giles Trussell gave a well-received talk on his adventures in Greenland (which I unfortunately missed as I had been whisked off to Isle Ornsay on a wee RIB by Toby, Grant and Shaun). The new craze for Bingo continued in earnest, with Sandy one of the keenest competitors. And lots of strange military machinery is making its presence felt in the (once) quiet hamlet of Airor.
It's the time of year when winter can get a bit much, and quite a few are temporarily flying the nest. Ian, Jackie and kids are off to a wedding in New Zealand, Cara's finding respite in the Canaries, Bob and Morag are heading off to Canada then the Caribbean, and Sandy has rediscovered his old love of apple-picking in the antipodes.
As a postscript, and to continue the theme of columns long past, the chickens at the Robertson household now have a new keeper - Terry frae the church. Hopefully he won't have the same effect on them as he did on Sandy's love-struck pub chicken…
Happy New Year to all West Word readers. Make sure you buy that yellow phonebook so the manny on 118 whatever doesn't need to get confused by places like Muck or Camusrory...
Tommy McManmon

Another year dawns and this month I am starting with a question - 'What has Highland Council done for us? A health check of every aspect of island life where Highland Council is involved, And as you would expect the results are mixed. I will start with those that are positive and at the top is the school. A quick survey of the pupils had only one reply- they can't wait to go to school in the morning (I wish it had been like that in the far off days when I went to the Muck school!) And they are absorbing knowledge too judging by my grandson Archie's knowledge of mental arithmetic. Then there is the road. Almost the whole length is free of holes and fit for the purpose. Now we come to the more negative aspects of Highland Council's work and we start with the old school. This rusting hulk is right next the site of the new Community Hall. Then there is the waiting room on the pier. We are approaching the third anniversary of the hurricane which severely damaged this newly built structure and nothing has changed. Time for action! Lastly there is the recycling centre next the pier. If they have to be yellow, and not black, could they not be painted before they arrive! So as I said above the results are mixed. The school is far the most important and its great! Now the news! During the only poor week of weather recently almost the whole island made their way to the school to see 'Willie Wonka' starring Isobel Murray-John as the autocratic factory owner, assisted by James Mac Fadzean as Charlie Bucket, foreman. and full supporting cast as they say. Written and produced by Ros Garrett, assisted by Bryan Gregg this was probably the best production ever to emanate from Muck School, Remarkable acting by Isobel and an excellent effort by the others Well done! Food, Father Christmas, games and dancing followed all adding up to a very pleasant evening.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the holidays has been the ever improving weather, everyone arriving over calm seas!, first footing by starlight!, the hockey match on the beach in sunshine! It will be a long time before we see the likes again !
Lawrence MacEwen

And so here we are in the New Year already... whatever happened to the old one? December turned out to be quite a busy month on Canna, despite the lack of holidaymakers. Our Fair Ladies returned from Fair Isle, much useful and crucial information having been gathered. We wish to extend thanks on their behalf for the wonderful hospitality. Unfortunately poor weather conditions meant that their visit to Findhorn had to be cancelled…
The weather was indeed pretty wild for a lot of the month, and cold, too. I think we were fortunate enough not to miss any sailings so far, but no doubt someone will put me right on that one. No snow on Canna yet, although the neighbouring isles seemed to get a bit of a plastering, albeit short-lived. At least the days are getting longer (really?) and in no time it'll be Easter.
There were a few other scheduled trips... Most of the population went off to the mainland at some point or other to do the usual seasonal shopping and holiday rounds. One party went off to see the High School Panto at Mallaig and had a great time (oh no they didn't etc. etc.) while another ventured somewhat further afield for several weeks voluntary work in India. Well done and good luck, Sinead!
Mustn't forget the birthday celebrations early in the month, and the wee lad's excitement at getting his first proper archery set. But while dad's out there doing the father and son bonding stuff, the rest of us are keeping our heads down. Probably a wise move.
The wee school managed to get their cast together and staged their Christmas play. This year, 'Bossie the Cow in the Manger'- a seasonal tale of compassion and tolerance; aye, there's a message there for the world and the rest of us. The community was there in attendance and in fine voice, but not a patch on the impromptu Ecumenical Christmas Eve Candlelight Carolling Service which visited, well, most of the churches on Canna.
This month's canine capers... We wish Molly a fast recovery, and also welcome to the fold the newest farm recruit, Jock.
Oh, and all the best for the New Year!
Geoff Soe-Paing

