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July 2019 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
ROBERT MACMILLAN RETIRES FROM HARBOUR AUTHORITY
West Word would like to wish Robert MacMillan a very happy retirement after 35 years as Chief Executive Officer of the Mallaig Harbour Authority.
Robert and I were on the initial steering group to set up West Word, around 1992. He played a major role in its development, chairing the Board from its start in 1994 until 2013. He contributed his famous Snippets column (once quoted in The Sun newspaper!) for 24 years, from the second issue of West Word in December 1994 until December 2018. He also wrote his Personal Angle from January 1995 until December 1918. He continued to write Mallaig Harbour News until his retirement this month. He has promised us that he will continue to send in old photos and items of interest so we hold him to that!
It's been a pleasure to work on West Word with you, Robert, you've certainly helped fill the pages with interesting pieces - we'll miss you!
All the best to Jacqueline McDonell in her new role as CEO. We look forward to receiving Jacqueline's contributions to West Word for the next 35 years!
A fair wee bit going on in the last month over here…
The Ranger Service have been busy working with Frensham Heights School who came on their annual visit. This year they were working on a cracking hand carved outdoor draughts board which the pupils kindly raised £1000 for, and will be part of an interactive trail built by the school's pupils each year on their visit. 60 of the visiting pupils (who came in six groups) hand carved their own square and the last group of 12 pupils carved the remaining four squares and then helped to build and site the board in the Policy Woods. The wood and carving tuition was provided by the Forest Trust and each of the 64 board squares, two draught holder squares and the dedication square were all designed and carved by different students so they are all completely unique. It's a very cool addition to the woods that's for sure. The ranger service also had a great visit from local Primary 7's from the Mallaig catchment area who helped out by planting cherry trees down at Long Beach as part of the drive to plant more fruit trees around Inverie.
Wood Knoydart joined up with Jill Swan's Spoon Academy to host the first spoon carving workshop and by all accounts it was a great day with some very beautiful spoon creations and lots of new skills and techniques learned.
Wilder Ways are preparing to leave after another busy horse riding season, which seems to only get busier each year! We look forward to their return next spring. Jake and Toni from New Zealand who have been here for the last year are also preparing to move on to pastures new and the new Kilchoan Ghillie is here to take up the slack. Jake has (somewhat un-intentionally - or was it?) left his mark on the grass up at Kilchoan mind you…
We also said a sad goodbye to Cath Curd, and Pitt and Eilidh Klem - some long term Knoydart residents who found it was time to move on - but would also like to welcome Izidore and Flo who bought Samadalan from Pitt and Eilidh.
The hall refurb officially kicked off on 1st June so there's no going back now… The Tearoom hosted a music gig with James Hickman and Dan Cassidy (because obviously we're still going to need entertainment over the next few months!) and the Table is now sporting a bit of a new look with its disco ball, clock, giant jenga and swingball. Empty life syndrome? I think not.
And on that note, I am going to sign off what will be my last column for a while as I wait for the imminent arrival of baby Robb, who is due at the start of August.
Cheers for now folks,
ISLE OF MUCK
For those of you that read what I wrote in last month's West Word, I admit I might have been a bit previous crying drought! The rain has returned, and with it the water levels. It was a bit unfortunate that the weather gods sent the much-needed rain on the weekend of 25/26th as it was the same weekend there was the first ceilidh of the year to celebrate a 20th wedding anniversary. In true Island style, Colin and Sharron Kirby, along with everyone else who attended, made light of it, despite many of them being under canvas in the Yurt field. Everyone had a great time, and the water "crisis" ended. Result! And as the next weekend produced about an inch of rain, and it's produced the, er, odd shower since, I'm glad I held off with the rain dance!
On the farm shearing has started. The first large group to be done was, as always, the hogs (the female lambs from last season which have been retained for breeding). With a film crew, who were making a documentary about the Small Isles, recording the event, I for one felt a little bit of pressure. However all went well, wool and sheep parted company and the hogs left with a spring in their step that only losing several kilograms of overcoat can produce! At time of writing, the black ewes and two of the smaller groups have been done with only the Glen and Middle hill to go. Staying with the farm, the rain has produced a good flush of grass and the silage fields are growing fast, much to Colin's relief, I'm sure.
On the wildlife front, Muck's bird population is in full breeding mode. This year has produce several notable changes in breeding populations or habits. A new Tern colony has appeared on the south-east corner of the island and the usual site at Gallanach is busier than normal. At least twenty pairs of Lapwings have nested and chicks have been seen all over the island. In my time at least, only the odd pair have attempted to breed in any one year. The small heron colony has deserted its usual wood and set up camp in the wee wood in front of Port Mor House. One nest is so low down that we have been able to keep tabs on and photograph the growing young without disturbing them, which has been fascinating. There are also three pairs of long-eared owls and the most forward brood can be seen hunting between Dun Ban and Gallanach Lodge most evenings.
There has also been a Christening, always a cause for much celebration. As the child concerned was Colin and Ruth MacEwen's son, Magnus, I will hand you over to his proud Grandad.
"Sunday June 9th was a special day on Muck. The whole community gathered in the hall. The occasion was the christening of Magnus Alisdair Traquair MacEwen, Colin and Ruth's youngest son. He was born almost eight months ago in St John's Hospital, Livingstone, joining his brothers Hugh and Alexander and his sister Tara. Conducting the ceremony was our new minister Reverend Stuart Goudie who, as has been the tradition for generations, used the Holy Water Stoup, made from island limestone. Magnus behaved perfectly - he was asleep!
