WEST WORD
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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January 2023 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Glenfinnan, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
Birdwatch
World Wide West Word

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

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A Dazzling Start to the New Year at the MMCC!
Mallaig and Morar Community Centre was delighted to host BBC ALBA 's Ceilidh na Bliadhn' Uire this year. The ceilidh was broadcast live from the Community Centre from 11.30pm on Hogmanay, hosted by Cathy Macdonald and Niall Iain Macdonald, with performers including Breabach, the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band, Rachel Walker, the Oban and District Gaelic Choir and Mallaig, Ardnamurchan and District Pipe Band.
The BBC arrived on Tuesday 27th December to start putting up the rigging and transforming the Community Centre, with the Royal Mail posties kindly relocating to the Harbour for the week to allow the BBC vans in! The West Highland Hotel provided accommodation for the majority of the crew, with other guest houses and the Morar Hotel also providing rooms.

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MAaD pipe band were filmed the day before, as were Oban and District Gaelic Choir. The 'Green Room' was in the Library, while 'Hair and Make up' was part of West Highland College UHI. A satellite transmitter was set up outside the hall, and although BBC Alba had originally hoped to cut live to the fireworks set off by the Ronja Commander, they couldn't get a clear line of sight to the transmitter so couldn't do this in the end.
Jacqueline McDonell said, 'It was so lovely to see the hall being used to its full capacity again after the last couple of years, but as usual it wouldn't have gone ahead without the support of the wider community - a huge thank you to all who helped it happen.' If you haven't seen the ceilidh yet, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer until the end of January - search for Cilidh na Bliadhn' ire 2022.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you've had a lovely festive break. As I finish this edition, it's snowing again in Morar, and the islands are looking pretty inviting with their dusting of snow.
All the best to our Eigg 'Round & About' correspondent Nan, who is heading off to pastures new - thank you for all your contributions! We welcome Erika O'Reilly in her place, and look forward to reading her articles.
I got a last-minute bit of news about Red Squirrels being re-introduced to Arisaig but so far I only have a little bit of information to share about this - you can find out more at a talk at the Astley Hall at 2.30pm on Saturday 4th February!
Thanks to Morag and Ewen, and Henrik, for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for looking after the envelopes.
Kirsty Bloom
editor@westword.org.uk

Congratulations to . . . Arisaig's Steve Brown (of Wonderland) on the success of his new track, 'One Hit Song'. On its release on 1st December 2022 it reached number one in the iTunes UK Country chart!


KNOYDART
It's been a fantastic festive season here. Christmas Eve there was candlelit carol singing in the hall, followed by mulled cider and mince pies at the pub, which was then closed for a few days to allow the hard working staff to enjoy a proper break spending time with their families. There was a nice quiet lull from Christmas to New Year after a lot of busy-ness throughout November and December with all the workies and large machinery around, doing varying jobs, from works at the genny shed in the village to the massive Kilchoan project, which will be on going for a long time yet.
And then, the masses began to arrive, flooding off the boat in a sea of luggage, and bags of booze all ready to see in the New Year in true Knoydart style. Incredibly, the weather held amazingly for three days, fairly mild with barely a drop of rain and no mental winds. Couldn't have been more perfect really. The Hogmanay line up at the hall (2022 Scots Trad Music Venue of the Year in case you hadn't heard!) comprised of Fras, followed by Craig Baxter's Highland Hogmanay Band and of course, Angus Binnie on the decks afterwards for those who just kept on going.
The next day saw the big session begin in the hall, where revellers could recuperate with more drinks and lifesaving pasties and soup, listening to all the fantastic musicians around, professional and locals alike, before moving onto the pub to continue the craic. It was a good one, that's for sure.
Later this month the pub will be closing for its major refurbishment (round about the 21st) but if you'd like to come and see it as it stands at the moment, you can now do so for FREE. All boat fares have been waived for three months, while the RET funding is organised and put into place so you can now come for a day trip and it won't cost you, which in January has got to be a blessing. Unfortunately the pub WILL be closed at the end of the month though, and the Tearoom has also just announced that it will be closed for the duration of January and February, so it may well be back to the old Table craic.
Anyway, it's a great opportunity to bring the family and see Inverie's beauty if you haven't done it before but you must book your boat on the Western Isles' website to ensure the fares are free.
Happy January to you all,
Heather Robb

