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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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January 2015 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
THE NEW YEAR DIP
Twenty six intrepid souls braved the cold on January 1st for the 11th annual dip in Loch Shiel, with Duncan Gibson and Morag Hughes leading the way. Participants aged from 6 to 60 came from Morar, Arisaig, Fort William and Glenfinnan in the roughest conditions for 11 years. Food, hot drinks and champagne and a warm by the fire in the Glenfinnan House Hotel followed.
It looks freezing! though we understand the water was 6 degrees.
Photos courtesy of Iain Ferguson, The Write Image.
CASH BOOST FOR MALLAIG POOL
Hard on the heels of the welcome news that their Highland Council grant will not be cut, staff at the Mallaig Swimming Pool had two more reasons to celebrate - a total of £64,000 in additional grant aid to help ensure the future of the facility.
A £30,000 grant as part of the legacy of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games (from the £1 million Legacy 2014 Sustaile Sport for Communities Fund) will improve the Leisure Centre's capacity to develop longer term sustainability, allowing for the manager's post to be increased to full-time to allow the development of community projects and services. The fund is a partnership between the Scottish Government and The Roberton's Trust to carry on the success of the Commonwealth Games last year.
In addition, the Robertson's Trust will provide a grant of £34,500 over three years to allow the Centre to employ a youth development worker.
As an additional boost, Highlands & Islands Enterprise are supporting the Centre to recruit a Graduate Marketing Co-ordinator for a year, to help raise awareness of its services.a None of this will come easy and some hard work is ahead for the staff and Directors of the Mallaig & District Swimming Pool.
Fiona Baker, Acting chair pf the MDSP Board, explained 'As with all public funded organisations, the outcome of the Highland Council budget for the next four years is not cut and dried for Mallaig Pool. Our grant is secure for the next 15 months. After that time, we will have to apply for our funding on a year by year, case by case basis. Our campaign for protected funding has altered the original position of Highland Council, whose intention was to cut our grant. This would have closed the Pool. So all due credit must be given to the community whose indignation was heard loud and clear, but credit also to Budget Leader Maxine Smith who listened to our arguments, and to Local Councillor Alan Henderson who has worked hard to support our case. He has received an assurance, across the chamber, that Mallaig Pool will meet the requirements for full on going funding. This is as far as they can go at this stage, as every single privately run organisation is fighting for survival, if wholly dependent on Council funding, in a very difficult economic climate. There's no putting gloss on the situation. The outcome is mixed. We will have to work harder, but we are still open for the community.
'Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there is good news. As a result of months of hard work, in the past two weeks Mallaig Pool has been awarded a total package of £64,000 in grant aid which is a resounding endorsement from, among others, the Scottish Government. Thanks to the Robertson's Trust and the Legacy 2014 Fund, we've been successful in obtaining funds to enhance the Manager's post to full-time with a change in focus to business development. This is vital if we are to change the business model for the Pool to make it less dependent on public funding. This funding will also create a brand new post, a Youth Programme Leader, who will work with young people under 24 to embrace fitness for life. And finally we have been supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise to recruit a Graduate Marketing Co-ordinator for one year, again in a brand new role, to communicate better, reposition the Pool as a centre for fitness, and to help raise awareness of our services and grow our customer numbers.
'It's been a really busy time up at the Pool but progress is being made. We just need to make more money. There are a number of very committed individuals who tirelessly volunteer. They know who they are, and the community should give a massive, if silent, thanks for their endeavours. The Pool's a great place, with a dedicated staff. In the end it's all about investment in fitness and wellbeing, and Mallaig and the surrounding area would be a much unhealthier place without it.'
Wind speeds which reached 100 mph across the north of Scotland caused havoc on the 9th and 10th January, causing travel disruption and leaving more than seventy thousand homes without power across the country.
The storm caused the suspension of all ScotRail trains on the 10th. Here in North West Lochaber intermittent power cuts culminated in no power from about 3am until 9.30pm on Saturday 10th January but there was little structural damage.
The community pulled together with local Social workers, Mackintosh Centre staff and local volunteers checking on vulnerable people and distributing food and blankets to people in need. More storms and snow are forecast for the coming week.
