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Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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June 2015 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Photo Iain Ferguson, The Write Image
LOCHABER MOURNS CHARLES KENNEDY
|On the 12th June The Jacobite steam train carried a floral tribute to Charles Kennedy, who was Chairman of Friends of the West Highland Line. The loco also gave a whistle tribute as it passed his Lochyside Home and the wreath later adorned that night's Fort William - London Sleeper service, which the MP used regularly.||
Photo Iain Ferguson, The Write Image
Canna Community Shop Robbed
Sadly our community shop was robbed on the night of Friday 12th June. In the 4 years our shop has been run on an honesty basis this is the first time this has happened and we are all pretty gutted by it.
My heart sank when I went into the shop on Saturday morning to see the thieves had cleared the shelves of sweets, chocolate bars, coffee, biscuits, toiletries, batteries and other grocery items. Most upsetting of all to me was that they stole 6 of my handknitted Canna wool hats which were in the shop on a sale or return basis. The thieves would have had to fill carrier bags with the amount of items they took.
Sadly this means that we will have to lock the door of the shop overnight now. We left it open specifically to welcome fisherman in to use the wifi and to buy anything they needed whilst resting in at our pier overnight. The feedback from the fishing community was that it is a most welcome service. It is therefore very sad that the fishermen and others will now lose out.
On Friday night a fishing boat was in at our pier all night which we were told works out of Tarbert/Loch Fyne. If they have any information or witnessed anything please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If anyone else has any information about this crime please let us know or contact Hugo Martin at Mallaig police station.
With such a small community this is the only way our shop can be viably run to provide a valuable service to locals and our visitors. Thefts like this put our shop in jeopardy and may mean it will have to close which would be a real shame after all the hard work and voluntary hours that go into it.
Isle of Canna Community Development Trust
POSSIBLE DISRUPTION TO CALMAC FERRIES
Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services in the west of Scotland could face disruption after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union voted in favour of strike action.. The dispute is over job security, conditions and pensions and the union said it remained available for talks with the company to resolve the dispute.
The union has won 92% backing for walkouts and 98% for lesser action, in a 60% turnout of membership.
The unions' executives will now consider the dates and form of the action. It will have to give a week's notice of any strike.
The intensification of the dispute comes as Serco was shortlisted to bid against Scottish Government-owned CalMac to run its 25 routes. The union also has had a poor relationship with outsourcing firm Serco after it won the NorthLink contract from CalMac's sister firm in 2012. CalMac has previously said it would seek to minimise disruption if a strike was to happen.
Would you believe it's June already? May seems to have flown by, with not much improvement to the weather! My American friend Shay finds it hard to believe that we are all still wandering around in woolly hats and waterproofs. But indeed, as you will all have noticed, it's still baltic.
The start of May saw the return of Tommy, our much loved former postie and ranger, who visited for a couple of weeks and donned a pinny in the tearoom for a wee change, before heading off to Glastonbury to work. It was lovely to see him, although I think Amie particularly, had reason to be delighted as it meant she didn't have to deal with the compost toilets alone!
The tearoom has had a good month, getting back into the swing of the season as well as celebrating their 8th birthday and winning another TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Good job girls! It's good to have Alice back on the team again and we welcome Lesley, who joined the tearoom staff this year, from Mallaig. Evening meals are now being served from 6-9 Wednesday - Friday.
The volunteering day this month was a wood carving workshop, where new wooden "welcome" signs were created for the pier. It was great and the kids particularly did a fantastic job.
On the 22nd, Blue Rose Code and Danny Thompson, accompanied by special guests Ross Martin and Eilidh Shaw, played a gig in the hall. I actually don't know how it was, as I was away at Knockengorroch festival, but I will hazard a guess that it was a good night!
And finally, I would like to welcome Knoydart's newest family, Yasmin and the wee ones, Innes and Ivy, who have just moved into Tommy's old house over at Airor.
ISLE OF MUCK
Considering the weather we have not been enjoying for the month of May it is not surprising that visitors to Muck have been thin on the ground for most of the month. The exception has been the final week when we were very busy helped by 19 staying at Port Mor House. After months of work by Ewen and Judy it has been completely redecorated and a new hot water system installed. It has now reopened for self catering very suitable for large parties. Muck is very well supplied with holiday accommodation. You would be very unlucky if you could not find a space to stay somewhere on the island even at very short notice.
On the 17th a team of islanders repaired to the pier and within a few hours there was a complete transformation with everywhere tidy and all the debris from the second power scheme stacked above the slipway ready for the Spanish John to remove which she very kindly did on the 25th. Highland Council Roads Dept have sent out bags of tar scrapings desperately needed for the 300 metres of road between the pier and the 'main' road.
Progress but Robbie of Marine Harvest appears to be having trouble finding anyone to refurbish the waiting room.
On the 25th Jane the basket maker arrived for our annual basket making course. She had 10 pupils which was far more than normal and as every one wanted to make a different kind of basket it must have been hard going for Jane. One fine example is on display on Facebook!
