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

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March 2013 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Railway, harbour and crofting news
Local history

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A Mountain Bike adventure in the Cairngorms...
Jonathan Auty and Peter Crosland were caught out in deeper than expected snow.
The bikes were abandoned and the riders sought refuge in a coffee shop for the rest of the day!
If anybody comes across two bikes on the ground in the Cairngorms in the Spring please contact West Word in the first instance!!

The Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service, at its last Board meeting in Inverness on Friday 1st March 2013, took the decision to close down the community response units in Knoydart and on Eigg.
The board voted 13-8 to wind up the units.
Senior officers said there were very low levels of activity and risk in the two areas and that it would cost £420,000 to bring them up to standard.
Officers have proposed putting in place local fire prevention measures and protection action plans to reduce risk and increase community safety.
The decision has been met with consternation by both communities. The Mallaig Fire Service, answering a 999 call, will take some time to reach the areas, and the expected result is that local residents will respond to an emergency themselves without the benefit of equipment and training.
HIFRS have got some of their facts and figures wrong, underestimating the number of residents and, as seems to be the norm in reviews, ignoring the fact that large numbers of visitors swell the population in the summer.
The Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service is being superseded on April 1st 2013 by the single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, which replaces the eight services and the Scottish Fire Services College

For such a quiet month of the year we've certainly had some big nights outs recently (and no, Valentine's Day was most certainly not one of them).
The biggest (and bestest) has to have been the Ukulele gig. And I'm not just tooting my own trumpet when I say that. The Knoydart Ukuleles put on a fundraising concert on Friday the 22nd in order to raise money to sponsor the Knoydart Music Festival. We managed to raise something like £730!! An amazing amount achieved.
Although it has to be said it wasn't just the Ukulele band... we had guests. The Five Gold Rings (now going by the band name Wrong Direction) accompanied us vocally on Dean Martin's 'That's Amore'. Fantastic singing and even better costumes!! Big thanks to Terry, Dave B, Dave M, Iain W and Roger for being such good sports. We also had Tommy in costume as Rasputin in a marvellous rendition of… well, 'Rasputin'. Great singing, great acting, and great Russian accent (which was maintained while calling out the raffle as well - now that's commitment to a role!). Steve Brook joined us on guitar with 'Bad Moon Rising'. Galen Brook joined us on mandolin with Mumford and Sons' 'Little Lion Man'. Piers joined us, or more accurately we joined in with Piers, as he sang and played guitar to 'Country Roads' (we just sang along in the chorus). Andy and Lis Tibbetts joined us on accordion and fiddle in the Waterboys' 'Fisherman's Blues'. And Eilidh Shaw joined us on a number of songs, sometimes with her uke and sometimes with her fiddle, most notably during 'Jolene' and 'Delilah'. We were very lucky and honoured to have such a variety of musicians and talents joining us. It would have been an entirely different concert without them - they made us sound good! Thank you all!
Also thanks to Jacqui and Davie (for organising the festival in the first place!) who helped out on the night by collecting money at the door, pouring wine and cheering us on. Biggest thanks of all to everyone who came and donated so much. The feeling of support and community was overwhelming: You made the night so good. The most fun was probably had at the after party. We abandoned the stage and, mingling with what was left of the audience, proceeded to play a few tunes, drink a few drinks, dance a few dances, and have a jolly good time.
So if you fancy a giggle check us out online. Anyone can see each performance on YouTube now. Type in "The Knoydart Ukuleles" and something should come up. Alternatively, click one of the many links going about Facebook at the moment. They're worth the watch!
Bingo at the Tearoom is a must for everyone's diaries right now. It's not just the excitement of the game itself, or the suspense of Chase the Ace after it, or the enjoyment of Isla's professional number calling, but the anticipation (and often apprehension) of what prize you might get, no matter if you've chosen edible or mystery, neither is a safe option! So come along for some fun and games, and also some dinner if you want. Check the Newsletter, Facebook, or ask a member of staff for dates.
In other fantastic news... The Knoydart Music Festival is selling out at an alarming rate!! It's quite possible that by the time this is published it will be completely sold out, after tickets only just going on sale Monday 25th Feb. This is great news, but folk intending on going better get their tickets sorted out quick or prepare for disappointment. But remember there's a waiting list too in case of cancelations etc, so you never know, someone else's misfortune might be your lucky day! (Stop press news: the Festival is indeed sold out!)
Keep an eye out for up coming Ceilidhs in March on Knoydart… there's been murmurings! And on a final note, take extra care residents of Knoydart as it may be some time before certain emergency services will reach you.
Amy Connolly

