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

List of Issues online

July 2000 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Moby on a Mission with his Whale Boat
Whales & Dolpins in the Hebrides
Road to the Isles Show
Time Capsule at Astley Hall
Rocking Horse Workshop on Eigg
Monthly reports from Eigg, Muck, Knoydart, Arisaig, Rum
How to Subscribe



Tom McClean is off on another trip, and this time he wants to help draw attention to the plight of the whale.
Tom, known locally for years as 'Moby McClean', thought up the idea for his whale of a boat because of that very nickname. The adventurer who was the first to row the Atlantic, the sailor of the smallest yacht across the Atlantic, and the messenger in a bottle had been looking for a new and different idea to attract the eye of sponsors. It's certainly been attracting the eye of tourist and local alike this first week in July as they queue on Mallaig harbour to have a tour on board.
Six years in the planning, two years in the making, the Moby boat is 65 ft. long, weighs 62 tons, and is unusual in that it is a clinkered steel boat.
It is surprisingly roomy and comfortable inside, with foam lining to prevent condensation. The foam exterior has a realistic skin-like texture. It is powered by two classic Gardiner 6LW engines.
The boat will be leaving harbour around the 6th July on the next leg of its Round Britain tour. The first summer after it was launched it travelled south from Forres, where it was built, as far as Hull. The second summer it sailed from London along the south coast, the third was spent in London's St. Katherine's Docks, the fourth it went from south west England up the coast to Mallaig, non stop. This year, Tom and his crew are continuing the tour, leaving Mallaig to go to Tobermory, Oban and Fort William.


Members of the crew this year include two volunteers from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, and they will be working and helping on the boat while fundraising for the cause of whales and dolphins. The Trust is based in Tobermory, with another centre in Oban, and it undertakes research and protection and monitoring programmes. They are the people to get in touch with if you find a stranded whale or dolphin on the shore.
Tom needs more crew to help handle the boat down the coast, and is looking for likely helpers who are willing to enjoy the unique experience in return for a bunk and meals.

Anyone interested in joining the tour, contact Jill McClean:
Telephone: 01687 462274
E-mail: invermorar@4unet.co.uk
Web: www.spiritofadventure.co.uk

and the Marguerite Explorer
by Chris Swan ('Swanny')

There can be no one living in this area that needs to be told of the beauty of their surroundings, this is truly a magical place. A mosaic of scattered Islands each one magical and different to the others, provides a stunning playground for all of us that spend time here. Be it the shell white beaches, formed over aeons by the siliceous remains of eurydice pulcra and Rachel Carsons "Long Snowfall" or the volcanic hills and garnet encrusted shores of the mainland, this is truly an enchanted paradise.
The waters between the Islands have long since provided work and pleasure for people across the ages but it is only relatively recently that another facet has become more understood. In 1990 the Marguerite Explorer began chartering here and her speciality, then as it is now, was whales and dolphins. Cetaceans. When we first began, apart from trips that had just begun by Sea Life Surveys, using their boat the Alpha Beta, no one was much interested or indeed aware of the wealth of cetaceans that can be found in these waters. There were of course local fisherman or boat operators that saw whales, knew that dolphins might turn up from time to time but no one knew just how much or regularly one might find an animal.
To put it in perspective when the Marguerite Explorer started not only did rival boat operators complain to the advertising standards authority that it was not feasible to offer such trips but almost everyone was adamant that it was almost impossible. In the first season the Marguerite Explorer saw 1 whale. In the second they saw about 68, now, in an ordinary 6 day charter they average sightings of about 26 A WEEK!! They also expect to get a whale next to the boat, curiously inspecting them about 2.4 times a week on average …how do you get .4 of a whale??
Anyway, 11 years on and thousands of miles and hours later they are still working at it. Most years they are involved with surveys or film work or DNA sampling with the Seawatch Foundation. This is an organisation run by Dr Peter Evans from Oxford University. It is an organisation that advises the government on many things but one of its main aims is to involve the public in data collection and for anyone interested in helping (no experience is necessary) the address is at bottom of article.
The types of cetaceans seen in the area vary from location to location and seasonally but in the course of a year we expect to see Minke whales (these are very common all over the area, can be seen outside Mallaig on a good day, and are the commonest whale in this region), Killer whales, two groups of which we have identified and who have been using this area repeatedly for over 20 years, Northern Bottlenose whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, rissos dolphins, whitesided dolphins, whitebeaked dolphins and harbour porpoise.

