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

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March 2007 Issue

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Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
West Word ten years ago
Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy & History

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At last we have the news we have been waiting for - the final stretch of improvements of the A830 will be going ahead with a June start planned. Transport Minister Tavish Scott announced on Tuesday, 6th March that Morrison Construction have been awarded the contract to design and build the 5 mile stretch from Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh.
This is the fifth and final in a series of improvements to the 17 mile stretch from Mallaig to Lochailort, which will have cost a total of £22.8 million. This section alone will attract £3 million from the European Regional Development Fund. At a windswept Loch nan Uamh Tavish Scott said 'I know this news is so important to all of those living here and on the islands. This road is a vital link in the Highland trunk road system and is a key route for both locals and tourists.
'Yet in some ways this is the end of an era. The road is famous both locally and nationally for its single track status but I imagine there will be no complaints.'
Councillor King said 'This is a monumental day for all of us, The final piece of the jigsaw is being put into place, providing a welcome boost to the economy of the West Highlands, including Skye and the Western Isles. We are grateful to the Minister for all his hard work on our behalf, and I must also thank the three Community Councils for their unstinting help behind the scenes.' Councillor Foxley, who as our Regional Councillor was instrumental in the campaign for an upgrade, said 'This is great news for the area and marks the end of a sustained campaign by the council to win improvements to this lifeline road.'
The work is planned to start at the end of June 2007 and is expected to take 18 months to complete. It is by far the hardest stretch of the five to design and build.

Dr. Iain Gartshore of Arisaig Medical Practice will be taking on responsibility for Mallaig Medical Practice from 1st April 2007, on the departure of Dr. Waite. Dr. Gartshore has worked at the Arisaig Practice for nearly 5 years and this will not change. He will be recruiting two further GPs to work alongside him at both practices. NHS Highland is delighted with the proposals.
Theresa James, Locality General Manager for Lochaber said: 'It is excellent to know that a local GP will be working in Mallaig, Dr. Gartshore's decision to recruit two more doctors is good news for all concerned.'
Dr. Gartshore told West Word: 'It will take three to four months to recruit the new GPs, and until then it will be business as usual in the two practices. We want to keep the Glenuig surgery going and services will continue to be delivered to Arisaig, although there will be some rearrangement. 'We are in discussion with the Health Board and the Community Councils and we intend to maintain the current high level of services to the area. We will have more information for next month's issue of West Word.'
While the two extra GP posts are being filled, NHS Highland Lochaber Locality Health Partnership will provide a locum GP to support Dr. Gartshore. The proposed changes will be discussed at the next meeting of Arisaig Community Council on Monday 26th March. This will be a public meeting and all are welcome.

After 23 years as Councillor for Mallaig & the Small Isles, Charles King has announced that he does not intend to stand in the elections in May. Councillor King has been involved in many far-reaching and life-changing projects throughout the area during his time as first our District Councillor and then our Highland representative. The announcement that the improvements to the final stretch of the A830 will go ahead this year rounds off the 23 years of campaigning in which he has been instrumental. His unhappiness with the changes to the Ward system and the travelling this will involve and the uncertainty on how well the new arrangements will work have helped Charlie come to the hard decision that now is the time to retire.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR - Wednesday 7th March
You may have read in this letter in last month's West Word that I had been talking on the phone to a lady in Germany who was writing an article on Knoydart for the magazine Hidden Europe - she then left a message on the Internet Guest Book. Well, true to her promise, she has sent me a copy of the magazine and I'm very impressed. Quite a plain cover, which makes it look more like a publicity pamphlet, inside there are 12 articles on subjects ranging from 'coastal peddling round the North Sea' to 'a land of many tongues: Vojvodina' and a section entitled - yes - Snippets. The Knoydart piece is called 'in splendid isolation' under the section 'special places' and is included in two pages about places in Scotland which can only be reached by boat. It is in fact about Tarbet. Also described is Achnanellan, a centre for troubled boys on the south side of Loch Shiel. The magazine is bi-monthly and costs £27 for a year's subscription, and a glimpse can be had online at www.hiddeneurope.co.uk where you can sign up for a free e-newsletter.
Oh - the answer to the question: what is the colloquial or local name for Rum, Muck and Eigg was indeed The Cocktail Isles, thank goodness.
Our thanks to Morag and Ewen again for the printing this month, and thanks again to all of you who send things in every month.
Ann Martin