I have often thought that the word Dinosaur was an appropriate one to describe our ferry company. However there was nothing slow and lethargic about Cal Mac's reaction to the Scottish Ferries Review. Stung by the prospect of even more radical changes to the Small Isles service and the Loch Nevis being spirited away to Colonsay our area manager moved quickly to propose some real improvements in the summer timetable. Like for the first time the prospect of making a return visit to the mainland in a single day. (Timely if we are going to lose our island based medical service.) And surely a Sunday service must be long overdue. Rather late to make the changes for this summer but roll on 2014. Well done Cal Mac!
On the farm the ewes look in fine fettle and obviously benefiting from the wonderful sunshine and light winds of the last two weeks. Even more important has been the 1lb of sheep nuts which each one has been tucking into every day as well as big bale silage for many. At this level of feeding it would be great to have them scanned. Then we could separate those carrying twins from those carrying singles (or no lambs) Then we could feed accordingly. It would also be helpful at lambing. Anyone know a scanner? Another remarkable innovation which has arrived on the farm is a Combi-clamp a device developed in New Zealand. Here the operator uses his weight on a platform to hold each ewe or hogg rigid as it passes along the race. Ideal for dosing, vaccinating or ear tagging.
At Gallanach Lodge KDL has been working all hours to get the house ready for the season. Part of the team have been even closer at the farmhouse and Tigh Lachlan applying the wonder foam Isonene to the roof spaces. At our draughty little house we had to remove the ceiling discharging 140 years of dust on to the floors below. What a stour! But what a difference - almost too hot!.
Next month: The Camas season opens with Mull Theatre. 24 hour power draws closer - slowly.
Lawrence MacEwen

The month started off cold and windy but I'm sure everyone has enjoyed the last few weeks of lovely weather. I know the sheep and cattle have as they are looking good and have wintered well.
All the Cheviot ewes will be coming in from the hill next week to receive supplementary feeding in the weeks leading up to lambing.
A little early 'surprise' in the form of a Highland calf appeared on the 5th February and is doing well. She is a black heifer calf and has been named Sorcha Dubh (Blck Sorcha) Jonathan, Katie and Rob of Turnbull Tree Care have been over on the island clearing a stand of dead Corsican pine. This area is due to be replanted next year with native trees. It has been a difficult and dangerous task as the trees were on a very steep slope but they have worked really hard and have left us loads of firewood.
Tighard Guest House has been having an external makeover, the walls have been painted white and the woodwork has all been stripped back and painted. It looks stunning but you need shades on to go and visit Colin and David! Once all the daffodils come out it will look great and all done in time for Easter.
Davy and John the rabbit trappers have been back and have continued their battle to get the rabbit numbers down to an acceptable level. The aim is to reduce the numbers on the better land to protect the more productive grazing areas. The battle is ongoing!
Work is progressing well on the rebuild of New House and all the workmen have enjoyed the good weather, especially the slaters.
Geraldine MacKinnon

The usual prep for the season is taking place; with that good run of dry weather, folk have been out painting, fixing and sorting out their gardens, we had a seed swap at the shop on Saturday to get everyone n the mood!
The familiar faces of Gordon Mackenzie and crew have become a regular feature this winter with work coming to a close on the new SNH shed and possibly starting on the Kilmory track (rumour has it), which is in serious need of some help.
New crofters Gav and Laura may appear this month, a welcome addition to our growing community as is a new manager for the Castle and associated buildings, interviews for this post will be taking place very soon.
We have a new newsletter to replace the IRCT one. Nic Goddard, who wrote last month's West Word article has taken on the mantle of editor to our new local rag The Rumble and promises a variety of interesting articles to keep us dashing to the shop to collect our free copy. Well done Nic, long may it continue.
The wood for the beds Sandy is making for Toby on Muck's new lodge has arrived, all four tonnes of it - Quite a journey from an Aberdeenshire farm to the mill at Ythan Wells then off to Clachnaharry to be planed and now over here. Sandy just has to work his magic and then 11 beds will be off to Muck.
Dave and Neil have just about finished the road repairs with the assistance of a whacker plate from Eigg, hurrah no more holes!! and then for a bit of light relief Dave, accompanied by Paul, got out his latest toy (no not the mini quad), the jetski... and had a turn around the bay; reckon he'll cause quite a stir this summer! Go Dave... This week the options appraisal for Kinloch Castle begins; What will the future of the castle be, will it remain open and how will the all important repair work be funded - will keep you posted.
Mike the ranger has been busy Rhodie bashing this month accompanied by a team who have been working on SNH land too. Between them a lot of ground was covered, Mike has put together a rhododendron management/eradication programme for the village and with the help of volunteers should make significant progress this year.
Big news is the Scottish Ferry review; some surprising recommendations for the Small Isles and some crazy timescales for implementing them. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if there will be any changes to this summer's timetable.
It's all a go go for the Knoydart festival, well done guys! But don't forget Rum's own ceilidh to celebrate 3 years of community ownership, Friday 10th May - all welcome.
Fliss Fraser

