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

List of Issues online

June 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Canna, Muck, Eigg
West Word ten years ago
Crofting Roundup & Fishing Focus
Birdwatch and Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy

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Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

A project totalling £150,000 has transformed the ticket office at Arisaig Marine into a splendid new facility for seafarers, visitors and locals alike. Gone is the old portacabin office, where Sheerwater travellers had to queue outside. Tickets are now available from the new Harbour Office which also contains a tea room, showers, toilets, shop and a laundrette.
The project was funded by Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Arisaig Marine Ltd itself. Susan Grant and Graham MacLellan, who run the family business, are delighted with their new premises and are full of praise for the contractors, A. N. Fraser, Laggan, who did the job.
'We're not finished yet', said Susan. 'We intend to landscape around the building, put up a fence and have tables and an area where children can play safely. People will be able to sit inside or out and watch not only the boats and birdlife but also, if they're lucky, otters.' The building will be open from 9am until 6pm. Hot drinks and home baking will be on sale, and the shop includes a small ship chandlery and crafts and gifts.
The refreshments on offer include Fair Trade organic coffee and hot chocolate, and fresh home baking. Every effort has been made to be eco-friendly; the soaps used in the toilets and laundrette are bio-degradable.
Arisaig Marine has been in business since 1975, providing moorings and facilities for boat owners. In the summer months a daily ferry sails to the Small Isles and charters are also available.

The new tearoom with its view of the harbour and Eigg.

The season feels like its in full swing now: walkers, campers, Seafari, Hebridean Princess and Lord of the Glens all making strong representations through May, although the yachts don't really start to gather for another month. And the midge has arrived. Much was made of the weak pound contributing to a good home-grown tourist season and that seems to be the case. Pity the weather didn't take the hint. Round and about all the hard work that goes into the service industry and tourist provision life goes on with the usual round of parties, community work and comings and goings.
Chloe's party, where the bairns were entertained by snakes, spiders and an assortment of creepy crawlies, goes down as the event of the month. Some of the adults were slightly more stand-offish than the kids though. Mark's 18th at the Tea Room was another milestone, and that party, along with so many others now, moved onto the bigger venue of facebook almost instantaneously. The traditional venues still have some appeal though, Danny's bonfire party being a case in point. Other events of the month, all tying in with the ongoing ten year celebrations of community ownership: a great and truly eye-opening talk by Dr. Mark Woombs (Sunday name), a reading by the celebrated author Ian McEwan and an exhibition of the art of James Hawkins (first leg London, second leg Knoydart in June). Also in June is the Craft Fair which is still developing and anyone interested can contact Claire on 01687 460 318. Not so many new faces around with most of the seasonal positions taken up. Ann Marriot though has taken herself back to Edinburgh, fully recovered and refreshed. Liz Logan too is leaving the peninsula, on a more permanent basis, and will be much missed by the large horseriding group that she set up. Visiting were Kitty's grandparents, all the way from New Zealand. The boys from Border College were also up learning about estate work and management at Kilchoan and also putting their shoulder to the wheel clearing ditches and the like round the rest of the peninsula. Hard work was also required at the start of the month to do some pretty serious repairs to the hydro scheme that serves Inverie with electricity. In the teeth of some horrendous weather a work team up at the dam had to cut out the trash box, re-align some pipe and then joint up some new sections. The burst in the trash box had elicited the comment of "imminent catastrophic failure" from a friendly engineer. But the repairs by Jim, Willie and Fred worked and are to be supplemented by more works in the coming month. The appointment of Gwen Barrel to the Powerdown post has meant some renovation work in the Foundation office and display room to accommodate the new member of staff. This work should be done by the time Gwen starts at the beginning of the June. May also saw the yearly round of vegetation monitoring. Other things of note for the month was a good lambing season round at Inverguserein, Chic's wedding tattoo, Victor's somersaults, the over-excitement of the end of the football season and the visit of the herring boat Reaper to the pier. May ends with a visit of the Waverley and a training course on woodland deer management.
Cheers for now
Davie Newton

It's getting busier here on Canna…with the holiday lets booking up we're seeing a lot of new faces and the return of a few familiar ones. Haste ye back! Best wishes to wee Joe who flew to the Belford with a broken arm (that wasn't easy). Thanks once again to the Air Ambulance crew…there were plenty of 'Ooh's' and 'Aah's' as the chopper flew past the viaduct and on towards the Ben…and that was just the pilot.
Cruise ships have been seen sneaking into Canna in the early hours of the morning. So far they've enjoyed the best of the weather (although tomorrow will probably be the exception) and seen the island at its finest…the croquet lawn trimmed to regulation length, the bins emptied and the rabbits culled. Our tour reps are prepared for anything…
A large number of Homecoming Newfoundlanders alighted on a very driech Wednesday, and made their way to the old homestead on Sanday. Perhaps the weather contributed in some part, but the occasion was certainly an emotional Homecoming for some. There was a small exhibition of photographs and information in the Rhu church; extra vehicles were drafted into service and everyone gathered to dry off and join in a few Gaelic Songs in the tearoom, which was going like the proverbial, er, Gaelic Song. Big thanks to Calmac, for helping out with the photo display on the Loch Nevis, and to everyone for helping out on a day which will have meant so much to many.
The School pootled off for a wee trip to Rum, just down the road…then it was on to the mainland for Small Isles Week. Barely time to check out the progress of the School garden plots at Canna House, but we're assured that things are progressing nicely. Wish the same could be said for my willow sculpture which remains at the stumpy stage and just the right height to impale a small child.
The new power regime has been established; few problems have arisen so far. We're missing our fresh breadmaker loaves in the morning, but it has to be said that it's very quiet here through the night without the generators (affectionately referred to as No.1, No.2 and No.3). All that can be heard now is the quiet humming of wistful melodies and the whirr of the treadle machine as we knit our woolly jumpers by the flickering light…etc., etc…
Now that lambing's over, it's off to the first of the livestock sales of the year at the weekend. The competition will be fierce, no doubt. May the best man (or woman!) win!
Geoff Soe-Paing

