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

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January 2010 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Canna, Muck, Eigg, Glenfinnan, Arisaig
Birdwatch - West Word ten years ago
Local Genealogy & History

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Isle of Muck islanders had an early Christmas present when they learned that they had been awarded £338,042 from the BIG Lottery towards their dream of a Community Hall for the island. The award comes nearly three years after fund raising was started by the islanders with a donation of £200 raised by Muck Primary School. To date the community has raised over £15,000 itself through fund raising events and donations, an achievement made all the more impressive because the population only numbers 39, 15 of whom are children. They received their first major boost in September last year when they were awarded £278,080 from the Scottish Rural Development Fund (SRDP) - Rural Priorities.
'We are delighted to get this far,' said spokeswoman Judy Taylor, 'and thank everyone who has helped us so far. We still have £20,000 to find so that we can achieve our dream of a Community Hall for the Island so the hard work isn't finished yet. We look forward to welcoming all our supporters to the opening ceilidh!'

On 3rd May 1746, just over two weeks after the Battle of Culloden, a sea battle took place in Loch nan Uamh close to the site where Bonnie Prince Charlie had landed some nine months previously. Two French warships, La Bellone and Le Mars, sailed into the loch carrying gold, brandy and gunpowder for the Jacobite supporters, 400 of whom, mostly Clanranald MacDonalds, waited in the surrounding hills.
Three English sloops, smaller vessels, sailed into the mouth of the Loch and engaged the French ships in battle. After hours of exchanging cannon and musket shot, with many casualties on both sides, the English ships retreated. Meanwhile the Jacobites on land had carried on unloading the cargo in spite of cannon fire.

This momentous battle has now been commemorated in a plaque, largely due to the efforts of Councillor Bill Clark (above) in conjunction with Arisaig & District Community Council. The plaque, designed by Fort William artist Felicity Nightingale, was put in place in the layby near the Prince's Cairn just before Christmas.
There had been a brass plaque in the same place for a number of years, commemorating the spot where Prince Charlie landed and also where he left British soil for the last time. It gave the bare facts and had become badly vandalised, finally disappearing altogether. Members of Arisaig & District Community Council, who are planning a village map, asked Councillors Clark, Henderson and Hunter if it would be possible to renew the plaque. Launching into the project with enthusiasm, Mr Clark undertook the organisation of research into the event and the artwork for it. The Community Council approved the final wording, which is in English and Gaelic.

photo The new vandal proof sign, made of glass fibre, has cost £1746.28, a sum fully covered by money from the Councillors' discretionary budgets. At present, it has been taken away to be made even more vandal proof, but it will soon be back on the original stone plinth in the A830 layby at the Prince's Cairn on Loch nan Uamh. There is a cannonball, found on the shores of the loch and purported to be from the battle, on display in the Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig.

Left: Approving the plaque are Highland and Community Councillors (l to r): Councillor Allan Henderson, Maureen McColl, Councillor Eddie Hunter, Angela Hardman, Gerard MacDonald, Lesley Benfield and Councillor Bill Clark.

Our corner of North West Lochaber has fared better than most areas in the British Isles but even so we've had The Big Freeze and snow which has lain for weeks. Pictured here is a waterfall on the Muidhe, beside the A830.