Is it possible? Can Spring have actually stepped her timid, sweet foot onto Eigg, leaving its islanders dazzled by the sun and drunken by the long-forgotten warmth of its rays on their marble skin? Yes! We've had glorious days on Eigg, as of late, easing our cold bones back to life and readying them for the spring's full arrival in a couple of months' time. Keeping our hearts light in the mean time, we had a day-after-Valentine's-Day performance by the Celter Schmelter Klezmer Trio in our community hall. The talented musicians from Edinburgh - consisting of a fiddle, guitar, and double bass player - filled the night with "klezmer," which is Jewish folk music. The group also taught traditional dancing and led listeners and dancers through Jewish Sabbath traditions, such as the candle lighting ritual. Since we've felt the heat of the sunshine and of the candle flame, it's only fitting to discuss the fire safety situation on the island. A recent open community meeting with the Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service shed some light on our dire situation - one of which most residents were completely unaware. The Isle of Eigg Community Fire Response Unit is in grave danger of being completely shut down. By the time this article is in print, in fact, the final Highlands and Islands Fire Board (HIFB) meeting will have taken place, deciding Eigg's fate and handing further action over to the future, consolidated, Perth-based board. Because the new board will be presiding over the whole of Scotland, it will be holding units from Glasgow up to the same light as those from the Small Isles. More volunteers, training, communication, and effort from both mainland and island sides are needed if there is to be any chance of keeping the Eigg unit running. The March 1st agenda for the HIFB posted on the Highland Council website states that the board will be asked to "agree to close the stations at Eigg and Knoydart and put in place focussed [sic] prevention and protection action plans to reduce risk and increase community safety." Fire and Rescue services will, then, come to Eigg from Mallaig. One cannot help but think, however, that, despite the low risk assessment given to the island by the board, a house can still burn faster than a boat can sail.
A happier thought for the future is that much tree planting has been happening on Eigg. The Forestry is being replenished with hardwood saplings such as cherry, oak, birch, and rowan. Multiple days of chilly but companionable digging by the residents will eventually pay off with a wooded landscape that is varied, beautiful, and renewable!
More community efforts have been occurring on the island, as a few residents came together to clean up the Swap Shop. Donating and trading usable books, clothes, kitchen goods, and more will now be a manageable experience. Thank you, Mairi MacKinnon, Clare Miller, and Annabelle Scott Moncrieff.
Eigg Box meetings have spurred on thoughts of creativity and keeping up the good work ethic this year. The Eigg Box Talent Development Hub, funded by Creative Scotland and headed by Lucy Conway, is a programme offering funding for eight "creative industries" that will be based on Eigg. See www.eiggbox.com for more details.
Like hungry bears coming out of hibernation, so the islanders are meeting the coming season with fresh energy. Brendan Greene recently earned his chainsaw certificate, and Norah Barnes is off to Oxford for ten days to get her snorkeling training. Eiggy Bread is back to wafting smells of freshly-baked bread and goodies around the community with their sales in the shop and available catering.
While we're not quite "out of the woods" of the cold season, we're all doing quite well at shaking the dust off our coats and tidying those caves. Now, just to find those sunglasses…
Audra Cormack


The French based catamaran which has been "parked" on the Harbour since August last year finally sailed away from Mallaig in perfect weather conditions on Sunday 24th February. The 15 metre vessel Pampero capsized in the Sound of Sleat on the 1st of August 2012 when caught by high winds. The crew of seven were rescued by the Mallaig Lifeboat and the upturned vessel subsequently towed into shallow water away from any possible shipping traffic.
Several days later the vessel was righted, towed into Mallaig and craned onto harbour land (alongside the storage shed) for insurance inspection.
Accommodation on the Harbour was originally to be for a 3 week spell but the Pampero was to remain in harbour for a period of 26 weeks!


Marina Operative
After a year in the job Mr Peter Weirman has decided to leave his position as Marina Operative. We wish him well in whatever he decides to do in the future and thank him for his services over the past year. An advert, seeking applicants for the post of Marina Operative is on page 39.

Re-surfacing Works
Work is now underway on the resurfacing contract which was awarded to Noel Regan & Sons. There will be disruption to the main access/egress route to/from the fish pier and also on the main route down to the Steamer Pier but inconvenience will be kept to a minimum via alternative routes and the use of the road/pier junction at The Fishmarket Restaurant. Accordingly there will be no vehicle parking at this junction or on the Lovat Pier area down towards the passenger steps!
I thank all pier users in advance for your forbearance - hopefully disruption will be kept to a minimum and it will cease in 3 to 4 weeks time!

On behalf of the Chairman, Board Members and Staff of the Mallaig Harbour Authority we would like to wish Mr Andrew Ritchie a long and happy retirement.
After 26 years with the Authority Andy (71) retired on Wednesday 6th March. Mr Ritchie is pictured on the right receiving a retirement gift from Michael Currie, Mallaig Harbour Authority Chairman.


Robert MacMillan, Port Manager/Secretary
01687 462154 www.mallaigharbourauthority.com

Mallaig Lifeboat Log
No call outs for February 2013 for the Mallaig Lifeboat - a quiet start to the year!

On and Off the Rails

Big April Adventure
This is your chance to win your own April adventure by train or selected ferry companies in Scotland in a free ticket draw. Over 15,000 free travel tickets are on offer fromScotRail, Caledonian MacBrayne and Northlink Ferries. Register now to be in with a chance of winning. Here's how:
Go to visitscotland.com/BigAprilAdventures
Register with your name, full address and answer some simple questions about holidaying in Scotland.
Choose a type of travel - from ScotRail, Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries or Northlink Ferries (ferry tickets forfoot passengers only).
Select from the drop-down box your departure point, your destination and, from the calendar, your preferred date of travel for free travel. Tickets are valid for April departure dates only (valid for one month for return journey).
You can enter now. There is a weekly ballot of winners each Tuesday of March, on the 5th, 12th, 19th and 36th, and winners will be notified by email with their tickets being sent to them within 14 days. Each winner will receive two tickets.
You can also enter the ballot by telephone by calling 0845 859 1006.
If you don't win on any week, simply register again (by email or telephone) th next week to be in with another chance of winning a fantastic pair of return tickets for a free trip in Scotland in April 2013, do it now!! Good luck.

