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

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March 2001 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Foot & Mouth Disease Crisis
Monthly reports from Eigg, Canna, Muck, Knoydart
A Backward Glance

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Rum photo

This is as near as visitors to the Isle of Rum
are going to get until the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease lessens.

Scottish Natural Heritage have closed all their reserves in the North of Scotland in a bid to help prevent the spread of the disease and this includes Rum.

The National Trust was swift to follow suit and the Isle of Canna is also off bounds for visitors. Eigg residents are still deciding what to do but Scottish Wildlife Trust have also closed their reserves which means much of Eigg is also technically 'shut.'

On Tuesday 27th February SNH announced their embargo would last indefinitely but with cases confirmed in Scotland (as of 1st March) no speedy end to the crisis is in sight.

This time of year sees large numbers of hillwalkers and climbers heading up to favourite places, many from high rsk areas, the original reason for the embargo. Rum has 1500 head of Red Deer, a large feral goat population, Highland Cattle and 'an assortment of pigs'. Sue Scoggins of SNH said 'The ferry is coming in with supplies but is not accepting passengers to Rum. However there are no restrictions on residents coming and going at the moment.'

The Isle of Canna is also closed until further notice, except for emergencies. They have provided an antiseptic footbath on the pier for people who have to come ashore. The National Trust, owners of Canna, have a pedigree herd of Highland Cattle as well as a cross herd, and crofters have their own beasts. Islanders are already fearing the severe loss in economy the tourist trade brings to the islands. Packy MacKinnon said 'We're not worried stock-wise, it was all bought last year, but the whole thing will hit us pretty hard even if the disease doesn't spread.'

Eigg residents have had a meeting on the issue and at present have supplied a footbath on the pier and are spraying feedstuff sacks as they come ashore. 'But', said Maggie Fyffe, 'we need to bring in hay and you can't spray that.' Although the main part of the island is not closed to visitors, she said that many people have made their own decision not to come.

Island residents have called on Mallaig authorities to make some provision for disinfection at the port. There is a meeting in Stornoway on March 2nd about the continuing crisis with Isles Councils meeting with Cal-Mac representatives to see what steps they should be taking. Mallaig Harbour Authority Secretary Robert MacMillan said 'The Authority will take advice on their findings as to what we should be doing. We shall probably be thinking of some way to disinfect vehicles and passengers but it won't be easy!'

To add to the difficulties there is now a shortage of disinfectant.

The mainland will also be taking precautions. Many landowners and factors are closing hill walks, mindful that if the disease were to strike the Red Deer population it would be virtually impossible to cull them all to eradicate it. Ski slopes are closed. The Agricultural College has put out guidelines that farmers and crofters should let no vehicles or visitors past their gate which is a virtual siege situation. Apart from the appalling threat to animals the tourist season will suffer greatly if visitors are limited as to the places they can visit and walk.


Our 'Burn's Night' was a great success thanks to Donna's piping, Andrew's 'Address to the Haggis' and his other readings, also to whoever it was who provided the words for several of Robbie's popular songs. Addresses to the Lassies and Laddies were given by Wes and Camille. The Neaps and Tatties beautifully cooked by volunteer staff and Peggy's Clootie Dumpling was to the usual high standard.

At the end of January a party of divers arrived to buoy the channel which the Lochnevis would attempt to negotiate. The intention was to prove that the skippers are capable of reaching the proposed site of our new pier, in all reasonable seas. On Sunday 4th February, she came to Eigg for a trial sailing. A dozen interested residents braved the cold but not very strong wind, to watch. She approached the pier site from the direction of Eigg Lighthouse, sailed between Castle Island and the perches and scuttled straight out towards Mallaig - and that was that !! She came inside the perches again a few days ago and this time did do some manoeuvres, but the sea was considered to be on the calm side at the time!

During the month there have been a further series of computer classes which were well attended by enthusiastic members of the community hell-bent on becoming computer literate. Our thanks go to Sheryl for the tuition and for her patience and forbearance with even the least competent of her pupils!

Niki Robertson, outreach worker for Lochaber Communications Network, came to Eigg a couple of weeks ago to teach us about using the Internet. This she did on a one to one basis and I, for one found it extremely helpful, as did a number of others. Thank you Niki. It was rather a shock to me, however, to find that much of West Word is published on the Internet and all our pearls of wisdom, intended in my innocence, simply for the local people and interested subscribers, are actually being "bandied about" all over the world!! I find it rather intimidating, am I alone in this?

A nasty confrontation between the Eigg Post Van and a Land Rover on a blind corner, (in which the van came off very second best), was well timed. The following day, because the Lochnevis was out of order, a new Post Van was delivered by the Raasay and the wreckage of the old one taken off the island - our 'postie' didn't have to walk his round after all !!

The National Health Authorities are at present busy updating and redecorating the Surgery prior to giving the Surgery House a thorough overhaul.

