Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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March 2023 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Glenfinnan, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
World Wide West Word

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

The end of February brought an amazing show of the Aurora Borealis throughout the West Word area and some fantastic photography of the lights!

Photo Ben Cormack

Photo Simon Hird

Photo Margaret Willington

Ongoing breakdowns and dry-dock delays in the CalMac fleet mean that MV Coruisk will be heading back to Mull this month to operate on the Oban-Craignure route instead of returning to Mallaig. Coruisk will be operating there alongside MV Loch Frisa whilst MV Isle of Mull is away covering the Lochboisdale-Oban route.
The summer timetable will commence with MV Loch Fyne operating solo between Mallaig and Armadale from 31 March until 15 May. A two-vessel timetable is scheduled to be in operation from 16 May when MV Coruisk returns to the route from covering Oban-Craignure services.

An unusual Albino Great Northern Diver arrived in Mallaig Harbour
in early February and was still in the area at the end of the month.
Photo Stephen MacDonald

Another packed issue - and it's only March! Hope you enjoy it. It's a bit lacking in 'World Wide West Word' photos though - please don't forget to take a copy with you if you're off on holiday, and send us a snap!
My mobile phone has just packed up so if you're trying to get in touch, please send an email or put a note through the office door instead - I'll get it sorted soon.
It's six years this month since I took over as Editor and I've been thinking for a while that it would be good to refresh the look of the paper a little, so we're currently dreaming up a new design for West Word's masthead - hope to be able to share it with you all next month!
My thanks as ever to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for looking after the envelopes.
Kirsty Bloom
Morar Station Building, Morar PH40 4PB

So February began very, very wet, with some amount of flooding for a wee while at the bridge at Kilchoan; however, the rest of the month was actually pretty decent, especially the last week which saw an ENTIRE week of no rain and finally, finally things started to dry out and the sun gently warmed our frozen, soggy souls.
One of these beautiful days was spent doing a volunteer day in the garden - the fruit bushes got pruned and cleared, a large raised bed completely dismantled, and a big hugelkultur bed in progress. (Which, for anyone who's wondering what on earth that is, is in simple terms, a centuries old, traditional way of building a bed from rotten logs and plant debris in which to grow stuff) - which is exactly what we used the dismantled raised bed for, rather than it just being dumped. For anyone particularly interested in the theory of hugelkultur there's a great explanation on permaculture.co.uk (which I found when I had to Google what it was haha!)
The amazing weather also coincided with the most spectacular show of northern lights. We really are lucky to live in a place like this!
There seems to have been a lot more visitors over the last month compared to last year, with the bunkhouse seeing a massively increased foot fall compared to February 2022 despite nothing being open. This may well be to do with the free boats. But, the tearoom has now reopened Monday to Friday 9-3, so hopefully more people will take advantage of the free fares til the end of March, with the lure of a cuppa or fresh local coffee to enjoy after a wander or hike if that's what you're into.
Stalking season finished on the 15th February although they are now busy with the out of season licence for the black hills project and a bit of night shooting for roe inside the village.
While more works are done on the hydro system (replacement of the turbine house genny, repairs to the turbine, inlet valve, branch pipe and installation of a new transformer and electric governor) we will be on diesel genny for the duration of the works which will be six to eight weeks. As this is going to increase the price of our electric dramatically (this time the renewables company don't have the funds to absorb the difference, which they did last time we were on diesel) it is with relief we are now able to apply for the government's energy bills support alternative funding scheme which previously we were unable to claim for.
We welcomed a new family to Inverie, Ben and Reagan who have two wee boys, and it's lovely to see the school swelling. And finally, happy birthday to Kai and Kodi who turned three (where does the time go??) and Bruce, who was eight. His beach birthday party was a success for the kids, who all had an awesome time burning off energy and eating cake.
Heather Robb

Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
We could all have been excused for thinking that the first part of the year would be a sleepy one in the Glen but . . .
The Jetty Hut, run by the SCIO group, is continuing to be an invaluable addition to village life. So far this year the residents have been lucky enough to have access to historical talks, Zumba, fitness classes, Yoga, Gaelic lessons, music sessions, book exchange, first aid training, and not forgetting Rugby 6 Nations games on the big screen. All these events could not be made possible without a great team of volunteers, and I am sure the local venue will only get busier as we march into the summer season.
The Callop footbridge and boardwalk remain closed due to safety issues, but talks are ongoing with FLS to try and get this reopened as soon as possible. Fingers crossed.
We are all aware that the brashing of trees/branches along our roads are necessary, but there has been some recent disappointment expressed regarding a stretch of road not too far from here, that had had the 'trimming' treatment. I can only assume that the gnarly, chewed up remnants of trees were the outcome of mechanical breakdowns hence having no choice but to employ the Gruffalo to undertake the work. We are very fortunate in Glenfinnan to have a gentleman whose love of trees makes sure our saplings don't look like they have become the lunch of fictional characters. It is an important job to do for obvious safety reasons and we hope that as you drive through the Glen, with the watchful eye of our local forest guru, you will only ever see trees that look like have been lovingly trimmed by Tinkerbell!
Lastly, as Easter fast approaches and we start to see the return of visitors, can we ask for your continued patience while driving through the Glen. We are aware that we are a bumper away some days from the village descending into a demolition derby but please know that everything that can be done to ensure the least disruption to your journey, will be done.
Chan ann leis a' chiad bhuille thuiteas a' chraobh
(The tree faas na at the first stroke - one stroke fells not an oak)
Catriona Hunter

Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well that was a quick month, and some much-improved welcome weather to allow us to get a few outdoor tasks done. Even Mowi were hard on it and the renewed pontoon is back and in place ready for use, although it will be a while before ex-manager Clara McGhee will be using it as we said a sad farewell to her as she moves on to a new challenge down in Oban. We would like to thank Clara for all she did for us over and above her normal duties - she will be much missed. We congratulate Kristian Sator on his appointment as new manager . . . Good luck . . .


We had a couple of very productive beach cleans where we collected half a tonne of various waste which was all bagged, counted and weighed. Well done to the pick teams led by Phoebe.
Hugh and Tara had an excellent trip to Outward Bound's Loch Eil centre and had a great time which they had fundraised to pay for. Also at the school on World Book Day the children dressed as their favourite character from their favourite book; they all looked fabulous including the teaching and support staff.
Our Green Shed is taking shape with a lot of crafting going on and had a brief showing for the 'Hidden Scotland' photographer Simon Hird who was doing all four of the Small Isles in turn for an article, and the Summer feel showed us at our best, compared to today when it's snowing . . . just bonkers.
Well that's our snippets for another issue,
Bruce Boyd

The last week of February has seen a return of sunshine to Canna. After the howling wind and rain of Winter, the ground finally has a chance to dry out and the cows have been sunbathing on the cliff tops. The longer days are starting to make a welcome return too which brings with them a renewed sense of busyness to the island. Winter seems to have flown by in a flash and we have begun the steady march towards the Summer season.
Two nights ago we had the best Northern Lights we have seen here in many years with a dazzling display of greens and deep reds against the backdrop of a clear, starry sky! As soon as the alert went out, the lights from torches and cars could be seen heading over to Sanday and down to the Pier as folk dashed out to the best viewing spots on the island. Another reason to come to Canna and experience our dark skies in the winter: mother nature puts on a spectacular show!
We took part in the Marine Litter survey and both Winnie and Pete collected a variety of bits from their 10m stretches of beach to add to the data. I often see large plastic litter like buckets, old fishing trays, random bits of wood and rope all around the island but at Coroghan the other day, it was the first time that I had seen micro plastics on that beach. It was pretty shocking to see how much there was, especially when you start to look a bit closer. I went snorkelling for the first time this year at the weekend and spotted, amongst other things, a random shoe lodged in the rocks. On a brighter note, the Eider ducks have returned to Canna. The other morning as I stood outside I heard the familiar "old lady with a handbag" sound from across the water. There was only one on Sunday and now there are loads, having a mothers meeting, swimming about in a gaggle. No doubt discussing where they went for the winter and which Yorkshire or Cornish Ale is the best.

