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July 2021 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
KINLOCH CASTLE FOR SALE
After more than 60 years of public ownership, Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum has been put up for sale by NatureScot (formerly SNH).
Sir George Bullough's hunting lodge, described by NatureScot as 'an exemplar of lavish, late Victorian living', is now riddled with wet and dry rot and requires a multi-million pound restoration project to save it from demolition.
Kinloch Castle Friends Association (KCFA) attempted to buy the castle in 2019 and bring it into community ownership, with plans to provide visitor accommodation, a bar and meals, but their bid failed 'in the main because the money we had asked for was just not available.' Castle tours ceased last year with the onset of Covid and KCFA's chairman Professor Ewan Macdonald says, 'We have no idea what state the castle is in now.'
NatureScot's south Highland operations manager, Stewart Sandison, said: 'Kinloch Castle is not currently on the open market for sale. We continue to work to identify a beneficial owner for the castle and grounds. Any future owner will need to contribute towards three key objectives; securing the conservation and preservation of the castle, contributing to the sustainability of the Rum community and enhancing nature on Rum - promoting its enjoyment and minimising the castle's impact on the natural environment.'
Local entrepreneur Angus MacDonald said, 'It is a tragedy that the castle has got into this state. It is extremely important for the grade A listed building and the economy of the island that a good solution is found for the building's restoration. It is very sensible for NatureScot to explore opportunities, but they need to do this very quickly before the building is beyond repair.
'I think there would be a viable option for an upmarket hostel and apartments. There is no shortage of things to do on the island. That sort of opportunity is very much of the moment; people are looking for escapism and remoteness. Not many places are more beautiful or romantic than Kinloch Castle.'
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Happy 40th birthday to our 'sister' community paper in Ardnamurchan, De tha Dol?, and good luck to new editor Nic Goddard with the relaunch. Nic writes frequently for the Oban Times/Lochaber News and was West Word's correspondent on Rum where she used to live! Their special 40th anniversary edition is in the shops now.
Great to see that the new loos in Mallaig are open at last - more about this in the Road to the Isles Facilities Group's article on page 9.
It's lovely to have lots of photos from the schools this month. Happy holidays everyone!
As always, thanks to Morag and Ewen for their help with the printer and Anne and Jane for labelling the envelopes.
firstname.lastname@example.org 07310 857802
MALLAIG MOURNS HERO LACHIE
Mallaig and the wider community are in shock with the sudden loss of Lachie Robertson, much loved local fisherman, talented piper and all round 'great guy', who lost his life in a tragic accident.
On 24th June, Lachie was fishing in the Sound of Rum when a crew member fell into the water trying to pull in fishing gear. Lachie went in to rescue him with no thought for his own safety. The third crew member managed to get the first man back on board but retrieving Lachie wasn't so easy. The Coastguard helicopter from Stornoway, HM Coastguard and the Mallaig and Tobermory lifeboats were dispatched, but Lachie could not be revived. The other crew member received a minor injury.
To the community, Lachie was more than the successful skipper/owner of Reul a'Chuain. He was highly thought of as a true Highland gentleman who enjoyed the local craic and music and was a keen piper who played at many weddings and funerals. Many floral tributes were left on his two boats and beside the statue to those lost at sea, and Mallaig FC held a minute's silence before their match on 27th June.
Daughters Kenna and Rachael expressed their appreciation of the 'amazing and much appreciated' support from the community and say they have kept all the messages left with the flowers.
Lachie's funeral was held on Friday 9th July when the cortege drove through Mallaig on its way to Morar Cemetery. Our sincere condolences go to Kenna and Rachael.
If you wish to donate to Mallaig RNLI in memory of Lachie please see www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lachierobertson-mallaigrnli
There's been a lot going on in the last month here, but first of all I'd like to take a moment to mention the tragic passing of Lachie Robertson, whose sudden, recent death rocked our communities. A man well known and dearly loved, he will be sorely missed but will always be remembered for the true gem that he was.
Now, in housing news, The Knoydart Foundation have announced plans to create five new affordable homes by the end of 2022, with further homes possible over the next seven years. This is a massive step forward in affordable housing which has always been a bit of an issue here, and it's part of the housing plan for the Foundation up to 2027. The new housing will be a mix of renovation of Millburn Cottage, new build homes and Rural Housing Burden developments. The housing plan also outlines a timetable for upgrading existing homes that are part of the Foundation's housing stock already. Operations Manager Craig Dunn says "At a people level, this is a great stride towards the regeneration of Knoydart. We're delighted that the vast majority of the community are right behind the plan".
As well as new housing opportunities, there are also going to be job opportunities arising soon - Knoydart Trading have been working on a project to make the best use of the venison resources on the peninsula, with the aim to provide low-cost, zero food miles, good quality food for residents and to create more local job opportunities. The new venison butchery and processing unit will be here soon. The Shop has increased its opening hours and is now open until 7pm six days a week, and until 4pm on a Sunday (This is a bit of a game-changer for locals looking to have a few cans and a bit of craic on days that aren't designated Table nights! And, you know, it's also increased revenue from tourists so that's also a bonus haha.) There have even been live tunes at the Table recently, as we were finally blessed with the reappearance of the sun and it was definitely good for the soul.
Knoydart had its first pride picnic on 20th June to support and raise some funds for LGBT youth Scotland. Supporters met at the hall for the first ever Pride parade where they marched to Long Beach, waving rainbow flags and sporting face paint and there set up picnic goodies, got the craic and generally had a great afternoon.