"On the day we were delighted to welcome Reverend Allan Lamb, who as most of you will know was for 20 years our minister in North West Lochaber and christened many island children, including Hugh, Tara and Alexander. Together with his wife, Helen, he has worked tirelessly to build the community over the years. Also present were two prominent ex Islanders, Francis MacLeod (who occupied the desk next to mine in Muck school) and Ali (Muck) MacKinnon, well known in Mallaig engineering circles".
ISLE OF CANNA
Short report this month as I have been off island a fair bit (though can't believe nothing happens on Canna while I am away!)
Significant rain has fallen, replenishing the springs and topping up supplies. Still, a timely reminder about the benefits of conserving water, which can only be a good thing. With so many visitors to Canna, the situation could soon change again (we are hoping for a warm, sunny summer . . . !)
Nice to see lots of people exploring Canna - day trips, yachts, and cruise ships. During the latter part of May we felt like, at times, Cruise City Central - passengers enjoying guided tours and presentations.
And still on the theme of water requirements . . . the Cafe Canna micro brewery is having to work hard to keep up with demand for its draught 'Jack' pale ale, which is going down (literally) really well with visitors and locals alike.
On the farm, the next significant event will be shearing, due to start at the beginning of July, notwithstanding the busy everyday tasks.
By the time this article goes out we should have preparations well underway for the annual Small Isles Games - and will be looking to welcome participants and spectators from our neighbouring islands. So make sure you have the date in your diary... Saturday, July 20th.
Hope to see you here.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
June has been a very busy month on Canna and the garden has seen many visitors already. Interpretation has been improved in the Garden and we encourage visitors to take the time to while away an hour or two just enjoying the sights and sounds of nature around them - or alternatively, the sound of Pete's strimmer as he gets to work!
Plans are progressing for July's event, "Summer Steinway Serenade" on July 13th when we will have musician Yvonne Lyon playing Margaret Fay Shaw's Steinway, with the windows open for all to enjoy the music, even if people can't visit the House itself. There will be refreshments available for purchase and lawn games on offer so please come along and enjoy Canna's own 'mini Garden party"!
Visitors have been enjoying the additional video displays of films and photos from Canna House in Canna House vestibule and the Old Dairy. Come along and see sheep shearing on Mingulay in 1930, fishing in Castlebay harbour in 1931, tending cattle on Canna in the 1940's, and lots more.
The Thom family in Canna House garden, c1900
Fiona is planning a new display of some of the Thom Family photographs, also in the Old Dairy. The Thom family from Greenock owned Canna from 1881 until 1938 when the Campbells bought it. They left us a handsome collection of late 19th C and early 20th C images of Canna and the people who lived on it at the time.
Fiona has recently taken delivery of the first new CD to come out of Canna House, 'Fuaim na Mara/Sound of the Sea'. This CD came out of the Fuaim na Mara project of 2017 when Fiona delivered the Community project in conjunction with the National Library of Scotland, to decorate the pier waiting room and turn it into a mini art gallery. Together with musician Yvonne Lyon, Fiona produced eight new songs, working with island residents, all using inspiration from the Sound Archive. These songs are now produced on the CD which is available in the Canna Shop, priced £6.
ISLE OF RUM
Delightfully warm and sunny for most of the month with midges at a minimum made Rum a fantastic place for visitors.
Today as I write the 10 new moorings are being put in; a great addition to our visitor services and another income stream for the community trading company - spread the word and bring your boat!
With the good weather everyone with a garden has been out tending to their veg patches and polytunnels; the community polytunnel has undergone phase two of construction with door frames and base rails put on, but the plastic covering got called off at the last minute due to too much wind. Up at the school, they have strawberries and peas and Derek has transformed the yard in front of Stalkers bothy into a small horticultural heaven. Deer calving in the Kilmory study area is pretty much at an end; just a few more hinds left to calve. With Josephine Pemberton and the volunteers away, permanent researchers Ali and Sean are waiting patiently for this to happen.
The three pupils at Rum Primary went on the annual Small Isles week and by all accounts had a great time in Mallaig staying at the high school hostel and doing lots of fun activities and also visiting the refugee centre at Fort William. It's been a busy term and Ashton's last one as he will be starting at Mallaig High school in August - Good Luck Ashton!!
Comings and goings - we said bye to long term volunteers Charlie and Abby and hello to Harrison (not Ford) who is here for the year, bye also to Martin Merrick for providing supply teaching cover this term.
The village has been busy with visitors and contractors. We have had guys over carrying out much needed maintenance to the houses and dismantling most of the old green shed by the village hall. Sadly they ran out of time to take the whole thing away, this will have to wait till next time and thanks to Mowi for providing a skip to get rid of many, many years' worth of junk that had accumulated in there. Mowi also removed all their accommodation units as they have now moved into their new houses, pretty cool. The pier has lots of space again and after the skips have been relocated should start to look spic and span.
A new 'welcome to Rum' sign is on its way as are welcome plans for a toilet at the pier as our existing dry toilet hasn't managed to work very well.
ISLE OF EIGG
Continuing from The Howlin' Fling, Eigg has had a busy month for music, with our 22nd anniversary celebration which brought friends, family, and well-wishers together for a great night at the hall. The weather forecast deterred a few but this meant there was plenty of room to dance to Ya Matha, still going strong with Eddie The Spoons on top form, Da Birlinn, Old Blind Dogs and Dolphin Boy: a great night altogether, with great craic round the fire and a brilliant session on the Sunday.
It's been a busy month for meetings too, and amongst these, we heard at the AGM of the Eigg History Sociey that we have now found at long last the specialist architects required to deal with the repairs to Clanranald pier, this important piece of Eigg Heritage.