Early December on Rum saw the last of the island's visitors leave and the castle close down for essential repair and maintenance. Many of the island's residents went off to the mainland for Christmas mayhem and all was quiet and peaceful (in between some scary storms).
Community ownership took another step forward on the 6th when Environment Minister Michael Russell announced that the Scottish Government was ready for the transfer of land and assets after February 2009, providing there is a positive vote from the community, to take place in mid January.
Much to the delight of the kids, Santa came to visit Rum on the 19th during the Children's Christmas party. A wee tipple for the Mums and Dads and too many sweet things for the wee ones ensured a fun and festive afternoon. This was followed by a wee gathering in the castle billiards room on Christmas Eve for some yummy home baking and mulled wine.
The weather has now thankfully improved and we are expecting some beautiful frosty, calm days over Hogmanay. The Castle is fully booked with New Year revellers so it is shaping up to be a great celebration as ever - indeed with the possibility of land ownership, 2009 could be a very big year indeed for the residents of Rum.
Stroma Frew

On Eigg the festive season started little early this year, with our Big Green challenge meal at the community hall on Saturday 13th December, which was mostly prepared with vegetables and meat produced on the island, a truly succulent green feast, which brought everyone together for a very nice evening. "Good Eigg Awards" were presented to Lucy Scott and John Booth to general applause, following on from the Green Energy Award given to Eigg for best community initiative in Edinburgh, which John received on behalf of the island.
From then on, the festive fever was upon us, with Eigg Primary nativity musical, " It's a party" on Thursday 18th: I doubt if more enthusiastic angels, sheep and shepherds could be found anywhere! This was followed by the children's Christmas party on the 20th where the young islanders returning home joined in the fun, whilst Stuart Millar showed his virtuosity with the wheelchair as he steered 91 year old Katie in the adults' musical chairs to the tune of Mamma Mia. On Christmas Eve, Mairi Mackinnon organised our usual stirring carol service in St Donnan church where the storage and dump heaters installed by Eigg Electric Ltd made a noticeable and well appreciated difference to the temperature in the building this year. Carol singers then went on to Joe and Ben Cormac's bothy nearby where Angus played a few rousing tunes on his accordion, the floor withstanding valiantly the vigourous assault from the crowd! Immediately following on from Christmas, it was Eddy and Berni's birthday on the 27th with more tunes from Angus and Marie.
The still weather made the usual visiting at this time of year very pleasant, particularly as there were many kent faces back on the island, like Natalie and Laoise, and the Boden tribe. Stuart Thomson was also back from his Costa Rican adventures in time for Hogmanay which saw the islanders gather in the hall to welcome the new year with the Aillidh Mollamh ceilidh band and G-Riff and his drum and bass. A number of new dances were tried out, thanks to the band's caller, and it was a lot of fun!
Last and closing the festive season, it was our favourite postie's birthday on Saturday 3rd of January, which he celebrated with gusto, feeling particularly buoyant as he is the Eigg scrabble championship winner for 2008! Another cause for celebration naturally was Maggie's inclusion in the New Year's Honours list: we are all very proud of her MBE awarded for "voluntary service to the community on the isle of Eigg." She may have modestly said she accepted it on behalf of the community on Eigg, but we all know the large part she played in the buy-out and the subsequent development of the island makes her deserve every bit of that accolade in her own right. Cheers then to Maggie Fyffe, MBE!
On a sadder note, we are bidding farewell to Gwen Sheriff, who is moving to Swansea, after 5 years on Eigg, setting up her croft and bringing the nursery class to the highest standard possible. Thank you for your dedication to the little people of Eigg, Gwen, and all our best wishes for happiness in your new life!
December birthdays: Angus Kirk, Neil Robertson, Ben Cormack, Bob and Murray Wallace, Eddy Scott, Berni MacCoy.
Camille Dressler.

Happy New Year!
I don't have a lot to report this month as I have been away over Christmas and New Year and like everybody else I was confined to barracks with that nasty chesty cough and flu-type bug. We had our usual festivities in Glenfinnan over Christmas. There was a senior citizens dinner in the Princes House Hotel and a children's party in Glenfinnan House Hotel. Joan kept the children happy with a selection of games and Santa came with a sack of presents.
Now that New Year is past the villagers are preparing for celebrating the Old New Year! They don't call it the Glen of fun for nothing!
The Community Council had an AGM on 7th December at Prince's House Hotel. In the past year:
The railway station has been granted planning permission for their expansion and improvements.
The community has had little or no response from BT regarding poor phone lines and broadband problems.
Slow signs have been painted on the lower road. Crash barriers are being erected above Tor an Eas and the council is waiting for a response on passing place sign renewal.
The Callop Bridge and interpretive signs are all now complete and in place.
The bench at the war memorial is now in place thanks to the efforts of J. Barnes, A. Gibson and G. Moss.
New Projects being considered for 2009 include tidying up the shore path and exploring funding opportunities for a walkway and creating a picnic area beside the new footbridge at the Callop.
Happy Birthday to Ella Gibson who was 1 on the 31st December.
Eileen O'Rua

