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January 2020 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Message in a Bottle: New Music for 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters
Glenfinnan-based musician Ingrid Henderson has been commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage to produce a new musical and audio-visual show for 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters. Through music, imagery and song, 'Message in a Bottle/ Brath 'sa Bhuideal' explores themes of ocean currents, migration and environmental impact and celebrates our incredible marine life and strong cultural connections.
For SNH, the idea was to encapsulate the changing nature of the waters surrounding us and to encompass concepts of climate change, changing currents, marine wildlife and our connection to the sea over the centuries.
"SNH approached me I guess because they know me as a musician," says Henderson, "But possibly also because of my ties to the west coast. The connection of communities to the sea was all around me when I was younger - the gain from booming industries but also the loss both in terms of people and also environmentally. The influence of the sea is also prevalent in the songs and music of the Highland and Islands, with stories of love and loss, great voyages and tragedy."
The title of the piece derives from a story Henderson heard, "about a young boy in Northern Ireland who was in primary school and had sent this really simple message that he was in love with a girl in his school and always had been. And he'd put this lovely simple message in a bottle and it floated around in the sea for about 10 years and then ended up in Canna. So the idea was taking that small tiny gem of an idea - the idea of throwing something into the water and allowing fate and the currents to carry it and ultimately pass on the message - to speak to bigger ideas. Ideas about what we're doing to our seas, and what we're not doing to protect our seas, is a thread that runs throughout the piece."
The multimedia piece will be performed for the first time at Celtic Connections' festival-within-a-festival, Coastal Connections, on January 18th and will then tour the country at various festivals. Joining Ingrid are musicians Anna Massie, Megan Henderson and Conal McDonagh, and visual artists Somhairle MacDonald and Cat Bruce.
New Arisaig Gin Launched
A family team from the West Coast have created a new gin using a selection of botanicals from the Arisaig area. Self-heal, blackcurrants and bladderwrack help create a flavour described as 'crisp, slightly sweet and warm'. The new craft gin from Creag Mhor Croft has proved very popular with the first batch selling out quickly at Christmas time. Christopher MacBeth, his sister Kaleigh, Anne MacDonald and her daughter Sharon have been busy producing their second batch which is now available to purchase from the Arisaig Hotel, the Old Library Restaurant in Arisaig, the Chlachain in Mallaig and Tradewinds in Corpach.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
I'm finishing this issue off with the wind howling around the office; let's hope there's no power cuts!
We're deeply saddened by the loss of Steve Roberts who passed away last month. Steve was a long-time contributor to West Word, providing railway related news and photographs for us all. He had been suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and our thoughts are with his partner, our railway columnist Sonia Cameron, and their families at this difficult time.
Once again my thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing and Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes this month.
Happy New Year to all our readers,
Hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and Hogmanay. Christmas was quiet on Knoydart with lots of folk away.
As the village hall is still under construction, Rhona and Isla have kindly let us use the tearoom as a venue for get togethers. The Knoydart Forest Trust had their 20th AGM and we also had a packed carol service on Christmas Eve with lots of folk and a great Table session afterwards.
KFT had a busy "pick your own Christmas tree" day and everyone had lots of fun traipsing about finding the perfect tree and chopping it down - there was a bit of competition! They have also set dates for their green wood working courses for next year and are taking bookings.
Amie our Ranger has run some great sessions with the primary school this term. First a craft session where the pupils made wooden planters and planted them with flowering bulbs. Later in they had a fire session and learned all about fire safety.
The Christmas Karaoke at the Primary School went down a storm, the kids and teachers put in so much effort and had a great turnout. We had a lovely party at Sandaig with Roland and Bettina, they kindly put on a wee festive afternoon full of "glühwein"; it was great to share in their first Knoydart Christmas.
Welcome to our newest resident James Patrick who has come to live here, fiancé of Steph Harris. Good luck to you both with your plans for your new house!
Also on the housing front, David and Louise had an epic flitting to their new home in Doune on the Spanish John, not your usual removals for sure! I'm writing this a few hours before Hogmanay and lots of folk are looking forward to seeing out the bells at Knoydart Lodge. The fire is burning at the Table and festive spirit is flowing freely!