Sniffles still continuing in the peninsula, with colds turning into coughs turning into colds again. Still, despite the running noses and hangovers, plenty turned up for the Amnesty booksale, which was very successful. See attached picture - the cakes proved especially popular.
This was followed by myself giving a presentation on plans for the forest after the first phase of extraction, which is in full swing (the Recreation Plan). And leads onto lots of information that Grant has asked me to mention. So here goes:
After nearly two years of consultation and planning, the first phase of extraction has started, which is roughly 20 hectares (14% of overall area). The operation is being conducted in partnership with Scottish Woodlands Ltd. The individual compartments being harvested are between 0.5 hectares and 4 hectares, being clearfelled because they consist of monocultural species, many of which are starting to suffer from wind-blow. The Trust will be replanting with native species such as Douglas Fir, European Larch, and Oak. The extraction fulfills Knoydart Forest Trust's long-term aim of continuous cover management, and the plan is to finish the first phase by Easter (fingers crossed).
This first extraction will produce 8,000 tonnes of Sitka Spruce, which will be taken from Inverie Pier in four 2000 tonne vessels. The saw-logs will go straight to Ireland, and pulp and chipwood material is exported to Germany or Finland. The machines have arrived via Kyle and Armadale, and consist of two harvesters, one forwarder, two 20t tractor trailers, two cranes, a digger, and a dumper! Work so far has been remarkably quiet, with little disturbance to the village. The aim is to load one boat per week between the 10th and the 31st of March: each loading sequence will take 48 hours. Sam Firth, our resident film-maker, is helping the children make a film about the extraction process - you're all invited to the premiere, of course. Watch this space to find out when it is. There is a Safety Plan in operation for the pier: a banksman will be on duty at all times during boat loading. Anyone needing to use the pier during boat loading should first make contact with the banksman. The Trust would be grateful if the pier could be avoided totally during boat loading. Operations will stop to allow the regular berthing of the Spanish John and the Western Isles. Telephone Grant on 01687 462560 to find out the latest information on boat loading times.
Phew! What else has been happening in Inverie? Faye and Jim are engaged - congratulations! We've had an influx of journalists, with more to come (quite a few inspired by a paragraph in the Observer which claimed that Inverie has the best view in Britain). Women's International Day is fast approaching, with some vehicles already displaying last years' WID parking permit - not sure if that will work. And the visitors are arriving in earnest, although we still have to see the first yacht of the season.
Tommy McManmon

I can't believe I forgot to include this last month but in case you haven't been watching TV on a Sunday evening we have a reality TV star in the village. Ailidh Morrison has been featuring, quite heavily, in the TV series When Love Comes to Town. Basically a group of men from Devon and a group of women living in the Highlands get together and matchmakers set them up on dates. One guy fell in love with Ailidh but she didn't reciprocate and there were sparks with another but they seemed to be extinguished when she proved better at off-road driving than him in a top of the range Range Rover. Nice driving Ailidh! She didn't find Mr. Right but she does come across well on the telly.
February was the month the Glenfinnan 07 project really kicked off. The Gaelic classes have started and we have had a couple of cearcall còmhraidh (Gaelic conversation circles). Lots of children and a few adults have signed up for music lessons. Gabe MacVarish is teaching fiddle, Fraya is teaching whistle and clarsach and Jim Michie will be teaching guitar. It is exciting to see a new generation so keen to learn. We can expect to be well entertained in the future.
There was plenty to keep us all occupied on Saturday 24th February at the Princes House Hotel. In the afternoon there was the cearcall còmhraidh for adults and a Gaelic fun storytelling and art session for children with Tiina MacVarish and her able assistant, Ailidh Morrison. Tiina told stories and the children joined in acting as animals and crawling around. The art sessions were fun too and they all made face masks which they decorated as an animal of their choice. All the while chatting about going to the ceilidh.
At the family ceilidh the bar was packed to bursting. Lots of families came and the children had a great time dancing to the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band. When Rachel Walker sang they stood quietly before her listening attentively and even joining in with the chorus. Rachel was very impressed with them. The music was great, of course, and we had some guest spots. Joe Gillies sang 'Come by the hills' and 'Bonnie Glenfinnan'. Caroline, the meter reader, brought her accordion and joined Dougie Hunter for some tunes and the hotel boys, Christopher and Alistair played guitar and fiddle. There was a raffle, of course, with lots of prizes and we sold out of raffle tickets!
Kieron prepared a hot buffet which was very tasty and very welcome. We were so short of space with the numbers that came that some people were balancing plates on knees. It was a very enjoyable evening.
The following day Annabella MacFarlane was baptized in the church. Father Roddy conducted the service and the baptism in his usual humorous, friendly style and the baby seemed to take great interest in the whole thing not even squeaking when she was splashed with the cold water.
Eileen O'Rua

And at last some good news, apart from the Loch Nevis only missing one call since the 20th January. Sheerwater is coming to Muck every Sunday during June, July and August. This is good news for the Craft Shop which is open anyway, visitors who come for the weekend and cannot stay till Monday and locals who want to visit us on a non working day. Every Sunday can be an Open Day though the official Open Day is 17th June. It might even encourage Representatives of God to pay us a visit, they have not managed it in recent months.
I would like to add my congratulations to the winners of the Daisy Prize and particularly to Freya Meadows and Willie MacRae who shared the 1st place and all the runners up who are listed elsewhere. Well done everyone.
On the farm I am pleased to report that Audrey MacDonald's three black beaded boys are thriving! Several years ago I decided to stop purchasing Suffolk tup lambs as I could not get them to grow over the winter. Audrey's three are a different kettle of fish, they are growing well and their manners are excellent at feeding time. A pleasure to look after!
The five acres of Swedes have gone - they were a mixed crop with some areas excellent and others poor; but of the crop that did grow, more than half were consumed by our ever increasing goose population. Yet the future of the geese is bleak. Hopefully many of them will migrate to the other islands, islands which are much better geared to looking after wildlife than we are. Perhaps in future it will be John Chester of the Scottish Wildlife Trust who will be growing the Swedes!
Lawrence MacEwen

A seminar organised by The Prince's Regeneration Trust was planned to be held on the island on 5th and 6th March, but the poor weather prevented the participants from reaching Rum. They included 'leading figures in the field of historic buildings conservation in Scotland' and the idea was to discuss proposals for the repair, conservation and future use of Kinloch Castle. It is understood that a meeting took place in Fort William, with some of the attendees making it over to Rum on the 6th.