The children's village Christmas party was the quietest yet with only 20 children. More than a few were away and colds and flu were about too (even the helpers were struck down this year); and the number of children up to the age of 11 in Arisaig and Lochailort is now 42, a long way from the 70 of some years ago. Only one grannie this year too! We used to have quite a few join in; and then there were the grandchildren from out of the village who used to come with their mums. So we will have to have a think about its future, we think.
I would like to thank those who helped make the party happen - Daphne Heaps and Jackie Ross for the food and baking, Helen Lamb for helping serve the tea, Lynne Barrie for advice on presents and especially Heather Gillies - who couldn't attend because she was laid low - for organizing the gifts with Santa. Many thanks to Santa too! Also to Hugh Cameron, Ronnie Dyer and Arthur Campbell for putting up and taking down the Christmas decorations in the hall. The Mackintosh Centre held a Christmas lunch in the hall this year and it went well. It was very cold day and the hall took ages to warm up - then we noticed that two of the skylights were open!
The hall is also being hired now and then for band practices, so if you hear great music wafting from the hall during an afternoon, that's what it is!. So far both Daimh and The Duplets have hired the club room and the latest in this line has been Damien from Eigg, with some or all of Daimh, practicing for Celtic Connections.
I've been passed a letter which was intended for the Lochaber News. It's anonymous so I have no intention of printing it on the letters page, but the content is that 'disgruntled driver and passengers' decided to take a trip out to Mallaig on Christmas Day and were stunned and horrified to find the public toilets in Arisaig were closed. 'Do the people of Arisaig not need the toilet on Christmas Day?' ask Disgruntled. He even suggests the locals might need laxatives!
Well, he might consider the fact that Arisaig is now so well advanced that we actually have toilets in our houses in this, the 21st Century, and that Christmas Day is the only day in the year that the Arisaig public toilets are shut. Surely the opener-upper/cleaner deserves one day off a year!!
Ann Lamont

West Word ten years ago - January 1999

Remember Paddy the Cat? He was the lucky moggie owned by Eileen MacEachen of Arisaig and his wins made him famous.
Paddy won a number of raffle prizes, including a salmon, a leg of lamb, a doll, a tin of biscuits and various sums of money, including at least three wins in the Astley Hall 200 Club. His fame reached the pages of the Sunday Post.
It's twelve years since Paddy died (aged 14). He was only given hours to live when born, so his luck started at birth when Eileen took him into her care.
Paddy's number in the 200 Club was 9, appropriately enough for a cat. We even adopted a black cat logo in his honour when he died.
Now Eileen has a wee Jack Russell, Fergie, who recently won a quilt in a draw. Encouraged by this, Eileen restarted lucky number 9 in the 200 Club in Fergie's name.
And guess what! In only his second month in the draw, Fergie has won 3rd prize in the December Double Draw of the 200 Club - £40! Not only that but 'dad' Donnie won the 4th prize of £30!
Now - we'll have to look for a logo of a Jack Russell...

FISHING NEWS - John Hermse, Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association
December Council
A difficult European Commission December Council for the West Coast Fishing industry is now over - the imposition of grids is not a threat for the near future; we will however have to conduct trials with them as part of the package of technical conservation measures for the West Coast.
The main measures affecting the West Coast East of the 200 metre (French) line are:-
Nephrops 5% reduction
Monks 8% increase
Megs 5% increase
Spurdogs 50% reduction in quota, maximum landing size of 100mm, but importantly 5% by-catch provision removed.
Catches of Spurdog taken in absence of a quota or once the quota has been exhausted shall be promptly released unharmed to the extent practicable.
Fishers shall be encouraged to develop and use techniques and equipment which, following consultation of STECF, serve to facilitate the rapid and safe release of the species.

Nephrop Trawl
Minimum mesh size of 80mm
120mm square mesh panel of single twine, 12 to 15 metres from codend.
Catch Composition
no less than 30% of the retained catch by weight is comprised of nephrops, and no more than 10% of the retained catch by weight is comprised of any mixture of cod, haddock and/or whiting, and remainder of catch composition is therefore other species such as monks, megs etc.
Whitefish Trawl(Over 15m)
120mm minimum mesh size
120mm square mesh panel of single twine, 12-15 metres from codend.
Catch Composition
No more than 30% of the retained catch by weight is comprised of any mixture of cod, haddock and/or whiting.
Whitefish Trawl (Under 15m)
110mm minimum mesh size.
110mm square mesh panel of single twine, 12-15 metres from codend.
Catch Composition
No more than 30% of the retained catch by weight is comprised of any mixture of cod, haddock and/or whiting.