Happy New Year folks,
ISLE OF MUCK
It's been a busy month but then I guess, with Christmas and all that involves, it was always going to be. It's also a time of change. With search for someone to run the Craft Shop tearooms entering its final stages and the selection process for a new teacher ongoing, there will be several new faces this summer.
The first event of note was the start of our efforts to install the fibre optic backbone around the island. With some properties suffering from outages periodically, everyone is keen to see it changed from the present setup to a more reliable system. It has to be said we are all indebted to Ewen MacEwen, aka the human mole. Hundreds of yards of trenches now crisscross Port Mor, spreading like fingers from the central run towards individual properties. The community converged on Port to help backfill the first section but, as it's a good step from Port to the houses at Gallanach, a lot of effort will be needed from everyone in the New Year to complete the first stage of this project.
Christmas was very busy. The Reverend Stewart Goudie, after the odd weather-related hiccup, held a Christmas service in the community hall. With the chances of the ferry being cancelled due to weather, this can't be the easiest part of his parish to preside over. The annual island Christmas party was, as always, a great hit with young and old alike. Fun, frivolity and fine food. What more could you ask for? Well perhaps a slightly warmer community hall, but that didn't dampen spirits. The community hall committee are on the case as far as a bit more heat is concerned, so I'm sure that slight wrinkle will soon be resolved. The party was followed, later in the week, by an Advent Spiral. Now, I'm shamed to say, I have never been to an Advent Spiral before but I, like everyone else, thoroughly enjoyed it. A mass greenery gathering session produced a Spiral on the floor of the hall that seemed to take an age to get into and back out of having placed your candle! Everyone was in good voice and a good selection of Christmas Carols filled the place as all, from the youngest toddlers to the oldest member of the community, added their candles. Not that Carol singing ended there. The traditional Muck Christmas Day service, consisting of Carols, readings and prayers, was led by Lawrence MacEwen and then followed by mulled wine and nibbles before everyone drifted off to their respective Christmas meal.
On the farm, the grass has continued to grow, the ewes are looking good and the tups (rams) are out, so now it's a waiting game to see how the extra grass (and good husbandry) has contributed to the next season's lamb crop. Towards the end of this reporting period the rain has arrived and the island looks more "normal" for the time of year. Well, it couldn't last for ever!
Big news for the New Year! You are all under starters orders! We are having a race to raise funds for CAMAS (Community Action for Muck in All Seasons, who organise various entertainment events throughout the visitor season). Relax, no running is involved. We are organising a BIRD RACE. What on earth is a bird race? The idea is simple. For a modest sum, (paid for at various establishments on the island) an entry form will be available in the bunkhouse, holiday cottages, Port Mor House, Gallanach Lodge and the Craft Shop tea rooms. You simply record all the species of birds that you see during your visit. There will be three categories: staying visitors, day visitors and islanders. The race starts on 1st February and runs until 1st December. Winners will be notified by 15th December. The entry fee and prizes vary with each category. Top prize for staying visitors will be a two night stay for two people at Port Mor House, and for day visitors a one night stay for two people. There will be other place prizes, and accommodation prizes are transferable, but must be taken by 1st November 2021. The whole family can get involved on one entry form and a full set of rules and prizes will come with your entry form. Good luck!
ISLE OF CANNA
Well, as reported on the front page of the December issue of West Word, Canna was the proud recipient of the multiple awards we wrote about in last month's article. As a small community, we are particularly pleased to see our efforts rewarded for the CREE energy scheme and our small shop.
No time to rest on our laurels, however. We are now looking to work with the support of the National Trust for Scotland on our next projects. We are currently seeking to appoint a part-time Development Officer to take forward our next initiatives - the first of which will look at the feasibility of renovating and converting the listed building of Coroghon Barn for holiday accommodation and community space - closely followed by a desire to build additional housing, so that we can increase our small population.
Isebail recently took delivery of a new caravan, now installed on Sanday, to add to the options for visitors to stay this summer.
