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

List of Issues online

July 2008 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Eigg, Glenfinnan, Arisaig
Birdwatch - Crofting Roundup
Local Genealogy

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

Left to right: Cllr Bren Gormley, Charlie King, Cllr Eddie Hunter, Cllr Bill Clark, Cllr Allan Henderson and pupil Kathryn MacKinnon who is from Canna.

On Tuesday 10th June the first turf was cut on the site of the new £4 million residential hostel for Mallaig High School pupils. Les Taylor Construction have been awarded the contract.
In attendance were Highland Council officials and a group of schoolchildren from Mallaig, including those who live on the Small Isles and at present lodge with local families.
Councillor and Local Provost, Allan Henderson, gave a brief speech where he outlined the conception and of the project up to the eventual cutting of the first turf. He gave particular mention to our own Charlie King, who was a huge influence in bringing the idea to fruition; also he gave a big thank you to Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who generously gave the land on which the hostel will be built. Acknowledgement must also go to the Mallaig Common Graziers who have agreed to forego any compensation for the land for the new Mallaig Hostel.
It was the turn of Cllr Bren Gormley, then Depute Chair of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, to outline the purpose and benefits the project will bring to the pupils of Mallaig High. He said: 'This is an asset to the community and I look forward to it becoming fully operational. Not only will the hostel provide pupils a stable environment and certainty as to where they will be staying during their secondary school career, it will also be a useful community resource out with school terms for residential workshops and holiday accommodation.' He then invited Canna resident and pupil at Mallaig High, Kathryn MacKinnon, to cut the first turf.
Martin Sullivan, Mallaig High School Head Teacher said: 'The new hostel is very good news for the school and the community. The families that our pupils have lodged with over the last ten years have done an excellent job, but, from next year, we will be able to have all the children from the Small Isles and Knoydart under one roof, where they can gain support from each other and have professionals on hand to address their individual and common concerns. A recent documentary featured two of our pupils moving from small Primary schools on Eigg and Knoydart and looked at some of the difficulties that they had in making friends and adapting to life away from home. The hostel will help to make this transfer much easier for them.'
After the ceremony, an excellent buffet lunch was provided by the school catering staff in the main canteen, and some of the pupils entertained the guests and officials with a variety of Scottish traditional music.
Since the turf cutting, builders' plant and portacabins have arrived on site and work will begin very shortly.

A830 Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh, Progress Update
We now have only a third of our Contract remaining. Over the last couple of months we have carried out surfacing works on the existing road between Borrodale and Loch nan Uamh. These works will continue for a few weeks to come, but should disrupt traffic less, now that we have full width carriageway for most of the section. There will be a further diversion of traffic at the Loch nan Uamh corner shortly, when we put traffic onto the new road and complete the works on the East side.
Over the next few weeks we hope to cast the 1st half of the deck on the new Larachmore Bridge. This will allow us to put traffic across it and then demolish the old bridge prior to building the 2nd half of the Bridge. The surfacing works between Arisaig and the Larachmore should be advanced enough by that stage to allow traffic onto the new road from Arisaig to the South side of the bridge. This is planned for the end of August.
All blasting operations are now complete, so there will be no road closures during July and August and only a very limited number of closures between September and January.
We are still on schedule for completion in January 2009. But there will be a few more months of delays for road users to put up with. The continued patience of road users is appreciated.
Ian MacKay, Contracts Manager, Morrison Construction Ltd.

