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

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March 2011 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
New from the Harbour - Birdwatch
Crofting Roundup

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A small club which started in the village hall in Mallaig in 1999 has produced, not one, but four Scottish Champions - one of whom, Bill Robertson, is 80 years old! On Friday 4th February the four team mates went to Dumfries to take part in the Scottish Short Mat Championship and came home with the Shield and title of Scottish Champions. The win qualifies them to represent Scotland in the 'Fours' competition against the other national champions of the British Isles, in November. Alan and Dennis have been picked to represent Scotland in a series against England, Ireland and Wales in Swansea in March. Good Luck boys!


For the third year running, readers of Wanderlust magazine have voted the West Highland Line as the best in the world!
Wanderlust has this to say about the 164 mile long line:
'The opulent Orient Express, the handy Eurostar, the dramatic Rocky Mountaineer. They're good, but they're not the best. According to you, the crème de la crème of rail journeys is far closer to home. For the third year in a row, the West Highland Line comes out on top. Trundling through some of Scotland's finest scenery, it passes mighty mountains and rugged moorland specked with deer. A new entry - the Settle-Carlisle journey - confirms that Blighty-based train travel is where it's at.'
The West Highland Line, which runs from Glasgow to Mallaig, beat two Peruvian lines into second and third place, with the Trans-Siberian Express coming fourth. The Orient Express chugged into tenth place.

As West Word goes to press, work is commencing on erecting road barriers beside Loch Eilt at the scene of the fatal accident last September. There has been huge local pressure to achieve this result, the most public expression being the protest march in December of over 100 people who walked along the treacherous stretch of the A830 under the banners of SOS - Save Our Souls. Pressure on Transport Scotland came also from Dave Thomson MSP and Councillor Allan Henderson.

For the shortest month of the year it's certainly been a busy one here at Knoydart. The sewage works are currently underway at the bunkhouse area with the road works beginning last week. The road will remain closed for the next week or so.
Alex from Doune celebrated her 21st at the weekend with a weekend of music at Doune and the Old Forge. Happy belated birthday wishes…..Alex's wasn't the only party on the peninsula this month. Mark Harris had his house warming where all his guests wore a hat. By all accounts it was a great night but I think that's all I can say about it. Fraz and John Murdo aren't the only strippers in town - (Paint!….) as a stag party celebrated with a weekend on Knoydart. The village hall organised a Valentines disco, which was great fun although not very romantic, because the first half of the night it was all women accompanied by Tommy and Davie N. The balance was addressed when the stag group arrived in the wee hours and lots of crazy dance moves ensued.
As you know the Knoydart music festival now has a website www.knoydartfestival.com where you can buy your tickets online. Tickets are selling 20 times faster that the last festival, so if you want to come, you'd better get your ticket before they sell out. We don't want to anybody to be disappointed. The facebook page now has over 300 fans. Can you help us make it to 500 by the end of March? There will be lots happening, not just musically. There'll be a packed programme of events for children and teenagers. There's a film tent with films shown all weekend and there will be archery on the Saturday - as well as arts and crafts and guided walks over the weekend. Food on site will be provided by Britta and Kristy, assisted by Ian and Jim (or is that the other way around?) We've also got Iain Spinks coming to do his world famous Arbroath Smokies. As well as the food in the village with the tearoom and the old forge.
There's a new ghillie in the form of Jack Alldridge, Jack worked last season in the pub and has come back to work for Kilchoan Estate, Good luck.
The Village hall had a triple bill screening, yet another great film night organised by Sam. I think Lorna, Sam, Cath and I deserve a special mention for managing to sit through the late night (9pm!!) showing of the Swedish vampire movie, "let me in" and managing to walk home in the dark afterwards - the wind rattling and shaking the hall doors added to the atmosphere. The 50/50 draw for the hall is happening again, after the big success of it last year. Get your numbers before the 4th March.
We hope that everyone who has friends and family in New Zealand are safe and well after the earthquake tragedy. Luckily Bob and Morag and Lara and Asher, who are all out there, are all OK.
The pottery and tearoom will be reopening on Wednesday 2nd March after being closed for January and February. Rhona and I hope we will still be able to move after the long hours of painting and spring cleaning!
I hope everyone managed to catch BBC Alba's ferry tales that was on last week. The Western Isles was one of the featured ferries. It included a cast of Tony, Tommy (who was the quietest I've ever known him) and Ross. It was also lovely to see Mrs Morrison on the programme looking so well.
March 8th sees the 100th anniversary for International Women's Day. This year we will be celebrating it on Friday 11th as land girls from the 1940's, where you will be invited to attend our teadance in the village hall at 7.30. The proceeds raised this year will be split between a charity for women of the Congo, where it is currently the most dangerous place on earth for a woman to live, and a charity closer to home - Lochaber Women's Aid, who provide a lifeline for women and their families in the Highlands. They have had to face funding cuts so it is even more important for individuals and groups to help support such a vital resource. Domestic violence is the number one killer for women between the ages of 25 - 40 in the UK. So, if you see us (Don't worry - you won't miss us!) please give generously to these two very worthwhile causes.
Finally, Stewart and Rhona would like to thank Sonia Cameron and the West Word for their prize of tickets to the SECC model railway exhibition.
That's all for this month, Cheers,