Gerry reports we have already had visitors - feathered variety. An unusual white wagtail, and a Blackcap (common on the mainland, but rare on Canna) on the Change House bird feeder.
Christmas Eve was celebrated by those still on island in Cafe Canna - no rest on the farm however. Gerry and Murdo were busy putting all the ewes back to the hill on Christmas Day. The tups are in, and though there has been plenty of grass this year, started feeding the cows on 20th December.
And finally, after the success of the 2019 event, we will be hosting the Canna 10km Trail Run again in 2020, on Saturday 23rd May. Enter via our website (www.theisleofcanna.com) - limited spaces available!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
In December, Canna archivist Fiona Mackenzie travelled to the new UHI Inverness College to participate in the inaugural "Ruination and Decay" Conference organised by the Humanities and Arts Research Cluster (HARC). The event featured speakers from across a range of disciplines including Cultural Geography; Archaeology; Performance Studies; Art & Design; Visual Studies; Heritage Studies; History and Literature and despite the title, proved to be a most inspiring and positive experience! Fiona's paper was entitled "Deserted Village on Mingulay: the Canna Archives - a folklore phoenix".
Fiona explained "I decided to use a photograph taken by Margaret Fay Shaw on Mingulay in 1930, depicting a deserted village and decaying croft houses alongside the island graveyard, as a metaphor for the Canna Archives. That despite the fact that the buildings on Mingulay have decayed and become derelict, the memories, stories and songs contained within the walls remain with us and continue to inspire. That despite the fact that John and Margaret Campbell of Canna are no longer with us, the archives they collected, the photos they took, the songs they recorded, the correspondence they gathered, still continue to inspire and create. From the physical ashes of decayed wax cylinders, we can still hear the voices of our forefathers and create new from the old. That Canna House is very much a folklore phoenix, with the new arising from the ashes of the past."
Fiona's presentation included Margaret's photos and film, John's recordings, images of the diaries and letters and Fiona's own voice as a Gaelic singer, to demonstrate the Story that is Canna House.
Fiona said, "Conference delegates were fascinated to learn about the potential for the Canna Archives and find out about the plans of the National Trust for Scotland for the House's programme of planned renovation works due to start this Spring."
To welcome the New Year here is Margaret Fay Shaw's poem written for her New Year's Resolution on January 1, 1944! Rain gauge Wars anyone!
ISLE OF RUM
A short article from Rum this month.
There were a lot of coming and goings this month with the builders ploughing on with the new houses which now have proper names…Taigh an Uillt; Cnoc na Coille; Black Corrie Cottage and Wood Cottage.
The Rhododendron eradication project is going well; it's a combined project with SNH as joint owners of the land in the village and should make some areas look quite different as well as clearing some of woodland to make it passable - a few years ago you could go mushroom hunting while in an upright position and now it's a basic commando crawl to get through - looking forward to making more woodland walks!
Bad weather postponed the school Christmas play 'The story of Babushka' which will now take place in January instead; well, it'll help pad out the January social calendar a bit along with Burns Night.
Tummy bugs and colds have swept through the village this month like wildfire making Christmas a sorry occasion for some but we bucked up for a party at Hogmanay to kill off any remaining germs with copious amounts of prosecco, like you do.
December birthdays include Nell, who is a shocking 20 already, and Jinty on Hogmanay, who is forty something.
Rum running is going well, Ali has signed up for a small triathlon and Fliss is planning on doing the Canna 10k and possibly a half marathon - gone and said it now, got to do it!
Still no further news on Kinloch Castle other than the ever optimistic and persevering KCFA are still looking for a way of saving the building. On the bright side the drainage which was fixed a few months ago has worked and stopped the basement flooding and the vents installed in the roof are helping kill off the dry rot, so that is at least something, and also Historic Scotland may be reassessing the importance of the building - as in they may now think it's more important historically than before - so perhaps a lifeline there as well.
