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June 2023 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Photo by Iain Ferguson - Alba Photos
Vintage MacBraynes Buses Spotted in Mallaig A fleet of vintage buses returned to familiar routes from the 1960s when five original MacBraynes buses arrived in Fort William at the end of May. Organised by members of the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust, the buses returned to the roads on which they were once much-loved sights, when their distinctive pale green and brick red livery was instantly recognisable to locals, and they provided vital transport links in the Highlands. Isobel MacPhee, from Caol, took a nostalgic trip out to Mallaig on one of the buses, saying, 'I am delighted people are preserving the fleet so that those in the present day can experience how we got about the Highlands decades ago. MacBraynes buses played a really important part in the lives of so many, and it is lovely to see them in action once more.'
West Word Goes On Tour!
Gaelic supergroup and local legends Dàimh are just back from a month-long tour of the USA and Canada which included their first ever visits to British Columbia and Idaho, and took in Washington, Oregon and California too.
They took the School of Dàimh on the road with them as well, holding a weekend of tunes, songs, sessions and craic on the Island of Guemes, Washington!
Along the way, Ross Martin scored his second 'Sylvester Stallone statue World Wide West Word photo' in British Columbia, where Rambo was filmed!
Dàimh have a concert coming up in Fort William next month.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Visiting the area? Welcome - I hope you enjoy our local paper. Another packed issue this month!
Phew! This weather's a bit hot for me. No rain to speak of for over a month, and no substantial change to the forecast for the rest of June. Let's hope we can avoid any more major wildfires.
I have to be away at the beginning of July so next month's issue will be a bit late - my apologies. Please do send your contributions at the usual time though - I'll be working on the paper when I can.
My thanks as ever to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for looking after the envelopes. And now I'm off for a swim!
May has been a fantastic month, it's almost definitely my favourite month of the year. The Bluebells, Hawthorn, Gorse and Broom have been resplendent and we've been blessed with almost wall to wall sunshine. About time! The nice weather seems to have encouraged an influx of jellyfish, of varying species, one of which, the Barrel Jellyfish, is a particularly large odd looking thing. It certainly puts you off taking a plunge off the pier that's for sure. The Swallows are plentiful and building nests everywhere you look (please note, if you do not want a nest on your house, they seem to be scared of mops being waved around furiously...)
Woody's fishing business has been off to a good start, with some interesting catches, including a terrifyingly enormous Conger Eel and some Thornback Rays. The Mackerel are starting to come back too, with diving Gannets being seen more regularly.
There's been a marked increase in the numbers of visitors, despite the disappointing news that the pub was not going to make its opening date due to a variety of factors, but mainly due to significant delivery delays and a slight workforce shortage. The guys (Mark, Davie, Will, Wallace and Tom) working tirelessly are doing an amazing job though, and it'll happen when it happens. Currently there is no specific new date but hopefully it won't be too far in the near future! Adverts are out looking for front of house and kitchen staff in anticipation, so if you know anyone or are interested get in touch. In the meantime, the shop is doing a roaring trade and keeping people happy and well stocked. The new link with the bakehouse in Mallaig is going down a treat, where you can order from the bakehouse and it will be delivered to the shop for collection on a Tuesday.
The Waverley Paddle Steamer returned after a few years, bringing its load of visitors who enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon and were able to get a beer from the shop and a pub T-shirt from a stall set up outside.
After a good few weeks on diesel genny while the hydro works were completed we are now back onto our own green energy which was a welcome relief. Toby and some of his crew have been busy laying the underground cable for the section between Kilchoan bridge and the old dairy transformer which should mean that there will be much more stability in that section of our transmission system as it was prone to branches and geese hitting the line, knocking the power out temporarily.
Lambing at Inverguserain has finished, and there were more twinnies than usual this year, but nice for them not be born amongst pouring rain and snow showers for a change. One of Jim and Kristy's cows has also produced a very adorable set of twin calves!
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
We all love when the sun shines. New buds appear in the garden, rusty old BBQ's get trundled out from the back of the shed and even the grumpiest of Highlanders have been known to crack a smile whilst showcasing the summer boiler suit (arms out and tied round the waist) but with such dry weather comes the danger of hill fires and sadly the Glen was subject to a blaze on the 25th May.
Along with the local fire engines and beaters, we also had the addition of the helicopter. Watching the skill of the pilot fly down to the loch to scoop up water was quite a sight and of course a huge thanks from all in the village to the volunteers near and far who came out to help.
The pedestrian crossing, situated right outside the National Trust, is still under construction. I am hoping that I can report back next month with not only the completion of the lights but also the success of this new installation.
There was a full house at the final concert of the Loch Shiel Festival held in Glenfinnan Church. Megan Henderson, Su-a Lee, Alistair Ian Peterson and Maxwell Quartet delighted a sold-out audience with music from Megan's album, Pilgrim Souls. We are very lucky to have The church of St Mary and St Finnans to host such musical treats and a big thank you to Frances Whyte for all your hard work in making this happen.
As we move into the busy months, please be mindful of the 'in the middle of the road photographer', 'the wild animal feeder' and my personal fave, 'The immediate out of nowhere, left turn'er'. I find a wry smile coupled with a polite reassuring nod can help if faced with any of these encounters.
Is goirid a ' mharcaicheas esan a'gheibh each reimh ehiall
(He who gets a horse before he gets sense will get a short ride)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Costa del Muck calling . . . Well what an absolute spell of weather we are having out here in the West, which is both a blessing and curse, as no rain = no water so we need to be careful and conserve just in case the dry days continue.