The Knoydart Festival
The Knoydart Festival 2011 will take place between 29th April and 2nd May, but you can get an early preview of the event by looking at their new website. The festival will feature bands, music, a beer tent, archery, a film tent, walks, talks, food, bonfires, kids entertainment and more. Weekend tickets cost £60 for adults and £30 for ages 14-17, whilst children go free. You can find further information about the programme for the weekend on the new Festival web site www.knoydartfestival.com
Isla Miller

February is drawing to a close and our hall is under way at last, The site is cleared and leveled with mounds of rock and earth all round and the foundations of the new building are now poured. For a single storey on a rocky site they are generous in dimension but none of us are going to complain about that. The main frame of the building is imminent and when that is erected there really will be something tangible to show for all the years of work by the committee.
The main problem that KDL the builders have encountered so far has been booking lorry space on Loch Nevis; but that is partly a question of booking far enough ahead. Luckily there is an alternative - the Spanish John. KDL have not yet come up against a problem we have to live with; missed calls by the Loch Nevis. Considering that it has been a fairly calm winter with few gales there has been a remarkable number of them. A big incentive to stay at home!
And winter could be nearly over. The grass is growing and the fields have turned green. Some of the trees are coming into leaf. We will need an early spring on the farm for we are short of silage for the cattle.
Lawrence MacEwen

This month there was a thunder storm and some of the strongest winds known to the island sent a huge fir tree crashing down outside a resident's home. The islands community development officer, David Frew has a new job in Braemar as Estate Manager of Mar Lodge. This means the Nursery will temporarily close down due to the lack of children. The Community would like to thank him for his dedication while he was here and the family will all be missed.
On Saturday 19th there was a pub quiz up at the Bar and the castle staff team won! (Although some of the contractors thought it was a fix!) Also Camille Dressler came over to do a Social Enterprise course which everyone enjoyed. Finally the school have a new supply teacher called Miss MacLugash who taught at Banavie Primary and in September will be going to teach at Baku Oxford School in Azerbaijan. That's all we have for this month. Bye!
Cara & Nell

It was a sad beginning to the month as Donald Mackinnon passed away, following complications after an operation. The funeral was held in the Church of Scotland and was very well attended by friends and family from on and off the Island.
Otherwise it has been a fairly quiet month with a few people escaping to Glenuig for The Loveboat Big Band, apparently a great night of soul and swing music, which turned into a weekend long party! Back on Eigg, we had a bit of a media whirl mid month as not one but two TV crews were over. Al Jazeera, here to film a pilot episode and BBC Alba were over to film a programme about rural shops. It's not clear when these are scheduled to be shown but will let you know nearer the time.
There seems to be a bit of a running tradition forming as Alistair, Jamie, Ewen and myself are swapping last year's marathon for a slightly smaller challenge, running on behalf of the RNLI in the Bath half marathon on Sunday the 6th March. A nice excuse for Sue to get pampered in the Spa! You can sponsor us at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/eiggrunners
Sarah Boden is also limbering up for the Barrathon in June, and Joe and Emily are doing a fun run in Glasgow. Team Eigg just needs to try and keep the running going for the Island games on Muck in August!
It's good to see Ben back from the US where he was visiting his girlfriend Audra, not a moment too soon as Camille had him straight back to work! Ben and Joe are now holding regular music sessions on a Tuesday in their new house, getting the practise in before a new season of Ceilidhs begins.
Great news from Nepal as Tamsin and Stu are expecting their first baby in August. A big congratulations to them and to Karen and Simon who are now getting very excited to be grandparents for the first time!
Eilidh Kirk