On the energy front, the other good news is that we now have an added set of batteries contributing to the system's capacity, courtesy of EE, whose masts were installed earlier in the spring, and are powered by our system. Eigg Electric is also working on an ambitious set of targets to further decarbonise the island, as together with the other off grid islands of Scotland (Small Isles plus Foula and Fair Isle) they are part of the islands supported by the Clean Energy EU Islands Secretariat to work on their transition plan. I am pleased to report that the Scottish Islands - and especially Orkney - were very visible on the transition map at the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2019 which I attended in Brussels on 18/19 June as part of the islands events and which included a very nice reception at Scotland's House. Their "Scotland is Now" slogan felt very apt for these troubled times! The urgency of the need to change our energy consumption and production model was repeatedly stressed and it is good to see that on Eigg, we have a new awareness of the issues needed to be tackled with the Eigg Environmental Action Group and the Eiggstinction Rebellion.
Another piece of good news is that funding for a new toilet block and showers at the pier has been approved, which should make our campers very happy indeed. With the forestry project progressing nicely owing to our cooperation with Knoydart, this a fitting achievement for this 22nd anniversary! We are now looking forward to the new Crafters Monday market at the hall each Monday throughout July and August and of course to Feis Eige in the second week of July. In the meantime, we are saying a very heartfelt thank you to Nan Fee for being such an inspirational teacher for Eigg Primary as she is finishing her tenure this term to further her music career. We wish her the absolute best for the future and hope that she can continue her association with Eigg and in particular Feis Eige. We need her colourful and cheery presence on the island!
Eigg Makers' Market
Our Makers' Market is running every Monday from the 24th June until the 2nd September 2019. Come along and meet the artisans of Eigg. Find out about their work and participate in the many interactive, mini workshops and demonstrations that will be available.
There will be willow basketry, photography, organic skin care including shampoo and soap, textiles, music and the Laig Bay Brewery boys. The interactive workshops will take place every week by all the makers and will be available for children and adults lasting about an hour. Making your own organic bath bombs, weaving small objects from organic willow and creating beautiful photograms without chemicals are but a few of the workshops on offer as well as the opportunity to buy beautiful, unique work which is all made on and inspired by the Island of Eigg.
The refreshments will be tea and cake and will provide an opportunity to raise money for Eigg charities: Eigg Feis, Eigg History Society, Eigg tree nursery and Eigg School. Gabe McVarish and other fine musicians from Eigg will be bringing out their instruments and the odd wee ceilidh dance may happen spontaneously…..
The CalMac ferry allows four and a half hours on the Island on Mondays and the Sheerwater which runs from Arisaig allows you five hours.
Eigg and the D-Day Landings
The special anniversary celebrations of the D-Day Landings reminded me that this momentous event was rehearsed in part on the isle of Eigg. As part of my research on the history of Eigg, I was told by the old ones how a few months before the landing, the island was "invaded" by Special Operations Forces trainees who landed on Laig bay, crawling through the crofters' fields and cutting the barbed wire as they went along, which did not go down too well.
Part of the exercise was also to arrest any crofter going to work that morning. Marybelle Macquarrie remembered how she was stopped as she was going to milk her cows, and Dougald Mackinnon recalled how when stopped on his way to work for the estate on the Bealach Chlithe; the soldier who arrested him had a walkie talkie and was liaising with another of the invading party as part of the exercise. Another group had landed on the north part of the island at Struidh and by the evening all the soldiers had converged on the pier where they rested anywhere they could find a place to sit, looking completely exhausted, as Gordon Campbell from Craigard remembered.
The next day Hugh Mackinnon, who headed the Coastal Defence on Eigg, was tasked with retrieving any weapons which had been lost on the beach during the landing, and a good few rifles were thus recovered.
Any more information on this part of the SOE training would be gratefully received, as we would very much like to expand on the role Eigg played as training ground. Please get in touch with us through our Eigg History Society website.
Camille Dressler, Comunn Eachdraidh Eige
Arisaig in World War One
As this project comes to a close a booklet has been produced listing the details we have been able to uncover about those who served in the First World War.
This is very much a work in progress and will hopefully be useful to those who want to pursue this history further. Copies are available free of charge from the Land Sea and Islands Centre.
ARISAIG AMERICANA MUSIC FESTIVAL - BACK WITH A BELTER!
The Arisaig Americana Music Festival (24th - 26th May 2019) made a welcome return for its second year with a lively festival atmosphere, great craic and first-rate music as bands and visitors descended upon the village to share their appreciation for Americana music. We opened the weekend on Friday night at The Crofter's Bar in Arisaig Hotel, with a full crowd turning out to hear young London-based bluegrass outfit Lunch Special who continued with an impromptu after-gig jam session, with many folk enthusiastically contributing.
"So much fun and a great sense of community"
Saturday offered a successful collaborative effort with Arisaig Community Trust and AAMF, with events happening throughout the day over several venues; the playing field, the Land, Sea and Islands Centre and the newly opened Bill's Shed. Despite the rain, locals, festival visitors and holiday-makers turned out in great numbers for the annual village BBQ and picnic, whilst festival activities included workshops, a mandolin maker's stall, and live afternoon music at The Crofter's with Newgrass duo Leon Hunt & Jason Titley playing to another full house.
"Easy going and welcoming"
This year, we offered seven workshops throughout Saturday at the Astley Hall and the Land, Sea & Islands Centre, featuring tutors from the USA and UK. With 60 attendees - the youngest being just 7 years old - it was very encouraging to see a strong local turn-out, as well as festival visitors, of mixed ages and abilities, willing to try something new or expand on existing skills.