The woolly flock have begun to be sheared, and none so grateful than them, as every dog bowl has been drunk and every bench scratched within an inch.
Muck also had a brand new baby, Èibhlin Heather Grace (8lb 3oz) so huge congratulations to Murn and John who are marginally more excited than us! Our oldest resident (Rosie) met the youngest recently.
Over the last week there was a private family McEwen moment at the cemetery as Lawrence's headstone was delivered and set upon the grave; still can't get used to not seeing the red tractor trundling along the road.
We had a fabulous visit from all the other Small Isles schools who had a lot of fun with various workshops on the beaches and in the woods with camping thrown in; it was a very lively atmosphere and I'm sure there were some late nights under canvas. It has been a very busy Port at the moment with a steady flow of yachts and cruisers and some larger boats.
Well guys, that's it from us this month . . . back to my Pina Colada and beach chair!
ISLE OF CANNA
The farm was busy coming to the end of lambing with only three stubborn mothers remaining in the big barn. I think one of them was just along for the ride and wasn't actually having a lamb. There's good eating in the barn at this time of year! The farm also took delivery of two new bulls - one red Belted Galloway and one shorthorn. Resplendent beasts of muscle and sinew landed ashore and straight into Hen Run Park to enjoy the Canna grass.
The month of May brought preparations for the legendary Canna 10K Trail Run which took place on Saturday 20th May. The weather was overcast and cool which I am told is better for running than blazing sunshine. We had a new start and finish line this time around so Pete was out measuring the course and putting in markers for year on year accuracy. The day before the run he spent the day hammering all the painted signs for the 10K ensuring all the runners knew where to go and how far they had to go.
Simpsons Builders made a very fetching finish line!
There was a good atmosphere on the day and we had 48 Runners plus their supporters.
First place female: Katrin Bach - 0.51.04
Second place female: Stephanie Morris - 0.52.31
Third place female: Amy MacDonald - 0.54.30
First place male: David Allaway - 0.49.26
Second place male: Andrew Moss - 0.51.20
Third place male: Alastair Cunningham - 0.52.20
All runners were around the course pretty quickly and most of them crossed the finish line with a smile on their faces! Each runner received a goodie bag and was treated to the hearty BBQ manned by Dod and his son, David. The ceilidh started at 7pm with the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band leading the dancing. They are a superb ceilidh band and had everyone up and dancing in no time. No reeling injuries this year to speak of!
In the following days, the island had a quiet, subdued air after the busyness of the weekend. We also had a cruise boat visit that day so on that Saturday the island was absolutely heaving. A reminder to residents of what the arrival of the Summer season is like. I had forgotten how busy it gets after the quietness of Winter. It can be a slight shock to the system.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
This June sees the 'handing over' of Canna House to the contractors who will be undertaking the extensive programme of renovation works on the House over the next two years. The House and Garden will be completely closed to visitors in the intervening months but we hope that everyone will be excited to see how the House emerges at the end of the work. The project will include the implementation of a comprehensive 'interpretation' plan which will form the basis of the new Visitor route. A new Archive wing will also be installed which will mean all of the Archives will now be housed together rather than spread out through the House. All of the furniture and Collections have now been moved out of the House, most of it for the first time since Margaret and John Campbell bought Canna in 1938. Keep a watch on the Canna social media channels for updates on progress!
June is also the month in which John and Margaret got married in 1935. When folklorist John Lorne Campbell married American musician and photographer Margaret Fay Shaw on 15 June 1935 in Glasgow, little were they to know where their lives would take them and how they would end up on the Isle of Canna in the Inner Hebrides. Here for you to enjoy, is Margaret's own account of their wedding day, to her sister, complemented by her own photographs and other items from the Canna House Archives and Collection.
"June 19th 1935, Andenes, Andoya, Norway
Dear Martha & Ignatz,
We were so pleased to get your wire that Saturday- only two weeks ago!
It is mighty nice of you two & Bid & Boone, to remember us and we much appreciated it and it gave a much needed warmth- thank you loads. The time in Oxford was well spent and I enjoyed being with Dolly. John was there most of the 3 weeks and we were able to use Dolly's car and drive out in the country nearly every day. I had some days in London where John bought me a swell new hat- blue with a little veil and I bought a 5 shilling organdie blouse to be married in- for we found we had to take a train to Newcastle at once, so that light blue dress would be spoiled by the journey. John went to Glasgow to arrange to have the banns called and saw his friend the Minister Rev. Malcolm Macleod. I, being an alien, had to remain outside of Scotland until John could establish a residency and the banns called in a church in the district of that residency 3 times. We managed to have it done 3 times on one day! And so were able to be married in 10 days instead of 3 weeks. John came south again & we spent the last weekend at Dolly's & travelled north together.
The Bones Family
Uncle Fred Moir was delighted to have us at Kensington Gate [in Glasgow] which is a huge house - for he was all alone except for 2 maids. I was able to repack my bags, see some friends, the Bones for instance and the head of my old school, St Bride's, Miss Renton. I let them in on the secret & they were much excited & completely overcome, for though we may not realise it at home, in Scotland John is regarded as a marvellous catch! Especially for a wanton American! We had tea at the Minsters, the Rev Malcolm Macleod and decided to have the service in Gaelic. It was to be short and no responses- we were only to say - tha- (ha) when asked if we would take each other. I was worried for fear I should miss my lead but I didn't. Friday night I had dinner alone with Uncle Fred and afterward packed until 2am. The two little Highland maids helped me all they could- they were much thrilled.