Corn crakes are to the fore despite the hail. As there is very little cover many of the calling males are in gardens and one was right outside our bedroom window which was not conducive to sleep. Plenty of Cuckoos but swallows are very rare compared to a few years ago.
Finally if anyone would like a day's (or more) stalking on Rum the number to call is on Muck (01687 462365 or 01687 46237) where Toby or Dave will look after you.
Muck Primary School
We've had another busy month in school, which included a visit to learn about amateur radio as a hobby from a group who were visiting the island, and we got to speak to someone in Sunderland. Unfortunately the swimming trip had to be cancelled so instead we brought our bikes to school and had golden time with them. We went on our bikes and put up the recycling posters.
We have been in forest school and hammered the benches together. We also did some clearing and now we can get through the forest a bit more easily.
We have been exploring some of the possibilities using the new Nursery blocks, which have lots of potential for all sorts of learning across the school.
We are very excited about our new poly tunnel, which is now in place. We have a range of plants growing including melons, broad beans, strawberry plants, marigolds, nasturtiums, mange tout and sweetcorn. Special thanks to Dave Barnden who has been with us every step of the way .... and thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to get it ready for us. We have also made some rules for our poly tunnel.
We have also incubated and hatched some pheasant and partridge eggs in school as part of our learning about life cycles and they are being kept warm in the brooder.
We've enjoyed a joint assembly with Eigg Primary and we had a talk and a tale about helping others.
Katie, Kitty and David all went to the Parent Council meeting and we made a powerpoint presentation and we got some information because we stayed for 10 minutes or so. We gave feedback to the other pupils on what was agreed.
On Monday Gabe came for penny whistle and he brought Veronique (that is a French name). She taught us how to sing the song that we were playing on the penny whistle, also she taught us a song called Donald the piper, and that was really fun.
We're also busy preparing for the Muck Open day on Sunday 7 June. In addition to island tours we will be giving tours of the school, and showing everyone what we are growing in our polytunnel.
Katie and David
Lawrence helping us prepare for the Muck Open day on Sunday 7th June
ISLE OF RUM
More like February on Rum, we're still wearing our woollies and thermals, not a bare arm to be seen! Still the weather has not deterred the visitors, we are usually very busy in May and this year has been no exception with campsite full and all bed spaces pretty much taken up. The ferry has also been busy with coach parties - some coming ashore, some not, it's been a bit of a lottery on how many day trippers we get regardless of how full the ferry is, this has in turn had a knock on effect on the transportation of dangerous goods, (gas and diesel) though so far we have managed to keep everything fuel up, just.
Down at Kilmory the red deer project are busy with calving season, regulars Ali & Sean, Prof. Josephine Pemberton are all in residence with a number of volunteers picking up the slack too. Calving seems to be later than usual in recent years, but it will be interesting to see if this spring's appalling weather has had a significant effect.
We had a memorial service for Norman Webber on May 15th in the bluebell woods. His ashes were scattered, anecdotes were shared and his memory was toasted with a few cans of his favourite Tenants lager. The following day we had our celebration ceilidh for the anniversary of our community buy out and land transfer, the weather, yet again, had a lot to answer for, with a lot of folk not coming out for fear of being stranded and the ferry taking an unprecedented six hours to get here after some difficulties at Eigg. The band, stoic as ever, were in surprisingly good spirits on arrival and by the time they got playing it was way gone 10pm. That said, it was one helluva night, doesn't get much better than that.
Spring has been entertaining with Nic and Ady 's interesting WWoofers on the croft, Ivan from France, regaled us all with his gallic charm and demonstrated his gardening prowess and cake baking and Tom, the mystery man, happily still alive after a potentially fatal fall down a waterfall on his way back from Dibidil is now king of cardboard at the shop and stand in café man in the village hall. Whoever next?? It's also geology season, Luke the PhD student is already ensconced in a caravan doing hard time until the end of July and he has to cycle to Harris every day to carry out his work and the bunkhouse is fully booked for July with more students all doing their mapping work. The hills will literally be alive with the sound of little geology hammers going tap tap tap.
Sorcha, who is now 18, has finished her exams and left school. I'm not sure if any of our readers know, but when was the last time a Rum child went all the way through the local primary and secondary school? not in the last 30 years or so at least!
Canna school is over visiting this week, they have had a full schedule of activities including running a 'tiny café' for a day, adventures in Kinloch Castle and a boat trip to Soay. They will provide their own write up and pictures next month.
Looking forward to the elusive summer, oh and there doesn't appear to be any midges, really.
ISLE OF EIGG
Looking back on my entry for May last year, it is interesting to note that the trend for a wet and cold May is not a new phenomenon, as we suffered from the same cold and rain, although this year seems to be even more extreme towards the lower temperatures.
Visitor numbers have been slow to grow, when temperatures in England and in the continent are going the other way!
However, this has not deterred the intrepid Eiggach, who celebrated Beltaine with a fire in the community orchard, good fun and good work too as many brambles were cut down.