The festival concert at Astley Hall was the weekend highlight with USA trio Molsky's Mountain Drifters featuring as headliners. A sell-out show, made up of local community and visitors, the concert opened with Glasgow singer/songwriter Martha L. Healy and guitarist Al Shields, who warmly engaged the audience with original songs and stories of Nashville! Then followed the superb Black Feathers, fresh from their US tour, who held the audience spellbound with sublime harmonies and resonant original songs. Bruce Molsky with his 'drifters' Allison De Groot and Stash Wyslouch got everyone on their feet, dancing to their lively, tight-knit Appalachian Old Time set, and later returned to finish off the night and accompany the brilliant Daniel Meade and the Flying Mules, fully charged with rockabilly country roots that sent the crowd contented on their way home. A special feature at the concert was Uncle Jesse's Moonshine Shack - a taste of the real America with a varied selection of moonshine! Uncle Jesse* himself even put in an appearance...
"Inclusive and friendly"
Sunday saw the first 'Legendary' (yes that's right!) Station Session at Arisaig Train Station, where despite pouring rain, a total of 85 people turned up on the platform to join in with train themed songs. The Jacobite pulled in at 2.35pm and stopped especially for us, as we belted out 'This Train is Bound for Glory' to bemused passengers! Folk then made their way to the final Big Bluegrass Session at the Crofter's Bar, where festival goers played and entertained until midnight, rounding off another great Americana music weekend.
A huge THANK YOU from the festival committee goes out to those who made this festival possible: the venue providers at Arisaig Hotel, Land, Sea & Islands Centre and Astley Hall; our key funders and all of our local business sponsors. Additional thanks to Arisaig Community Trust, RNLI Mallaig, The West Highland Community Rail Partnership and ScotRail. Special thanks to ALL the individual volunteers who helped behind the scenes... the quotes in this article are just a taste of the positive feedback we've received, so we will sign off with "let's do it all again next year!"
*Jim Hunter AKA Uncle Jesse!
A Write Highland Hoolie
Mallaig Book Festival Friday 8th - Sunday 9th November
West Highland Hotel
We are delighted to announce that our Hoolie this year will open on the Friday evening with a unique event: a courtesy dram of Harris Gin and Fever Tree Tonic before Graeme Hawley, Head of General Collections at the National Library of Scotland and responsible for over 14 million publications, entertains us with a rapid-fire and hilarious slideshow of hundreds of the spines of those publications. There is a free dram of gin at 5pm to all ticket holders to Graeme's talk at 5.30pm and we will also be toasting Theresa Breslin's recent OBE for services to children's literature.
Friday night is the first of our ceilidh evenings, showcasing some of our excellent local musicians and anyone who wants to join in.
On the Saturday, we have authors Polly Clark (Tiger), Shaun Bythell (Confessions of a Bookseller), Mick Kitson (Sal), tea and cakes with cookery writer Sue Lawrence, John Lister-Kaye (The Dun Cow Rib: A Very Natural Childhood) and Gavin Francis (Adventures in Being Human), followed but another evening of music.
Sunday has talks by Robert Wight (A Life for Mountains), Alex Gray (The Stalker and Other Tales) and Ron Butlin (From Model to Makar).
The weekend closes with a delicious Afternoon Tea organised by Mallaig Primary School and the presentation of prizes by Ron Butlin. Ron will be judging the entries to our writing competition which is being held in all our local schools, including those in the Small Isles, and he will present prizes and certificates. We are holding an art competition in Mallaig High School too and the winning entry will be on the back page of our programme.
As well as the main Hoolie in the West Highland Hotel, a number of talks are being held in Mallaig High School, and in Mallaig Primary School for all our primary pupils in the area. On the Friday morning in the High School, children's author Theresa Breslin will give a talk, and illustrator Kate Leiper will run an art workshop with senior pupils. Mick Kitson will also give a talk.
Also on Friday morning, Alan Windram will be going into Mallaig Primary School and early Friday afternoon, Kate Leiper and Theresa Breslin will be doing a joint event based around their new book, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends. Hopefully pupils from other schools will be able to attend. On Monday morning, 10th November, Ron Butlin will be in Mallaig Primary School to do a special event for the younger children.
Details of all authors will be going up on our website and are being gradually added to our facebook page, so for more details go to www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com and Facebook: awritehighlandhoolie
EIGG PRIMARY SCHOOL RAISES FUNDS FOR TEENAGE CANCER TRUST
On 1st July Eigg Primary raised funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust at the Makers' Market in Eigg Community Hall. They did a sponsored walk, playlist and fancy dress as well as making food to sell.
P5 pupils Maggie and Betsy said "a sponsored playlist is where you pay £1 to get the song of your choice played at the hall on the day (as long as it's child friendly!). For a sponsored fancy dress, people sponsor us to dress up as a character and wear the costume all day at the Makers' Market. The food includes cup cakes, rocky road and a special cake made by Jonny Jobson.
"We are raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust because Niamh, a teenager who lives on Eigg, has been going to the Teenage Cancer Trust and has got better every minute of every day. The Teenage Cancer Trust has helped her a LOT and we think it would be nice if you could help them to help teenagers like Niamh to get better as soon as possible so they can carry on living their best life."
Head Teacher Louise Taylor said "on behalf of all the children and staff at Eigg Primary I would just like to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone for supporting us on Monday. The café at the Makers' Market made an amazing £547.56.
"The children are also fundraising on the JustGiving site and the total raised here currently stands at a fantastic £1,932.66, making the total raised so far £2,480.22. Once again a big thank-you to everyone for your continued support of Eigg Primary School and Teenage Cancer Trust - Scotland." If you'd like to contribute, their fundraising page is here: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/eigg-primary
MALLAIG HARBOUR NEWS
The big news this month is, of course, Robert MacMillan's retiral after 35 years. I've been lucky enough to spend a month with him 'learning the ropes' before he left, and on his last day, Friday 28th June, we had a small gathering in the Harbour Office, where he was serenaded by Audrey and Grace and their 'Duelling Banjos' before enjoying a few refreshments. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement Robert!