For the most part February has been a still, quite month, much warmer than average with daffodils ready to bloom at the first drop of sunshine - a good month earlier than usual. Duncan Ferguson eerily spotted a basking shark in Craigard this month. This must be a record, and either a sinister warning of the threat of global warming, or a one-off guest appearance. No other wildlife news - Birdie is sunning himself in the Gambia. Also, Ben Cormack is off to Peru to visit his shaman princess.
Like everyone else, we are just gearing up for our first visitors, and a few early-birds have already made an appearance. We've also been busy with workmen coming and going, in fact we have hardly had the normal February lull at all. Ailidh Morrison and Tiina MacVarish came over to work with the nursery and primary school pupils as part of their storytelling project, and the resulting book was much enjoyed. They also helped Brian Greene and Abby Lines to celebrate their joint birthday on the 19th with a swing.
Neil Stephen and Lara Hynde of Skye-based architects Dualchas came over to give an informative and inspiring presentation on their work, held in the Community Hall, followed by a discussion on planning for the future. This was of great interest as so many of us are embarking on building projects this year. Donna Macculloch has made a fine start on her ceilidh studio, with foundations dug and laid over a weekend of kindly weather with a lot of help from a willing crew. All power to the girly cement mixers.
Feisean Eige held a fundraising night in the Tearoom, with a quiz (questions set by Bean) and raffle, which helped to boost proceeds for the summer's events. Alex, Lucy, Eileen and Brendan won the box of chocs! Lizzie and staff provided some fabulous food; a visitor was heard to comment on how lucky we are to have such a great facility in a remote and un-populated location.
Despite all this good news, the month ended on a sad note for Stuart Miller (Scruff), who had an accident involving a hauler on board the Kestrel off Muck. He was taken to Glasgow by helicopter, but unfortunately has lost the tips of three fingers. Best wishes to Scruff, Kathleen and the girls, - we all wish you a speedy recovery, and hope the pain killers are kicking in. Ouch!
Sue Kirk

Lots of big machines in and around the village the last few months...The sewage improvements have been finished and the men have done a good job of neatening up and landscaping, and apart from Arisaig being 'the smelliest village in the Highlands' for a few days all has settled down - except for the odd niff now and then. The road repairs just outside the village have also been done, in two days of disruption, but at least we can drive out towards Fort William without feeling we're going to lose a wheel at any moment. Once more they've had to repair a stretch of road scheduled to disappear in the next year.
The ash tree at the foot of Station Road was finally felled. It was past its prime, and lost a big branch in one of the storms, becoming a danger beside the main road through the village. Iain MacQueen did a quick ring count and estimated it to have been about 180 years old - which means it would have been a sapling around 1827, beside an untarmaced road - was it even serviced by a mail coach then? Most of the buildings that make up Arisaig as we know it would not have been there. What a lot of changes that tree has 'seen'.
Talking of trees, unfortunately we are going to have to arrange soon for the copper beech at the Astley Hall to come down. While not as old as the ash tree, nor as old as the hall, it has gone rotten in its heart.
Changes coming to the village, none I feel for the better…
Sad news that the Mallaig & Arisaig Brownies are disbanding - not enough girls in that age group in the area to make it viable. They're going out on a high note with a performance of what I am sure will be an excellent play on Friday 23rd March. And Specsavers are coming to the village halls, on what they hope will be the first of a series of visits. In the Astley Hall I think they intend using the kitchen to do the eye tests.
Ann Martin