Happy New Year
By the time you read this the year will have ended with the customary bang. The pub is providing music on Hogmanay and New Year's Day while the Village Hall is the setting for a dancers disco: strobe lights, smoke machine, music chosen by the dancers. Hope all went well and the headaches aren't too bad.
December is always a bit of a strange month. Everybody is making plans and gearing themselves up for the Festive season but normal workaday life has to continue. The foresters, apart from Calum, have been working on the roads and clearing the site for Ian and Jackie's new house. Calum, in between the odd bit of snowboarding, has been finishing his Olympic standard bike track in the woods. This had to be done before the New Year as Calum is off to travel the world. Everybody's best wishes go with him. The builders have been working in Mallaig and Morar a fair bit, and doing some of the odd jobs round the peninsula. Kilchoan have been doing the deer and cattle thing, one of the bullocks departing this earth. The pub is doing a fine trade in Sunday Lunches although in general is quite quiet until the Hogmanay celebrations. Nathaniel the Aussie barman has used the time to good effect managing to turn all the young dogs who frequent the establishment into ice-cube addicts. At the Foundation office much time has been taken to smooth out any difficulties with the plans for the new houses and make sure that all the finances are in place. The first of these builds is scheduled for March and everything looks good at the moment. The Renewables company has had a busy month with John and Kevin over to help Jim and Willie (and a host of others) with a transformer replacement. This meant that the power was off at one end of the bay for two days and that the school had an enforced holiday. New year traditionally means a power failure. The long cold spell means ice at the dam and a reducing water level both of these could help maintain the tradition so there is a rota in place to try to keep problems to a minimum. The cold also brings water supply issues. Sam Firth and her visiting sister Claudia were digging in a supply the other day while Toby was dealing with the intake and then a leak at the other end of the village. The other major problem of the month was the phones continually going off. Alec the engineer must think this place is hell on earth and much thanks goes to him for getting to the bottom of the problem.
Also in December: Aaran finished her stint as temporary Head at the school and the children seem none the worse for it. John Sellars took delivery of another boat. Jim Manthorpe pole danced in a scouts uniform in The Gondolier in Fort Augustus, surely the highlight of Claire and his respective stag and hen do's. There were mysterious lights spotted above Druim Bothy. And Lorna as well as Chic and Joanne took delivery of new sofas.
The Ladies Lunch at the Pottery passed off without much incident although Jan Marriot did have a revelation during the course of the quiz. Some of the other Christmas parties didn't seem to happen. I have been told that I have to put on record that the next goal the winner rule cuts no ice over here. Therefore the Knoydart builders ran out comfortable winners of the challenge football match held in Mallaig before their Christmas do. A last minute transfer of Jamie Leeks definitely helped and we would all like to congratulate both Jamie and Lillian on their new arrival. Congratulation also go to Pitt and Eilidh and Roger and Anne for becoming grandparents again.
Christmas in Knoydart brought Lara, Stephanie, Asher and Koa back (Asher sporting commented upon facial hair) back. We also had the welcome addition this year of a round of Carol singers. Thanks to Piers, Sam, Jasmine, Jane and Gwen for that. The school play passed off with the usual hilarity; Euan being so desperate to attend that he came round from Doune by boat as the road was too iced over to travel on. And the Carol Service on Christmas Eve was as well attended as ever.
The first half of the festivities was brought to a close with Jacqui's party on Boxing Day which is becoming a tradition in itself. So new jumpers and socks on we're ready to face the new year. Best wishes to all our friends on the mainland and on the isles, cheers
Davie Newton

The last few days of the 'noughties' saw more than the one big birthday to celebrate on Canna. Johnny SP turned 8 and regular island visitor David Bevan turned considerably more. The prize for the most imaginative cake definitely went to Johnny who enjoyed a scaled down edible 'Titanic'. It went down very quickly.
Another imaginative creation was the joint Canna/Rum school concert. The Stephen Spielberg of the production was Stuart who was a star throughout. He pushed the technological boundaries to their limits (and beyond?). After the show we all beamed with pride at the children's performances. The event was marred by two rapscallions on Canna vandalising the cotton wool sheep half way through. I blame the parents myself. However we all left with a happy Glow in our hearts (or was that the fizzy lemonade?)
We are looking forward to the new decade with optimism. The big news is that we now have two new residents taking on the challenge of running the islands café/restaurant. Amanda and Aart were selected from a shortlist of 4 after a rigorous interview process (or should we say endurance test) led by our Community Association. They are moving here from Kingairloch and will have taken up residence in New House by the time you read this. There will then be ample time to get the café organised ready for opening as soon as the season kicks off this spring. We all wish them great success in their venture - and we are especially looking forward to the Sunday lunches and the residents "preview night".
Everyone on Canna should be looking forward with great optimism to 2010, new business, fresh people and the days getting longer at last. First all we need to do is get those Christmas bills paid for - now there are some letters I would not mind getting lost on the way…. Bliadhna mhath ur dhuibh.
Neil Baker