EXTENDED HOLIDAY FOR PRIMARY PUPILS
Mallaig Primary School re-opened for the new term on the Tuesday 13th January after repairs to a damaged chimney stack were finally completed.
Children in the Primary and Nursery schools were evacuated on Thursday December 18th when a dangerous chimney was noticed.
Repair work was unable to be done during the Christmas period and bad weather held it up further. For a few days of the new term pupils were accommodated at Arisaig Primary and Mallaig High School.
Happy New Year people! Hope everyone had a great festive season and that 2015 is starting as it means to go on. Hogmanay here was a fantastic night with the democracy disco back in action and a big turnout to crowd the hall, complete with a very well stocked bar. For those that don't know, the democracy disco is where everyone who wishes can submit their five favourite dancing tunes and these are all downloaded onto an ipod shuffle which is played all night and then the ipod is raffled off in the New Year. The raffle still hasn't been drawn as far as I am aware so I can't name the lucky winner! Still hoping it might be me...
December was a fairly quiet month really but the tree planting volunteer day was a great success, with 100 new fruit and nut trees being planted overall, and a good turnout of volunteers. The next volunteer day is being held this coming Saturday, building owl boxes. These will then be placed in various locations on the peninsula, to encourage our owls to breed.
The trials of Toro Twizzy (the little electric buggy) have continued, being tested and rated by a variety of locals all over Knoydart and so far reports seem to have been predominately good. It's certainly a cheerful bright little vehicle!
Weather wise there was a fair few wild days and nights, with boats being cancelled and disrupted left right and centre but happily enough, Christmas and boxing day were rather nice. It was good to see a bit of sunshine after all this rain!
The annual ladies Christmas lunch was a great success, hosted by the Tearoom and was a lovely day full of giggles, good food and lots of wine. Even a couple of men were permitted by the end of the evening!
On a sadder note, December saw Anna heading off to the far sunnier shores of New Zealand to join Calum for some adventures, I would say down under, but that's Australia isn't it? I don't know what the New Zealand equivalent is...
Steve, Izzie and the little ones have also decided it's time to go and are moving down to the Edinburgh area in January. It will be sad to see them go but they have promised to visit lots! Speaking of Little ones, Maja has just entered into the Nursery, which has reopened this year after being closed since Kitty (now p.2) began school. Not only was it Maja's first day this week, it was also MY first day as the new Inverie Primary school Early Years Practitioner (so, nursery assistant)!
Hope everyone's January isn't too bleak and fingers crossed for some better weather to come!
ISLE OF MUCK
Last Christmas - 2013 - we were amazed when Loch Nevis missed 9 calls at Muck during the month of December. Certainly the weather was the worst period of a very poor winter. But who could have predicted that this record would be smashed so soon when this December Loch Nevis missed 12 times. And she is only scheduled to call 17 times in a month !! But this was not nearly so dire as it appears as Marine Harvest and Sheerwater filled many of the gaps and on the 22nd Colin took Wave to Eigg and collected around 50 items of parcels and luggage and the MacRae family. I mention the latter because carol singing is a feature of Christmas on Muck - in the school, in the byre and in the hall. Whether Gareth Malone could convert us into a choir of merit I am a little doubtful but we had the next best thing - Willie MacRae on the Clarinet together with daughter Ruth on the Flute. On Christmas Day the wind suddenly died away and next day Wave made a quick if very chilly run to Tobermory returning with 7 calves who soon mopped up the surplus milk in the byre.
But the calm weather did not last long and by New Year's Day torrential rain had returned but it did ease off for the hockey match with hardly an islander absent. As the tide was in we were forced into the Calf Park, and afterwards three islanders went swimming!!
Lastly I have to confess that I have dipped a toe in the water of Facebook. For those who feel that Facebook is only for young people I apologize but I am quite chuffed that so many want to be friends.
ISLE OF CANNA
It's been a busy social month on Canna, starting with the Canna Primary School play on the 17th December. An excellent performance by the pupils and we all appreciated the effort put in, not only in the play but with the baking and mince pies provided for refreshments. Well done. An unexpected visit from Santa in full uniform was a wonderful surprise for the children. I'm not sure he came down the chimney but he did have a black beard!