For the past three days I have been "racking" my brain for a good controversial opening line, something to catch the attention, but only managed the usual blank! Mind you at least I had to ponder on the spelling to use for "racking/wracking", should it begin with a "w" or an "r"? After much consideration, (as much as I could manage at 10pm.!) I decided that the "w" start would emphasise the detritus that my grey matter consists of, whereas the "r" would merely demonstrate either the sophisticated layers of knowledge, or the severe strains that are exerted when any stretching of the ancient cells is called for! Safe in the knowledge that the computer is not clever enough to "red line" my choice, and that dear Ed. will probably let it pass anyway, I leave it to you literary experts to decide!
Anyway, moving on to something more substantial! What's been happening? Glancing through the inevitable journal (Gee how I hate making that chronicle!) I see that at least the past month has been not too bad weather wise, in fact for February I would say that it's been great! However, do check with Ian's accurate guide, as I don't count any overnight rain, and just note it as I see it when the bleary slits creak open! I do know for sure that the 2nd Feb was lovely as I sallied forth with a small group from the bottom of the "Circular Walk" and sploshed our way up to Loch Eireagoraidh before scaling the heights of "Carn Mhic a' Ghile-chaim" (yes it was steep!) and then on past "Loch na Ba Glaise" to the foot of Bracara hill where we gratefully piled into a car and home. Tired but somewhat elated!
The 5th. was not a good day! Suffice to say that my hot water tank decided to depart for pastures in the sky, leaving its legacy behind! My sincere thanks to the prompt action of the local plumber who very speedily replaced the offending article and saved me from certain death as the in-house temperature had quickly fallen to somewhere around minus fifty!! Thanks guys!
As the month flew on, things continued to get busier with several trips to Fort William for meetings with various bodies, the more important ones being with the Access Officer and with my Area Officer for S.N.H. The latter was to pore over my work plan for the year up to April 2008 which is supposed to be the plan I follow, but I'm afraid looking that far ahead is very difficult! I did take advantage of extending that meeting to lay the foundations for the possibility of squeezing out some cash for the Arisaig School playground project. As with all attempts at grant funding some things are eligible and others not, so it will take some time to come up with the best application. I mentioned "Access" a moment ago. I know that you should all be familiar by now with the legislation of February last year that pretty well gives us access to most places provided we behave "responsibly"! Anyway, shortly there will be a series of open meetings in Lochaber (one in Mallaig and one in Arisaig) as well as meetings with Community Councils to locate and iron out any problems that have come to light. I cannot confirm dates yet, but provisionally the local ones will be: 18th. April Astley Hall 3.30 to 5.30, Mallaig and Morar Community Centre 6.30 to 8.30. Please come to these meetings as the "Core Path" plans will be on show, and your input is most important.
Slipping back to the good bits, I have thoroughly enjoyed the other walks tackled this month, particularly being able to choose the days with good weather! The "Beasdale Ridge" and the "Arisaig Triangle" were great, much enhanced by the willing participants who sometimes forget that my bones are ageing and require frequent stops to re-energise, and that these outings should be pursued at a pace that befits a gentleman of my experience!! Never mind, I'm off to Lochaber College at the end of this week for some "Outdoor Education", so next month I may be able to create a column of exciting content!
In the meantime remember the resolutions and contact me if required.
Volunteers know the number! Telephone: 01687 462 983
Angus Macintyre

February 2007 Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
February was a generally mild month with little frost or snow to speak of. Nothing unusual reported this month, although a pair of Collared Doves in Arisaig which had hatched out chicks by the 25th seems exceptionally early. There were still Iceland Gulls about Mallaig harbour all month and two others, and adult and an immature were seen together on the Morar Estuary on the 4th.
There were Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala most of the month, with 3 adults and 1 juvenile there on the 28th, along with a few Teal and 17 Herons roosting in the reeds. There were 10 Wigeon in the Morar Estuary on the 19th while others were reported from Traigh, Back of Keppoch and Loch nan Ceall. Shelduck were seen at Millburn and were also back at Silver Sands by the month end. The Greylag Geese flock at Traigh still had a single Pink-footed Goose for company till the 7th at least. A single Greenshank was seen several times on the Morar Estuary throughout the month and the Lapwing flock at Back of Keppoch had built up to around 25 birds by mid-month. Woodcock were reported from the Morar Lodge - Bracara area on several occasions.
Goldfinches were again reported from Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig gardens, with up to 7 seen at one time in Rhubana View. The first Siskin reported back in a Morar garden was a single female from the 17th, while Bullfinches and Yellowhammers were reported from an Arisaig garden. The Hen Pheasant first reported in November was still frequenting a couple of gardens in Morar village. A male Hen Harrier was again seen on several occasions on the Rhu peninsula and also near the Kinloid area, while a female/Immature was seen in the Glasnacardoch area on the 27th.
Two Jays were seen near Loch nan Eala on the 7th, with a single bird seen there several days later.
Thanks to Moe Mathieson and Alan Cargill who sent me photos of the piebald Blackbird that has frequented the Loch Nevis Crescent - Blaven View area the past few months. It is a striking looking bird, but I don't think it is the same individual that was in the Lovat Terrace area last year.

West Word - ten years ago
The 32-page March 1997 edition of West Word (cost 75p) carried a front page picture of Jamie Milligan being tutored by guitarist/singer Jim Hunter, Glenuig, part of the Feis Day Workshop held in Mallaig School and which attracted over 50 children. The main story however was the announcement of a second bid by the Isle of Eigg Trust to buy the Island. Further down the page it seems that previous owner Keith Schellenberg appeared to have won his claim to ownership of the 1806 drawing by cartographer William Bald of 'The Eigg Map.'
A 'Stop Press' item at the foot of the front page proclaimed a Public Enquiry regarding the upgrading of the road between Kinsadel and Arisaig would be held in Arisaig's Astley Hall on Tuesday 11th March 1997!
The inside cover page was given over in its entirety to the MacArthur Stewart sponsored West Word Writing Competition which was to be judged by Melvyn Bragg (London) and Iain MacDonald (Glenuig).
Proposed housing developments for Morar were highlighted on page 4 while the list of Planning Applications included one about the formation of a car park, access road, footbridge and landscaping at Curtaig.
The Mallaig Lifeboat carried out its second mission of the year when the Aberdeen based fishing boat Valiant sank despite the best efforts of the Girl May and Pathfinder to tow her to Mallaig. Thankfully the crew were rescued by the Girl May.
As usual Ian Watts provided the weather info and Bramble was coming to the end of her 'Sweet Tooth Corner'.
Two pages of fishing news, one local from Hugh Allen on the Scottish Fishing Scene, the other from New Zealand by Jill de Fresnes, highlighted the differences but also the similarities in the problems facing fishermen.
The school page was given over to Primary 7 pupils of Mallaig Primary School as they provided examples of their current literary work, studying simile and metaphor…Louise and Gillian Manson, Ashley Currie, Paul Jones, Michael MacDonald and James Fairns being among the contributors.
The adjacent page carried an advert proclaiming All Day Opening for the Mallaig Hydro Shop (ah, those were the days) while in the centre page acknowledgements Betty MacPhie was thanking son Ian and family for the lovely party they provided on her 80th birthday - well, congratulations to you Betty, now that you're 90 years young!! In the Letters Page Alastair MacDonald provided a story of a 'message in a bottle' that had travelled from Portnadoran to Bude in Cornwall.
A column length poem entitled 'The First 40 Years' was headed by a photo of birthday boy Keith Eddie (now 50 of course) and page 21 was given over to the intrepid Barry Austin travelling solo through Kenya in 'A Sense of Adventure'.
Lawrence MacEwen from the Island of Muck provided the first part of an article entitled 'Why Do We Farm?', while two and a half pages were devoted to the Sound of Arisaig - potential Marine SAC (Special Area of Conservation).
The heady content of Vol 3 Issue 5 continued (and rightly so with the impending elections) with two full pages devoted to Mary Scanlon (Conservative), Stephen Gallagher (Liberal Democrat), Fergus Ewing (Scottish National Party) and David Stewart (Labour), who delivered their views on questions on local issues posed to them by West Word Editor Jill de Fresnes.
Morar Playing Field, TV Improvements at Knoydart, A Protest on Rum, Reflexology Workshop in Glenuig and Arisaig's Suinsletter road were among the stories carried in the Round and About section provided by our own redoubtable correspondents.
As usual I end with an eye catching snippet as I have to ask what that was all about Mrs Editor? - Ann Martin (Arisaig) recently crashed a speed boat into a hippo on the river Zambesi!