Next morning was bright and sunny, unusual in Glasgow and I was ready or nearly so! Margaret Moir Kay came after breakfast and helped me put the last things away (there were 14 pieces, John's and mine, of baggage to go to the storage house). I hardly realised what was happening I was so busy getting films tied up and my shoes shined. Then I put on my best breeks and shirt- white without lace- my skirt newly pressed and organdie blouse and the special hat. Uncle Fred gave me two huge orchids and put them on a white leather pocket book & bag- I had new white gloves. The day before I had had a shampoo & facial, manicure, so I looked very nice for the journey.
John had had a new shirt made in Edinburgh and it arrived at the Minister's house where he was spending the night, just a half hour before the wedding. He was in a fever for fear he wouldn't have it. The minister's wife was terribly nice and brought him (John) a carnation, very pink.
Margaret Moir Kay & the maids got everything ready and Uncle Fred hired a special limousine to drive us to the MacLeods who lived far on the other side of Glasgow. He, Uncle F. was much pleased & we two got in with much waving & wishing from Kensington Gate.
We had the limousine wait and walked up the 3 flights of stairs to the Minister's flat. Uncle Fred & I walked arm in arm to the study with the Minster's wife. She & Uncle F stood at the side while J & I faced the padre across his table desk. The service was very nice- a very special one as the padre was so pleased with John and our work to come. After the ring he read the 13 Chapter of 1st Corinthians which is particularly fine in Gaelic.
After it we all embraced and went down to the car- where the padre took our photographs & we then drove to the "Grosvenor" where John & I gave our witnesses & minister lunch. We also went to the American consul & got my new name put on my passport so that it would look a little better- they gave us greetings there.
After a lunch of fruit cup- ginger ale- duck & ice cream, they put us on the train to Newcastle- 1st Class carriage and they were all so kind and pleased. The parson full of fun and good stories- and Uncle Fred was a perfect darling. He could not have been better to his own daughter.
It was a perfect little company and though I am sorry that the others were not there, it would have meant leaving so many out, yourselves too and somehow a wedding service is a strange affair. I think one reason I was so calm was because I had no one but John & Uncle Fred to see and help me. Now when all the relatives come we will be free and able to be with them, without the fright of a wedding.
I must write a letter to Bid & Boone & Caroline. There have only been two letters from home since I sailed May 10th, both from Kay! John joins me in much love, he says to tell you he beat me with his braces this morning. We are having a marvellous time- are bursting with good health and enjoying life & real happiness.
Heaps of love- I'll write soon again when I have news from home."
ISLE OF RUM
Most wonderful May, full of bluebells, the dawn chorus, delightful weather and the reappearance of the midge! Sadly in force so early on in the season but heyho, the sunshine has made up for it.
There's been a lot happening. Rum primary has an HMIe inspection and had a very positive result; the full report will be published soon. The kids have been off camping on Muck and day tripping to Canna, and this week Andrew joined the high school kids on the school boat for a week of S1 life before the holidays. Exciting stuff, five at high school now, the community is thriving! S3s Eve and Aisling are off in Paris with Mallaig High enjoying a few days of the cosmopolitan lifestyle.
The deer calving season is well under way with the usual team of researchers and volunteers up at Kilmory, led by Ali, Sean and Prof. Josephine Pemberton. Ali has unfortunately broken her arm during a calf-catching episode, which leaves her village bound and trying to write with her wrong hand. Hope it heals soon!!
NatureScot have had a constant flow of volunteers adding to the community and helping with projects on the NNR, and most recently a goat count and the annual seabird count. There may be new arrivals in the Rum pony department but we're waiting on an update . . . Rum Community Shop is doing well; we have got into a routine now and are managing to stay on top of staffing and ordering. The advert for someone to take it on proved positive and we may have a couple who will do just that - more news on this next month. Jinty, meanwhile, is very much enjoying not running the shop and concentrating on other pursuits - great tan, btw!
All of our accommodation is full most of the time and we have a steady flow of yachts passing through all boosting the local economy, but did I say that already? If so, apologies, but I'm just trying to hammer home that, like Eigg, Muck and Canna, we may be a small community but we aren't fragile, we have thriving, growing economies and like Eigg, Muck and Canna, we have plenty of plans afoot for development and expansion both community-led and local private businesses, all suited to the direction that we, as The Small Isles, want to head in. Just saying.
What else? Stags on the beach every night, escaping the midges, gorgeous lines of Eider ducklings and goslings, Herons feeding in the river, lots of running, swimming and paddle boarding. Alex and Buffy ran the Berlin 10k and we welcomed Katrine from Eigg with her running retreat women who had a great time exploring the island.
The dark sky status is still on going - don't forget you can donate to our Go Fund me page to help raise funds for astronomy kit: www.gofundme.com/f/Rumdarkskies
ISLE OF EIGG
May has been yet another busy month for the island. Eigg is covered in very contented looking lambs who seem to be particularly enjoying the good weather we've been having recently.
We have had a number of new faces on the island this month. Louie has joined the team at the tearoom, as has Heather who has returned to the island for summer. The Scottish Wildlife Trust has welcomed the first of this year's two-month volunteers this month. They'll be here till the end of June, and have been working hard this month helping the Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger Norah carrying out various wildlife surveys, running guided walks and doing practical conservation. If you see them around, let them know what wildlife you've spotted.
Kirsty Owens from Historic Environment Scotland gave an interesting talk at the hall this month about what happens when historical human bones are found, and about the bones which were found in Massacre Cave around 2017. She brought some bones with her for people to have a look at, and explained that the ones found here have now been analysed and were found to be from a 7-10 year old child and an adult. HES are currently writing a report about the findings. Camille also told the Massacre Cave story, for those that didn't know it.