News in Brief

Well, a wee bit of rain at last, which means that last night was the first for a while in which we've had 24-hour power. Uncharacteristically low levels of water in the loch which supplies the hydro scheme meant that Knoydart Renewables had to switch off every night at 11pm in an attempt to save water. Who knows if we'll have a concurrent rise in births in 9 months time? The level above the dam has been slowly creeping up recently, and each burst of rain is met with smiles from locals amid the scowls of visitors! Many thanks to all those who have been conducting late night and early morning switchings, all involving travelling up the glen whether by landrover or Shanks' pony.
I'm hastily typing this out in the middle of setting up a gig which sounds promising - Bruce Fummey has travelled to Knoydart to present his one-man comedy act "About the Jacobites". It's going to make a nice change to have a stand-up comedian in these parts - although some would say you could nip down to the Old Forge on any Friday night for a dose of comedy! And we've got more talent on the way - Nuala Kennedy is arriving with The Atlantic Quartet plus Mike Galvin on Sunday 13th July - should be a very special concert. (OK, now I'm typing this after Bruce's gig, which was very well received. He commented after on how "interactive" the Inverie audience was - something he coped with admirably. I get the feeling that Sandy may be polishing his heckling skills after some of the put-downs he was subjected to... Over £100 raised for the Lifeboat at the gig - we were reminded of how reliant we were on it when one of our local residents was evacuated to the mainland earlier this week. The patient is back in Inverie now, and is being made to take it easy - easier said than done for the man in question I think!).
Earlier in June we had a great bunch of volunteers from BTCV rhodi-bashing and ragwort pulling - they were enthusiastic to the end of the week, and even had time to squeeze in a couple of visits to Doune. Speaking of which, we are just coming up to the great beach clean week at Doune. Lots of volunteers are spending time this week cleaning up the coastline to the south of Doune, which is almost certainly one of the worst littered in the area at certain spots. The vast majority of the detritus is fishing gear, whether creels, nets, ropes, protective clothing, or containers of dirty engine oil. The situation is made more difficult by the remoteness of the location, so it looks like a boat may be required to take the rubbish to Mallaig. There's something doubly sad in the sight of a ruined crofthouse, bracken around it, when it is also covered by 21st century plastic rubbish. Hopefully this week will do something to remedy the situation. I'll make sure that before and after photos are taken for the benefit of West Word readers. Last week we (the Knoydart Foundation Ranger Service) organised an Access Workshop which had 25 attendees from varying backgrounds, including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Highland Council, and various land managers and users of our mountains, woodlands and coastline. Ruth Grant had almost as many "interjections" as Bruce Fummey last night, but managed to impart her knowledge of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in a way which was comprehensible to all those listening.
Oh, good news regarding the Inverie phonebox. After a fair amount of press coverage, the telephone was fixed, and now it appears that it is the only one which has been removed from the "blacklist" which Highland Council are consulting the public on, on behalf of BT. Great news for us, and for visitors who can now phone home without a four-mile hike to the nearest mobile phone reception. There have been queues outside the box for the past few weeks, so I think it's safe to say there will be more calls made than the supposed 18 last year!
Izzie is settling in to the Bunkhouse Warden's position, and is busy painting her accommodation and office when she gets a moment. Many thanks to Morag who ran the Bunkhouse for the Trading Company in her own enthusiastic and personable style for so long, and helped turn it into a healthy profit-making enterprise.
Now, I'm sure there was something else vaguely important that I was meant to impart this month, but I'm afraid it's disappeared into the ether (or my chaotic intray at the Foundation which someone suggested may be hiding living creatures). So I'll leave you with two wee insights into modern life in Knoydart: I am reliably informed that there was a four-car traffic jam last Friday, with simmerings of road-rage. And, apparently, the winner of the cucumber growing competition has been decided. But we'll leave the announcement of who the victor is to Davie next month (photographic evidence may be on its way). I know. You can't wait...
Tommy McManmon

Revolution in Knoydart!
HIE and First Light Movies have funded a new film project in Knoydart this time with the 10-18 year olds. The young people have worked really hard over the winter to complete a ten minute film script, which was so good it secured them the funding to make the film. It is called The Knoydart Revolution and is a comedy in the style of Monty Python and tells a fictitious and comic account of the Knoydart Buy Out.
Filming starts in Knoydart this month on the 14th of July. The film is very ambitious with a cast of thousands and the young people will be looking to recruit extras from the surrounding area. Look out for posters advertising dates and the help needed, and possibly a free trip to Knoydart! Many of the locals in Knoydart have already been roped in to play speaking parts in the film and help out with props, costumes, locations and catering.
The film will be completed by the end of September and there will be a Red Carpet Premiere in Knoydart for all of those involved in making it, later on this year. Sam Firth, Knoydart's film making mentor is also helping a group of teenagers to make a film in South Uist this August as part of the same project.

In a summer as fine as this one only Muck could pick the worst day so far for the Open Day and two Sundays in succession the Sheerwater did not make it to the island.
However, the raffle has been drawn and all the 29 prizes have been won - a number by islanders. Congratulations and thank you to everyone for the £2450 that is making its way to the Community Hall Fund.
On the education front, the PTA travelled to Fort William on the 24th June to confirm Brian Gregg as headmaster. He was the only candidate for the second round of interviews. We were lucky to have Brian as I have said before, but sooner or later there will be a vacancy in the Small Isles with no candidates of calibre. It seems that even the large salary does not make up for the rigours of island life and the problems of having so many classes in one room.
The Hostel is coming - this is good news for the Small Isles - and it is needed. I will not comment on the vast cost but I must reiterate that the wardens in charge are more important than the en-suite bathrooms. It will certainly help with visitors accommodation in Mallaig during the summer holidays.
As so often happened in my youth a long Spring drought has been followed by rain as soon as the sun turns south. All the early silage crops are very light though this is partly due to the constant need to reduce fertiliser usage. The swedes are suffering from lack of germination and won't be a good crop either, but Dave and Libby's vegetables are looking great and not a weed in sight. We have a new sprayer on the island so the bracken had better watch out if it gets dry enough to use it.
On 6th June some of the top brass of the Luing Cattle Society, Neil MacCorkindale, Billy Neilson and James Coulson arrived on the island. They had come to inspect our cows with a view to them eventually being registered in the herd book. Most of the cattle are cross Highland in origin and we have used Luing bulls since the 70s, so the purity of the blood lines was not in question. They were also very complimentary about the quality of the cattle.
Lawrence MacEwen