Besides these we do see large rorquals, probably Fin or Sei whales and have seen a sperm whale on one occasion. What you can see is dependent on all sorts of things, where to go and what to do is a matter of experience, ability, perseverance, knowledge and of course luck.


This year will be the last full time for the Marguerite. She has been loitering in Mallaig for the last few weeks getting herself a little more glamorous for the start of the season which begins this Thursday 15th June when she sets about her DNA sampling programme. She will then be chartering through until September before returning home to her mooring in Arisaig. One of the major reasons for the Marguerite Explorer ever coming to Mallaig in the first place was the need to have a base from where she could reach Cape Wrath in a weeks charter in order to survey that area. Having come and discovered Mallaig they have returned to make it home. Everyone is so friendly and helpful that we regard it as sort of coming home each year, wherever we go or whatever we need, help, a bath, chocolates or diesel (or baskets of prawns for our tea) there has ALWAYS been someone with a ready smile willing to share and help
The crew of the Marguerite LOVE Mallaig.


Seawatch Foundation
11 Jersey Road
Oxford, OX4 4RT
Phone 01865 717276
E-mail: Peter.evans@zoology.ox.ac.uk

Road to the Isles Agricultural Show

The Agricultural Show held its sixth successful event and the day stayed fine on its lovely site at Camusdarach, Arisaig. on Saturday, 10th. June, There were many excellent entries in all the categories from livestock to flower arranging, and an impressive array of trophies were presented to winners by Kath Cameron, who retired this year as Arisaig's District Nurse. Show Chairman Bill Henderson, Andrew Simpson, and Alastair Fleming gave a hand and Bill presented Kath with a bouquet.
The attractions, as ever, were many and varied. The Knights of Ashbourne, in Medieval costume, sat outside their pavilion with Keesha the Eagle Owl, while Knight Paul Lovell demonstrated chain mail, armour and weapons. In the arena he staged a mock battle with Black Knight Alan Douglas.
Also a draw to the arena was a demonstration by the Moidart Working Horses, sheepdog trials, and a dog show. Around the edges of the arena a chainsaw sculpture could be seen taking shape, while the Crafts marquee tables overflowed with entries of knitting, baking, flower arranging, and art work. There was no need to go hungry either - Arisaig Hotel staff were there with their barbeque, and the tea tent also offered various forms of refreshment - as did the bar tent.
Fund raising was going on at stands and sideshows manned and womanned in aid of the Astley Hall, the Arisaig Youth Club, Morar Primary School, and others, with raffles and book stalls.

Dorothy Simpson with the Handicraft Trophy

the Eagle Owl
Overall Top Dog
with friend Dean Lee

Time capsule for the Astley Hall

Midsummer Night - halfway through the Millennium Year. What better time to have a celebratory bonfire and a bit of a party to place the time capsule in the roof cavity of the Astley Hall? The day started off so grim it was touch and go whether the bonfire and party would go ahead, but we refused to think of cancelling. In the end the weather cleared and we had a fine if midgy evening.
A large bonfire was built opposite Highland and a crowd of local residents gathered to toast each other and the hall project. Whisky, wine and beer, nibbles and crisps were available, as well as soft drinks for the younger members. Those who wished had a site tour.

