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July 2023 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
PAM CLIMBS MOUNT KILIMANJARO IN AID OF CANCER RESEARCH UK
A long-held dream came true for Morar's Pam MacDonald recently, when, having waited since 2020 to travel to Tanzania and climb Mount Kilimanjaro, she reached the summit on Sunday 25th June 2023. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world, at 5,895 m (19,341 ft). There were forty people in her group and they raised an incredible £250,000 for Cancer Research UK.
Pam says, 'Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and sponsored me since 2020. You all know how much Cancer Research means to me and how much the money will mean to other families affected by cancer in the future. What an incredible adventure!'
Many congratulations Pam, and thank you from us for taking a West Word with you!
Royal Highland Show Success for Audrey
Huge congratulations to Audrey MacDonald, Portnadoran, Arisaig, on her double success at the Royal Highland Show last month.
Her two bulls, Portnadoran Sandman and Portnadoran Nevis, were placed 3rd and 5th in their respective categories - a truly splendid achievement.
Portnadoran Sandman (Sanny) won 3rd place in his class - Yearling Bull born after 1st April 2022. Portnadoran Nevis won 5th place in his class - 4 years and over.
'I'm more than delighted,' says Audrey. 'it's a great reward for all the hard work involved and I would like to thank Bob McWalter for his advice and expert handling on Show Day!'
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Thanks to former Editor Ann for helping out this month while I had to be away! Much appreciated.
It's Highland Games time again, starting with the Arisaig Games at Traigh Farm on the 26th July. If you're visiting the area, there's a list of dates of local Games on page 10, along with details of all sorts of other local events.
Once again, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for labelling the subscription envelopes.
Hope to see some of you at our AGM at 7pm on the 8th August in the West Word office, Morar station - we're always happy to welcome more folk on board!
June was a blur of blazing sunshine, swimming, and an all encompassing sense of summer. Actual summer. I think we genuinely had back to back weeks of no rain, to the point that the water supply in the village actually ran dry. Not often that happens that's for sure!
The Shop continues to do a roaring trade, and now have an online venison system which means that you can order venison to come in the post. The pub is tantalisingly close to opening, but still no official date as yet but all those involved are working flat out and doing a great job.
The Kids broke up for summer hols on 29th June, naturally with the return of the rain, as is always the case! Two of the nursery cohort, Hamish and Rannoch, will be moving up to the big class in August and there were no primary 7 leavers this year, so that means there will be a total of nine in the big class. Four of the nursery class also all reached a milestone over the last few weeks, egged on by each other and have learned to ride their pedal bikes. Well done to Faraquhar, Hamish, Ellie and Rannoch!
The parent council have started running a series of weekend coffee mornings/light lunches to raise money for kids' trips away with school and the first one raised nearly £400 over the course of Saturday and Sunday mornings which was really great. Hopefully the next two will be as successful.
Cheers for now
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
We have a big birthday! The Jetty Hut is one year old this month. The hut continues to offer residents a place to meet, exercise, learn, laugh and relax. Thanks to the volunteers who continue to make this a great asset to the village and the residents who support it.
Last month Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch chaired a community organised summit addressing the negative consequences of congestion on community life and how this would affect visitor experience.
The meeting was called by volunteers from West Highland Rail Partnership, Glenfinnan SCIO and the Glenfinnan Community Council and in attendance were representatives from Police Scotland, Visit Scotland, Highland Council and members of the Scottish Rail industry to name but a few!
Topics for discussion included the best solution to cope with the huge numbers of tourists, who are coming in their thousands to see the Harry Potter Train and viaduct, improvements to public transport, data collection, on-site facilities, travel arrangements and public messaging.
Kate Forbes said, "It is great that so many people are coming and enjoying the Highlands, as well as supporting the local economy, but there is a responsibility to ensure visitor numbers are managed in a safe, respectful and sustainable way." I look forward to seeing a positive result for the residents of Glenfinnan who must continue juggling daily life with unprecedented numbers of visitors.
Anail a Gháidheil-air á mhullach
(The Gael's breathing place-on the summit)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well what a packed month we have had on Muck this time round, and even the perfectly timed break in the weather for the School holidays didn't slow us down and nor did Hugh as he took part in his last Primary sports day and marked the occasion by winning the Hill Race, which will help him scamper up the road to Mallaig High and the Hostel . . . Good Luck Hugh and well done to all the day's participants.
We had a fantastic summer evenings music event provided by the most brilliant Iona Lane and the equally talented Malin Lewis, with food and a few drinks and kids running about it had an almost festival feel and well supported and attended by the community.
Interjected into our busy social calendar was the last days of shearing which gets more like a community style rodeo each year with only the clown missing ??
As something new this season we had Clare Holohan, a Medical Herbalist and Forager from Morvern who held a day introduction to foraging out and about the Island and although the weather was on the wet side it was still an extremely informative and interesting experience for the group of adventurers all looking to get various things out of the day . . . definitely a repeat date for next year.
Our month rounded off with a Summer Ceilidh with the returning group of 'sailing musicians', Captain Bennett & The Mutineers - and just what the doctor ordered with a grand atmosphere, enthusiastic dancing, BBQ bar and even some open mic appearances! Hats off to all, as the event was proceeded by an absolute melee of a football match to mark young Oscar's 'Mbappe' birthday where the numbers on each side was blurry to say the least. . . some very silky skills on show when the ball wasn't on the roof (you know who you are!!).