May has been a month of contrasts and none more so than in the weather. The first week as most of you will know it poured with rain but that did not ruin the basket course - it had to seek shelter in the Craft Shop. Jane Wilkinson was teaching square baskets which are hard work compared to the more normal round ones especially inserting the upright canes into the base but all the pupils achieved a remarkably high standard. Hard on the heels of the baskets came the food smoking course with Bill and Sukie Barber from Strontian. It too was rain proof as most of the action took place in Jenny's new kitchen. At the end of two days we ended up with a superb collection of smoked cheese, fish (including salmon) and a wide range of meats. Sandy Mathers even found some mussels so we smoked them too. The rain cleared and the sun shone just in time for Colin and Sharon's wedding anniversary ceilidh in the barn. The band, Allaidh Modhan, was great and played for many hours and though it was the first time we have had a band here without an accordion it did not seem to matter; they were great. Almost two weeks followed of sunshine and we made great progress planting potatoes and sowing turnips and game crop. Colin was in Arisaig with Wave mainly painting and he returned on Sunday with her looking smarter than she has for many years. Even the engine got a coat. Back to the social scene and on Sunday 17th came the culmination of four weeks of work by Margaret Greenwood -the concert. All the children played the keyboard and sang as a choir. The adults slightly depleted by absence sang together and Catherine Murray-John gave us a couple of quite challenging solos. Margaret has made great progress and it is sad there is no one to carry on the good work. The last event in May is the burial of Ann Nimmo Smith's ashes - more on that next month.
West Word could be out by the Open Day - the 7th. See you then
Lawrence MacEwen

Music Making on Muck
Spring saw a return to Muck for Margaret Greenwood, a music tutor and frequent visitor to the island. She was invited by CAMAS (Community Action on Muck for All Seasons) to provide musical opportunities for both children and adults, including the formation of a choir, piano lessons for the children and individual singing tuition. 'Margaret's Music Project' culminated in a musical performance in the school which was very well received.
The island's school children also benefited from her invaluable support as they composed and performed the music for their film project with Knoydart film-maker Sam Firth.
Margaret's five week stay has been both enjoyable and inspirational for those working with her and we very much look forward to welcoming her back to Muck in the future.

2009 CAMAS Events:

The children at Muck Primary school have been working hard for the last couple of months on a short film project with Sam Firth. All the hard work is about to be paid off at the film premiere on Sunday June 21st at 1.30pm on the isle of Muck. Red carpet has been found for the occasion and is ready to be laid out for Muck's budding young film makers and film stars! Everyone is going to get dressed up and the children are very excited.
There will home baking and even some bubbly to celebrate. The children will also perform a song they wrote for the film at the premiere. The film is called Aqua Bubble and is about a girl who gets trapped in a bubble at the bottom of the sea and learns an environmental lesson from some friendly, and not so friendly, sea creatures while she is there. As well as writing the script and making the film all of the young people star in the film too, which mixes live action with animation.
Sam first came to the school to talk to the children over a year ago. After success with the funders the children started work on the film in April. They are now at the final stages of editing the film. The project has been funded by First Light Movies, The UK Film Council, and Awards for All using lottery money. The children and Sam have also had a great deal of help in kind and otherwise from the community on Muck and would like to thank everyone for their support. Everyone involved has seen the children put a huge amount of work in and learn a lots too, while their confidence and team work as also grown throughout the project. The young people from Muck would love to share the film with their friends in the small isles and on the mainland, if you would like to come then the Shearwater will be visiting Muck that day leaving Arisaig at 11 am and returning 5.30 pm, calling in on Eigg on the way. Please book in advance to avoid disappointment! If you have any queries about the event please contact Sam Firth on 01687 462780