street party

The time capsule wasn't very posh - not for us a cylinder of gleaming stainless steel, or even the traditional whisky bottle, but a stout blue plastic box container with a sort of folding lid. Into it went photographs of members of the Youth Club, the WRI, the Whist Club, a Senior Citizens party and the design Team working on the Hall; a copy of the Telegraph dated 1st. January 2000, the January 2000 West Word which told how the communities celebrated their New Year, and the current June issue. We included the thick book which was the application to the Heritage Lottery (which we did not follow though in the end) which detailed all the community consultation on the Hall project - petition, interviews, drawings by Youth Club, and photos of the Hall as it was and pages on the history of the Hall. In went an empty token bottle of the Hall's Islay Mist DeLuxe (thanks Charles!). A sheet of signatures of those present and those concerned with the project was added. (We will sneak back to present the contents in a better way. We need some commentary on the photos to say who is who, and we need to add photos of the Community Council, the Playgroups, the Hall Committee and the contractor's team.)
The actual ceremony was carried out with trepidation but with style by Lorna MacKay with help from dad Hugh, climbing up a ladder from the stage into the roof space. Then the party continued, with music from Lorne's tape deck and a concert on recorders from Donna and Lynne Dempster. Jack did absolute sterling work serving the drinks (we emptied two litres of whisky and the bottle of Islay Mist, three boxes of wine and who knows how much beer - the dustmen must have wondered what I'd been up to!). Our thanks go to all the kids who helped build such a splendid bonfire and kept it going; to Hugh and Lorna; Donna and Lynne; to Donald; and to Nellie for being a part of the whole thing. Grateful thanks also for the provision of the food and drinks to Simpson & Brown (architects), Morham & Brotchie (Quantity Surveyors), Alasdair 'Pod' Carmichael (contractor) and Enconsult (M & E Engineers). Also thanks to Arthur, who took pity on a poor amateur to take some of the photos; for the group one he leapt - well, clambered - onto the gate pillar to get a better shot.
The party continued well into the night for a hardy few and shadowy figures were seen sitting round the dying embers of the bonfire at two in the morning! (It was Midsummer - it might have been the little people…..)
Ann Martin


Tasha Fyffe and fiancée Brigg Lancaster are setting up their new business in the former tea-room at the island's pier. Brigg, having learnt his wood crafting skills from his father, will make the rocking horses while Tasha will do the finishing work such as painting and making the tack. Tasha also intends to learn to carve the rocking horses for herself.
The duo will create rocking horses in a variety of sizes and models, using quality hardwoods with a full leather saddle and bridle, real horsehair and brass fittings with a traditional dappled or varnished finish.

Tasha and Brigg plan to make several exhibition horses during the first few months of their new venture for display in galleries, craft fairs and trade exhibitions in a bid to win orders. The workshop on Eigg will become one of only six full-time rocking horse manufacturers in the UK, with the other five all based in England.
Traditional wooden toys and products have grown in popularity in recent years and the pair are already planning to expand the business by diversifying into rocking chairs, cradles and spinning wheels. The innovative project will allow Tasha and Brigg to remain on Eigg after they marry this month.


One of the first rules in the Army, I am told, is never to volunteer for anything but I didn't listen and am now Heather's successor as writer of this column. Sadly my first duty has to be to record as best I can, Angus MacKinnon's funeral.
Angus's funeral took place on 29th May in brilliant sunshine with just a wee chilly breeze but happily no sign of rain. 90 friends and relatives came on the Shearwater from near and far to say good bye to him, two faithful friends travelled all the way from Norfolk .
The mourners were met on the pier and driven across the Island to the Catholic Church at Cleadale which was magnificently decorated by Karen and Mairi with Azaleas and Rhododendrons from the lodge garden (our grateful thanks to both). It was the family's wish that instead of wreaths a donation be sent to Cancer Research .
It was a large funeral by any standards, about 200 crowded into church for the service (much of which was sensitively describe in last months West Word). Mary Flora MacDonald from Mallaig sang very beautifully, a Gaelic hymn. Outside in the sunshine Ian MacDonald from Glenuig and Duncan Nicholson from Fort William played the pipes while everyone was gathered into numerous vehicles, including Alistair's Lorry and Duncan's small trailer, typical island transport, to escort Angus on his last journey.
Appropriately Angus was buried in the full highland dress which had suited him so well in life. Ian MacDonald played a Lament at the graveside and we extend our thanks to both pipers for their excellent music. There was no shortage of bearers, most of the island men and many from elsewhere came forward to perform this duty.
Drinks were served in Kildonan House and many a dram was taken in memory of Angus. Later a really good buffet lunch was provided by the tea-room staff . A big thank you to Amber and her assistants.
Back in the tea-room after the Shearwater had left it was generally considered that "Angus had had a good send-off". He is sorely missed and there is no doubt that he will be fondly remembered for many years to come and even when all the present islanders have long gone it is not beyond the realms of probability that he will still be an important part of the Eigg folklore.