Observer coverage on West Coast
Each Member State concerned shall establish an onboard observer programme in 2009 in order to sample the catches and discards of vessels benefiting from the derogations. The observer programmes shall be carried out without prejudice to the obligations under Commission Regulations and shall aim at estimating cod, haddock and whiting catches and discards with an accuracy of no less than 20%.
Member States concerned shall submit to the Commission a preliminary report on the total amount of catches and discards of vessels subject to the observer programme no later than 30 June 2009. A final report concerning 2009 shall be submitted by 1 February 2010 at the latest.

Experiments to reduce catches of whitefish when fishing for nephrops Member States concerned shall, with the aim to identify fishing methods for nephrops that have the lowest impact on whitefish, undertake in 2009 trials and experiments when fishing for nephrops
- on a sorting grid in accordance with Appendix 2 to this Annex and
- on a square mesh window in accordance with points 1 and 3 of Appendix 5 inserted into the top panel of the codend and terminating no more than 6 m from the codend.
Member States concerned shall submit the results of the trials and experiments to the Commission no later than 30 September 2009.
The above measures come into force on 1st February 2009. The Marine Directorate will take a pragmatic approach with those vessels complying with the regulations with a view to full enforcement commencing on 1st April 2009 (April Fools day). Those who drag their feet and make no attempt at compliance can expect attention from enforcement agency's. Fishermen's Associations will be meeting with the Marine Directorate early in 2009 to discuss practical ways to make implementation as straightforward as possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary, also Frank Strang and his team at the Marine Directorate for their hard work in averting the imposition of grids and help us negotiate a deal that didn't seem possible a few short weeks ago.

Effort Restrictions
We still have work to do in negotiating a workable effort regime for our vessels. This work will commence early in 2009 and details will be sent from the Marine Directorate as soon as possible. Buy backs of days from a fleet segment effort base line will include, gear selectivity, Real Time Closures, Observer Programmes and Reference fleets etc.

Not withstanding the above I wish all members and readers seasons greetings and best fishes for 2009.

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
The first week of December saw the return of a few Waxwings after no reports since mid-November. Up to 9 were seen near St Mary's, Arisaig, until the 5th, and a single bird was feeding on apples in a Mallaig garden on the 6th. Also in the same garden was a male Blackcap which was seen on several occasions.
The number of Iceland Gulls in Mallaig increased as the month progressed, with at least 5 individuals present on the 26th.
There were at least 4 Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig, at the beginning of the month, and 4 were on Loch an Nostarie, Mallaig, on the 18th. Two Mute Swans were on the west end of Loch Morar on the 10th. An interesting sighting on Loch Morar was of a Great Crested Grebe, west of Scamadale, on the 3rd. Goosanders, Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye were also on Loch Morar throughout the month.
A single Shelduck was seen at Silver Sands the week before Christmas and a pair were back near Millburn, Loch nan Ceall, by the New year.
Greylag Geese were seen at Back of Keppoch, Traigh, Tougal and Morar, with at least 40 on the Morar games field at times.
There were 2 Greenshanks on the Morar Estuary all month, with a few Curlew and Redshank seen there, and also at Traigh. Numerous Woodcock and Snipe were reported from Morar and Arisaig. There were several reports of Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones from Mallaig during the month. Goldfinches were reported from Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig, with at least 20 on feeders at Rhubana View on the 26th. Seven Bullfinches and 5 Lesser Redpolls were seen near Morar Lodge on the 18th feeding in birch trees. Yellowhammers were reported from several gardens in Arisaig.
There were numerous reports of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers feeding on peanuts or fat balls in several gardens in Morar and also at Tougal, Camusdarach and Arisaig during the month. Tree creepers were seen in gardens in Morar and Arisaig.
A single Jay was seen on several occasions in Arisaig during the month and 3 Red Grouse were seen on Sgurr Bhuidhe, north of Bracara, on the 11th.
A Peregrine Falcon was seen near the point of Rhue several times during the month, and a Hen Harrier was reported from there also.
Barn Owls were reported from Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig during the month.