Crannog takes the helm at Mallaig Boatbuilding
Mallaig Boatbuilding and Engineering has just been bought by Fort William company Crannog Concept. The deal keeps the boatyard in local ownership and gives it the backing and resources to grow and prosper into the future.
Crannog's owner Finlay Finlayson said: 'Taking over Mallaig Boatbuilding and Engineering is an exciting development for Crannog. Our seafood business has been looking for a base in Mallaig for some time. In addition the boatyard, and in particular its strong engineering capability, adds a great deal to The Underwater Centre in Fort William.
'We're very impressed with the team at the boatyard and very confident in playing our part in building a positive future for the company. We see great potential for Crannog in Mallaig as a whole. '
John Henderson, Mallaig Boatbuilding's outgoing owner, said: 'As the last of three generations of the family owning the business it's obviously an emotional time for me knowing that there won't be a Henderson at the helm any longer. However I'm delighted I leave it in the hands of Finlay, a local man who sees a positive future for the business, and I'd ask that my customers give him their support in the future.'
The Crannog team is looking forward to working with Mallaig Harbour Authority and the various other public bodies to develop the exciting potential they see in Mallaig.
Other companies within Crannog Concept are: Crannog Seafood Supply Company; Crannog Restaurant; Crannog Cruises; and The Underwater Centre, Fort William and Tasmania.

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member

FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary of the M&NWFA
The weather continued to be poor for most of the month with the fleet only getting to see intermittently. The dearth of supplies caused by the weather has meant that prices remain good for the majority of species.

Inshore Fisheries Groups
The new Inshore Fisheries Groups are being formed and it is thought that the Mull and the Small Isles IFG, will hold it's first formation meeting within the next few weeks. The IFG's will have an executive comprised of fishing interests and an advisory element consisting of a mix of scientists, environmental interests, crown estate SEPA etc. It is hoped that the groups will gave control of fisheries to local interests whilst remaining to be funded by the Scottish Executive. The initiative is fundamentally different to the Highland Regulating Order which would have been run by a private Company and would have had to be paid for through a permit system.

Marine Park
At a recent seminar in Aberdeen Environment and Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie told the delegates he was 'staggered and disappointed' with the strength of opposition to the development. It would maybe have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money if Mr Finnie had been in tuned with the people in the areas suggested and gauged what the reaction was going to be before the mass marketing "consultation fiasco" was unleashed on a wary public.
I note with interest that the Oban Times conducted a poll on the imposition of a Coastal and Marine National Park which asked the question :- Should there be a referendum on a marine and coastal park for the West Highlands and islands? The result was Yes 76% and No 24%. It seems that the people have spoken again and declared their wish to be consulted on what happens in their area.
In the meantime I reproduce a letter (with kind permission) which was recently received from a Northern Irish Community Group which contains amazing parallels to the proposed Scottish National Park:

I hope you don't mind me contacting you and I hope you're the person I think you are. Are you opposing a marine coastal park in your area of Scotland? If so, we here in Mourne, County Down, NI. would like to correspond with you and perhaps gain information from you that would be relevant to our situation. At the moment 'the powers that be' are trying to foist a national park on us totally against the wishes of the people - at least the farmers and landowners who own more than 75% of the property. We have formed ourselves into a group, the Mourne & Slieve Croob Residents' Action Group, in order to fight this designation. We live in a very populated and well farmed area and we don't want or need another level of bureaucracy forced upon us. As well as that, the Mourne Heritage Trust, a quango, want to extend the boundary to include the coastline and want to complement the Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategy which is an environmental strategy being talked about by the government and which extends 12 km out to sea and 3 km inland - effectively another national park. This will put our inshore fishing men out of business. Kilkeel, which is our small town, is well-known for its fishing fleet and these inshore men. along with the mussel fishing men, generate 30 million pounds to the economy every year.
Can you give us some evidence of what is happening in your area so we can inform those who need to know? I look forward to hearing from you.
Chairman of the group