Margaret Willington

Team Canna had a fantastic day trip to Eigg as part of a community learning exchange to look at their various projects. We visited the brewery, the renewables, the tree nursery and Eigg Adventures as well as enjoying a tasty lunch in the cafe! Thank you to Camille for showing us around, to Charlie for driving us around all day and to all those involved in the projects we visited.

Margaret Willington

There is a wealth of knowledge to share between the islands and we look forward to having Team Eigg over for a reciprocal visit very soon!
Margaret Willington

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
Casig Sona Dhuibh! A Happy Easter!
We'll be coming up for Easter soon and although we tend not to have as many traditions associated with Easter as we do with other festivals, there are one or two which are still nice to perpetuate and celebrate. How about Easter Bonnets for example? All of the images you see here are from the Canna archives. In addition to hats of course, John Lorne Campbell also recorded musical traditions of Easter including the "Duan na Caisg" from Mrs Currie, 1954. www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/43789?l=en


The Easter bonnet was made popular by Irving Berlin in the 1930s, inspired by the Easter parade in New York. But Margaret Fay Shaw had been enchanted by them a number of years before. Here we show some of the millinery creations found in the photographic collections at Canna House. They may not all have been used as Easter Bonnets but they're still a nice collection of inspiration perhaps if you fancy recreating one! The Canna photographic collections - comprising Margaret's own photos, those of the Thom family before the Campbell's time and early images of the Shaw and Campbell families themselves - tell us so many stories about the eras they were taken in. They contain several images of elaborate, and sometimes not-so-elaborate, headgear, worn over a lifespan of more than 100 years. Here is a lovely example of some Easter bonnets, taken in Pennsylvania (Margaret's city of birth) in 1906. Just look at the swan-like creation of Sara Lloyd, on the right!

Margaret's relations: Finlay H, Elizabeth, Finlay H Jnr and Sara Lloyd

Margaret, one of the first 20th-century female photographers, possessed a distinct knack for using headgear as a way of reinforcing character in her images - she had an inherent ability to capture a 'sense of place and time'. Perhaps this was an unconscious talent but nonetheless it's one that invaluably enhances our contemporary appreciation of that period in history.

Margaret's friends, 'Laughing Jessie Stinson & Biddy'

The Thom 'ladies' in their Edwardian millinery, on a trip through Skye in 1924

It's said that the wearing of Easter bonnets or smart hats represents an old tradition that entailed wearing new clothes at Easter to coincide with the approach of summer, and a promise of renewal and redemption. In particular, during the depths of the Great Depression, a new hat at Easter (or even a refurbished old one, perhaps with a feather or scarf) was a simple luxury for many without 'breaking the bank'. Canna House today still contains many of the hats worn by the Campbells, which also appear in many of Margaret's images, taken between 1938 and the 1970s. Margaret Fay Shaw clearly had a passion for hats, whether they were fancy fedoras, tantalising titfers or fundamental flat caps. We still take our hats off to her photographic eye today!
Caisg Sona dhuibh uile!
Fiona MacKenzie

This month marked the end of another era - Jinty has decided to give up running the shop and it has been taken over as a community enterprise again. Everyone would like to say a big thanks to Jinty for her time at Rum shop and wish her all the best for the future. Rum Community shop is open for business and everything has gone digital but it's cash only this month until the bank account is open - please bear with us while we find our feet.
NatureScot have completed their hind cull and two of the young ponies completed their first season carrying deer. Both did really well and are going to make good stalking ponies. There will be more young ponies to start training this year and we welcome enquiries from volunteers who have experience with ponies to help with their training. Looking forward to foals!! NS have also been busy doing path repairs in preparation for the season.
Wildlife news - A few pairs of eagles are on territory and have started nest building and are widespread across the island. A Glaucous Gull was spotted at Kilmory and Lapwings are back since 8th February. Other February sightings were a Short Eared Owl and an Iceland Gull.
Rum primary and nursery went to Eigg for a ceilidh with other small schools this month, and there are further excursions planned and other West Highland schools coming to Rum - the children will act as tour guides. World Book Day was celebrated by dressing up and telling favourite stories.
We had our visit from Cosmos Planetarium and got a lot of amazing pictures. Alex was on Radio Scotland talking about our dark skies and fund raising for equipment, and it was also mentioned in the P&J - please help our fundraising efforts on Gofundme. www.gofundme.com/rumdarkskies
The bunkhouse volunteer scheme is almost finished for the winter but the amount of work that has been completed is amazing - the new decking at the hall and its refurb, completion of the amazing campsite shelter, new doors and repaint to the visitors centre, website upgrades and loads of brash clearing to make the village tidier. Thanks you so much to all the volunteers who have contributed: we couldn't have done it without you.
Lastly, we have road contractors over, fixing the roads, filling the potholes. Huzzah!
Fliss Fraser