Our volunteers have been very effective with helping to tidy up around the hall, making steps and a new level, gravel filled area to make it more hospitable and user friendly, and get rid of the muddy slip sliding which has been the lot of our festival goers when weather has not been what has been shown on those the documentaries which if the weather is on their side, can sometime portray Eigg as a worthy alternative to the Caribbean.
On the culture front, Eigg being the host for the Right Lines theatre troupe to rehearse their new show, we were treated to the raucous and interactive premiere of their latest show, Rapid Departure. It felt so good to be exposed to live theatre again, and our 6 years old, not to mention older members of the audience, were spell-bound by the sight of all these grown ups' antics and pranks. An excellent night out altogether!
In case you don't really believe it, we also do serious stuff on Eigg at times, and the workshop organised by NHS Highland was one of these. It was good to be able to finally hear what attendance of the Nuka conference had brought to NHS staff and how they thought it could translate in the Scottish context. We had a good go at giving our opinions of what our strengths and weaknesses as well as our aspirations were through an interactive participatory process and it will be interesting to see the results of this exercise. In the meantime, we have strongly voiced our dissatisfaction with the current travel arrangements for surgery visits, which have resulted in only 50% of the schedule visits to take place, and in the case of Muck for instance, with less visits than ever this winter.
Another topic which exercised our collective brains was what kind of format we should use to collect the memories of the community buyout in anticipation of our 20th anniversary in two years' time. Various proposals have come on the table, but one thing is certain, it is that is crucial to record the memories of all those that were involved at the time. To hear the way the Landowners' Federation Chair was responding to Alastair McIntosh who visited Eigg this month after an absence of three years and who had been our main advocate at the time, was telling of the distance we have covered in 18 years already: even for the Landowners' Federation, community buy-outs are now part of today's Scotland, no more questioning of their achievements.
However, the biggest event this month was the one that brought together the communities of Eigg and Arisaig on the 23 May : Ewen and Jacqueline's wedding, with the church ceremony in at St Mary's in Arisaig and the reception in the Eigg Community hall, fabulously decorated with hundreds of fairy lights by Jacqueline and her team of helpers. With Daimh Mor providing the music for the dance, you couldn't have wished for better craic, and the spit of rain which luckily did not occur until after the pictures were taken, did not mar the feasting. Our twelve social and agricultural researchers from Brazil who were visiting the island that weekend thought it was one of the most wonderful parties they had been to, and that is saying something... We wish the happy couple the very best for their life together!
ISLE OF CANNA
May has been the wettest coldest that most people can remember, hopefully summer is coming soon! The island population has gone up to 25 for the first time in many years. Senior Ranger Peter Holden and his wife Liz have joined us from Mar Lodge where Peter has worked for the last 18 years.
Donald and Fiona MacKenzie have also moved here from Dingwall. Fiona is the new archivist for Canna House and Donald will continue to work remotely for HIE.
Lambs and calves have come through the spring well considering the weather and cattle sold at the sale in Fort William on the 29th did very well, much better than was expected. Good to meet up with Colin and Lawrence from Muck. Hope you have started book two Lawrence.
Connor Ryan of the Whale and Dolphin Trust gave an interesting talk in St Columba's Chapel on the 25th which was well attended by locals and visitors.
Lady Lovat Primary School Centenary Celebrations
The enthusiastic efforts and hard work of our pupils and the generous help and support from their parents and carers and their families, friends in the local community, past pupils and staff made our recent celebratory event a very special experience. We can safely say that the Lady Lovat Primary School Centenary was well and truly celebrated.
It was a pleasure to welcome so many people to the School Open Afternoon and again in the evening for the Children's Concert and Family Ceilidh in Morar Hotel.
From practical help with fetching and carrying, preparing and providing a buffet which was more reminiscent of a banquet, donating raffle prizes and tidying up after the ceilidh in Morar Hotel, the assistance, given so willingly and with such good humour, went beyond the bounds of our expectations.
The feedback from visitors and members of the community has been extremely positive, with many people remarking on the warm, friendly atmosphere.
The pupils gather outside the school with the sponsored balloons before preparing to release them.
A Time Capsule was prepared containing items chosen by every child, a special tree marks the spot.
The talents and skills of our pupils were well showcased and much admired. The children's enthusiastic and heartfelt rendition of their specially written Centenary Song brought a lump to many a throat and there was hardly a dry eye in the hall.
Local musicians Eilidh Martin, Ross Martin, Mairi Orr, Fiona Cameron and youngsters, Ellie Tevendale, Lachie Robinson, Kirsty Ann Duncan and Nathan Ritchie provided great entertainment, ensuring young and old were on the floor dancing enthusiastically to traditional tunes.
The pupils continued the fun the following week by releasing 100 Years birthday balloons and burying a time capsule containing one item contributed by each pupil in Lady Lovat Primary School.
By sponsoring balloons, entering the 'Guess the Baby' competition, buying raffle tickets and commemorative booklets, our school fund has benefited greatly from the event. A number of benefactors have also made very generous donations.
On behalf of all the staff of Lady Lovat Primary School I would like to reiterate our grateful thanks for every contribution made.
The afternoon's entertainment at the Open Afternoon included a series of sketches, written by the children, dramatising the life of the school through the years.