There was a great turn out to KFT's "Rhodie Ramble" on Saturday 26th June . . . Folk had a wander round Inverie woods, revisiting areas that were once choked with Rhododendron Ponticum, now recovering and bursting with life, and learned about the Rhodie eradication journey on Knoydart. A new webpage www.knoydartforesttrust.org/rhodies.html was launched where people can now report any rhodie regrowth spotted on Knoydart which will help KFT to target and remove any new bushes which crop up, thus safeguarding Knoydart's biodiversity. The project is supported by the national Lottery Heritage Fund. (Thanks to Lorna for this info!).
I thinks that's all for now folks, It's time to go and enjoy the sun while it lasts!
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
Baby News! Huge congratulations go to Pat and David Grieve on the birth of their very first grandchild who was born on June 19th at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital. Kai David Grieve, who weighed in at just over 8lbs, is doing well and we hope to see him in the Glen soon. Lovely news xx
We are lucky to have our very own mountain (Highland Sherpa) guide in Glenfinnan. Many thanks to Alistair Gibson who took out a group of locals for a guided walk in and around the Glen. A great informative afternoon was had by all. Many thanks for giving up your time.
It is lovely to see the MV Sileas back on the loch again. Highland Cruises offer different sailing options so why not take advantage of the one hour private charter or take the day cruise to Acharacle! All the best for a busy season.
As the weather warms up and folk head to the loch for a swim or a paddle board, this is just a friendly reminder to take extra care if you are out on the water.
Fin-ally, it's oh-fish-al . . . The next Loch Shiel fishing competition is to take plaice on July 10th. Cod this be the day you catch the big'un? Tight lines!
Anmoch gu loch, moch gu abhainn. 's mu mheadhan-latha na h-uillt
Late to the loch, early to the river and about noon to the burns.
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling! Well what a month it has been. The weather has been absolutely fantastic, especially to aid in keeping the sheep nice and dry for shearing . . . and they were relieved to be stripped of their woolly coats . . . newbie shearer wannabe Erin even had a lesson from Colin who somehow looked bloodied and battle scarred after it!! With the excellent spell brought a much-needed window for silage making.
School holidays are here and before the bell had stopped ringing Teacher was packed and awaiting the Ferry - due to lockdown etc has not seen family for so long, but before term end was playing chaperone to Willow and others for a familiarisation trip to the Mallaig Hostel as Willow starts secondary Schooling next term . . . ah, all grown up.
Visitor numbers still not recovered back but we are getting really positive feedback from those grateful souls that do make it along with familiar faces . . . remember our lockdown stranded duo Anton and Maria? Well they returned as a married couple for a month-long stay and are promising a winter visit next, and I will ask them to give us a prospective view for one of the future issues on living amongst us then returning to a city centre flat.
Both farm and croft will now be looking to the Lamb sales and wondering if a Dingwall bash will be allowed this year!! The Wee Red Boat is still doing donuts round the Isle looking for Lobster, Crab and Prawns whilst the Green Shed is doing brisk business with a fabulous variety of Muck Crafts . . . finally our sector light issue seems to have been addressed with a visit from the Pole Star.
Well that's our June News so wish you all well.
ISLE OF CANNA
Great to have the Canna Seabird Ringing Team back after a year's absence due to Covid.
Seabird numbers on the North Cliffs are looking good and a number of geolocators have been recovered allowing the team to track where the birds have been during the winter months.
Puffin numbers seem to be on the rise and the new Puffin Trail to the sea stack on Sanday has proved very popular with visitors.
Two Rose Starlings have been sighted several times with the island flock of starlings. This is only the second time they have been recorded on Canna. Interestingly, the old name for them is 'Rosie Pastors'.
We also have two calling Corncrakes which is good as they have been absent for the last few years.
The island is super busy and it's great to see so many yachts in the bay again. Accommodation providers are very busy and two new self-catering cottages have finally been finished and are open for business. Canna Shop is fantastically well stocked and there is now veg and fruit from Canna House garden available as it gets ready.
CafeCanna is flat out and diners are raving about the locally sourced Beltie beef and the huge seafood platters. Booking is advised . . .
CafeCanna hosted an exhibition of local signwriter Anna Rothach's work; always great to see what she comes up with. Do contact her as her work is excellent.
Canna Farm has been busy gathering all the sheep for the shearers coming over on the 5th July and press ganging anyone available to help with rolling wool and chasing sheep. Always a good few days, with lots of craic.
As an island we would like to send our sympathies to the family of Lachie Robertson who lost his life in a tragic fishing accident this month. Lachie had visited and fished around Canna for many years and will be missed by many.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
This summer sees the installation of a piece of rural landscape Art on the Isle of Canna which will commemorate Margaret Fay Shaw's favourite views on Canna as well as provide a place for visitors and residents to sit and contemplate the beautiful landscape around them.
Canna Archivist Fiona explained, "One of Margaret's favourite spots on Canna was overlooking Canna Bay from beside the Rhu Church. She filmed there many times. We have recently, with the very kind and generous support of our friends at the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, been re-digitising and restoring the Canna media archives. During the course of this project I came to realise how important the area around the Rhu Church was to Margaret when she was taking her images and creating her film.