GLENFINNAN
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
I'd firstly like to thank everyone who made the Christmas Carol service at Glenfinnan such a lovely evening. A special thanks to Iain MacFarlane and Ingrid Henderson for the beautiful accompaniment (and for changing the key to allow us all to sing along!!)
I think we can also all agree that no place does a Hogmanay Ceilidh quite like Mallaig! What an incredible night with the best of music and the best of company. It truly was amazing and so lovely to see so many happy faces bringing in a New Year whilst fondly remembering those who sadly left us in 2022.
January . . . the month where we should all be walking towards a salad and lowering our carbs, instead we are peeling the tatties and the neeps and getting ready for a big plate of Haggis! Yes of course, the 25th is Burns night.
Did you know? Robert Burns fathered 12 children and his last child, Maxwell, was born on the same day as Rabbie's funeral on July 25th 1796. He was only 37 when he passed of rheumatic fever and it is rumoured that Burns died a poor man with only £1 to his name.
Glenfinnan, like so many villages around Lochaber, will be holding a wee local Burns night where there will no doubt be plenty food, poetry, and song.
Our wee Jetty Hut continues to host many activities and thanks to the busy bees who send us out lots of great information on upcoming community events.
We remain optimistic that the Callop walkway and bridge will be reopened this year and are keeping our fingers and toes crossed for some good news. For updates on this you can contact Forestry Land Scotland.
Cha mhinig a bha moll aig sabhal piobaire
(Pipers and Poets are generally not very good husbandmen)
(That is the reference book's opinion and not mine, honest!!)
Catriona Hunter

ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well folks, we hope you had a fabulous Christmas and that 2023 is a good one. Santa made a couple of appearances on Muck: the School held a festive lunch and quiz for some invited community members which was very much appreciated and a lot of fun, and the Jolly Fat fella stopped by to traumatise the little people - and then proceeded to trip the whole building's electrics upon exit! He then briefly caught up with a couple of kids who couldn't make the lunch, and we then went on to the Byre at the farm for Carol singing and mulled wine . . . always great when we come together. Another successful event was the School Panto, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas". It was very well put together with some great effects and a lot of humour.

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Hogmanay didn't disappoint either, with the usual gusto followed by a harmless game of Hockey which this year couldn't be on the beach as tides didn't allow, but on grass was just as competitive. Amazingly there was only one casualty and the surface looked like it had been ploughed! This was then followed by the annual mud washing ritual in the sea . . . nutters. New term has started with the Primary pupils on a culture trip to Edinburgh.
Well guys that's our ramble for this month . . . see you next!
Bruce Boyd

ISLE OF CANNA
As 2022 rolls into 2023, the changing of the season brings a change in residents on the island. We said a sad, fond farewell-for-now to Liz Holden and Fiona Hutton who have both now left Canna to pursue other interests.
Fiona first arrived on Canna in early 2018 and ran Tighard, the island's guest house, for four years. Last year she moved to MacIsaacs, the last house on Sanday. She worked as the postie and also worked several other jobs including Cafe Canna sous chef, house and shop cleaner and she was our resident Hebnet problem solver! Fiona volunteered as a Director on all boards, organised our renewables maintenance team and got our Dark Skies application moving forward.
I asked Fiona what her favourite memories are of Canna and she said: long dog walks, watching sunsets, kayaking and swimming in the sea from her doorstep, and all the people she met along the way! Fiona is now working in Glasgow and as Ecology Field Administrator and she has moved closer to her aging parents to keep an eye on them. We wish Fiona all the very best for her future endeavours; she will be missed here on Canna!
Liz Holden has also gone on to pastures new. I asked Liz to write a bit about her time on Canna and this is what she sent me. "I arrived with husband Pete in May 2015 - Pete was taking up the Ranger post and it was to be a last adventure before he retired. Retirement came and went and somehow we were still loving our life on Canna. I very quickly found that I didn't have much time to spend on my personal passion - the fungi (although it has to be said that there are now nearly 450 species recorded for the island!!).
"Becoming a director and secretary of the IoCCDT quickly meant that I was plunged into the world of community development, working alongside a wonderful group of folk all wanting to get the best possible outcomes for Canna. First up was the renewable energy scheme - grant raising for a project manager was my first big task and the results of that were up and running by 2018! Since then the development trust has appointed a development manager, an administrator and worked with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to set up the Canna Partnership. There are all sorts of exciting projects on the go - being able to contribute to that has been one of the best things about living on Canna.
"Something else that I took on was cleaning the bay of plastic rubbish once a fortnight. After some of the bigger storms this is a pretty daunting task and it takes a certain sort of stubborn determination to keep going. Walking back from the skip and seeing the bay clean makes it worthwhile though.
"I have also been a part of several projects for the NTS, including helping to document the contents of Canna House. Pete and I then took on the garden in April 2018. Now that the borders and veg patches are more or less in order, it has been a great pleasure listening to visitors enjoying the garden. Getting our apple and pear trees identified and finding that we have some pretty unusual specimens was just the icing on that cake!
"Leaving has not been an easy thing to do, but like so many of us, family has given me the final shove. I do not intend to be a stranger though." We all wish Liz the very best for the future. She is a force and she will be missed. Hopefully she will bring her new grandson out to visit Canna very soon!
There is a closeness that comes with living on an island with such a small population. Everyone is working and living together to drive the island forward so when someone leaves there is a need to share knowledge and experience to ensure there isn't a gap. We take on further hats to wear and get on with it. And we do love a hat on Canna!
We wish all West Word readers a happy and prosperous 2023!
Margaret Willington