It has been another busy month on the island. We started off with the school pantomime, which was fantastic. The kids are brilliant performers and had us all laughing. Well done to everyone involved. Throughout the month there have been various events via the Cost of Living Crisis Fund, thanks to a group on the island who got together to apply for the funding. As part of this, the Tearoom has been providing delicious free meals once a week for the local community. People have also been able to access vouchers for groceries in the shop via the fund, and there are various social events being planned through it too. Thank you to the people who have arranged all of this; we really appreciate the work you have put in.
The singing group got together earlier in the month for a fun evening of singing and laughing. It's such a great feeling to sing in the hall with others and I look forward to the next get together.

Photo Erika O'Reilly

The Small Isles and Skye have been doing beach litter surveys to collect data to support Marine Scotland work. As part of this, a large group of islanders got together to do a beach clean on Laig and were able to remove a considerable amount of marine litter from the beach. We were joined by Anna Wilson from the University of Glasgow's Department of Education, who was visiting as part of the Waste Studies project, which uses storytelling to change people's relationships with waste.
A group of us got together for a Valentine's Day swim at Laig in celebration of Labhaoise's birthday. It was very cold, but a lot of fun, and we were warmed up afterwards with hot water bottles, home-made soup and hot chocolate.
In the evening there was a viewing of Heading West, a film about the band Shooglenifty. The band are long-time friends of the island, having played here many times over the years and they were supporters of the buyout campaign. The film was a tribute to Angus Grant, the former frontman, who sadly passed away in 2016. Heading West was emotional, yet also uplifting and fun, and it was nice for so many islanders to be able to get together to remember Angus. The film was provided by Screen Argyll, with other expenses covered via the Cost of Living fund.
The Valentines Ball was held on the 18th, and I hear it was a brilliant night. Dougal did a great job decorating the hall, and Jenny, Saira and Laura provided cocktails for everyone!
On the 27th, a bunch of people led by Sue and Neil got together to do some pruning at the orchard. In the afternoon it was Sunday Bunday at the hall with tea, cakes and toasties. Thanks to everyone involved for both of these events. To top it all off, the island was treated to an absolutely stunning show of the Aurora in the evening. The photos I have seen look amazing!
The Scottish Islands Federation held a very successful networking event in Mallaig on the 28th February looking at issues around marine litter. Well done Norah and Camille for organising this. More information will be coming soon about future events and how islanders can get involved.
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust have now started the groundworks for two new affordable homes for rent on Eigg. These will be near the Small Isles Medical Practice. They will be built to a high energy efficiency and will act as heat demonstration projects due to the use of heat pumps. A lot of hard work has gone into this project, and it is greatly appreciated.
John Chester writes: 'As would be expected February was a pretty quiet month for bird recording though the first birdsong did enliven the mornings whenever the weather allowed. There were also the first signs of returning summer breeding species with the first Shelduck recorded on the 2nd followed by Skylark (15th) & Pied Wagtail (26th). Several Great Northern Divers were present around the Perches and there were regular sightings of White Tailed Eagles whilst the wintering Greenshank continued to linger at Kildonan Bay.
'Less expected species involved a Barnacle Goose which briefly joined the resident Greylags at Kildonan on the 18th and an unseasonal Gannet seen offshore on the 13th. Not much to report on 'other wildlife' though there was a maximum count of 35 Common Seals on the 26th and the year's first moth sighting, a Mottled Grey, on the 24th.'
All in all, it's been another great, productive month here on Eigg, and we are looking forward to what March will bring!
Erika O' Reilly