More trains for Oban from May 2014
For years now Oban has only had three incoming trains a day, Monday to Saturday, where we have four. They have had no direct evening link to the Caledonian Sleeper Service, where we do. No steam train service, where we have The Jacobite into Mallaig for six months of the year, Monday to Friday, plus an additional afternoon service three months of the year, and three months of Saturday and Sunday morning service. ScotRail also operates a Sunday service to Mallaig three times daily during the summer and (yes, I know you know) one Sunday train into Mallaig at 11.35 at night in the winter months (don't get me started) and one out at 4.05pm. plus we get The Royal Scotsman and half a dozen other touring train companies visiting us.
Now it can be finally announced that, thanks to intensive lobbying by Friends of the West Highland Lines, Argyll and Bute Council, local Oban North and Lorn Councillors, and Highland and Islands MSPs, discussions between ScotRail, HITRANS and Argyll and Bute Council have resulted in a 'compelling' case for six each day between Monday and Saturday from May 2014. Funded by ScotRail, a new early morning service from Oban will reach Glasgow by 9am, a new evening service will connect with the southbound Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich, and an additional afternoon service has been included. one of the extra northbound services will depart Glasgow Queen Street at 5.10am, reaching Oban before 9am. It is likely that the extra stock of 156 Sprinter units required will come from the newly electrified Paisley Canal Line and Dunblane. Extra drivers will also come from the Glasgow area.
In the meantime, I keep lobbying for an improved Mallaig/Fort William Sunday service all year round (if not to Glasgow!).
Lochaber Transport Forum is now involved in my quest, and has written to Steve Montgomery, Managing Director, ScotRail, requesting a 10.10am departure Sunday service to Fort William all year round from Mallaig, returning into Mallaig sometime in the early afternoon, and forming the 4.05pm service (as it does now) to Fort William and onwards to Glasgow. He has now replied saying that ScotRail will take the suggestion forward and discuss this with Transport Scotland at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, I will contact HITRANS to hope to harness their support. Friends of the West Highland Line will be written to also. But, in the meantime, if any individual, group or business feels that it would be a good idea (as I do) to have a daytime Sunday service to allow people (us) to travel to Fort William, plus allow tourists to visit us on a Sunday in the Winter and Spring, then please write to Mr Steve Montgomery, Managing Director, First ScotRail, ScotRail HQ, Atrium Court, 50 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6HQ.
Community Councils and Road to the Isles Marketing Group could agree to come on board with this proposal too. I can only do so much. Your help would be appreciated. Thank you.

Model Rail Scotland proves to be a great success
Once again the SECC proved to be a great venue for Model Rail Scotland. As you will have seen in last month's West Word, I ran a competition to win entry tickets to the show and also a pair of ScotRail train tickets for travel to Glasgow.
I received lots of entries, all with the correct answer to the competition. The lucky winner of travel tickets and show tickets was Marion Carr from Mallaig. The winner of the a pair of show tickets was Mr J Cameron, also of Mallaig. I've spoken to them since the show, and they were delighted to have won, and said how much they enjoyed their experience.
The organisers said that over the 3 days of the show some 15,000 people have attended. I went on the Friday and saw several people from Mallaig and Morar enjoying the various stands and exhibits. Hopefully, I can run a similar competition next year!

Friends of the West Highland Line - Plus
The excellent magazine produced by FWHL is now out, full of interesting articles and photographs and costing just £2.99. it offers excellent value for money. Copies can be obtained from me, or at 'Bill's Place' at Fort William Railway Station. The Society had an excellent stand at Model Rail Scotland, and showed a video of old and new film taken by Society member Norman MacNab. There were some good shots of Mallaig and the Harbour showing local boats landing sprats.

Network Rail Ballast Train visits Mallaig
On the morning of February 26th a Network Rail Ballast Train see left) came into Mallaig having left Fort William Yard loaded with fresh ballast stones. Arriving in front of the morning sprinter, it shunted into the 'up' platform until the 10.10am sprinter departed for Glasgow.

The Ballast train leaving Mallaig on 26th February behind English electric Diesel-Electric Class 37 Carl Haviland.

As a ballast train is rarely seen on the West Highland Extension. It created great interest with railway engine enthusiasts. At the front of the train was a splendid looking Class 37 owned by DRS (Direct Rail Service) named Carl Haviland and numbered 37419. Painted in DRS livery, it made for a good photo opportunity and attracted around 30 trainspotter photographers as it approached Mallaig. The locomotive, now some 53 years old, was originally numbered 37291 and was registered at Eastfield Depot in Glasgow, before moving to Inverness to take up duties on the far North line to Wick and Thurso and Kyle of Lochalsh. The driver of the sprinter from Fort William to Mallaig on that morning (Tuesday 26th) was Davie Simpson, who remembered driving the locomotive some 15 years ago, so he was 'reunited' with an old friend, as he aptly described it. So the opportunity for a photograph was not missed, as Davie once again sat in the driver's seat some 15 years on!

Davie Simpson, reunited briefly with the old friend he used to drive between Inverness and Wick. Photos courtesy of Steve Roberts.