FilmG Awards 2011
On Friday 18th February two teachers and five Mallaig High School pupils attended the FilmG Award Ceremony in Glasgow. The evening began at 7.30pm in the old Fruitmarket, a concert venue in the centre of Glasgow. The venue was full with TV cameras dotted around recording the evening which can best be described as an Oscar ceremony for those able to produce quality films through the medium of Gaelic.
There were awards for professional and amateur film makers as well as for those of school age. More than 70 films had been entered for consideration by a prestigious judging panel. Fiona Hyslop (MSP) made a short speech introducing the event. David Hayman (actor) and Peter Mullen (director) were among those who presented the awards.
The school is delighted to announce that Rachael Robertson won the award for Best Performance. This is a tremendous achievement - well done Rachael. Congratulations also to the other members of the cast: Callan MacBeth, Daniel MacPhee, Megan Milligan and Isabella Moore.
If you would like to view her performance and that of other students, you will find the films on the FilmG website.

February 2011 Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly quiet month on the bird front with nothing out of the ordinary reported. The Nuthatch first reported back in September 2010 was still coming to feeders in Arisai throughout February. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also reported from several gardens in Arisaig during the month.
A single Snow Bunting was seen on several occasions early in the month on the shoreline at Traigh.
Still at least three Greenshank on the Morar Estuary at the start of the month. Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Redshank were regular at Traigh. Turnstones were seen on several occasions at Traigh and also Mallaig, where Purple Sandpipers were present throughout.
Shelduck were widely reported from Glasnacardoch to Rhue. Wigeon were seen at Traigh, Morroch and Loch nan Eala. Good numbers of Teal were seen at Loch nan Eala during the month, although sightings and numbers of Whooper Swans there were variable.
Goldeneye were widespread in the area with many males displaying by the month end. Several Goosanders were present at the west end of Loch Morar.
Good numbers of Siskins and Goldfinches reported from garden feeders, with a single Lesser Redpoll coming to feeders at a garden in Morar from the 20th.
Bullfinches were reported on several occasions from gardens in Mallaig and Arisaig, each time feeding on emerging apple or plum buds.
Several reports of Mistle Thrushes during the month, including three being accompanied by two Fieldfares at Cross Farm on the 14th.
Sparrowhawks were seen on numerous occasions in Mallaig and Morar. The Barn Owls were still in Mallaig and a single bird was seen at Rhubana View, Morar, on the night of the 13th.

Eigg Bird Report by John Chester
The main ornithological observation for February has to be the extreme lack of birds around the island. The prolonged pre-New Year freeze up seems to have had a pretty devastating effect on several species with Stonechats & the normally numerous Gold crests apparently gone completely from the island. There were fears that the small local Barn Owl population had also disappeared so the sighting of one at Cuagach on the 20th was a bit of a relief. Sightings of any interest were very few and far between with the best being a White Tailed Eagle on 11th February, a couple of wintering Dippers, our tiny population of four House Sparrows still regularly visiting garden feeders & a couple of displaying Long Eared Owls. Not too many signs of spring as yet but two returned pairs of Shelduck & the odd singing Mistle & Song Thrush are maybe a hint that things are beginning to move along.