Another year is upon us and the Christmas holidays almost over. These holidays were memorable this year for four totally unrelated events.
First the weather - day after day of frost and sunshine. It is great when the mud which afflicts us for most of every winter turns to rock and one can drive anywhere on the island without making a mark!
Then there was the singing by the school children at the Christmas play and the carol service which followed it next morning. Some say that anyone can sing in tune if caught early enough and Patrick Murphy and his all male choir certainly proved them right. Singing was tuneful and enthusiastic! Well done, Pat!
Just before Christmas we had long awaited news from the lottery. They have awarded Muck the other half of the money needed to complete the Community Hall. It does appear to be a very large sum for what is going to be quite a modest building but it does cost a lot more to build on the islands and a public hall attracts a mass of extra regulation that a private house would avoid. The lottery were very complimentary about the quality of the application. Well done the Committee!!
Lastly Colin and Ruth have announced their engagement. I need hardly say it but Jenny and I and everyone else on the island are totally delighted. Well done Colin!!
On the farm our new Simmental bull is here and enjoying the comfort and warmth of a pen in the byre. Next door our small sow produced 13 mainly coloured piglets on New Year's Day. Three years out of the last four we have had piglets born on the 1st January.
Lawrence MacEwen

December has been all but a quiet month for Eigg Primary School, with intense rehearsal for the Xmas panto, contemporary dance workshops with Will Thorburn and preparation for the forest school open day to show parents this exciting and innovative way to teach using nature's props. All this whilst children sneezed and coughed through the usual seasonal bugs! But the results were worth every effort as the production of Jack and the Beanstalk on Friday 18th December with Megan in the star role was a roaring success and judged to be the best kids' panto ever on Eigg!
From then the festive spirit took over the island, with the community Xmas dinner at the hall on Sunday 20th followed by the return of many family members and Santa's visit on the 23 rd and the now traditional Carol service at St Donnan's on Christmas Eve. With icy roads, travelling about was much more difficult, but gritting allowed the sturdiest vehicles to tackle the island's braes, whilst the thick ice on our lochans provided much fun to the younger members of the community. The downside of this of course is that a few households are now deprived of running water. Such weather has not been seen for a while. Certainly it was a bit of contrast for Greg Carr who came back from Vietnam to spend the festive season at home, but he is enjoying it!
The month ended in style with Eddie Scott's 60th birthday on the 28th, with a surprise party organised by Lucy who managed to cook tons of food without arousing her husband's suspicions! Most of the island was present with a few more friends from afar, and we all enjoyed Marie and Angus's enthusiastic button box duo. The Cormack brothers also provided another of their quirky birthday songs that they seem to specialize in these days: will Eddie 's new nickname of "spoon criminal" stick we wonder? Meanwhile, the customary Eigg scrabble championship was won by John Cormack this year.
So, with another eventful island year drawing to a close, there is much to reflect on and celebrate, particularly the Big Green Challenge which has brought everyone together in one mighty community effort, We hope that we will be among the winners of the Challenge of course but in the meantime, we are hoping that our application to the Climate Change fund will allow us to retain our green project officers to continue in our direction no matter what happens. Eigg Island Going Green isn't just for Christmas! The end of the year has also seen some very good prices for the island cattle and sheep , and this is encouraging too. Long may it continue... So from Eigg to every community in the Small Isles and West Lochaber, and to our West Word team, Bliadhna Math Ùr!
Camille Dressler

Nineteen hardy swimmers took part in the annual New Year Day dip in Loch Shiel, braving waters of 3degrees C - actually 5 degrees warmer than the air onshore!

The festive period went off very well, although everyone is saying how quiet it was. The weather has been beautiful if freezing, excellent for wrapping up well and going for a snowy walk. Not that I did. I hibernated.
Quite a contrast to ten years ago when we were all celebrating the Millennium. Delays to the renovation to the Astley Hall unfortunately meant it was a building site, but we managed a great New Year for all that. Dancing in the street under the Christmas tree lights, with soup and sandwiches from the café, fireworks and a bonfire. That was the first time the tree was erected on that site - well, apart from a short lived attempt some years earlier when gales used to blow all winter - and a tree has been erected every year since.
Before Christmas there was the usual whirl of parties for the children - Playgroup, After School Group, School, Youth Club?. In between Christmas and New Year we held the traditional village children's party in the Hall, and that was very quiet indeed. Gone are the days when there were 70 children under the age of 12, gone too are the days when locals' now distant grown up children brought their own offspring, so Grannie and Auntie and Mum and Dad came too. There were 44 children catered for, and half that turned up, with a scattering of parents. There was quite a lot left over from the splendid tea prepared by Daphne and Jacquie. We wonder what to do... New residents won't see the party as the tradition it has been; there is so much on for children these days too, not like so many years ago when the party was the only event for them. We'll have to have a think about what we do next year - sorry, this year! - so if anyone has any ideas, please talk to me.
The Hall has been warm and cosy anyway, thanks to the heating coming on automatically when a certain low temperature is reached. We'll worry about the fuel bill later!
It looks like being an interesting year for the Community Trust, there will be plenty of community involvement for those who want a say in the way we go forward. There are some interesting new ideas for the Land, Sea & Islands Centre too.
Happy New Year to everyone.
Ann (Martin) Lamont