On and Off the Rails
Annual Fare Increases
The cost of making a journey by train has risen right across Britain but, yet again, fares of First ScotRail still represent great value - if you use a small amount of forethought. For anyone aged 55 and over until 31st March return rail travel in Scotland is just £15. this applies on First ScotRail, Virgin, First Trans Pennine Express, Arriva Cross Country and National Express East Coast, and is valid as far as Carlisle. You must carry any proof of age with you on your journey, and free seat reservations are strongly advised when purchasing your tickets, especially for the return journey. No rail card is required. Tickets are available from staffed stations, or from firstscotrail.com/club55. Leaflets with full details are available at rail stations.
If you are of pensionable age then the freely available Highland Council travel card (passport photo required) is available from the Council point in Mallaig or Fort William. This gives you free bus travel or discounted rail travel, and for locals in this area, free CalMac travel. Please check for full details at your local Council Point, ring 0870 428 6947 or go to www.highland.gov.uk
Aged under 60? Then there are several discounted cards available for a fee from First ScotRail. The most popular is probably the Highland Rail Card. Available from Rail Stations for a fee of £7.50 annually (proof of identity and utility bills required), this gives you discounted travel regardless of age, i.e. Mallaig to Glasgow return now is £24.75, but with a yearly rail card it's £15.70. so you save even with your first journey. If travelling to Fort William, the cost without a rail card is £7.65 return, but with one the cost comes down to £5.80. these prices are the same discount as the Council travel card, so you do not need to purchase a Highland Rail Card if you hold a Council card because of age. It still represents great value though. To be able to the journey to Fort William and back for less than £6 has to still be a bargain!
There are other discount cards available, i.e. young person's railcard, discounted sleeper fares etc. Just think ahead and discuss all options at your nearest staffed railway station, One journey you may want to make is to 'Model Rail Scotland'. Held at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, Glasgow on Friday 20th through to Sunday 22nd February, this has to be the model rail event of the year. From Mallaig you can travel to the SECC by changing at Dalmuir or Dunbarton and getting a direct train to the SECC through Glasgow Central Low Level. Ask for advice at your local staffed station.
Next month I will be running a competition for a family pass to the event, and giving more detail, but if you want to know more in advance, give me a call on 01687 462189.
See you on the train.
Sonia Cameron
The article about Gerald Rivett of Spean Bridge seeing himself as a boy on the cover of the book Along Lost Lines, printed in West Word in October 2008, was taken up this month by the Press & Journal and the Daily Mail.

Things have been a bit hectic with the Mallaig Oral History Project team, and so we thought we'd give you a little taster of a few edited bits of an interview which we did as a 'practice' in June last year, when Professor Paul Thompson came up to Mallaig to do some training with us in how to conduct an oral history interview. After a bit of persuasion, Moe Mathieson kindly agreed to be the interviewee, and Paul did an interview with him, with some of the rest of us joining in. I thought this might give a bit of a flavour of the type of thing we are trying to do, and many thanks to Moe for letting us use this clip…
Paul Thompson: [laugh] "So how did you feel yourself about going offshore after being an inshore fisherman?
Moe Mathieson: Well, you just had to follow the fish, basically. Which the boats did before us. Basically, it's just follow the fish. At the end we were basically doing that work ourselves. We started off we were mainly west coast, we ended up doing North Sea as well, which we never done until we got the purse net.
Paul Thompson: So then you were away from home much more?
Moe Mathieson: Yes [laugh] A hell of a lot more. You were away for up to three weeks at a time, at home for three days, and then away again for three weeks. So you hadn't seen much of the village and you lost a lot of contact with people.
Paul Thompson: How did you feel about that?
Moe Mathieson: You just had to do it. Sink or swim. You only get a share of the catch, you're not getting paid, you know, week in, week out. You've just got to suffer the consequences and get on with it.
Paul Thompson: What do you think is the best thing about being a fisherman?
Moe Mathieson: …. to be a fisherman you've got to get excitement or joy out of catching fish, I would say, as well as you put up with the good or the bad. Because, you know, getting a big, big haul of fish, it's ... there's nothing better. As long as you don't burst and lose the ... But taking a big haul alongside, there's nothing better than that.
Moe Mathieson: … [but] on the longer trips you did get more and more bored because there was nothing to do. Specially if you were steaming just non-stop for two days. Without stopping, travel from here to Norway or something like that. Or to Denmark.
Paul Thompson: Yeah. And you had children?
Moe Mathieson: I've got four children.
Paul Thompson: Four children… I'm wondering what it's like, being a father, and being away so much. What do you feel about that?
Moe Mathieson: Well, we missed a lot of their growing up, but they don't seem to have suffered in any shape or form. I mean there were generations before us, they were away for a whole year, sometimes they weren't even home at Christmas, which is something we always were. So they're not as bad off as that generation, in that respect.
Paul Thompson: And when you were ashore, what kind of leisure activities did you have?
Moe Mathieson: What, in three days? [laugh] Not a lot. A quick run to Fort William to stock the fridges and everything up before you went away again. That was basically it. … Well, my father, you know, when I was desperate to go to sea, from school, because Molly Grigor was wanting me to go through to Inverness and do engineering [laughing] and I wasn't for it at all, my heart was set on going to sea, because the rest of the family were there
Paul Thompson: Yeah
Jill de Fresnes: But was there that sense of the ringnet fishing being a real kind of fishing as opposed to just sitting on a drift net, fishermen I've spoken to in the past have said it was a real sort of hunting…
Moe Mathieson: Yeah
Robert Macmillan: They didn't have all the mod cons that today's ships have.
Moe Mathieson: Once [the net] came up you got a buzz. Like a drug. But, I went to Norway with a boat load of fish, expecting to make a lot of money.. It got chucked - the whole lot went for fishmeal. From about eight hundred pound a ton we got forty or fifty pound a ton. So that's a downer.
Robert Macmillan: Did you serve the Klondykers here? You would have.
Moe Mathieson: Yeah.
Robert Macmillan: That was the boom time, really. It really was the Klondyke. Everybody, was making money. You know, a guy wanting to work on the Klondykers as a casual labourer, right through to the fishermen, to the buyers. It was probably the best time, because everybody really was making money and people were happy.
Moe Mathieson: And there was no quotas then.
Robert Macmillan: That's true.
Moe Mathieson: There was no quotas to worry about.
Robert Macmillan: They were just amazing times….. So, all of my, the people in my class in school all really wanted to do was to go to sea. And the boys because their mothers, their fathers - but it was also the fact that you could make a lot of money. You could have a car within a month or two. It really was a good way of life, they thought, because obviously it was a case of making quite a lot of money. and it was something you could do on your doorstep, it was no hassle." …….
If you want to get involved as an interviewee, or volunteer to undertake interviews - we have equipment which can be used, and would be delighted to hear from you.
If you want more information about the project - please visit our website www.mallaigoralhistory.org.uk or phone 01687 462085.
Jill and Bridget