The second-hand of time ticks over another segment of History this year as NASA's Space Shuttle program comes to an end. Discovery is due to land for the final time on the 7th of March, with only two more missions planned later this year. Endeavour goes up once more in April and Atlantis takes the final ever Shuttle mission in June.
The Shuttle is one of the most important and inspiring pieces of kit in our relatively short adventures into space; over the years it has launched, repaired and recovered satellites, helped build the largest structure in space - the ISS - and carried out ground breaking research. While carrying spare parts to the ISS is hardly a fitting end to the career of Discovery, it has already achieved its place in History. The closure of the program leaves the USA with no manned rocket program for the first time in 60 years, so expect a little more on this as the months progress.
Providing you had clear skies around the 18th of last month, you may have been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. This was a rare case of them actually being forecast, and what happened was this: on the 15th of February, the largest solar storm in four years erupted, generated at least three monster solar flares and sent billions of tonnes of matter hurtling towards us at 900 metres a second. Three days later it collided with Earth, which gave us the unusual opportunity of knowing it was coming. Hopefully there were some good views.
Further afield, Jupiter is coming to the end of its domination of the night sky as it slips down lower to the West. However, Mercury pops up around the middle of the month to give one of its best displays this year. On the 15th, at about 7pm, Jupiter and Mercury will be side by side in the low Western sky and although Jupiter is twice the distance, it will be twice as bright as Mercury.
Saturn rises in the East around 8pm each night and floats high in the South by the early hours. A new super storm is raging on the ringed planet, so large that it is visible with a decent telescope - look closely at its Northern hemisphere.
As always, happy viewing!
Rory Ellis

Marine Harvest is going back to its roots in its latest plans for expansion. The company received local authority permission from Ross, Skye and Lochalsh area planning committee to develop a new smolt rearing facility to stock its seawater farms.
And the proposed location for the new facility is the home of Scottish commercial fish farming at Lochailort.
Their existing base there was originally a commando training station during the second world war and subsequently became the site of the first trials in the UK to develop commercial scale salmon farming.
As Steve Bracken of Marine Harvest explained: "Our site at Lochailort has a unique place in the history of fish farming and it is therefore fitting it should be the location for our latest expansion, some 45 years later. Some of our staff still recall the early pioneering days when Unilever carried out their research.
"Despite a few changes of name and ownership along the way, we are a big part of the business community in the Highlands and Islands and still sustaining the economy of some of the most remote and rural parts of the region.
"This facility will be vital to the continued growth of the salmon farming industry in Scotland which is enjoying great success as people look for healthy food that is easy to prepare."
The new £12 million facility will replace the existing smolt unit which has been in place for 16 years.
Marine Harvest will grow the salmon from eyed eggs until the smolt stage when they will be transferred into the company's new seawater fish farms which are planned for the Minch. The new hatchery will also help supply smolts for the company's existing 25 sea farms across the west coast of the Highlands and the Western Isles.
As well as securing the positions of the existing four staff, a further six jobs will be created.
This latest development follows an announcement in October 2009 that the company is expanding its seawater operations by creating offshore residential fish farms in various locations in the Minch.

March 2011 NEWS FROM THE HARBOUR - by Robert MacMillan, Port Manager Mallaig

Progress is being maintained on the Yachting Development although apart from the dredger steaming back and forth across the bay there's not a lot to be seen. I can assure you however that there's plenty going on behind the scenes with lots to do regarding forward planning, legal agreements, licences and permissions all being pursued and the relevant boxes ticked.
The dredging by Coastworks Ltd is now complete with Harbour Engineers Wallace Stone satisfied that the required depth has been attained. Initially concerned about the dredging operation in the South West corner of the harbour it was in fact the South East corner where the problem arose with the Ben Crom finding solid rock. This has caused the Engineer to re-evaluate and re-position slightly the pontoon location.
Just days ago Pontoon Manufacturer Varis Ltd, Forres were awarded the contract to construct the pontoons for the Mallaig Project while Irish based construction company McLaughlin & Harvey were awarded the contract for the shoreworks element of the contract.
The awarding of the two contracts keeps on track the Authority's aim for a May/June completion date for the £900,000 project. Financial assistance for the Project is being provided by the E.U. via the Sailwest initiative, the Highlands & Islands Enterprise, The Highland Council and of course the Harbour Authority.
The dredger Ben Crom did not discover too many large obstacles whilst dredging in the Inner Harbour but this large metal frame was hauled up and landed. Better out than in me thinks!


Forty years ago
This item appeared in the Fishing News 'Looking Back' column.
'This week - 40 years ago:
Record landings were made from the main herring season at Mallaig. Maintaining the position as the busiest herring port in Britain, landings for the first three weeks of the year made £177,583 compared with £88,787 in the same period last year.'
Aye, back in 1971 it was all go with a vibrant fishing industry - where did we all go wrong??
This letter was received by the Harbour Master recently and although it's anonymous and tongue-in-cheek Pimmy reckons the letter's got a Geordie accent!!