I wish to make a formal statement regarding a recent event on the island in which there appeared to have taken place not one, but several incidents involving foul play of one kind or another. Although I was unable to attend in person, an enquiry has since been ordered and rest assured any wrongdoings will be exposed and the responsible parties will be brought to book…who says no-one takes school sports seriously? Once again, another well attended event and a great barbecue marred only by the arrival of the rain (and the aforementioned…) Hoorah! We have our precious water back at last; never thought we'd be so relieved to see the weather.
It's getting busier with visitors once again - a boatload or two arrived for a First Communion - holiday cottages full - the usual Wednesday daytrippers and once again a noticeable increase in the amount of RIBs venturing forth. Quite a few intrepid sea-kayakers have managed out this year (although the service provided by the Loch Nevis is also proving to be quite popular) and have been privileged to experience some of the best that our waters have to offer - otters, dolphins, basking sharks and many other rare species…although no sign yet of the orcas spotted off Coroghon last year. The NTS patrons club visited for the day and were suitably impressed with the weather…and Canna House Gardens at their best.
Contractors appearing once again; further property maintenance to be done while the weather holds and a few licks of paint to make the place look just that bit brighter. Various meetings all through this month and some lucky folks just about to head off on holiday so there are plenty of comings and goings. It's a busy place right enough.
A big Thank You to Pam and Emma and everyone involved organising the swimming trip to Mallaig. The kids had a great time and all that remains to be done is to extend the trip for a further six weeks. That should have most of the summer holidays taken care of.
Weather Update - Right now it's howling outside and the rain is near horizontal…what happened to summer? Aye, the nights are fair drawing in…again.
Geoff Soe-Paing

The month of June began exactly as May ended, in glorious sunshine and with a notable lack of rainfall. Ironically this stunning spell of weather was not fully appreciated as the water levels on the Island reached a new low. This caused the hydro system to struggle and many people's water tanks to become worryingly empty. Numerous mutters of, "When is it going to rain?" were heard and we all finally began to relate to John's preoccupation with his water supply!
Whilst the hydro system struggled to cope with the uncharacteristically dry spell, the Eigg electrification project was formally opened on the 10th of June. Colin and John Booth led tours around the different aspects of the system and a group of Islanders and visitors gathered in the community hall, including representatives from HIE Lochaber, Econnect, Scottish Hydro and Synergie. Various locals provided some delicious home baking and the audience was literally brought to a standstill when John Hutchison decided that not enough attention was being paid to his speech and burst into Gaelic song.
The celebrations continued apace the next day with Tasha's 30th and Brendan's 18th birthday party, celebrated in fine Eigg style with a bonfire and barbeque on Laig beach. After only a few days recovery the annual Eigg party was upon us. With over 300 tickets sold and the beautiful weather continuing, the whole weekend was a resounding success. The party was started on Friday night in the Tearoom and continued on Saturday night with music from; JaMaha, Damien Helliwell and friends (who was premiering his new tracks), The Treacherous Orchestra with singing from Hannah Read and last but definitely not least Eigg favourite DJ Dolphin Boy who once again played well on into Sunday morning allowing the young and old(er) alike to dance the night away! A Sunday night session in the Tearoom with music from, amongst others T-pot Jacuzzi meant that the party didn't finish until Monday. Once again a good time was had by all, bring on next year!
A special birthday also for Scruff on the 17th, whose brother came up with some of his old mates to celebrate the big day. The following weekend there was another cause for celebration with Sue's birthday and the opening of her and Alistair's new café and B&B at Lageorna. Just as the last sausages were chucked on the barbeque our demands for rain were met, it started to pour down and everyone was moved inside for a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. There was also a cake for Sue, made by Katrin, whose own birthday came at the stroke of midnight.
The rainy weather continued throughout the next week but the children did not let this get the better of them as the Primary School Sports day went ahead as planned on the 25th of June. Everything was simply moved indoors and a good turn out by visitors and locals meant that over £100 was raised for school funds.
Finally a big well done to Catriona Helliwell for attaining a first class degree in Occupational Therapy from Queen Margaret's University in Edinburgh. Catriona is starting work St John's hospital, Livingston at the beginning of July - good luck Treeny!
Eilidh Kirk