A Write Highland Hoolie: Mallaig Book Festival
Open those diaries and mark out Friday 10th to Sunday 12th November for this year's A Write Highland Hoolie!
We are working on a programme of excellent authors, and we will also be running our schools competitions. In addition we are delighted to be almost ready to launch the second year of our adult poetry competition, in memory of our much missed colleague Deirdre, who passed away in 2021.
The Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition is open to anyone over the age of 18 writing in English. There is an entry fee of £10 for up to three poems of 40 lines or less on any subject.
The rules and entry form and payment details will shortly be available on our website, www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com, where you can sign up for our newsletter; awritehighlandhoolie on Facebook; and Twitter @WriteHoolie.
We give thanks again to our two very generous sponsors of the competition. Once more the magnificent prize will consist of The Mary Manson Trophy, which is a quaich engraved with the winner's name; £250 cash; and £250 in book tokens from The Highland Book Shop in Fort William, who will also be adding a bottle of whisky. The winner will be invited to attend the prize giving in the West Highland Hotel on Saturday 12th November, when the judge, entertaining and talented poet Hugh McMillan, will present the prize.
Hugh McMillan is a poet from Penpont in south west Scotland. His work has been published widely in Scotland and beyond, and he has won various prizes, most recently the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2017 for Sheep Penned, published by Roncadora; he won the same award in 2009 for Postcards from the Hedge. He has been a winner in the Smith/Doorstop Prize and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, and has also been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award and the Basil Bunting Award.
The competition will be promoted nationwide so we are hoping for a lot of entries. We want to read yours!

Mallaig Lifeboat Log

2nd February 2023
Report of four kayakers ashore in Loch Ailort but in need of assistance. At least one had capsized, and they were unable to cross back across the loch to return to their vehicle in the dark and worsening conditions. There was no land side access to the casualties. Coastguard requested the lifeboat to extract the casualties from the shore and return them to safety.

18th February 2023
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to convey a Coastguard team to the Camusunary area of Skye at 08:00. A hill walker was reported overdue from his accommodation in Portree. His vehicle was located parked at Sligachan Hotel and it was assumed that he was walking either to Camusunary or to Coruisk in the Cuillins. On-scene at 09:45, the Coastguard team were transferred ashore via the Y-Boat to join the MRT and other Coastguards at Camusunary. Rescue 948 also arrived in the area to search. The Y-Boat then continued along the shore of Loch Scavaig accompanied by the Lifeboat to Loch Na Cuilce at the top of Loch Scavaig. The Bothy at the lochside was searched, along with the path round to Loch Coruisk, without result. To everyone's relief, the Lifeboat was informed by rescue 948 that the casualty had been located on the path high above the Loch with a leg injury but otherwise in good health by the MRT. He had survived Storm Otto and freezing conditions over two nights on the hill. Once recovered to the Helicopter the casualty was flown to Hospital in Fort William. The lifeboat relocated back to Camusunary and recovered the Coastguard team and Y-Boat before returning to Mallaig, berthing at 12:30 and made ready for service.
Jim Morton