COUNCIL CORNER by Councillor Charlie King
After what seems like a lifetime of negotiations, twists and turns, the announcement of the awarding of the contract for the completion of the final section of the A830 is very welcome news for the whole community.
I would personally like to thank the Minister of Transport, Tavish Scott, for his unswerving support (he must be relieved I will not be constantly getting the A830 in every conversation we have). Also thanks are due to the Engineering Staff at the Scottish Executive and Highland Council who have driven this project tirelessly over the last 12 months.
This project could not have happened without the co-operation of the landowners, whose land is affected by the road line and I would thank them. Throughout this campaign to complete the A830, the Community Councils of Morar, Mallaig and Arisaig and many people in these communities, too many to list and some no longer with us, have worked hard, given their time, and given me tremendous support. We always spoke with one voice which always impressed Government ministers and civil servants. This is a tremendous result for all of us.
I have decided not to seek re-election in May. I have been honoured to serve Mallaig and the Small Isles Ward as District and Highland Councillor for the last 23 years. Many exciting projects have taken place during this time from the latest announcement on the road to previous completed sections on the A830; Small Isles and Knoydart Ferry Terminals; Health Centres; new housing; the Swimming Pool; the Mackintosh Centre; the historic buyouts of Eigg and Knoydart and many more developments which have benefited the communities.
I was opposed to the new ward boundaries drawn up by the Boundaries Commission to satisfy the new proportional representation voting system forced on Local Government to try to cure a central belt problem of dominant Labour held councils. This can only have a detrimental effect on rural communities such as ours - to include Mallaig and the Small Isles Ward in with Caol (this is no disrespect to Caol) where there is a large population base and a different set of issues is to my mind a backward step. The new ward boundary will take in an area including Mallaig, the Small Isles, Kilmallie, Corpach, Banavie to Invergarry, and Caol, and will be a three-Councillor Ward. This new set up will be the end of Area Committees as we know them, and most importantly all decisions and Committees will be held in Inverness, one of the main reasons for me not standing is that I do not want to commit myself to a further four years of attending meetings in Inverness and the amount of driving this would entail.
The new wards are to have Ward Forums and a Ward Manager, but at this time it is not clear where Ward Forums will be held or what they can do or influence, and the role of the Ward Manager is not entirely clear at this time; whatever the role will be, they will be most important to the running of a ward.
If rural communities are to have a strong voice, Community Councils will have to have a strong voice in the decisions future Councillors take. We are very lucky that Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig and the Small Isles Community Councils have always been seen as very active Councils.
I do hope a young and energetic candidate emerges from this area to contest this election. I feel this is the correct time for me to stand down.

Grooming the Grey Whales in Mexico by Katie MacDiarmid
In February Arisaig's Katie went on the trip of a lifetime with Ronnie, Martine and a contingent from Eigg, on a trip organised by Chris Swanney of Marguerite Explorer fame.
We started out in La Paz, city of peace, almost at the tail of Baja California, at the sea of Cortez. Our mission was to get to Magdalena bay, on the Pacific coast; to see the grey whales as they have their calves there this time of year. However, our plans were delayed when one of our party was denied access to the U.S., because she didn't have the required barcode on her passport. Let that be a lesson to anyone thinking of travelling to the U.S.!! Anyway, we decided to take our lovely wooden boat, the Don José out to bob around the sea of Cortez for a couple of days, until our missing girl Lori arrived. Before we even had left the port of La Paz, we saw pelicans, grebes, a porcupine fish, a wee green heron and an osprey with a big fish in its mouth, just to name but few! So what were we going to see further out? Everyone was bursting with anticipation. Before we set off though, we were all issued with our very own ½ pint thermal mug and were to write our names on it. These were to be the most important pieces of equipment, as they were to be used every afternoon at 5.30 for Happy Hour before tea.

photo photo

The first day we were all up at about 6 a.m. and this was to be the norm for the duration of the trip as 7 a.m. was breakfast. We were shortly joined by some 100 or so common dolphins, which raced over to see the boat. It was great to watch them, although we were occasionally punctuated by some other flying objects: these were Mobula or: small black and white rays. They were quite quickly nicknamed: Flippers, as they were pancake like as they jumped. Whenever anyone saw a Flipper, one would automatically go: 'WEEEEEEE…'. At about 9.30 the first whale was spotted by its blow. The Don José started to make its way towards our goal, but no one was too sure yet what kind of whale it was. Within about a mile of it, it was identified as a blue whale, the creature I most wanted to see. If we didn't see anything after this, I would still have gone home elated. But it wasn't just the one, there were two blue whales: a mother and a calf. As we got closer to them, you could have heard a pin drop on the boat as we were all listening intently to the noise of their blows. They were making a huge whooshing sound, followed by what seemed like water cascading down a very wide deep drain. It had a kind of metallic sound too. Every time they dived, it seemed like ages, I think their dive lasted about 11 minutes each time. And then you could hear people shouting: 'BLOOOOW', and 'Blow at 10 o clock', that meant they were back and in which direction everybody had to look. We followed these creatures for five hours and it was the calf that finally came to check out the Don José. It was about a metre away and about 35 ft long (her mummy being about a 100 foot, which makes the blue whale the biggest animal ever on our planet!). At this point everyone was in frenzy with their cameras. I was sure I felt the boat tilt when they all rushed to the one side. The wee one only stayed about a minute, but we were all left in awe of these magnificent creatures. Gaby, a fellow whale watcher, and I were stuck in crow's nest, quietly crying our eyes out, nothing could compare to this.