There were two big community events in June - Fun Day and Kitty's 90th birthday party.
Fun Day was all about having fun, and we did. It started with a raft race from the monument to the lawn at Glenfinnan House Hotel. The winning team were all under the age of 10 and paddled a bouncy castle! Then we had races for the children and the adults. Joan kept the whole thing going and even did a treasure trail for the children. There was a new race this year with the baby crawling race. It was a bit like a snail race with babies going off in all directions and a couple never left the starting line! They were content to sit and pick grass. Some mothers employed tactics such as dangling a favourite toy, a bottle of milk and even a big box of sweets! The water slide and bungee run were very popular and the sunshine helped make it a great afternoon. Duncan cooked up a tasty barbecue and the food was kindly donated by local suppliers.
Congratulations to Kitty MacDonald on celebrating her 90th birthday and doing it in style. The village, her family and friends gathered in a marquee then Kitty made a grand entrance being piped in to her party and seated on a throne before being presented with flowers, gifts and cards. "I feel like a queen," she said. She looked fabulous and not a day over 70! Kitty also made a speech as did her son and Charlie MacFarlane presented her with a tune, 'Kitty's Waltz', composed by Iain MacFarlane on the occasion of her 90th. Charlie and Kitty took to the floor to dance the waltz. Ingrid Henderson, Dougie Hunter and ColmO'Rua played for the dance and the people of the village provided the buffet. Duncan Gibson baked a huge chocolate birthday cake that tasted as good as it looked. Everyone enjoyed celebrating with Kitty and the marquee rang with claps and cheers for a wonderful lady.
In Glenfinnan we sometimes feel plagued by low-flying aeroplanes. A community officer from the RAF came to talk to us about the need for low-flying. His presentation was very interesting and it was helpful to understand why the RAF needs to train in low-flying and to learn that they don't fly over Glenfinnan any more than anywhere else. He also told us how to complain in such instances as flying lower than is permitted or low-flying causing damage.
And finally - happy 21st birthday to Ciaran Coffey.
Eileen O'Rua

The first machine is in the field for preliminary site work on the proposed new houses. The contract, undertaken by UBC Group Ltd, is for 18 months so who knows, the new residents might be in for Christmas 2009! The result will be 20 units: 16 Housing Association houses for rent, four Homeshare (now called LIFT (Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers) plus two plots for development by individuals under the Rural Home Ownership Grant scheme. And the cost will be much less than the new Hostel in Mallaig!
Good to see 'Full tonight' signs outside the Old Library restaurant, and hear that June was a bumper months in some of the caravan sites. The first part was good but then we seemed to descend into autumn for a while.
Two cracking concerts in the Astley Hall. 'Tullamore' were excellent, lovely singing voices from the girls, good music and craic. The 'Tannahill Weavers' drew a crowd of nearly 100, with a great percentage of them holiday makers - one couple even came up specially from Glasgow for the concert. The grant is much less stressful this year and I'm getting back some of my enthusiasm! There's a report too on the Stella Nova concert on page 15; it's great to see the clavinova donated to the community by Fiona and her opera colleagues is getting some use.
There's some good things coming up so if you can't come yourself, or the music isn't to your taste, please let any visitors you have know about them! It really helps if the B & B landladies pass on the word!
The Hall has also hosted two wedding receptions/dances in the past couple of months - one local (ours) and one for an Irish couple. There's another local one in October and two booked already for June and September next year; neither local couples. We're awaiting the erection of two signs either side of the Hall warning drivers of the presence of children.
Dr Millar, the Czech diplomat organising the SOE sculpture was here in June with a Czech journalist. Dr Millar is hoping the journalist's article will help the funding process.
I caused a little confusion last month by signing my new name, although I've gone on about it long enough! Maybe I should be really pretentious and for a while sign myself as
Ann Martin Lamont
(what d'you think-hyphen or not?!!)

The varied events for this year's Arisaig Week kick off early on Friday 25th July with a concert in the Astley Hall with Gregg Weiss, American singer/songwriter, who plays 'old time mountain bluegrass with a hill billy attitude'. During the day there is also a Drama Workshop as part of the Highland Council Summer Activities programme, for school age children.
On Tuesday 29th July there is the fourth Arisaig Craft Fair in the Hall, with many tables and some demonstrations. Refreshments, soup and sandwiches, will be on offer with the takings going to Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Wednesday 30th July is Games Day on the field at Traigh, and it's also the 4th Clanranald Gathering. The day starts off with the parade from the Roshven View junction through the village and ends with the dance in the Astley Hall to the Ballochmyle Ceilidh Band.
The Road to the Isles Sailing Association Regatta rounds the week off, with the keel boats arriving back from Tobermory on Friday 1st August. On Saturday there is racing on the loch for children and grown ups, and Sunday will see the traditional Eigg and Spoon Race for keel boats. A full programme will be available during the course of the month.
The trophies will be presented at the Regatta Family Ceildih Dance which is in the Astley Hall on Saturday 2nd August, dancing to Gabe McVarish & Friends from 7.30pm til 1am.