St Columba's Chapel was the venue for Carol singing on Christmas Day, not quite X Factor but with a little practice who knows. We did make in onto Youtube though.
Islanders gather at St Columba's Chapel for their carol singing on Christmas Day
Photo courtesy of Gordon Guthrie.
A Boxing Day ceilidh/housewarming at Chris and Anna Deplano's was a mixture of traditional dancing and a Hula-hoop spinning contest plus a very competitive Canna v Sanday quiz. I hope their floor has recovered from all the dancing.
Looking forward to a New Year and better weather.
Happy New Year to everyone.
ISLE OF RUM
The school Christmas play was, as promised, well organised chaos (something we excel at here). With most of the cast leaving the island early for Christmas and one of leading roles off Christmas shopping, the play got postponed and then postponed again, finally to take place rather epically on December 23rd. In the absence of comedy wise man no.1 ( Sean the rat man) it was left to Mary and Joseph to pick up the mantle of humour and inject some hilarious accents and the usual humorous speculation over the actual parentage of baby Jesus. All good and loads of fun. Well done to Mrs Ingram for the organisation!! After a hasty mug or two of mulled wine, we carried on with the secret santa party; there were some unusual presents revealed, mostly homemade and well thought out, but there's always one tut tut… which made the recipient blush and left the rest of us speechless, bad Santa! Who was responsible??
The ceilidh at Hogmanay was fab, I don't think I've seen so many people up and dancing in the hall at one time. The group at the bunkhouse from St Andrew's university were fantastic and danced to every dance and made a reasonable attempt at the eightsome reel without too much trouble. Thanks to the fabulous Ross, Eilidh, Tam and Kenny for an epic few days of music and craic and no complaints from anyone for being stuck for an extra day.
Thinking back over the year, it's been busy; things that stand out are IRCT recruiting three new staff; the bunkhouse being built and starting to operate and we have had several well loved people sadly leave Rum and a few new ones arrive.
In 2015, with the completion of our new community land use plan, we are pushing hard for new housing, it's absolutely essential. Whilst the community has worked hard over the past 5 years to get where it is now, what we really need is more people living here and building new homes for themselves.
And from a personal perspective, I'm looking forward to a prosperous 2015, it has started off considerably better than last year, so long may it continue.
Happy new year everyone.
ISLE OF EIGG
Eigg was a busy place this December, as per usual it comes to festive time. First of all, on 6 December, the Eigg crafters, beer-makers and good food providers produced an abundance of handmade gifts, festive drinks and food for the Christmas fair, an occasion which was enjoyed by all. The preceding week was a first for Eigg as the craftshop hosted an exhibition by the six artists who took part in the Clipperton project last summer. They showed their artwork inspired by their experience of Shetland and Orkney sailing in Selkie, skippered by Celia Bull from Eigg. Alongside their work were also prints made by her son Dylan, 10 years old, and found-objects sculptures by John Arthur, 14 years old from Sheltand!
Meanwhile, house building has been advancing well, with Karl also putting the foundation in for Katrin's wooden house at Galmisdale and Pascal and Catherine's kit house being delivered, but with festivities approaching, it did start to slow down a bit. Mulled wine and mince pies seemed to be ubiquitous wherever you went in the second part of the month, particularly where carol singing was involved!
The 16 December saw the performance of Eigg Primary's Christmas play, 'Katie, the Straw Girl'. It was very well attended and was great fun, with our two P1 girls showing remarkable acting aptitude for their first proper speaking parts. Catriona and Logan played their last big parts as they are bound for High school next year. They will no doubt join the Mallaig High stellar cast in which Meggie and Hannah Morrison as well as Murray Wallace already shine. It was a great disappointment when weather disruptions prevented some of the Eigg parents from attending the 'Little House of Horror' at Mallaig High, which by all account was also a great success!
High winds are part of our life at this time of year, and if they did not disrupt Santa coming to Eigg on the 19th, they certainly played havoc with the schedule for family reunions, with islanders driven to hire the Sheerwater to come home on Christmas Eve. Luckily, it was calm the week after to allow musicians and New Year revellers to come to the island for Hogmanay, although it played up again to detain them all for an extra day. We had a very big turn out this year, with a contingent of young folks from Hungary and Edinburgh which helped us to put this eventful year for Scotland to bed in great style. As to box player Luke Daniel and piper Fraser Fifield who joined Gabe, Brendan and Yogi on the stage, they were just marvellous, and the next day Damian had the greatest birthday session ever. Happy New Year everyone from all of us on Eigg!