photo photo

Around 3.30 more dolphins were spotted, about 300 of them, all going in another direction than the whales, so the chase was on. However, these dolphins were not so friendly and didn't come very close to the boat. By this time we really had to turn anyway to reach San Francisco, an island with a beautiful secluded bay, which was to be our mooring for the night. You know those bays you see in every holiday program: white sandy beaches, turquoise water, just like that. On our way over there we even passed a humpback whale, so, Happy Hour that night didn't need much alcohol! (A lot of sweaters and socks though, some even missed their gloves or woolly hats, as we had a constant freezing N.E. wind! Welcome to Mexico!)
Next day at about 8.30 we were joined by about a 100 dolphins and about 10 a.m. the shout 'BLOW dead ahead' was heard. I still couldn't see what they were shouting about, and then it turned out to be sperm whales. 40 Feet long and about 10 of them, going around in two's and three's. Quite friendly they were too. Then the sea seemed full with pilot whales, so many, we couldn't count them. And among them, as if it couldn't get any better, some bottlenose dolphins appeared. They seemed to be egging the pilot whales on, by slapping their tales in the whales' faces. Far too soon it seemed to be lunchtime, which was scoffed very quickly by everyone. But no one was as fast as Ronnie, I even don't think he chewed his food ever on this holiday. Before he was out on deck again, the captain (almost 70 and the character for 'The old man and the sea') had caught up with the sperm whales, which were swimming in rows. We counted up to seven in one row and they seemed to pop up one after the other and pop down with shouts of 'TAIL…..TAIL…TAIL…TAIL' from all of us on the Don José. The sperm whales seemed quickly forgotten when blue whales were spotted, five of them, all in different places. All too soon though we had to sail to Isla Del Espirito Santo, for the night. This place was near enough to the mainland, where we were to pick up Lori the next day. On the way there phosphorescence in the sea lit up our boat like liquid silver.
On day three, just after breakfast, there were several gangs of 'Flippers', the wee mobulae, jumping in succession. Lori was picked up in a panga (= a dinghy) to the delight of everyone on board, not least her husband Richard, who had a grin on his face all day long! I even think he didn't notice anything whatsoever jumping out of the water. That afternoon we headed to see the sea lions and what a racket they made. We all jumped into the pangas and headed off around the wee island full of sea lions and boobies. It's amazing how they draped themselves over the rocks and took the same shape. After this tour round the island we went back to the Don José to get snorkel and fins as we were going to swim with the beasties. They would swim right up to you under the water, that is, if you would notice them, distracted by all the colourful fish, and keeping an eye out for sharks…..Well, I was anyway.

photo The next couple of days were spend exploring the beaches and canyons of the islands, as this cold N.E. wind had picked up and our captain didn't think it safe to go on. Secluded and beautiful shores, where we were looking for shells, wee humming birds, hundreds of flowers and cactus, full with colourful lizards and a sort of chipmunk. And if you might have felt fed up doing that, you could summon one of the pangas to take you back to the boat to take a kayak or a snorkel and go for it. It was utter bliss. The only thing to disrupt our comfort was maybe getting too hot in the sun and having to move into the shade…..

Making our way down the coast, we ended up in the middle of what felt like 1000 humpback whales. I thought they were just swimming about, not really doing anything exciting. How wrong I was! These mammals, with one flick of their tail, can rise all the way out of the sea. They turn upside down and bang their tail off the water up to 14 times, as I counted one doing this. You just didn't know where to look. And then, the further down the coast we were getting, the more built up it was getting. Huge hotels were rising out of the cliffs, rows of houses were springing up. Someone said it would be just a matter of time afore the sea around the coast would be full of Jet Skis, paragliders and speedboats. One can only wonder what kind of damage this may do to the local environment and the beautiful creatures that inhabit it.
That night we ended up at Cabo San Lucas, the biggest built up area we had seen so far in the entire journey. Frightfully noisy and polluted by light and very smelly, we were joined by a neon drenched 'Spanish' galleon, blazing out very loud music. We all looked on this intrusion with utter contempt, thinking what snobs we have become on our peaceful journey down the coast. Poor Jason said he hadn't been able to sleep that night, worried, in case disco-pirates invaded us.
We sailed unusually early the next day and the first thing we saw was a grey whale, about 10 meters from the beach. Now we were in the real Pacific and we still had to make a lot of miles that day so: no stops. It seemed pretty uneventful anyway for a while, until we chanced upon a huge sperm whale of about 60 feet long. The captain made a small detour for this giant. We only found out later that Mark, out of sheer boredom not seeing a whale, had performed some kind of whale dance to summon it, this involved flashing his derriere on the top-deck. I had also been moaning to Martine that I hadn't seen a sea turtle yet. She twitched her nose like Samantha in Bewitched and 20 minutes later a turtle came swimming along the boat! Unfortunately I was down the stairs, looking at Brian's 3000 pictures of a humpback whale he had taken in about an hour! I do believe there was a touch of magic on our Don José.