photo photo
photo photo

Road to the Isles Agricultural Show 2008
The Road to the Isles Agricultural Show was held on 14th June 2008 as usual at Camusdarach, by kind permission of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Simpson. There was a good attendance of locals and visitors alike although the weather was not as kind as it usually is! Some heavy showers in the morning during the judging had the spectators running for cover, however the afternoon stayed dry.
The afternoon entertainment began with some welcoming words from Provost Allan Henderson from Fort William who was piped into the ring by Katie Macnaughton from Morar. The trophies and prizes were then presented by Mrs. Sandra Henderson. Neil Ross from Kincraig gave an excellent demonstration of sheep dog handling using 7 dogs, 3 puppies, sheep and ducks, although not all at the same time! The Lochaber and District Canine Society then gave the spectators an exciting display of dogs' agility and flyball.
The Highland Cattle parade was followed by a Quad Bike Time Trial which was won by Colin MacDonald of Morar Motors. The ever-popular Dog Show brought the afternoon to a close. Lochaber Wind Band also provided some musical interludes and throughout the day an excellent commentary was given by Mr. Angus Mackay from Bridge of Earn.
Other stands and demonstrations around the field included the Forestry Commission, the Mallaig Coastguards' barbecue, Lochaber Craft Association and several flower and plant stalls. Peter Kennedy from Fort William also gave a skilful demonstration of sheep shearing.
The committee wishes to thank all those who supported the show in any way and hopes that everyone enjoyed their day

Mallaig Oral History Project
This month we had Professor Paul Thompson visiting from London, to talk about the Wivenhoe Project - a community based oral history project which has been running down there. He also provided some pointers and training in the techniques of interviewing, and over the coming months, we hope to be out and about in the village, interviewing and starting to put together our material for the project. We have access to three good quality cameras - and some audio equipment, and we would welcome anyone who would like to take part - or interview a family member, or be an interviewee themselves. The equipment can be borrowed from the Mallaig Heritage Centre. This project is very much about the whole community - and we hope to be able to reflect the lives of all different types of people by the time the project comes to a close in March 2010. So if you have any ideas, or want to become involved, please get in touch with us.
We also have a mini project running over the summer, with some of the older teenagers in the area, and hope to be able to put together a DVD reflecting their thoughts about growing up in the area, and their aspirations for the future. It should be really interesting to see how that works out - and will also be of immense interest in 50 or 100 years time. In the meantime - get in touch if you want to know more about the project - or want to take part! Phone 01687 462085
Jill and Bridget

An invitation to students of Mallaig Secondary School's Years 1955/56/57 to enjoy a get-together in Mallaig, during a date (to be advised) in the Autumn.
'Auld acquaintances, friendships rekindled and stories swapped over a meal and drinks, this year, before it's time to host it in the local telephone box.
Who remembers the slog up the hill to the school, the wellyboot rings on your legs in the Winter, swimming in the sea off the beach at East Bay in the Summer?
The films in the village hall (dogs welcome) when we sat on forms that were pushed from behind, the screen would fall down, and the projector was louder than the sound of the picture, and later villagers made a trip to the station to watch the tourists come off the train, which was always late!!
Ah, happy days.
Bring photographs and relevant mementos, partners are very welcome, please contact any eligible classmates, the more the merrier. WE CAN'T DO IT WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT.
Contact: Sandra Henderson (nee Gifford), 'Morar', 30 Buchan Drive, Perth PH1 1NQ, tel. 01738 624450

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Nothing out of the ordinary reported this month. The Corncrake which was heard in Arisaig late last month continued to call until the middle of the month. Singles of both Glaucous and Iceland Gull lingered around Mallaig Harbour until the 20th at least. Early in the month there were good numbers of Arctic Terns and also a few Common Terns on eggs, at Traigh and the skerries of Arisaig, and by the month end, and the first chicks could be seen. Also by the month end there were a few broods of Eider duck off Arisaig. In Mallaig at least 10 pairs if Kittiwakes had started laying during the 2nd week. In both Arisaig and Morar, broods of Goldfinch and Redpoll were noted at garden feeders along with numerous Siskins and Greenfinches. Four Summer plumaged Turnstones were seen on rocks at Loch nan Ceall on the 7th, and two Summer plumaged Sanderling plus 6 Dunlin were at Traigh on the 9th. A single Sanderling was also there on the 17th. On the 30th, 2 Redshank were seen resting on rocks in the Morar Estuary. The first Stormy Petrel reported was one off Arisaig on the 1st, and by the month end they were being reported from all over the Sound of Sleat. Arctic and Great Skuas were reported from the Sound of Sleat throughout the month, but not in the same numbers as this time last year. On the 18th a Sandwich Tern was seen in Loch nan Ceall, Arisaig. Peregrine Falcons were seen on the 4th and the 10th over Mallaig, and one was seen unsuccessfully attacking Arctic Terns at Traigh on the 29th. Immature Sea Eagles were widely reported from Loch Nevis, Loch Morar and Loch nan Ceall during the month.