"The Church itself is a popular place for visitors to visit and I thought how nice it would be to have a place where they could sit and take in the landscape around them, which so inspired Margaret when she was alive. There is nowhere for visitors or residents to sit and contemplate the sights and sounds around them when they first arrive on Canna, before reaching the shop and cafe for example. After discussions with Canna farm manager Geraldine and Isle of Canna Community Development Trust chairperson, I invited two creative artists - Yvonne Lyon and Raine Clarke from Glasgow - to come and build a 'contemplation' circle, just in front of the Rhu Church on the land which is known as Rubha Cairinis and which lends itself very nicely to being 'renamed' Rubha Sholais' (The Solas Point) for the purposes of this project. My idea was to construct several 'cairn' seats topped off with tractor seats. I wanted it to be a place to reflect on the sound and sights around us, and to meld sympathetically into that landscape, to reflect the rural and agricultural nature of the land and history around us. We collected 'found' objects as well as stone from the island to use in the project. There are lots of pieces of smaller agricultural relics from the past on island which could be given a new lease of life." Bad weather meant that work had to stop several times but this allowed time to work on the slates which accompany each seat - giving it an individual name, all related to features or places on the island and all names are taken from John Lorne Campbell's own map of the island. "An Doirlinn", "An Coroghon", "Càrn a 'Ghaill", "Tallabric" and "A' Chill". Each seat faces towards the area on its slate.
When the cairns were completed, all residents and visitors were invited to gather at the site for a few moments of music and contemplation. The sun shone on the little company as the visitors enjoyed the new vista, where perhaps they had not bothered to venture before and we hope that all visitors and residents will enjoy the simple, peaceful spot this summer and we thank all our friends who in any way contributed to the project. Fiona MacKenzie
ISLE OF RUM
The month of June has seen the return of tourist/mainland humans in great numbers. With CalMac limiting capacity (bring on the days when we can welcome more), we are still seeing some great numbers with the Bunkhouse nearing fully booked until October and Ivy Cottage seeing plenty of visitors since the reopening. Our moorings had their first fully booked day at the start of the month and this was met with great happiness by all us locals and they continue to attract yachts to our Loch. Anybody visiting us via our moorings, please come ashore and meet the community and use our local services. Kim's Kitchen has started up and is catering for all visitors. The reviews we are hearing are all positive so surely worth getting off the yacht for! Things are moving when it comes to Kinloch Castle's redevelopment. Fingers crossed, its future is as bright as it was in the heyday of George Bullough, because its beauty and potential are clear to see . . . Being one of the new residents, I feel like I can talk on behalf of us all and confirm we have all settled into island life.
Personally, the joys of living remotely far outweigh city chaos and with COVID on the retreat (fingers crossed) things can only get better. Alongside this, the May sea bird count, in which a few island volunteers participated, went 'swimmingly' or shall I say 'flew by' without a hitch. To share an island with so much wildlife is really a thing of beauty. We even had a special Sea Eagle flyby which will never grow old, I tell you!
We are hoping to have more exciting news as the season rolls on with plans for events in the pipeline and some exciting developments on the tourist front. Our island is certainly one to watch! Or if you don't fancy watching, come and see us, you're always welcome. #rumreimagined
ISLE OF EIGG
School's out for summer; and for our two eldest primary school children Betsy and Wee Maggie, primary school's out forever! The girls celebrated their last day at Eigg Primary with a party and an end of primary school garden prom. The kids all loved dressing up, drinking Strawberry Sherbet mocktails and dancing to tunes by our resident superstar DJ, Dolphin Boy. It was an unforgettable day for everyone. We will miss the girls very much when they go over to Mallaig for big school, but we are excited for them and wish them all the best. In the meantime, there's still plenty of fun to be shared over the summer holidays!
There was further excitement for the children when Eigg Drama Club performed their show, Eilean Nam Ban Mòra. What a success! The scenery was created by the children and their teacher Mr Merrick and looked amazing; costumes were fantastic; lines were remembered and confidently delivered; Tadhgan played the piano beautifully; and the audience were howling with laughter. Huge congratulations to all involved: Betsy, Maggie, Tadhgan, Freya, Agnes, Violet and Colm. A special thank you to Fee for taking on the role of Stage Manager and to Bean for filming the show so we can watch it again with our friends and family who didn't get a chance to see it on the night.
On June 12th Eigg celebrated twenty four years of community ownership, always an opportunity to reflect upon how far we have come as a community and how much we have achieved together. We had a really lovely fire with tunes and dancing. One of the highlights of the night for those who remember the first Buy-out Cèilidh was Wee Maggie singing the Eigg song 'S Trusaidh mi na Coilleagan, bringing back precious memories of Eigg children singing the same song way back then at the first cèilidh, twenty four years ago.
Although a normal full-sized Fèis Eige could not take place this year, we did have a hugely successful Fèis Bheag event for the children of the Small Isles. We were so pleased to welcome our friends from Rum and Muck who spent the weekend camping on Eigg and also to welcome our dear friend Morag Martin as our guest tutor. The children had a wonderful action-packed weekend of Gaelic games, drama, music, dancing, art and shinty, all outside in the beautiful sunshine! Fèis Eige would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who generously gave their time and energy to make Fèis Bheag such an unforgettable weekend for all involved. A special word of thanks to Caledonian MacBrayne for awarding us with a Community Fund, without which this special event could not have taken place!
In other news, it's very much football fever with the Euros taking place this month. We managed to set up a screen outside at the pier so that we can all share our celebrations/ commiserations according to who got who in the island sweepstake! A very happy birthday to Greg who turned the big 4-0 and celebrated with football at the pier followed by a fire at the beach and one of the most glorious sunsets of the year.
