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June 2016 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Relief, delight, concern, confusion, anger - we've run through all these emotions in the last few weeks.
General relief that CalMac had secured the tender for the franchise for the next eight years, announced on the 19th May, was tempered by the continued chaos caused by the redeployment of the Coruisk to Mull and the use of two smaller, inadequate vessels on the Mallaig - Armadale run.
So we greeted with delight the news from Ian Blackford MP on the 1st June after he had spoken with Mark Dorchester, CalMac's Managing Director, that the Coruisk was going to return to us. Concern and confusion quickly grew when CalMac did not back up this claim, to be followed by anger when Mark Dorchester not only denied the boat was returning, but stated that the change had been introduced after consultation, that the communities were pleased with the change, figures for the crossing were significantly higher than this time last year, and ended bizarrely by claiming that it was the various harbours' faults that such problems as tides were affecting the service.
Ian Blackford quickly responded by declaring that CalMac had made a U-turn, and he and Kate Forbes, our new MSP, met with Transport Minister Humza Yousef to present the case for the return of the Coruisk.
The truth of the matter is that, yes, the consultation was held but that CalMac ignored all our representations - in January it was even reported in the national press that Sleat Transport Forum had refused to accept 'under any circumstances' the deployment of the Lochinvar; the community which is pleased about the change is that of Mull, where the Coruisk has made it possible for the first time for islanders to commute daily to work in the mainland; and it is a very unfair comment on the harbours when Mallaig's linkspans have worked perfectly well for seventeen years. Improved numbers may be correct but it doesn't mention the 80+ cancellations so far this year, the passengers stranded, that tide timetables which change daily now have to be consulted by passengers and occasions such as in May when the Lord of the Isles left three hours early for Lochmaddy from Armadale instead of Mallaig because there was the possibility of high winds!
Not only are we left with the chaos caused by the tidal concerns and limitations of the three ferries now in use, but the situation caused a row between our community and that on Mull, caused entirely by CalMac's lack of engagement. Argyll MSP Michael Russell has also spoken to the Transport Minister, and Mull Councillor Mary-Jean Devon has said she would be speaking to the First Minister, with demands to keep the Coruisk. Ms Devon's point is that Skye has a bridge now and is no longer an island, unaware of the impact the change has made on Mallaig. Mull has fought for a long time for a better service and it is obvious that what is required in another boat of the same type as the Coruisk. However, now CalMac has ended speculation by announcing that the Coruisk will not be deployed elsewhere this year and that the situation will be reviewed for 2017. Perhaps the communities can gain common ground in the fight for another boat.
Caledonian MacBrayne is just not listening!
The Road to the Isles Marketing Group (RTTIMG) wrote to CalMac to ask them to reinstate the Coruisk ferry for the Mallaig to Armadale crossing. In recent months, the group has been asking its members to provide feedback from visitors regarding the ferry problems. We presented these facts to CalMac in our letter in the hopes that it would illustrate the problems:
- Coach companies had their early (first ferry) bookings put back to the 11 o'clock sailing for all their bookings throughout the summer. They are not happy about this.
- Many visitors are finding that they cannot get onto the ferry they had previously booked because it has been cancelled due to tidal conditions. Many of them are cancelling their bookings and having to drive for hours round by the Skye bridge.
- Those tourists who have not pre-booked the ferry are finding it is difficult to get a ferry at a sensible time to allow them to see the places they want to see.
- Many ferry users are complaining about the lack of facilities on the boats.
The letter presenting these facts was duly sent and a response was received on 1st June. The response was from Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac, and it basically said that we had it all wrong and that the coach companies were all satisfied and the new timetables had solved everything. It also said that extensive consultation last year had shown that the vast majority of the changes had been "warmly welcomed by those local communities". Well, I am sorry CalMac but it is you that has got it all wrong!
It is obvious that all the time and effort local communities have put into the consultation process last year and at the beginning of this year was pointless.
We knew that the introduction of the RET would result in increased traffic on this crossing and that is one of the reasons we were opposed to the changes. CalMac were just paying 'lip-service' to the idea of consultation and had no intention whatsoever of changing their plans whether they were opposed or not. And to say that the changes had been "warmly welcomed" is pure fiction.
Sarah Winnington-Ingram, Chair of the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, said "The Coruisk has done a good job on this crossing for several years and we need it back here. This unreliable service is seriously damaging the tourism industry in this area and on Skye. Something needs to be done now to prevent further damage to people's livelihoods."
Hilary Trodd, Secretary to the Road to the Isles Marketing Group said "We are somewhat stunned by the response from Martin Dorchester to our letter - it was almost insulting. Even when we present the facts, they tell us it is wrong! The revised timetables are hopeless and keep getting revised again so visitors cannot rely on getting the ferry at the time they booked. We will continue to gather information so I should be grateful for any feedback from local businesses regarding their visitor's experiences with the ferry. We need to gather the facts so that we can continue to put the case for the eventual return of the Coruisk - but will they listen?"
It's been a busy month as always here on Knoydart, with hoards of tourists flocking in. The bunkhouse has been flat out particularly, with Fiona rushed off her feet all month. The bike hire business, carbon cycle is doing well, with lots of people zipping about on the unmissable green bikes, especially noticeable when the suns out. It hasn't been a bad month after all the mental snow at the end of April, the kids and even me and a few others have braved a swim in the river or sea once or twice. It's only about now that the midgies have appeared properly too so that's always something!
Kilchoan's wee farm shop has now officially opened so that's something exciting, and Veronika is doing a great job out in Airor with her café. I think it's been a while since so many folk flocked to Airor on a regular basis! The gardens are coming along great, with lots of fresh salad in the polytunnels which is also available in the shop daily, as well as with your dinner from Morag's snack van! The Tearoom will be starting evening meals shortly as well, so we're spoiled for choice! They also have a new member of staff on the team, Danny, who so far loves the change of scene from Bristol. Can't say I blame him!
It's all been go on the media front this month too, with us appearing on Landward a couple of times and then Sam Firth returning to make a short film, starring Hannah Morrison from EIgg.
We had an amazing night for Galen's official 21st do, as well as former Knoydart resident Danny's 40th, with Fras playing. What a gig. Fantastic night all round and nice to see a lot of old faces appearing back on the scene for the weekend. There are two upcoming gigs in June which should be great as well, Talisk (who we've had before) on the 18th and The Turbans on the 30th, who I just happen to have seen at Knockengorroch and would definitely go to again! Going to be a good month I reckon.
ISLE OF MUCK
In April we had the heaviest snow for sixteen years but it could easily be sixteen years since we enjoyed a spell of unbroken sunshine similar to the one we are enjoying. When I have time I will check the diaries - it is all recorded. Sadly the fine weather of the past few weeks (and it has not all been fine) has largely been enjoyed by ourselves alone. It has only been in the last week that the island has been really busy with visitors with yachts heading for Port Mor accompanied by kayaks, ribs and power craft. Feeding everyone has been a challenge.