After the talk, Norah and the Scottish Wildlife Trust team led a guided walk to the cave itself, looking at the wildlife along the way. Some even braved a look in the cave, while others explored the rocky beach below it. Remember that there has been rockfalls, and if you do go into the caves, you do so at your own risk.
Bill Henderson returned to the island for the 15th year of the singing group holiday. This was a week of walking, laughter and singing inspirational songs from around the world together. They held an open singing event in the hall while they were over and I hear it was a lovely night.
Douglas' pizza nights have returned, much to my delight. Unfortunately I've missed the first ones but I'll be first in line at the next one!
There's been a few birthdays this month (and as always, sorry if I've missed anyone - someone needs to make me a birthday calendar for the island!). Dean celebrated his birthday by spending the night camping on An Sgurr, while Owain got out to the beach for his. Joe Cormack was treated to a surprise birthday party at the hall followed by a bonfire at Laig beach to celebrate his 40th birthday while he was over visiting.
It's been a very active month for some islanders, with Katrin and Steph coming first and second respectively at the Canna 10k - well done! Katrin also ran the Edinburgh Marathon this month, and held a four day running retreat on the island. There were 12 participants, and many islanders got involved too, with Steph, Sarah and Tamsin acting as run leaders, and Saira providing the catering. Tasha ran a self massage workshop for the runners and also gave a tour of the tree nursery. She will be holding weekly tours of the tree nursery in June if you're interested in checking it out! Norah also took the runners on a lovely guided walk through the woods.
The Fèis committee have been busy preparing for Fèis Eige which will be happening 5 - 7 July. There are still places for the three day celebration of music, dance and Gaelic, and if you're interested you can sign up at https://feiseige.wordpress.com/application-form/. The Fèis will finish with a kids concert and a family ceilidh. Last year was brilliant and I look forward to this year's one!
John Chester writes: Overall it was not a particularly inspired May for bird sightings with little passage and numbers of some of the regular summer visitors seemingly on the low side. There was though plenty of Cuckoo activity and a couple of singing Whinchats were a welcome sight given their scarcity in the past few years.
Among the more interesting records that did occur were odd lingering Great Northern Divers, a calling Water Rail on the 19th, a couple of passage Golden Plovers, a late Greenshank on the 18th, a Short Eared Owl on the 16th and a singing Grasshopper Warbler on the 13th.
Cetacean sightings began to take off from mid-month with two Orcas seen from Laig Bay on a couple of occasions and a Minke Whale accompanied by a calf reported near Castle Island on the 26th.
Scorched Wing moth - photo by Norah Barnes
The sunny weather brought out good numbers of butterflies, mostly Green Veined Whites and Peacocks but also with first appearances of Speckled Woods, Orange Tips and Green Hairstreaks. Moths too were suddenly more numerous with the prize sighting being of a Scorched Wing moth on the 20th - a first record for the island.
Erika O' Reilly
Road to the Isles Facilities Group News
The Road to The Isles Facilities Group has now taken ownership of the car park and toilets at Tougal (Silver Sands). You may have noticed that both the car park and the toilets have had a wee makeover, including solar panels to provide lighting within the toilets. The car park will be subject to parking charges and restrictions enforced by The Highland Council on our behalf, but as community owners, we are able to provide permits for local use of the car park. These permits will be available to anyone who has their permanent residence within the Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig Community Council Areas (PH39, PH40 and PH41 postcodes). They will be free to members of The Road to The Isles Facilities Group SCIO, and there will be a nominal charge of £3 per annum for non-members. Permits will be available from The Harbour Office in Mallaig, and non-members should bring proof of their address when applying for a permit.
If you would like to become a member of the Road to the Isles Facilities Group, you can find more information about what we do at https://e-voice.org.uk/mallaighall/road-to-the-isles-facilities-g/, and you can email email@example.com or speak to one of the existing trustees to request a membership form. Our AGM will take place in Mallaig and Morar Community Centre on Tuesday 13th June at 7pm, and everyone is welcome along.
As well as the car park project, we have also been working on the landscaping beside the toilet block in Mallaig. We were awarded funding through the Highland Council's Nature Restoration Fund, and have planted a Sea Buckthorn Hedge and some edible plants. We also have some Primroses and Sea Pinks which we are growing on a bit before we plant them. We were delighted to be chosen by some of the pupils from Mallaig High School as their charity for the Youth Philanthropy Initiative this year, and even more delighted when they won £3,000 for us! We have used this to buy and install some benches in this area, one of which is accessible for use by those in wheelchairs. You will see from the photos that these are in an ideal place to watch the sunset!
A Write Highland Hoolie
Mallaig Book Festival
The 2023 Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition is open until 1st July, and entries are coming in from all over the country. But where are our local aspiring poets? It's a terrific prize - an engraved quaich, £250 cash, £250 in book tokens and a bottle of malt! Our judge is the very witty Hugh McMillan and the prizegiving will be on Saturday 11th November. Last year's prize winner, Rafael Torrubia, was delighted with his prize and the whole Hoolie experience. So come on, give it a go!
We'll be announcing the full list of authors next month, but as a taster we can tell you that the opening event on Friday 10th November will be the splendid music of Duncan Chisholm and Hamish Napier, together with poet Jim Mackintosh, and their brilliant celebration of the Life and Works of George Mackay Brown - Beyond the Swelkie.
Polly, Sine, Ann and Iomhair, the Hoolie team
News in Brief
Still no petrol in Mallaig just now whilst the petrol station awaits repair work to corroded underground pipes. Johnston Bros say, 'We are going through a tendering process at the moment. A specialised company have to carry out the works as it involves petroleum, and unfortunately there isn't many of them. We will hopefully know more in the next couple of weeks.'
Knoydart residents are opposing Government proposals to install a network of 4G masts across the peninsula. The UK Government and the country's four largest mobile network providers are splitting the cost of a £1bn project, known as the Shared Rural Network, to improve mobile coverage across the UK. The project aims to increase Scotland's geographical mobile coverage to 90% by 2025. As part of this, a swathe of potential 4G masts sites have been identified across the area.
Knoydart's existing 4G mast provides EE mobile coverage across the majority of the peninsula where signal was once not available, and also improves the emergency services coverage.
Following a survey visit, the community learnt that 11 locations were being considered and were told by the firm that at least three sites on community-owned land were likely to be pursued for mast installations. All but one of the sites proposed are in isolated, uninhabited glens, with no supporting infrastructure nearby.
Grant Holroyd, Forester for the Knoydart Forest Trust said: "These structures will require regular maintenance. For example, if they have diesel generators they will need to be refuelled every 500 hours and these masts will need to be maintained by helicopter which is an outrageous source of carbon emissions."
A community consultation was carried out to gauge local opinion. The survey received the highest return rate to date, with 104 responses showing unanimous opposition to the plans.
The Knoydart Foundation has written to representatives in the Scottish and UK Governments to inform them of the local position, noting that they will not support the construction of any masts on community-owned land.
The Arisaig History Society comes to an end but the legacy lives on
An Commun Eachdraidh Arasaig (Arisaig History Society) was set up in 2003 to explore and record the genealogy, history and development of Arisaig over the years. Like many another Society, it had a very enthusiastic start. Fund raising via membership fees and meetings with other groups promised a rosy future until eventually it came down to actual gathering and recording information.
In the end there was only three original members left, Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald and Ann Lamont, who spent years filing OSCR returns. With Elizabeth's demise in 2022, Allan's heart attacks and Ann's mobility problems, we decided we had to wind the Society up and donate the funds to the Arisaig Community Trust for use in the Land, Sea and Islands Centre, along with all the research papers, graphs, charts and family trees which Elizabeth had collected over the years and which she wished to be available to others after her death.
The achievements of the Society have some notable events. Colluding with the Moidart History Group we spent three winters doing a survey of Rhu peninsula and published a book of the findings. We surveyed and recorded the gravestones in the old graveyard which is being considered by Mallaig Heritage Centre for printing and publishing, and 6 Roshven View was a magnet for people all over the world to visit looking for details of ancestors.
During one of the walkover surveys of the Rhu peninsula in 2013, a group of faint markings were seen on a stone forming part of a ruined building. Although the building is post-medieval in origin, the markings were interpreted as Neolithic. It now resides on display in the Land, Sea & Islands Centre.
The Society also played an important role in 2011-12 when the West Highland Museum wanted to remove the painting 'Letters and News at the Lochside', from its place in Arisaig House. We hosted meetings, got up a petition and wrote many letters. In the end the Museum Trustees changed their minds.
Allan and Ann have agreed that on winding up the Society the remaining funds of £224 be given to the Arisaig Community Trust to go towards the cost of archiving Elizabeth's research papers.
Allan with daughter Wendy and the cheque for ACT
Directors of the Arisaig Community Trust wish to say a big thank you for the generous donation made to the Land, Sea and Islands Centre on the winding up of the Arisaig History Society. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the dedication of Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald as they worked tirelessly to gather and record valuable information on the history of the area. We look forward to working with identified volunteers in the community who have offered to promote the sorting, filing and accessibility of the documentation.
Many thanks to Ann Lamont for taking all of this forward.
6th May 2023
Launched at 17:00 at Stornoway Coastguard's request to a stranded female on Eilean nan Gobhar at the entrance to Loch Ailort. After parking their Mobile Home by the roadside, the female decided to go for a paddle in her inflatable shop-bought dinghy. Once some yards from shore she was taken by the offshore evening breeze out to sea. Fortunately she was blown to the shore of Eilean nan Gobhar which sits at the entrance of Loch Ailort. Her partner ashore quickly notified the Coastguard who requested the Lifeboat to launch. On-scene at 17:30, the casualty was clearly located by her pink T-shirt and bright blue dinghy waiting patiently on the shoreline. The Y-Boat was launched with two crewmen onboard and quickly recovered the casualty back to the beach into the hands of local Coastguards. Once the Y-Boat was recovered the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig berthing at 18:50.
7th May 2023
A PAN PAN was received by the Coastguard at 12:30 from a vessel taking on water at Mallaig Marina. The Coastguard requested the launch of the lifeboat, but the station having a second salvage pump stored ashore, the crew put this one to use rather than using the Lifeboat's own salvage pump. The pump and hoses were loaded into a crewman's van and taken to the Marina and put on board the vessel. Once rigged the pump was soon emptying out the vessel of water. Once dry the crew began to look for the source of the ingress. The ingress was soon located as coming from a split pipe attached to the exhaust system in the engine room. Temporary repairs were made by a member of crew which reduced the ingress considerably to a degree that the owner could safely deal with what little water was still leaking in. Once satisfied that the incident was under control the crew returned the pump and other equipment back to the station at 14:30.
16th May 2023
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to Inverie with Paramedics at 17:15. A female cyclist had come of her cycle and dislocated her shoulder. On-scene at 17:40, the medics were transported to the scene by local Coastguards. Once assessed and made comfortable she was brought to the pier again by local Coastguards.. The casualty was able to walk down the steps and board the Lifeboat aided by a crewman. The Lifeboat departed for Mallaig at 18:35 and berthed at the pontoon at 18:55. The Casualty was taken to Belford Hospital, Fort William for further treatment. Lifeboat ready for service at 19:00.
Photo by David Foggo
17th May 2023
Requested for immediate launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 10:14. A yacht was reported on fire in the south channel of Arisaig. The sole occupant abandoned to the tender and was recovered by another yacht on-scene. Lifeboat on-scene at 10:50 to find the casualty ablaze from bow to stern. The yacht had drifted onto a sand bank off the channel and posed no threat to navigation. With a falling tide, the Lifeboat was unable to approach the casualty to apply any water, so it was decided to stand off and just monitor. Eventually the casualty rested onto her starboard bilge and continued to burn off fuel from her tanks. After consulting with Coastguards that the craft was now just a smouldering shell on the sand bank the Lifeboat was released and returned to station. Fuelled and ready for service at 13:50.
News from Mallaig Harbour
The good weather has continued throughout May, and the marina is back open for the season. Although we have had some busy spells, it hasn't been as consistently busy as last May, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year compares. The Pellew has arrived back for the season, and we are expecting the Eda Frandsen this week (31st May), followed by the Provident and Blue Clipper later in the year.
Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our application to DEFRA for the funding for the Outer Harbour project. This, combined with the tenders being higher than the estimate, means that we will have to revisit the project. This will delay the start date - so our hopes of getting started this year are now unrealistic. It's a bit disappointing as lots of people have put lots of work in to get us this far, but we will try and come up with an alternative plan to take forward the project, as the demand for additional berthing and commercial space is still there. In the meantime, we are working on the detailed design for an additional overnight ferry berth, and more surveying work is due to take place on Tuesday 6th June.
We welcomed back the Loch Bhrusda and the Coruisk on Sunday 28th May, and the Lord of the Isles sailed in on Monday 29th so at the start of the week we were hopeful that normal service had resumed. Unfortunately, by Wednesday, CalMac had announced that the Lord of the Isles was being withdrawn again for the whole of June. While this is an inconvenience to us in Mallaig Harbour, it's a much bigger issue for those in South Uist, and there has been significant backlash associated with the decision. With the Lord of the Isles sailing from Mallaig we were expecting up to 12 departures to the various islands each weekday, and 15 on a Saturday which is a lot of activity around the Harbour. In other ferry news, some of you may also have noticed new information boards as you pass Lochaber High School, which have a bit more information about any potential disruption than the previous board was able to display. These boards have been a work in progress for several years so it's great to see them finally installed and working.
We also welcomed the first visit of the 'new' Screen Machine, which has a slightly different configuration, and so had to park up beside the ice plant, rather than opposite the office. This trailer has been leased from the same French based company who built the existing Screen Machine, and is slightly lower than the one it replaces, and is on hire while Regional Screen Scotland work towards the development of a new Screen Machine. The slightly lower height meant that, for the first time, the Screen Machine could visit Mallaig by road, rather than coming across on the ferry!
We had our Auditors up for a week in May, and at the same time we hosted a work placement student from S3 at Mallaig High School for three days. We were very lucky to have Aisling, who helped out with a range of jobs in the office. These included designing posters for the upcoming fishing competition and Marina Day - details below.
We're hosting a sea angling competition on Saturday 1st July from 9am until 5pm, with weigh in and trophy presentation at 6pm at the Marina Centre. This has been kindly sponsored by Mallaig Boatyard, so the entry fees of £10 per adult (under 15s free) will be in aid of Mallaig Lifeboat and Mallaig Fishermen's Mission. You can pick up an entry form and a copy of the rules from the Marina, or download them from our Facebook page.
The week after, Saturday 8th July, will see the return of the Marina Day, which hasn't been held since 2019. This is a fun day, which is usually held on the second Saturday of June. Given that we've waited four years, we thought an extra month wouldn't make any difference, so this year we are breaking with tradition and hosting the day in July! There will be a barbecue, and a bucking bronco, as well as information stalls for the RNLI and Fishermen's Mission, and activities for children. This year there will also be a small regatta departing from the Marina at 2pm. We haven't quite finalised the posters yet, but look out for them around the village, and we'll post more information on our Facebook page throughout the month.
Our AGM will take place on Friday 16th June 2023. We are going to host a buffet lunch in the West Highland Hotel from 1.30pm, which will be followed by a presentation on the Harbour and our future plans, and the AGM. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Finally this month, we have had a few issues with locals driving too fast around the Harbour. The speed limit on the Harbour is 10mph, with a lower limit of 5mph in some areas. These limits are in place to keep everyone safe - especially during the busy summer months when there are lots of people around as well as vehicles. Under our Byelaws, the Harbour Master has the powers to ban people from driving on the Harbour. Whilst we would hope it would never come to that, the safety of those using the Harbour always has to be our first priority.
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
I'll start my column this month where I almost ended last month - an update on 'gull heaven'! Following my news that intervention trials to deter the seagulls and black backs from mating, nesting, laying eggs and fouling the whole station platform, I was contacted by a journalist who had read the column online, asking permission to commission a photographer to attend Mallaig and produce an article in the following week's Sunday Mail. I was interviewed over the phone, declined to attend the railway station with my 'bump cap' being attacked and photographed, and suggested that they made contact with the Mallaig Heritage Centre, which they did!