The Small Isles Community Council AGM was held on Saturday June 3rd on the Lodge Terrace in scorching sunshine, it was far too good to be indoors. Ewen McEwen chaired the meeting which was considerably better attended than usual.
The first full week in June saw fifteen Small Isles Primary School children and five teachers, away to Fort William for the tenth time in what has become an annual event. Morag took all seven pupils from Eigg School, this will be the last time for Francis and Jody who will be going to Mallaig High School after the Summer holidays. Accommodation was provided at Camaghael Hostel and all children and teachers attended Lochyside Primary School where they worked with the Expressive Art Teacher and joined in classes on Music, Art and PE, subjects in which they do not have the opportunity to take part on the islands. Each evening there were swimming lessons in the High School Swimming Pool and many of the children are becoming quite proficient some are learning to dive. Time was spent Orienteering and on Thursday, which it seems, was the highlight of the trip, all visited Fort William weekly market with their pocket money, and spent it mostly on buying presents to bring proudly back for those left behind.
On 24th June the island children took part in the PH2000 parade in Inverness, dressed as a Masked Junk Band, together with, the Knoydart Circus. More on that later.
Our traditional Ceilidh to celebrate the date of the Eigg buyout, was held this year, the third anniversary, on Saturday June 10th, with a star studded cast of musicians! DIBIDIL with Leo MacCann, Ross Martin and Gabe MacVarish; Duncan Chisholm and Marc Clements from BLAZING FIDDLES and Iain MacDonald.
Friends, old and new came as usual to Eigg for the occasion and Murdo issued a special return ticket on the Shearwater for party- goers. The music was brilliant, especially the pipes and fiddle and the hall was crammed to overflowing with many dancers and many who just enjoyed a good crack helped by cases of McEwans and bottles of our new Eigg Whisky, "Eilean nam Ban Mora" (the Island of the Big Women) specially bottled for us to sell, by Nevis Distillery.