Finally, through all of the excitement and lovely times, this month has been very much overshadowed by the loss of Lachie, a great friend of Eigg and much loved by all of us here. I will sign off with a memory of Lachie from his good friend Eddie:
Lachie, playing the pipes, sitting and swaying on a chair in Kildonan kitchen making us all feel as if we were in Tìr na nÒg. Gu robh fois aig anam.
Road to the Isles Facilities Group update
The Road to the Isles Facilities Group are delighted to be able to report that we were finally able to open the new facilities at West Bay in Mallaig on 1st July. They are not completely finished - there is still some signage to be installed and a couple of other teething issues to be resolved, but we felt it was important to make them available as soon as we could. The building will be open daily from 7am until 9pm, and all payment is contactless - we have no facility to accept cash.
Toilets are 30p - through the paddle gates, with a one-way system entering on the right-hand side of the building and exiting on the left. There are five unisex cubicles and separate urinals. There is also a disabled toilet with baby change and a separate access on the road side of the building. The shower costs from 50p to £2 depending on the length of time (but you do need the 30p to get through the paddle gate on top of this!). At the moment, the fence isn't up round the elsan/fresh water point so we are just asking for donations towards this but it is likely that in future the charge will be £5.
It has been a long, hard slog to get to this point - over three years since we submitted our expression of interest to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund in April 2018. We're really grateful for all the support along the way, and hopeful that the facilities will meet expectations now they are finally open! There have been some comments about some of the choices we have had to make along the way, particularly about the fact that payment is contactless, and that the cubicles in Mallaig are unisex. We had to make a decision on the payment method last year, when everyone was being encouraged to go contactless, and so, to future proof the building it seemed sensible to adopt this method. We were also keen not to have significant amounts of cash on-site - as volunteers we can't necessarily be there every day to empty cash boxes, and we felt it was unfair to lumber the cleaner with this responsibility. The whole building has been designed to be as efficient as possible, with urinals off to one side when you enter (designed so no-one can be seen), and five unisex cubicles - all fully enclosed so effectively five individual wee rooms. This is in part to minimise queueing. At peak times there can be 300+ people from the Steam Train and a number of coaches all looking for somewhere to spend a penny (or 30p!). If people are really uncomfortable with the concept, then there is the option of using the disabled toilet, which has a separate entrance, but is also effectively unisex!
There is a very long list of people that we need to thank for helping us get this far, and we are very grateful to each and every one of you! The majority of our funding came from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund and from LEADER, but we also received funds from the Highland Council through their Discretionary Funding; the Gower Trust; and from Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Association. We have to say a particular Thank You to Angus MacDonald, who lent us funds from the Moidart Trust to enable us to cash flow the whole project.
We have had huge support from the wider community locally, and also from the caravan and camping community - both with financial donations and words of support. At times when we were struggling to believe we would ever get to the finish line, these reassured us that we were doing the right thing!
We're also moving forward with plans for the car park at Silver Sands. We have identified another site, and are ready to start some feasibility work into how it can be developed.
The playpark project has also made lots of progress recently. Various funding applications have been successful, including one to the People's Postcode Lottery for £13k, so in total they have now raised over £35k. The revised design for the Playpark is in Mallaig Co-op at the moment so that the community can comment on the proposal, and there are plans for a fun day on Sunday 15th August.
Road to the Isles Facilities Group (SCIO SC048758)
Mallaig & Morar Community Centre, West Bay, Mallaig, PH41 4PX
Congratulations to . . . Angus MacDonald who has been awarded the Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory and Lilian MacDonald who has received the Benemerenti Medal.
Photo © Anthony MacMillan Photography
Photographed at the ceremony at St. Mary's RC Church, Arisaig, are: (L to R) Peter Boylan (Parishioner of Mingarry, Knight of St. Gregory, Sponsor); Rt Rev Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles; Front: Lilian MacDonald and her niece Olivia Bridge; Back: Angus MacDonald and eldest son Archie MacDonald (Sponsor); Fr Stanislaw Pamula; and Michael Lunny, Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, who served as Master of Ceremonies.
Mallaig Seniors vs Eastfield United
A Huge Thank You to Angus Kennedy and All the Guys in the Mallaig Seniors Football Team for their warm welcome, fair play and hospitality before, during and after the game with Eastfield United Seniors from Glasgow on Saturday 26th June. We already had a great relationship with the guys, but after Saturday, it has grown even stronger.
The game was played in a really friendly manner and although competitive, was always in great spirit. The Mallaig Boys played some terrific passing football and from the first whistle, pressed and put the Eastfield goal under tremendous pressure. Great individual players and real teamwork throughout the entire 90 minutes really should have had Mallaig out of sight, only for some inspired goalkeeping and chances taken at the other end denied Mallaig a win.
Everyone at Eastfield United is looking forward to continuing our Friendship and meeting up again in Glasgow and of course Mallaig both on the park and off it.
Thanks to everyone we met, it made our day!! Special Thanks to Angus for his hard work and effort.
Kind Regards, Andy Rundell, Eastfield United FC.
PS Maybe Andy did not want to say it, but Eastfield FC won the match 3 - 0 ! The Mallaig X1 who started the match - combined age unknown - were Niall MacBeth, James Coull, Donald MacDonald, Alex Kennedy, Colin Buchanan, John Treasurer, Angus Kennedy, Duncan MacDonald, Brian Ferguson, Alistair MacKay and Kevin McDonell.