Pictured here is the Caralisa OB959 landing herring at Mallaig last month. The herring was sold as bait to Kyle and local creel men. The Caralisa and the Margaret Ann OB198 also landed some sprats at the port prior to Christmas.
The Caralisa was featured in the Fishing News and the Sunday Post via the catching of a 'pistol shrimp':


'An unusual pistol shrimp that stuns its prey by emitting a high velocity blast that can reach 100km/hour was caught by Mallaig skipper Willie John McLean and the crew of the Mallaig trawler Caralisa recently while fishing of the north end of Skye.
'While working at the tailing table, Caralisa's crew were alerted to the presence of the pistol shrimp by a repeated loud sound similar to that associated with a gunshot.
'Tracing the loud crack led the crew to see that it was being emitted from what at first appeared to be a small prawn with a body length of 3.8cm.
'Closer examination revealed a pistol shrimp, and in particular its unusual looking claw, to be the source of the noise, which could be heard clearly above the sound of the trawler's engine, hydraulics and deck hose.
'Pistol shrimps compete with much larger animals, like the sperm and beluga whales, for the title of the loudest animal in the sea.
'The shrimp snaps a specialised claw shut to create a cavitation bubble that generates acoustic pressures of up to 80kPa at a distance of 4cm from the claw. Strong enough to kill small fish, the abrupt change of pressure levels is capable of generating sound levels between 185 and 190dB that last for less than one millisecond.
'Reporting the unusual pistol shrimp, which provides the latest in a rapidly growing list of unexpected catches that add credence to the concept of significant environmental change, Willie John urged fishermen to keep a watchful eye out for anything out of the ordinary which might easily be discarded over the side without being noticed.
'Hundreds of species of pistol shrimp are found in tropical waters around the world. Very occasionally caught of south west England, they are usually found in sub-tropical waters which are considerably warmer than those of the North Minch in November.'
(Fishing News).

In 2008, the Daily Mail reported that two pistol shrimps had been caught in British water - off Cornwall. They were sold to an aquarium and staff had to separate them to stop them stunning each other!


photo photo
Ian Macniven of Arisaig is pictured above left. Wife Grace says 'Why did we come back from Sydney? We were so tired of bright blue skies and sunshine - not! November West Word enjoyed its trip so much it stayed. Iain can be seen reading it beside the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge behind, then Stephanie Bridge (also of Arisaig but currently in Australia) was really pleased to be given it.'

photo photo
Above left: Ross Martin, Arisaig, on another tour of the US, read his copy aboard the Nantucket, the ferry from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Whaling islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
Above right: Pardon me boy! This must be Track 29!! On a recent holiday to Atlanta, Georgia, USA to visit Mary's daughter, Celia and her family - Mary and Ginny Ritchie and Mary's grand-daughter, Freya are pictured beside the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga, Tennessee.

photo photo

Well, what can we say! Mallaig Primary School staff forgot to take a copy
on their staff trip to Glasgow - so they made one!
We're told the headline was appropriate!!

The Editor writes: 'Out of all the features we have in the paper, Wide World West Word gives me a huge amount of pleasure; I think it's great that people have entered into the spirit of it and I know readers are enjoying it too. It started in November 2008, with Fiona and Vicky reading their copy in Tenerife; since then we've had photos from Australia, Florida, New York (2), Victoria in Canada, Gracelands, Philadelphia, Cyprus, Switzerland, New Zealand, Austria, Copenhagen, Turkey (3), Genoa, Valencia, Greenland, Croatia, Macchuu Pichu in Peru, France, Ontario, an oil rig off Azerbaijan, the Alps, the Ukraine, India, Berlin, Niagara, Calcutta, Tunisia, John O' Groats and - Bracara (just to prove you don't have to go far!). This month we add Sydney, Cape Cod, Glasgow and Chattanooga! Brilliant!! 'Where will you read yours?'