The Barn continues to flourish, various groups have already held very successful courses there this year and others are due to take place in future weeks. In May, Jill Aldersley held a course in water colour painting and in June Stena Harris headed a "Painting and Print Making" course. Earlier two separate church retreat groups enjoyed the peace and stunning weather, in which we all basked at that time. There are still some vacancies in August for a "Hebridean Flora and Fauna" week so if you are interested in learning about the birds and flowers of Eigg ring Karen Helliwell on 482417. The accommodation is warm and comfortable and there is plenty of good, home cooked food, very necessary after long days, walking with our extremely informative Wildlife Warden John Chester. Vacancies are still available for a conference on Community Empowerment to take place in August but a Geology course in September is full.
Although this is the second year of the Barn's existence, there had never been an official opening but on June 16th, Karen and Simon invited all Eigg residents to join those attending the Land Reform Two Day Conference to drinks and 'nibbles' and for a short ceremony for this purpose. First a Blessing was given by the Rev Alan Lamb for the future prosperity of the enterprise followed by a few words by Councillor Michael Foxley who declared the Barn open and afterwards was persuaded, somewhat reluctantly, to venture forth into the rain to plant a tree in honour of the occasion. Then the serious stuff began and those not involved departed homeward after a very pleasant interlude.
I'm sure Lawrence was pleased that the weather was kind for the Muck Open day this year. Unfortunately only a small party was able to go from Eigg because many were attending the Conference mentioned above. However those of us who were free to go to Muck were, as usual, well entertained by Lawrence's conducted tour of the farm by tractor and trailer, and by Jenny's wonderful lunches served in the tea-room.
Sadly Robert and Heather have decided to leave Eigg. Our thanks must go to Heather for her efforts in West Word and for her other activities during the last few months and we extend many good wishes to both her and Robert for great happiness in their new lives.
Our shop improves by leaps and bounds. There has recently appeared a tremendously impressive display of stationery, a multitude of items from paper clips, drawing pins, through writing pads, envelopes and labels to Jiffy bags, cardboard boxes, paper and string. Stocking this collection was an inspired decision by Sue. No longer will we need to reuse old envelopes, scruffy boxes and rather elderly pieces of brown paper in which to send parcels or try to remember to bring supplies back from the mainland. Full marks to her.
The first house in the refurbishment scheme is almost finished. We expect a really good housewarming John!
Excitement mounts as the date for the double wedding comes closer. [Maggie and Wes's son Timmy is marrying Marianne and their daughter Tasha is marrying Brigg]. Tasha has been away to buy her dress, but like royalty, the details remain a closely guarded secret!
Grateful thanks must go to our Australian Associate Doctor, Terry Howell, who entertained many of us recently with a selection of very interesting slides taken when he was working in conjunction with the Flying Doctor Service in North Australia, mainly on a group of islands, all much smaller than Eigg. Even "Thursday Island" the largest and the Administrative 'Capital' where most of the population of 11000 are situated, is only about 2 miles by 1. Transport between these islands was either by a small fixed wing plane or, when there was not room for a landing strip, by helicopter. Amongst many beautiful views of the islands and their people, were shots of several crocodiles, one enormous reptile busy demolishing half a bullock, another, a wee one held in a man's fist, this was quite attractive until one remembered what it could grow into!
Our fencing team, Donald McClean, Alistair and D.J. Kirk and Stuart Thomson are right on schedule and are at present half way to completing the fence around Sandamhor wood - in spite of the midges, which are no help at all!
Next month the Feis and the weddings - stand by!
Joy Williams


The Open day on the 18th. June was for the first time in several years warm and calm even if sunshine was in short supply. We were ready for the rain however with a 'Berber' tent which bears a strong resemblance to a marquee.
80 people attended, almost entirely from Lochaber, and almost all were able to get on the farm trailers to travel the mile to Gallanach, stopping at many interesting features en route. Patrons of the Open day must have been impressed by the resources being put into the new ferry terminal at Port Mor. Huge quantities of rock have been shifted and some has even been exported to Rum.
Two towers of the alignment structure are now almost complete and as I write the lower (underwater) end of the slipway is about to be placed in position.

On the farm silage is well under way and early indications show a lighter crop than last year. 'Laga Bholla' field, which last year yielded 126 bales, only managed 73 cut on almost the same day. A wonderful week of weather has also allowed haymaking and as I write big bale hay is under way. The stirks at last reached Oban on the Raasay on the 11th. And prices were much more encouraging than for the last two years. Today selling cattle is all to do with having the correct ear tags and passports - the quality of the cattle is a secondary consideration!
Ewen MacEwen.
Next month sees the grand opening of the Muck windpower scheme. West Word hopes to be there to bring you photographs next issue.