Network Rail is carrying out the following essential maintenance and engineering during March 2013. Each weekend in March, the Friday night and Sunday night Caledonian Sleeper is cancelled departing from Fort William. All Sleeper and sitting up coach customers on these nights will be conveyed by coach to Kingussie to join the Inverness Sleeper. The 16.05 passenger train from Mallaig to Glasgow on all Sundays in March will de-train passengers at Crianlarich and a coach will convey them on to Glasgow. Please go to scotrail.co.uk/engineering for full information on all stations affected throughout March, or call at your local Railway Station Booking Office.
See you on the train.
Sonia Cameron

Howling Events Announces Further Developments
Howling Events, the West Lochaber grouping working on a new ancestry database for the area, and a two week programme of heritage events for the Homecoming in 2014, has announced four significant developments in their programme.
Firstly, the project to create a new piece of musical theatre has been augmented by the decision of Fèis na Garbh Criochan to join HOWL and take on the lead role as an Associate Group. Air Falbh 's Air Adhart is intended to be a bilingual look at the process of emigration for those who have had to leave. The primary focus for the area is clearly the Clearances and surrounding periods. But the project is determined to look at the topic from the point of view of those who left, to understand their sense of loss and longing (ceanglach), but also celebrate their achievements in building new communities, societies, and nations.
Chas Mac Donald, Interim Project Co-ordinator, said, 'It's important that we bring together ideas and cultural artefacts from both groups involved in the disruption that was the Clearances. It was obviously hard on those involved - many did not make the journey, dying at sea - but the outcomes have been striking.' The involvement of Fèis na Garbh Criochan has been welcomed by Chas, who commented that 'the strength of activity in the traditional and musical arts in Acharacle and the wider Ardnamurchan peninsula has been phenomenal. To have the involvement of such a talent pool, both in terms of the youngsters and tutors is absolutely critical to our success.'
It is also anticipated that there will be an exciting array of old and new music and song featured, from both sides of the Atlantic, with Allan Henderson promising to write some new music when the project gets fully underway. There is also a desire to bring schools from all of the communities together, virtually, to contribute research, ideas, and material to the finished piece.


HOWL's input to the Diaspora Tapestry took a bit of a leap forward on the 22nd February, when Andrew Crummy, the tapestry designer, visited Mallaig High School to do a workshop with the children. He told them a bit about where the tapestry project is at the moment, how the template works, and also looked at some of their designs. It is fair to say he was highly impressed with the work being produced by these talented young people. The design ideas will hopefully contribute to his final tapestry panel layouts. However, of more immediate relevance, is that these designs are being produced for the 2014 Boisdale Art Prize. With what was presented to Chas and Andrew on the day, there are clearly going to be some very accomplished pieces of work in the final competition. Arisaig Games on July 31st this year will be the place to be to see them.
A real milestone has been reached for HOWL, too. Readers of West Word are contributing to the project by supporting West Word which is one of the Associate Groups involved with HOWL. At the group's AGM at the Clan Donald Centre on Skye on February 24th, Chas announced that the group had achieved charitable status to the satisfaction of the charities regulator, OSCR. When the amended constitution is submitted, a registration number will be issued. As Chas pointed out, 'It is not absolutely necessary to be a charity. However, for our purposes, and for the sums of money we hope to be applying for, it would have been much more difficult without being a registered charity. So this is a great fillip to our work, and a recognition that what we are doing is of value to the community.'
Chas was also keen to call on anybody who can volunteer to help with the compiling of the new ancestry database, An Diasporran. In addition to significant local databases, a major collection has been donated by the Mabou Pioneers research group in Canada. Worth in the region of £1.7m nominally, it's value is vastly greater in terms of the wealth of information it will bring to the area, encouraging people to visit. But it needs compiling, and while some of this can be done as a 'cut and paste' from one database to another, some parts will require significant human input. There is already a small team in operation in Arisaig, but more are needed.
Contact antilleadh2014@arisaighighlandgames.co.uk if you can give even a little time per week, or in blocks.

'Songs for Dawn' raises nearly £9000
Pictured here is the huge pile of equipment which was the donation made to the Special Baby Care Unit (SBCU) at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, bought with cash raised by Arisaig couple Robert and Maryann Bowman, with help from friend Steve Brown.

photo photo

Clothes for premature and new born babies, in pink and blue - with a TV remote control to show the scale!

Robert and Maryann's daughter Dawn, now three years old, was born with a cleft palate, meningitis and other health issues. She also has a condition which means she has to be fed by a complicated procedure carried out by mum Maryann.

Robert and Maryann, who run the Old Library Restaurant in Arisaig, were so grateful for the help received from the SCBU, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and the Royal Aberdeen Sick Children's Hospital that Robert decided to put his considerable musical talent to good use to raise money for them.
A huge amount was raised from the sale of the 18 track album Songs for Dawn, featuring Robert (aka Bodie) singing a number of Bowie hits in Bowie style, together with musician Steve Brown of Wonderland.
Next came two 'Bodie and Brown' gigs at the Astley Hall in Arisaig, where Bodie dressed as Ziggy Stardust and the audience were encouraged to wear 70's and 80's fancy dress. The total sum raised was £8790, which was divided between the three hospitals in the way each preferred - something to remember, if anyone wants to make a donation to an establishment, that sometimes cash is not the preferred option.