ISLE OF EIGG
December seemed to have gone like a flash, with many cheerful gatherings as the end of the year approached. First of all it was Niamh Jobson's arrival back to the island: it was wonderful to see her back on Eigg in such good form after nine months of the gruelling treatment she endured with incredible courage and determination. We are all in awe of her and her family. She was back in time to celebrate her sister Betsy-Mae's 10th birthday party at the hall! Best pyjama party I have ever gone to! The December book club meeting at Galmisdale house started off the Christmas theme, our monthly choice, Bare Feet and Tackety Boots being discussed with a very potent Glühe Wein prepared by Katrin with her grandfather's homemade brandy, and lots of festive food to go with it!
Then it was Eigg Primary School's turn to host the next party: the Eigg primary and nursery children gave us a fantastic show with their "Night before Christmas" production, sporting a brilliant 70's style choreography and a great cast of incredibly well behaved dancing mice and toys! Santa featured in the show wishing us all a "ferry merry Christmas", but came to the island's hall for real on Friday 19th, after which the community sat down to a Communal festive meal which was truly scrumptious such was the array of wonderful festive fare. The Christmas Eve carol service at St Donnan's church was packed this year with islanders and visitors: our little church always looks so lovely in the magical candle light and I hope everyone got a bit of that peaceful feeling to take back home with them. A big thank you to Stuart Murray who conducted a lovely service for the island children earlier on! And then it was Eddie's 70th Birthday on the 27th, with everyone gathering at his house for a tune and dram! Many happy returns, Eddie! In between all this, we managed to squeeze in a beach clean up at the Singing Sands and a very successful MacMillan lunch fundraiser at the surgery, not to forget the elections. Congratulations to Iain Blackford for being returned as our MP: more than ever, we'll need him to fight our case in Westminster! An extra bonus was hearing the news that MOWI have given up on their Lease Option Agreement for the Eigg site: the year has really ended on a positive note!
There will be much to do in 2020 to draw up our Eigg transition agenda, but in the meantime, 2019 finished with a great Hogmanay ceilidh at the hall with not short of a hundred folks coming over to celebrate with us: great tunes, great dancing, great craic: happy 2020 everyone!
Arisaig Community Trust News
We are delighted to be starting 2020 with such good news to share; as you may have seen recently, ACT have been awarded over £250,000 from the Scottish Land Fund to enable us to purchase several areas of land in the village. This is a huge achievement for the Trust and will hopefully be the start of some great projects for Arisaig, most of which are already in development.
In December, we held a well-attended public meeting about ways to support sustainable tourism in the area. With the award from the SLF, we intend to buy the shorefront area in Arisaig village and make some improvements to accommodate the ever-increasing tourist numbers. The shorefront project will consist of: enlarging and resurfacing the car park, enclosing the refuse and recycling bins, new seating, signage and a shorefront path linking the Land, Sea and Islands Centre with the centre of the village. We hope that we can fund this work through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which was recently relaunched for its 3rd funding round, although this won't be available until after the coming season unfortunately. We may be able to make smaller changes in the interim before the main work begins.
The larger part of the funding award will hopefully enable us to buy the land at Station Road currently for sale. Negotiations began before the Christmas holidays and we will post updates through our Facebook page as things develop. We continue to work with the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust who have supported us throughout the project to build new, affordable homes for rent and self-build in the village.
The third area we hope to purchase is the playing field, which we already lease, and the areas around it including the children's playpark and the fallow area south of the field. The current plans for this area are mostly concerned with the unused area, which we would like to fence off and plant fruit trees in. We will be arranging a 'community work day' to help build a fence and plant the trees in the late winter. Look out for more details on this in February.
The award from SLF is really just the beginning but we feel incredibly fortunate to have been successful, when competition for public funding is very tight, and for such a large amount. We hope to make the most of this opportunity and take forward a range of projects.
The next community meeting on tourism will be on 22nd January at 2-4pm in the Astley Hall.
This is an exciting time to be involved in ACT and if you have an interest in community projects and development, we currently have a vacancy on our board of directors.
As always, get in touch through Facebook or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Road to the Isles Facilities Group
If anyone had told us when we were rushing to get an expression of interest together for the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund in April 2018, and then to get the application submitted for August 2018 that it would be 2020 and we still wouldn't have put a spade in the ground, I suspect we would have laughed at them, but that is the reality of where we are. It doesn't mean we haven't been doing lots of work in the background though, and we are still committed to making the projects happen.