Sheila Gillies was interviewed and on Sunday 21st May, under the headline 'Squawk Rail', we were allocated a half page with a really graphic colour photo of two sets of gulls fighting 'beak to beak' on the rails and other gulls encouraging them on to a fatal fight. A photograph of the black hawk (untangled) was shown (it is now shredded to ribbons!) plus a good photo of Sheila! Extracts from the article below:
It is every seagull's idea of heaven. A seaside railway station with a chip shop, packed with daily hordes of Harry Potter fans and tracks offering good, though close shave, nesting.
So after years of complaints about the dive-bombing gulls, rail bosses at Mallaig turned to a hi-tech solution...a solar powered, radio controlled mobile black hawk, with screeching "banshee" attack calls played through three nearby speakers.
But after some initial success, it has proved to be a case of Black Hawk Down! For packs of aggressive gulls in the west coast Highland port have ganged up on the "predator" and grounded it on several occasions - forcing it to be wrapped around its supporting pole.
Sheila Gillies, who works at the Mallaig Heritage Centre, said the solar powered hawk had also failed to deter the gulls. "At first the gulls were terrified of it, the hawk was screeching like a banshee, but they soon became used to it, bringing it down. The gulls figured out that it was not the real thing."
Sonia Cameron, who works at Mallaig on promoting interest in the line, even carries out gardening at the station wearing a re-enforced baseball cap as protection against dive bombing gulls.
"With a chippy at the end of the station, 700 passengers a day on The Jacobite - plus the normal ScotRail trains - it is gull heaven, seagull city," she said.
"Last year we had 120 nests, this season we have had less so far, so the hawk has had some affect but they are getting used to it and building nests - nothing is 100 percent effective.
"When the hawk is attacked by the gulls it wraps itself around the pole as a safety response. If it gets too wrapped up it has to be released by hand.
"At least twice The Jacobite foot plate crew have resuscitated it so it can fly again. Who will win the situation. No one knows."
Thanks go to photographer Peter Jolly (Northpix) and journalist Mike Merritt for highlighting our plight. I was pleased - and thought no more about it. However, is it more than a coincidence that one week later, Network Rail, CPMS and legalised pest controllers attended Mallaig railway station and the Network Rail site to take possession of the situation?
We now have a more controllable, bemused if not mystified situation. ScotRail staff and customers are not getting dive bombed, Ollie, In charge of the station, is still pressure-hosing the platform each day, and the amplified bird alarm sounds are still working, but the hawk is deceased!
Thanks to all involved. A repeat visit, we are told, will follow! Happy days!
ScotRail 'Highland Explorer' Coach News
My Hurrah! last month extolling the arrival of the above coach on the incoming late train/outgoing the next morning didn't last long!
By week two it was leaving Mallaig and Glasgow intermittently. Four weeks on and I'm gutted that last week they did not run to Oban or Mallaig on any night or morning.
I persuaded a colleague to search online for the subject 'ScotRail alterations' on Wednesday just to see what the print out said!
The first line of print was encouraging enough. It said, 'We encourage you to plan ahead when travelling, including buying your ticket before you board. Please be aware that alcohol is currently banned on our network.' Fair enough. Then: 20.20 Crianlarich to Mallaig due 23.39. Up came 'Changes to Formation and Facilities: this is because of a fault on the train. It will be formed of two carriages instead of three.' (You were left to guess that the missing carriage was the Explorer!) Then it said, 'Additional information: sorry this train has fewer carriages than normal.' I say that all week 'normal' was pre-Explorer coaches - two car set.
Why not just tell the truth which is that the Explorer coaches - after a very expensive upgrade and much heralded publicity - are not yet fit for purpose? It would be more truthful, and keep the paying public placated.
In the meantime, in stock now, if you are a railway modeller and have your own track, you can purchase from Hattons an 'Active Travel Carriage', 00 gauge Class 153 DMU, single car, 'Highland Explorer' logoed with ScotRail's livery for £137.24 and run it to your heart's content! I rest my case!!
More ScotRail news
From 25th April 2023, 'ferry travel' is no longer included within the Spirit of Scotland, Highland Rover and Scottish Grand Tour passes issued by ScotRail. It devalues the advantages of said passes, which is a shame. Furthermore, on ScotRail's summer timetable no connections to meet or depart from and to ferries are included. Integrated ticketing is not available at all.
Meanwhile, Grade 1 On Train Hospitality Assistants applications are being offered - but only from Glasgow Queen St, Inverness, Edinburgh and Wick! Not a mention of my proposal for a service travelling up and down the line on each train between Fort William and Mallaig. An individual service that could be relied on. It could operate as an outsourced service or an in-house service. Either way, it would give our branch line security of knowing that a service was operating. There is a staff room at Mallaig where the hot water flasks could be refilled in the turn around time. Salary for an untrained hospitality assistant is £21,856 per annum. Currently the closing date for applications is Friday 21st July 2023; a six month probation period of training has to be completed. Search for vacancies on the ScotRail website. But no mention of our branch line. Shameful!
Meanwhile, to lighten the mood . . .
Corrour station has been awarded 'Best Family Dining Restaurant' in the prestigious Scottish Hospitality Awards held at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow on Tuesday 16th May. Four of the team of six who work at the restaurant and B&B alongside Corrour station travelled to pick up the award.
The station is bang in the middle of a cycling route - the Badger Divide - which runs from Inverness to Glasgow, and it's also an ideal daytime treat to take the train from Mallaig for lunch, returning in the evening. It is open all day, and was taken back into Corrour Estate's management in 2015 as a café and a B&B. Currently the B&B is fully booked until August! Congratulations to the whole team. In the past I have stayed there for birthdays and special events. It is truly remarkable. Well done! The venison burgers are 10 out of 10!