A Write Highland Hoolie
Mallaig Book Festival . . . Friday 12th ~ Sunday 13th November
We've been working away at organising this year's Festival, feeling optimistic that it will take place. We have now finalised the list of authors, which we shall reveal to you at a later date - but be assured we have come up with an exciting and varied line up.
The Hoolie is of course held in the West Highland Hotel in Mallaig. It will start with a free dram on the Friday night for those attending the first talk and run through to Sunday lunchtime. As always, there will be music on both Friday and Saturday evenings after dinner.
The school competitions have been rolled out and are in progress. This year we have given the same theme for both the writing and the art - The Lighthouse. As usual we plan to end the Hoolie with some entertainment for children and a splendid tea to accompany the prize giving.
We have a few other ideas up our sleeves but they will have to remain our secret at present. Watch this space!
. . . and a musical launch for the Hoolie Hoolets
We shall be officially launching our Junior Festival, which has the aim of extending the Hoolie for a few days. As usual there will be authors speaking to High School and primary school pupils, and we hope to bring across the island school children for the entire long weekend.
We are excited to announce that the Hoolets Festival will start on the Thursday afternoon in the High School with a music workshop by the wonderful Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier, at the the end of which the pupils will have their own tune. Duncan and Hamish will also be playing at the main Festival in the West Highland Hotel on Friday evening.
Meanwhile, our Chair Polly Pullar has just had her new book published, A Scurry of Squirrels, and has been appearing on some episodes of BBC Scotland's Landward, talking about the red squirrels and hedgehogs she has nurtured and rehabilitated.
The Hoolie team
Arisaig Community Trust News
Land, Sea and Islands Centre (LSIC)
A huge thank you to everyone who came to our 'Grand Opening' day at the Land, Sea and Islands Centre on 21st May. It was a much-anticipated event, and it was lovely to see the building full of life again after so long. There was a steady stream of visitors and some lovely comments wishing us well. A special Thank You goes to Audrey and Chris Bradford at Arisaig Bread Shed, who provided hot drinks and tasty baked goods from 'Hector the H' - their mobile van. Their presence most certainly created a buzz around the Centre.
The LSIC is looking for new volunteers. If you can spare three hours a week, then we'd love to hear from you. Please send an email to email@example.com or pop into the Centre to have a chat.
As we turn the midway point in the summer, it would be nice to share some slightly more exciting news about our housing project, however, there are quite a few complex things churning away in the background. On the positive side, we have resolved a potentially fatal issue around land boundaries and are almost at the point of concluding our purchase of the site at Station Road. This has been a very long road and we are enormously grateful to our solicitor Gary Somers at MacPhee and Partners for keeping the momentum going, advising and guiding us through the muddle. Speaking of long roads, one of the major issues holding up our planning approval at the moment is the design of the new access road to the site. As we need the road to be adopted by the Highland Council for them to maintain it, it has to accord with their guidelines so all sorts of things have needed to be adjusted - a kerb here, a ditch there, drains, streetlights etc. It doesn't seem like this council department are particularly well resourced so there have been many months of meetings and emails back and forth, with new drawings submitted every time a new 'issue' is raised; all quite time consuming. Thankfully, it feels like we are getting there now and we hope that full planning approval will be given in the coming weeks. We know that demand will be very high for the self-build plots we will deliver at this site, as well as for the rental properties, and it's knowing that this need is so great that keeps us going. The Scottish Government have promised to deliver on affordable housing and prioritise community developments so we hope that this will translate into a genuine will from the local authority to help get this project approved. As always, our development team at the Communities Housing Trust keep us on the right track and we will share any positive updates on our social media page and website.
Pamela King - Housing Project Officer
New Archive established for Kinloch Castle and the Isle of Rum
Kinloch Castle Friends Association are proud to announce the launch of the first Topotheque in the UK: https://kinlochcastle-isleofrum.topotheque.net
What is a topotheque? The first was set up in Austria and many more have come into being all over Europe but this is the first in the UK. A topotheque is a pure archive, collecting, archiving and showcasing history of a specific place. It is infinitely expandable and being online is always available. It includes photographs, documents, objects. It is linked directly to online mapping so enabling the archivist and user to pinpoint accurately specific places.
The Isle of Rum has a long and fascinating archaeology, history and geology and could be considered a microcosm of the history of the Scottish Highlands. The evidence of the past is to be found all over the island in the very rocks that surround the visitor. The different owners of Rum over the centuries have each left their various marks, from the very early deer traps, the lost dwellings, and from 1897 Kinloch Castle. The castle was built by George Bullough, his father John having bought the island leaving it to his eldest son on his death in 1891. The island of Rum, including the castle and all the contents, passed into public ownership in 1957 when it became a national nature reserve. More modern changes have taken place as the Rum community based in Kinloch village took ownership of the village.
KCFA have been working towards the restoration of the Category A listed building since 1996. KCFA have a huge archive of photographs and documents of both the castle and the island and much of this will be made accessible through this Topotheque. It is our wish to expand this also to include as much local and historical information as possible to chart the rich seam that Rum portrays as well as its truly global links.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
29th June 2021
Requested to launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 00:54 to area of Traigh Golf Course to a report of a person or persons in the water. Three 999 calls had been received by Police, reporting that shouts had been heard from possibly a person or persons in the water. On-scene at 01:25, the Y-Boat was launched with two crew to search in and around the Islands. Also now on-scene were the local Coastguard who were questioning the many campers and campervans parked up on the beach front. Rescue 151 was now 10 minutes from scene and would provide overhead search capability. After 30 minutes of searching a further 999 call was received by the Coastguard saying that a person had recovered themselves from the water and that the incident was now resolved so all stations could return to base. Once the crew and Y-Boat were recovered onboard, Lifeboat departed the scene at 02:15 and berthed. 02:35 fuelled and ready for service.