May started with a bang this year, a green bang, in the form of our first Green family festival on the May Day bank holiday. Despite weather spanning the four seasons in the one weekend, including gale force winds that send down one of the lovely yurts provided by Red Kite Yurts, and prevented some of our would-be campers from attending, the event was a great success. With children buzzing running from one workshop to another in the Lodge garden and adults zooming back and forth between the variety of talks and films provided, our green consciousness has been raised another notch. Watching the "Age of Stupid" made me for one feel extremely guilty about flying to France on a regular basis. Maybe it is time to lobby our rail transport providers so that rail transport can achieve a parity of prices with budget flight, as prices for overnight travel, say to London, are ridiculously high in comparison. With trains rarely full in our part of the world, something surely could be done to make them more attractive to customers.
More on The Giant's Footstep Family Festival in West Word's Green Column, as well as Eigg Primary gaining its first Eco-school Green Flag.
Meanwhile, we are continuing in our carbon reducing efforts by taking energy saving measures in trust properties: the solar panels on the Pier Centre should be operational any minute now, whilst double glazed windows and insulation are being installed at Laig Farm with work on Crow's Nest soon to follow. Rebecca Willis, the Green Challenge Fund judge who came to visit us on the 20th , couldn't fail to be impressed by all that activity, and congratulated us on our efforts so far. John the Bird - who has now reached the venerable age of 60 -Congratulations John, from all of us - is still concerned however that we should make more efforts to make the public understand the impact of climate change of the UK's seabird population, with breeding down again for terns, guillemots and kittiwakes on Eigg for the third year in succession, a very worrying situation which is replicated everywhere else in Scotland. The possibility of deserted, silent cliffs where there were thriving bird colonies is now only getting too real a prospect.
Our Freecycle Folk CD has also arrived (which prompted such a whoop of joy from Ailidh Morrison whilst serving a customer at the tea-room, that the poor man confessed to being very scared) and is on sale at the craftshop for the incredible sum of £10 for 17 tracks by musicians across Scotland - including our own Donna and the Laig Boys (who will feature on the 12th June line up which will include "The Chair" an eight piece line up said to have been the toast of the Hebridean Celtic Festival last year, as well as our regular guests) alongside Shooglenifty and Daimh and Boxclub.
Another great event is the making of brand new tracks to the Singing Sands and Five Pennies, as well as a number of passing places, courtesy of Gordon Mackenzie's team, who extended their good will to also improving Katie's track to her house. No more wading ankle deep through the mud to some of our most popular beauty spots!
Many thanks to Gordon and his boys, they definitely deserve a pipe tune written about them, come on Donna, this could be your bestselling tune for the next album…
Meanwhile, the island is getting ready to celebrate the tying of the knot between Hannah, the youngest daughter of Hilda Ibrahim, our Primary School head, who lives in London and Alban from Normandy, on Sunday 31 May. We hope the weather will make us proud for that happy occasion, especially as a French invasion has been forecasted…
Camille Dressler.

We moved into our new house in April and I have been so caught up in it that I've been neglecting reporting the Glenfinnan news in the West Word. Thank you to all our friends in the village who helped us during the build. Lots of people helped us at different stages and in different ways from helping with the foundations to painting the walls. We're not quite finished yet but when we are we'll be having a housewarming and you're all invited. It was neck and neck for a while but the Gibsons finished first and moved into their new house in March!
Warner Bros were back in the village flying around in helicopters filming the new Harry Potter movie and the Hogwarts Express aka the Jacobite Steam Train is back on the tracks for another season. The West Highland line has been voted the top rail journey in the world by readers of independent travel magazine, Wanderlust.
The Loch Shiel Spring Festival took place recently with lots of concerts in Glenfinnan.
The community council has decided to restart the campaign to reduce the speed limit on the main road, the A830, through the village. We will be working closely with Rudy from the Trust on this and Rudy will have a petition that you can go and sign at the Trust.
The annual village fun day will be a Fun day Sunday on 7th June at 2pm on the lawn at Glenfinnan House Hotel. It will start with a bogie race this year for a change so lock up your prams! There will also be all the usual fun and games and a barbecue.
There's been loads of parties going on lately. A village contingent took the train to Mallaig at Easter for an afternoon session of ceol's craic. Then they took the train all the way to Corpach for more ceol's craic in Tradewinds.
Happy birthday to Ingrid who had a giggly gathering and happy birthday to Grahaeme Young who had a barbecue to celebrate his 65th. I had a birthday too!
Sine Gibson celebrated turning 8 with a pyjama party and Katie MacRae had a party for her 7th birthday. Happy birthday girls. Donnie and Seumas have both turned 2! Happy birthday boys. David Robertson came home for his Stag do. They started at 10am with a shoot, then a cruise on Loch Shiel, a barbecue and finally a race night in Dougie's garage! An unlikely venue but a good venue as it turned out. The stags had a good time except for poor Pete who fell awkwardly and broke his leg badly. He was taken away in an ambulance and is now in Raigmore hospital.
There was a fly-fishing competition recently and only one fish caught the whole day. The weather was terrible too.
Glenfinnan House Hotel opened for the season so the Monday club has moved back in!
As usual, if anyone has any news please let me know.
Eileen O'Rua

Having limped through the winter months, the volunteers from Glenuig Tea-Room are gearing up for a busy summer season. The Tea-Room will be opened from 12 noon to 3pm Monday 'til Friday during May, and on Saturdays from the beginning of June. We have received unlimited support from Glenui Community Association, locals and visitors alike, for which we are very grateful. Operating from the scenic Glenuig Hall, the Tea-Room provides teas, coffees, lunches, fresh soups and salads and a variety of home-baking. We try to source all our ingredients locally, and if there are other small businesses in the area who can offer local produce for our visitors to enjoy, we would be happy to hear from you.
The Tea-Room can also provide catering fpr gatherings anf small groups, which may appeal to the many adventure tour operatives bringing visitors to our area. You can contact the Tea-Room by calling 01687 470226 or pay us a visit.
The Tea-Room Ladies