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
By the time you read this we will be well into the New Year but Bliadhna Mhath r co dhiubh! Happy New Year anyway! We must hope that given the recent period of very cold and snowy weather, the worse is behind us for the winter and that this ancient Gaelic proverb is not true
"Cha tig Geamhradh gu cl Challuinn, no Earrach gu cl Fhill Pruig - Winter comes not till after New Year, nor Spring till after St Patrick's day". [March 17th]

And did you know that there are particular materials which are most effective for keeping out the cold at particular stages of the Winter?
"Ri fuachd Calluinn, 's math cl ollainn:
Ri fuachd Fill-Brighde, fgh'naidh cisfheart"
For New Year cold, good is woollen cloth
For Candlemas [St Bride's Day, 1-2 Feb] cold, mixed stuff will do"

Margaret Fay Shaw wrote about the work done on the croft during the winter months, in particular those beginning in February:
"The spring work of the croft began in February, when seaweed, used as fertiliser, was cut with a saw-toothed sickle called a 'corran', on the tidal islands of the loch at low water of a spring tide. It was bound together in great bundles called 'maoisean' and towed ashore at full tide so high that it could be left on the grass verge. The crofters then carried it in creels on their backs to the field, where it was left in a heap for a fortnight before being spread on the ground.

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Shovelling kelp on Canna 1950's

There it was left until black and dry the new grass showing above it when the ground was ready to turn. The fields were too small to use a horse-drawn plough so the ground was dug with a spade or a footplough called a cas-chrom. This primitive looking implement whose name means crooked foot, is of a type still used in various parts of the world since man first tilled the soil. The foot of the cas-chrom is made at an angle of 110 degrees to the long handle and the point is tipped with iron which is pushed into the earth by the pressure of the man's foot on the wooden pin at the bend of the cas. It enters the ground at a slant, is tipped back and rolled to the side, where it deposits the clod."

Margaret wrote of her winter experiences in South Uist in 1930. All spelling is Margaret's own...
Jan 25 1930 Saturday
Stayed inn all day writing & sorting pictures etc. Weather improved - Angus John & Dugald Campbell call in evening - AJ with stool he made me which is a darling.
Bachelor & whist. To bed to read "Lea... worth ease" - but letters in am. from Kay v important then Mary Ferguson & Shearer called at 10 tonight - a great surprise & songs & I had made fudge before so they were slightly intertained (sp). We all had giggles. Fortunately they were late and didn't call while stove was being lighted - an hour before when we were all black & the kitchen filthy dirty.
January 28
Stormy so remain in until 4 when I go to Boisdale House for tea. Home early to find Angus John - photographs of lobster creels arrive - one of the best I've ever taken.