30th June 2021
Launched at 16:45 by Stornoway Coastguard to Camus Daraich bay, Sleat Point to attend to a female with a head injury. Rescue 199 was also tasked to the scene. Arriving on-scene at 17:05, two crew took the Y-Boat ashore to the beach to locate the casualty. Minutes later the Coastguard updated the Lifeboat with the casualty's position as being in one of the houses in the small settlement at the back of Sleat Point. As Rescue 199 was only minutes away from the location it was decided to hand over the tasking to the helicopter which located a suitable landing site adjacent to the casualty's home. Once the crew and Y-Boat were recovered the Lifeboat departed the location at 17:20 and berthed back at the pontoon in Mallaig at 17:45.
Michael Ian Currie
News from Mallaig Harbour July 2021
We were all saddened, both personally and professionally, by the tragic death of Lachie Robertson on Thursday 24th June. It puts into perspective the reality of the fishing industry, and the dangers our fishermen face, but also reminds us of what an amazing community we live in, where everyone rallies round. Kenna and Rachael allowed floral tributes to be left on the Reul a'Chuain over the weekend, and the sheer number of flowers and the thoughtful messages left with them are testament to the character that Lachie was. He will be sorely missed around the Harbour and our deepest sympathies are with his family.
Much of the work that was being undertaken around the Harbour and was mentioned last month is now complete. New markings have been painted around the Harbour, including some more parking spaces between the Prawn Market and the Co-op. We've had lots of enquiries about these, but effectively these were not 'new' spaces, but spaces required when we had to re-organise elsewhere, so unfortunately, the waiting list for parking is still as long as ever!
Friday 18th June was our AGM, and the end of an era as we had to say goodbye to Charlie King; Michael Foxley and Jackie Wright who had all served their maximum three terms as Board Members. In Charlie and Michael's case, their association with the Harbour goes back much longer. Looking back at minutes, Charlie first attended a meeting of Mallaig Harbour (representing Mallaig Community Council) on 24th May 1984. Michael was also first on the Board of Mallaig Harbour 35 years ago, and with a break of five years has been involved ever since! The continuing restrictions meant that we couldn't mark this occasion in the way we would have liked, but hopefully we will be able to acknowledge their contribution later in the year. Charlie's support as Chair has been invaluable in the two years since I took over, and I suspect that there will be a few ongoing occasions when we need his advice!
With three retirals, we have appointed three new Board Members, David MacDonald, Sandra McLean and Helen Webb. We have also appointed Gavin Davis as Chair, and Nikki Robertson as Vice-Chair.
The AGM also sees the approval of the accounts, and some extracts from the Annual Report are included below:
A monthly average of 55 vessels of varying types made use of the Harbour, a lower number than last year's average of 62. This excludes Marina usage by visiting vessels, which is documented elsewhere.
After two months of bad weather at the start of the year, our fishing fleet had just returned to sea when markets crashed due to the impact of Coronavirus. The fleet tied up on 24th March, and fishing was sporadic for the remainder of the year. Issues associated with Brexit also impacted on the fishing fleet, with exports to Europe being affected from January to March 2021. Fishing 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 slightly up for white fish, but significantly down for shellfish, which, along with the significant reductions in landings meant that the total value of landings was less than 40% of the previous year.
Year end 31st March 2021:
Whitefish £1,990 per tonne Shellfish £3,924 per tonne
Year end 31st March 2020:
Whitefish £1,757 per tonne Shellfish £5,330 per tonne
Mallaig Harbour Ice
The ice plant is now fully commissioned, but still not operational on a self-service basis. Over the year, we have sold 644 tonnes of ice, approximately half the amount sold in 2019/20 - again due to the issues associated with the fishing industry.
During the year ending March 2020, 30,140 tonnes of fish feed was shipped through Mallaig, a reduction of 1/3 on the previous year.
This reflects changes in the market… As a result of the reduction… Cargill (EWOS) withdrew their large vessel, the Aqua Senior, from the West Coast from September 2020, and contracted with local suppliers Ferguson Transport and Inverlussa Marine to deliver feed.
The pandemic had a significant impact on ferry sailings throughout the CalMac network over the year, and Mallaig was no exception. Having begun a trial of additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale on 6th March 2020, the first of a three-year pilot, sailings were suspended as restrictions were imposed on 23rd March. From this time until 1st July there were no sailings between Mallaig and Armadale or Mallaig and Lochboisdale and a reduced 'Lifeline Ferry Service' operated to the Small Isles.
There is still a local issue with the vessels used for the Mallaig/Armadale route, which are unsatisfactory, and result in a number of sailings being cancelled each year due to tidal issues. However, this requires a longer-term and more strategic solution, outwith the shorter term issues associated with the pandemic.
CalMac have published carrying data for the calendar year 2020, and a comparison with 2019, and the relevant figures are included above.
Armadale and Mallaig STAG
Subsequent to the publication of the completed STAG appraisal in April 2020, CMAL issued a statement in August that more clarity was required on vessel requirements before they would progress with the business case for Armadale. This issue is obviously important for the Mallaig development too, so we have paused any further preparatory work on the redevelopment of the ferry terminal awaiting further information on future vessel deployment.