Out on the water east of the island Marine Harvest are attempting to find the Holy Grail of fish farming; salmon without sea lice so no chemicals in the cages. They are near it on Muck and several promising avenues are being explored.
And on land, on the farm pasture improvement is a theme helped by the super weather. 80 tons of lime arrived by Ferguson Transport and for the first time for several years one of the fields is being reseeded. All in an attempt to increase silage production. And at the cattle sale at Fort William prices were encouraging and 'well above sellers' expectations' to quote the jargon. Our cross Simental heifers did not reach last year's £1000 per head but some were close.
Now an entirely fresh subject - CalMac and the Tendering Process. It is probably just as well that CalMac won. It was the bad competing with the worse! I will have to leave Tendering, RET etc till the autumn but I will mention one event which shows that CalMac is at last capable of improvement (leaving aside Armadale!) Most islanders travelling wish to leave their island in the morning and return in the afternoon. The Lord of the Isles schedule fits that desire and she spends the night in Loch Boisdale, not Mallaig! That must be progress!
Back on the island preparations are well under way for a wedding this time in the hall and the band playing will be Skipinnish. Everyone is very excited but the wedding is the cause of the Open Day being displaced from its usual slot. It is now Sunday 19th and all West Word readers (and everyone else0 will be very welcome. Remember to book at Arisaig Marine. 01687-450224. See you then.
Isle of Muck Primary report
We loved the snow at the end of April, and we all slid down the hill. It was so fun going zipping down the hill at 100 mph!
We had a Spanish night fund-raiser for our school trip to Nethybridge outdoor activity centre. We really liked the churros that we dipped in melted chocolate. We also danced to a song called 'La Bamba' which was fast and fun, and a Spanish quiz. Thank you to everybody for supporting this.
Recently we had a visit to the Marine Harvest fish farm. We really liked the laboratory because you got to look through the microscope and see the phytoplankton. We also saw the fish jumping out of the water, and we liked the cameras. They went up, down, left, right.
The Eigg and Rum school children came to Muck for some science workshops with Generation Science, and they stayed the night. We wore aprons and glasses and mixed different liquids to see how fizzy they were, and also learned about the sound waves of different instruments. We enjoyed a joint meal at the Community Hall together, and the following day we went up Beinn Airein (see below). It was great because we were able to go up with our Eigg friends, and then play on the beach.
In the school we have runner ducks, white pheasants and a turkey. The ducks are quite smelly and messy, and the pheasants are very jumpy, sleepy and funny. They are eating lots and getting fat. Hugh and Tara also noticed three of their stick insects had also hatched.
We have done two litter picks, one in Port Mor, and one at Fanc Mor. We collected things we could find on the rocks, mainly plastic waste, but we hope to recycle some items and use them for our ship wreck theme.
Lawrence came in to tell us about ship wrecks that had happened on Muck throughout the years and during the war, and we have written reports. Zoe and Mark came in to School to help us design templates to decorate our outdoor classroom. Everyone did at least 2 animals, and they look amazing. Also, a basketry tutor (Jane Wilkinson) came into school to help us weave a bowl out of willow.
Thank you very much to everyone who has been helping us in School recently. It's been a really fun month!
ISLE OF RUM
May is always the best month of the year on Rum, there is so much happening and this year the sun came back, - we are sunburnt and happy and have been splashing in the sea.
Our annual anniversary ceilidh to celebrate our little community buy out was a stormer, as one band cancelled it was a mad dash to organise another at short notice but thanks to Sandra MacBeth, Iain Cameron and Hector Henderson for pulling it out of the bag 'Ghetto Tractor' style. We had a few old faces reappear for the occasion along with the familiar Davis clan who visit every year, that walk up Askival takes longer and longer as the years go by! Congratulations to CalMac on securing the ongoing Clyde and Hebridean ferry services, this ends months of uncertainty about the future of the Small Isles ferry Service. We also heard that CalMac are rolling out wifi for the fleet, so this will be on the Loch Nevis too, if not already.
It may be just the weather but it certainly looks as though day tripper numbers are on the increase. We were expecting more visitors on the back of the RET ferry fare and it certainly seems to be busier than last year. This is great news for the craft businesses and the shop. We are still short of available people to run the café in the village hall, which is operating on a minimal basis at the moment. There is an opportunity here for a seasonal business if anyone is interested…
More activity on croft 3…. Crocheted midges in the 'shed shop' and peahens running around with the rest of the birds now too, peacocks arriving soon. On the back of a successful grant application to 'Tesco bags of help' IRCT's ranger, Trudi, has been running a volunteer scheme to carry out a variety of tasks including a tidy up the village, so far there have been three plus a college group carrying out tree planting, it is going well and there is a steady trickle of volunteers coming throughout the summer, interested? Contact Trudi on firstname.lastname@example.org Rum primary has had a busy May with a day visit from Mr Jones and the children from Arisaig primary, followed by a visit to Muck with the Eigg children to take part in science and music workshops, it was lots of fun and really great for all the kids to get together, this doesn't happen often, maybe only at the annual Small Isle Games.
The campsite has been really busy this May and the arrival of Claire's Gypsy Wagon, which makes four cabins on the campsite now, makes it a busy place. Claire's gypsy wagon sleeps 2/3 and has a stove and cooking facilities, check out the Isle of Rum website for more details. SNH have completed a draft of their latest management plan for Rum NNR, there will be an opportunity to comment and a consultation event at the West Highland hotel on June 10th from 9.30am to 12pm, there is more information on the NNR website.
ISLE OF EIGG
What a wonderful month May has been on Eigg! Past the first few cold days as has been the trend for a few years now, the soaring temperature has made life very pleasant indeed! A super pod of dolphins was seen between Eigg and Rum with smaller numbers frolicking around the harbour and Laig bay. Song bird activity makes it a delight to take an evening walk in Cleadale and Dean Jones our new warden has now resumed his Wednesday guided walks. The Findhorn natural voice choir has come back for its yearly week workshop, and it was a joy to join them for a few sessions, allowing our singing groups to attempt the 4 part harmonies we rarely manage to achieve with our small numbers. An added bonus was to learn how to make vegetarian sushi with their Japanese cook!
Organising the Well Being and Health fair to mark the opening of the new Small Isles surgery premises kept our community health workers and island volunteers busy and it was a real success, with attendance by Muck and Rum - see the feature in this month's West Word! Larraine, who has completed her fitness personal trainer training has now enough forms filled in to start on her Small isles Gym funding application. Hilda, our retired head-teacher who is now going back to her textile art interests, coordinated the production of artwork for the waiting room: eleven healing plants illustrations produced by the school children and members of the community in a variety of media, which are as pretty as they are instructive. Eigg Primary school has also been very active in raising funds for the Malawi school they are twinned with: the cake and game stalls they organised were so well attended that £320.07 were collected to help alleviate the effects of famine in Nkhando School in Northern Malawi, by providing school children with food rations. Another African connection this month was the visit of a group of engineers - also from Malawi - that visited our Eigg electric scheme under the Community Energy Scotland international scheme, Community Energy Malawi.
The highlight of the month was the visit of the Great Glen big band led by John Whyte of Glenfinnan. It was a lot of fun to hear famous jazz standards performed with such gusto, and dancing went on well into the small hours courtesy of Andy, aka DJ Dolphin Boy who provided a matching set later on in the night.
Last but not least, thanks to Greg Milligan, the island is now almost free of old wrecked cars, and it was quite a spectacle to see all of them being craned on before he left absolutely fully laden. With the island roads now repaired to almost perfection by the council, it should allow our vehicles to last a bit longer before they reach that stage!
ISLE OF CANNA
Canna, like the rest of the Small Isles, has been enjoying good weather this month and it has been relief all round as the ground has finally dried out. The lambing season is over now and Gerry and Murdo are pleased with the number of new lambs especially the high number of twins this year. Also a good number of calves including twins. The good weather has also meant that the grass is growing well and much of the pasture land is now covered in spectacular wild flowers.
The farm also said goodbye to the last old tractor which was sent of the island last week so the farm and property can be operated with one small tractor, very efficient!
Cruise ships continue to visit and the 31 May saw the arrival of the MS Serenissima on a cruise round the Hebrides as well as the Faroes.
Canna House archivist, Fiona Mackenzie, has spent much of the month in Nova Scotia and Boston delivering presentations on the work of John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw. She did however find time to send us a picture of her with a copy of the West Word taken in Arisaig, Cape Breton.
The good weather has also brought a number of contractors to the island to replace sceptic tanks, carry out external house repairs and servicing of the gas systems on the island.
We also had a successful visit from some of the National Trust for Scotland Patrons who spent time on the island and visited Canna House. The garden is looking good after a series of volunteers have spent a considerable time getting it into shape as well as part-time gardener, Gordon Guthrie.
May has also seen the re-opening of the primary school on Canna with three children enjoying the summer term.
Colin Irvine has put together a short programme of concerts for the summer with the acts being; Scots singer, Alex Hodgson, on the 1st July, Roberto Cassani, a hilarious singer songwriter, 8th July, Kirsty Law, singer songwriter on 14th August and also the well-known Donald Black on the 26th August. We also hope to be able to tell you more about this year's Feis next month. For further information please contact Colin at Tighard Guesthouse.
Polytunnel wars continue and I made the mistake of being on the mainland for three weeks which has now resulted in my radishes now three feet tall and resembling turnips. My salad leaves are of a similar height and I fear that my fellow polytunnellers are secretly having a good laugh!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
May saw Canna House Archivist Fiona Mackenzie undertake a busy tour of Nova Scotia and Boston, to promote awareness of the work which Margaret and John Campbell undertook in North America from the 1930's onwards. As a recipient of a Finzi trust Scholarship, Fiona was able to travel to St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish in Nova Scotia to present a paper on the Campbell's work at the Celtic Studies of North America annual Conference. Both Margaret and John had very strong ties with St Fx and both held Honorary Doctorates from the University.
Whilst in Nova Scotia, Fiona travelled to Cape Breton and delivered several presentations to Communities and Academic Institutions throughout the Province, using the photographs which Margaret took during their travels there in the 1930's as well as audio clips of Cape Bretoners and even the Mi'k Ma'q Indian, singing and telling stories in the 1930s.
Fiona was delighted to be able to work towards re-establishing these important links with the Nova Scotian communities and hopes to build on these in coming months.
Fiona also undertook radio broadcasts and presentations in the city of Boston, which again has close links to the Campbells - John Lorne's great great great uncle Archibald Campbell having once been interned in the prison in Concord, Boston, during the American Revolutionary Wars. He was leading the 71st Regiment of Foot, Frasers Highlanders, at the time.
May also saw the first of the Canna House Garden Open Days for 2016, as part of Scotland's Garden Schemes and the next one is on August 13th.
A Write Highland Hoolie - Mallaig's Inaugural Book Festival
An exciting new literary event is taking place in the West Highland Hotel in Mallaig, over the weekend of October 21st - 23rd this year. When author Polly Pullar had a chance meeting with hotel owner Sine Davis, the pair discussed the idea, and from that a packed programme has now been put together for a fabulous weekend of literary celebration.
Polly whose books include Fauna Scotica - Animals and People in Scotland, and A Drop in the Ocean - Lawrence MacEwen and the Island of Muck, said: 'When Sine and I first discussed this, I did not expect to hear any more about it. I had just returned from chairing some author events at Wigtown Book Festival - my favourite literary event of the year. Buoyed-up with enthusiasm, I casually suggested a small book festival would be great for Mallaig. Once we had discussed it, I thought that was the end of the matter. However, I have since discovered that Sine Davis is tenacious, and works hard to promote all aspects of Mallaig. Mallaig is a place that has long been close to my heart. Having recently travelled back and forth to Muck whilst working on Lawrence MacEwen's extraordinary story, and had many visits to Mallaig in boats whilst I was a child growing up in Ardnamurchan, plus numerous sailing trips, I am thrilled to be so closely involved. We have been fortunate to receive support from the Moidart Trust, and have formed a small committee including Sine Davis, Deirdre Roberts and Ann Lamont - editor of the highly successful, award winning, West Word. We know there is much to do to make this a success, but are all extremely enthusiastic, and have a great line-up of authors, and we hope something to suit all ages and tastes.' The eclectic literary line-up includes, Donald S. Murray, Debi Gliori, Jess Smith, Sue Lawrence, Jim Crumley, Michael F. Russell, Polly Pullar, Angus MacDonald, Alasdair Roberts, John Love, Stuart Murray, and Camille Dressler.
Well-known children's author and illustrator Debi Gliori, will have her Hebridean Alphabet, hot off the press, and will delight children with her illustrated event, whilst Jim Crumley's The Nature of Autumn, will also be newly published. Appropriately given Donald S. Murray's success with Herring Tales, and Mallaig's long history with the silver darlings, he will be the event's key speaker.
The aim is for much community involvement. The event programme's cover will feature artwork by the winner of a schools' art competition, whilst budding young writers will have the chance to demonstrate their skills in a writing competition titled Fishing, to be judged by Donald S. Murray. There will also be a children's creative writing workshop.
Popular author and flamboyant storyteller Jess Smith, will attract old and young alike with her traveller's tales. And there will be a chance to sample some of award-winning cookery writer, Sue Lawrence's famous baking during her event, when she will chat about her latest departure as successful novelist. Musicians Elsa Jean McTaggart, and husband Gary Lister will be entertaining with their diverse musical repertoire, including contemporary folk sprinkled with bluesy jazz, dynamic jigs and reels, and haunting Celtic airs on fiddle, penny whistle and button box. Elsa will also be singing many of her own songs and captivating the audience with her vivid and amusing anecdotes.
Musical authors and guests are being encouraged to bring their own instruments in good highland tradition - this will indeed be a Write Highland Hoolie. The entire event takes place in the newly refurbished West Highland Hotel, with its panoramic view to the jagged Cuillin Ridge, and the Small Isles. A Write Highland Hoolie, begins on Friday October 21st with a pre-dinner reception launch for Angus MacDonald's debut novel set in the locality, Ardnish was Home, and ends after an early afternoon talk on Sunday October 23rd.
Sine Davis said 'I love the atmosphere of festivals and adding a book festival to the annual events in the area has been my aim since taking over the hotel seven years ago. A chance meeting with Polly last year, and many calls and emails later and I am delighted to be hosting a Write Highland Hoolie in the newly refurbished, West Highland Hotel, Mallaig. We would love to see this turn into an annual event, attracting visitors to this outstandingly beautiful area, extending the visitor season and boosting the local economy. As a mother of four I am delighted to involve local children presenting, organising and competing at the event. We have made this an important objective.'
Ann Lamont was a founder member of West Word, the award winning community newspaper for North West Lochaber, and had been editor for 16 of its 21 years. Ann said 'West Word owes its success to regular contributions from many people, both local and worldwide, most of who are unaware they are being creative writers. Good writing begins with reading good books and a festival like this will promote both.'
Deirdre Roberts said 'Brought up in Glasgow, I first visited this area as a child and it made a lasting impression. After bringing up a family and working with victims of crime in Aberdeen, I moved to Morar twenty years ago. Here I have a croft and breed sheep for fleeces which are specially suited to spinning, weaving and dyeing. This is an area of outdoor pursuits, on land and water, and of many wonderful traditional musicians. I feel there is a niche for a book festival which is waiting to be filled. Our first festival, A Write Highland Hoolie, this October promises to do just that!'
For accommodation at the West Highland Hotel - Tel: 01687 462210
Other accommodation is widely available in Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig. Visit the accommodation pages of the Road to the Isles web site.
Tickets will be on sale online later this summer
For more details on the authors and their works have a look at our facebook page or our new web site.
Taste the Wild - West Highland Food Festival, Mallaig Harbour, 10th September 2016
Last call for stalls!! Calling all food producers! If you would like to have a stall at the Food Festival you need to let us know now. Almost all the spaces are allocated so there is no time to lose. Just £25 will get you a stall for the day (we provide the table). Don't miss out on this great opportunity to get your produce promoted. Examples of stalls we have booked so far: honey, bread and bakery, smoked fish, coffee, local beef, venison charcuterie, venison, smoked food, soft drinks, beer, game, croft-grown vegetables, mussels, whisky.
We will have well-known Chefs Jak O'Donnell (from the Sisters Restaurants) and also Scott Davies (from the Three Chimneys restaurant) who will be giving cooking demos. We are also lucky enough to have Shirley Spear, Chair of the Scottish Food Commission and multi-award winner, founder of the Three Chimneys restaurant, to chair our 'Big Debate' panel which will be discussing issues concerning the fishing industry. Chefs from local hotels will be giving demos of various dishes and the same hotels will be providing guests with a four-course meal at the Scran n' Dram ceilidh in the evening.
There will activities available during the day - some specifically aimed at the younger people and we will be holding the first ever Prawn Peeling Championship! Then to finish the day a fantastic dinner/ceilidh in the community centre - dancing till the wee hours.
Calling all restaurants and hotels!!! If you are not already involved, you might like to take part in the festival by including a special menu based on locally-sourced food on the day. If you would like to join in, get in touch - we have a budget for advertising so why not make the most of it!
There is a web site and Facebook page for the festival which you can use to post comments and join in. Although it is being organised by the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, this is a community event and we want as many people to be involved as possible. All volunteers welcome!
Anyone who wants to take part or just wants more information should contact Hilary Trodd, Secretary to the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, via email on email@example.com or telephone on 01687 450740.
This event is being sponsored by Arisaig House, West Highland Hotel, Glenfinnan House Hotel, The Steam Inn and Arisaig Hotel. Sponsors providing in-kind support, supplies and equipment are Mallaig Harbour Authority, Mallaig Fishermen, Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research (West Highland College), Gram UK, Gordons, Camusdarach, L'Art du Vin, Brakes and Wellocks to name but a few.
Road to the Isles Food and Drink Festival is supported by the Community Food Fund, which is financed by The Scottish Government and has been created to promote local food and drink, in line with Scotland's National Food and Drink Policy. It is also supported by the Highland Council with a grant from their discretionary budget.
Mallaig Pool Refurbishment Project
Regular readers of West Word will be familiar with the plight of Mallaig & District Swimming Pool as a business; reliant on grant funding, constantly looking for investment, in need of repairs and modernisation. The strength and character of Mallaig Pool lies in the community it serves, the volunteers who freely give their time, and the staff who deal day in and out with an increasingly difficult building and working environment, with cold temperatures, failing pipes, and operational issues too many to mention. They do this with little complaint, such being the nature of a community enterprise - all service and stretched resource. It's the resource we now need to fix.
The Pool is wearing out and if it is to continue to serve Mallaig and the surrounding villages then things need to change. This is going to cost a considerable sum of money; somewhere in the region of £1.1 million. We've done the research, consultants have delivered reports, the costs are real and now we have to find the money.
We're therefore launching a major campaign to fund raise £1.1 million to refurbish and upgrade the swimming pool over the next 12 months. This will ensure Mallaig Pool is strong and sustainable for the next 20 years. This refurbishment is not only necessary; it's also a really exciting project and will give Mallaig an even better pool and fitness experience. You may have seen the refurbishment plans at one of the recent roadshow displays - or you can see it here within West Word with this month's insert.
We've asked Highland Council to help fund a part of this project so we can start essential works this winter. Their help would be a significant step towards securing the future of the swimming pool, and we are in close discussion with other funding agencies You can let them know how important this is for our communities by showing your support via our Facebook page and by coming up to the Pool and signing our support book. For us to reach our fundraising goal we are asking our community to help by donating here https://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/mallaigdistrict-swimmingpool/mdsp-refurbishment .
If you don't use the internet you can donate via your phone by texting MDSP00 and the amount you wish to donate [e.g. MDSP00 £5] to 70070. There are collecting boxes around the village, or you can donate directly through one of the staff at the Pool. Please help if you can, even the smallest amount will make the biggest difference. This is all about protecting this amazing local asset for the future. Thank-you.
ARISAIG WI TRIUMPHS AT FEDERTION AGM
The Lochaber Federation of Scottish Women’s Institutes held its AGM and annual Quiz at Ardgour, the host institute, on Saturday 14th May
Arisaig Institute had a very successful afternoon, winning three out of four annual awards. They received a silver tray for accumulating the most points in Federation competitions for the year 2015-16; June Cairns was awarded the trophy for the individual member who had gained the most points in Federation competitions in the year 2015-16; and their Quiz team won the shield, bringing it back to Arisaig after a gap of three years.
The fourth award was for art and won by Lynda Tillett of the Fort William Institute. Photos by Martine Young., Federation Press Secretary.
The winning Arisaig Quiz Team, l to r June Cairns, Margaret MacEachan, Yvonne MacDonald and Ann Lamont
ROAD TO BE CLOSED OVERNIGHT AT GLENFINNAN
Commencing on Sunday June 12th and lasting until Tuesday June 21st, urgent resurfacing work at Dearg, west of Glenfinnan, will mean the road is closed between 9pm and 6am the following day, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This will ensure the safety of the workforce as well as motorists. Traffic will be allowed through at approximately hourly intervals or when it is safe to do so. The resurfacing programme will move to the Caol Farmfoods junction on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd, from 7pm until 6am. The A830 will remain open for those two days with temporary traffic lights, but the junction will be closed during working hours with a signed diversion in place.
Bear Scotland are spending more than £350,000 on the improvements, which have been brought forward as a matter of urgency because conditions over the winter period have had a serious impact on the road surface, particularly at these locations.
Meanwhile work will be continuing until November to replace the bridges at Ranochan and Arieniskill 7 and 9 miles west of Glenfinnan, restricting traffic to a single lane with temporary road diversions.
New Health Centre for Small Isles
Residents of the Small Isles of Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna have a brand new health centre.
A team from NHS Highland had been working on the conversion of the former doctor's house on Eigg to a health and wellbeing centre.
Eigg's newest resident, three-week old Bryn Lovatt, officially opened the facility on Friday during a special Community Health Fair on the island. The director of operations for NHS Highland's north and west operational unit, Gill McVicar, said at the opening: "Today is the celebration of work NHS Highland has been doing with residents of the Small Isles for a few years.
"The resident GP on Eigg passed away three years ago, and we needed to review the model of care for the people of Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna. It provided us with an opportunity to do something different."
The model which NHS Highland and the residents settled on is one that is inspired by another remote community - only several thousand miles away.
"We worked with the community to find exactly what they needed, and we've put in a model of care that is developed from Alaska," Mrs McVicar explained. "The Nuka model of health and care services was created, managed and owned by native Alaskan people.
"The approach has been designed to bring about results by communities working together to achieve positive outcomes. We identified and trained four health and social care support workers based in the local communities to deliver health care to people in the Small Isles. There are three based on Eigg and one on Muck.
"We borrowed the Alaskan community health aid model and developed it here in Highland. There are five levels of training they can undertake, ranging from basic to advanced, and the beauty of it is that it is delivered by people living in these communities. They know the people they are treating, and they are more likely to remain within the community for longer."
The health and social care support workers are part of an extended integrated team that is supporting them from the mainland. "They report to the integrated team leader in Mallaig and medical care comes from Skye using our rural support team model," explained Mrs McVicar.
"We have three GPs that visit all the islands on a regular basis. They travel to Eigg every week, and twice every second week, and visit the other islands every fortnight. Using this model, we have been getting to know the health needs of the populations and working with them to deliver sustainable high-quality healthcare."
And it was the potential of the Nuka model of care that convinced residents to get on board with this innovative and creative way of working.
"We couldn't imagine any other way of working than having a resident GP," explained chair of the Small Isles Community Council, Camille Dressler. "We had to go through the process of exploring every alternative available to us.
"In doing so, we began to realise that the way GPs work has changed in the last 30 years. They are now very much part of a team, and the turning point was when we started to look at the Nuka model in a deeper way."
Mrs Dressler continued: "We liked the idea of having more community involvement and more say in how our care was delivered. We may have lost a resident doctor, but we are gaining access to more services.
"I'm very happy that NHS Highland has committed so many resources and is committed to new ideas and innovation because we think this is where the future lies for rural medicine."
It was a busy day on Eigg, as the Small Isles Community Health Fair was also held on Friday to mark the opening of the new health centre. NHS Highland healthcare professionals travelled to the island to deliver basic health checks, smoking cessation clinics and heart health sessions to the residents.
The senior medical director for quality improvement and chief medical informatics officer for the South Central Foundation in Alaska, Dr Steven Tierney, was a special guest on the day, and he was delighted to see the impact the Nuka model of care was having thousands of miles from home. "We have collaborated with NHS Highland for some time now, and we found that we have so many similarities in terms of recruitment and retention of medical professionals in remote and rural communities," he explained.
"One of biggest challenges in Alaska was finding GPs to work in such isolated communities - in some cases they would require a six-hour flight to get to these communities.
"We decided to train people from within the communities to deliver basic healthcare, as they are adapted to the lifestyle of living in remote and rural Alaska, and they will remain in the community.
"It's wonderful to have been invited to the opening of the Small Isles Health Centre and to see such community empowerment. The people of the Small Isles deserve a lot of credit for their resiliency and for embracing new ways of working."
NHS Highland staff at the opening of the new Small Isles Health Centre (l-r) Martine Scott, remote and rural programme manager; Fiona Matheson, business and performance manager; Melanie Meecham, primary care manager (north); Gill McVicar, director of operations (north and west) and Dr Angus Venters, GP.
News in Brief
Coastguard helicopter R951 was the victim of a laser pen attack on Monday 30th May while returning from a call out on Skye.
Extensive searches are still being carried out in the Glenfinnan to Lochailort area by Police and Coastguard looking for missing hillwalker Goffredo Bondanelli. Mr Bondanelli, 56, of athletic build, is an experienced walker and has visited Scotland many times. On Tuesday May 3rd this year he set off by train to Lochailort where he began what was intended to be five days of walking, taking in Munros. He may possibly have boarded a train on 8th May from Glenfinnan to Arrochar, Argyll, and perhaps made his way to the Isle of Arran.
Caledonian MacBrayne is rolling out free public access wi-fi across its network Almost half of the 200-mile long Caledonian MacBrayne network is now live with free public access wi-fi - and the remainder will be completed in early July. In total, 88 vessels and land-based locations will be switched on.
Salmon farm planned off Rum
Plans to site a salmon farm off the Isle of Rum, creating ten new jobs, have been unveiled by Marine Harvest Scotland. The farm would be one of the next generation of "open sea" farms being developed by the aquaculture company. The company unveiled their plans for a series of "open sea" farms to meet continuing demand for Scottish salmon in 2009. Since then they have opened new farms off Barra, the Isle of Muck and Colonsay.
As Ben Hadfield, Managing Director for Marine Harvest Scotland explained: "Demand for our product continues to grow and farmed salmon is one of Scotland's top exports. We have been successful in developing these open sea farms and this has created jobs in some of the most fragile rural economies in Scotland. Discussions with the local community on Rum so far have been very positive and we are delighted that they support our plans." Marine Harvest Scotland have submitted details to the council asking for their initial views on the project and what work will be required to prepare a full planning application. Known as a Scoping Request, this starts the planning process and is followed by a public consultation programme. Marine Harvest have already held an information open day on the island and have been discussing the plans with the Isle of Rum Community Trust, the Isle of Rum Community Association and local commercial fishermen. Local people, members of the Community Trust and representatives from Scottish Natural Heritage have also visited the Marine Harvest farm on neighbouring Muck to find out more about how it operates.
The salmon farm on the Isle of Muck has created ten new jobs on the island with new homes built to accommodate some of the farm staff. If the application for the Rum farm is successful ten more jobs would be created, including a farm manager and two assistant farm managers, and Marine Harvest plans to build new homes and a shore base at Kinloch.
Ben Hadfield added: "Our aim is to create a thriving and sustainable industry with a long term future and this new farm will make a significant contribution. Working with the local community is key to successfully developing a project such as this and we look forward to continuing to discuss the plans with them and hearing their views."
The hills are alive with the sound of ....ice cream van jingles!
This summer has heralded the arrival on the scene of not one, but two ice cream vans! And they have been greeted with delight.
Claudia Collins is Arisaig Ices - watch out for green and white van, 'POP's Ices. Claudia told West Word: 'When I moved to Arisaig I was fascinated by all the different vans that served the area - a mobile library, a butcher and even a cinema! But no ice cream van?
'I thought about my childhood and the memories I had, running down the hill calling an extended 'muuuuuuum, can I have an ice cream?' There was something about gathering around the van with your neighbours on a sunny afternoon.
'Having a sweet tooth myself and having previously worked in a sweet shop, and as a children's birthday party host, selling ice cream in one of the most beautiful places in the world seemed like a 'fab' idea.
'A very long drive to and from England and POPS the ice cream van was in the Highlands!' Arisaig Ices' maiden voyage was on the 7th May to convey bride and groom Susie and Ben Foster to the Arisaig Hotel for their wedding reception. The new Mrs Foster said 'It was an utter joy to travel around the village to the POPEYE jingle, it helped me to remain calm before walking down the isle and it made a unique start to a special day.'
POPS serves locals and visitors of all ages, stocking Isle of Arran Ice cream, soft drinks, sweets - old favourites and new crazy sour sweets as well as some healthier alternatives. And you can get a 'scoop' with your scoop - Claudia is also selling copies of West Word!
The van will be attending local events including the Agricultural show and Arisaig Highland Games as well as afternoon to evening rounds in Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig!- listen out for POPEYE the Sailor Man!
It can also be arranged for POPS to stop outside of your house to provide birthday ice cream, or you can hire POPS for a party. Claudia says 'One of the things I love about living here is the sense of community and I'd like POPS to be more than just an Ice Cream Van. Already some of the children have been designing ice creams to be displayed in the van window. '
Donna MacIver of Mallaig is driving the red and white Super Whip van. Donna told us 'After months of talking about maybe getting an Ice Cream Van, we scoured the country for just the right one. So off we went and finally ended up in Blackpool where we found our lovely little van.
'It was an easy decision to make to start the business. Because....who wouldn't like to be in this beautiful part of the world enjoying a Mr Whippy (hopefully in the sunshine!). So far it's been amazing, the support we have had from the local communities has been wonderful. The children have been so pleasant and well mannered. It's great to have them visiting the van and telling me all about the things they have been up to and the sauces we should try!' Donna is also delighted by the animals who are brought to visit the van - from dogs and cats to a hamster!
Far from Ice Cream Wars breaking out, Claudia and Donna are liaising so that they don't both turn up at the same time! Both are available for parties, weddings and local community events. Donna is out and about on |Friday, Saturday and Sunday, visiting Ardnamurchan on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a day off on Wednesday. Claudia will usually take Mondays off (unless it's a sunny day!)
More details for POPS can be found on Facebook at arisaigicecream, email Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 07432 494327 - or go to the van.
To contact Donna, go to Mallaig Ices on Facebook.
MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG
Saturday 30th April Sinking Vessel
Fishing vessel was reported to be lying heavy in the water alongside pier. By the time the crew assembled the vessel had sunk. The Lifeboat stood down, however, the crew present remained on scene to assist Coastguard and harbour personnel to clear other vessels from the area and deploy pollution equipment.
Friday 13th May Medivac
Launched at 06:18 to transfer Paramedics to Sandaig Bay, Knoydart by Stornoway Coastguard. A female who was holidaying in a seaside cottage was suffering from severe abdominal pains and was in need of urgent treatment. Stornoway Coastguard had also dispatched Rescue 915 from Stornoway. Once on scene at 06:22 the Paramedics were transferred to the beach by the Y-boat from the Lifeboat. Shortly afterwards Rescue 915 landed on the foreshore next to the cottage. Once the Medics carried out their assessments the casualty was stretchered to the Helicopter for transfer to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. The local Paramedics were transferred back onboard the Lifeboat and once the Y-Boat was recovered the Lifeboat returned to station and berthed ready for service at 07:40hrs.
Saturday 14th May Medivac
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie, Knoydart at 18:50hrs. A 71 year old male who was holidaying In Inverie was suffering from chest pains and in need of medical attention. Once the Lifeboat arrived at Inverie the Medics walked the short distance to the cottage beyond the pier. The Medics attended to the casualty and after carrying out their assessments it was decided that he did not require transfer to Mallaig. Lifeboat returned to Mallaig at 20:0hrs ready for service.
Sunday 15th May Fishing Net Fouled by Large Object
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to go to the assistance of a fishing vessel at 17:22hrs. Whilst fishing off the West Coast of Skye the vessel picked up a large boulder in one of her nets. The skipper proceeded to tow the fouled net towards shallow water in an attempt to "Bump Out" the boulder on hard ground. During this operation one of the ropes attached to the net got fouled in the propeller leaving the vessel disabled and anchored by the large boulder.
Once on scene an hour later the Lifeboat attached a tow rope to the vessel and commenced towing the casualty towards Carbost in Loch Harport, Skye. Progress towards Carbost was painfully slow due to towing the casualty and the boulder still in the net. The Coxswain and the Skipper decided to attempt to 'bump out' the boulder again in the shallow water at the mouth of Loch Ainort. Once a depth of 20 meters was achieved to everyone's relief the boulder did 'bump out' thus leaving the casualty able to retrieve her nets back onboard and the tow commenced for Carbost at a reasonable 6 knots. The vessel was berthed in Carbost at 21:20hrs to await a diver to clear her fouled propeller. Lifeboat returned to station and fueled and ready for service at 23:55hrs.
Tuesday 17th May Fishing vessel Atlantis
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of the fishing vessel Atlantis at 17:20hrs. The potter was hauling gear on the West side of Rum when the Skipper noticed a burning smell coming from the engine room vents. Opening the engine room hatch the Skipper found the engine room full of smoke and heat from the vessel's alternator. The bearing were failing and the drive belt was slowly disintegrating. Mindful that he was on a lee shore the Skipper cut the gear rope and steamed offshore before the belt failed. After trying to jury rig the cooling system with twine and rope without success the Skipper contacted the Coastguard as to his predicament. On scene at 18:20hrs the Lifeboat passed over the tow rope and made for Mallaig via Canna Sound thus circumnavigating
Saturday 21st May Possible Human Remains.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to locate possible human remains in Loch Eishort, Skye, at 13:40hrs. After an extensive search of the area nothing was found. Logged as a false alarm with good intent and the Lifeboat was stood down and returned to Mallaig berthing at 16:45hrs fueled and ready for service.
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR - June 2016
As we gear up for another busy summer season on the yachting pontoons a new finger jetty has been added to help with the mooring up of some of the small local craft.
As can be seen from the statistical table below, usage of the Marina in 2015 was slightly down on 2014 but now that the toilet, shower and laundry facilities are in place at the Marina Centre, the Marina should now begin to realise its full potential.
Overnight occupancy Short stay Locals 2015 1481 29 58 2014 2503 33 56 2013 1338 51 60
L'Austral Photo Moe Mathieson
Saturday 30th May 2015 was the date that the very first bona fide cruise ship paid a visit to the port. That was when the 142m Le Boreal, anchored off the harbour awaiting passengers who had travelled on the Jacobite Steam Train.
Well, that inaugural visit must have been voted a hit because this year we not only got a return visit from Le Boreal (Wednesday 25th May) but also her sister ship L'Austral (Thursday 26th May). The two vessels anchored off Armadale on the evening of Thursday 26th with their lights outshone by the lovely sunset over the Cuillin, Eigg & Rum. I'm sure the ocean going holidaymakers were impressed.
Further calls by Le Boreal are due on the 8th & 10th June.
Le Boreal Photo Rev Edgar Ogston
Colin handcrafts bench for passengers at Mallaig CalMac Office
A kind-hearted CalMac port assistant has handcrafted a special bench for the company's Mallaig Port Office.
Made in his own time from discarded pallets, Colin Fisher's beautifully painted bench has echoes of the golden age of steam and will make a welcome resting area for passengers.
It is meticulously painted in CalMac colours and features the famous crest, as well as stencilled lettering. Colin, who is from Mallaig and has worked for CalMac for two and a half years, is a keen DIY-er and was inspired to make the bench to use up the unwanted timber.
"We had quite a few pallets at the port from various freight deliveries," said Colin. "And I just thought this would be a nice thing to do with some of them. It's a good way of recycling the wood and it's something which everyone at the port can enjoy."
Port manager Nancy McLean is delighted with the new addition and said: "I can't praise Colin enough for his efforts and everyone agrees that it is very impressive. It has become a main feature here in Mallaig and draws a lot of attention. I think Coin is in the wrong job not that I am complaining!" The bench has taken pride of place at the port office and is already a hit with passengers travelling to and from the Small Isles and the Isle of Skye.
Colin relaxes on his impressive bench
ON AND OFF THE RAILS
Clarifications and corrections
Apart from thrashing myself with birch twigs (not too difficult in my own garden!), I can only apologise to TREVOR (not Kevin!) MacMillan for changing his name whilst congratulating him on joining ScotRail last month. Luckily, Trevor and his family saw the funny side of it and are still speaking to me. I know Trevor well, and his family! I saw his face as I wrote his name - and still did not realise my error until West Word was out on the streets! Too late then! Sorry Trevor, and I hope your training is going well.
Also I should have congratulated Marie MacBeth who is now a trainee driver working out of Mallaig depot. Marie was previously a Conductor out of Mallaig and carries the MacBeth name forward into the fourth generation of railway employed Drivers.
Scottish Railway Icons Book Competition - result
The winner drawn was Roger Edwards from London. A visitor on one of last month's touring trains, who purchased West Word, then a postcard, and put it in my box before leaving. His book has been sent to him. Congratulations Roger!
West Coast Railways and Jacobite News
Saturday 18th June heralds the morning Jacobite service, into Mallaig 12.20pm arrival, running seven days a week, until Sunday 18th September.
Added news just confirmed and announced this week is that the Monday to Friday afternoon Jacobite service into Mallaig at 4.40pm will also be running seven days a week from 2nd July to 28th August. This is such good news, both for Mallaig and West Coast Railways, and is entirely due to extra demand. Currently bookings are now being taken for these extra afternoon seats. Both First Class and Standard Class places are available, but not for long I'm sure.
Book online at www.westcoastrailways.co.uk. On the home page, scroll down to 'Jacobite' and proceed to 'Places to Stay' and you will see local establishments are taking advertising space. Find the West Highland Hotel and click on 'Home' to see a wonderful video taken by drone with really good music and it does Mallaig proud. To advertise your business around the West Coast/Jacobite website, call 0844 850313 and speak to the advertising department. Take a look at who is on there already, and enjoy the music!
The on-board shop on each Jacobite is always open whilst the train is in the sidings (after running round) and this year is being run by the on-board catering queen Marie Wilson (below) and her very loyal and hard working staff. The shop has had a makeover with lots of interesting and affordable gifts. Do stroll onto Mallaig platform and see for yourself. The 'Harry Potter' themed jewellery is well chosen.
Marie Wilson with the display of merchandise in the on-board shop
Passengers for the two cruise ships that were moored off Mallaig at the end of May totally filled the standard class one way for the two days. On Wednesday June 8th, the passengers will depart Mallaig using a chartered Jacobite steam train which is booked to leave Fort William yard at 05.00! Arriving in Mallaig after crossing with the early morning Sprinter en-route, it will shunt round after taking on water before the passengers board, having been transported by the ships' two flit boats in a series of trips, landing at Mallaig pontoons. It is booked to depart Mallaig at 7.50am. how many years can it be since three steam locomotives traversed the Mallaig/Fort William extension in one day?
Survey of Local Train Travel Needs
In the May issue you may have read about this survey. It is accessible online at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/westie The West Highland Line is your railway. It should serve your needs. The online version only takes five minutes to complete, and even if you only answer question 7, Would a daytime Sunday service be useful to you? (truthfully!) it could help show the need that we all know is there. Please help if you can.
Even if you might read elsewhere (one article so far) the headline 'Bus rumour dismissed by ScotRail', you and I know as frequent travellers that although currently new drivers and conductors are being trained, and it is true that there are no staff vacancies now, the situation exists when due to staff holidays, illness, etc, if a driver is available for a shift but a conductor is not, then the train is required to travel with no passengers - who follow by road in coaches, not only between Mallaig and Fort William but sometimes to Crianlarich or Glasgow, usually at weekends. Equally, if a conductor is available and a driver is not, then the train stays in the sidings and coaches replace it. Rarely are there any 'spare' Fort William staff to give additional cover, but when they can they come up by taxi to do so. Until the training staff are fully qualified, this situation will exist and there appears to be no way round it. Usually, if a train runs as a replacement coach, with luck the passengers can travel on the next train, but not if it is the last one into Mallaig! It is a sad situation, and a hard one for booking staff who carry the brunt of the angst. Hopefully we can soon put this period behind us and enjoy a full and happy railway journey of a lifetime!
On Saturday June 4th, the 16.05 service to Glasgow was a 'driver only' train. The passengers travelled on three hired-in coaches. Consequently, the 23.35 service returned 'driver only' and passengers travelled in by road.
Hopefully the shortage of fully qualified Conductors has now been resolved. As of Monday June 6th, Caren McPate and Trevor MacMillan are fully fledged Conductors working the Abellio/ScotRail Class 156 Super Sprinter services out of Mallaig to Crianlarich and return. This brings the Mallaig pool of Conductors up to the full complement of four. Congratulations to both of you and Good Luck.