There was only one callout of the Severn Class Henry Alston Hewat during the month of December.
Sunday 21st December 2014:
The RNLI lifeboat was launched at 22:35 hrs to Medivac a patient from the island of Eigg to the mainland. On scene at 23:30 hrs. The patient was quickly boarded and transferred to Mallaig. Once back at Mallaig the patient was handed over to Ambulance crew for transfer to Belford Hospital, Fort William. Lifeboat ready for service again at 00:45 hrs.
The RNLI volunteer crew of the Mallaig lifeboat take this opportunity to wish all the readers of West Word a Happy and Safe New Year
Has the Cameron Mackintosh mystery been solved?
West Word readers will recall that a couple of months back, included in his congratulatory 20th birthday article for West Word, Sir Cameron included the earliest known photograph of him as a youngster in Mallaig. In the photo with him was an old fisherman. Sir Cameron wondered if any West Word reader could name the fisherman and although the article and photograph was 'lifted' from West Word and displayed in the Press & Journal, Scottish Daily Mail, Glasgow Herald, Daily Record and The West Highland Free Press (with never a mention of West Word although the Oban Times commented on our twentieth birthday in a separate mention), no credible claim to name the fisherman has been forthcoming.
However, just the other day retired local businessman William Simpson (67) has come forward with the suggestion that the unknown man could be a fisherman called Anderson - Johnny Anderson, an East Coast fisherman, who worked out of Mallaig at that time.
'I spent all my working life on Mallaig Pier', says ex-oil merchant Willie, 'and even as a youngster I was always on the pier. I remember this fisherman who was more effective at getting me off to school than my own dad was. Maybe it was the fact that he always had a sweetie to give me when telling me 'get off the pier and get off to school.' I'm almost certain it's the man in the photo with Cameron - Johnny Anderson.'
TWENTY YEARS OF WEST WORD
Twenty years ago
The third edition of West Word was, once again, a distinct improvement on its immediate predecessor with its 32 pages crammed with information. OK, the back page, What's On, for January 1995, was pretty light, but elsewhere you could find a retrospective Gaelic look back at 1994, local Police Sergeant A MacLean's local crime report, a look back at the childhood memories of Arisaig through the eyes and memories of John and Jessie MacDonald, Tigh-na-Mara, Back of Keppoch, and a sporting look back to the treble winning Mallaig Stars FC - the team of 1978! The cover (and inside story) was of a Multi Million Pound Investment in Mallaig's Future - a government grant of £4.1 million being awarded to Mallaig Harbour Authority for the construction of a new Outer Breakwater and Harbour Basin.
Two heavyweights in the form of Cameron Mackintosh and Malcolm Spence Q.C. had hard-hitting comments to make about the proposed cut backs to the London-Fort William Night Sleeper while the late Hugh Allen of the Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association reported on a reasonable year for the local fishing fleet, but also highlighted the storm damage done to the Gear Stores on West Bay.
On a lighter note, the Personal Angle column revealed that, for his 40th birthday, Billy McMinn had received a matching pair of musical stress balls (I wonder if they are still tinkling ten years later?) while Barry Austin was a £200 winner in the Grand Raffle to raise funds for the new hall on Eigg. Mr & Mrs Archie MacLellan were pictured on Archie's retirement after 22 years as Hon Sec to the Mallaig Lifeboat Station.
News was carried of the local Arts Show in the Mallaig heritage centre and a visit to St Kilda on board the Cuma was described. And yes, there was our first ever Free Calendar!
Robert MacMillan (written in January 2005)
Ten years ago
The January issue of 1995 was still 32 pages long and black and white, and cost 75p. The top story was of fears that the toll-free Skye Bridge could threaten the viability of the Mallaig - Armadale ferry. At midnight on the 21st December a sudden and unexpected decision had been made to abolish the tolls which had been the subject of heavy campaigning over the years. While Skye rejoiced, Lochaber residents were concerned that our economy would suffer if travellers shunned the ferry to travel free over the sea to Skye. Remember, the road from Lochailort was still mainly single track and tortuous. Charlie King, then our Councillor, emphasised that the next stage of the A830 must be completed, negotiations for a reduction of ferry fares be started and the Road to the Isles be promoted as highly as possible.