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly quiet month bird wise, although colder weather from mid-month caused some bird movement. Flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings seemed to appear again with many seen foraging on the remaining holly and hawthorn berries, feeding in open fields around Traigh and Back of Keppoch, and even in gardens where suitable food had been provided. Woodcock sightings increased in the Morar and Arisaig areas and Snipe were seen out in the open around the ice-free margins of Loch Morar and at Traigh. Few other waders to report although these were regular sightings of Redshank from Loch nan Ceall, Traigh and the Morar Estuary along with a few Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Curlew. In the third week of the month, the small Lapwing flock at Back of Keppoch was joined by at least 2 Golden Plover.
On the 6th the first Glaucous Gull reported this winter was seen in Mallaig, where it joined the juvenile Iceland Gull which had been present since the previous month. A single male Blackcap seen eating apple at Rhubana View, Morar, on the 3rd was the only report so far this winter. A Water Rail seen crossing the road at Fank Brae, Mallaig, on 5th was an unusual sighting.
Some quite large flocks of Redpolls were seen again this month, mainly from Arisaig and Morar areas , mostly feeding on Alder and Birch. Some flocks were mixed with Siskins, but a single Siskin feeding at garden feeders in Morar during the first few days of the month was unusual. Barn Owls were seen throughout the month in Mallaig and Tawny Owls could be heard calling most nights around Morar and Arisaig. In Bracara on the 23rd, a Tawny Owl was rescued after it had been found with a wing caught in a barbed wire fence. Although it did not appear to be broken, the wing was badly damaged and the Owl was taken into care by the SSPCA.

West Word ten years ago - January 2000
We'd all been celebrating the Millennium with great style and gusto. 'The whole 48 hours should be bottled and opened as a pick-me-up whenever needed!!' said Sonia Cameron, who had steered the Committee which staged the event in Mallaig. She went on 'As the famous quote about the 60's goes, if you can remember it, you weren't there!'
The Atholl Pipe Band marked the start of celebrations which went on for two days. 1500 people assembled on the pier for the midnight bells, MV Lochmor sounded her whistle, the piper played and the fireworks erupted! Inside the marquee was a bouncy castle and a bucking bronco. Non stop dancing and 2000 balloons were let down from the ceiling.
In Arisaig, delays in the start to the renovation of the Astley Hall meant that the Hall was out of commission, so Allan and Elizabeth opened up their Upstairs Downstairs café for soup and sandwiches and a bonfire and firework display in the car park lit up Angus MacDonald playing the box for a street Strip the Willow, and dancing continued to various taped music. Allan had the idea to ask the roadmen to dig a hole and insert a pipe for a Christmas tree, and this has enabled one to be erected every year since.
Muck had a bonfire and the ceilidh finished at midnight so the islanders could climb the hills to watch firework displays from Mallaig to Mull. On New Year Day, of course, was the traditional hockey match.
Eigg started 'in polite fashion' in the tearoom with music, Donna piped in the New Year, there was a firework display, then a the ceilidh got going in the hall. Bad weather meant visiots were stranded until the 4th, and that's how long the musicians played!
The Vale of Atholl Pope Band visited Inverie on January 1st. As Personal Angle reported: the band marched down from the West Highland Hotel, onto the Bandstand, and after a short recital there they piped and drummed down onto the Loch Mor. On realising they were on the wrong boat, they about turned and drummed and piped their way onto the Western Isles!
The Millennium Bug didn't strike, but lightning did, taking out a number of computers and phones in the Morar/Mallaig area. And so did a sickness bug, said to be from Australia.
The mobile Civic Amenity Skip service started, fortnightly at first.
We reported that 1999 had been the busiest year ever for Mallaig Lifeboat Station with 41 callouts over the year.
Robert MacMillan was calling for help with a series of Millennium scrapbooks, one a month through the year. He said he had done the same in 1989. Did he do one in 2009?
Slipway jetties for Muck and Rum were announced, with first stage contracts being signed.
Arisaig had several Millennium projects planned. These included the planting of 1000 daffodil bulbs and 1000 tulip bulbs, and improvements to the cemetery - a deer fence, improved paths, with plans for a hand rail for the paths and stock proof fence and gates
We featured the very first Backward Glance, a reminiscent article by Gordon MacLennan. The series has continued periodically since then with various contributors - we haven't had one for a while! (hint hint)
The issue was 32 pages and 75 pence - hardly any photos compared to issues these days - reasonably priced digital cameras had only been available for a few years and not many people had one!