Well folks that's all for this episode,
ISLE OF CANNA
My parents came to visit me last month during THAT heatwave. My father could be heard saying, "It reminds me of 1976" at every opportunity and to anyone who would listen. I wasn't alive then so for me the June heatwave was a new experience.
The grass was turning a crispy shade of yellow, the polytunnel was so hot the thermometer probably needed an extra foot of temperature gauges as the mercury hit the top and wanted to carry on going, we all started developing tans and there were a lot of sleepless nights. Throw in the ever later dusk and even earlier dawn and you've got a recipe for tiredness.
But we can't complain, the flowers on the machair have been spectacular this year. Red Clover, Birds Foot Trefoil, Yarrow, Primroses, Daisies, Buttercups, Hebridean Spotted Orchid, Creeping Thyme, Marsh Lousewort, Bog Asphodel, Silverweed, Corn Marigolds, Wild Carrot, Cotton Grass and Sea Thrift, to name but a few, had my mother and I crawling about on the machair trying to identify and photograph each different one we spotted. So often we choose to spend time looking at the big vistas but there is a whole world right under your feet, if you choose to look. Lie down on the machair and play "If I were an inch tall" and suddenly these tiny, colourful flowers become towering beauties.
Photos by Margaret Willington
The farm is now gearing up for shearing. They have been out gathering at 4.30am around the west end the past few days and the fields around the square are full of unsuspecting sheep awaiting an appointment with the barber. The shearing team and their entourage will arrive this weekend and it will be all hands on deck to get through the 600 sheep in a handful of days. It has been touch and go with the sunshine and showers trying to get the sheep dry enough to be sheared. It's not so much that the sheep are difficult to shear when wet, its that the wool has to be dried out before it gets put in the wool bags. This adds an extra step into an otherwise seamless, and very impressive operation.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
June was a busy month for activities from Canna House. June is the month when we have been delivering artistic residencies based on the Archives, for the last eight years and this year was no exception, even although the House is now officially in the hands of Simpsons the Builders, who are undertaking the reparation work programme.
This year I decided to use the Cats of Canna House as the main focus of the residency and time it to commemorate the marriage of John and Margaret Campbell on June 15th, 1935. Cats were of course of prime importance in Canna House from 1938 until Margaret's death in 2004 and they brought light, colour and fun to the House! This years event was the last on site project delivered as part of the 'Solas' Project, meaning 'Light', particularly in relation to film and the still image.
Our first event was a Pussy Cats Picnic held at the Rhu Church, with art and film making activities from filmmaker Alistair Cooke from Edinburgh. Our stone pusses from the first Solas project in 2018 were gathered up and brought to the picnic! We had a film night on the Shearing Shed when we were treated to a world premiere and a Q&A of a film bound for the Brest Film Festival the following week. We also screened the 'Solas' film produced about Margaret's life, a couple of years ago.
Marag the Collie investigating the strange feline creatures - and the cakes on offer!
Monday and Tuesday were filled with craft, art, music and storytelling activities from our artists and musician, Raine Clarke, Lynne Knot (who decorated the stone cats with hand made, individually designed, floral crowns) and all were well attended by visitors who loved the Cat theme! The stone cats were also given a spruce up after their living out for a few Canna winters! Yvonne Lyon delivered a wonderful songwriting session with several visitors and the songs produced are now in the process of being recorded. Raine Clarke helped visitors produce some amazing pieces of painted stone craft, most with a cat or animal theme!
The week after the Solas Cats Event, I travelled to Piedmont in Northern Italy, to attend a conference called "Premio Ostana", based around minority languages, and deliver a lecture about the Campbells of Canna House and the Archives, how important they are. Many different minority languages were represented, many of which I had never heard of, such as Occitan and Franco-Provencale and the talks and presentations were very interesting and thought provoking. The delegates were most interested in hearing about Gaelic and the work that John and Margaret did to help preserve the Gaelic culture. The event took place in a tiny village called Ostana which is taken over every year by the Conference and fringe events, and it was everyone's idea of how an Alpine village should look!
I was also deeply honoured to be presented with one of the "Ostana Prizes" awarded to people who have achieved success in one of eight strands of minority language work - writing, film, poetry, and music. I was awarded the music prize for my work in using the archives, to create 'the new from the old' and in doing so, bring profile to the Gaelic culture. I am absolutely delighted that this prestigious prize recognises the work of John and Margaret which continue to inspire me so much.
It is with sadness that I let you all know that this will be the last "Criomagan" from Canna House. By the time you read this, I will have left Canna and relocated to the mainland for family reasons. Although I will sadly no longer be living on Canna, I will however still be very much involved in the Campbell's work and will be continuing writing my biography of Margaret.
Lastly, here is a link to the latest "Story" I have written for the NTS website, focussing on a suitcase I found filled with Margaret's concert programmes, cruise menus and art gallery photographs. This piece has a very particular resonance for me and has a very poignant resolution for me in my last few weeks on Canna.
Thank you to Kirsty and the West Word team for all their encouragement and help over the last eight years - I have enjoyed writing every single one of those articles for you! Mòran taing.
ISLE OF EIGG
We have had a lot to celebrate this month! Congratulations to Struan Robertson who graduated with a First in Applied Computing. He will be starting his PhD in September. Congratulations are also in order for Jon, who has been welcomed as a new Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust director.
There was various birthdays this month - happy birthday everyone. And of course we had the island's 26th buy-out anniversary. We had a brilliant weekend with loads of fantastic musicians helped to celebrate, including JaMaTha ceilidh band, Falasgair, the Ciaran Ryan Band and DJ Dolphin Boy.
It was a very musical month, as we were also treated to a visit from the Sheerwater's Ceilidh Sail. They brought Eilidh Shaw and some young musicians from Mallaig High School and Feis Orgridh na Mara over. The group provided us with some great tunes at the tearoom before returning back to the mainland (above).
The tearoom welcomed a new staff member this month who has been the talk of the island - the new coffee machine! You can now choose from a range of different hot drinks when you come in for a visit, including my personal favourite - hot chocolate with all the trimmings!
There are a couple of fundraisers running at the moment if you're feeling generous. If you sign up to EasyFundraising using this link (https://tinyurl.com/4x9bbsff), it will set the IEHT as your chosen charity and allows you to easily contribute while going about your normal online shopping with participating businesses. Collectively almost £2k has been raised this way to date!
The other fundraiser is a GoFundMe appeal for Ukraine which Camille has set up. Money is being sent over monthly and has already helped towards a solar generator, power banks and projectors for a field surgeon operating room. You can contribute to this cause by following this link: https://gofund.me/0acd4930.
Tasha has started doing weekly tours of the tree nursery this past month, and will continue to do so in July and August. This is a great chance to see the brilliant work she is doing. The tours are every Tuesday at midday and are £10 for adults and free for kids. While you're there you might meet our new tree nursery volunteer, El?bieta, who will be living on the island until the end of August.
Speaking of volunteers, Helen moved over at the end of the month to join the Scottish Wildlife Trust team, and we said goodbye to Marco and Maya (pictured with Erika and Norah) who were here for May and June. Before they left, they helped undertake a variety of surveys and practical conservation work. The SWT also continued to run their weekly guided walks on Mondays (2pm from the standing stone at the pier) and Wednesdays (11am from the swap shop).
Photo by Erika O'Reilly
The team attended a training session about rare Burnet moths and were able to put what we learned into practice as we carried out a series of population and habitat surveys for the Transparent Burnet Moth, which we are lucky enough to host here on the island.
It wasn't only moths we were learning about this month. Caroline from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust paid us a visit. She held two talks on cetacean identification, led a watch and visited the school while she was over. She got everyone inspired and looking out to sea, and we got loads of reports of marine activity around the island while she was here. A group of us were lucky to see dolphins in Laig bay while doing a microplasic-focused beach clean! If you do see anything, you can report it using the HWDT's Whale Track app. Don't forget to let Norah and the SWT team know too! John Chester writes: "June is generally regarded by birders as the quietest month of the year and this one certainly lived up to its reputation. Possibly as a result of last year's outbreak of Avian Flu the sea around the island seemed almost devoid of birdlife while, not unexpectedly, passage slowed to a standstill. The outcome of the breeding season will not become clear until next month though Eiders at least seem to have had an excellent season with large numbers of ducklings appearing at the bays.
"Throughout the month there were regular sightings of Common and Bottle Nosed Dolphins whilst a couple of records of Basking Sharks in mid month were the first seen around Eigg for several years.
Photo by Donald MacLean
"The continuing hot weather certainly brought out an abundance of insects with large numbers of Dark Green Fritillaries recorded from mid month and truly exceptional numbers of the rare Transparent Burnet Moth appearing around the coastal heaths.
"Plants also benefitted from the warm conditions with rain in the latter part of the month producing a spectacular display of orchids and other species. The most outstanding plant record though was the discovery of Pink Stonecrop (Sedum villosum) by SWT volunteer Marco Dobson. Not only a first record for Eigg but also seemingly for the Small Isles."
Erika O' Reilly
Morar - Arisaig B8008 coastal route introduces traffic control measures
The Highland Council has implemented new traffic control measures on the B8008 Morar - Arisaig coastal route in the interest of public safety and following extensive consultation with the B8008 Working Group.
The route now has several kilometres of double yellow lines in areas that were - due to inconsiderate parking - presenting a risk to public safety. A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) of £100 will be issued to any vehicle found to be in contravention and if required can be uplifted. Double Yellow lines mean NO Waiting at Any Time 24 hours per day.
A B8008 Working Group spokesperson said: "It is important to raise public awareness of the new traffic control measures ahead of the busy summer season. People need to be aware ahead of travelling to the area, particularly those who may intend to park motorhomes, campervans or park and pitch a tent at the beach to consider alternative options, for example, booking a motorhome/campsite on the B8008, as road parking at these key locations is not possible."
The following parking facilities are available in the area:
Silver Sands (Morar) has a newly refurbished community operated car park and toilet amenities, which allow overnight parking (max duration 24hrs) for an affordable fee.
Camusdarach car park has room for approximately 15 vehicles and does not permit overnight parking for motorhome/campervans. Mandatory charging will be introduced shortly with maximum stays for 12 hours during the day. Traigh has a small privately operated car park, which has a height restriction barrier and is not suitable for motorhomes. It is currently free to use.
Mallaig has two designated Council operated parking facilities, however at West Bay car park, motorhome/campervan parking is not permitted between 10pm - 8am. This car park also has new community operated toilets, shower, and waste disposal for a small fee.
Progress for the Mallaig Community Hub and Shop
The Mallaig Hub and Shop has been granted charitable status by the Scottish charity regulator OSCR. This has been a long process with the knock-on effect of delaying the lease, refurbishment works and fundraising. Apologies from the group for any disappointment to the community, we will get there!
The charity arm represents the community benefit activities and this will help with fundraising. A trading arm will also be set up to account for the refill store, sales of local produce and, eventually the rent of spaces to community groups and members.
As any of you who have visited the post office recently will have observed there is still a lot of work to be done! The current group of volunteers has got so far with planning, budgeting, a bit of fund raising and the charity registration. We will definitely need more help and would like more of the community to be involved to ensure that the project achieves its outcome as a 'community hub'.
If you would like to get involved please do get in touch. We have volunteers who have skills in accounting, website building, fundraising and project management; we need volunteers who would like to be board members, who have practical skills and people who might like to volunteer in the shop/ community space in the long run. If you have a bit of time spare and have an interest in helping to create a vibrant community facility, there is definitely a role for you! Just a bit of experience and wisdom in running a charitable board would be a great help!
An enormous thanks go to Andrew and Elizabeth Fleming whose patience and support in the protracted transition process has been invaluable.
If you are interested please email email@example.com or talk to Ashley Cymbalista, Matt MacCarthy, Emma Walters or Tiina Heinonen.
Mallaig Community Hub and Shop SCIO, SC052549
Spirit of the Highlands and Islands Tapestry
A very exciting project is nearing completion - the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands. Our group, The Small Isles Stitchers, consisted of Stitchers from Rum, Canna and Eigg. This group was very ably led by Buffy on Rum and the work in progress had to be shipped from island to island by boat. We were Group 51, with groups all the way up to Orkney and Shetland, across to Lewis and down to Mull.
Most of the tapestries were a metre square, some larger and depicted different aspects of the Highlands and Islands. They are now being stretched and mounted, ready to be part of an exhibition centred on Inverness Castle.
A Write Highland Hoolie
Mallaig Book Festival
Our full programme is now on our website - www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com - and tickets are on sale. Details of that will also be on our facebook page.
We open this year's Festival with the first of two outstanding musical events. Two of our finest traditional musicians, Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier, team up with poet Jim Mackintosh in a brilliant celebration of the Life and work of George Mackay Brown - Beyond the Swelkie. As usual there will be a complimentary dram for ticket holders.
On Saturday we have the renowned naturalist John Lister-Kaye; novelists Jenny Colgan and Denise Mina; Keggie Carew with Beastly -a new history of Animals and Us; and at 6pm our second musical event, an extravaganza with award winning multi-instrumentalists Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey. Just after lunch poet Hugh McMillan will take us on an hilarious trip through history before announcing this year's winner of the Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition.
On Sunday James Crawford, writer and presenter of BBC's Scotland from the Skies series is followed by a message for Remembrance Sunday with a short pipe lament after the two minute silence.
After that is our own Tom McClean, adventurer and survival expert; and our last author is Lin Anderson with her chilling new murderous tale - set on a local campsite near here!
The Festival ends with our fabulous celebration tea party and children's prizegiving with the wonderful Alan Windram. There is also a busy Hoolie Hoolets programme in the schools from Thursday; more about that next month.
HPMA Plans Scrapped
Scottish Government proposals to implement highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) across 10% of Scotland's seas by 2026 have been scrapped after members of the Scottish fishing industry, coastal communities and some MSPs objected to the proposals. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation stated that the plans could have a "catastrophic impact" on the industry. The Scottish Government originally committed to introduce HPMAs in at least 10% of Scotland's seas by 2026. The designated sites would be strictly protected to allow the marine ecosystems within to recover and thrive. Limits would be placed on some human activities, such as fishing and aquaculture, while allowing some "non-damaging" activities to take place.
Mairi McAllan, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition, said the government remain "firmly committed" to enhancing marine protection, noting the EU's target that by 2030, 10% of EU seas should be strictly protected.
McAllan said: "We are in the midst of a nature and climate crisis and we must be prepared to take action commensurate with the scale of that challenge. Failure to safeguard and improve the resilience of Scotland's marine ecosystems to a changing climate risks the very basis on which our marine industries and coastal communities are built.
"We chose to consult as early and widely as possible on the principles of HPMAs, with no pre-determined sites. It has always been, and continues to be, this government's plan to work cooperatively with communities to identify how and where to enhance marine protection in a way that minimises impact and maximises opportunity. Therefore, while we remain firmly committed to the outcome of enhanced marine protection, the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed."
ScotGov will announce its next steps after summer recess.
News from Mallaig Harbour
The weather has broken, just in time for the school holidays, and this meant that we had to postpone the proposed Sea Angling Competition on 1st July. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the rain stays off long enough on Saturday 8th July for us to host our first Marina Fun Day since 2019. Unfortunately, we have timed this wrongly for West Word, and you will have to wait a month for reports of how it went!
Fishing has remained steady throughout the month, and prices for shellfish have been good. We have welcomed a few visiting boats throughout the month, although not as many as last year. There have also been some changes to the well boats harvesting salmon this month, with the Ronja Challenger being redeployed to Canada, and the Ronja Viking operating from Mallaig throughout the month.
We held our AGM on Friday 16th June, and said goodbye to Shona MacLeay, who had served her first term as a Board Member, and, due to other commitments, had decided not to reapply. We welcomed Peter Hillier, who had been co-opted onto the Board last year, as a full Board Member.
It has felt like a month of meetings - after the disappointment of not getting the DEFRA funding we are looking at various alternatives, which has involved lots of discussion with various groups and organisations to raise the profile of what we are trying to do.
Many of you will have seen the news last week that Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, announced that the proposal to develop HPMAs (Highly Protected Marine Areas) as consulted on, will not be progressed. This means that the Government will no longer seek to implement HPMAs across 10 per cent of Scotland's seas by 2026. Although this was widely reported on as HPMA's being scrapped, it's actually not as straightforward as this. The government intends to develop a new pathway and timetable for their work to enhance marine protection, which will be in line with their draft biodiversity strategy and ambition for Scotland to be nature positive by 2030. However, there was a recognition that this needs to be done in consultation with the communities impacted, so we will look forward to engaging with whatever comes next, and working with the fishing industry locally to ensure the best possible outcomes for the local area. Prior to the Ministerial announcement, the Seafood Sector had gathered at the Scottish Parliament on 15th June to launch a petition urging the Government to scrap HPMAs. You can find more detail on the Scottish Fishermen's Federation website, www.sff.co.uk.
We welcomed the Lord of the Isles back to Mallaig on 30th June, so for the moment we have a full complement of ferries - lets hope it stays that way for at least the duration of the summer holidays!
We're a member of staff down at the Harbour at the moment, as Hugh Cameron was able to take advantage of a cancellation at short notice to have a knee operation done, which means that he will be off for much of the summer. Thanks are due to Danny, Simon and Sandy, who are covering and making sure everything runs smoothly in Hugh's absence. We've welcomed back Ross Carr to cover days off at the Marina for the busier summer months.
This month we have granted a lease to Mallaig Men's Shed for one of the units within the Prawn Market to get themselves established. We've also donated the old portacabin from the Marina to them, and it will be moved to the rear of the Prawn Market. Having a base will allow the Men's Shed to be open more frequently throughout the week, and a bit more space will allow them to take on some small projects. We're not promising the breakfast rolls that Michelle has been spoiling them with at their regular Monday meetings in the Community Centre though - they might have to make their own tea and coffee! If you are passing the prawn market and see them there, call in for a cup of tea and a blether, and to find out what they are up to - everyone is welcome, young and old!
Finally, we have had a very special visitor to the Harbour Office on more than one occasion this month - baby Fergus McKay De Wilde is Audrey's second grandchild, and was born on 18th June. Congratulations to Fiona and Leo, and to Granny Audrey!
1st June 2023
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a yacht with a fouled propeller on a pot line on the SW corner of Eigg at 20:03. The CalMac ferry MV Hebrides diverted from its passage to standby until the Lifeboat arrived on-scene. On-scene at 20:45 the Lifeboat moored alongside the yacht in calm conditions. Hebrides' Fast Rescue Craft was stood down and returned to the ferry. Members of crew boarded the casualty and with the help of a grappling hook retrieved enough line to cut and buoy off the pot line. As the casualty was alongside and conditions were benign additional rope springs and fenders were positioned and the tow commenced for Mallaig. Berthed the casualty at the marina at 23:30. Lifeboat back at her pontoon at 23:45.
3rd June 2023
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 15:15 to recover an exhausted and unwell walker at Guirdil Bothy on the NW corner of Rum. On-scene at 16:10 two crewmembers were dispatched ashore to recover the walker from the beach in the Y-Boat. Once aboard he was assessed and found to have recovered enough to be reunited with the rest of his party at Kinloch on Rum. As the Lifeboat proceeded to Kinloch a PAN PAN broadcast was received from a yacht in the area of operation. The sole occupant of the yacht was struggling with a jammed sail and requesting assistance. With the yacht's needs being of more importance, the hillwalker was transferred into the hands of staff at a local Fish Farm who were based in Kinloch and as so happens coming to the end of their shift. Lifeboat proceeded to the PAN PAN's position at 17:00.
3rd June 2023
Tasked by Stornoway coastguard to respond to a PAN PAN message received at approximately 16:35. The yacht was located off Brittle Point, Isle of Skye and the lone sailor was in need of assistance due to a jammed spinnaker (a large triangular sail). On-scene at 17:30 the Lifeboat was able to come alongside the yacht and transfer two crew across. The sail had somehow come inside the rolling jig set up and back out again, effectively taking a round turn at the top and bottom. Due to the pressure from the wind filling the sail, and despite whatever way you pulled it, would not release. It was decided to escort the yacht to Mallaig in favourable conditions for the sail. As the casualty passed to the west of Loch Slapin the wind increased to the state that yacht was becoming difficult to handle with such a large sail. Conditions between Sleat and Mallaig were expected to be the same, taking in the long fetch down the sound. The casualty was requested to seek the sheltered mouth of Camusdarach Bay just inside Sleat Point. Once in the bay, the Lifeboat was able to come alongside and secure the yacht. With the lifeboat being more powerful the yacht could be kept head to wind. Although there was less wind the sail was still unmanageable. Eventually the crew managed to get the aft corner secured at the bow. The sail was now a wind filled flag flapping everywhere, still catching wind. As the wind was the issue why not use it to our advantage! The rudder was set hard to port, starboard engine ahead, port astern, thus the casualty and the Lifeboat began numerous rotations to wrap the spinnaker around the rolling jib. Eventually the sail was reduced to a small triangle mid-way up the jib. With that accomplished the yacht set off for Mallaig under her own power and in total control, followed by Lifeboat. Local Coastguards were on hand to moor Lifeboat and casualty once they had made port. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 21:00.
5th June 2023
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to a female in the water in the Ardvasar area of Skye at 23:10. Skye Coastguard teams and Rescue151 from Inverness also tasked. On-scene at 11:20, the Y-Boat was quickly launched to search the shoreline, manned by two crew. As the Coastguard had issued a Mayday relay other vessels in area proceeded to the scene. The first informant notified the emergency service through a second party that they had struck the shoreline in their boat and that he was returning to the scene to search for her. After extensive searching of the area by the Lifeboat, Helicopter, two well boats plus three Coastguards teams and a team from Scottish Fire and Rescue, no trace was found of a person in the water, boat, wreckage, flotsam or anything else that would identify a collision with the shore. At 01:15 (6th June) all services were stood and requested to return to base. Police are questioning an individual with regards to issuing a hoax emergency call. Lifeboat moored and made ready for service at 02:00.
Mallaig & District Canoe Club On Saturday 16th June seven members put in at the viaduct at Loch nan Uamh, having parked along the roadside, as the former parking area by the portacabin has been blocked off by large boulders placed across the entrance. With a forecast of Force 1 gusting 2 the group set off at a relaxed pace close to the shore, catching up with friends old and new. Often rushed past in the hurry to reach a distant destination, this proved highly enjoyable. A first stop was made at Borrodale to seek out Prince Charlie's cave - a pretty miserable little hole in truth, and rather midge ridden, but a new local site of interest ticked off for most. Samuel Johnson's quote was brought to mind, "Worth seeing? Yes, but not worth going to see." Such was the leisurely vibe that it was decided to have lunch there at Borrodale before continuing on for another stop at a sandy bay further west.
Realising that the day was rapidly slipping by, and thinking that the possible wind gusts forecast earlier in the week for around 1.00p.m. had been and gone while at lunch, boats were launched into a mirror-calm sea and, after sneaking through the previously inaccessible channel behind An Garbh Eilean, the group headed out across the loch to the far side of Eilean nan Cabar. Approaching the westerly end of the island, some very "interesting" skies were noted to the windward south-west over the Roshven hills - a dark grey mass of cloud with a lighter rip-curl unfolding ahead of it like a giant wave. "I hope there's no lightning", was mentioned as the thunder rumbled but the weather stayed calm . . . until very suddenly it was all change! The wind gusted up to probably a force 5 and rain lashed down. Making for shore was the best option, but it was a half hour slog with an awkward beam/following sea to achieve landfall in two groups in adjacent bays. VHF communication re-assured that all paddlers were safe, albeit extremely wet. After waiting out the rest of the storm the groups re-united on the water and had a leisurely paddle back to the viaduct, de-briefing on the experience. On this trip were two paddlers who are among this year's novices. Both did fantastically well and were enthused by the learning experience.
It only goes to show how rapidly things can change on the water. Sublime until . . . you encounter Cumulonimbus! Cumulonimbus (CB)?….you may ask! A bit of research revealed the following:
"Deep convection in the form of Cumulus congestus clouds (also referred to as towering Cumulus or TCU) and Cumulonimbus (CB) clouds can lead to the development of thunderstorms, squalls and in extreme cases funnel clouds (water spouts or tornadoes). Individual cumulonimbus cells will usually dissipate within an hour once showers start falling, making for short-lived, heavy rain. Cumulonimbus clouds are born through convection, often growing from small cumulus clouds over a hot surface. They get taller and taller until they represent huge powerhouses, storing the same amount of energy as 10 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs. These clouds are a particular threat to planes." Not to mention paddlers! This photo was taken by a worried member watching from home!
After all the glorious June weather, July has blasted in disappointingly with rain and wind! Rain we needed, but let's hope it remembers to stop! The "Summer Cruise" (a multi day trip to the north of Skye based at Dunvegan) has got underway. Hopefully a weather window will allow those participating to get some paddling done. Look out for the report in the August edition of West Word!
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
I'll start this month's column with an unique opportunity!
Beasdale Station Cottage has just been placed on the open market for sale. With a guide price of £235,000, the former Station House is alongside the railway station platform - which is a request stop on the branch line - and is full of delightful characteristic charms. For more information: tinyurl.com/Beasdale All enquiries contact McIntrye and Company on 01397 703231. What a chance to own a piece of history with the sound of the trains throbbing up Beasdale Bank as they enter the Station stop, alongside the West Highland Extension Line before levelling out to Arisaig Station. The gradient is challenging for any steam train fireman - and many is the time that the penned song 'Who's afraid of Beasdale Bank', sung to the music of 'Who's afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf' hangs in the air as the train thunders through the Station! With the fireman grinning that he has completed his task!
Meanwhile, trying to gain information on renting space at Arisaig and Mallaig Railway Stations is slowly filtering through to me. There are vacant spaces (units) at both stations, but although posters are pasted up at both 'brochures' have yet (after three months at least) to be completed. To find out more email Tess at firstname.lastname@example.org or got to the website at www.ScotRail.co.uk/spaces. I wish you good luck!
Caledonian Sleeper Trains move to Scottish Govt Control
From June 25th the Scottish Government took over control of Caledonian Sleeper Services, replacing previous operator Serco.
Minister for Transport (we now have one) Fiona Hyslop said 'It is fitting that we recognise the successes of the staff and management of the Caledonian Sleeper who have transformed this service, and who will remain as valued members of the team. I give my reassurances that there is a continued role for them to play in the future success of the service.' At the same time, GB Railfreight announced a new seven year deal to provide Class 92 and 73 traction for the sleepers, which run between Euston and Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fort William, Inverness or Aberdeen six nights a week. Good news indeed for the depot crew drivers of GB Railfreight based locally at Fort William.
ScotRail now joins eight other rail companies to ban e-scooters on trains
Growing concerns over the fire risks posed on trains by faulty batteries on e-scooters igniting due to over-charging (whilst charging) 'cheap' batteries and going on fire whilst on moving trains has led to ScotRail introducing a total ban with immediate effect on them being carried on ScotRail trains. They are joined by eight other companies, which include sleeper and cross order trains across the UK. Second hand e-scooters are being purchased on eBay without a battery and purchasers are then buying cheap batteries which can over-charge, heat up and catch fire - even explode! So now you know!
ORR to investigate station catering
The Office of Rail and Road has undertaken a study into the cost of food and drink at Railway Station outlets following claims that passengers are being ripped off (forgive me for laughing at this point as we do not even have an on-board catering unit on our ScotRail trains on the branch line). The sector, it is said, generates around £1 billion pounds per year in revenue and the ORR's study is to scrutinise the market, and examine whether it is working well. Responses were requested, to be studied: a report will follow.
Preliminary research by the ORR has identified that prices are 20-30% higher at railway stations compared with the high street, and the investigation will try to establish why this is so!
Ye gods - because they can! Isn't rocket science. Why don't they ask me?
Still, ScotRail will not support my idea of having a franchised-out trolley service for food and drink starting from Mallaig on the 06.03 to Fort William - return 08.30 to Mallaig. You cannot even purchase a bottle of water on any of our Branch Line services run by ScotRail, let alone a Lucozade (glucose) drink if the passenger is diabetic and having a 'hypo'. Just basic things like fresh fruit, salad, nuts, chocolate etc. would really help. When I spoke about this to Alex Hynes, ScotRail MD of Scotland's Railway at Glasgow in April he told me 'it wasn't that simple', that 'outsourcing' was not an option; but that change would come! Initially he moved a day a week service from one trolley service which operated on our main line to our branch line. This is/was 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' syndrome! After two weeks it was stopped and taken away from us. Since then - not a cheep has been heard about it since!! But I will not give up without a fight!!
Going back in time
If you are visiting Edinburgh this summer, stop and admire the fully refurbished and operating floral clock in Princes Street Gardens which have been decorated as a tribute to the visiting Flying Scotsman Locomotive Centenary Tours by rail 1923-2023 this year. It is a wonderful floral sight to see.
Tornado tour plans - further changes
You may remember that in May this year I ran a postcard draw for two persons to travel behind the refurbished A1 Pacific Locomotive Tornado boiler from Edinburgh to Aberdeen in July of this year. Sad to say that although the work on the boiler repairs are progressing, Tornado will not be operating on the main line before September of this year. However some of the booked dates in Scotland will be undertaken by West Coast Railway Company (WCRC) - from their pool of steam locomotives, providing steam power for haulage for some of the booked dates. I am in contact to renegotiate a date for the draw winners, or to book a date for them when Tornado can haul them.
July increase in fares on ScotRail service As many of you reading this will by now have realised, on Monday July 3rd the price freeze first announced on September 2022 has now ended on ScotRail travel by train. The extended freeze was announced by the Scottish Government to help amid the cost-of-living crisis triggered by rising inflation. A price rise is usually introduced in January each year.
All fares rose on July 3rd by 4.8%, excluding season and flexi tickets. Transport Secretary for the Scottish Government Mairi McAllan said 'The Scottish Government rightly made the decision to freeze fares as part of its response to the cost-of-living crisis. While this has now remained in place for around 18 months, it is simply no longer sustainable.' There will, I hope, be discounted tickets to travel on ScotRail, i.e. Club 50, Highland Railcards, Kids for a Quid (personally not a title I like writing!) and National Railcard discounts, but with no leaflets available to peruse ask at your local booking office or search online.
The Rail Unions - ASLEF, RMT and TSSA - have immediately put out statements to members stating the decision by the Scottish Government as 'reckless', and currently members of the drivers' union ASLEF rejected an on-the-table 5% pay increase offer made by ScotRail to members through the Union. Members of the RMT Union, including conductors, ticket examiners and station staff, voted to accept a 5% pay increase in June this year. ASLEF Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay said 'We are calling for talks with ScotRail to begin so we can take forward meaningful discussion on fair pay.'
In the meantime, with the caveat of 'when it runs' - the Highland Explorer extra seating, extra leg room, extra cycle/wheelchair space coaches that operate on our line and the Oban line work very well on advance reserve seating space with bikes. It is still not set in stone that they operate every evening that they should be attached to the regular service trains, resulting in overcrowding at Glasgow. Even with the best smart phone for information, once you have your booking, you hope it is not going to be cancelled and a refund offered. It is not what you want to hear. When it does run into Mallaig at 11.35pm I notice that the reserved seat tickets for departure at 6.03am are all booked (free booking) which is great, even if most of them will be joining at Fort William - and of course, no catering on the train! Oban frequently has identical problems resulting sometimes in crush time at Crianlarich where the units join up. The café at Crianlarich Station is not open this year either.
Network Rail Scotland Biodiversity Project
Network Rail Scotland is committing £329,000 for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) to use in what Is the most ambitious biodiversity enhancement project ever to tale place on Scotland's railway near the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. The two year project will help to compensate for biodiversity lost during safety critical tree and vegetation management works across Scotland's rail network. The project sits within Scotland's endangered Atlantic rainforest zone. The removal on non-native plant species, management of deer browsing, fencing improvement work, wet woodland enhancement and tree planting will take place across 200 hectares to protect, restore and expand rainforest and peatland habitats. FLS manages the land where the work is taking place and the area forms part of the dramatic setting of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which can be seen by passengers travelling on the West Highland Line. The first phase of work has been underway with the removal of non-native plant species across the woodland and peatland habitats where the project is taking place. Invasive species which threaten native habitats will continue to be removed throughout the project. In the short term, the scheme will help remove threats to vulnerable and internationally important woodland and peatland habitats. Longer term it will deliver biodiversity benefits, increase carbon storage and enhance climate resilience by helping to protect, enhance and expand these unique habitats for generations to come.
MD of Scotland's Railway Alex Hynes said 'We're delighted to be partnering with Forest and Land Scotland and contributing towards the vital work being carried out to enhance Scotland's unique natural environment. The project will allow us to balance the removal of trees and vegetation elsewhere on the railway on a scale that would not be possible by replanting purely within our own boundaries.'
Chief executive of Forestry and Scotland Simon Hodgson said 'We are looking forward to working with Network Rail Scotland over the next two years to deliver this important pilot project within Scotland's Atlantic rainforest zone. The long-term objective is to restore ecosystem processes over 10 years which will support full habitat recovery and ongoing resilience. Thanks to these initial interventions funded by Network Rail, as well as ongoing management and maintenance undertaken by us, we are on track to achieve that goal.'
Priority native habitats within Glenfinnan sites include the designated but threatened Caledonian pinewoods, Atlantic oakwoods, ancient Alder, wet woodlands and recovering peatlands.
All we - as train passengers - have to do is be grateful when we look out of the train window at Glenfinnan!
Summer 2013 issue of F.O.W.H.L. News now available
The Friends of the West Highland Line plus On the Waterfront is now available to send out if required. It is £4 plus postage, a bumper 64 page issue, full of current and nostalgic content plus wonderful offers and photographs galore. Give me a ring on 01687 462189 to secure one.
I always save my copy for half a day after getting it in the post, but then - just as I am about to lie down the envelope catches my eye and I think 'Oh go on then, just a quick read'. Fatal! I hear the late train in and carry on reading and marking up 'stuff' to re-read in the morning and carry on until I'm done. It gets me every time. The Autumn/Winter issue will be published in October, cheers and thanks go to the Editor Doug Carmichael, who bides in Oban, and never fails to produce greatly interesting issues.
See you on the train,
Birdwatch June 2023 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly dry and warm month, with plenty sunshine, with most of the rain falling in the last week or so.
Breeding was in full swing with lots of newly fledged chicks around. Many of the seabirds nesting on the small offshore islands had newly hatched offspring during the month; most seem to be doing well. Common Terns nesting at Loch Ailort have done particularly well this year, with an increase in the number of pairs nesting and many chicks hatching. Let's hope a good number fledge.
Incidentally another locally bred Common Tern was caught by ringers in Senegal on the 28th March this year, 4648km from Traigh where it was ringed as a chick on the 3rd July 2021.
A single Arctic Skua was seen on the Oberon Bank on the 2nd, but only a handful of Great Skua reports from the Sound of Sleat. Storm Petrel sightings increased during the month, with at least 14 seen following a Prawn trawler on the 25th. The Moorhens on Loch nan Eala were seen with three small chicks on the 9th and again on the 14th, the first confirmed breeding in this area for many years.
A summer plumaged Great Northern Diver seen on the 2nd between Arisaig and Eigg may have been a summering bird. Likewise a single Whooper Swan that appeared on Loch nan Eala on the 7th and still present on the 14th.
Tawny Owls were seen and heard regularly in Morar and Arisaig. Barn Owls were seen hunting in Mallaig on several occasions.
Jays were again reported on or below feeders in several Morar gardens.
Although the middle of summer, autumn passage had already begun for some birds. Greenshanks seen at Loch Ailort, Traigh and the Morar Estuary were probably failed or non breeders. Two Black-tailed Godwits that were at Invercaimbe on the 30th were likely to have been Icelandic birds heading back south to their wintering grounds.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Congratulations to Isabel and Jimmy Morton who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary recently at the Oblix restaurant in the Shard, London!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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