Dear West Word,
As many of you will know, the Catholic Diocese of Argyll & the Isles recently sold a religious painting through Southeby's of London. This painting hung for many years in St Donan's church on Eigg. After consultation amongst those concerned it was decided to ask the Bishop to sell the painting; that it might help us with much needed renovation work. As you might imagine we and our art experts alike were amazed when the painting sold for much more than had been expected.
It is against this background of surprise and hope for the future that I would like to make clear the facts of the sale. The painting sold to a London art dealer for two hundred and forty thousand pounds. The diocese received two hundred and eighteen thousand pounds after auctioneer's charges.
The diocese has earmarked the funds to support all the necessary renovations of St Donan's church. I include these details in such a public way because of the many erroneous reports which have appeared in local and national press. I would add that my parishioners and I are indebted to our own Bishop Murray for his tireless attention to this matter which will enable us to care for St Donan's in a way which befits the faith of the people of Eigg and the Mission of the Catholic Church.
Yours faithfully,
Father Andrew Barrett (Parish Priest)

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member

Croft Produce Award
The Croft Food Producer of the Year Competition will award £1000 to the crofter judged to be the best producer of good quality food from their croft. Eligible to enter are crofters producing and marketing food such as: Meat, dairy produce, fruit & vegetables, honey, home baking - in other words, any edible produce. The competition will be judged by leading Scottish food experts. If you know any producer worthy of this title nominate them now! I have entry forms here so if you would like one please let me know. Closing date for nominations is 22nd of August 2008

Fox Clubs
It has come to the attention of the Scottish Crofting Foundation that the Government is to withdraw its match funding for Local Clubs aimed at controlling foxes in Crofting areas. For some reason they have decided that the money can be used in some other way that is 'more beneficial to the environment' The SCF director Donald Macdonald from Skye has written to the Minister for the Environment, Mike Russell and urges any crofter who feels they will be affected to do the same.

SCF Meeting July 8th
An Area meeting will be held at 7.30 in the Rural Education Centre, The Mart to discuss the Crofting Inquiry report and the concerns raised by some of the more radical changes proposed. A member of the board of Inquiry will be present along with Donald Macdonald SCF director from Skye. If anyone would like a lift then I have room in the car. The Crofters Commission has been holding similar meetings for Assesors and Grazing Clerks throughout June, however many of the concerns raised such as the imposition of 'Burdens' when decrofting a piece of ground and the various tiers of governance proposed largely went unanswered so it is hoped that with an Inquiry board member present minds will be left a little clearer.

Fuel Tax Petition
Do you think tax on fuel should be reduced in remote areas? If your answer is yes go to link below and sign petition by Helena Coxshall calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to make representations to the UK Government about the cost of fuel in the Western Isles and other rural areas of Scotland which are now amongst the most expensive places in the world to buy petrol or diesel; to highlight in particular the refusal of the UK Government to introduce measures similar to those operating in France which reduce the tax on fuel in very remote areas; to protest at the serious consequences which high fuel prices have for fishermen, motorists and businesses in island and rural areas and to request parity with mainland city prices. http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=250

World Food Security and Crofting
The latest round of World Trade Organisation talks are ongoing at the moment with WTO members hoping to seek an agreement by the end of 2008. In a bid to alleviate World Food shortage the WTO bid to do a deal between Agricultural goods and non agricultural goods by removing 'trade distorting measures' such as subsidies to farmers [and crofters]. Gordon Brown shows a profound lack of awareness of the real answer to the World food Shortage when he says ' Agricultural Subsidies being reduced would help us deal with some of the problems of food shortages' The real answer lies in continued support for food producers and the encouragement of more land into food production. Many people have now grasped the idea that being a nation of consumers when we used to be a nation of producers has gone a long way to hastening the World Food shortage that is starting to cause riots and panic buying in some countries and states. Its not all hype - its really happening, Global food reserves are at their lowest for 30 years, there are now 50 days supply compared to 180 in the '80s. Food prices have increased by 83% in the last 3 years and Oxfam estimate that by 2020, 600 million people will be hungry.
If lawns all over England are being turned over into vegetable gardens in an enlightened bid to reduce the imbalance of consumer/ producer, then Croft land that should be classed as Agricultural land and is under no form of production whatsoever, is maybe a slight to the previous generations who turned the soil with a foot plough and fed the ground with kelp and manure in order to grow as much as possible from a few acres. Anyone who is happy to call themselves a crofter has to weigh this up and decide if unworked land would be put to better use through the new measures in the proposed Bill , the measures though are radical and it could be a hard decision for some to make.