Our Annual Report is published in June, and below are some extracts from this:
Landing volumes and monetary values for the current year, the two previous years plus two other random years (for comparative purposes) are listed:
Quayside prices were, once again, an improvement on the previous year as regards white fish landings but this increase was not replicated in the shellfish sector:
Year end 31st March 2019
Whitefish £1,927 per tonne
Shellfish £5,296 per tonne
Year end 31st March 2017
Whitefish £1,734 per tonne
Shellfish £5,322 per tonne
The statistical table above illustrates just how poor the fishing is for vessels operating in the South Minch area. The catch value in 2019 is less than the value of landings in 1984 - 35 years ago and 50% less than the catch value of 2017. Shellfish landings and white fish landings are both down by approx. 50% so it's an extremely worrying time for vessel owners attempting to keep their businesses financially viable.
As well as dwindling catches in the white fish and prawn sector there was to be no end of year financial boost for the local fishing fleet. The normally reliable sprat fishery was a complete washout with no sprats landed whatsoever - another mystifying situation!
The amount of cars and passengers conveyed on the CalMac ferries based at Mallaig during the year - MV Loch Bhrusda; MV Loch Fyne; MV Lochnevis; and MV Lord of The Isles - indicates a downturn when compared to the previous year. Whilst commercial vehicles and coaches are pretty much on a par with the 2018 figures passenger figures are down by 3.2% and cars by 6.1%:
1st April 2017 - 31st March 2018 1st April 2018 - 31st March 2019 Passengers: 343,847
It may seem surprising that figures are recessionary particularly as the Mallaig - Armadale route is the fifth most popular route as the CalMac network, but when you factor in the amount of disruption that occurred the summer of 2018 you begin to understand why reduced numbers are evident.
It has been well documented particularly by the Sleat Transport Forum that the number of cancellations for varying reasons in 2018 was in excess of 380 with a further 276 pre-cancelled services due to tidal issues. This equates to massive disruption on the Skye Ferry Service.
Usage of the Marina, once again, showed a slight increase on the previous year but any major increase in usage is constrained by the size of the marina.
Short Stay Locals 2018
In addition to the above a further 48 vessels made use of the Moorings at the Marina - the moorings were fully utilized during the summer months.
The current membership of the Mallaig Harbour Authority is as listed below:
Charles King (Chairman)
Gavin Davis (Vice Chair) re-appointed April 2019
Robert MacMillan (CEO)
Lorna Spencer New Appointment April 2019
New boat for Milligan Transport
Good Luck to Greig Milligan of Milligan transport who has taken delivery of the Vega De Lyra, a 23 metre cargo / general workboat originally built in HAR Shipyard, Marin, Spain in 2009.
The Vega De Lyra (Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra) is the fourth boat in the Milligan Transport fleet.
This month has also seen the use of an 'autonomous vessel' (unmanned boat), which has been undertaking hydrographic surveys around the local coast. You can find more details of the vessel and how it operates at www.xocean.com. Here it is pictured 'parked' opposite the Marina.
Following on from last month's news of Safe Arrival bound for Greenland, we are pleased to report that Gabriel Clarke and James Stevenson landed safely at Nuuk in Greenland on the morning of 14th June after a stormy passage. All are safe and well. (Read more and see some pictures at https://asafearrival.wordpress.com)
Mallaig Marina Day
The second Mallaig Marina Day took place on Saturday 8th June, and was once again blessed with good weather. As with last year, the lifeboat moored alongside the pontoon and was open to visitors, and Western Isles Cruises ran free RIB trips, while children were entertained by a bouncy castle and bucking bronco. The RNLI and Fishermen's Mission also had stalls, including face painting.
Thanks to Pimmy, who did most of the organising, and to Ben Gunn and his crew who manned the barbecue!
Thank you ...
I wish to thank everyone for the messages, cards and gifts received on the occasion of my retiral from the Mallaig Harbour Authority.
Looking back there have been many challenges (and changes) over the years and despite a few bumps in the road I have greatly enjoyed the past 35 years and am proud of developments achieved. I need to thank all who helped at Board level - in particular, Michael Currie and Charlie King - and all the consultants, engineers and officials who helped me and the Authority over the years. They all brought invaluable assistance, expertise, nous and insight to the table.
However I really would like to pay tribute and offer grateful thanks to my work colleagues (past and present) who, day after day, always reacted positively to any challenges that evolved and who, importantly, always delivered.
My farewell party, organised by the ladies in the Harbour Building - Audrey, Grace, Mairi, Marina and Jacqueline - was a fun event with Grace and Audrey setting the tone with a performance of 'Duelling Banjos'. It was the start of a memorable day!
Sincere thanks to all but there's no doubt I'll miss the 'craic'!
Mallaig Harbour 1984 - 2019
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a disabled yacht at 17:52 hrs. Soon after departing the Isle of Rum the casualty developed a fault with its drive shaft. With reasonable wind blowing the casualty decided to divert to Mallaig to have repairs carried out. As the casualty approached Mallaig the wind began to die, and the yacht was barely making any headway, down to one or two knots. As the Coastguard were aware of the casualty's predicament they requested the Lifeboat to tow the yacht into Mallaig Marina. As the casualty was not far off the harbour the yacht was taken alongside for the short tow to Marina. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 18:45 hrs.
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Police to the village of Doune at 17:02 hrs. Police were requested to attend a premises at Doune to deal with an incident between two members of staff. On scene the Lifeboat was met by the complex's owner who conveyed the Police ashore in his dinghy to carry out their investigations. After a couple of hours an individual was removed from Doune and back to Mallaig onboard the Lifeboat. Lifeboat ready for service at 16:02 hrs.