In November's West Word, Vanessa Senior of Knaresborough asked for information about her grandfather, a railway worker who died at Kinlochailort on 7 October 1898. Since then I happened to be consulting old copies of the Oban Times for the previous year and was surprised to find how common death was on the Mallaig Railway Works. There was indeed a camp at Kinlochailort, on the opposite shore from Inverailort House. Mr and Mrs Head no doubt spent more time than usual in their Kensington town house while construction was going on. Christian Cameron (who changed her name to Cameron-Head) did not include the camp among her local photographs which were recently put into book form by Iain Thornber. The following newspaper extracts, starting on 20 March 1897, require no comment.
The West Highland Railway (Mallaig Extension) worked by Messrs. MacAlpine & Sons, contractors, is progressing favourably considering the disadvantage incurred for labourers by scarcity of commodious dewelling-places. Through time this want will be provided for, as suitable huts are being erected at different parts for the convenience of the workmen. Three steamers have discharged cargoes for the construction of the railway at Loch Ailort, where for a distance of ten miles heavy cuttings and a few tunnels have to be encountered, mostly rock. A store has been erected at Camusdrisach near Kinlochailort, where provisions can be bought as cheap as in Glasgow.
March 27. On Friday as the mail coach which runs between Fort William and Arisaig was proceeding along the public road, the driver noticed what he took to be a man asleep at the road side. Inspector Chisholm Fort William, who happened to be on the coach, got down to make an examination and found that the man was dead. The remains which were afterwards identified as those of George Murdoch, belonging to Cumberland, were conveyed to Fort William and interred in the Craigs burying-ground. From enquiries made it appears that the deceased had come from Foyers in quest of work at the Mallaig Railway but, on account of his advanced age, this had been refused him. Death resulted from exposure.
A shocking accident occurred on the Banavie branch of the West Highland Railway late last Saturday night. As the night passenger train was returning to Fort William, and when in the neighbourhood of old Inverlochy Castle, the driver felt a jerk as if the train had passed over something. A search party returned to the spot, where the mutilated body of a man was found close to the rails. On being removed to the Belford Hospital it was found that the unfortunate man still lived, but that both of his legs had been amputated, a wrist broken and his head and back lacerated. He lingered on till about midnight, when he succumbed to his injuries never having regained consciousness. Deceased, whose name was John Connolly, belonged to West Calder and had been employed at the Mallaig Railway Works.
24 April. The Mallaig Railway is progressing favourably, especially at Kinlochailort where about two hundred workmen are presently employed. A pier has been erected at Camusdrisach for the convenience of steamers discharging plant for the construction of the line. A good few cuttings have been entered, and a steam borer is at work which should prove of immense value in the case of solid rock. The erection of huts is rapidly pushed forward.
1 May. The body of a man in a decomposed state was taken from the Caledonian Canal at Corpach on Sunday night. The remains have been identified as those of Norman MacDonald who had been employed at the Mallaig Railway Works. Deceased, who was between 40 and 50 years of age, had been missing for about a fortnight.
22 May. Peter Robertson, a navvy lately employed on the Mallaig Railway at Drimsallie [between Glenfinnan and Kinochiel], was tried before Sheriff-Substitute Davidson last week on a charge of having stolen a pair of boots from the dead body of a fellow workman. He was sentenced to 10 days imprisonment, having already been 14 days in custody.
7 August. Duncan Gillies, blacksmith 39 years of age lately employed on the Mallaig Railway, was drowned on Saturday while bathing in Loch Ailort. He had swum out to a rock about 50 yards from the shore and in coming back sank in about nine feet of water. A boat was got and Gillies was taken to the shore without loss of time. Every effort was made to resuscitate the unfortunate man but without avail. Deceased leaves a widow and a large family who reside in Glasgow.
I went to Fort William Library looking for Oban Times items on Eriskay. By coincidence a moving account (on behalf of all widows back home, it might be said) comes from the priest of that island. Here is Father Allan MacDonald in his diary for 27 December 1897: 'Telegram announcing poor Neil Campbell Ru Ban's death on Xmas morning at Arisaig where he went to work at the railway. Death simply from overwork end insufficient food. His large family and his struggle to keep them up broke his heart. He was always so cheerful and industrious, and so pious - a good man who made his soul of it and turned his lot in this world to the best account. When I came to Eriskay first he was the only one who could serve Mass. The poor widow. It was sad breaking the news to her. She has done nothing but faint continuously. Went to see her at night and stayed for a couple of hours. Made her take some soup. I do hope she will recover, poor soul.'
In the 1901 census Jessie Campbell (46) appears as a widow and crofter with seven children at home, the youngest aged six. At the time of her husband's fatal accident consideration had been given to bringing the body back to Eriskay. When Father Allan called the next day to discuss this he found Mrs Campbell 'still utterly prostrate. She didn't speak and seemed hardly conscious.' However the diary has 'Reply to Telegram. Buried to-day. It is as well as it would have been very risky crossing and recrossing the Minch with a small boat in this weather.' No doubt the widow gained consolation from her pious husband being buried in consecrated ground at Arisaig. Others fared worse.
Alasdair Roberts