The Accelerace West Highlands Ultra Triathlon 2008 brought eight competitors to Loch Morar on 21st June. The triathlon, the first to be organised by Accerlace in the North West Highlands, consisted of a 3.5 mile swim in Loch Morar followed by a 175 mile cycle to Kenmore on Loch Torridon and a 35 mile run to Lochcarron.
That sounds daunting enough but add these facts:
the event takes just one day
the swim started at 5am (the water was so cold three of the competitors had to be pulled out of the water before they completed the swim)
the run from Kenmore to Lochcarron included the ascent of the 2000 ft high Pass of the Cattle.
The winner was Stuart Reid in 20hrs 29mins.
Full details can be seen on the website: www.accelerace.co.uk.

A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
The Farms and Early Crofts of Morar

In 1861, and previously, Morar was comprised of three farms, Beoraid Mór, Beoraid Beag and Bourblach. Bourblach was the neighbouring farm which included the present day Seaview and marched with Glasnacardoch at the Lily Pond. (Lochan Doilead). In 1861 Beoraid Mór was occupied by Ewen Campbell, a farmer of four thousand acres. He was also Registrar for the district. Campbell came from Beauly with his wife and two children and had eight farm servants including shepherds, ploughmen and dairymaids. Beoraid Beag and Bourblach are not easy to identify at that period.
In 1871 the farm of Beoraid Mór had changed hands and Andrew Weir aged seventy, from Ribond in Lanarkshire, had taken over. He and his wife Marion, b. in Muirkirk, Ayrshire and son Thomas, aged twenty nine, were in the farmhouse along with William Michie who was married to Jean Weir. Their child, Robert was three months old. Also living on the farm as cottars, were Donald MacLellan, b. North Morar and his son and daughter, Duncan and Mary, of which more later. In Beoraid Beag at the same time, Robert Michie, seventy two was tenant and came from Roxburghshire. His wife, Janet, fifty six, came from Kilmonivaig and their unmarried daughter, Jessie twenty five, was born in Glenelg. In 1881, Andrew Weir, eighty, was still tenant farmer in Beoraid Mór and a widower by that time. Living with him was his son William, with William's wife Sarah and six children. William Michie, Andrew's son-in-law, was in Beoraid Beag and described as a merchant. At the same time some subtle changes had taken place in the Bourblach and Glasnacardoch farms. Catherine MacLellan, widow, b. South Uist, was tenant of four hundred and thirty five acres in No. 2 Bourblach and Farquhar MacLellan was tenant of two hundred and ninety acres of No. 1 Bourblach which suggests that Farquhar's tenancy was at the present day Park Mór. In No.1. Glasnacardoch, Donald MacIntosh, unmarried, aged thirty seven, is tenant of five hundred acres and he, along with his sister, Grace, was born in Knoydart. However, in No. 4 Glasnacardoch, Lachlan MacLellan, unmarried, aged thirty seven, born on Eigg, was tenant farmer of three thousand acres. His brother, Neil, thirty nine, unmarried, born on Eigg and Hector MacQuarrie, thirty nine, married, also born on Eigg, were shepherds. Donald Andrew Gillies, Bracara, nineteen, was general sevant. Isabella MacRae, née Mathieson, whose husband, Farquhar, had died three years previously, was the tenant farmer of four hundred and fifty acres of Bourblach but, I suspect that the enumerator got some locations mixed up.
The first four established crofts in Morar, formed in 1884, were created on Beoraid Mór farm, these being; 1. Ach na Luinn, (Translation: Bank of the Height of the Sea Surge) occupied in 1891 by John MacLellan, who had moved from Bruinacory with his wife, Isabella and their children, Angus, Betsy, Kirsty, Alexandrina and Catherine. Catherine married Alexander MacKenzie and had four children, John, Simon, Kathleen and Theresa. Theresa MacKenzie is the present day tenant of the croft. 2. Ach na Luinn Beag, ( Beag - small or lesser) was occupied in 1891 by Angus MacLellan and his wife, Mary. The corrugated house beside the railway, derelict now, was replaced as the croft house by the brick built Woodside, at the Bracara road junction. Angus and Mary had four children, John, William, ordained priest who served in Barra from 1913 - 1919, Catherine and Angus. Angus married Lexie MacDonell, Bracara and they had two children, Mary, unmarried, dec. and Nancy. Nancy married Calum MacKellaig, Morar Hotel and they had eight children before removing to Blairgowrie to live. Nancy still lives there though Calum died some years ago. One of their daughters, Carol Kirkwood, is a regular weather forecaster on B.B.C. television. 3. Cnoc na Feannag, (The Hillock of the Crow) the croftholding we know today as River View, was occupied in 1891 by Angus Cameron and his wife, Catherine along with their children, Kate, James, Ronald and Angus, - this family, not to be confused with the Cameron Family who have occupied the holding from around 1920 to the present day and whose names are very similar. 