Meanwhile, the Mallaig-Lochboisdale ferry route was being looked at as a key future development! Other news on the front page was the go-ahead given by the Planning Committee for 18 new houses in Mallaig (now King's Way). Other Lochaber Housing Association builds were planned for Morar, near the old hall (4) and Cross Farm (3).
The increase in use of digital cameras was noticed by the sudden increase in photos of newborn babies. I noted that up to September 2004, in ten years we had only had one photo of a baby at her christening. Since the September we had had one every month and in the issue under review there were two - so happy recent 10th birthdays to Keira Bryce and Grace MacDonald!
The Mallaig & Morar Games Field Association were planning a meeting to discuss a new facility on the new field - a meeting place! An idea that for several reasons has never managed to take off - yet.
I see that this is the time when we had a printer which, for a reason known only to itself, would suddenly turn a word into nonsense syllables. This was very hard to catch, and mistakes slipped through, so the heading of 'Review of West Word's Year' (or whatever it was meant to be) is printed as 'A review of !"#$%!&'()9Ss Year'!
We used to do a review of the previous 12 months, month by month, which we thought would be of interest but it took time and space, so we stopped. No-one seemed to notice or care!
The weather over Christmas and into January 2005 sounds just like it has been this year. Famous Rusty the Dog, owned by Jane MacPherson, passed away just before Christmas 2004, just before a card sent to him from Australia could be delivered. Rusty 'wrote' poems for West Word most months and was the subject of other poems and spoofs.
We carried an article on Mallaig in Alberta, Canada, named by an engineer working on the Canadian Railroad who had been involved in the building of the Mallaig Extension to the West Highland Railway in 1901!
On and Off the Rails
Looking back - looking forward
I really do look forward to January 1st each year when I take down (from all around the house!) our previous year's railway related Calendars and spend a wee while looking again at the many images captured by so many people that I have the pleasure of knowing.
With the increase of digital photography and the ability to reproduce photos taken and then send them via the internet to have them turned into a calendar by companies like photobox.co.uk and funkypigeon.com. We are sent some wonderful presents of these for the New Year and 2015 is no exception.
This year we have a calendar of photos of photos taken using a remote controlled helicopter and a 'Drone' camera! The results are stunning. Another one portrays gardening work carried out by a team of Station Adopters in 2014. It inspires me to try new plants this this year! Then there are b & w images of Railway Stations from my childhood, b & w images of Signal Boxes from my past. Both real treasures. Let alone all of the 'first class' commercial ones received Finally, a 'free' calendar we received with The Railway Magazine contains a breathtakingly beautiful photograph taken in autumn 2010 of Black 5 No. 44871 slogging towards Corrour summit in full volcanic steam. John Cooper-Smith got the shot and shares it with us. Well done John. What pleasure I will have as I change the calendars each month this year.
Looking forward - looking back
Here is a coincidence for you to mull over. On Wednesday April 1st this year at 2am, the ScotRail franchise currently operated by FirstGroup, will be the responsibility of Abellio who have been awarded the franchise by the Scottish Government. Abellio are a subsidiary of the Dutch state-owned train operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen. At the same time, the Caledonian Sleeper franchise, currently operated by First Group, is awarded to Serco.
Here is the coincidence. On the same date in 1901 at 7.20am, the first ever fare paying passenger up train on the Mallaig Extension departed for the South! Some two hours later it crossed the first fare paying passenger down train, the 5.55 from Glasgow bringing passengers for their first experience of the new railway. The train departing for the South carried the first passengers ever booked through from Lewis to Glasgow and Edinburgh by the new iron road to the isles. They were carried to Mallaig in the steamer Clydesdale just after 11 o'clock on the night of the 31st March 1901. At daybreak when the vessel entered the brand new harbour at Mallaig, the passengers crossed to the waiting train where they were joined by people just in from Portree in the Lovedale. Those were the days!!