Dawn with SCBU nurses. She is winning the fight, though slowly

Raigmore's SBCU asked for clothes and supplies; Aberdeen asked for 65 portable DVD players and 100 DVDs; and Edinburgh, where Dawn spent five weeks just after she was born, requested a cheque to go towards accommodation facilities which allows children and their parents attending the hospital to stay over. 'Being able to stay just two minutes from the ward gave us one less thing to worry about,' said Maryann, 'we were looked after and cared for while we were distraught, not knowing if Dawn would be OK.'

Robert with SCBU nurses

On the 21st February, Robert and Maryann visited the SCBU and delivered £2930 worth of supplies which included blankets, shawls, premature baby clothes, feeding equipment, colouring books and crayons.
Maryann said 'We want to thank everyone in the Maternity Ward and SCBU who watched over Dawn in the first few days of her life. She is with us today because of Dr Alan Webb and his team.'
Both send a very special thank you to Steve (Mick Ronson) Brown. Robert said 'Without his technical and musical wizardry, we could not have had a charity at all.'
Songs for Dawn can be purchased online at www.songsfordawn.org and there is also a Facebook page.
The Sick Kids Friends Foundation in Edinburgh relies on donations. As well as the family accommodation, they provide medical equipment and much loved Clowndoctors who provide much needed laughter and entertainment to the youngsters.

The butcher in Arisaig
In last month's West Word we printed a letter from Doug Torrance, who reminisced about his childhood holidays in Arisaig. His main reason for writing was about the Manse trees, soon to be cut down, but he also told us that on the family' arrival at the station, the butcher collected their luggage along with his daily meat delivery and dropped it off at the Manse, where they were staying, on his way back to his shop, which was where the Smiddy Flats are now. This mention caused the butcher's daughter to contact West Word! We put her in touch with Douglas and another anecdotes were the result!
Margaret MacIntyre wrote:
'I enjoyed Doug Torrance's memories of Arisaig in the early 1950s. The butcher who collected/delivered the family trunk was my father, Burnett Stevenson, who opened his butcher's shop in 1951.
I had never heard this story about my dad and did not know he used a handcart to collect his meat. I was only a child then and the family home was in Mallaig.
I am grateful to Mr Torrance for this memory!'

The cart, now on display outside the Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig.

We forwarded this to Douglas, who contacted his brothers and then wrote to Margaret:
'We all have memories of your Father's shop but the one that really stands out is when Jim, the oldest brother, he would be about 12 at the time, was sent down to the shop to pick up whatever we were having that evening.
'It was a particularly hot day, and perhaps Jim had ran down to the shop, but no sooner had he arrived in the shop, when he fainted.
'Was it the heat or the sight of blood dripping from the carcasses on the hooks?
You have probably guessed by now, but yes, he was loaded on to the handcart and wheeled back up the hill to the manse.'
See below for a reminiscence of a different kind from Doug.

Doug Torrance wrote to us last month about childhood holidays in Arisaig and Manse trees - but he has another connection with the area!
I noted with great interest in your February edition that Sea Eagles had been sighted in the Arisaig area.
As you may know, Sea Eagles had been hunted to extinction in the UK by 1918.
An RSPB led project to reintroduce Sea Eagles in to the UK began in 1968 with four Sea Eagle 'chicks' being delivered to Fair Isle by Loganair.
Unfortunately this project failed and it wasn't till 1968 that the RSPB sourced a supply of Sea Eagle chicks from their Norwegian equivalents from an area around Bodo.
This was at the height of the Cold War and Bodø had received international attention during the U-2 Crisis in May 1960, when it became known that the American U2 pilot, Gary Powers, had been shot down over the Soviet Union on his way from Pakistan to Bodø.
RAF Kinloss is situated some 25 miles east of Inverness, and from 1970 to 2004, Kinloss based Nimrod Reconnaissance aircraft regularly deployed to Bodo in search of surface and subsurface units of the Soviet Northern Fleet in areas of North Cape.
By pulling strings at a very high level, the RSPB arranged that their Norwegian counterparts, would hand over ten Sea Eagle chicks to the care of the RAF who, on their return from Bodo to Kinloss, would hand these birds to the RSPB who would transport them by road to the Isle Of Rum to be subsequently reintroduced in to the wild.
I believe my first flight with Sea Eagles was 11 Aug 1977 and the second on 21 June 1978. The photograph shows the Captain, Gordon Millar sixth from left and myself second from left.


Some twenty-five years later, I was still serving at RAF Kinloss and was called to meet an RSPB film team who wished to interview some of the crews who had brought these birds back from Norway. Not many of us left by then but they managed to include a clip in their film 'The Eagle Odyssey'
In 2004 a close friend bought tickets for an event in Eden Court in Inverness. The event was the world premier of 'The Eagle Odyssey'.
As I was leaving Eden Court after the film, I met the film production team. They insisted that I should meet their guest of honour, Chairman of the RSPB.
He asked me what I thought of the evening, I told him I thoroughly enjoyed the film but was a little disappointed with the evening.
'Why? ' he asked.
'Did Tom Cruise pay to get in to the premier of 'Top Gun ?' I replied, albeit rather tongue in cheek
The film is still available on the RSPB website and I look forward to seeing the descendants of the true stars of the film when I visit in the Spring
Doug Torrance

The MacLellans of Inverness County - 1871 Census
Compiled by Allan J. Gillis © 1997