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
Gillies Gillies. Morar, Arisaig and Nova Scotia.
An indirect enquiry came to me, via Isa Mary MacDonald, née Gillies Kinloid, from her distant cousin, Annette Currie of Nova Scotia. Annette wondered if the name, "Gillies Gillies" which was that of her ancestor, is still in use in Scotland. This Gillies Gillies emigrated to Nova Scotia around 1825 with his wife, Jane Cameron and two children, Duncan and Jane. Jane married Alexander MacDonald, Margaree, and had ten children.
Gillies Gillies married a second time, to Catherine MacLellan, d/o Dhòmhall Mac Aonghais 'ic. Niall, ic Eoghainn,'ic ghille Fhaolain (MacLellan) [reputedly of the Swordland, North Morar, MacLellans] and they had seven children namely; Archie, James, John, Ronald, Margaret, Ann and Mary.
Annette tells us that her father was Archie, son of Gillies Gillies, son of John, son of Gillies Gillies, and then perhaps, an earlier Gillies Gillies.
Unfortunately, John Gillies' family is not recorded in "The History of Inverness County" but Archie, James and Ann, who married a James Gillies, all had sons whose Christian names were "Gillies".
Laggan, Ardnish. In 1841, another Gillies Gillies was living in Laggan with his parents. Alexander, aged eighty years, b. 1762 and Mary, aged sixty years, b. 1782 and Gillies himself is aged forty years, b. 1801. All three were born in the parish of Ardnamurchan. In 1851, Gillies is in Morroch house as a visitor, married, aged sixty? and is an agricultural labourer. In 1861, he is in No 10, Ardnafuaran, aged sixty six, married, a roadman and his place of birth is given as Arisaig. With him is his wife Ann, aged seventy, born in Ardnamurchan and they have a son Angus, aged twenty five, b. 1836 and a daughter, Mary, aged thirty three, b. 1828. There were possibly other children and Angus may have been the youngest as his mother, Ann, would have been about forty five when he was born. St. Mary Register of Baptism didn't start until 1837 and there were no other children registered to them after that date.
In 1871, Gillies is in No 22, Strath, Arisaig, is widowed, aged eighty four and his place of birth is again, Arisaig as is that of his two children. Mary now aged thirty two? and Angus aged thirty? Gillies Gillies' wife, Ann, died at Strath on July 10th 1869 and he himself, died at Strath on 4th August 1880. I did not pursue the two children after 1871 but may do so in the future.
If we make an assumption that Gillies Gillies, Nova Scotia, was aged twenty five when he arrived there, it would give him a birth date of ca. 1795, very close to the birth date of Gillies Gillies, Laggan b. 1801. Question: was Alexander Gillies of Laggan, b. 1762, a brother to the father of Gillies, Nova Scotia, and both children named after a grandfather "Gillies"? Were they all born in Arisaig, although HIC states that the original Gillies Gillies was born in Morar?
Footnote. Catherine ( wife of Gillies Gillies) MacLellan's brother, Donald MacLellan (Dòmhnaill mac Aoghnais 'ic Niall, 'ic Eoghainn) also went to Nova Scotia about the year 1819 and was married to Mary Gillies - nighean Dòmhnaill 'ic Mhartainn. (Mallaig Bheag)
Bliadhna Mhath Ur 's an Nollaig Cridheil
Ailean 's Ealasaid.

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