The ordinary return fare from Mallaig to Glasgow was 23 shillings and 7 pennies, but mindful of its duty to the fishing community, the company issued a special fisherman's ticket at 18 shillings and 6 pennies. Things are not what they used to be!!
Looking forward to 2016!
'Steam Dreams', operators of 'The Cathedrals Express Holidays by Steam' have produced an eight day, three option, Highlands and Islands Explorer Tour (booking now!) which includes being steam locomotive hauled by a Black 5 to Mallaig and return from Fort William. The date for this leg of the tour is Tuesday May 10th 2016. Put that date in your forward planner!
Looking forward to 2015
The luxurious Royal Scotsman touring train starts its season into Mallaig on Saturday April 25th. It is always a welcome sight, as are the West Coast Railway crew of Drivers and Guards. 'Statesman Rail' visit Mallaig on Sunday March 15th (Mothering Sunday) and Sunday March 29th (Palm /Sunday, the day that British Summertime commences and the day that ScotRail Summer Sunday Services re-commence). Both tours are Diesel Locomotive hauled by West Coast Railways, and passengers are staying in Hotels in the Fort William area the Saturday and Sunday nights so should get a good couple of hours in Mallaig. I'll let you know nearer the time. 'Statesman Rail' return again in the autumn.
The Jacobite steam train will run from Monday May 11th to Friday October 23rd in 2015, with the additional afternoon service scheduled to run five days a week from Monday June 1st through to Friday August 28th. The morning service will additionally run on Saturdays and Sundays commencing Saturday June 20th to Sunday September 20th. Tickets went on sale from December 1st 2014 and the two first class coaches for the first day were sold out before Christmas! Leaflets will be available shortly, or got to www.westcoastrailways.co.uk or telephone 0844 850 4680 or 0844 850 4681.
Many other Tour Operators are committing to tours to Mallaig this year using both ScotRail and West Coast Railways. All have brochures out now which highlight our wonderful coastline and the food in Mallaig and the surrounding area. They include 'Discover Scotland Tours', Diamond Rail Holidays', 'Newmarket Holidays', 'The Railway Touring Company' - who have booked tours for May, June, July and twice in September - using The Jacobite.
SAPS (Scottish Rail Preservation Society) have yet to confirm their dates for visits with their own stock - but will announce them shortly. Most of the above tours carry their own Stewards and Hosts or Escorts.
Looking Forward to Model Rail Scotland
Model Rail Scotland Review and Competition
The 49th Model Rail Scotland, presented by The Association of Model Railway Societies in Scotland, and held at the SECC (Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre), Glasgow, takes place on the 20th, 21st and 22nd February 2015. Details are as follows:
Friday February 20th 11am - 6pm
Saturday February 21st 10am - 6pm
Sunday February 22nd 10am - 5pm.
Adult tickets for any day are £9 in advance, £10 on the door.
Family tickets for any day are £23 in advance, £25 on the door (for 2 adults, 2 children).
For advance tickets send a cheque or PO to AMRSS, PO Box 9117, Shotts, ML7 9AS. Sponsors already in place for this family friendly show are Model Rail, Bachmann, Railway Modeller, Peco and Continental Modeller.
The organisers of Model Rail Scotland have given four pairs of tickets to attend the show on any one of the three days. ScotRail have agreed to give a pair of rail tickets to attend the show on any one of the three days to the first name drawn. To be in with a chance of winning any of these prizes, answer the following question:
Question: What volume and issue number of West Word is this competition in?
Send your answer on a postcard to the address below by Monday 26th January.
Competition 2 - closing date Monday 26th January
This month I have a competition with two prizes, each containing a desk A5 diary and a 12 inch x 12 inch double page calendar in full colour entitled 'British Steam Trains 2015.' Retailing at £12.99, the photographs are supplied by the international photographer Colin Garratt from his company 'Milepost.92½'. Colin visited Arisaig Railway Station in the recent past and later presented the office of HiTrans there with a folder of photographs he had taken that day. He sets shots up to perfection.
Question: Name the date of the first Jacobite train to Mallaig this year.
Answers on a postcard please to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD.