The MacLellans of Inverness County came from the West Highland and Hebridean areas of Scotland. Those who settled in the county were mainly Roman Catholics, with the exception of one family grouping in the Whycocomagh area and several other isolated individuals elsewhere in the county.
It appears that the few MacLellans who originally settled in the Judique-River Denys Road-Glendale areas were not connected with those in the northern part of the county. I suspect that these MacLellans settled near their friends and relatives from South Uist. (This remains to be proven.) Also, some of these MacLellans might have been from Eigg. The majority of the Inverness County MacLellans came from Morar, with perhaps a few from Knoydart. These MacLellans were, at first, concentrated in the Glenville-Broad Cove-Southwest Margaree areas and tended to intermarry with other Morar families, such as the Gillises and other MacLellans. If one consults MacDougall's History of Inverness County, it is mind-boggling to try to sort out the various family connections. However, it may be that certain persons have traced out and recorded their own families to the point where they can add to the sketchy information given in this census.
The day is pretty well past when one might readily visit individuals who could rhyme out from memory the highly intricate family connections of our people. (There are a few left, but they are disappearing quickly!) One should record any oral traditions from older family members as soon as possible - or even record your own. Every little snippet of family or local lore can add to our knowledge of our ancestors and our neighbours.
The census is merely an enumeration of the population but it can prove valuable when combined with land records, wills, probates and many family records such as Bibles, obituaries, correspondence and partially-completed genealogies.
(Genealogies are on-going and are never completed.) Ages given in the various censuses are not etched in stone; they can vary widely from one ten-year period to another and should be approached as being only a rough guide to each person's actual age. (See the 1871 ages and those of 1881 in small brackets to appreciate this.)
Sometimes, the census can give us unexpected little clues such as the inclusion of people of a different surname living with the family. Considering that our people operated their own welfare system, one might presume that these extra people might be relatives or distressed neighbours. It helps to have a look at the complete area census to see who the neighbours were as, often, the Scotch pioneers didn't go too far to find a husband or wife. Knowledge of one's in-laws can be helpful!
I hope that this compilation of the Inverness County MacLellans will be of some use to anyone trying to trace their roots to Inverness County and beyond. Good luck!
You can find at least one family from Eigg. There were a total of 652 MacLellans in Inverness County in 1871.
Allan J. Gillis, Ottawa, June, 1997
Space constraints mean we cannot print the census here but if anyone is interested in it Allan is pleased for them to contact him. His email address is gaoideal1772@rogers.com.

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson
Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative

De crofting applications halted due to a wording glitch
The board of the Crofting commission have found a wording glitch in the new Act referring to owner occupiers that could invalidate de crofting applications passed since the Act went through and has halted all new applications. On finding the glitch the board took legal advice and were told they would be acting against the law should they issue decroftings for owner occupiers.
Owner occupier is a new status of crofter since the Act and means someone who was a tenant first then bought their croft. It is not as is often thought, someone who has bought their croft on the open market, they are landlords of a vacant croft and must put in a tenant, usually a spouse.
In the spirit of the Act all crofters are to be treated the same whether they are owner occupiers or tenants. Often an owner occupier is a crofter who has bought his or her croft to give them security . To use a wording glitch that was not written into the Act in the spirit of treating all crofters the same as a Away to prevent O/O from raising money for a mortgage or a house site is very unfair and gives uncertainty to a lot of people. It is hoped that the Commission and the Scottish government can quickly sort things out, after all the new board only has the job of regulatory work now ,along side setting up the new register, and allowing a backlog of decrofting applications to build up can only slow things down further.

Croft Registration
From November 2013 any regulatory applications such as decrofting, assignations, bequeathing a tenancy etc will trigger the requirement to register your croft. Applying for grants will not trigger this requirement as grants are no longer managed by the Crofting commission but by the Dept of agriculture. It is not compulsory to do this and it will not be made compulsory as it is part of the new Crofting Act. If you do not plan to do any regulatory work then you do not have to register. Cost is £90 per croft plus cost of the map[ £16]. You have to put a notice up on your croft and there is a nine month challenge period to your stated boundaries . You do not, as is stated elsewhere, have to put an advert in the newspaper and you do not have to notify your neighbours. Once your croft is registered by the Registers of Scotland it will be available to be viewed on a map online along with the following details:

There are opportunities for some to make money out of crofters by offering to register your croft for you for a fee. There is no need for this as it should be a simple procedure and maps used can be ordnance survey maps, you simply mark your boundary on them. Do not use IACs maps as they will not accept them.

Lochaber & District Canine Society based in Fort William is currently celebrating winning first place in the General Canine Association category and deemed the overall winner of the Kennel Club's Good Citizen Dog Scheme (GCDS) Awards, which took place at the Kennel Club in London on the 8th February 2013.
Three representatives from the dog club travelled to London and were totally shocked to be presented with the Crystal Ornaments, framed certificates and also the Over All Winners Shield.
Kennel Club Chairman, Steve Dean, said, "The winners have all done marvellous work in promoting responsible dog ownership in their local community and all deserve a huge vote of thanks. We are grateful for their enthusiasm and dedication, and offer our appreciation for helping us make a positive difference for dogs and their owners."