photo photo

Our last day was spent in Magdalena bay. Some colourful pangas came to pick us up and we were all in the water at 7.30. There were so many grey whales about that we just didn't know where to look. We asked our guide of the bay whether the whales ever came near the pangas and his answer was: 'No, very rarely'. Next thing: look at that whale shoving the other panga around…our panga got there in a jiffy. This was the most humbling experience of my life and quite a few others. These 40-50 feet long giants shoving their noses up against our wee boats, letting us touch and pat and groom them, getting us all wet with their snotty breath! Their skin felt very soft and smooth and not once did anyone of us feel even a little scared. The whales, I think were just as interested in us as we were in them.
So what else can I do than save up again and go back to these enchanted beasties. So, I'm afraid you won't see me in the bar again. Ever………

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
More MacEachans
In February's article "The Glennan MacEachans" we traced the ancestry of Ewan MacEachan, s/o Donald and Mary, Gaoithe Dail. Ewan's oldest brother, Ronald, m. Chirsty MacEachan, d/o Hector MacEachan and Catherine MacDonald. Ronald and Chirsty d. in 1872 aged 97 and 93 respectively. They had six children, not necessarily in the following order. 1. Alexander, 2. Hugh, 3. Catherine, all NFI, 4. Neil who m. Ann MacEachan of Traigh and they had five children, 5. Jane b. 1830. m. Hugh MacGillivray and went to Cape Breton where there are descendants today. 6. Charles 1810-1902, who on 30th Jan. 1850 m. Ann Gillies d/o John and Isabella Gillies of Gaoithe Dail. Incidentally there were three marriages on that day.The other two being, Donald MacDonald, Keppoch Point who m. Emily MacDonald, Traigh and John MacIntyre, Kinloid, who m. Ann MacLeod, Back of Keppoch. (Arisaig Marriage Register.)
Charles 6. and his wife, Ann Gillies had eight children, two of whom interest us here. A. Mary and B. Neil. Mary m. George MacDonald, Bun a'Caimbe from whence came the patronymic "the Georges". George was the s/o Ewan, (Eoghainn Ruadh) and Mary MacDougall and he and his brother, Angus, became world class pipers and legends in Arisaig to the present day although they didn't start competing till late in life. Mary, A. and George also had eight children. A1. Donald. A2. Hugh, both unm. A3. Mary d. young. A4. Charlie (George) m. Bella MacDougall, Bracara and they had two daughters, Rosemary, Director of Education for Lochaber. Rosemary m. Peter Bridge and have two daughters, Stephanie and Olivia. Lillian is a head teacher in Fort William and is unm.
A5. Angus (George) piper, m. Annie? And had George, also a piper. A6. Annie (George) m. Roderick MacLean from Glenuig and they had a son, dec. and two daughters, Ann and Mary. Anne m. Ralph Bannister and had Brian who is a policeman in Lockerbie and who m. Kenna Purves and they have three daughters, Anne, Lynne and Emma. Mhairi m. Lachie Stewart, Arisaig and they had three children Leanne, Robbie and Ruaridh. Sadly, Mhairi d. in 2000. Oona, Mhairi's twin, m. Sinclair Gunn and they live in Fort William. Mary's dau. Feona, m. Grant Laing and they live in Grantown-on-Spey. In 1861 Charles 6. his wife Ann and family were living in 10 Back of Keppoch (Glennan) but in which particular house, we do not know. Charles' elderly parents, Ronald and Chirsty are living with them. Two doors away, in no 12 is his brother, Neil MacEachan and his wife, Ann MacEachan from Traigh and their seven children Catherine, 12, Christina 10, Ewan 8, Donald 6, Catherine 4, Margaret 2 and John who is newborn.
A7. Jessie (George) b. 1886 m. Henry? Wilkinson, s/o Archbishop Wilkinson, and their children were, George, dec. m. Beatrice Spaven who lives in the old home at Bun a' Caimbe. Their children are, Peter, Pamela, Joyce, Julie and Colin. Joyce m. Ruaridh Ormiston in 2006 and they work the croft at Bun a' Caimbe. A8. Ewan, b. 1888, was the youngest of the family and he m. Lillian ? whose people had Arisaig Hotel. They had no children and Ewan inherited the family croft.
Neil B. who was the other child of interest of Charles and Ann MacEachan. Neil was b. in 1864 and he m. Elizabeth MacVarish, b. 1888, dau. of Donald MacVarish and Ann Cameron who are listed as farmers at Rhu Farmhouse 1891 census. It was Neill MacEachan who built Tulachgorm, Arisaig. Neill and his wife, Liza, had two children, Donalda Ann, affectionately known as Alda, unm. and Neil who m. Anne Collier and had five children. John, Lesley, James, Elizabeth and Fiona. James and Lesley live in Rhu with their families and Fiona lives in Arisaig village with her family.
This MacEachan family descends from the Howbeag MacEachans but I should have made the point last month that there is one branch of Arisaig MacEachans who descend from Eachan (Hector) of Kilmalew, 2nd son of Roderick 111 of Clanranald. We haven't yet managed to disentangle the two different septs.
As ever, thanks to Tearlach MacFarlane for his comprehensive family trees.

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