It began in 1915 with the children in costume enacting a class doing sums with a pupil unable to answer correctly sitting in the corner wearing a dunce's hat, and came full circle to the future, 2065, where a pupil was tasered by robots for not knowing her sums! In between were 1945 (school dinners), 1965 (playground games), and 2015 (teachers in the staff room).
TWENTY YEARS OF WEST WORD
Looking back... Twenty years ago - June 1995
Issue 8 of the first volume of West Word, dated June 1995, carried three stories on its front page. Well, two stories and a photograph really, the photograph being of Catherine MacDonald, of Lochaber Ltd's LEADER project, cutting the ribbon to declare the West Word office officially open.
The main story spoke of a Major New Regeneration Initiative for West Lochaber, highlighting the involvement of the Corrum Trust (alas as time would tell, initial hopes faded and the Corrum Trust moved elsewhere), while the other story spoke of the structured review of the fish farming conglomerate Marine Harvest McConnell following their recent merger. Two sets of newly weds smiled out from page 9: Jane Swanney and David Bird, Pauline Ross and Alastair Duncan; and whilst Tommy Ralston's book 'My Captains' was reviewed, Arisaig's first ever Road to the Isles Agricultural Show was previewed as was the very first Eigg Feis. There was a farewell party for Barry Austin in Eigg.... and Arisaig - popular chap Barry!!
Visual impressions of Alex the Policeman and Yuri the Russian Clown were provided by the children of Lady Lovat Primary School, Morar, and Bracara's Paul Galbraith, via a two-page spread (one page in Gaelic, one in English) told of how the Second World War impacted on the Rough Bounds of Lochaber. Other pages of West Word described the various community based VE day celebrations that had been held throughout the area.
As well as commenting on the risque Irish songs sung by Mallaig's Eileen McPhee, the Snippets told of how Angus and Anne Cameron waltzed around of the VE Day bonfire at Arisaig to the accordion playing of Alastair Fleming. Their son Hugh meanwhile was the runner up to Neil Trotter in a special VE Day driving test/manoeuvrability course organised in the West Bay car park by the Mallaig Police.
Page 21 in the June 1995 edition of West Word was devoted to that pest - the midge, while one of its favourite haunts, Traigh Golf Course was advertising its green fees at £9 per day and £40 for the week. The results of a local tourist survey, co-ordinated by Mallaig High School teacher Ann MacGillivray, were published and made interesting reading while the local fishing news was provided by Robert Stevenson of the recently approved West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation.
The Personal Angle column told of Oliver Reed's tete-a-tete with Teddy Leonard in Arisaig Bar and also displayed a photograph and rhyme in honour of Arisaig's David 'the Bronc' Macmillan's 30th birthday - happy birthday David, how does it feel to be 40? (make that 50!!)
Robert MacMillan (written in June 2005)
Ten years ago - June 2005
The headline in Issue No. 128 read 'Mallaig Pitch Shock' detailed the sudden padlocking of the gates of the all-weather pitch beside the High School as a health and safety issue. A fault in the design of the pitch had left a sharp edge all the way round the perimeter, incurring two accidents. The gates would remain locked out of school hours and only organised activities would be allowed. The School Board mounted a campaign to remedy the faults as the Highland Council seemed in no hurry to do anything once the padlock had gone on.
Other front page stories were The Jacobite celebrating its 21st year of coming to Mallaig, and the retirement of Rev. Alan Lamb after eleven years as the locum Minister of Arisaig and the Small Isles. The Arisaig and Mallaig Parishes had now merged.
Inside the issue, we had a lively report on the first Sound of Rum Music Festival held the month before. The new idea of an 'Arisaig Week' was taking shape with events planned around the Highland Games. T was hoped to have it earlier in the year in future.
A band of hardy individuals, the Ben Beauties, climbed Ben Nevis to raise funds for mallei & District Swimming Pool. Wedding photos were of Emma MacKay and Alistair MacKay, Dave Kwant and Heather Smith and Jamie MacDougall and Elspeth McPartlin. Happy tenth anniversaries to you all!
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR - June 2015
Saturday the 30th of May was a red letter day for the port of Mallaig - it was the occasion of the first ever visitation by a bona-fide cruise ship to the harbour. The French owned and registered Le Boreal - 142 metres in length - anchored off the harbour awaiting its 222 passengers who arrived from Fort William on the Jacobite steam train in the late afternoon.
In splendid sunshine the cruise ship passengers used the pontoon facility to board the ships tenders for transportation back to the ship.
Two cruise ship visitations are expected next year with Le Soleal due to visit on 26th May and Le Boreal for June 10th.
Le Boreal approaches Mallaig. Photo Moe Mathieson
Captain Erwan Le Rouzic was presented with a bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water
by Mr C. King to mark the occasion of the first ever cruise ship to call at Mallaig
Mr Charles King was appointed Chairman of the Mallaig Harbour Authority at a Members Meeting held in the West Highland Hotel, Mallaig on Friday the 5th of June.