Our usual correspondent Anne Trussell is busy this month dishing out Tea and sympathy to Roger who has been in hospital, and is now recuperating at home. Everyone wishes you a speedy recovery Roger.
Sorry to see Rhona Miller resign as registrar after 4 years service. As a temporary measure, any business can be dealt with Jeanette Sutherland in Morar, However Knoydart will still be on the certificate.
Congratulations to everyone who took part in the computer course. Word has it that Aileen was "surfing" at Airor.
A few folk went to Eigg for the celebrations and came back looking pretty green. What we were wondering is - was it the drink or the weather conditions?
June has been quite a busy month for us on Knoydart. The Russian dancers came back for another visit and a good time was had by all. One of the musicians told us he could play 115 different musical instruments, whereupon there was a shout from the crowd and Ian "heckler" Wilson gave him a shot of his sheep dog whistle. The Musician left Knoydart being able to play 116 "instruments".
Victor's dog Jess had an easy labour and gave birth to 4 bitches and 2 dogs, assisted by midwives Simon and Kenny. These pups are now ready and are offered to anyone who can provide a good home (if interested in owning a Jack Russell, contact Rhona 462427 - evenings/weekends) Inverie is a lot quieter with the school children away in Fort William on their school trip. Hope you all have a nice time.
After months of fundraising and strategic planning half of Inverie ran away to Inverness to join the Circus. Thank you to everyone who have supported us. Congratulations to Ian Robertson who nearly managed to control us as the ringmaster.
Our Clowns (Mark, Fiona, Lorna & Kira) were so good we recommend them for childrens parties. Isla and Rhona milking it as usual whenever they spied a camera. They would like to compliment dancewear tights for not snagging even with Lara poised on each thigh. Thanks to Hannah the mysterious lady in blue and pole bearer.
After our dress rehearsal Tim the bearded lady needed his left breast sewn back on!!! Strong man Bernie managed to part with his simmit and brave the East Coast weather wearing only his leopard print costume.
Iain Fleming, Jackie Robertson and Aaran did not want to be recognised by the press, autograph hunters or ex inlaws and paraded in lycra bags that had to be seen to be believed.
Our Lion tamer Andy did an excellent job and even managed to train his lion cub (Cameron) to sleep on his shoulders. Unfortunately Simon`s stilts gave way before the parade and he finished the day as a clown. - as usual! Victor was well chuffed with his inside leg measurement - he was the only stiltwalker to complete the circuit. Mick Fury and Rob Parker were brilliant as flag bearers. And finally a huge thank you to our faithful roadie Grant.
The highlight for some was the car boot sale on Sunday morning. Bargains galore were packed onto the bus.
Well done everyone! Censored Photos to follow in next months issue.
Isla Miller


The end of the summer term marked the retirement of Arisaig Primary's Headmistress, Felicity Blackburn, after we-won't-tell-how-many years teaching here. The occasion was marked by a presentation at the school, when Felicity was presented with a matching set of luggage by Jennifer Campbell, Chair of the School Board, on behalf of children and parents past and present. We hope Felicity will enjoy her retirement and that the luggage will get a lot of use!
You'll read elsewhere about the party we had when we placed the Time Capsule in the Hall. It's sad that only one thing has been found while the hall was being taken apart - and that was a half full - some would say half empty - half-bottle of White & MacKay whisky. It had one of the old fashioned tops with wire fastening and was found behind the wall in the Gents loo. Someone's carry out in the 50's maybe! I don't know if what we've put in is any better - a well empty bottle of Islay Mist!
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust are conducting a survey this month in Arisaig. I'll let Angela Hughes tell you about it herself:

'If during July, you are approached by a student bearing a clipboard, don't be alarmed. In several sites throughout the West Coast a research survey is being conducted by volunteers from the Mull-based Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust into the educational, financial and social benefits of whale watching to both local communities and visitors.
Commissioned by the Department of the Environment and undertaken in conjunction with the University of Greenwich, the aim of the research is to examine the future potential of marine wildlife tourism. It is important to stress that the study is not looking to suggest an increase in the number of whale watching boats in operation, as studies around the world have demonstrated that such increases may not be commercially or environmentally sustainable.
I am an MSc student from Edinburgh, and I will be conducting the research in Arisaig. In addition to the official survey, I hope to gather information for my own MSc thesis and all help and co-operation will be greatly received.
The survey should take no more than 5 minutes - so if you spot me lurking on an Arisaig street corner and you have a few minutes to spare please stop and answer some questions, your opinion is extremely valuable and appreciated.'