We're delighted that membership applications for the proposed community development company have been coming in, and at the last meeting on Thursday 21st May 2009 we registered some 112 full members, 6 Associate and 3 Junior members. This is an excellent result so far though there are some notable names missing and some geographical areas under represented. So if you haven't filled in that form yet - what's stopping you? Please get in touch if you have any questions or uncertainties.
Sleat Community Trust, whose Henry Mains came to speak to us at the open meeting at the beginning of the year, is immensely successful and, although their population is nearly twice that of Arisaig they started with only 50 members.
The Memorandum & Articles, which had been sweated over for several meetings, are now away with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, and we hope to have charitable status in three months. Meanwhile we will plan the election for Directors of the new company. One piece of good news is that we received a 'direction' from the Scottish Ministers to define the community as houses in PH39 4, instead of having to list all the postcodes; the latter would have involved a special resolution and meeting every time we wanted to add postcodes, such as that for the new housing scheme in the village.
We can't take anything further at present until we have an elected Board so we can't progress the playing field lease until then; but we hope the groups involved have been looking at funding options and starting to put some applications together for its upgrading, There have been five expressions of interest in allotments and we have three sites to consider at the moment.
More about how the Community Trust can work with the crofting community next month I hope. Meanwhile we will continue to meet to discuss such issues and look at any further membership applications and the next meeting is Thursday 25th June at 7.30pm in the Astley Hall. All are welcome.
Thank you to all who have registered as members so far, and to those who haven't - please do so, forms available at shop, Post Office and Hall, to be put in the box in the Post Office or sent to Membership Secretary Alison Stewart, Saleinn House, Rhu Road, Arisaig. Minutes of any meeting can be obtained from Hilary Trodd, 2 Beasdale Cottages, Arisaig.
Ann Martin
Chair, ACT Steering Group

The Reaper, the last sailing herring drifter, visited Mallaig on Monday 18th May. One of the crew told West Word 'We're delighted by the number of visitors. Normally we're part of a Gala Day or similar, when people are about anyway, but this tour is the first time we've been on our own, so we weren't expecting very many. But we've had over 450 folk come aboard!' The Gaelic TV channel Alba were present, filming and interviewing.



On and Off the Rails

First ScotRail 'Club 55' still open
If you are 55 or over, Club 55 is your ticket anywhere in Scotland (and as far south as Carlisle) for the flat fare of £15 return. Up until and including 30th June 2009, you can make as many trips as you like without having to join the club - as long as you are 55 years or over. If you hold a Senior Railcard or Disabled Person Railcard (over the age of 55) you can get an extra £2 off. Proof of age must be carried with you on your journey. You can buy tickets on the day of travel, but with free seat reservations available it is advisable to book in advance from any booking office. Seat reservations are so handy for the return journey. As others pile on and dash for a seat, you know that yours is reserved with a ticket on it. Remember you can request forward or backward facing in the direction of travel, a window table seat or a window airline-style seat, even near or far away from the toilet! If your journey includes going to Inverness, Aberdeen or Edinburgh via Glasgow (yes, it is possible!) you can upgrade to first class on the parts of your journey that have it for an extra £4 return.

Jacobite to commence 7 day week
Commencing Saturday June 27th, the Jacobite steam train will run from Fort William to Mallaig and return on Saturdays and Sundays as well as Monday to Friday. This will continue until and including August 30th. Please remember that if you would like to have a shorter steam train journey, say with the grandchildren, you can catch the Jacobite from Glenfinnan or Arisaig into Mallaig, and from Mallaig you can journey to Arisaig or Glenfinnan. If you see Florence (the guard) at Mallaig Station (Coach G) any day from 1.45 to departure time, she will issue you with tickets if available on that day. There is, as always, a well stocked gift shop on the Jacobite which is open to the public whilst the train is in Mallaig from 13.15 to 14.05 each day.

Glenfinnan Station's Homecoming event, Monday 15th June
As part of Scotland's Homecoming Year, and in conjunction with British Waterway's 'The Crossing' event (16th - 20th June) which celebrates the engineering feat which is the Caledonian Canal, Glenfinnan Station's Homecoming event hopes to attract descendants of the people who worked and lived in the area during this period of intense engineering activity. The day will start with an excursion from Fort William on the Jacobite steam train taking participants along the full length of the West Highland Extension to Mallaig (it is hoped some participants will be in period dress) before returning back as far as Glenfinnan. The rest of the day will involve visiting the exhibitions, a guided walk and a Navvy's Supper in the Glenfinnan Dining Car, with a talk by local railway author and historian Dr John McGregor. For the full itinerary and to book places, please see the website www.glenfinnanstationmuseum.co.uk or ring 01397 722295 between the hours of 09.00 to 17.00 daily.

Whilst on the subject of Glenfinnan Station Museum - congratulations are in order for the trustees of Glenfinnan Station Museum Trust for securing £15,000 from Historic Scotland's building repair grant fund as part of an intended £600,000 package of works designed to provide good conservation and archive facilities for the huge collection of railway associated memorabilia and artefacts, upgrade the whole station complex, including new and disabled toilets, disabled access, new car parking, junction improvements and major drainage works. The £15,000 award will enable the signal box to become an audio-visual studio and research facility.
The dining-car and sleeping-car and museum are, of course, open for the season. Telephone 01397 722295 for more details.

Unusual movements in and around Mallaig
Further to extensive sleeper replacement in and around Mallaig, a 'Plasser' hi-tech Tamping Machine appeared in the down loop at Mallaig to finish the engineering work, but owing to its unreliability it wasn't used very much, and it was back to basics, i.e. a shovel, rake and lots of elbow grease!


Weedkillers make an appearance along with an Engineers' Inspection Train
The 'special' trains visited Mallaig in May. One was Network Rail's dedicated Weedkiller, and the other was inspecting bridge and linework carried out during the last rail closure. The two trains can be seen standing next to each other in the platforms at Mallaig, a rare and unusual sighting of two very different engineering and maintenance units.