We had a site meeting with the preferred contractors for the Mallaig build in October, and we are currently going through the bureaucracy needed to be able to access the funding and start building. The groundworks are being done under a separate contract, hopefully by a more local contractor, and we are awaiting confirmation about requirements to connect to the water and electricity supplies before this can be done. We've documented previously the difficulties that we have had in getting leases, and the paperwork to start building, and sometimes it feels that we take one step forward and two steps back. However, in general we are moving forward, and the recent meeting hosted by Arisaig Community Trust looking at managing increased tourist numbers has reinforced our belief that we are doing the right thing.
The Mallaig Playpark project is also moving forward step by step. We were given a generous donation by Kenneth MacKenzie from the second-hand bookshop towards the project, and we are currently one of the charities that you can choose to support with your membership card at Mallaig Co-op. For all the projects we are trying to progress, we need to be able to demonstrate that we have the support of the wider community. The Road to the Isles Facilities Group is a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), and we have set up as a two-tier SCIO, which means that we have one tier of Trustees, but below this we have members of the organisation. Membership is free, and open to anyone over the age of 16 who lives in the areas covered by Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig Community Councils. Members can choose how involved they want to be - they have the opportunity to attend meetings, and to nominate Trustees - but equally they may just want to become a member to show their support for what the SCIO is trying to achieve. We have some members, but we would welcome more. You can pick up a paper form from Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, or you can email email@example.com to request a form, or download it from the Facebook group - just search Road to Isles Facilities Group SCIO. Please consider becoming a member - the more members we have the more representative of our communities we are.
Road to the Isles Facilities Group (SCIO SC048758)
Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, West Bay, Mallaig,
Inverness-shire, PH41 4PX
Mallaig Harbour News January 2020
Happy New Year to everyone! It's not a great start to the year weather-wise, with high winds forecast for most of the week, and not much movement in the harbour as I am writing this on Monday 6th. We were due to host the Screen Machine on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th January but unfortunately the stormy weather meant that this visit had to be cancelled.
On a more positive note, the Sprat landings continued through December, right up until Wednesday 18th as the weather continued to be kind. A total of 1,210 tonnes was landed pre-Christmas, and the boats requested the pump be left for the start of January, in the hope that there would be more landings of sprats. This was also a boost for our ice plant, as there was almost daily ice required!
The Marina is closed for the Winter season, so we have been reviewing the occupancy figures. Although there were very slightly more vessels in total this season, there were actually less nights occupied at the Marina, with 1,401 in 2019/20 as opposed to 1,602 in 2018/19. June and July were on a par with the previous year, but August was quieter.
This year is the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 so it will be interesting to see what impact this has on marine tourism locally. There are some great opportunities to promote the area on social media throughout the year, not least the Sunset competition running all year as West Coast Waters www.westcoastwaters.co.uk try and create a breath-taking 'West Coast Waters Sunset Trail' for the Year of Coasts and Waters. There's a different prize to be won each fortnight throughout the year, and your photograph doesn't even have to be new - it just has to be shared to @WCWScotland and tagged #WCWSunsets and the location of the picture.
Mallaig Harbour Authority is a member of The British Ports Authority, who put together a range of information in the run-up to the General Election in December. This included their proposals for 'A New Deal for UK Fishing Ports', which you can read at www.britishports.org.uk/fishing. This document recommends three different strands:
Building Economic Resilience - by creating a domestic fisheries fund to replace EU funding which has clear, strategic aims that tie into wider policy to revive UK fishing
Restoring the Economic Link - which suggests increasing landings into UK ports is the best way to ensure that UK coastal communities benefit from UK fisheries. Increasing landings would also put UK fishing ports on a more sustainable economic footing, boosting the wider marine economy. Maintaining Market Access - which supports Government policy to negotiate a deal on fisheries that preserves frictionless and tariff-free trade for seafood.
Each of these strands could have significant implications for Mallaig Harbour, and the delivery of our new Masterplan, so we will be watching with interest how policy develops.