Win a holiday in Arisaig! A superb prize is on offer in the raffle organised by the regatta Committee - a week in a four-bedroomed holiday home in the village of Arisaig! Many thanks to the generous donator! And if a local wins it - well, you've got friends or relatives who'd like to come up for a week, surely? Also to be won are two tickets on the Shearwater, bottles of Islay Mist Deluxe whisky, and other prizes. Tickets are only 20p each!! and will be on sale at Arisaig Games, and at various outlets - the Land, Sea & Islands Centre, Arisaig Marine, Upstairs Downstairs, Arisaig Hotel, the Post Office...


Rum dropped its name as the 'forbidden isle' many years ago but it is still true that many locals still have not visited the island to experience what makes Rum National Nature reserve (NNR) so special.
With this in mind, and as a part of a week of activities celebrating NNRs throughout Scotland, SNH are organising a special family open day on Saturday 15th, July 2000 with free transport to and from Rum for locals from the Small Isles and the mainland.
There will be free activities for all age groups starting at 11 am and finishing around 4pm including guided walks, castle tours, meet the Rum ponies, seashore detectives, a landrover safari, children's wildlife art and a sea trip to the seabird colonies.
We hope that locals from the mainland and the Small Isles will take advantage of the offer of free transport from Mallaig and make Saturday 15th. July a day to remember. We hope to round the day off with a ceilidh.
SNH have also organised a programme of weekday activities including guided walks, castle tours and evening visits to the famous Manx shearwater colony.

Vacancy for an Site Management Officer/Estate Worker on Rum
- for more details please phone Stuart Spray, SNH Reserve Officer, on 01687 462026.


The scheme aims to counterbalance the effects of overgrazing by sheep and deer and restore/improve the island's bio-diversity, a directive imposed by the EU (Natura 2000 programme) which has to be followed since the whole of Rum is an EU Site.
The project consists of establishing a 500/600 ha native woodland corridor throughout the island, mainly with birch with other deciduous species coming in, starting in the South of the island and working progressively North.
The planting needs to be carried out without deer fencing for reason of open access labour and costs, as well as to make the scheme appear more natural in its transition to non wooded areas.

This implies a deer management policy which will require a progressive but substantial reduction in numbers. The 1500 strong deer population on Rum has been extensively researched and studied: this study has revealed that hinds are strongly "hefted" to their territory so that the plan is to cull hinds in the areas where planting will begin, as stags will move on and other hinds are unlikely to move from their own territories. On-going deer management will therefore be an important element of the scheme, as any deer leaping back in the afforested area will need culling. This is a high risk strategy, but one which will be followed with interest by the Deer Commission as it may provide a management model for other areas if it is successful.
For maximum success, SNH would prefer to use local seeds and seedlings for planting from island nurseries or from nurseries on surrounding West Coast areas.
As there will be 100 ha planted in the next 3 to 4 years at 1600 trees per ha, this opens up opportunities for local growers. Ground preparation - mounding and hand mounding for birch especially, planting and aftercare for the 10 000 trees required have been estimated to cost £3000 in labour. SNH would prefer to break the contract in smaller units, easier to put up for tender locally, which would benefit the local economy.
Deer culling will offer further employment opportunities. Stalkers will be employed locally to keep afforested areas deer free for 5 years, to allow trees to grow to the stage where they can survive deer pressure. There will be the possibility to recruit and train more people to undertake the necessary scientific monitoring.
Following the presentation, comments were made on the value of offering young people in the Small Isles and neighbouring areas a chance to get involved in the scheme through work experience or training schemes. It was also felt that it was most important to utilise labour on Rum as much as possible. Questions were raised as to the commercial possibilities of venison and the possibility of supplying the other islands and the surrounding areas on a regular basis, as well as trying to find a market for deer skins etc, perhaps leading to some local craft project.
Members of the communities served by the Small Isles Community Council as well as neighbouring communities are invited by SNH to send their comments and suggestions on the scheme.
Camille Dressler

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