Club 55 is back for 2015
From January 12th until March 31st you can travel anywhere in Scotland for just £19 return if you are 55 years of age or over, and it's so easy to take advantage of this great offer. No need to join and no membership fee. All you need to do is show ID confirming your age when you travel. You can even travel beyond Scotland to and from Carlisle or Berwick-on-Tweed. If you are a senior or disabled railcard holder (aged 55 or over) you can get a further £2 discount. With over 345 stations to visit the hardest decision is where to go next. to buy your Club 55 ticket simply go online to scotrail.co.uk/club-55, call 0330 303 0111 or visit a staffed ScotRail station. Free seat reservations bookable at the same time.
See you on the train.
Birdwatch December 2014 by Stephen MacDonald
A very mixed month weather wise with some very windy days.
There was a very late report of a Sooty Shearwater seen between Arisaig and Eigg on the 5th. Amazingly, there was another sighting two days later in the same area, both sightings from the MV Sheerwater.
On the 11th, after strong westerly winds, a Little Auk (see below right) was discovered on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. This tiny Starling-sized sea bird breeds in the high arctic and usually winters well out at sea far from land. Prolonged gales can sometimes drive the birds closer inshore where, if the birds are weak they are prone to predation from the larger gulls, etc. The bird was seen on Loch nan Eala for a couple of days before it disappeared.
Two Puffins in winter plumage were seen and photographed two miles south of Sleat Point on the 28th. They also usually spend the winter far out to sea.
A juvenile Iceland Gull was reported from Mallaig on the 6th and the juvenile Glaucous Gull was seen several times around Mallaig Harbour during the month.
Little Grebes were seen regularly on both Loch nan Eala and Loch nan Ceall. There were still several Slavonian Grebes on Loch nan Ceall during the month, with six seen together on the 25th. A single Shelduck at Traigh on the 7th was an early returning bird. By Christmas week at least four were sighted on the south shore of Loch nan Ceall.
Whooper Swans were on Loch nan Eala throughout the month in varying numbers, with 23 birds there on Christmas Day, along with four Canada Geese. Several sightings of Whooper Swans on the move, with 5ive struggling into strong westerly winds over Morar and two trying to fly west out of Loch Nevis, both on the 11th. On the 29th, fifteen were seen flying south over Camusdarach beach. Three male Goosanders were seen on several occasions at the west end of Loch Morar along with several Goldeneyes. Dippers were also seen regularly n the Morar river.
Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig, and a single Greenshank was on the Morar Estuary at Bourblach on the 17th.
Two reports of Blackcaps early in the month, one from a Loch Ailort garden and the male bird from November still in a garden at Fank Brae, Mallaig. Several reports from Morar of Siskins coming to garden feeders on the odd days during the month. At least eight Yellowhammers appeared in a Morar garden on Christmas Eve and were still visiting at the month end.
Goldcrests were reported from gardens in Morar and Mallaig. Jays were reported from Morar and Druimindarroch and three were seen by Loch nan Eala on the 20th.
Tawny Owls were reported from Morar and Arisaig on various occasions and a Barn Owl was seen by the A830 to the east of Druimdhu on the 22nd.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
We didn't expect to have gone far in the last few months but how wrong can you be!
Our Councillor Allan Henderson always takes us on holiday with him and is on record as being the first (and so far only) reader
to be pictured reading us online.
He took the paper copy with him to one of his favourite destinations, Los Christianos, Tenerife.
Liz Mclean took her copy all the way from Mallaig to Singapore and to the Long Bar in the famous Raffles Hotel...
...and husband John Mclean was pictured in Oban - the one on Stewat Island, New Zealand, that is!
The Ladies Who Sew - Mallaig Sewing Group - took us away in their usual Christmas Market trip to Munich in Germany.
Two of the group didn't go but here we have (l to r) Linda Maclean, Marion Carr, June Foxwell and Eileen MacPhie.
Faye Lambert (middle, with a cone on her head!) took us from Knoydart on vacation to Calgary, Alberta, Canada
to visit Sandy Sutherland (right) who lived in Knoydart for ten years and Deborah Lausen from Calgary.
The scary notice is on Lake Louise, where they make a rough ice rink every year.
And here is a big geyser-oh no, that's the one on the right!
Bill Henderson, Arisaig, took his copy to Iceland.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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