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Fiona MacKenzie

ISLE OF RUM
Happy New Year everyone from Rum.
We are kicking off the new year with our latest set of volunteers. Following on from the new campsite shelter from the Crosscut Coop and a lot of painting and ground clearing in the wet December weather, the next task is fixing up the village hall and replacing the external decked area. There is a lot of work needed carrying out and Alex has worked hard finding volunteers with the skills we need to get the job done. We can't thank all the volunteers enough for their skill sharing and donation of so much time to help us out. The programme has been working really well and we look forward to more volunteer work parties at times when the bunkhouse has space to accommodate them.
The village hall will be closed for most of January for work to take place but we hope it will be finished for us to have our Burns' night celebration on the 28th.
Not many wildlife sightings recently though you may recall this time last year Sean Morris started his 'local big year' for bird sightings. He had hoped to reach 115 but in fact managed to reach 122 different species which is amazing!
Negotiations about the future of the castle are still under way and we hope to reach a satisfactory conclusion soon.
Rum will be hosting the Small Isles Games this year, to be held on Saturday 12th August. We're hoping CalMac will be able to accommodate a change to the ferry route that day to help all the other islands get to Rum.
Fliss Fraser

ISLE OF EIGG
December has been busy here on Eigg, with lots of cheerful gatherings and activities on the island throughout the month. At the start of December a very Christmassy group of islanders met at the school and took part in the Jingle Jog to the community hall to join the Christmas fair. The fair really showed the amount of talented people we have on Eigg, and there was a variety of fantastic things for sale. There was a stall raising money for the school which raised almost £400! Thanks everyone who donated items and took part in the tombola, and everyone else who took part in the fair. Saira, Kat and Laura had a tapas and cocktails stand, and managed to raise £540 for Social Bite!
Following the fair, there was Christmas Karaoke down at the Galmisdale caf and bar, where we were treated to a wide range of songs from the very talented singers. Throughout the month the World Cup was shown on the island, with many taking part in a sweepstakes. Owain won and kindly donated the £130 winnings to Social Bite, a charity which helps the homeless.
Later in the month Santa paid the kids a visit and brought them some lovely gifts. This was followed by the community meal, which was a credit to the many fantastic cooks on the island. Thanks to everyone who contributed and came along. It was lovely to see everyone together and having such a great time. People got together again for a showing of The Muppets Christmas Carol, and Kermit the Frog even made an appearance in the hall. There was also a bonus screening of a former Eigg primary school pantomime which featured many familiar faces! Dougal kindly provided mulled wine, popcorn and mince pies for everyone.
A few people went for a swim at Laig on Christmas day, with a crowd of supporters listening to Christmas songs on the beach. The swimmers really appreciated the homemade mince pies and other treats that people had brought along!

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Photo by Labhaoise McKenna

The following week was the Hogmanay ceilidh, which was a brilliant night (above). Thanks to all the musicians, organisers, volunteers, dancers and everyone else for a fantastic night! While some of us were still recovering from the night before a good amount of brave people got out for a New Year's Day swim (below) on both sides of the island.

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Photo by Erika O'Reilly

Many thanks to John Chester who has completed his annual Isle of Eigg Bird Report for 2022. This year saw a total of 130 species recorded on the island, 77 of which bred or made a serious attempt at breeding. It wasn't the most successful year for breeding birds, with a very wet summer on the island and avian flu affecting seabirds. However the Hen Harriers had a successful breeding season and the Golden and White Tailed Eagles both appeared to as well. Curlew and Redshank also nested and Long Eared Owls successfully reared young.
While it was a poor year for expected passage migrants, there were some special visitors to the island in 2022 including Iceland and Glaucous Gulls. A Hoopoe visited the island briefly and the island's second Rose Coloured Starling was seen in summer. We also had an Eigg (and possibly Highland region) first when a Serin was seen on the island!
John Chester reports: As is usually the case December was a really quiet month for wildlife sightings with birdlife pretty much restricted to the usual mid-winter species. A few Great Northern Divers were present offshore with three near the pier on the 17th. There were regular sightings of both adult and juvenile White Tailed Eagles while Sparrowhawks were frequently observed making life 'interesting' for Chaffinches etc at garden feeding stations. As usual numbers of wintering Woodcock built up, and a lonely Greenshank remained at the bays until the year's end. Garden feeders continued to attract the usual small birds including a few wintering Siskins.
Moth trapping has long since gone into hibernation, but a brave Winter Moth lived up to its name by clinging determinedly to a house window despite a torrential sleet shower on the 16th.
Erika O' Reilly