Left to right: Morag MacKell, Vicky-ann Tompkins & Kayleigh Buchanan

Lochaber & District Canine Society was chosen as the overall winner of the GCDS Awards for their dedication, commitment and outstanding support in promoting the scheme in 2012. Lochaber & District Canine Society exists to promote responsible dog owners and to help owners to enjoy the company of a well-behaved dog. It has worked closely with dog wardens, hosting micro-chipping nights throughout the year. It is heavily involved with the community, promoting the Open for Dogs Scheme, as well as the Green Dog Walkers Scheme.
'Three of us went to the Kennel Club in London as the Club was chosen as a finalist for the Good Citizen Dog Scheme awards. To come first in our category was a great thrill, but then to win the Overall Best Club was quite overwhelming,' said Morag MacKell, Club Secretary. Morag MacKell plays a major role in promoting and instructing the Puppy Foundation Course; which is the first part of the Good Citizen Scheme ably assisted by Kayleigh Buchanan who is also a puppy instructor.
Vicky-ann Tompkins who is the club's Co-ordinator for the Good Citizen Scheme and who also teaches the Bronze, Silver & Gold levels, accompanied Kayleigh and Morag to London for this very special occasion.
Morag also went on to say 'We are a fairly small Club with about 70 members at present and we cover a wide geographical area, so to win something like this means we are getting it right with our various activities'
The dog club has a wide range of activities from Puppy Classes, to GCDS Bronze, Silver & Gold as well as a General Obedience class. During the Summer months the club also hosts outside activities which include Lure Coursing, Agility and Fly Ball as well as hosting a Breed Show in September which is always very well entered and a Companion Show for the more fun element.
If anybody is interested in joining the club please contact
Puppy class Morag Mackell 01397 772369
Good Citizen classes Vicky-Ann Tompkins 01397 701704
Lure coursing Vicky-Ann Tompkins 01397 701704
Obedience Christine Cameron 01855 821381
Agility and Flyball Jackie MacDonald 07795 294959 or
Lesley Stewart 01855 821519
Ringcraft Nan MacLeod 01397 700173

Lynne Young

Birdwatch - February 2013 by Stephen MacDonald
For the most part, February was a fine and settled month, almost Spring for the last few days. Many birds were singing and displaying by the month's end.
Greater Spotted Woodpeckers could be heard 'drumming' in the woods around Arisaig and Morar on numerous occasions.
Shelduck numbers built up on Loch nan Ceall during the month, with at least 14 between Camus an't Allen and Millburn on the 15th. Two Black-throated Divers were seen together on Loch nan Ceall on the 23rd.
A few more Siskins reported from garden feeders and a Lesser Redpoll was seen on feeders at Rhubana View on the 15ht. Yellowhammers were reported from feeders in Arisaig and a Reed Bunting was seen at Rhubana View on the 19th. Bullfinches were seen feeding on peanuts inan Arisaig garden on several occasions.
Whooper Swans were present on Loch nan Eala throughout the month, along with Wigeon, Teal, Mallards and the occasional Goldeneye.
On one of the few windy days early in the month, a Sea Eagle 'spooked' approximately 40 Herons that were roosting in the reeds beside Loch nan Eala. There were reports of Sea Eagles from Back of Keppoch and Morar.
A male Hen Harrier was seen just west of Camus an't Allen on the 14th and it or another was reported from Gorten, Back of Keppoch, seen on several occasions.
Sparrowhawks were reported regularly from Morar and Arisaig. A female Merlin was seen at Achnaskia, Back of Keppoch, on the 28th.
Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen on the rocks at West Bay car park on several occasions.

Sheepdog Success
Archie Aitchison was born in Mallaig and lived there until he left to start his shepherding career. After spells on Canna and in New Zealand he has been the shepherd at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Easter Bush Farm, just outside Edinburgh for over 30 years. He is well known and respected by vet students from all over the world, for his sheep handling skills, classes and sense of humour! Students are often treated to an impromptu sheepdog demonstration at the end of a class and his dog demo during the recent Student Welfare Week was one of the most popular events!
Archie also competes at sheepdog trials and in September he and 5 year old homebred Coll competed at the Scottish National Sheepdog trials at Strathaven, where 150 of the top Scottish handlers and their dogs competed for the 15 places in the Scottish team. Archie and Coll had a great run and came 12th in Scotland and then went forward to compete at the International Sheepdog trials in Cardiff, which the Scottish team won despite a very challenging course.
Archie and Coll's run at the Scottish National trials at Strathaven was featured in a BBC Alba programme in February.

This month we've finally been taken somewhere warm!

Not with Jenny Sharpe, though her smile is warm enough!
She took a break from Cnoc na Faire to go to the Scotland v Ireland Rugby match at Murrayfield, a Christmas present from husband David.
Jenny says 'Scotland may have won the rugby match, but Ireland certainly wins the banter match.'

Colin and Vanessa Taylor, Kirkcaldy, took their January 2013 copy
of West Word to the Big Buddha on the island of Ko Samui, Thailand.

Morar's Ewen and Morag MacDonald packed their copy
when they went to Lanzarote. The picture proves they did leave their hotel at least once!

Here's one we prepared earlier - taken last year when Richard Lamont took his copy from Arisaig
to Mother Shipton's Cave in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, claimed to be the oldest tourist attraction in England.
Behind him is the Petrifying Well, and the line of objects which has been slowly turned to stone by the dripping waters.

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