As many of you will know, the 'upstairs' Denholms office in the Harbour Buildings has been empty for a period. As Mallaig Harbour Authority has overall responsibility for the building, we decided as a Board that we should approach Denholms to take back the lease on the space, with the intention of sub-dividing it so that it could be used again. This will allow us to update the whole upstairs of the building, putting in more modern facilities. Denholms renounced the lease at the end of December, so we are currently working with an architect to draw up some plans, with the intention of sub-dividing the existing space into three offices, some storage and a communal kitchen for all the upstairs users.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
8th December 2019 Medivac from Inverie, Knoydart
Mallaig lifeboat was tasked by Stornoway coastguard at 18:28 on Sunday 8th December to convey two paramedics to Inverie, Knoydart to attend a patient with a suspected heart attack.
Departed Mallaig 19.05, arrived Inverie 19.25 where paramedics and one crew member disembarked and proceeded to patient's location. Patient boarded and Lifeboat departed Inverie 20.25, berthing at 20.45. Patient transferred to ambulance waiting on jetty for transfer to Belford Hospital. Lifeboat ready for service 20.55.
Nostre: A 'lost' place-name in Morar
Behind Mallaigmore a string of hill-lochs stretches south to Morar. The largest and northernmost of these is Loch an Nostarie. It is busy in the summer-time with blue and red damselflies and plenty of young anglers. Some years ago a path was built from the road-end at Glasnacardoch so in 15-20 minutes you can reach Shangri-La; midges and ticks permitting!
The place-name has long puzzled people. In the Ordnance Survey Name-Book (Inverness-shire Vol 29, 1876-8) its meaning is given as 'The Innkeeper's Loch'. However the same source says of Leachd an Nostarie - which lies just north of the loch - that its meaning is 'obscure'. Dwelly's Gaelic Dictionary gives òsda as an inn, òsdair an innkeeper. Loch an (loch of) Nostarie and Leachd an (slope of) Nostarie are the forms which survive on maps today but we can see how they would depend on an original place-name of something like 'Nostarie' - which has gone. It is possible that there was once an inn here but it seems an unlikely location in the mediaeval period. There would always be traffic from the south towards Mallaig but this would probably have gone by the coastal route - much as the road and railway do now. Mallaig Harbour is properly Na h-Acairseid where the last word derives from the Old Norse for an anchorage. From Viking times, and probably much earlier, this must have been the ferry point to Knoydart and Skye. It is difficult to see an inn by Loch an Nostarie being as convenient as one based in Mallaig.
There are other possibilities. Does the ending -arie represent Gaelic àiridh or shieling? Such names are common on the west coast and there are a significant number of shielings just three kilometres east along the north side of Loch Eireagoraidh. This last place-name is written 'Airidh a' Choire' on the first OS map of the area dated 1873. It is perfectly descriptive since there are more than twenty shieling huts in this great natural bowl or coire. But the topography doesn't suggest Loch an Nostarie was a shieling-site. By definition these were temporary summer huts where the families camped as their cattle utilised the high pastures. They produced butter and cheese before returning to their permanent settlements for winter. They did not normally grow crops here although in more favoured areas some of the shielings were eventually brought under cultivation. On both the eastern and northern shores of Loch an Nostarie there are extensive traces of old arable. These settlements were permanent, not seasonal.
Another possibility is that the ending -tarie represents tref which appears in some parts of Scotland (e.g. Ochiltree) as indicating a settlement. (Nostarie is sounded locally as if the 'a' was silent). The problem here is that tref is regarded as a Brittonic (i.e. Welsh and possibly Pictish) place-name element. It seems unlikely that this would survive on the north-west coast of Scotland - an area that was thoroughly Gaelicised in the early mediaeval period. There are Pictish names which endured on the west coast - e.g. Pitalman in Glenelg - but they are the exceptions which prove the rule.