Mallaig Harbour News
Happy New Year everyone! We welcomed the New Year again this year with another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander, again supplemented by some local residents who had clubbed together to organise a pretty spectacular display. It's becoming a regular tradition, and BBC Alba had even hoped to film it live as part of the Hogmanay ceilidh being broadcast from Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, but unfortunately some of the Harbour buildings were in the line of sight to the satellite link so those of us who were at the ceilidh had to miss out on the fireworks!
Another similarity from last year is that there has again been no Sprat fishery to date this year, and it's looking increasingly likely that the pump will be taken down unused before the end of the month.
Looking back at last year's January news, we had achieved a number of projects over the year. This year, it very much feels like all the emphasis has been on the Outer Harbour development, and the various iterations of this that we have had to go through. We now have a plan from Wallace Stone for the initial phases of the works, which are estimated to take 33 months in total and which will lead to disruption in the Outer Harbour, in particular while the dredging and blasting take place. This is likely to take around 30 weeks. We hope to manage it so that overnight berthing will be available throughout this time, and we are working with the main users of the Outer Harbour to try and timetable these works for the quietest periods to minimise disruption as far as possible.
Some of the works we are proposing will be for the benefit of CalMac, but we recognise that there has been significant disruption elsewhere in the CalMac network, and that this will continue with the closure of Uig for upgrading works. This will be done over two periods, the first from 16th January to 13th March 2023, and the second at the end of the summer season, from 30th October to 11th December 2023. During these periods there will be additional sailings between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, so we recognise the importance of there not being disruption in Mallaig during these periods. Between January and March, it is planned that there will be five sailings a week between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, with two return trips on a Saturday. Let's hope the weather is kind to allow this to happen! Further details and all the timetables can be found on CalMac's website www.calmac.co.uk/service-changes/uig-harbour-closure-customer-update
The Scottish Government have also published their recommendations under the Strategic Transport Review 2 (STPR2). These can be accessed on Transport Scotland's website - just search 'STPR2' - and include a recommendation (No 42) for improving port infrastructure; 'Investment in port infrastructure, including power supplies, would complement the introduction of new and upgraded ferry vessels. This would help meet the needs of rural and island communities by improving the capacity, resilience, reliability, accessibility and standardisation of ferry services and reducing their emissions. Investment in port infrastructure means that there can be progress to standardisation and interoperability of new and existing vessels, increasing network resilience. This investment would also contribute to reducing emissions across the ferry network and support Scotland's net zero carbon emission targets.' MHA needs to recognise this recommendation in any works we undertake, especially relating to the ferry infrastructure in Mallaig.
Those of you who live locally will be aware that Scottish Sea Farms were among those fishfarm operators who had difficulty with loss of salmon due to microscopic jellyfish blooms. This resulted in an increase in mortalities having to be landed in Mallaig, particularly in September. In agreement with Scottish Sea Farms, we charged a premium for these landings, with the intention of the monies going back into the community. In total, the premium was £900, so at the Board Meeting in December we agreed that these monies would be split as follows: £250 to Mallaig Community Council for the Christmas lights; £200 to Mallaig Primary School; £150 to the local Cubs and Beavers, who undertake an annual beach clean and who plant flowers at the entrance to the Harbour each year; and £300 as seedcorn funding to enable those interested in establishing a Men's Shed locally to take forward the project.
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154


On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
In the week, as I write this, the Scottish New Year of old (12th January) comes into view; 'Happy New Year'.
Let's try to start with good news - of which there is always some. The many DVD's, calendars, beautiful Locomotive diaries and cards. Tins of shortbread with The Jacobite on the lid, even a train with flashing lights, audio and waving passengers (which with permission from the gifter, I dispatched (donated) to the base of the the living Christmas Tree at the Booking Office/waiting room at Mallaig Railway Station. Thank you one and all for your kindness.
As our fondly respected Queen Elizabeth II, now departed, started each year by saying 'Look up, look out, say less, do more, take the long view' I try to concur each new year - but usually fail on the 'say less'!!
Following on with the good news, Glenfinnan Station Museum made it on to The Times' list of 'Seven of the UK's best tiny museums' this month! The article describes seven pocket-sized 'weird and wonderful' institutions around the country and advocates a trip from Fort William over the viaduct to reach Glenfinnan, saying, 'Whether you're a keen trainspotter or revisiting your Harry Potter obsession, this quaint museum on a stretch of rail track considered to be one of the most dramatic in Britain is a perfect addition to your to-do list while visiting the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Glenfinnan Station Museum is located inside what is still a working station and tells the story of the West Highland Line and in particular how the line from Glasgow to Mallaig was built.'