Another bunkhouse on the line worthy of a mention is the one at Tulloch railway station. It was reopened as a high class bunkhouse some 25 years ago when Jimmie Macgregor stepped off the train to perform the opening ceremony. It is owned by Alan Renwick, offering good quality accommodation and shelter on the edge of Rannoch Moor.
ScotRail Station Spaces
Posters are currently up at Arisaig and Mallaig railway stations advertising spaces available to rent. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It is very pleasurable to receive postcards from rail travelling friends and readers of West Word. One in particular from Northern Ireland stated thus: 'Very impressed with Northern Ireland railways, rolling stock and infrastructure. Smooth running and quiet, large window coaches built by CAF in Spain. Much single line working - with extra passing loops between stations! All trains ran on time and at a cost of £18.50 full fare, all day pass for ALL rail and bus journeys. ScotRail could learn a thing or two!! Integrated transport hubs, with coffee shops and carpeted floors plus helpful staff, etc.' 'I commend the idea to the House'!
Currently I am very pleased with the planting at Mallaig. The Lupins and Hostas are loving the early heat and the Lavenders and flowering herbs attract a lot of attention. The barrel train is awash with colour and scent too. This current week is 'Station Adopters Week', where touring 'Adopters' visit each other. Last year I hosted six - but didn't offer this year.
This year, 211 ScotRail stations are adopted by 976 volunteers! Very often it can be volunteer groups or Chamber of Commerce or schools that take on a railway station. My favourite time to plant is between 6am - 9am!
Network Rail Strategic Business Plan (SBP)
The SBP outlining activity to be undertaken by NR, covering the five years between 1st April 2024 and 31st March 2029 - was published on 19th May this year. It reflects on a separate settlement that has been awarded for Scotland of £4 billion budget over the period, for which the Scottish Business Plan will be published in due course. Unlike the current SBP (which is Control Period 6) no separate funding has been identified in Period 7 SBP for investment in capacity enhancement and there is no specific budget for electrification.
This is a report that in future will tell us that 'the devil is in the detail'. The plan assumes that although passenger numbers will increase, timetable provision will remain at 88% of pre COVID levels. Within that total, it is recognised that train service levels are likely to fluctuate as a result of variable demand, but it is expected that rail freight growth will average 7.5% per annum.
Another forecast is that during this period SBP The number of days when train services are interrupted by adverse weather events will increase by 5-10%. Crikey!
Now you know what my bedtime reading consists of!
On a final note for this month, thanks to The Jacobite steam train's twice daily, seven days a week service, Mallaig continues to be 'hooching' with guests, including, it seems to me, more families with children and grandparents, not just older couples. When the trains halt by my garden for a points change as they enter and depart, I get to speak to guests about my own garden! This year I have been asked so many times as to some of the plants that are doing well this season - I feel I should hand out a fact sheet - ha! ha! It's nice to hear comments though. Mind you they also get to see the ground sheets that are stifling the bank of Buddleia that I am attempting to decease! And deliberately they don't see the bags full of nettles and weeds that are hidden out of the way!!
See you on the train,
Birdwatch May 2023 by Stephen MacDonald
Mostly a dry month, with some long sunny days during the second half, warm at times, but still cold at night under clear skies.
Many more of our summer visitors continued to arrive with the first reports of Whitethroats, Wood Warblers, House Martins and Spotted Flycatchers during the month.
Common Terns were noted back on Loch Ailort on the 1st, with Arctic Terns seen at Traigh and Arisaig several days later.
Wader passage continued through the month, but with good weather most were moving through very quickly. Small numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Turnstone were seen at Traigh and Camusdarroch beaches on several occasions. Golden Plover and Whimbrel were seen in fields at Traigh and Back of Keppoch during the first two weeks. The highest count of Whimbrel was 26, seen at Traigh on the 2nd.
Local breeding waders had newly hatched chicks by mid month, with broods of Lapwing and Redshank at Invercaimbe, and Ringed Plover at Traigh.
Most wintering wildfowl had departed by the start of the month, but a single Pink-footed Goose lingered around Traigh and Back of Keppoch. A single Barnacle Goose was seen at the head of Loch Ailort on the 5th. On the same day Greylag Geese were seen with goslings at Loch Ailort and Mallard ducklings were seen on the Morar river. By mid month the first broods of Eider Ducks had appeared on Loch Ailort. On the 31st a Teal with eight newly hatched ducklings were seen on a small hill loch above Arisaig.
Many of our garden birds produced their first broods during the month, with many newly fledged birds seen.
Numerous reports of Cuckoos from throughout the area, usually getting chased by Meadow Pipits, their favourite host in this area.
Jays were again reported using feeders in the Morar area.
A Ring Ouzel was seen on the hillside high above Arisaig Railway Station on the 9th.
On Loch nan Eala a pair of Moorhens were seen on the 7th.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Sue and Pete Barrett say, 'West Word came on our great rail journey to Corsica and Sardinia!'
Melanie Poduschnik took the West Word to Germany where she spent some time with her family.
Kit and Sarah Sandeman recently caught up with the latest news at the Brandenberg Gate, in Berlin!
Durham readers Martin and Susan Williams took a copy to the Ulster Transport Museum last month.
Yogi (from Daimh) took his West Word to read when he stayed in the world's largest beagle Air BnB in Cottonwood, Idaho.
This rogue copy was spotted by Mark Melville in Canmore, Alberta, comparing the Rockies to the Cuillin!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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