Covid-19 also impacted on the Marina, which wasn't able to open until mid-July 2020, and even then, with restricted capacity. As a result, numbers were much lower than in previous years. Overnight occupancy was approximately 1/3 of what would normally be expected. July saw 129 overnight stays over the two week period the Marina was open, (498 for the whole of July 2019) and August 247 (290 the previous year). September 2020 saw 93 overnight stays, significantly higher than 2019's figure of 59. In addition to the above a further 22 vessels made use of the Moorings at the Marina (56 in 2019).
In the longer term, delivery of the Masterplan proposals remains MHA's primary objective, but the timescales and challenges associated with this are recognised, and there are a number of shorter-term projects which can be delivered, and which will contribute to the overall vision contained within the Masterplan.
We have commissioned our Harbour Engineers, Wallace Stone, to progress a project to redevelop an area of the Outer Breakwater to 'shovel ready' stage. The intention would be to provide 60m of additional quay space and 4,000m2 of additional laydown space. We are also looking at dredging the Harbour to provide deeper berthing. The project is going through the Marine Licensing process at the moment. This would be a significant development, costing c.£10million but would alleviate some of the capacity constraints the Harbour is facing in the shorter term. Two of the projects identified as outstanding last year, a new pier side shed and new workshop, will be incorporated into this larger development. The requirements for social distancing have highlighted the inadequacy of the existing 'portacabin' Marina Office, and we are looking at various options to replace this with a more permanent, and slightly larger structure over the next year.
Energy Efficiency: Energy Efficient LED light fittings have been ordered to replace the existing sodium fittings throughout the Harbour. Delays in the manufacture caused by difficulties sourcing raw materials mean that these will be installed in the first quarter of 2021/22.
Denholms Office and Ice Factory: Quotes have been received to convert the empty upstairs office in the Harbour Buildings formerly leased to Denholm Fishselling into three smaller offices and to provide improved welfare facilities for those based in the building, including Mallaig Harbour Authority. Development of the old Ice Factory will be considered as part of the wider 'Outer Breakwater' development.
Re-facing of the 'Splay Berth'
Re-facing of the Splay Berth was completed in March 2021, after work was delayed due to Covid-19. At the same time, bollards and ladders within the Outer Breakwater were renewed.
Following requests from the South Knoydart Community Council, Mallaig Harbour Authority made a successful application to Transport Scotland's Ferries Accessible Fund to install a passenger shelter and purchase some ancillary equipment including wheelchairs and luggage trollies for those passengers making use of the passenger access pontoon. At the year end, the Shelter was in manufacture, due to be installed early May 2021.
We successfully applied to the Scottish Government's Marine Fisheries Fund for £207,000 to install Shore Power points, primarily for the fishing industry. A total of seven access towers with a combination of three-phase and single-phase connections will provide 28 connection points for commercial vessels using the Harbour.
On and Off the Rails
Sunday strikes continue
ScotRail conductors and ticket examiners' long running dispute against Abellio continues as I write this on Sunday 4th July. The dispute, led by the RMT Union after balloting members, has failed to make any progress after the RMT had a meeting with the Transport Minister on the issues of 'pay, justice and equality'.
The union are saying that the 'long-running battle' remains rock solid to the point that from 13th July (Tuesday) the company's cleaners (ScotRail train presentation/cleaning staff) are to take industrial action short of a strike until further notice. This will mean no overtime, higher grade duty or rest day working, from 1800 hrs that day until further notice.
Abellio - according to Mick Lynch, who is the RMT general secretary - 'are refusing to meet us and have the apparent support of Transport Scotland and the SNP leadership'.
'The first Minister has put on record her wish for a resolution to these disputes to be found as quickly as possible,' he added.
Currently the dispute, which for our line means no trains on any Sunday between Glasgow Queen Street/Oban, Fort William and Mallaig, is confirmed to run until at least 25th July 2021. No further dates have yet been announced.
ScotRail have stated 'Due to RMT strike action, there will be a limited number of services running on Sundays. We appreciate the inconvenience this will have on your travel plans, and we are running every service possible to minimise disruption. If your trip is affected you can use your ticket to travel either the day before or day after the strike action. Alternatively you can seek a refund.'
As a ScotRail volunteer for 15 years now it pains me to write all of the above. But as fare-paying passengers you are entitled to know why we are not getting any trains on any Sunday - nor have been the past three months.
Is the rebuilding of trust in being able to travel not difficult enough during these still pandemic times? Should we not be all striving to keep the trains running seven days a week? Let us hope that in the long run sense prevails.
Bits and Bobs
1. I understand that all hope is nearly lost for the - it was ever thus - process of holding out an arm to stop a train at request stops in Scotland. I myself have 'flagged down' trains, and taken pride in it at stations (request stops) between Mallaig and Crianlarich. The same pleasure is obtained when 'dinging' a bell on a road motorised vehicle! From the autumn of this year operator ScotRail will be trialling a new system on the far north route between Inverness, Wick and Thurso, where there are eight request stops. If successful, it could also be rolled out to the Oban, Fort William and Mallaig routes too.
The new system will require you to press a button on the platform of the request station. This will alert, in real-time, the driver of the forthcoming train - and a confirmation of your request will show on the digital board at your station, and the train will stop. I hope that scampish passers-by do not activate the button!! I guess/hope that CCTV will pick up such impish activities. Whatever will Michael Portillo and other TV presenters think of having to keep their arms firmly by their sides when presenting future shows at Beasdale etc.! The mind boggles.