4. Gorsten Muir Linne. (The Little Farm or, Dwelling, of the Sea Pool) This croft was occupied in 1891, by Duncan MacLellan, seventy, and his wife, Sarah, forty two, with their children, Ann, Catherine, Mary and Lexie. A son, Donald Duncan, came along later. We know the place today as Riverside and Lexie's grandson, Donald, still retains the family croft. A sister of Duncan, Mary, sixty five, was staying with them. In 1881 Duncan and Mary were living in No. 5 Beoraid which was on the Morar side of the river - in a little hollow where the original bridge spanned the river. Duncan had a tame otter which used to bring salmon to the door of the house. This inspired Gavin Maxwell to emulate Duncan at Sandaig which, in turn, lead to the book " Ring of Bright Water". 5. Glac Odhar, (Dun Coloured Hollow) where I was born, was originally in the hands of Archie MacLellan who gave it over to his sister, Marjory MacLellan when she married Sandy MacDonald, Arisaig. They were my grandparents and when Marjory died in 1917, the croft was made over to her eldest son, John, my father. Rubha Àrd na Feusgain, (The High Point of the Mussels) best known as the Cooper's croft, was occupied by Angus MacLellan and family. It was not a registered croft but, was an arrangement between the tenants of Glac Odhar and those of the neighbouring croft, Gorsten a' Laraich whereby Angus was allowed room to build a house and to have enough grazing to keep a cow and follower. The house which Angus built was of lime and mortar and slated. On Angus' demise, the ground reverted to the previous crofts. 6. Gorsten a' Làraich (The Little Farm or, Dwelling, on the Flat Ground) was first occupied by Angus MacDonald, born in North Morar and his wife, Catherine, born in Knoydart. It was inherited by their son, Ewen, who was married to Isabella MacLellan of No.2. Beoraid Beag. The croft then went his son, Angus MacDonald (The Guard) and today belongs to Angus' son, Iain MacDonald. The greater part of Morar Village, from the railway crossing to Morar Motors, has been built on the crofts of Glac Odhar and Gorsten a' Làraich. While the railway sliced a chunk away in 1901, on the eastern boundary, the bypass ca.1994, decimated the western boundary and little remains of the original two crofts.
After 1894, Beoraid Beag, which was in the hands of William Michie, described as a crofter, had been divided into Nos 1&2 and was shared between William Michie (No1) and Donald MacLellan, seventy four, (No. 2.) Donald may have been moved out of Mallaig along with his wife, Mary and family, Ronald twenty five, Donald twenty one, Charles, nineteen, Sarah, seventeen and Angus, fifteen. Robert Michie, William's son, eventually inherited the croft. He built a new house, Seafield, ca. 1912. As Robert was unmarried, Seafield was sold after his death and the croft was taken over by Eustace and Molly Grigor. No.2. Beoraid Beag, the other croft, belonged to Donald MacLellan and upon his death, it went to his son, Ronald (Raghnall Dubh) whose sister, Isabella, had married Ewen MacDonald and died in childbirth leaving twins, Allan and Ronald. The croft was passed on to Allan when Raghnall Dubh died and is now held by his grandson, Allan MacDonald. The farm of Bourblach was divided in 1894 - the farm lease, hitherto held by Isabella MacRae, was not renewed. Isabella returned to Kintail where she is interred in Clachan Duich cemetery. Bourblach was split between Aonghas Gillies, Bracara/Earnasaig and the other part, now known as Seaview, went to Angus and Allan MacLellan, brothers of the Glac Odhar tenants, Marjory MacDonald and her brother Archie MacLellan By 1891, the greater part of Beoraid Mór had been turned over to forestry and Lovat Estate had only a gamekeeper, John MacLeay, his wife, Christine and six children, all born in Contin, occupying the reduced holding. Sandy, MacKellaig, a'Gheamair, was the next tenant of Beoraid farm and he was the gamekeeper for Lovat Estates. The MacKellaig family purchased the farm and it is now owned by Sandy's granddaughter, Mairi MacLean and her husband, Angus.
Moran taing to Iain MacDonald, Gorsten a' Làraich and Theresa MacKenzie, Ach na Luinn Mór, for their invaluable assistance in researching this article.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook

List of Issues online

The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Reports from the coastal ranger, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel/Fax: 01687 462 720
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)


Copyright © 2002-2008 West Word
Page last updated: July 2008

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland