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July 2022 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
POTENTIAL NEW OWNER FOR KINLOCH CASTLE
NatureScot announced in mid June that they are in advanced discussions with a potential new owner for Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum, a property the nature agency has owned since 1957.
Subject to requisite approvals being obtained, the Castle would be placed into a charitable trust, the aims of which are to conserve the building and its contents and on completion, to provide managed public access into the future. As part of ongoing negotiations, NatureScot is ensuring that an irrevocable pledge is made in favour of the Trust (when and if established) by Mr Jeremy Hosking, a British businessman who recently purchased Arisaig House. The co-owner of Crystal Palace Football Club, Mr Hosking has a background in investment and private equity, and is a keen railway enthusiast; his company Locomotive Services Group maintains and operates heritage trains including Saphos Trains, Statesman Rail and the Midland Pullman.
Professor Ewan MacDonald of the Kinloch Castle Friends Association said: "The whole team at KCFA are delighted to welcome the forthcoming sale of Kinloch Castle to a Trust set up for the purpose. For us this marks the culmination of 26 years of hard work fighting for the restoration of this special building. We thank the good offices of Kate Forbes MSP who has provided timely support, Cllr Angus Macdonald who has been tireless in his seeking for a strong future for the castle and Hugh Garratt, Heritage Surveyor, who has given not just his advice, expertise and support but also imbued our team with the confidence that the castle is worthy of saving and still sturdy enough to be saved. This will benefit the island, its community, and the Small Isles."
ASLEF MEMBERS VOTE TO ACCEPT SCOTRAIL PAY OFFER
On Monday 11th July, train drivers' union ASLEF confirmed that its members had voted to accept an improved pay offer made by ScotRail.
ScotRail are now working to resume the full timetable as soon as possible; however, they say, "This is a complex process and is also dependent on drivers returning to work rest days and overtime." In the meantime the temporary timetables are still in place - let's hope our full service will be reinstated before too much longer.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Finally, summer is here! Or is it? We get one sunny day and then the next is rain again. Hopefully there will be some good weather over the holidays!
I am optimistic that our rail services will be back to normal again soon but there's more national strikes on the horizon so, we'll see . . . As ever, there's lots more railway news to be found in On and Off the Rails.
This month's issue seems to be packed full, and there's so many photos! I wish I could print them all in colour! Next month we'll have reports and photos from the Highland Games - lovely to have this bit of normality back again. Hope the sun shines!
Once again, thanks to Morag and Ewen for their help with the printing, and to Anne and Jane for labelling the envelopes. (And thank you Lucy for walking the dog!)
It's raining, it's pouring, where's the summer going? Not in the right direction that's for sure. As it continues to rain most of the time, it feels like a luxury when the sun does break through. I've heard comments that this is the worst summer since 2002…
The tree planters have been battling the weeds at Braomisaig, where the trees are thriving but also so are the weeds, thanks to the weather. There was some excitement recently though when Orca whales John Coe and Aquarius graced the area with their stunning presence, causing quite a stir. Such majestic, powerful creatures, it's incredible to think that John Coe is around 50 years old, but so, so sad that they are the last of their pod, and the west coast community pod will be extinct when they are no longer.
I think I mentioned this before, but Knoydart now has a fully equipped First Responder Coastguard team in place. The team comprises of Kira Holroyd, Tom Dalziel, John Cocker and Frank Atherley, soon to be joined as well by Tiree Boston, once he completes his training. A further three members will also be joining the team later in the year after the appropriate training. In the first six weeks since the team have been established they have attended two Air Ambulance emergencies, and arranged one medical evacuation by coastguard helicopter after initial assessment and stabilisation. They are doing a great job and it gives more peace of mind, that should something bad happen there are a trained team who can be there almost immediately.
Congratulations to Jasmine Humphrey, who graduated from St Andrews University on the 19th June with a first class degree in French and International Relations, after five years of hard work, including a year living in France. Jasmine attended Inverie Primary when she was wee, then Mallaig High followed by a few years at Wilton High when the Humphries did a stint living in the USA. Well done Jasmine!
The pub continues to do well, and in the last few weeks has welcomed some great folk, and the music has been flowing with some spontaneous sessions and singalongs. There is a great selection of instruments for folk to use now too, which helps make it easy for the music to happen!
Date for the diary folks: Knoydart Games Saturday 6th August!
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
We have a lovely new road surface on the A830 just outside the National Trust for Scotland. This is because we will soon see a new pelican crossing installed; perhaps it will even be completed by the time this goes to print. The crossing will be timed and operated by a push button system. How this will affect traffic build-up we are not yet sure, but I am hoping that as visitors will have to drive considerably slower on their approach to the Glen, it will mean that they look up from their phones and sat nav long enough to actually see the monument, two car parks and a big, massive sign for the viaduct! Glenfinnan Estate kindly cut down some scrub which was blocking the NTS car park sign. This clearing of trees has seen a marked improvement in the decline in visitors who are using Slatach road end as a turning point. We still have a way to go before we solve all the traffic problems but as a community, we are trying hard to mitigate antisocial parking.
I would like to remind everyone that we still have a 40MPH limit through the village and if you experience any road traffic problems then please call 101 and report any issues to the local police. Thank you.
Cha léir dhut a' choill leis na craobhan
(You can't see the wood for the trees)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello Muck Calling . . . and still treading water!! It's almost like a second winter over here or a foreign land when you see the baking weather down in Wimbledon with the odd glimpse of an end in sight . . . even the Sheep are literally pulling out their own hair. We're Shearing ? . . . halt wait til tomorrow . . . we're bailing silage ? . . . halt . . . wait til tomorrow, it gets old really really quick but now with added ingredient . . . school's out for the holidays and they had a magnificent sports day on a manicured sports ground. Well done Hugh, some nice lines mowed, and with the addition of children from Eigg three competitive teams were formed and even the drizzle couldn't stop a lot of fun and a very hard fought 'Hill Race' which ended in a photo tied finish, but nothing to the Jubilee party we held with our own mini games.
Pin the tail on the cow . . . eggy spoon . . . and a very dodgy three-legged, where I'm pretty sure after knocking Mum to the floor Tara carried her partner over the line to win! Very funny, almost as funny as waiting for Magnus to finish the sack race in his own time - if only you could see the video ??. I know it seems that all we do on Muck is Party but we did also play an all comers game of 'kind of' football, mixed ages and genders but no quarter given, just plenty two footers then a BBQ afterwards, where it resembled a scene from Jaws, showing each other our scars over a drink.
Good news is that Ronnie is back visiting as Skipper on the Sheerwater once more - well done!
Well that about wraps up our island insight for this month, other than that pesky Covid is still persisting, so still follow the basics like sanitiser, ventilation and some degree of distance between groups.
Thanks and see you next time.
ISLE OF CANNA
I was looking for ways to describe what happened when Prionsa Dubh of Gilden Vale arrived on the island last month. It was an extraordinary thing to watch; the interaction between humans and bull and then between cows and bull. I would not have been surprised to see a similar scene in a Regency ballroom. Upon looking up Debretts to see what the score would have been back then I found this: 'A lady must never lead any non-favoured suitor up the garden path - she must treat him 'honourable and humanely' and put him out of his misery. If, on the other hand, she should look favourably upon him, it behoves her to make pragmatic enquiries as to his character, fortune and reputation before making any commitment to him.'
Dr Gregory wrote in his work A Father's Legacy to his Daughters (1797), 'Procure from your friends every necessary bit of information concerning him; such as his character for sense, his morals, his temper, fortune, and family; whether it is distinguished for parts and worth, or the folly, knavery and loathsome hereditary diseases.'
When the Black Prince strode out of his trailer into the field on Canna, there were four cows waiting for him. The four cows proceeded to investigate the new arrival and you could see the cows exchanging comments to one another about his character, fortune and reputation. There was some playful messing about and dare I say it vaguely dishonourable teasing from the cows and the Black Prince seemed slightly uncertain of his role in all this. His sense prevailed however and he soon demonstrated his high moral standing by wandering off nonchalantly to the other end of the field seemingly unfazed by the follies of the cows. He is confident enough in his fortune and reputation not to rush into things.
The following day I walked along the track to Coroghan to see how he was doing. He was lying resplendent surrounded by the cows, all of whom had their eyes closed, heads up to the wind, chewing gracefully. Clearly, they had looked favourably upon him. The only thing missing was some 1970's funk music and cigarettes.
An unexpected arrival on the Isle of Canna this month was a coconut all the way from the Caribbean! Our resident beach cleaner/comber Liz found it on Sanday beach!
One of our Canna House 100 year old (at least) apple trees fell victim to the stormy weather and it was a community effort to rescue and right the tree. Pete led a team of volunteers to get the tree vertical again. The tree is unmatched in the national collection and we have taken cuttings and successful grafts have been made but we really hope that the mother tree will survive this fall.
The ladders are just a temporary fix until we can get better props and anchorage!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
It has been a busy month in Canna House with the annual 'Solas Creative Residency' taking place. Three artist and musicians, Yvonne Lyon, Raine Clarke and Lynne Knotts, were invited to respond creatively to the films and images from the Canna Archives.
Through a blend of composed music and song, ceramics, printmaking, crafts, floral art and the poetic word, the artists have given to us a beautiful contemporary tapestry of Art, of which I am sure that Margaret Fay Shaw and John Lorne Campbell would be proud.
The residency concluded with a ceilidh in the Shearing Shed with the band The Canna Ceilidhers, of James Duncan Mackenzie, Ross Martin and Robert Nairn. The rafters rang and the shed was jammed as residents and visitors danced the night away, replenished by Café Canna stovies and The Jack beer. Images and film from the Canna Archives were projected on the walls as the dancers danced, adding another dimension to a spectacular week of creativity.
Whilst on Canna, the artists also delivered workshops for visitors and residents, in grass weaving and feltmaking. A storytelling and song session was also held at the Rubha Sholais 'Listening' Point, created from last years residency.
Other events this month have included a visit to Canna House by a group of senior pupils from Castlebay and a large group of Celtic students and PhD students from a field trip at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye. So as well as entertaining groups of cruise ship passengers in the Shearing Shed, it has been a super busy June!
Also this week we said a sad final farewell to our friend Magda Sagarzazu, well known to many of you. Magda died in Spain in June 2020 but her husband and family have only just been able to come to Canna due to Covid. Magda's favourite birds sang and the sun shone as we remembered her, in Campbell's Woods, beside the grave of her beloved friend John Lorne Campbell.
She will not be forgotten.
ISLE OF RUM
It was rather unceremonious that we (the Rum community) found out about Kinloch Castle being sold, and who to, from reading the news. Rather unfortunately, it was after a press release from NatureScot had already gone out; a press release which included three quotes all stating what a great opportunity it was for the community - and yet no one saw fit to ask anyone who actually lives on Rum.
The castle has always been the elephant in the room and we, as a community, have long known this and known for a long time too that to take it on as is, or even to take it on in the state it was when NatureScot (formerly SNH) closed it as a hostel (which was considerably better than the sorry state it is currently in) was beyond the capacity of our small community. So it isn't from apathy that we have had little to say about the castle; we have had our hands full. Let us not forget that the thirty or so individuals here achieved something majestic when we succeeded in our community buy out of the village (which turned into an asset transfer before the asset transfer legislation even existed). We hit the ground running with 14 run down houses, a water supply and road infrastructure to manage, with no funds to speak of - and have kept it all going, plus built a bunkhouse and four new houses and created six new jobs over the years and barely had any time to draw breath, and certainly not enough to give due consideration to the future of the castle.
We are the biggest landowner in the village and would have thought that if the Castle and its (now extended) estate were to be sold that we would get a seat at the table in deciding its future and who gets to buy it. But apparently not, or not yet anyway; the will to remove Kinloch Castle from the public purse is strong, and whilst we completely get that, getting it to work for the community at the same time is a win-win opportunity, and should be something Scottish Government take seriously.
For years people have asked about using various bits of land around the castle and were always told that it was all up in the air until the future of the castle was decided, and that any and all use was temporary. We always found this a very unsatisfactory reply and now it seems that these chances may be dashed permanently by the sale to a private individual.
We had hoped to create a community garden and orchard either in the walled garden or in the old tree nursery; the walled garden is so overgrown now, it's almost a walled woodland. Some of us thought a community project to bring it back into use would be a wonderful idea: it could be a regeneration project that we could reasonably manage - what do you think? But, when we asked NatureScot, they told us it was included in the Castle sale, and to ask the new owner. Another unsatisfactory reply.
Still, we will persist and see what happens next. We will hopefully meet the prospective new owner soon so we can ask him what his intentions are and, with more determination, move forward and find a solution that works for us and the future of our community.
In less heavy news, we should have a new early years (nursery) teacher plus family moving here soon and the post for a new permanent teacher has been advertised as well.
We've been extra busy with yachts and take up of the community moorings, though one fella didn't take a mooring and his boat unfortunately dragged its anchor and ended up on the north shore.
The weather hasn't been fantastic and the number of day-trippers seems down but there are plenty of overnight visitors with most of the accommodation providers busy.
Finally, looking forward to the Small Isles Games next month on Eigg, the first one in three years; let's make it memorable. Next year it's back on Rum . . . on the assumption we can use the castle field ;)
ISLE OF EIGG
This month Eigg celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the island buy-out. The 12th June weekend celebrations had been organised for months in advance by the Residents Association and the Heritage Trust. Our good friends and long-time supporters had been invited over for a more official celebration on the Friday, which thankfully went ahead without a glitch. Our guests were given a tour of the new pier development, An Laimhrig, as well as a look around the Forestry to see the great ongoing work there by the Forestry Team and Tash and Wes who are leading up Eigg Tree Nursery. Stopping in at the Church of Scotland to see Camille and the Historical Society's excellent exhibition of old Eigg photographs and documents, our guests finally arrived back to the Hall for refreshments, a catch up and some lovely speeches by some of the key players back in 1997 including our own dear Maggie Fyffe and Colin Carr. The Eigg Primary children treated everyone to a performance of three Gaelic songs and a very entertaining presentation on the Stegosaurus bone which was found on Eigg a few years ago. All in all, a really lovely day.
However, in keeping with this summer's theme, there was nothing we could do to appease the weather gods and on Saturday all sailings to the island were cancelled, leaving lots of disappointed souls waiting on the shore of the mainland. The Spanish John came to our aid in delivering one half of the night's entertainment, and we were lucky enough to have all of the mighty Shooglenifty arrive. What a night of music and dancing we had! There was so much love and celebration in the room, it was truly heartwarming. Unfortunately for us, the Ciaran Ryan Band did not make it over this time, but this meant that there was a wonderful ceilidh back at the Arisaig Hotel for all those who missed out on sailing over.
Another epic weekend of celebrations was not far behind as we celebrated the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Maggie and Wes on the 1st July. Old friends and new gathered at the hall, adorned in gold, to surprise them with a huge party and a ceilidh. Our warmest wishes and congratulations to the Golden Couple and to Tash, for organising such a special day for them both.
Lost Map's Howling Fling came quickly in succession the next day and was another huge success for Johnny and his Lost Map team. Well done to all involved in putting together another brilliant event. We were mesmerized by the amazing artists who performed, including the angelic Americana artist, Courtney Marie Andrews, who wowed us with her beautiful voice and exquisite songwriting, and the incredible Jon Hopkins who had us dancing long into the wee hours. And of course, not forgetting our own Johnny Lynch and his band The Pictish Trail, for delivering a set that was full of positivity, good vibes and shiny, happy energy! Just what the doctor ordered!
This month there will be a Blaze Memorial Gig for our dear Mick Brett who is much missed by everyone on Eigg. Many thanks to his wife Jacky for organising the gig, the proceeds of which will go to Eigg Primary School and Nursery. The gig takes place on 23rd July.
My thanks to John Chester who provides us with the wildlife news from Eigg:
June was a really dreadful month weather-wise with some unseasonably strong winds and rain falling almost every day. Obviously this has caused considerable problems for ground nesting birds but the effects of this will not be fully apparent until next month. There was one bright spot though with the appearance of a Rose Coloured Starling at John Cormack's garden feeding station on the 25th. Unlike most rare birds occurring on Eigg it actually hung around for a couple of days and allowed several observers prolonged excellent views.
VOICES OF THE EIGG COMMUNITY BUY OUT
Comunn Eachdraidh Eige is delighted to have received funding from Scotland Year of Stories to celebrate our 25th anniversary of the buy out with an exhibition which includes archive material and sound recordings. Alastair Macintosh has kindly shared with us his personal sound archive which includes all the radio he took part in during the buy out campaign when he together with Andy Wightman acted as our unofficial spokespeople before Maggie found her voice!
The Comunn Eachdraidh is currently recording personal testimonies of these times, and we would like everyone that had an interest and stories to contribute to send us a sound recording in the form of an MP3 file. If they send them to the West Word editor, she can then forward them to us. Jill, West Word's first editor has promised to share her experience of interviewing both Schellenberg and Maruma!
But for now I'd like to share our thanks to Bob and Louise Giles from Detroit, who did fundraise for us all these years ago and went even further, as they asked their senator to put forward a motion to support the Eigg buy out in the American Congress, and this was duly done, with the American stars and stripes being flown on 12 June 1997 in honour of our achievement! Needless to say the flag which Bob and Louise presented to the community on Eigg on 4 July 1997, does take pride of place in our exhibition!
A WELCOME RETURN FOR ARISAIG AMERICANA!
The third Arisaig Americana Music Festival (finally!) took place 3rd-5th June 2022 - after two years of Covid cancellations - and in the words of the famous song, festival-goers really did 'keep on the sunny side' with continuous sunshine, a relaxed atmosphere and an abundance of quality music!
Friday night festival openers Copper Viper made a firm impression at the Crofter's, with Duncan, Robin and Dana blending American folk and original songs with powerful three-part harmonies. Lively jam sessions followed, late into the night! Arisaig was in the festival mood by Saturday with jam sessions, handcrafted instruments, group singing and live music. Oxford-based choir leader Roger Jackson led the group singing workshop where over 30 attendees learned new songs and a feel-good approach to singing! The Shellfish Shack marked their first birthday with a lobster BBQ and live music from Americana musicians Dave, Mark, Craig and Max. By late afternoon, the Crofter's was in full swing again with a lively Bluegrass set from The Fountaineers' Jeri and Callum, and guests Sarah-Jane and Robbie.
Saturday night's sell-out festival show was opened by singer-songwriter Roseanne Reid (daughter of The Proclaimers' Craig Reid) with a captivating performance of her honest and heart-felt songs. Hannah Fisher and Sorren MacLean made a welcome return (following our fundraiser in 2021) with fine arrangements of Old Time and Bluegrass tunes interspersed with original material. Young Newcastle-based four-piece The Often Herd delivered an energetic set and proved that Bluegrass really is a highly skilled genre, with Niles, Evan, Rupert and Sam writing and arranging their compositions with incredible expertise. Finally, six-piece outfit James Edwyn and The Borrowed Band filled the hall with their accomplished and contemporary 'Alternative Americana' sound.
© Gordon Nicol www.nicolphotography.co.uk
Sunday saw the 'legendary' station session return to Arisaig station platform, where 70 people turned up for an hour of train themed songs. Steam train passengers, train crews and onlookers were clearly enjoying the craic! And winding down the festival, groups of session jammers picked n' played, inside and outside until the sun went down, ending a brilliant weekend of music.
Festival committee members Mairi, Mungo, Aly and Zoe would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all who attended, volunteers, funders, sponsors, organisations and local businesses who supported us this year. The annual festival date is the first weekend in June - so get it in your diaries, folks!
New Mallaig Play Park Opens
We are delighted to report that the new Play Park at Loch Nevis Crescent was officially signed off by the Council as being ready to use on 5th July. The play park was installed under the umbrella of The Road to the Isles Facilities Group, but co-ordinated by Catherine Young and Vivienne MacDonald. The park will now be maintained and insured by The Highland Council to ensure that it can be enjoyed by children for years to come.
We are really grateful for all the support that we have had from local businesses and organisations, and from other funding sources including the Co-op Communities Fund; The National Lottery Awards For All; People's Postcode Lottery and The Highland Council, to make the play park a reality. The list is too long to mention each one by name, but Catherine and I were lucky enough to be invited into the Primary School to talk to the children about the park, and they were each given a card with a funder's name on it to read out - including themselves and their parents and carers who have bought raffle tickets, bonus balls and who turned out to support the open day last summer! The children had lots of good questions about the play park, and have promised to take good care of it, and report any accidents that happen so that they can be sorted quickly.
Special mention has to go to Toby and the team at Knoydart Construction who pulled out all the stops to make sure the project happened. Even when it looked like some of the equipment couldn't be installed because of ground conditions, Toby came up with a solution to ensure that the children wouldn't be disappointed!
The play park has been named 'Island View Play Park' and the children at Mallaig Primary submitted some fabulous logos, which were shortlisted and then given to Knoydart Construction for Toby and his team to choose a winner to be made into a sign for the park. Congratulations to Maiya MacDonald, who designed the winning logo, and is pictured below with it. Once we have a sign made up, we hope to have an official opening, but, given that the summer holidays have started and that the children have been very patient in waiting for the park to be ready for use, we don't want to hold them up any longer from using it!
We'd ask everyone to be respectful of the play park. It isn't fenced off in the way the old park was, so please keep dogs away from the play equipment - keeping the deer away might be more of a challenge for us! We also have to say a special thanks to those living round the park who have helped cut grass etc. to make sure it was ready to use, especially Kenny Merrilees, Ross McKay and Helen Webb and Henry Young. It really has been a community effort to get this far, and we hope that the whole community can come together and enjoy the finished project - which includes picnic benches if you are a bit too old for a swing! All we need now is summer weather!
Jacqueline McDonell - Road to the Isles Facilities Group
Mackintosh Centre News
The Staff and Friends of the Mackintosh Centre are pleased to say that the Activity Table has been bought and is now in constant use. Thank you to each and every one of you who supported this effort. It is basically a giant tablet and each resident has the chance, with the help of staff, to identify apps which suit them and these are all saved under the resident's name. This is already proving to be a great asset.
The Queen's Platinum Jubilee was celebrated with a tea party which was held outdoors on what must have been the only nice day in June! It was also a good job that it was outside with the rise in covid cases which have not left the Mac untouched. The main lounge has seen a makeover and some of the money raised for the table has been used to provide homely touches, namely cushions and lamps. We have also bought a new smart tv and are providing pictures to brighten up the walls. The pictures have been selected by the residents.
During the lockdown, the Friends of the Mackintosh has been able to support the centre by providing money to fund other more personal comforts and treats for the residents. Each Christmas, the Friends have had fun putting together individual gift bags of goodies for the residents. The committee enjoys contact with the residents, particularly at Christmas. We have missed being able to take part in the activities, i.e. singing and crafts and just being able to drop in. We are now in a position to start activities again.
The garden is an ongoing project. We have a gardener for a couple of hours a week, but the volunteers do a lot of the work. We would be pleased to have anyone who has spare time to join us. And in the autumn, it would be great if anyone splitting large clumps of perennials could donate a small clump. That way, we know that they grow well in these conditions! All in all, the Mackintosh Centre is functioning well and looking forward to normality, sooner rather than later! Thanking everyone for their continued support.
The first official commemoration in Scotland to composer Arnold Bax
The news that internationally renowned British composer Sir Arnold Bax has been officially recognised here in Morar will be welcomed by classical music enthusiasts and local residents alike. Last month (June) an Historic Environment Scotland bronze plaque was sited at the Morar Hotel (originally the Station Hotel). Bax spent more than a decade of winters (1928-1940), at the hotel, taking the long journey by train from London each winter to escape the hubbub of the capital. The Morar years provided key inspiration for Bax's symphonies and other orchestral works. His passionate relationship with the spectacular Scottish land- and seascape was the creative force behind much of his music. The plaque is the result of a year-long campaign in 2019, supported by the British Music Society, and many eminent figures in classical music, including Scottish-based composer Sir James MacMillan.
My husband Chris Bye, a former newspaper editor, masterminded the campaign, with the encouragement of the British Music Society. Sadly, Chris passed away in March 2021 and so although he knew of the success of the submission, he did not live to see the plaque in place. The plaque was due to be sited at the hotel in April 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
Chris's love of Bax's music led us to visit Morar together several times over the last 30 years; it was a special place for us. On our first visit we were disappointed to find that there was no official recognition to Bax anywhere in Morar and it was only many years later that we decided to try and make a difference, hence the campaign.
I well remember Chris's words, "Morar is a wild and remote place, but thanks to Arnold Bax, it will be forever close to my heart". I will visit Morar over the summer to see the plaque, and although it will be bittersweet, for me the plaque is now as much for Chris as it is for Bax. And at last we now have a permanent testament in Morar to the music of an exceptional composer.
200 years of Her Majesty's Coastguard
On the 13th June, the Mallaig Coastguard station hosted a party to celebrate the bicentenary of Her Majesty's Coastguard. Teams from Fort William, Salen, Kilchoan and Lochaline attended the gathering. The event was presided over by the Divisional Commander William Spiers and the Coastguard Chaplain Tom Ebbens, with musical accompaniment provided by piper Angus Binnie. During the evening, long-service medals were awarded, including two for 30 years' service.
Her Majesty's Coastguard was initiated in January 1822 to help control smuggling around Britain's coast. Today it is a section of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. From its conception, a key role of the Coastguard was to give assistance to shipwrecks and observation posts were located around our shores for this purpose. Today, the Coastguard Rescue Service is made up of 352 teams located around the UK. There are approximately 3500 Coastguard Rescue Officers who carry out rope rescue, mud rescue, water rescue and search duties in all weathers and at all times. They also assist other authorities such as the Police, Fire and Ambulance with their specialist expertise.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
3rd June 2022
Requested to launch at 12:35 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a yacht with engine failure in the Sound of Sleat. On-scene at 12:48 in mirror calm conditions, the yacht taken alongside the Lifeboat and towed to Mallaig Marina. Lifeboat ready for service at 13:30.
5th June 2022
Launched at 18:05 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a yacht with a fouled propeller in the Sound of Sleat. On-scene at 18:15 the yacht was taken under tow to the mouth of Mallaig Harbour. The yacht was taken alongside the Lifeboat and berthed at the Marina at 18:55. Lifeboat ready for service at 19:00.
7th June 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 17:15 to investigate a Man Overboard DSC alert in the Back of Keppoch area of Arisaig. Rescue 151 also tasked and a local tour vessel also responding. On-scene at 17:31, a search of the area was carried out with no sightings of anybody in distress. At 17:40 the Coastguard requested all stations to stand down as the source of the alert had been located ashore as an accidental transmission. Lifeboat departed scene at 17:48 and returned to Mallaig. Whilst on passage back the Lifeboat was tasked again by the Coastguard, but as Rescue 151 was still airborne it was diverted to carry out the medivac. With that the Lifeboat was stood down to return to base, berthing at 18:23.
13th June 2022
Launched at 13:15 to the Isle of Canna to recover an injured person. A 72 year old female had sustained a back injury whilst out on a sightseeing RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) near the island of Canna. The casualty was put ashore at the pier in Canna. On-scene at 14:10, the casualty was assessed by the crew and found to be still in some considerable pain. The casualty was administered Entonox and transferred to the Lifeboat's stretcher and brought onboard the Lifeboat with the assistance of the pier staff. A male accomplice was also brought onboard. Departing Canna at 14:45 the Lifeboat proceeded on passage to Mallaig. Once the casualty's details had been gathered it transpired that they were holidaying in Kyle of Lochalsh and that their car was at Elgol jetty on Skye. With that in mind the Lifeboat requested that Broadford Hospital in Skye should be a more suitable option for the casualty. The Coastguard duly agreed and organized an Ambulance and CRT team to meet the Lifeboat at the linkspan at Armadale ferry terminal. Alongside the linkspan at 15:30 the casualty was transferred ashore to the Ambulance. Lifeboat departed Armadale at 15:45 and returned to Mallaig for fuel, then berthed at the pontoon at 16:25.
Mallaig Harbour News
The weather doesn't seem very summer-like at the moment but it hasn't put off the wildlife, and Western Isles Cruises and Minch Adventures have both been able to share videos and photographs of Orcas John Doe and Aquarius just off Mallaig Harbour in the last few days. Even Scottish Seafarms were able to post a video on their Facebook page of Dolphins following one of their workboats in Loch Nevis.
The weather has also not put off the visiting fishing vessels, who have continued to land throughout May and June. June figures are not in yet, but in May 51.5 tonnes of white fish was landed, and a further 73 tonnes of shellfish, with a total value of c.£530k. This is on a par with the figures for May 2019, and significantly higher than May 2020's figures of £67k! In fact, the month's landings for May 2022 are almost a third of the total landings for the whole year ended March 2021 (£1.66million). It feels like the first time since I started work at Mallaig Harbour Authority three years ago that I have had positive news to report about fish landings so let's hope that the trend continues! Thankfully we have our Ice Plant back up and running. James MacLellan of Moidart Engineering worked with Hugh and Danny to implement a temporary repair while we await a new bearing, and we are very grateful to all three of them!
After a few false starts, we are hoping to have the Coruisk back in service mid-month - she's due in Mallaig on Saturday 16th July, and will undertake some trials for a couple of days before entering service the following week.
We are still awaiting a decision on our Marine Licence for works in the Outer Harbour, and I have been gathering evidence for the business case for these works. This has to include evidence of the demand for new berths, and there have been a few nights in the last month that the outer Harbour has been particularly busy, which is positive to see, even if it does cause some headaches for the Harbour Master. The screenshot below from Marine Traffic shows 10 vessels in the Outer Harbour on 27th June. For scale, the two on the outer edge are the Ronja Harvester (68m) and Challenger (70m), and the relatively small one directly opposite them is the Loch Bhrusda (35.4m)!
Audrey, Pimmy and Hugh were all off this month with Covid. Thankfully none of them were too unwell, but it proved an interesting few days for me, fielding phone calls about where vessels could berth! Their absence coincided with the Blue Clipper's return, which was compounded by the Bessie Ellen breaking a gaff and having to have it repaired by Toby from Knoydart Construction so also needing berthing space. The crew were delighted with the quick turnaround, and it was lovely to see Blue Clipper, Bessie Ellen and Pellew all in the Harbour - we just needed Eda Frandsen for the full set! The marina has continued to be busy, and there seems to be more foreign yachts sailing on the West Coast this summer, especially French.
Some of those who live locally may have seen the huge vessel, the CS Sovereign, which is 131m long, appear between Eigg and Rum for a few days in June. This was part of works to lay a Broadband cable between Eigg and the Mainland (coming ashore round about Traigh). The shore end works and installation are due to take place between 18th and 20th July, with installation being carried out by the Normand Clipper, which is also a pretty impressive ship, at 127.5m long, so will be visible from shore. The dates have changed several times, and may be subject to change again!
I mentioned last month our AGM, which we were able to open to the public for the first time since I started work, and host in the West Highland. I presented a bit about works we have undertaken recently as well as plans for future works, and I am happy to share this presentation with anyone who might be interested - just email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it on.
I had a couple of days off at the end of the month to attend the Queen's Garden Party at Holyrood House on Wednesday 29th June. It was a lovely afternoon of weather which helped, and was my second Garden Party of the month - having accompanied my husband to Hopetoun House to attend a garden party hosted by the RNLI to celebrate Excellence in Volunteering. You can read a bit more about it elsewhere in West Word, but working at the Harbour has given me a much better understanding of the importance of all the organisations that together contribute to the smooth running of the Harbour, and ensure that the communities we serve are well supported. I am slightly in awe that volunteers like my husband, and the others on the crew, devote so much of their time to allow the RNLI to operate as a charity - and I find it more than slightly incredible that in Kevin's case, it's been his whole adult life - 30 years and counting!
Finally this month, all of us in the Harbour Buildings were sad to say Goodbye to Grace Coull, who has hung up her overalls and retired as our cleaner. Not only was Grace excellent at her job, she was great fun to be around, and we are already missing her laughter in the mornings! Our loss is Grace's granddaughter Abbie's gain, and one of the perks of being the cleaner for so long is that Grace knows exactly when the kettle is on to call in and see us! We have been happy to welcome Diane Thomson to take over from Grace.
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again! I was hoping for positive news that unions and employers involved in our fragmented railway system in the UK - including Scotland - would have all calmed down and that staff represented by the unions could just get on with their jobs. However it is not the case - just a brief pause at present.
Following the three days of national strikes and disruption in between the days of strikes, and in Scotland with ScotRail still operating a "special timetable due to operational reasons" the majority of customers, and to a certain extent staff, have no clear indication if rail journeys are trustable. ScotRail say, "Passengers are advised to check their journeys for travelling, with many routes still curtailed and/or finishing earlier than usual." This is not what we want to hear.
On Tuesday 5th July the Financial Times reported that ASLEF is warning of "massive" disruption for travellers as its members vote on their first national strike since 1995. The paper says the union is balloting drivers of 10 train companies in a further pay dispute. ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan tells the paper it was likely that the walkouts would be co-ordinated, and the strikes would have a "massive effect". No news yet on the results of the ballot!
It follows the RMT walkout last month which was co-ordinated with other unions to create the three-day strikes.
Grant Shapps, the government Transport Minister, stood up in the House of Commons this week and stated that there is no longer a "pay freeze" on what individual companies agree to pay workers and that it is the "unions who want to bring the government down"! The three one-day strikes cost the public purse a calculated "£150 million pounds" in lost public earnings. The RMT Union Senior Assistant General Secretary, Eddie Dempsey, said that the RMT is "not in a rush" to call more strikes in July. Mr Dempsey is leading talks with Network Rail and said it had been "an intense week" and that the two sides are "trying to reach an agreement to prevent further strikes".
In all cases two weeks' notice of further strikes have to be given. I'm tempted to say "big deal".
I am currently - with insider knowledge - desperately trying to understand and get answers to why we cannot have the daily 8:30am train from Fort William (crewed by Fort William staff) reinstated. We need that service, which we the public pay for, coming into Mallaig to give us our second train of the day to Glasgow via Fort William at 10.10am. It currently is running only from Fort William. Why? We should be told - and it should be reinstated.
The same goes for the usual 4.01pm departure from Mallaig, staffed by Mallaig crew, which only runs on a Sunday now. Why? Does the running on a Sunday have any bearing on the fact that on a Sunday (since the 1960s) overtime is paid? We should be told; we deserve better service, even with "operational difficulties" and "special timetables". I rest my case!! And this is purely my observations.
(Your Ed would like to know why the 18.23 train from Glasgow is currently only running to Oban and not up here (except on Sundays). Other lines have had evening trains re-instated - why not us?)
Shortlist announced for home of "Great British Railways"
The creation of GBR was announced by Grant Shapps, National Transport Secretary, last year, as a once-in-a-generation reform in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail launch.
As part of the government's commitment to "levelling up" the UK, the HQ's will be outside London. Towns and cities were invited to apply as to where the headquarters will be, and subsequently 42 applications (including five in Scotland) were received. From that, and following public consultations and a public vote, a shortlist of six has been announced by Grant Shapps. They are Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle upon Tyne and York. The central headquarters will be the heart of the rail network and will provide strategy direction for the running of GBR, as well as bringing a number of highly skilled jobs to the chosen area.
The public vote, which will play a crucial role in determining the final chosen location, has officially opened today - Wednesday 5th July 2022. The final decision will be announced by the Transport Secretary later this year. Does it matter to you and I? Well I think it does. We are all seeing our beloved railways in turmoil at the moment. Great British Railways will hopefully be a single guiding mind that ends the fragmentation going on in the rail industry at present. Hopefully it will drive forward benefits and improvements across the whole British Rail network for passengers, staff and freight customers.
Public support is crucial if we want to plan for a future that employs staff who are proud to be part of GBR, and has customers who want to be able to have frequent comfortable, affordable travel which is part of the working or pleasurable day (hopefully both!)
If you've got the time, and inclination, follow the journey of GBR, have a go and vote for where the HQ's will be and, like me, restore our pride in sustainable rail services which have a future.
To find out more, and votes, go to the British Railways website - https://gbrtt.co.uk/hq-competition-public-vote/
The public vote closes on 15th August 2022. The results will be used to measure the level of support for each place and will be considered as part of the final decision. During this time, government ministers and GBRTT representatives will also visit each of the shortlisted towns and cities to gain a greater understanding of each place. GBRs will be shaped and run by empowered teams in five regional divisions (hopefully one in Scotland) to deliver a single, integrated national network. This means the national headquarters is planned to be a lean business unit, with its staff mainly focused on supporting the regional divisions. This is our chance to help our railways' future. Have a vote, if you care. Don't wait, and then forget about it!
Forth (Railway) Bridge Visitor Centre Experience
You may remember that I wrote in my February column this year that a full planning application, passed by Network Rail, had been submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council, regarding a visitor attraction at the Forth Rail Bridge.
The plan is to construct a visitor centre on the South Queensferry side of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors will be able to don safety harnesses and be led out - in groups of 12 to 15 people - on to the bridge's south cantilever, walking up to a viewing point on the walkways built into the top of the structure. Well, dear reader, blow me down with a feather, it now has council approval!! Network Rail are delighted. Alan Ross, Network Rail Scotland's director of engineering and asset management said, "It's great to see our plans for the Forth Bridge Experience moving forward. The team has worked hard to create this exciting design and we're looking forward to working with the successful contractor to bring these plans to life." Network Rail has also begun the process of appointing a main contractor to build the new reception hub and car park for the Centre, with contractors being invited to tender for the project.
The plans for the new visitor centre and viewing platform have been in the works for a number of years, and it is claimed that 85,000 people a year could arrive to climb the bridge. The latest plans aim to capitalise on opportunities to grow tourism in the area. I'm sure it will be featured on future visits by Michael Portillo, Sandy Toksvig, etc.!
It would be a great fundraiser idea for charities too. I'm sure The Jacobite crews would be up for experiencing it! Good luck to them, with that!
Seagull detritus and weeds at Mallaig Railway Station
Once again the island platform and its planters and seats are disgustingly bad. Ollie - Booking Office clerk etc - tries his best, but each year it defeats us. Hopefully a Network Rail team (who have been pleaded with) will soon arrive to come to our aid. The public, and us, deserve better than literally having to wade through it each day. It is an embarrassment!
Looking forward to 2025?
The future vision of Subway (clockwork orange) trains in Glasgow running with no drivers moves a step closer, to 2025. The trains will be part of a £289 million upgrade to increase frequency on the line and will have open plan walk-through interiors. Full speed testing of the first of the 17 strong fleet is underway, outside normal operating hours and without passengers, on the city's circular system. The trains will initially be controlled by drivers when they come into service and start carrying passengers next year (2023).
British Transport Police and ScotRail
On Monday 4th July a new harassment reporting initiative was launched to assist travellers of any age or gender to feel safer if they experience any form of intimidation or sexual harassment whilst on railway platforms, travelling on trains or entering/exiting Railway premises.
The new "Speak Up, Interrupt" campaign is aimed not just at passengers being harassed but for the travelling public who may witness any incidents. They can report them to the British Transport Police by means of a Railway Guardian App or by texting on 61016 whether on a train, subway or on railway premises. Whether the abuse is physical, sexual or verbal the app and text are now in place to report and seek support.
BTP Detective Chief Inspector Arlene Wilson said, "Everyone has a part to play - we are not asking people to police the railway, that's our job. However being an active bystander and reporting an incident by using the app, text or platform helpline can be of huge assistance to us and can make an enormous difference. Your report as a passenger or bystander can provide us with crucial information which helps build a picture of what's happening, identify the hotspot, deploy patrols and catch offenders."
The free Railway Guardian App can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store.
See you on the train,
BIRDWATCH June 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly cool and damp month, but most birds seem to have produced some offspring. Numerous reports of newly fledged birds in gardens from throughout the area. Finches seem to have done particularly well. Also plenty of Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes reported. Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits all seem to have produced large broods. Great-spotted Woodpeckers with juveniles were seen in several Morar gardens from mid-month.
Pied Wagtails successfully fledged five young from a 'mobile home' at Arisaig Marina. The nest had been built in the engine compartment of a tractor which was in use most days launching boats etc. Both Greenshank and Golden Plover were seen performing distraction displays on suitable breeding grounds near Arisaig, suggesting they had chicks in the vicinity.
The first Storm Petrels reported were four offshore from Mallaig on the 9th and a single on the Oberon Bank on the 30th. A single Pomarine Skua was seen between Eigg and Arisaig on the 2nd and presumably the same bird was seen near the Maxwell Bank on the 5th.
A Kingfisher was seen on the Morar River several times during the month.
Barn Owls were seen near Rhubana and also near the Arisaig Gardens. Tawny Owls were heard around Morar and Arisaig. On the 25th at the latter location a young chick was rescued and returned to its nest hole after being found on the ground. An Osprey was seen briefly over Loch nan Eala on the 5th.
Cuckoos were heard regularly at the start of the month, but by the end had fallen silent as the adult birds had dispersed from the area.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
As you may have seen in last month's issue, comedian and Pantomime Dame Timmy Mallett stopped in the Arisaig Hotel last month - and he caught up on all the West Word news!
Did you know he's an accomplished artist?
You can see (and buy) his paintings here: www.mallettspallette.co.uk
He's currently cycling 4000 miles round the coast of Britain in a clockwise direction, averaging 40 miles a day, and intending to do a painting a day.
West Word has been on the Midland Pullman with Sue and Pete Barrett again - this time they went to Wales!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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