Many of us enjoyed a lively evening (and most of the night for some!) at Andrews 40th Birthday Party, thanks to Sheryl's clever organisation . It is surprising what one can do with the use of a bit of imagination to a house, which cannot, with the best will in the world, be considered to be in very good condition ! Andrew & Sheryl are eagerly looking forward to moving into a newly refurbished 'Hill Cottage', hopefully it should not be too long now.

We look forward with interest to Peter Wade-Martins's slide show on Thursday. More details in the April edition of West Word.

The local Coastguards are coming to Eigg on 24th February for their annual get-together. More of that also, later. It promises to be another lively evening !

How nice to see signs of Spring. Many Snowdrops are in flower & one or two primroses with some Daffodils showing yellow although not yet open, some of us are thinking about digging our vegetable gardens, a notice about the Feis is on the tearoom door and a wedding is being planned for May ( by a couple who are regular Eigg visitors). Shortly no doubt there will be a grand clear - up weekend ready for Easter. But before that, Pancake Day. Thinks - how does one toss SCOTCH pancakes, even the English frying pan size ones sometimes finish up on the floor - or even the ceiling !

That last paragraph looks suspiciously like a touch of spring fever.

Joy Williams


Sorry it's been so long since our last report, but there hasn't been a great deal happening here up until Christmas.

Over the festive period we had problems with our new power supply and had great difficulty getting anyone to come out as they were on holiday, anyway things are nearly right now and hope that they will be out next month to sort them out completely.

Gerry and Murdo are busy feeding cattle and sheep at the moment. They also had a visit from the department checking numbers and ear tags and that was a busy time for them.

Mrs. Stephens at the school finally got her Clerical Assistant towards the end of the year, I was successfully selected for the job.

The new ferry Lochnevis has been a delight o have on the run and is really comfortable nd a great deal more reliable in bad weather. We have managed to get two of Johnston's tankers on with fuel so far and get them pumped ashore. All we want now is to get the new slip built so that we can use the ferry's ro-ro facilities. There is also a good menu aboard which gives a selection to all people's taste, this I can highly recommend.

Looking forward to a busy season which will be upon us before we know it.

The painters are here at the moment, painting Tighard the holiday home for the Trust. We have also asked them to tape and paint the St. Columba's Chapel for us which they said they would do if they had time so all that now remains to be done is the windows which we expect to be done in April and the flooring to go down.

Thanks to everyone who put forward money for the chairs for the Church. Also to Helen MacDonell for the bell.

We hope to manage an Open Day in May or June so watch this space!

Wendy MacKinnon


(Last month West Word carried Lawrence's account of their attempts to find a new young family to settle on Muck - read on...)

Following Lamont Howie's visit Muck had eleven minutes on Radio Scotland followed by coverage by most of the national papers. Applications to rent Carn Dearg have been pouring in by e-mail, telephone and letter and not all have had young children. Applicants have been sent a fact sheet and asked to reply again and certainly second time round numbers have been much smaller.

Almost as great as the number of potential islanders has been the interest of the media in the selection process with both TV and newspapers wishing to sit in on committee meetings. We had to explain that it was not going to be like the 'Castaways' - we are not trying to make a TV programme!

On the farm I have had the first ever cattle inspection with Stephen Fortune from the Department of Agriculture in Inverness. Inspections are part of the ever increasing red tape associated particularly with keeping cattle on the farm and Brussel's efforts to prevent fraud in the subsidy system.

Inspections are high stress affairs but Stephen was very helpful and did not seem to mind that many of the calves had metal ear tags only. (The big yellow second tags drop out so frequently that I usually wait till near the sales before inserting them.) there were problems with the new passports for the cows. Many had the wrong number of zeros before the animal number and had to be returned to the British Cattle Movement service in Workington for correction.

Now we have to face the danger of Foot and Mouth Disease/ what have we done to deserve yet another pestilence like this?

Lawrence MacEwen.


It was with great sadness that we learnt of the death on Sunday 4th February of Aileen Bell MacDonald. Aileen had become a member of the Knoydart community for many years and after the sudden death in 1987 of her husband, John Bell, the result of a drowning accident, had stayed on in Knoydart and raised four children single-handedly. Nicola, Robbie, Christopher and Leigh and Jimmy-Jo, Aileen's second husband, Aileen's mother, Mrs. Frances May, and Aileen's brother Bobbie, all have the heartfelt sympathy of the everyone in Knoydart and many in Mallaig and beyond who knew and loved her, for her sense of humour and stoic qualities. Nicola, Robbie and Leigh have children of their own now, little Christopher, Kyle and Struan and Aileen took much pleasure and delight in her grandchildren.

The funeral took place in Knoydart on Thursday 15th. February, conducted by Father Michael Lea, a friend of the family and formerly priest in Knoydart, the village hall was bedecked with flowers and foliage; prayers, readings and music were of Aileen's particular choice.

The hall filled to capacity and beyond with family and friends, who all accompanied the coffin to the ancient burial ground at Kichoan, Aileen's' final resting place.