Mr King, Vice-Chairman of the Authority for the past thirty years takes over from Mr Michael Currie who had held the position as Chairman of the Authority for a period of thirty years (May 1985 to April 2015). For two years prior to 1985 Mr Currie had acted as Vice Chairman to the Authority.
At last Friday's meeting Mr Anthony Kenning was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Authority.
MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG - May 2015
Sunday 10 May 2015
Lifeboat was tasked to go to the assistance of F/V Ocean Trust PD787 by Stornoway Coastguard at 12:50 who had fouled her propeller with her fishing gear. Her position was given as 1 mile from the shore of the Island of Muck. The skipper deployed his anchor which did not hold but the local fish farm support vessel Beinn Airean responded and towed the vessel away from danger. The lifeboat took over the tow from the Beinn Airean and towed the vessel back to Mallaig. The Ocean Trust was berthed alongside Mallaig pier at 1830hrs. The lifeboat was refuelled and ready for service at 1845hrs.
SPIRIT OF CALYPSO
Saturday 23 May 2015
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to go the assistance of a yacht aground in the Arisaig Channel at 10:30hrs. Whilst the Lifeboat was proceeding South abreast of Morar Estuary the casualty vessel reported that they had managed to refloat themselves off the reef and were returning to Arisaig to inspect for damage. With no further need of assistance the lifeboat was stood down and returned to port. Lifeboat ready for service at 11:00hrs.
Saturday 23 May 2015
A call from a workboat on passage South past the entrance of Loch Hourn picked up a clear transmission of a Mayday call from a vessel called Kalibre. The workboat replied to the call several times with no response from the vessel. The work boat reported the Mayday call to Stornoway Coastguard who launched the Lifeboat to investigate at 12:30hrs.Whilst entering Loch Hourn the Lifeboat crew spotted the Air Ambulance helicopter approaching the village of Arnisdale at the head of the loch. As the lifeboat entered the bay at Arnisdale the Air Ambulance Helicopter was sitting on the main road and its crew attending to someone on the foreshore. A member of the shore party rowed out to the Lifeboat to explain that he was the skipper of the sailing yacht Coal Ila. A diver had been diving to inspect mooring adjacent to their yacht when he surfaced unconscious. They promptly boarded their dinghy and recovered the diver. After broadcasting a Mayday for assistance and not getting a reply the skipper rowed ashore to Dial 999 from a home in Arnisdale. A crewmember on the Coal Ila was a Doctor and began to stabilize the casualty and transferred the casualty ashore to await evacuation by the Air Ambulance. With the situation in hand the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig and fueled and ready for service at 14:30hrs.
ABANDONED INFLATABLE AT TRAIGH
Sunday 17 May 2015
A cruise boat on passage South in the Sound of Sleat reported an abandoned/drifting 10 foot dinghy West of the Traigh area of Arisaig. A brief description and position was relayed to the Coastguard at Stornoway. The Lifeboat was tasked to launch and recover this craft by the Coastguard. The Lifeboat made for the initial position the craft was reported at and then proceeded down wind to locate the craft some three miles from its initial reported position. The Dinghy was brought onboard the Lifeboat and taken ashore once the Lifeboat was berthed back at the pontoon.
On & Off the Rails
Jacobite gets off to a good start
Despite concerns about The Jacobite steam train service (operated by West Coast Railways) being allowed to commence its 2015 season on Monday May 11th, a huge sigh of relief was heard all over Mallaig when the booked service went ahead as planned, and has been in service Monday to Friday, fully booked, to date. This was quickly followed by the afternoon service Monday to Friday one week later (earlier than 2014) on Monday May 18th.
The fears that the service wouldn't start followed the suspension of the operating licence following an incident at Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire on March 7th. Network Rail and the ORR (Office of Road and Rail Regulations) were both satisfied that the safety regulation aspects were in place, and that the West Coast Railways operating licence could be reinstated, allowing mainline operation. Seven aspects of Safety Regulations were required to be completed. Five requirements were in place by Monday May 11th. The remaining two are required to be in place at a later unspecified date.
It was (and still is) so nice to see all the shops, restaurants and local businesses that rely on The Jacobite to boost their income welcoming the visitors. All we need now is some of the dry, warm weather to help everyone enjoy their visit to Mallaig!
A big thank you must go to all who worked so hard to enable The Jacobite to commence the season on time. Network Rail, ORR and RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch) and all the West Coast Railway Management and staff at Carnforth who I know worked day and night to arrive at the conclusions which allowed the resumption of service.
The Saturday and Sunday morning Jacobite service will commence on Saturday 20th June until Sunday September 20th, and with an enhanced catering service on all Jacobite trains in both directions (please take note ScotRail operated by Abellio), a Summer of satisfied passengers should follow.
Since the start of the 2015 season, there have been two Saturday private charter Jacobites using steam locomotives. The first was an SRPS (Scottish Rail Preservation Society) charter on Saturday May 23rd, followed by a cruise ship charter on Saturday May 30th. The luxury liner, MV La Boreal chartered coaches to bring its passengers from Oban where the ship was berthed to Fort William where they joined The Jacobite for an afternoon trip to Mallaig. On arrival at Mallaig, the passengers boarded the waiting coaches (Shiel buses) to be taken approximately 300 yards to the Mallaig Yacht Marina to join their awaiting two on-board flit boats who shuttled them to the awaiting MV La Boreal which was moored offshore of Mallaig Harbour. All very 'James Bond'! Meanwhile, on the regular Jacobite service, we saw passengers from RMS Queen Mary 2 (again berthed at Oban and coached passengers to Fort William) shopping and eating in Mallaig, AND MV Lord of the Glens regularly uses The Jacobite for its guests! It is really good to see tour operators using the service. With the world-wide coverage of the Harry Potter films ad books, and Scotland's wonderful scenery (from our railway line in particular) and the welcome we give tourists, the feedback of all this 'connectivity' can only be good!!
Royal Scotsman News
Royal Scotsman continues to use the West Coast Railways to haul its sumptuous carriages to our area. It is sometimes not understood why it comes into Mallaig with no guests on it!! The reason is that they are taken off the train at Arisaig and coached round the coastal road by Shiel Buses for a trip to the beach. They rejoin the train at Arisaig fter dipping their toes in the Atlantic at Morar. It has been said 'Well, that's no benefit to the area!' but that is so wrong. The train is written about in world-wide newspapers and magazines, with accompanying photographs of our beloved area that can only encourage others to visit us. Videos and film of it also frequently appear on the Sky Travel Channel.
Having had the Deltic hauling it last month, it is now back to Class 37 and Class 47 haulage. But do not despair, Martin Walker (the owner of 55003 Meld) assures me that the Deltic locomotive is still stabled in Glasgow, and could easily be used on the Scotsman if required. Ha! Ha! At present it is permanently hired to G B Railfreight for transponder movements.
Owner of a Jacobite locomotive dies
After reporting all the good news on the Jacobite front, those of us involved with and around The Jacobite feel deep sadness on hearing of the sudden death of Bert Hitchen on Wednesday May 13th at his home in Mirfield, Yorkshire. Bert was the owner of Black 5 No. 45231 Sherwood Forester, used many times on The Jacobite. Bert's locomotive shared duties with Ian Riley's two Black 5's in 2014 along with NELPG's K1 No 62005.
Bert was well respected and liked in the world of steam locomotives. His biggest and most noticeable achievement was in 1980 when he purchased a scrap locomotive from a scrapyard in Wales. The locomotive was No 34027 Taw Valley and he paid £6.000 for it, without its tender. He had set a budget of about £10.000 in order to restore it to its former glory and condition. Cutting a long story short, the project nearly made him bankrupt, with a further £120,000 needed to get it a 'main line ticket'. In 1980 £120,000 plus was no mean sum, so it is a fitting tribute to Bert that his beloved Taw Valley is still operating on main line excursions today. There are not many men who have singlehandedly restores such a fine locomotive. He was helped along the way by his long term friend and buddy Neal (Bubbles) Henderson. Bubbles was his Chief Engineer, and if often seen firing The Jacobite usually either on Bert's Black 5 or NELPG's K1. We will miss Bert, dressed in his long blue Engineer's coat, wearing a Breton cap and smoking a huge Havana cigar, accompanied by his constant companion JJ, his wee Jack Russell dog. Bert was rarely seen on the footplates of his locomotives. He preferred to ride behind in a carriage, listening for a change of beat or for any strange noise that could need attention! Bert leaves behind a widow and daughter. Our sympathies go out to them. RIP Bert, we will all miss you.
Bert Hitchen (right) pictured on the train with driver Alex Iain MacDonald. Photo Steve Roberts
Competition Time - are you feeling lucky?
This month we have been fortunate to be offered a pair of tickets on either of The Jacobite steam train services, with thank to Florence McLean, Jacobite train manager, and West Coast Railways.
To be in with a chance of winning this prize, answer the following question… What date did The Jacobite run to Mallaig, exclusively chartered to carry passengers for the cruise ship La Boreal?
Answers on a postcard please to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD, to arrive no later than Friday June 26th. The winner will liaise with Florence McLean, Train Manager to The Jacobite, to agree on a suitable date to travel.
Short Horticultural Footnote
Cold winds and frequent rain are still persisting. The hanging baskets (seventeen of them) in place at Mallaig Station and the fourteen pairs of nesting seagulls are so far resisting them! Why so many, Network Rail? Each nest has approximately three eggs!! They are nesting alongside the track on Platform 2, next to the Heritage Centre, on the ballast and the surrounding rocks. The excrement has to be washed away every day from the platforms by Booking Office staff. I guess the gulls know that fish and chips is on their feeding list! The barrel trains and tubs are all planted, and at Arisaig and Morar Stations work is in progress! Everywhere the Scottish Bluebells are beautiful alongside the railway lines, as are the yellow gorse and broom bushes.
See you on the train.
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF ABELLIO SACKED IN FRANCHISE SCANDAL
Abellio chief executive Jeff Hoogesteger is to leave the firn without compensation over his involvement in a row over the awarding of contracts which has embroiled Abellio's parent company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS).
On Friday 5th June 2015 Timo Huges, the chief executive of the NS resigned after investigators accused him of trying to mislead them with 'inaccurate and incomplete' statements over how NS awarded a contract to an Abellio subsidiary. The NS boss has resigned with immediate effect and will not receive any severance pay.
In April Abellio took over the running of the ScotRail franchise for a minimum seven year term, with the option to extend it to 2025.
Both men have been replaced on an interim a basis by NS's chief financial officer Engelhardt Robbe.
The investigation centred on apparent irregularities in the awarding of a major contract in the Netherlands.
Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said 'However this does not directly affect the leadership of the franchises we run in the UK which operate under distinct local management. Matters in the Netherlands will run their course but our focus here must and will remain entirely on continuing to serve our customers well'.
SIMPLY THE BEST
We know we're the best, good to have it confirmed!
A feature in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday June 6th featured twenty of Britain's Secret Beaches in their Travel section.
No surprise that included are the Silver Sands of Morar, 'a series of pure white sandy beaches between Arisaig and Morar near the end of the 'Road to the Isles' from Fort William, one of the most scenic routes in Britain.'
The Places to Eat section of the article listed the Old Library, Arisaig and the Place to Stay was the Arisaig Hotel
BIRDWATCH by Stephen MacDonald May 2015
Still not very Spring like weather, but with many birds the breeding season was in full swing. Many recently fledged birds reported from gardens during the month, including Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks House Sparrows, Goldfinches, etc. Greylag Geese, Mallards and Lapwings all had broods of chicks during the month. Tawny Owls bred successfully in Arisaig and Long-Eared Owls near Traigh had several fledged young by the month end. Barn Owls were reported from Mallaig and Invercaimbe.
Many migrants still arriving or passing through. The most interesting report was of a Turtle Dove, first seen on the 17th in a garden at Invercaimbe. It was seen fairly regularly from then and was still present on the 31st. A Summer visitor mainly to the south and east of the British Isles, its numbers have declined by more than 90% since the late 1970s.
Two House Martins at Traigh on the 5th was the first reported. Tree Pipits were reported from Arisaig and Morar from the first week of the month.
Many birds still on passage to more Northern breeding grounds. More Whimbrel passing through, some stopping to feed in fields at Back of Keppoch and Traigh. A group of 20 were on the golf course for several days from the 12th, with 4 still there on the 24th. Still ones and twos along the shoreline at Traigh and Camusdarach till the month end. Also small flocks breeding plumaged Turnstones, Dunlin and Ringed Plover seen at Traigh and Camusdarach. Four Sanderling were at Camusdarach on the 24th and singles were seen at Traigh on several occasions from mid-month. Pomarine Skuas were reported heading north on several occasions, all from MV Sheerwater, including a group of 5 on the 19th.
A few stragglers still around. An Immature Iceland Gull was at West Bay, Mallaig, on the 14th. The adult Whooper Swan was on Loch nan Eala till the 7th. A single Whooper flying north over Camusdarach on the 8th may have been this bird. Great Northern Divers, many in breeding plumage, lingered offshore from Mallaig, Camusdarach and Loch nan Ceall throughout the month. Linnets and Twites were again recorded using regular feeders in Mallaig and Morar during the month.
A colour ringed Twite photographed in a Morar garden on the 5th was not as expected one of the birds from the winter ringing programme from the east coast of Scotland, but a bird that had been ringed on Deeside Naturalists' Reserve, Flintshire, Wales, on the 14th March 2015. A Lesser Redpoll that was caught by a ringer in the same garden on the 22nd April had been ringed at Catterick Garrison, Yorkshire, on the 11th April 2014, presumably on migration northwards. It just shows how far our breeding birds travel outside the breeding season.
World Wide West Word
Nicky Parish and Henrik Chart packed their copy in Morar and took it to Orkney where they visited the Ring of Brodgar.
Subscriber Anne Edser from Buckinghamshire tells us 'Although my husband David and I read our West Word near Egypt, there isn't a grain of sand or a pyramid in sight! We're cheating a little bit, as this 'Egypt' is a small hamlet in Buckinghamshire, about 2 miles away from our home.' Anne adds 'We've just had a lovely three weeks in Mallaig and are looking forward to our next visit in the autumn. Until then West Word keeps us up to date with all that's going on.'
How lovely to be taken cruising in the Med! Subscriber Catherine Hepburn (left) and her friend Jean cruised from Genoa to Venice, visiting Florence, Naples, Pompeii and Dubrovnik. Here we all are in St Mark's Square, Venice. Catherin lives in Lancashire and says 'We'll be coming up to Silver Sands in Arisaig in the middle of June, a bit later than usual, and look forward to meeting up with all our friends.'
Catherine Brown from Arisaig went to the USA with husband Steve and is pictured here with her copy near the famous paddle steamer Natchez on the Mississippi at New Orleans, Louisiana.
Kin Connections by Marlene (Màiri Éilidh) MacDonald Cheng (email@example.com)
This month I will describe for you how our ancestors buried their dead. My family were all Catholics, so my descriptions are mostly for Catholic funerals. However, many of our neighbours who were not Catholic had similar burial ceremonies.
My grandparents made sure we knew the process of a proper burial, teaching us customs that went way back, at least to the early 1800s. There were no Funeral Homes then. The wake was always held in the home of the relations of the dead person. The homes were small then, mostly cottages, with one large room, "the front room", where all the cooking, socializing, and inside work was done. The front room was used to accommodate friends and relations who came by to view and pray for the deceased person. There wasn't a lot of furniture, but some chairs would be available for the older folk who came to pay their respects. Some homes were very small and didn't have a proper front room. In that case, they would clear out a bedroom and the diseased person would be waked there.
In the old days there was no such thing as embalming. The body would be laid out in a wooden coffin, and the wake would last for two days and two nights. On the third day, the funeral took place. Even into my generation, there was usually no embalming. People were poor and couldn't afford to have their loved one preserved. Another reason for not embalming the dead person was that people were superstitious and afraid that the dead person might be thrown into a grave before they were fully dead. So they wanted nothing to do with putting the embalming chemical on the dead person. There was always one man in the community who was designated as the coffin maker. He had to be respectful and skilled at producing the wooden coffin for the dead person. The coffin would usually be made of 3/4 inch pine (so said my paternal grandfather who was a carpenter). The length and width of the coffin depended on the departed person's length and width. They would cover the outside of the coffin with black cotton material. Then they would make a headpiece called a "tucker" (it was pleated) out of a good piece of silk or some plain cotton, and this was put on top of a pillow around the top of the Casket. Sometimes they put the tucker all around the top of the coffin. Two women would offer to wash and dress the deceased. Then they would arrange the body in the coffin. The viewing was usually on the second day, so that the coffin maker had enough time to build the coffin. The corpse would be kept for one day and night and another day and night, and it was buried on the third day. If the dead person had been sick for a period of time, their face would look very thin and sunken in. Some people were squeamish and frightened to look at the dead person's face, so sometimes a white cloth was put over it. Once all was ready, the local priest would be sent for to come and anoint the dead person with oil and holy water, and to say prayers for the dead. The family and relations would be there when the priest arrived, and they would say the Rosary together.
I remember a story told by my mother about her Great Uncle, John MacEachern, who lived back of Judique, Cape Breton. When Uncle John died, there weren't any close relations around to help with the burial; they had all moved away from home. So four of the local men wrapped Uncle John in a blanket, strapped him to the bottom of the boat, and climbed in with him. My grandparents lived at Havre Boucher, on the mainland, just across the water from Judique. It was November and quite cold, so "the boys" pulled out their bottles of rum and home-made whiskey, just a wee 'dileag' to keep them warm on the crossing. They were quite 'in their cups' by the time they got Uncle John to my grandfather, Willie's place. None of them had a telephone in those days, so my grandmother and grandfather were quite surprised to see the entourage arrive. They got Uncle John into a Casket that Grandpa had in the forge, and put him on a table at one end of the parlour. Grandma was fussing because she could smell booze off 'the boys'. She had sent one of the young ones to fetch the priest to come and say the Rosary and anoint Uncle John, and she didn't want the priest to smell the booze. So she rummaged around the pantry and found a bottle of camphorated oil. She went into the parlour where "the boys" were sitting and proceeded to scatter the oil into every corner of the room. "The boys" thought she was scattering Holy Water and they all blessed themselves. Grandma never lived that one down, God bless her soul! After the preparations of the corpse were finished, word would be sent out, usually by word of mouth, and people would start arriving. There would be a full house each night, and some of the friends and neighbours would stay all night. The corpse was never left alone. The family had food for those who stayed all night; sandwiches were made, and cakes, and of course there would be buckets of tea brewed. People would stay awake with the dead person, telling stories, laughing and enjoying the fun. Someone would start to sing and everyone would join in. They sang some of the old Gaelic songs and hymns to help the passing of the dead person to his/her eternal reward. Ghost stories were also told. The men would go outside, if the weather wasn't too bad, to have a wee dram to toast the dead person and warm themselves. If a man got drunk, that was frowned upon, but allowances would be made. The next morning the people who had stayed awake all night went to have a rest and others took over the task of staying with the corpse. Several men would go and dig a grave in the Church cemetery and then they would come back and have a sleep.
On the 3rd day, at the designated time, the funeral procession began. The family, along with the priest and neighbours, formed several lines as they walked to the Church. Usually a piper led the parade, playing a funeral dirge. At the Church, the priest would say prayers for the dead. After that the funeral procession went to the cemetery where the grave had been dug. The casket was slowly lowered into the grave and the priest sprinkled Holy Water on it. After that, people would pick up a handful of soil and sprinkle it on the casket, so that the living would remember that one day they too would be lowered into the ground and covered with soil. Then, if the dead person had been a well-respected male or a chief (in early days), his genealogy (lorg-slighe) would be recited before closing the coffin. And that was the end of the funeral.
Best regards to all our readers! Stay well and happy!
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