See you on the train!
Sonia Cameron


West Word ten years ago - June 1999

Paddle 25 miles in darkness along the southern coast of Skye. Complete a traverse of the Cuillin Ridge, one of the longest alpine-style rock-climbing routes in Europe. Paddle a further 30 miles across open sea back to the start point. All to be done in one continuous push, without rest, and within 48 hours.
Two friends, Tommy and Kieron, completed this challenge at the end of May to raise money for the Help For Heroes charity. There is no record of it having been tried before. We don't think they want to do it again! So far they have raised over £4000.
Tommy Kelly and Kieron Ross are both from Edinburgh. They became friends in 1994 while serving with the 4th Battalion The Parachute Regiment. Tommy was later commissioned into the Royal Marines and completed tours in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. They have undertaken numerous challenges together over the past 5 years and have no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Help for Heroes
Our wounded servicemen need your support. Please help us raise as much as we can on their behalf. All donations, however small, are greatly appreciated.
Further information is on our webpage:
and donations can be made online via www.justgiving.com/skyechallenge


Online ferry survey launched across Scotland
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Government have launched an online business survey as part of the Scottish Ferries Review. Businesses throughout Scotland's island, coastal and peninsular communities are being invited to take part in the survey, which should only take around 10 minutes to complete.
This is a key opportunity for any business that uses or depends on internal ferry services in Scotland, to contribute to the Ferries Review. The survey covers current use and satisfaction with ferry services and asks how possible changes to services would benefit businesses. The Scottish Government are carrying out this review across all Scottish ferry routes including all domestic and private services. The review will consider current provision of ferry services and what improvements should be made to meet future needs. This review meets the Government's commitment set out in the 2006 National Transport Strategy (NTS) to "develop a long-term strategy for lifeline services to 2025".
The NTS requires the Scottish Government to carry out "a detailed appraisal of routes" to determine whether a better structure could be developed in response to calls for new and faster connections serving those isolated communities, and a review of fare structures as part of the affordability of public transport.
To access the survey, please visit www.hie.co.uk/ferries-business-survey.htm
To find out more about the review, visit: www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Transport/ferries-ports-canals/14342/Review

CROFTING ROUNDUP - Joyce Wilkinson, SCF Area Representative

The consultation paper on the current Draft Crofting Reform Bill was published on 19th May. Crofters, Crofting bodies and other interested individuals are encouraged to comment on this draft by 12th August.
SCF Chairman Neil MacLeod said: "We are all aware that there needs to be an overhaul of crofting legislation, regulation and, critically, the support for crofting. We are looking at this consultation with optimism and at first glance it is a thorough document which attempts to address issues that came out of the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting. There are positive aspects such as the welcome move towards a more democratic governing body, but there are areas over which we will be examining possible consequences and which may need recommendation for modification. We will be widely consulting our membership on their views to inform our position."
SCF Parliamentary spokesman Norman Leask said "The most important thing is to hear what crofters think. It is gratifying to see that the Scottish Government will be out and about to hear crofters' views. The SCF will be gathering opinion from our members whom we ask to write, phone, email, attend local meetings, come to our meeting in Dingwall on June 23rd or visit our stand at shows. This is ground-breaking legislation and it is essential that your views are known."
There are 5 key areas to focus on in the Draft Bill.
Register of Crofts
A definitive new register of Crofts to be kept by the Registers of Scotland, to be known as the Crofting Register . The current register of crofts which is held by the commission will be gradually replaced as each croft ,whether landlord owned and tenanted, owner occupied or newly created, is recorded on the Crofting Register. Once recorded on this new register there will be no further challenge to the entry and it remains fixed as a permanent record. Boundary and other disputes will be settled through the Land Court if needs be prior to registration. It is expected there will be an increase in cases to the Land Court initially but once a croft is permanently on the Register there will be a sharp drop off of Land Court cases compared to in the past. There will be charges applied to registering your croft on the new Register.
There is provision in the bill to enable tenanted crofts to be used as standard security for borrowing without de-crofting. The proposals are to give crofters the ability to take a mortgage on croft tenancies using their tenancy as collateral. This proposal will give croft tenancies an 'official' value but there are worries to where this might lead. It will benefit those crofters who wish to build a house on their croft but do not want to de-croft the land first in order to raise a mortgage.
Reconstitution the Crofters Commission [to be renamed Crofting Commission]
The draft bill proposes the creation of 6 Area Committees of the Crofting Commission, our Area here would be under Skye Lochalsh & Lochaber . The draft bill suggests that these Area Committees will have a majority of elected crofters on them [Assessors] and will exercise all the Commission's powers in the local areas. There will be two Local Authority 'Assessors' appointed by the Local Authority to comment on planning, housing and economic development policy, and three assessors appointed by the Crofting Commission. Assessors will meet monthly and have their expenses paid for by the Scottish Government. Only someone who has their croft on the new Crofting register can be elected as an assessor.
Tightening regulation on Misuse, neglect and absenteeism
The Government considers that it will clearly benefit Crofting to have a body who will devote its entire resources and effort to the regulation and enforcement of crofting. The Commission will enforce misuse, absenteeism and neglect and this will also apply to 'owner occupiers', who under this new Bill will no longer be Landlords of a vacant croft but will be defined as owners of crofts living on their crofts. The Commission will now fix and recover charges for services provided, these seem quite costly on first glance and it seems from going through the Draft Bill that crofting will become more costly for the crofter but there is no provision for crofters being paid adequately for the public goods they deliver.
Occupancy Requirement. The Government response to the Shucksmith Inquiry agreed to look at options for addressing the damage to crofting resulting from the speculative value of croft land associated with inappropriate housing development. The draft Bill contains proposals for an occupancy requirement for housing built on de-crofted land. Enforcement will be by the Local Authority and there will be an appeals process. The occupancy requirement will be back dated to May 12th 2008,any Land decrofted for a house site after that date will have an occupancy requirement of 183 days a year. Anyone working offshore, in a care home, hospital etc will be exempt.
I have about 7 copies of the Draft Bill with consultation response sheets enclosed and anybody is welcome to them. I will leave them with Tommy in the Post Office. If you have views on anything in the Bill it is important you make them clear by responding.
There will be public meetings throughout the next few months to discuss the Draft Bill. The nearest one to our Area is in Fort William on the 17th June at 7.30 in Lochaber Hall, High St, Fort William.