At the beginning of February we welcomed Angela Williams to Knoydart. Angela has been appointed to the post of Project Manager with an extensive brief to initiate, co-ordinate, access and deliver on the plans and ambitions of the Knoydart Foundation. The first week was like 'jumping in at the deep end' for her, since it was a week packed with meetings and workshops almost every evening at the end of each working day. Angela's baby, one year old Caitlin, has now joined her and her partner, Mark, will follow in the next few weeks.

Burn's Night at the end of January was a most enjoyable event, very well attended, with splendid speeches, good food (the grand, robust new cooker a much needed addition to hall facilities) great music and energetic dancing.

Anne Trussell


This month we have been very sad to say goodbye to two long term residents of Arisaig, both in the same week. Monday 19th. was the funeral of Pat McCarthy, known locally as Pat the Post and whose article from the 1960's we printed in October's West Word. Two days later saw the funeral of Mrs. Catherine MacMillan, who at 94 was our oldest resident.

A Backward Glance
'Those Happy Days'..... by George Baird

On my last visit to Mallaig, two women approached me, rather hesitantly, in the Post Office. 'We have a confession to make', they said. 'What's that?' I asked. 'We used to steal the black-currants from your mother's garden.'

Small children could nip in unseen, or creep through a hole in the fence. At 8 Clanranald Terrace, the garden was a big one. Dad dug it over, and mum prudently grew a lot of stuff, e.g. kale, leeks, parsley, for the broth-pot; blackcurrants and rhubarb for the berry-pan. For the berry-pan too I gathered loads of brambles from up the line. She didn't scutter with jelly; we ate bramble jam, seeds and all, fighting for the pot.

Mother kept a good garden when we moved to 'Bayview'. She tried carrots, and I carted sand up from the beach. I built up the dyke at the back. But it wasn't all work. I badgered dad for a tent, and put it up at the front. It was just a few yards from the road, but I was never disturbed. There was just room for one, but our cat would come in and nestle beside me.

A little later, when at school in Fort William, I went camping with the Boys' Brigade. It was a battalion camp, at Carr Bridge. As sergeant, I was in charge of a tent. On the whole, the lads were no bother; the one exception was the minister's son, Willie MacLean (hope he doesn't read this.) He was always slow to get into line.

Early on our last morning, some daring boys crept over to an officers' tent and loosened the guy ropes. As their tent folded in on them, the pyjama-clad officers came over angrily to punish the culprits. We were, of course, all sound asleep.

Once, when my Motherwell company went camping at North Berwick, I said to the captain I would be through to visit them. 'Fine', he said, 'I'll see you get a camp-bed.' when I got there, I found that the captain's wife had turned up, and she had been given the camp-bed. I bedded down on the ground with my own two sons, and their pals. In the morning, a bit stiff and sore, I vowed to take my own camp-bed next time.

A Little Genealogy
by Allan MacDonald

A Canadian gentleman by the name of Rick Grace came into the Upstairs Downstairs Café in Arisaig last September, looking for Highland relatives, and left me with a puzzle.

In 1842, Donald MacDonald left Arisaig with his three sons and one widowed daughter, and emigrated to Nova Scotia. There was Donald, Parent, Donald (Croft), John (Cramp), Janet(widow) and Ronald (Drover), and they left behind a sister (no name) who was married and did not want to emigrate.

In 1900, Dr. R. J. MacDonald, who besides being a doctor was also a world class runner of international repute, specialising in the 800 yards Sprint, the Mile and Seven Mile and Ten Mile Cross Country racing, was invited to the Paris Exposition to compete against the International line up including Ireland's Champion.

After the events, he came to Arisaig and visited his Great-aunt, Mrs. Simon MacDonald, but no other information. A search of the Arisaig Baptismal record revealed two possibles but without the name of Simon's wife I could not proceed. (There was no oral tradition of R. J.'s visit which is surprising given his status.)

Two weeks ago I got another letter from Rick, enclosing a copy of a letter from his sister, who was a nun, working in Europe during WW1, and in 1917 she also visited and described the path and the house in Peanmeanach where her relatives stayed.

This was the house of 'Muinnter Shíme', 'Simon's People', so the connection was made.

Descendants of this family, from Ardnish, are well-known in the Glenuig area, and the children of Simon and Isabella were:
John (b. 13-12-1841); Helen (b. 17-8-1843); Peggy (b. 11-10-1845); Mary (b.7-2-1850); Margaret (b. 7-4-1852); Ludovick (b. 13-6-1854).

I don't know the lines of descent, but known descendants include:
Mary Howie, Mallaig, and her sister Kate Gillies, Glenuig. The Gillies family of Angus and Nora at Druimsallie.

The 'Whaler' Ronnie MacDonald's family in Glenuig.

Tony MacDnald's family from Glenuig. 'Big Tony' lives in Mallaig.

I haven't spoken to all the descendants, but maybe they could contact me at the Café to formulate a family tree, and compare it to the one I have of the Canadian descendants.

The Canadians are puzzled by the name (Cramp) attached to John, a nickname he earned in Canada. Does anyone know what it may mean?

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
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January 2001 - February 2001
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