Until recently I thought the Ordnance Survey map was our earliest source for this name but then I came across a sasine in the National Records of Scotland which takes it back another 250 years. Sasines record property transactions and in 1624 Donald Macdonell of Glengarry, feudal superior of North Morar, was passing lands to Allan MacRannald of Lundie (a cadet family of Glengarry). Eight merklands lay in the Glengarry section of his estate but 4 merklands lay in Morar. The local attorney or agent for Allan of Lundie was Donald from Kylesmorar so that we can assume the place-names given in the document will be reasonably accurate.
Fortunately sasines were formal documents so the list of place-names was repeated and we can check the spellings against each other. (It was not at all unusual for the same scribe to spell the same place in different ways within the same document). The places in Morar are as follows:
Kyles (by the narrows of Loch Nevis)
Kilnamuick (Culnamuck - on the north side of Loch Morar, east of Tarbert)
Swordelan (Swordland - on the north side of Loch Morar, west of Tarbert)
Brakegarffneddorie (part of Bracara - see below)
Ackersyd (Na h-Acairseid or Mallaig Harbour)
Two of these names deserve further comment:
Bracara is thorny. All sorts of suggestions have been put forward regarding its derivation - none of them very convincing - and much energy expended over its proper spelling (e.g. Bracara or Bracora). Highland Council's road signs give Bràigh garbh (i.e. rough brae) and Breac garbh. The former cannot be right because all the early spellings give 'Breck' or similar. The latter translates 'speckled'+ 'rough' which is certainly a good description of Bracara when seen from a distance in autumn - a wealth of colours on a rough hillside. However if we treat these words as adjectives they seem to be in need of a noun. Poetic it may be but place-names are usually prosaic.
There is also a theory which would derive it from 'brekka' which is Old Norse for 'slope'. Whilst a Gaelic origin might always seem more likely it is striking that Loch Morar has an unusual number of Norse-derived settlement names (Swordland, Romasaig, Oban, Meoble, Scamadale - and possibly Taodhail and Alaman).
There are some ambiguities in the sasine. The name appears four times. In three cases it is not entirely clear that it is one place-name rather than two. The element 'neddorie' is not jammed tight up against the preceding letters making one wonder if it is supposed to be a separate name. In the fourth case the names are actually separated and the text reads Brakegarff et (and) neddorie. The neddorie might include 'doire'(a thicket or grove of trees).
Norman Macdonald (The Clan Ranald of Knoydart & Glengarry, 1979, p 190) gives a 1762 rental with the spellings Breckgarveruick and Breckgarvnantor for two separate parts of what is now Bracara. The former might suggest righe/ruighe (shieling) as the last element. Equally the latter might suggest doire as the last element. The closeness between 't' and 'd' sounds suggests the Brakegarffneddorie of 1624 may be the same as Breckgarvnantor of 1762. At any rate both the 1624 sasine and the 1762 rental imply that the original place-name included a third element which has since been lost.
Another problem is that what we may be seeing here is a process of rationalisation by which local Gaelic speakers made comprehensible a place-name they could not readily understand. If Bracara was originally from the Norse word for a slope this meaning would have been forgotten long before 1624. Perhaps local Gaels then tried to rearticulate an obscure place-name in terms they themselves could grasp. In other words they imagined that the words 'breac' and 'garbh' were those originally meant. I don't think we can claim knowledge here. We can relish carrying the name back another century but, as in so many areas of Highland history, we may have reached something of a dead-end.
Nostre is more straightforward. The name is clearly written and so spelled on four separate occasions. It must, at the time, have represented a farm and settlement site since a hill-loch would have been regarded as having no economic value. Loch an Nostarie and Leachd an Nostarie appear on the OS six-inch-to-the-mile First Edition map of 1873 but no settlement sites are marked. Boulton's map of North Morar in 1834 marks but does not name the loch. Unfortunately General Roy's map of c. 1750 does not show any of the lochs in this part of North Morar. The map shows the surveying party must have followed the modern route of road and railway between Mallaig and Morar. It gives numerous signs of buildings and cultivation just east of the Lily Pond (Lochan Doilead) and if you walk there today the ground is still littered with lazybeds and hut-bases. The impression you receive from these acres of lazybeds is that they were secondary cultivation sites. The ground is poor and the area was probably only occupied when people became desperate for every available scrap of land. Potatoes seem the likeliest crop and I think this ground was broken during the period c. 1750 to c. 1820. The population of the Highlands was growing rapidly. Some extra money was being made from kelp production and military employment during the Napoleonic Wars. After Waterloo in 1815 this economic framework collapsed and I suspect most of these cultivation patches in the hills were abandoned.