2. Pre-pandemic the real lack of printed timetables and route maps on paper was slowly happening. It really is not a Luddite hope that they will return to us now that we are slowly believing that we can make pleasurable train journeys again.
It really is easier cross-referencing, on the move, between printed timetables for rail and bus journeys than swiping a smart phone or laptop. You cannot always get a signal on our line - understandably - even the conductors sometimes have to wait for a signal to complete ticket sales on a moving train, sometimes having to ask passengers to 'hop off the train' at Fort William and go to the booking office to complete a transaction. Like SatNavs in cars, we should all retain or get children to learn the pleasure of following your journey times on a route map because we all know that a proper map is pleasurable and correct. Electronic boards on trains fail frequently: paper copies of timetables need to be returned to us. Is anybody listening!
3. A new book detailing a 'Train Challenge around Scotland', all routes, all 360 stations, 2569 miles in a week is rolling off the presses as I write. To find out how the seven day marathon was done (with a rail pass and not when there was a strike on!) be sure to read my column next month when I will reveal all - and hopefully have a book draw!
4. Many touring rail journey firms are now stating their plans for the autumn this year - and a number of them are including the day trip on The Jacobite in their itineraries (and some are already sold out). Great Rail Journeys are one of them; of ten tours of five days' duration planned in September and October this year the first four are sold out. They include a tour manager, travelling by rail and coach, four nights in a three star hotel, seven meals and all planned excursions. Brochure available free on (01904) 730907. Small groups of 25 persons (maximum), all your luggage taking care of - what's not to like!! This is just one example of a rail/bus/hotel tour with an experienced guide planned for the autumn. If you fancy being pointed in the direction of other tours available in other parts of Britain give me a ring on (01687) 462189 and I will try to help you.
5. 'Highland Adventure' is being offered by RailTrail and includes The Jacobite in August. Among many other tours on offer is the 'Grand Tour by Rail' in September from Land's End to John O'Groats over 12 days. Phew!
6. Your next flight should be on a train! Cutting down on flights is probably the single biggest thing individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint. You might find taking the train to Europe reduces your stress levels by a similar percentage, and adds a whole new dimension to your travels. It used to be called a 'journey'.
7. Travel agents only seem to sell flights and car hire. Eurostar commissioned some independent research to assess the CO2 produced per passenger by a London to Paris Eurostar journey, versus a flight to Paris. It turns out that the train cuts your emissions by a staggering 90%. Wow!
8. ScotRail will soon be introducing a new customer app. For the first time, this new app will allow you to purchase tickets that live inside a digital wallet in the app. These new digital tickets look like QR codes! You present them to your train crew and scan them through their ticket gates at railway stations. I'm lost already! As a trusted friend says, 'oh and remember to keep your thingy charged up, turned on and hope it works!' Indeed!
9. Referring back to 4) and 5) - DC Travel (Brightwater Holidays) are offering a four day rail/coach/hotel/steam locomotion on The Jacobite and Waverley paddle steamer in August, September and October called a 'Classic Scottish Steam Break'. Help - I'm drowning in information here!!
Going back to point 2) regarding mobile phone reception. Clearly like much of the Lake District our economy is based more and more on tourism. It won't be too long before many tourists return to us from overseas and are not 'au fait' with HRES, Trainline, The Man in Seat Sixty-One, and so on. There are still no charging points on some of our ScotRail trains, or on some islands and up lochs and mountains. That is why our trains, coastguards, lifeboats rely still on radio transmissions. If we cannot pick up paper timetables as we travel from area to area, and from railway stations to bus depots with no central information, what are we supposed to do? Satellite phone information maybe, but again you need to recharge! Let's get back to having fun on a train journey with leaflets, maps, timetables and a good picnic!
See you on the train - not just a touring one, but a basic railway service. Surely not too much to ask - or is it?
An unusual sight - The Jacobite leaving Mallaig with the engine front-first! Fiona MacKellaig
BIRDWATCH June 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical June, with little movement of birds as most species are busy raising young.
The first Storm Petrel of the year was seen from the MV Sheerwater approximately one mile west of Rhue Point on the 6th. From then on there were several reports from the Sound of Sleat, with up to eight birds seen behind prawn trawlers on the Oberon Bank on the 10th and 16th. On the latter date an Immature Little Gull (above) was seen between Arisaig and Eigg from the MV Sheerwater.
Numerous reports of Great Skuas, but just one report of Arctic Skua, a single bird seen from the Mallaig - Armadale Ferry on the 18th. The first Guillemot chick seen at sea was on the 29th, 17 days later than last year.
The Common Gulls and Common Terns that were nesting on an island in Loch Ailort had all failed by the 28th, most likely due to Mink predation. Other nest islands further offshore from Traigh and Loch nan Uamh seem to be faring better so far. Good numbers of juvenile finches reported from garden feeders as the month progressed. Juvenile Great Tits and Coal Tits also reported but very few young Blue Tits.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers with young were reported at feeders in several gardens in Morar and Arisaig from midmonth. Plenty reports and sightings of singing warblers throughout the month, including Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiff Chaff, Willow, Sedge and Grasshopper Warbler.
Cuckoos were heard till about midmonth; some adults will have already started the journey back to Africa.
A single Greenshank on the Morar estuary on the 20th may have been a failed or non-breeder.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Former editor Ann met up with her oldest friend in Fort William recently, and she made sure she had a West Word to read during her holiday.
Ann first met Lynda Pearce - here with husband Alan - on the first day of secondary school in Devon many moons ago.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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