Fishing news - John Hermse, Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association

Prices have increased slightly over the past few weeks. It's too early to say whether this was because of low landings due to poor fishing or a genuine increase in demand. However, any increase has been offset by the hike in fuel prices which have been creeping up over the last month or so.

Effort Regime
The Effort scheme which has been foisted upon our fishermen is an absolute disgrace and clearly proves the failure of the CFP and EU fisheries management. The effort scheme, which may just may give us enough fishing time this year, will be cut by a further 25% in 2010, unless we can get political support to overturn the unsavoury "agreement" reached at the 2008 December Council.
It certainly looks as if the collective EU Commission wool was pulled over the eyes of the UK negotiating team in those negotiations. Scottish fisheries managers and every fishing vessel will need to employ a whole rake of mathematical geniuses to work out the vagaries and permutations of the present system.
What makes the whole system really unpalatable, is that the effort scheme is supposed to save cod and restore the biomass to previous levels. This is a laudable principle with one flaw - the West coast prawn fleet does not catch or land any cod! A ruling built into the Cod Recovery Plan is supposed to derogate vessels which catch less than 1.5% of cod out of the effort regime. However the Commission have deliberately shifted the criteria on the derogation to ensure that no vessel can be derogated! No wonder I'm paranoid. One would be forgiven for thinking that the lunatics are running the asylum.

Common Fisheries Policy Reform
We welcome the strong indications given at the recent Fisheries Council in Brussels that the EC is committed to meaningful reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. There must be courageous steps to have a real and meaningful reform of the CFP. The consultation period on the Green Paper on CFP Reform lasts until the end of 2009, with the EU having until 2012 to draw up a new Common Fisheries Policy. The EC has made it quite clear that there will be no controls on their thinking and are considering radical solutions. This is to be welcomed - as long as the final measures agreed are workable.
The current system is patently not working and there seems to be agreement at the Fisheries Council that it is ready to let go and decentralise fisheries policy. The present policy of relying on the main management tools of restricted catching and restricted time at sea is not working.
There needs to be a more intelligent way of managing fisheries and this includes the decentralisation of policy where regional management can produce regional solutions. Scottish fishermen are already pioneering a range of conservation initiatives and we hope that yesterday's meeting of the Council signals the beginning of a real move towards a new and radical, meaningful and realistic approach to fisheries management."

Marine Environmentalism
The Scottish Marine Bill, and the Marine Strategic Framework Directive are two bits of work which are currently being worked consulted upon as we speak. The legislation will, amongst other things, allow the placing of Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) where they are required and no doubt in places where they aren't.
Environmental Organisations are working themselves into a frenzy to ensure that everywhere is protected to such an extent that you will soon be unable to look at the sea. No doubt there will be a whole raft of procedures to go through before you even allowed to go for a swim in the sea, with SEPA no doubt having to be called out (at a small fee you understand) to hose you down with disinfectant prior to immersion!
The producers are becoming fewer whilst the legislators increase. No wonder the Country's about bankrupt!

Wind turbines
Thanks to all who attended the Soup and Sandwiches for Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Association on Saturday 30th May, and especially to those who contributed soup and home baking, and came along on the day to help out. Unfortunately, we picked the best day of weather, and there were a number of other events on, so it wasn't as busy as it could have been! However, we did manage to raise just over £200, so thanks to everyone.
The committee met a couple of weeks ago, and looking at our financial position (we have less than £1,000 left in reserves), we decided that we had no option but to progress to the next stage with the wind turbine(s). This means that we will be applying for planning permission, as this will allow us to engage in more detail with the Highland Council on both the proposed sites. (The one at the end of the car park, and the other, closer to the hall, which would require a higher tower). Someone who uses the hall regularly has very kindly made a donation of £100 towards the costs of planning permission, so thank you to them - both for the money and for the vote of confidence in what we are doing.
We are aware that, although some people are very supportive, there are some concerns about the proposal. At the Soup and Sandwiches, we had a presentation running, and a document with 'frequently asked questions' answered to the best of our abilities. There was also a short questionnaire (3 questions and an option to add any other comments). We have decided to leave the information sheets and questionnaire in the hall until Friday 19th June, so if you have strong feelings about the project, please go in and complete one.