Boulton's map is interesting because it shows us the farm boundaries as they were in 1834. Nostre did not then exist as a separate unit. The western edge of the loch formed the eastern boundary of Clasnacardo (Glasnacardoch). Some of the northern, and the whole eastern shore formed part of the farm of Mallaig More which stretched south from the settlement beside Loch Nevis. Since this farm crosses the watershed I suspect it is a late formation and that originally the northern side of Loch an Nostarie - which drains south - would have been part of a separate unit - probably Nostre. Boulton marks several patches of arable around the loch. The two largest lie on the eastern shore and one of these is still obvious today. There are the ruins of some buildings which look as if they have been adapted and rebuilt; extensive lazybeds which face west and drain into the loch, and the remains of a head-dyke further up the slope. These features are best seen in winter-time, defined by snow or a low sun. Was this Nostre?
Well, not quite. I think it was part of Nostre but the oldest settlement may have been on the northern side of Loch an Nostarie where Allt a' Bhainne splits into two before it enters the loch. Between the twin outfalls is a triangular piece of land which shows signs of cultivation. There are any number of lazybeds in Morar and they all conform to the same pattern, relatively thin and with a well-raised central section. This site has the drainage channels set further apart and the ridges are wider and flatter. This is more typical of the old runrig system prevalent throughout Britain in the centuries before the Agricultural Revolution of the 1700s. This is likely to be the oldest farm and the rigs would have grown oats and barley whereas after c. 1750 lazybeds were largely given over to potatoes.
This particular farm must have been abandoned long before 1834 because it is not marked on Boulton's map although nearby patches of arable are. I think this is probably the original Nostre and that some time between 1624 and 1834 it was replaced as the main farm-site by the more visible remains on the east side of the loch - just a few hundred yards away. Both sites seem to have been absorbed into an expanded Mallaigmore - perhaps many years before Boulton's map. All we have today is a place-name in an old document in the National Records and some marks on the landscape. As in so many places in the West Highlands we know little of the lives of these people. But this was once home to someone - perhaps many generations over many centuries. One year, after extensive muirburn, I did see an old hut-base here but the site largely holds its secrets - enveloped every year by bracken and birch scrub. It is satisfying if we can now give it a name - if not yet a history.
BIRDWATCH November 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly settled and dry month weatherwise. Fairly quiet on the bird front with most autumnal bird movements finished. Two very late Swallows were seen around the Marina, Arisaig on the first of the month.
The Long-tailed Duck on Loch Ailort remained throughout the month and another was on Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig for several weeks, often seen around the Marina moorings and pontoon. A single female was seen offshore from Druimindarroch on the 13th. Wintering Slavonian Grebes were back on Loch nan Ceall, with nine counted on the 21st. Several Little Grebes, Red Breasted Mergansers, Widgeon and Goldeneye were also there. Goldeneye were also on Loch nan Eala, the Morar estuary and Loch Morar. Goosanders were reported from Loch Morar and Loch Ailort.
Turnstone were reported from Traigh and West Bay, Mallaig on several occasions. On the 22nd 13 Purple Sandpipers were on the rocks by the outer breakwater, Mallaig.
On the Morar estuary two Bar Tailed Godwits and a Greenshank were seen on at least two occasions.
Still several small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfare in the area, mostly feeding on hawthorn berries, but several reports from Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig of Fieldfares feeding on apples. The only Waxwing reported was a single bird seen flying over Loch nan Eala on the 21st.
A male Blackcap seen feeding on elderberries and fat balls on several occasions in a Woodside garden was the only report.
Sparrowhawks were reported from numerous gardens from throughout the area, Sea Eagles reported from the usual locations and Tawny Owls reported from Morar and Arisaig.
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