More good news
Even with the delayed post I had a swathe of cards entering the draw for the double DVDs of The Jacobite 2019/2022. If you like spreading happiness then this is the DVD set for you. The (very happy) winner was Vanessa Taylor from Kirkcaldy, in the Kingdom of Fife! She received her copy before Christmas too! If anyone out there still wants to purchase one, telephone me on (01687) 462189 and I will give you the full details. Vanessa purchased her West Word and read about the draw whilst on holiday near Glenuig. She has travelled on The Jacobite previously with her grandchildren. So a worthy winner. A new postcard draw to follow again next month!

Even more good news
A Kings Lynn holiday company has won a prestigious national travel award. What has that to do with us, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. The Railway Touring Company delights in including Mallaig every year in its planning. The company was started in 1996 by Nigel Dobbins. It started building a reputation for rail holidays in the UK with passion for heritage rail. Nigel passed away in 2018 but will never be forgotten and the team of dedicated staff were determined to build on his success. As well as bringing guests to Mallaig several times a year (these days by incorporating booked out carriages on The Jacobite) their seven strong, all-female, team are passionate about rail travel and are these days constantly researching routes and destinations in their quest to provide unique and interesting fully inclusive holidays as well as days out, special trips etc to add to their portfolio.
They have just been named the 'Best Small Travel Company for Rail Holidays' at the British Travel Awards. Managing director Kelly Osbourne has built a team that is dedicated to its customer base. They know just how to look after guests on-board their rail holidays. Their reputation builds and builds. They have previously won the 'Best Small Specialist Interest Holiday Company' in 2020 and 'Best Small Rail Holiday Company' in 2019.
Not only that but they now offer complete touring rail holidays to the fjords of Norway and the Rocky Mountains in the USA, amongst others.
Always attentive, never intrusive, they have never forgotten how they started up, coming to Mallaig, and putting guests needs and requirements first, ensuring that they book with them again. The income that they bring to our area is very appreciated, and I know them as friends. Good news all round.
If you want to indulge in dreaming of trying one of their UK steam railway day trips in the UK or their trips abroad, or to find out when they are coming to Mallaig this year, they are happy to send out a brochure - call them on (01553) 661500 or their website is www.railwaytouring.net . This year they have incorporated trips on the Flying Scotsman. Thank you, Railway Touring Company for not forgetting Mallaig. You are always welcome!

Even Better News!
Look in your shed, loft, garage!! A Crianlarich BR enamel station totem was auctioned by GW Railwayana Auctions at its two-day sale on 11/12th November 2022. For - wait for it - a final bid of £30,000 The total price including buyer's premium was £35,400. This particular item had previously been sold in Sheffield in 2004 for £3,700. Not a bad return on an investment! Happy days!