,p>Station Adoption News
Sonia's lovely hanging baskets on Mallaig Station
If you are in Mallaig, spare a moment to enjoy the flowers planted on the platforms and the hanging baskets. The barrel train at Morar crossing is now fully planted and soon you will notice new bird boxes, installed safely, at Arisaig Station. Hopefully they will get used!
See you on the train.
THE WORST DRIVERS IN BRITAIN?
WE DON'T THINK SO!
We've all been surprised by statistics released last month by the Department of Transport which states that the worst drivers in Britain live in Arisaig - and the second worst area is Morar!
But look at them more closely. Statistics can be made to say anything.
The statistics are based on the proportion of people with penalty points on their licences. They reveal that 15% of people holding a driving licence in Arisaig have at least one penalty point - which the Daily Record claims means 200 people in the PH39 postcode. Since there are only 450 residents in Arisaig, and not all by any means owning or driving a car, this is clearly bad mathematics. 15% of 450 is 67. There would need to be a population of 1340 (all car drivers) for 15% to be 200 people.
Morar was revealed to have 13.6%, which, given its population of about 250, there would be all of 34 people with at least one penalty point - if they all drove a car which they don't. The Daily Record didn't reveal how many drivers they estimated Morar had.
And of the careful drivers of Mallaig only 8% have points, according to these statistics!
So, if it is true that Arisaig, with 15% of its drivers - 67 people - has the highest percentage in the country, remember that a postcode in a large town may only cover a few streets, not the whole community as it does with us.
BIRDWATCH May 2016 by Stephen MacDonald
On the whole, a very pleasant month weatherwise. Lots of waders passing through and many more of our summer visitors appearing. During the first two weeks, there were widespread reports of Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, Grasshopper Warblers, Blackcaps and Wood Warblers.
Spotted Flycatchers were seen near Loch nan Eala, Arisaig, during the last week.
Whimbrel passage continued until about the 20th, but the peak was during the first week, with over 40 birds in one flock at Traigh, another at Gorten containing over 20 birds with smaller groups at Back of Keppoch, Invercaimbe and Portnadoran. Twos and threes of Black-tailed Godwit accompanied some of these flocks, along with small numbers of Curlew, Redshank and Golden Plover.
Migrant Dunlin and Ringed Plover numbers built up during the second week, with flocks of up to 100 birds seen on the shore around Traigh and back of Keppoch, on some days seen feeding on the shortcut grass of the golf course greens. They did not hang around, moving through quickly with the good weather.
Ten summer plumage Turnstone were seen feeding with Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the strandline in front of Traigh House on the 18th.
A late Iceland Gull was seen near Muck Harbour on the 28th. The leucisitic Great Northern Diver was seen regularly up until the last week of May, with the 18 other Great Northern Divers at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall. On the 30th, two summer plumaged Great Northern Divers were seen from the south shore of Loch nan Ceall, just off Millburn cottage.
Black-throated Divers were noted on Loch Eilt and Loch Morar. Red-throats were seen offshore from Morar and Camusdarach and flying inland to breeding lochs.
Twenty-nine Common Scoters were seen off Luinga Mhor, Arisaig, on the 2nd.
Mandarin Duck - photo Ronnie and Martine
An unusual find was a drake Mandarin Duck that was first reported from Loch nan Eala on the 9th. It was seen several times during the rest of the month, on Loch nan Eala and the canal, sometimes down near the outflow into Loch nan Ceall. Not a native of this country, but has become established in many areas further South and East of here as a result of escapes or deliberate releases in the past.
Many of our breeding birds produced their first broods during the month, with juvenile Siskins and Goldfinches appearing at seed feeders. Newly fledged Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Robins were also reported from many gardens. Fledgling Goldcrests were being fed in a Morar garden from the 23rd and a brood of nine Blue Tits were seen leaving a nest box in a Woodside garden on the 31st.
Dippers were seen feeding young near Rhubana and around the hydro dam on Loch Morar during the second half of the month. Newly hatched Lapwing chicks were seen at Invercaimbe during the last week.
On the 28th, a bird seen briefly in a garden at Traigh may have possibly been a male Rosefinch.
A baby owl in Arisaig, feeling the heat at the beginning of June - photo Ronnie and Martine
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
To maintain domestic harmony in a certain household, here is a photo of ash and rowan leaves and a few pointers on how to tell the difference between these trees.
Ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), in the olive Oleaceae tree family, tend to have four paired leaves and a terminal leaf (a total of nine); and the leaves are not very saw-like round the edges. By contrast, Rowan or Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) grows its leaves in groups of 6 to 8 paired leaves and a terminal leaf (a total of 13-17); rowan leaves have obviously serrated edges and are usually smaller than ash leaves when fully grown.
Ash trees can be identified when the leaves are off by the hard black buds. The bark is olive-greenish grey, but in Lochaber with the clean air, the trunks are often hidden by a covering of lichens, mosses and liverworts. Ash trees in woods tend to grow on richer, less acidic soils in Lochaber. The ash seed takes 18 months from falling before it germinates, that is in the 2nd growing season after it was formed on the parent tree. If you see signs of the ash die-back disease please report it to the Forestry Commission.
Rowan trees are in a different tree family, the Rosaceae, and are more closely related to Whitebeams and Wild Service trees which are in the same genus. The name rowan derives from the Gaelic ruadh-an = the red one. The red Rowan berries are a welcome autumn feast for birds and animals such as pine martens, the seeds pass through and this is why rowans may grow far away from other trees. Rowan trees were often planted by homes in the Highlands as they were considered to protect the inhabitants from harm; and some Scottish emigrants took this tradition to Canada and New Zealand.
This year oak trees were definitely out in leaf before ash - so, hopefully, that means we are in for "a splash" rather than "a soak" !
Dr Mary Elliott
References: H.L. Edlin 1978 The Tree Key
W. Milliken & S. Bridgewater 2004 Flora Celtica
AA Book of the British Countryside.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
Julie and Ray Gordon from Arisaig packed their copy of west Word to take on their mammoth trip across the USA. Here they are in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Brian Whiley, Morar, visited Albania recently and met up with Fiona Hunte (daughter of Morar's Hilary Runcieman) who lives there. Brian took Fiona a copy of West Word and here she is with two of her children at the QTU Centre in Tirana. Did you take the boys the Lego too Brian? They look very pleased with it!
Phil Wren, retired Mallaig and Lochaber Coastguard Manager, sent us this photo of himself at the Palace of Knossos on Crete. Phil says 'This is me keeping up with the Mallaig goings on. I miss everyone up there very much.' Glad you're keeping in touch Phil!
Michelle and Scott Anderson packed their copy of West Word when they left Mallaig for a holiday in New York, where they browsed through it in Central Park.
Fiona Mackenzie, the Canna House archivist, packed a copy to take with her on her trip to Nova Scotia and Boston to give presentations on the work of John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw (see page 14). Here she is at Arisaig in Nova Scotia.
Pam, Grace, Elle and Duncan took the West Word to the 5km Race for Life in Inverness. Thank you to everyone who donated money to Cancer Research.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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