Request through the appropriate channels from Police Scotland to convey two constables to the Isle of Eigg. An individual was to be apprehended for causing damage to property. On scene at 10:40 hrs the Police were met by local Coastguards who conveyed them to the scene. A single male was taken into custody and removed to the lifeboat and taken back to Mallaig. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 12:10 hrs.
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to locate a party of kayakers in the area of Lochailort at 13:00 hrs. The husband of a member of the party had been involved in a serious accident at home in Wales. The party of kayakers were located storm-bound on the Ardnish Peninsula. Lifeboat was dispatched to the area to transfer the woman to Arisaig for transportation home. On scene at 13:45 hrs the lifeboat met the group at the beach only to be told that the female and two other kayakers had taken the opportunity of a lull in the weather and paddled to the Roshven area where their minibus was waiting before lifeboat arrived at scene. Lifeboat returned to station and ready for service at 15:15 hrs.
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to assist Paramedics in Mallaig Harbour at 14:14 hrs. A crewman on a local vessel suffered a seizure just as the vessel docked at the pier. After carrying out their assessment the Medics needed to get the patient ashore. Initial plan was to bring the lifeboat alongside the fishing boat and transfer the patient back to the Lifeboat pontoon. But as the crew made their way to the boat it was noticed that the new pontoon facility at the pier was empty of craft and there was also sufficient water for the fishing boat to get alongside. Once berthed at the new pontoon recovering the patient ashore was carried out with ease with the help of the Lifeboat's crew. Patient transferred to Belford Hospital for further assessment.
After dealing with an earlier incident the crew were tasked by Stornoway Coastguard to assist a yacht with engine failure off the harbour entrance at 14:44 hrs. The casualty had been unable to get its engine going but due to favourable conditions had been able to sail to the harbour entrance. The Lifeboat took the casualty alongside and brought it into the Marina where local Coastguards assisted in its berthing. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 17:17 hrs.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to investigate a report of a grounded yacht at 18:32 hrs. A member of the public walking in the Kinlochmoidart area reported what they thought was a yacht aground at the end of the channel next to Eilean Shona. On arriving on scene at 19:50 hrs the Y-Boat was launched with two crew onboard to check the location of the craft. The yacht was located at anchor, sails stowed and locked up. The Coastguard were happy that the vessel was safe and the Lifeboat was stood down to return to port.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to assist in the berthing of a disabled yacht at 15:00 hrs. A yacht on passage in the Sound of Sleat requested assistance in berthing at Mallaig due to a faulty fuel system. The skipper had tried to rectify the problem to no avail and decided the best course of action was to put in and seek professional help. The Lifeboat met with the yacht off the harbour and secured it alongside for the short distance to the Mallaig Marina. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 16:25 hrs.
After fouling its propeller on some floating debris, a yacht contacted the Marina at Mallaig saying that he was able to sail to off Mallaig but would require assistance to berth. Through the necessary channels the Lifeboat launched at 15:55 hrs to meet with the yacht off the Harbour entrance. In favourable conditions the yacht was quickly tied alongside the lifeboat and taken to the Marina and berthed. In the quieter conditions of the harbour a large piece of netting could be seen floating about the propeller. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 16:40 hrs.
Through the necessary channels the lifeboat was launched to assist another yacht with engine failure. At 09:00 hrs the Lifeboat station and Coastguard were informed by Marina staff that a yacht had experienced engine problems whilst departing the Isle of Canna. With very favourable winds the casualty was able to sail towards Mallaig at a good rate of speed. Coastguards monitored the casualty's progress and when it was within a couple of miles of the harbour the crew were paged to assist. With a fresh north-easterly breeze blowing the casualty was towed to within the confines of the harbour and taken alongside the Lifeboat. A short tow had the casualty safely berthed at the Marina. Lifeboat ready for service at 14:45 hrs.
Stornoway Coastguard alerted the local operations manager to the fact that the Lifeboat would be required to assist in the berthing of a disabled fishing vessel in the early hours of Saturday morning, 15th June. A fishing vessel had been disabled due to taking its wire in the propeller. A nearby creel boat had taken the fishing boat in tow but was only making four or five knots of headway and would at least take four or five hours to bring the casualty vessel to off Mallaig. After discussions with Coastguards, LOM, Coxswain and crewmembers it was decided that rather than wait till the early hours of Saturday for the casualty to approach Mallaig for assistance that the Lifeboat launch now and take over the tow. Departing at 20:55 hrs the Lifeboat proceeded to rendezvous with the casualty off the Isle of Soay at 21:35 hrs. The lifeboat established the tow at 21:40 hrs and the creel boat was released to continue to their home port shortly afterwards. A comfortable seven knots was maintained until off the harbour entrance where the casualty was brought alongside the Lifeboat for the short passage to the new pontoon, from where the casualty could be beached when the tide was suitable. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service 00:15 hrs Saturday 15th June.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a dismasted yacht at 12:40 hrs. Whilst the yacht was on passage south in the Sound of Sleat under full sail an almighty crack was heard and the sails and mast toppled overboard. The Skipper broadcasted a PAN-PAN message for assistance which was also picked up by the Coastguard. Arriving on scene at 13:00 hrs, another yacht and a fish farm servicing vessel were standing by the Casualty. Conditions were favourable enough for the Lifeboat to go alongside the disabled yacht. Several attempts were made to try and retrieve the mast and sails but owing to weight and drag this proved fruitless. After discussion with the Skipper and crew the only option was to cut away the mast and rigging to avoid causing any more damage to the craft. Utilising the lifeboat's cutters, the stays, ropes and wiring were cut and the yacht freed to motor into Mallaig escorted by the Lifeboat. On departing the scene the Lifeboat informed local trawlers in the area of the Lat/Long of the discarded mast and sails so as to avoid fouling their gear on the debris. Yacht and Lifeboat alongside at Mallaig Marina at 15:30 hrs.