As I bring this column to a close - very late at night again, on Wednesday 11th January and pushing our West Word editor to the limit with my late copy - I have breaking news on the ongoing railway industry strikes! Oh dear, I hear you say - not another one!!
Steve Montgomery, Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the individual TOCs (Train Operating Companies), had previously said to the press that he could not advance talks with the TSSA and RMT unions' members representatives to advance negotiations unless he had 'government backing'.
Today after a meeting of the Government's Parliamentary Transport Select Committee, the Rail Delivery Group announced that he now had a 'revised mandate' from the government which would be 'used' in talks, round the table, with the TSSA and RMT unions on Thursday 12th January. Is it a ground-breaking deal? I don't know. Mr Montgomery went on to say that he could not share details of the 'revised mandate' before the meeting for 'confidentiality reasons' until he had met with the union representatives.
ASLEF, the union representing train drivers, are believed to have also received a revised offer to consider from Network Rail. Network Rail owns and maintains railway infrastructure - tracks, bridges, signals, some stations, platforms buildings etc, with approximately 40,000 staff. They are currently making no comment.
I have received so many positive comments following my attempts to make sense of the whole debacle these past few months, not only from staff on all sides of the railway industry, workers, management, etc but you, the readers and rail users. Thank you for that. Surely solutions must come soon?
In Scotland, ScotRail drivers and conductors have negotiated and reconciled pay, terms and conditions through ASLEF and RMT, but, when they can't get access to the track, signalling centres etc then strike days, in the main, mean that they cannot work. It also affects touring train companies, independent operators, freight trains, sleeper trains and the fare paying pubic who wan to use rail as their mode of transport, of course. At the moment it is more than jaded. It is sad and tiring.
I recently re-read my column for West Word in March 2010. What was I writing about on 1st March? The headline was, 'ScotRail/RMT Guards Strike Action'! and the reason for three strikes that month (all with bustitution to still give passengers service) was 'A series of strikes as part of a dispute between ScotRail Guards and Management over ScotRail's plans to have ticket examiner rather than conductors on a new £300 million line from Glasgow to Edinburgh via Airdrie and Bathgate.' Ach well - I guess what goes around, comes around!!

Returning to Good News!
Coming soon on TV, Pete Waterman and Jools Holland are presenting a series of programmes entitled 'Little Trains with Big Names'. More news next month.
The West Highland Pullman touring train is coming to Mallaig as part of a three day, two night stay at Fort William. It has been allocated pathing to visit Mallaig on Sunday 19th March! Scheduled to depart Fort William at 9am and be back in Fort William for about 2pm. So, plenty of time for the passengers to roam around, as they describe it, 'the pretty fishing port of Mallaig'!

That'll do for me. See you at the station, if I don't see you on the train!
See you on the train,
Sonia Cameron


BIRDWATCH December 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical December bird wise with most of the usual birds to be expected this time of year, apart from the lack of reports of 'White-winged' gulls. There are normally a handful of Iceland Gulls and the odd Glaucous Gull around Mallaig Harbour, or by the Salmon farms in Loch Nevis and Loch Ailort by this time of year.
Still a few Whooper Swans on the move early in the month. On the first, 25 Whoopers were seen heading east over Loch Ailort and 18 were seen heading south over Arisaig. On the 3rd a group of 12 were seen heading over Arisaig. At least two remained on Loch nan Eala throughout the month and a single adult lingered about the Morar River and Estuary from the 8th till at least the 11th. Wigeon were reported from Loch Ailort, Loch nan Ceall, Loch nan Eala and the Morar Estuary. Goldeneye were seen on Loch nan Ceall, Loch Eala, Loch Morar and the Morar Estuary. On the 11th in calm conditions there were at least 10 Slavonian Grebes, eight Little Grebes, four Common Scoters and 32 Red-breasted Mergansers on Loch nan Ceall. A single Common Scoter was seen near Traigh on the 12th. Widespread reports of Great Northern Divers from Loch Ailort to Mallaig. Both Red and Black-throated Divers were seen on Loch nan Ceall.
Still at least one Greenshank and one Bar-tailed Godwit wintering on the Morar Estuary. Purple Sandpipers were seen regularly on the rocks by West Bay carpark and the outer breakwater, Mallaig. Turnstones were also seen around West Bay carpark an don the shore by Traigh. Woodcock were seen regularly, again mostly from roadside verges after dark.
Still a few wintering thrushes reported, mostly feeding in fields as there are few berries left now. At least 30 Redwing were seen near Borrodale House on the 4th. Small mixed groups of Redwing and Fieldfare were reported from Inverailort, Back of Keppoch and Traigh Farm. Still reports of higher than usual numbers of Blackbirds from around the area. Jays were reported from the Woodside area and Rhubana, Morar on several occasions.
Long-tailed Tits were seen feeding on fat balls in a Woodside garden on several occasions; the same garden also had Great-spotted Woodpeckers visiting their feeders.
Several sightings of a Nuthatch using peanut feeders in garden in Arisaig village.


WORLD WIDE WEST WORD

photo
William Simpson took his copy to Rome and took this great photo - chilling out on top of Castel Sant'Angelo with St Peter's Basilica in the background!


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