...And We Never Even Made Sourlies... by Sarah Nelson
In October 2008 we published the article 'Catalogue of errors at Oban Bothy' by Sarah, which was much enjoyed by many readers. Here is a second piece by the intrepid hiker!
For years I'd been fired by romantic ambition to reach Sourlies bothy by boat along Loch Nevis, taste tangy salt breezes, collect mussels, explore the sad depopulated Carnoch ruins, gaze on majestic mighty Ben Aden and stroll back over the sunny Knoydart passes to Inverie. Having previously turned a wilderness trip to Oban bothy into total catastrophe (Mountain Bothies Assn Newsletter autumn 2005 and West Word October 2008)) I felt very confident of success. Painting a glamorous picture of the whole thing I inveigled expert mountaineering companion Sue Robertson into coming. We arranged to hire a boat (pricey for 2, better for 6). The first disaster was the weather. May is usually the most reliable Highland month, but in 2007 it was terrible. Trudging into Inverie through wind and rain after a luxurious night at the Old Byre (much-recommended for reviving exhausted bothiers) we thought if conditions were difficult we could camp at the Carnoch ruins instead of bothying, saving a few miles of difficult terrain and changing tides. We'd taken a small tent as a fallback, since Sourlies is often full.
As we gazed nervously from Inverie's famed Old Forge pub (langoustines served here) at the crashing storm-whipped waves of Loch Nevis, the door burst open and the lithe figure of Mark the boatman stood shaking off the raindrops. "Sure you still want to go to Camusrory? Should I put a drysuit on and swim out to fetch the boat?"
Swim out, we thought? Why on earth would he need to swim? Sudden, shocked silence gripped the noisy hostelry. All faces turned for a last poignant look at two clearly insane women as Mark dived into the foaming swell. Heaving the heavy rucksacks and tent, we headed for the pier and the distant figure climbing into a long black and orange rubbery object.
This was not my understanding of anything resembling a boat. When booking, I had no idea a "Rib" was a sleek inflatable with absolutely nothing between our seats and overboard except a metal handrail in front of us to grasp. "This could be a bit uncomfortable" warned our cheerful leader, expertly steering us towards the open loch.
BANG. BANG. BANG we bounced for 20 minutes of high-speed violence (boats take an hour and a half.) Imagine a bucking bronco or pneumatic drill on concrete in the midst of ferocious seas - it was something like that. I cried, yelled prayers, stared white-knuckled at the floor and waited for death while Sue and Mark nauseatingly enthused how exhilarating it was, and admired Cameron Mackintosh's new luxury building on shore. Finally the high stanchions of the decrepit-looking wooden pier near Camusrory loomed above us. "Unfortunately the spring tides have left us very low" observed Mark, thoughtfully.
Low? A vast, vertical ladder stretched upwards into infinity, like Jack and the Beanstalk. Slippery slime covered the rungs. I was to go first. This was a truly terrible experience, on a par with the worst commando course John Ridgeway could devise, or one of those sadistic Japanese TV game shows. Heaving ourselves over somehow onto the pier, we then had to descend a second, less steep slippery ladder and lean outwards to grasp the big rucksacks from Mark, who was bouncing calmly up and down in the swaying craft. We imagined dropping all the food and shelter we possessed into the boiling foam. Then with a cheerful wave, he was gone. It was extraordinary to be still alive. Being close to heart failure, we took the soft option of Carnoch round the corner on the left: Sourlies was hidden across the flats, though the stark silhouetted ruin of Finiskaig lent sadness to the distant view. At least mighty Ben Aden and Sgurr na Ciche were breathtaking. The big white house of Camusrory stood shuttered nearby but we passed beside the former outdoor centre, with whirring generators, logs recently piled and cut: what are all these buildings used for now? If rarely, what criminal waste is this?
Round the bend and up along more wet grass appeared the meandering river Carnoch, its ever-shakier footbridge, the flats and in the near-distance that long dark line of roofless, blank-windowed cottages. Thin hazy drizzle descended, the long grass grew wetter, and the longed-for romantic view turned to dank and depressing dreariness.
Sue expertly laid the new, suspiciously-thin tent near the scant shelter of a ruined wall. These were, presumably, the same cottages which made eminent mountaineers AE Robertson, Mirylees and Moncrieff shudder in 1895 on reaching Carnoch:
"They were dirty, damp and badly thatched. 'I'm not going to sleep there', said Miryless emphatically. However, any port in a storm, so I knocked at the door of one. Imagine our surprise when out stepped a Highlander in full costume. Kilts, cap, shoes and even a dirk. We told him our tale. One or two other men emerged from peat-smoked dwellings and a prolonged dispute arose among them in Gaelic. At last one- the keeper at Carnoch - came forward and bid us welcome. 'I have only one bed and there are three of you, but you will have to make the best of it!'"
The night was another terrible experience. Never forsake a bothy however humble for wild camping in rain by two people in a very small tent.
There are no shelves to put anything on, no flat surface to eat your dinner on as you huddle from the downpour inside the shell of a ruined chimney alcove, no dry floors to walk on as the soaked high grass permeates everything below the knee. And bothy roofs don't normally sink.
After we crawled into our tiny space at the indecently early hour of 8 PM, having lost the will to live it up, slowly my cramped and untried tent began to sag. Millimetre by millimetre, the roof lowered like a lazy spider till it brushed our eyebrows. By flattening ourselves face down, we could each just read a slim paperback. Fortunately we don't argue much.
All night, racing winds whipped the thin walls into a noisy frenzy. Then the lightly drumming raindrops found a tiny gap just above Sue's head where the door zip didn't quite join, and dropped gently on her nose till dawn. By some baffling miracle we managed to sleep for several hours.
In the morning Ben Aden reared dauntingly across the flats, but a blanket of dank mist had lowered like a stage curtain before the steep 1500-foot rise to our bealach. Some vulture had taken huge pecks out of my butter hidden in an alcove on the ruin. After a breakfast of rainy porridge we struggled to pack the sodden gear. The famed zigzag uphill track would have been a comfort - had we been able to ford the roaring spate and reach it. As we staggered up relentless soaking grass, glancing enviously at the nearby path, the tent Sue had valiantly shouldered turned into a ton weight of soggy cement. Muttering, she slowly compressed downwards like an accordion.
Fierce storms, hail and driving rain reached their zenith as we crossed the bealach and battered along the Glenn Mheadhail track - endlessly bleak at its eastern end - in the teeth of the gale. Stopping for lunch became a mighty feat, clinging with arms outstretched to a huge boulder, slamming sandwiches against the rock and trying to meet them with our teeth.
Sodden, we passed the renovated Druim Bothy (cosy but you need to book) near the memorial outside Inverie, in much greener more beautiful country, sparkling raindrops glistening on the rowans. We were assailed by four very kind gents inside and put by the stove with coffee. They said they had been in the MBA since 1967, but we never found out who they were. Back at the luxurious Old Byre's living room we had to clamber over 28 guys from an Edinburgh pub who had taken up residence: they told me Aberdeen had just beaten Rangers and qualified for Europe, which is after all what matters in life.
So. Yet another wilderness idyll dissolved into catastrophe. I had subjected the appallingly patient Sue Robertson to yet another appalling ordeal in the hills. Please don't let any of this put you off that corner of Knoydart. They say it's magical - normally!

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
A Look Back at 2008

In January 2008 we reviewed the West Word articles of 2007 and were looking forward to Marshall MacLeod visiting Eigg in 2008. We haven't had any more word so, we are wondering, did he arrive? We also noted the visit of John and Jana Cameron, Australia, who were here in July 2007. A recent email from them confirmed that they are coming back this year, possibly to take in the 2009 International Clan Cameron Gathering at Achnacarry in the days following our own Arisaig Games and, hopefully, to attend our games too. In 2007 Jana was a banner bearer in the procession through the village and at the games field and perhaps, may do us the honour again this year when they visit in July.
February was a genealogy from Mairi Watson of Christchurch, New Zealand about her ancestor, Allan MacPherson of Tarbert Inn, Caolais, North Morar. This was in response to an earlier article I had written on his namesake, also Allan MacPherson. Mairi's genealogy raised a whole new set of questions about my g. grandfather's sister, Ann MacDonald, who was married to an Allan MacPherson from Tarbert. Allan, Ann's husband, turned out to be the uncle of Mairi's ancestor.
In February, also, there was an enquiry from John Gillies, in the Wirral, a descendant of Angus Gillies, b. 1811. He was the son of Angus & Elizabeth ca. 1780. Alas, no match could be found locally as, Angus (1811) had moved to Glasgow while still young.
March saw answers to Mairi Watson's questions. Her g.g. uncle Allan had been married to my g. aunt, Ann MacDonald from Back of Keppoch. Allan had emigrated to New Zealand where lived to a ripe old age. For some reason unbeknown to us, Ann remained here and died in her old home, Tigh na Mara, Back of Keppoch, aged 39 years. The younger generations of the New Zealand family had no knowledge that Allan had ever been married.
April saw an article on Sandy "Lamont" MacEachen, Polinden and his wife, Mary Crilly whose daughter, Mary married Iain Kennedy, Lochyside and whose son Charles is M.P for Nairn, East Inverness and Lochaber. We also looked at the MacEacherns of Kinsaddle who were, historically, heredity horse lords and armourers to Clanranald .
May was the turn of the MacKinnons of Rhu. Their connection to David Livingstone, the 18th century minister and explorer was through Angus MacKinnon, b. ca. 1765, on Coll, who married David Livingstone's sister, Mary. We also looked at the connection of the MacKinnons to the Bracara and Mallaig MacDougalls.
June was about Katie Ann MacDonald, Bourblach, prompted by a photo' of her which appeared in MEM Donaldson's book "Herself". For some reason, her photo', without a caption, was used in an advertisement for climbing.
July was a compilation of original croft tenancies in Morar, from Beoraid to Bourblach and a misunderstanding on my part, of the continuity of the tenancy of Ach a' Luin Beag through the original Cameron family. However, additional information from other Cameron families of Mallaig Bheag provided more information. This was resolved in the September and October issues and whilst, at the outset in July, I had no intention of researching the Cameron family, we had a very pleasant outcome inasmuch as we got back to about 1760.
August. No article due to Arisaig Games commitments.
November. No article as I was researching the MacIntosh priesthood for the December article about Bishop Anthony Toal who was ordained Oban on the eighth of December.

Notes for your diary. The Year of Homecoming 2009. Arisaig Highland Games and Clanranald Gathering will take place on 29th July 2008 at Traigh Farm. The Chief of the Games will be Ranald Macdonald, 24th Captain and Chief of Clanranald accompanied by his household which will include old friends and Clan Donald stalwarts, Lt. Col. Ruaridh Allen and his wife Diane, both Clan Donald Commisioners, from North Carolina. We are also very much looking forward to welcoming another old friend, Bhal Smith, President of Clan Cameron, Australia, NSW.and her cousin, Judith. Bhal is accompanying a contingent of Camerons from Australia and New Zealand to the Clan Cameron Gathering at Achnacarry from 30th July - 2nd August. She plans to "bus in" a party of some forty Camerons to Arisaig Games on the 29th July. Truly, something to look forward to. No doubt the pipes will be sounding "deep o'er mountain and glen" to "The March of the Cameron Men".

March Of The Cameron Men
There's many a man of the Cameron clan
That has followed his chief to the field
He has sworn to support him or die by his side
For a Cameron never can yield.
I hear the pibroch sounding, sounding
Deep o'er the mountain and glen
While light springing footsteps
Are trampling the heath
'Tis the march of the Cameron men.
'Tis the march, 'tis the march
'Tis the march of the Cameron men.
Oh, proudly they walk, but each Cameron knows
He may tread on the heather no more
But boldly he follows his chief to the field
Where his laurels were gathered before.
The moon has arisen, it shines on the path
Now trod by the gallant and true
High, high are their hopes, for their chieftain has said
That whatever men dare, they can do.

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