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 14:50 hrs to the assistance of a 54 foot cabin cruiser of the east side of Muck. Whilst on passage close to the fish farm the cruiser ran over a marker and fouled her propellers leaving her stuck to the large anchor. Fish farm staff were also on scene to render assistance. On arrival at the casualty's position at 14:55 hrs the Lifeboat was able to get alongside due to the benign conditions and assess the situation. Fortunately, the casualty had a dive platform on her stern, and this allowed the crew to observe the rope in the propellers. A length of rope was trailed down both sides of the casualty to snag the anchor rope. Once the rope snagged the anchor line it was then transferred to the lifeboat's capstan and the strain taken. This brought the anchor rope up to just below the surface where the crew were able to cut the anchor rope away from the safety of the dive platform. Casualty towed to Mallaig arriving at 18:10 hrs where divers were awaiting to clear the propellers. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 18:45 hrs.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to investigate reports of an overturned kayak/dinghy in the mouth of the Morar estuary at 10:40 hrs. On arrival on scene at 10:55 hrs a craft could be seen on the inner side of the Morar Bar. Two crew were sent to investigate in the Y-Boat. It transpired that the craft was moored and its owner was camped above the beach. The dinghy was being used as a tender for a larger craft which was also at the top of the beach. To a person looking out to the Estuary mouth and with the closeness of the Bar it would look to anyone that the craft could have been seen to be overturning in the weather. With all in order the Y-Boat returned to the Lifeboat and was recovered aboard. Lifeboat back and ready for service at 12:00 hrs. False alarm with good intent.
Michael Ian Currie
On and Off the Rails
Result of my 'Hot off the Press' Draw
Following my offer of a boxed set of DVDs plus booklets on The Jacobite I now have many postcards adorning my lounge door! Only one local (ish) entry came in - from Acharacle - but that was not the drawn one. The owner of the boxed set is Valerie Fairweather from Dundee. Congratulations.
Should you wish to purchase a copy of the aforementioned - see last month's West Word for review - call me on 01687 462189 and I will supply you with details.
Summer issue of West Highland News magazine
The only magazine spotlighting the West Highland lines and ScotRail network past and present, plus On The Waterfront, produced by Friends of the West Highland Lines: the Summer Issue 2019 is now available in all its splendour!! Yet another stonking issue full of up to date news, articles, photos and times past nostalgia, it is a really good read.
The cost is £3.50 plus postage. Call me on the above number if you wish to purchase a copy.
The range of topics covered in this issue is wide and varied, including a piece entitled 'Memories at Morar' which features photos supplied by our esteemed driver (one of them!) of The Jacobite, John Hunt. Thanks John.
Also, The West Highland Line: 125th Anniversary of the opening of the line from Craigendoran (on the Clyde) to Fort William is on August 11th 2019 and plans for commemorating it are covered including a children's competition being staged by WHCRP and ScotRail. For more info see page 23. There are also details of a proposed HST 125 one-off rail journey along the line to Fort William in August, and The Glenfinnan Drone Debate - did you know there was one!!! You do now.
News to watch out for
HS2 train contract bidders reveal proposed designs! Of the five bidders for the 2.75 billion HS2 rolling stock contractors - the contract is expected to be awarded in 2020 - one of them is an innovative Spanish train builder TALGO who plan to build, rather than assemble, the 54 trains needed at a new factory in Longannet, Fife, if they win it. John Veitch of TALGO UK says 'it is the kind of opportunity which societies can only take or leave once in a century.' This would be great news for Scotland if they are the preferred bidders. Their aim is to offer a UK version of its 'Avril' product.
Ness Islands Railway - 7 1/4 Gauge
As the school summer holidays approach, I wonder how many of you are aware of this wonderful little railway? It is situated in the grounds of Whin Park, just a short walk from Inverness city centre along the riverbank, or a wee bus ride (on bus services 4, 513 or 919).
The reason I am writing about it in my column this month is twofold. Firstly, if you ever wondered how to entertain your children, or maybe grandchildren, whilst visiting Inverness it is well worth a visit. Secondly it was forced to close recently for a short period by what was believed to have been mindless vandalism. A bridge on the track route was left with a gaping hole after being badly damaged, leaving the railway unable to operate its usual route. Since April this year the railway has been owned and operated by Highland Hospice as a fundraising project and operated entirely by volunteers with all proceeds going to its charity. Initially emergency repairs were due to be carried out over last weekend to enable them to reopen the track ahead of the school holidays. However, following close inspection damage was found to be worse than initially anticipated. Luckily, a team of volunteers led by Andrew Leaver, head of fundraising for the charity, pulled out all the 'stops' and rerouted the track to allow the trains - diesel and steam - to commence running again on a shorter loop from Friday 5th July and run daily throughout the summer holidays - hurrah!! Highland Hospice are now trying to raise funds for the bridge repairs - if you'd like to contribute see www.justgiving.com/campaign/nessislandsrailway
The cost of riding behind the trains is £2.50 for adults and children, with those under four years old travelling free. If any of you have experienced 'The Little Railway in the Park' I would love to hear your comments or see photographs. If you have not experienced it - give it a go and take a West Word with you, and get a photo and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for future enjoyment and to help Highland Hospice - thank you!