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical May, with the breeding season in full swing for many of our local birds, while there was still a steady passage of birds heading for higher latitudes to breed. Most of the passage birds involved waders, with sightings spread throughout the month. On the 6th there were 10 Golden Plover at Traigh and at least 6 Purple Sandpipers at West Bay, Mallaig. Whimbrels were seen at Arisaig Marina, Back of Keppoch and Traigh, with 23 seen on the golf course on the 8th. At Traigh there were at least 20 Turnstone on the 9th, 50 Dunlin, 8 Sanderling and 20 plus migrant Ringed Plovers on the 27th.
Offshore from Arisaig and Traigh, groups of Summer plumaged Great Northern Divers gathered, with at least 30 at Traigh on the 18th. An adult Black Throated Diver was seen on Loch nan Ceall to the West of Millburn on the 10th, while an immature bird was seen close to Arisaig Marina on the 14th.
The first Arctic Skua reported were 2 seen at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall on the 10th and an early Storm Petrel was seen between Arisaig and Eigg on the 31st. Both Arctic and Common Terns were back in the area from the 5th with good numbers of mainly Arctic Terns around the islands at Traigh by the month end.
There were at least 3 reports of Hen Harriers again this month in the Arisaig area. Two interesting reports for this area were a ~Sandwich Tern and a Slavonian Grebe, both seen on the 17th in the Arisaig area.
Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats were reported throughout the area as the month progressed and Chiffchaff and Wood Warbler were heard in Morar and Arisaig. spotted Flycatchers were reported from Arisaig and Mallaig by the 3rd week of the month. A Great Spotted Woodpecker is a regular visitor to a garden at Beasdale.

Seems most of the regular columnists actually managed to get their articles in on good time last month, so I had better not spoil the run by keeping to my usual timetable! Here I sit on the last Monday of the month with a blank sheet to fill - with what I ask myself rapidly reaching for the chronicle of my life! But I have the ideal excuse this month as I spent the first part on annual leave. Yes folks I do take a holiday. Not that most of you would consider a week in Fort William as actually being your choice, but there you are, and there I was! Every year since 1985 I have presented my eagle eyes - and the rest of me - to the organizers of the "Scottish Six Days" motorcycle trial to act as a marshal ("observer" to those in the know). This year was, I have to confess, not ideal. I suppose that some of you will remember the weather that we suffered at the start of the month? Well I stood out at places unknown to the man in the street! in it! The stupid thing is that I actually enjoyed it and have already signed up for the same punishment next year. Does this say something about the mentality of an ageing brain?? Anyway to continue….!
Just prior to going to the "Scottish" I shot off to Badaguish (near Aviemore) for a Ranger meeting. As usual not much of any import happened, but we did have a session with a good natured Gaelic speaker who gave us a rather interesting insight into some of the meanings of local hill and loch names and got a good laugh at our attempts at pronunciation! Of course there were a couple of smart bottoms (? It's a family paper) who had been studying and tried to shame us, but ach well there's always some! The other good bit was a selection of "reps" from some of the better outdoor clothing firms showing off their wares with the possibility that we might, just might, get some uniform gear that is actually fit for purpose, time will tell!
The last day of April saw me and 7 others braving wind, rain and cloud/mist as we tackled the longest walk that I do, "Sniper's Valley" at Lochailort. It was an interesting day as visibility dropped to around 50 yards as we commenced the descent from the shoulder of "An Stac". Thanks to the skills of the group - and the sturdiness of the seat of their overtrousers! - the steepest sections were negotiated. So poor were the conditions that I shortened the route by some couple of miles and all lived to tell the tale, surprisingly with smiles on their faces! To make up somewhat for my cutting down on the distance on the Lochailort walk, on the next stiff one "Glen Beasdale Circle" I took advantage of the fact that only 3 walkers turned up, all with youth in their legs! and did a lovely bit extra on a glorious day. Arriving at the usual lunch spot (1150ft.) I casually asked if anyone was in a hurry to get back -normal return 3 ish- and no one seemed in a rush, so I just led them on a merry dance doing a circle of the tops round the head of the glen returning tired and happy about five! Ach well it would be boring if you knew exactly what to expect!!
The week of the 18th to 22nd was put aside by all of us Lochaber Rangers as there had been a scheme suggested by the "Lochaber Outdoor Learning Partnership" to have all S2 pupils out for a "hill day" one school at a time. The idea sounded good to me, but for a reason unknown to me it was all cancelled and we Rangers were left with a blank week, too late to advertise any substitute projects, so I committed myself to mostly dramatically re-arranging/tidying/cleaning my office! This was achieved with some astute new shelving to accommodate printers, phones and the like, and a massive move on dumping reams of stuff that I have no doubt that I will need in the very near future, but at least I have now got sufficient desk top space to write some new stuff! I'm quite taken with it and it has sown some new seed about what else I might do to streamline even more!
But enough! As I write here looking at the scribbled messages/promises in the book I realize that I have a busy time ahead with school work in various guises and the walks beginning to get bookings in advance. It's nice to know that I'm still needed and appreciate all of the smiles that I get! I will fill you in on the last week of the month next time as I have to meet the deadline!
Be good, stay healthy and why not come along on some of the walks!
Angus Macintyre

June Walks:

This month West Word is shown being read in New Zealand and in Bracara! Lucy Henderson (nee MacEachen) from Arisaig writes:
'Well, you didn't think you would get off without a photo of the Hendersons in sunny Nelson, New Zealand, did you!! Attached photo taken on 1st June at the Marlborough Sounds, just north of Nelson. A beautiful, typical winter's day. We have been here in NZ for five years now, and in Nelson for nearly three of them. Absolutely loving it, and officially NZ citizens now! We keep up with West Word every month, which mum sends on faithfully. Great to see the road completed at last, I would love to come over to see it! Great also, to see the new housing in Arisaig, the community centres, etc. Best of all, is keeping up with the folks though! It's also great to see all the old photos in West Word; I particularly enjoyed the one recently of St Mary's School, with, I think, four or five of the MacEachens in it. I reckon I could name nearly all of them, what a blast from the past though. Well done, West Word, on a great newspaper!'