Summer Ferry Service
The CalMac car ferry Coruisk will be back in Mallaig Harbour several days prior to the commencement of the 2011 Mallaig-Armadale summer service which is scheduled to start at 0810hrs on Friday 25th March.

White Fish
The Banff registered white fish trawler Audacious BF83 landed 900 boxes of white fish at the port on Wednesday 23rd February 2011.

Another local fishing boat has left the industry by taking advantage of the current Government decommissioning scheme. The twin rigger Serene INS 1027 owned by local fisherman Tony Kenning is currently being broken up by Donald Sharman (Diesel Services) at Mallaig. This follows on from the demise of the Azalea, Rebecca McLean and Siarach and brings the total number of Mallaig boats who have left the industry in the past three months to four.

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, SCFA Representative/Area Assessor

Crofting and The Highland council
The Crofters Commission is to be consulted on development applications in the crofting counties.
The Scottish Government has proposed to Parliament that new planning rules should be introduced to strengthen the protection of crofting land . If passed, the rules will ensure the Crofters Commission is consulted on planning applications which could significantly affect the extent or quality of croft land, and that their views inform planning decisions. The Commission is also piloting a crofting planning questionnaire with the Highland Council to further assist planners with identifying development on croft land. The pilot planning project will run for 6 months from the end Feb 2011.
Anybody wishing to build on croft land from this date must submit a completed Crofting questionaire and detailed map showing the extent of the croft and its bounderies along with their planning application. Sample questions range from how the croft is used at presant and amount of good land that will be taken, whether the house is intended for the applicant and if not what purpose is it intended for and whether vehicular access to the remainder of the croft will be impeded. The planning office will then work with the agricultural officers in the Department in Inverness who will look at the application much as they do now for de -crofting applications, but where as before most de- crofting applications already had planning approval making it hard for the agricultural officers to refuse them, in the pilot project this will be pre planning and the onus will be on retaining better croft land for agricultural purposes.

New Rules on Crofters Grants
From April 1st 2011 there will no longer be a means test for Owner occupiers of crofts when they wish to access crofters grants. In the past those who have bought their own croft or bought a croft on the open market have been unable to access grants to improve their crofts unless they can prove that they are of similar earning status as a crofter. However as tenants and owner occupiers will now be treated the same they will also be subject to the same scrutiny by the Crofters Commission as to how their croft is being used.

Common Agricultural Policy report
[25th Feb]
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's lead committee on CAP reform, the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee,has cautiously welcomed the draft report on CAP.
It is proposed that direct payments to farmers and crofters will continue [Single Farm payment] but will be subject to a 'greening up', meaning in order to prevent the SFP being docked crofters and farmers will have to particiate in some new 'environmental programmes' that will be introduced [such as crop rotation, biodiversity and reducing soil erosion]. Cross compliance and administration will be simplified, and Member States should have flexibility to ring-fence extra money made available through changing SFP from the historical basis to a headage basis for a special scheme for small farmers (crofters?), the details of which would be worked out locally.


Dana and Colleen MacLean (Arisaig) braved the elements to take their copy to the top of the Empire State Building in New York!

Neil Maclean, Arisaig, sent us this photo and tells us 'I have recently been working in Egypt for 7 weeks and only just got out before the trouble started. I was reading my West Word outside my hotel in Alexandria.' Last time Neil sent us a photo, he'd been helping out at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico!

Julie Williams left warm and sunny (!) Glenancross, Morar, to read her January's edition on the Grizzly Bear Express Gondola in Lake Louise, Canada on her recent skiing trip. Julie sayAs ' It was a balmy minus 19 outside - the day before it was minus 32!'

Arisaig's Lorne MacMillan and Joyce Wilkinson actually found time off from sunbathing in the Caribbean to share a copy - that's dedication.

Hilary Runcieman, Morar, took her copy on a visit to her grandchildren in St Lucia - bedtime reading?

Here is Ruaridh Maclellan (formerly of CamusMorar, Morar) taking a break from work underground at Cracow Gold Mine in Queensland, Australia!

Here are Henry and Ollie Hannah (Grandsons of Alex Iain ('Jacobite' driver) and Barbara MacDonald) checking out the West Word at their home in North London!

Ewen and Morag MacDonald were glad to get away from Morar for a spot of sun in Fuerteventura - but returned all too soon to print the next copy of West Word.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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