Caledonian Sleeper update
I am frequently asked if the 'new' sleeper carriages are now in operation on the Fort William to London SERCO operated Caledonian Sleeper service! Well, to date the answer is 'no'! Various trials have been carried out by SERCO but the second original start date of July 2019 has been delayed and the proposed next start date is September 2019.
Various technical issues have arisen with the carriages, and until these can be sorted out the Sleeper will continue to use the existing rolling stock - with occasional failures and cancellations it has to be said! Guests who have booked for, and anticipated, the new carriages are being offered refunds on the new increased price.
The Transport Minister has expressed his concerns about the poor service that the sleeper currently provides, but this can only be blamed on bad planning after ScotRail gave up the franchise. The decision to use 'refurbished' Class 73 locomotives which were well past their 'sell by date' instead of continuing with Class 67 (General Motors) locomotives was, in my opinion, a backward move. The 67's were powerful, reliable locomotives, capable of hauling heavy trains on all of the Highland Sleeper routes. In fact Class 67's are still a familiar sight on the Inverness Sleeper. These are hired in from DB Cargo, but are a far more suitable locomotive for the job in hand. One argument put forward at the franchise changeover was that the Class 67's axle weight was too heavy for the West Highland lines, which meant speed restrictions had to put in place over bridges and viaducts. I find that argument hard to swallow, as the Sleeper timetable times using Class 73's are unchanged!!
However we will have to wait and see when the new carriages arrive! My guess is that the lowland Sleepers will take precedence. This of course does not involve the use of diesel locomotives. The Class 92's are 25KV overhead supplied and will have no difficulty hauling the new coaches between London Euston/Glasgow/Edinburgh.
Footnote: a set of new carriages (empty stock) were trialled in the daytime to Fort William on Monday July 1st. That same night the Sleeper was 'double headed' (two Class 73's with existing Sleeper carriages) following a 'failure' at Tulloch meaning a second locomotive had to be sent from Craigentinny to rescue it and allow the line to be reopened in the middle of the night. You could not make it up!!
See you on the train,
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Thank you, Claire, for sharing this great photo of a very 'hairy' black and russet caterpillar seen near Traigh and asking what species it belongs to.
This looks like the caterpillar of the Garden Tiger moth (Arctia caja), a member of the Arctiidae family. The information mostly comes from the two references.
The Garden Tiger moth has one generation per year. The adults have distinctive brown and white large blotches on the forewings and orange abdomen and hindwings with black-ringed blue spots. Each adult has different patterns. The colourful adults are in flight at night in July and August when the eggs are laid and the larvae, also called caterpillars in the moth and butterfly order, can be found from August to the June of the following year as this moth overwinters as a larva. Pupation for metamorphosis occurs in a thin cocoon amongst vegetation or in the ground, typically for a short time in early summer.
The very 'hairy' caterpillar is known as the 'woolly bear'. The 'hairs' are likely to contain much chitin which is a polysaccharide (a sugar); it occurs in some invertebrate groups such as Arthropods, but is not made by vertebrates, animals with backbones. Thus they are not hairs such as we have; our hairs contain keratin, a protein consisting of long parallel polypeptide chains, with many cross-links for added strength.
The 'woolly bear' caterpillars live in open habitats ranging from sand-dunes with scrub, gardens, damp meadows, to open woodland. They sometimes bask and feed in sunshine and in Lochaber can be seen on nettles, dockens and some garden plants. Garden Tiger moths occur throughout the British Isles except Shetland.
Dr Mary Elliott
P. Waring & M. Townsend 2009 Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
E.J.W. Barrington 1967 Invertebrate Structure & Function
BIRDWATCH May 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly dry settled start to the month, although fairly cool at times. The second half was much more unsettled and wetter.
Bird wise a fairly typical May, with many of our resident birds already hatching chicks, while some of our summer visitors still arriving.
The first Whitethroat was heard at Camusdarroch on the 1st and several were heard around Traigh and Back of Keppoch on the 3rd. The first Spotted Flycatcher was seen in Arisaig on the 15th.
Still a few birds pushing north, with Whimbrels seen at Traigh and Back of Keppoch during the first two weeks. Numbers of other waders low, as most flying north in good weather and not needing to stop and refuel.
The Pink-footed Geese lingered at Traigh Farm until the 4th at least. Groups of Great Northern Divers were seen at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall and offshore at Traigh during the first two weeks but soon moved on. A late bird in summer plumage was seen at the head of Loch Ailort on the 22nd.
A drake Ring Necked Duck was found on Loch nan Eala on the 17th and lingered til the 19th at least. A vagrant from North America, a few are found in Western Europe most winters. A drake had spent last winter at the south end of Loch Shiel near Acharacle, so possibly it may have been the same bird heading north.
The Little Egret was seen at the beginning of the month at its usual haunts around Invercaimbe and Loch nan Ceall. However the last confirmed sighting on the 15th was unusual as it was caught on camera sitting amongst the Grey Herons in the heronry at Camus an t-Salainn.
On the 17th an Osprey was seen harassing a Sea Eagle on the south shore of Loch nan Ceall. In Arisaig the Nuthatches bred successfully at the same nest site as last year, with the chicks fledging on the 30th.
Tawny Owls were heard in the Woodside area, Morar and the Barn Owls were seen at the usual cliff site in Mallaig.
A male Common Redstart was seen at Loch Ailort on the 21st.
There were sightings of Jays in the Loch Ailort area and at Borrodale.
On the 11th a female Siskin caught in Morar had been ringing in Dumfries and Galloway on 3rd March 2019.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Uncle Jessie, from the wilds of Appalachia moonshine territory, brought a copy of West Word with him when he visited the Arisaig Americana festival last month!
Here's Claire and Simon Whitton, on the steps on the casino in Monte Carlo, whilst on a cruise in June.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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