West Word also has an avid reader in Bracara, Scampi, who likes to peruse Deirdre and Alasdair Roberts' copy. Where do you read yours? Holiday time is coming up - don't forget to pack a copy and send us a photo of you reading it in your holiday destination! photo

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)

Daniel & Thomas Scullion
In the March 2009 edition of "Letters to the Editor" West Word had a request, from Richard Scullion of Dorset, for information regarding two deaths on the West Highland railway in August 1939. I believe that Richard has been contacted with information but it seems fitting that we remember and record the circumstances of the death of the two brothers who are buried here, distant from their relatives.
Richard's Scullion's grandfather, Daniel Scullion and Daniel's brother, Thomas were both workers on the new road being constructed between Lochailort and Arisaig - which work was interrupted by the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939.
On 12th August 1939, Daniel and Thomas were walking the railway track from Lochailort, back to the workmen's camp at Dail na Chrannaich, beside Loch nan Uamh, when they were struck and killed by a train, at Polnish Bridge - the footbridge at Lochan Dubh over the railway to the Ardnish path. At the time of the accident, the engine driver, Willie Letham and his fireman, John Archie Gillies, had no idea that they had hit the men. The bodies were discovered in the morning by the surface-man, walking the track.
The two brothers were buried side by side, in the cemetery of St. Maol Ruadh, in Arisaig. I received the next part of the story from Willie MacDonald, a native of Arisaig who now lives in Ardersier. Willie's uncle, Johnnie "Hamish", opened the graves, in the small portion of the graveyard where the "Curacao" sailors were buried in 1942. When they came to bury the sailors, the gravediggers uncovered the coffins of the Scullian brothers. They knew this as, the two coffins had been wrapped in tarpaulin for protection, in the expectation that they would later, be transported to Ireland. However, the exhumation of the coffins and their transfer to Ireland, at that time, would have been well-nigh impossible due to strict wartime regulations and so, the brothers still lie in Arisaig. I hope that Richard Scullion and family will be glad to know the location of their relatives' graves and will, perhaps, be able to visit them.

HMS Curacao
During WW2, the frigate HMS "Curacao" was mainly employed in escort duties. In 1942, with a crew of approximately 460 she was deployed to escort the "Queen Mary" into Greenock. The "Queen Mary" was carrying some 15,000 American troops bound for Britain. The "Curacao" met the "Queen Mary" about 200 miles offshore The "Curacao", as escort, was required to zig-zag in front of the larger ship in order to confuse the U-Boats. However, due to miscalculation or misadventure, the "Queen Mary" hit the "Curacao" and cut her in half. There was no question of the "Queen Mary" stopping to rescue the stricken sailors as, the threat from U-Boats was too great. 338 crew members were lost and 108 were rescued by escorting destroyers.
Several bodies were washed up in this district as were many more in the western Highlands and Islands. Seven bodies were buried in St, Maol Ruadh cemetery - one was later taken home for burial by his family. Six of the bodies were named but, the seventh was recorded as "an unknown sailor". However, an entry in St. Mary's visitor book a few years ago suggests that he may have been E.R. Dennis. One of the drowned sailors, CPO Lt. Cox was retrieved for burial by rowing boat from Sandaig beach by Big Willie and Ailean Mór "Lottie" MacDonald. The late Alistair MacDonald, Portnadoran, remembered, as a boy, seeing another body washed up on a little rock at Port na Luchaig.

St. Maol Rudha Cemetery. Graves of the Curacao sailors and Daniel and Thomas Scullion

When the gravediggers were preparing graves for the lost sailors of the "Curacao" space was at a premium so, three of the sailors had to be buried north/south, as opposed, to east/west, which is the traditional Christian way, looking to the east.

Ewen MacEachen. After last month's issue, David Gillis, descendant of Hugh Gillies and Martin Gillies of Mallaig Bheag, whose daughter Mary was married to Hugh of whom I wrote, has been in touch to say that Martin's genealogy can be found on page 78 of "A West Wind to East Bay" the pioneer families of East Bay, Cape Breton as recorded by A.J. MacMillan. It reads: This Martin Gillies was the son of Aoghnas, mhic Dhòmhnall, 'ic Anndra, 'ic Iain, 'ic Uilleam. 'ic Iain Glas 'ic Uilleam.
Martin never went to Canada but, three of his children did - Donnchadh (Duncan) Gilleasbuig, and Màiri who married Hugh Gillies, David's ancestor. Hugh's sister, Catriona was mother to Rev. MacEachen.
Seven generations of Gillieses, before Martin, at an estimated thirty years per generation, take us back to ca. 1550.
In January 2003, I mentioned the death of Donald Gillies, (1827 - 1914), Earnisaig, aged 88 years. He represented the tenth generation of Gillieses in Earnisaig and by the same calculation would take that family back to ca. 1600. Any more information would be appreciated. The Christian name, Martin, has been carried down to a present-day Gillies family, still in Mallaig.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

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