News from Mallaig Harbour
I attended the Scottish Islands Federation's Marine Litter Event in the West Highland Hotel on Tuesday 28th February. This was a really interesting event, with a good mix of attendees, all of whom were full of enthusiasm for tackling the issue of Marine Litter. Around Mallaig and the islands, we tend to think of the bigger waste generated by fishing and aquaculture as the biggest issue, but it turns out, that's some of the easier stuff to deal with! Shore to Floor on Skye use salvaged ropes to make mats in various sizes, from doormats to table placemats, and Ocean Plastic Pots was established by a former deep sea diver to use waste plastic and transform it to plant pots. Ocean Plastic Pots are working on a pilot to take some of the marine litter from around the Small Isles and transform it into plant pots which could then be sold locally. They did a similar thing with Ulva, where five tonnes of rubbish was collected and then recycled into plant pots. It's small scale at the moment, but worth looking out for! There is a big discrepancy in the waste which washes up on our West Highland and Island shores compared to what washes up in the rest of the country, and I for one was amazed and horrified at what had been taken out of the water in one scoop off the shores of Helensburgh - much of which had obviously been flushed down the toilet and was much smaller and harder to deal with.
As part of the discussions prior to this event, we met with KIMO, who operate the 'Fishing for Litter' scheme, to try and reinvigorate the scheme locally. 'Fishing for Litter' enables local fishing boats to access bags to take to sea and to fill with any marine litter that is brought on board while fishing. These bags are then collected by KIMO to be taken away and disposed of. We're encouraging all our local fleet to get involved, and if anyone is fishing around the coast, and travelling regularly to Mallaig to be able to drop full bags off in Mallaig, then please get in touch and we can arrange for you to have access to the bags.
Aside from Marine Litter, I have spent the month working on the Outer Harbour project. Although I breathed a sigh of relief when the application was submitted to DEFRA at the beginning of the month, this was actually just the start of lining up everything to take forward the project, and there is still a lot of background work to do! We've had two vessels this month having to send in tenders to the Harbour as we don't have enough depth or length. The first was the Ronja Skye, and then HMS Portland put ashore crew on Monday 27th and picked up crew on Tuesday 28th February.
We have also been working alongside the fishing industry this month to provide data to support responses to the Government's Highly Protected Marine Areas Consultation, which has a closing date of 20th March 2023. This has wide reaching implications, not just for the fishing industry, but potentially for recreational use of our seas as well. There are various thoughts on this, some of which are published elsewhere in West Word this month.
Today (3rd March) we have been informed that, due to disruption elsewhere in the network, the summer timetable sailings between Mallaig and Armadale will initially be undertaken solely by the Loch Fyne, while the Coruisk is redeployed to the Oban-Craignure run to support capacity on that route. It is expected that the timetable will be amended to enable the Loch Fyne to cope with demand on the route for the early part of the season, but these amendments have yet to be published. The Loch Bhrusda will also be needed elsewhere in the network for the early part of the summer timetable, which will have implications for the Small Isles freight service on a Saturday.
On a more positive note, those of you in Mallaig will have seen that Gary Burton is making good progress with the new marina building - the framework is up, and the doors and windows installed, so it is well on schedule to be complete in time for the Marina reopening in April.
We are also once again happy to provide some financial support to Mallaig Football Club for the upcoming season, and here they are pictured receiving the cheque from me this week.

L to R: Chris Gray (MAFC Secretary), Jacqueline McDonell and Jaimie Young (MAFC Captain).
Mallaig Football Club would like to thank everyone involved with the MHA and they look forward to a successful season.

Some of you may have seen the episode of 'Scotland's Great Escapes', which featured Canna Campsite. When the episode was being filmed, we had Grado in the Harbour Office chatting about all things Harbour and the challenges of living on an island. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view!) I didn't make it into the final programme, but there was a wee glimpse of Grado eating a bacon roll on the Harbour, having missed the ferry.
Bha mi toilichte am ḿos seo a'dol dhan Bunsgoil Mhalaig airson Seachdain na Gàidhlig. Bhruidhinn mi mu dheidhinn Gàidhlig agus na ḍighean a tha mise a'cleachd Gàidhlig agus na ḍighean a tha Gàidhlig cudromach airson an coimhearsnachd seo. I was happy this month to go and speak to the children in Mallaig Primary about ways in which I have used Gaelic and its importance for the community as part of Gaelic Week.
Finally, you may be aware that a Men's Shed has started in Mallaig, meeting on a Monday morning at Mallaig and Morar Community Centre until they can find premises of their own. To give them another opportunity to meet, and to keep the momentum going, we have offered the meeting room which we created as part of the renovations to the old Denholms Office, on a Friday afternoon from 2pm. Everyone is welcome to come along, and you'll even get a cup of tea or coffee!
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154

On and Off the Rails

Hello, it's me again.
Unusually, writing this column in the daylight as I fight against the cost of keeping the heating on through the night - my preferred quiet time for concentrating to produce it - but with below zero temperatures, twinkly starry nights, snow on the ground for four days in the gardens, gorgeous moonlit moments, and hands too cold to come out from under the duvet - it has to be so! Mind you, starting this at 7.30am is no different from the above, I am forced to discover!!
Later I will telephone Melanie Poduschnik in Mallaig to inform her that she is the winner in February's draw to own a copy of the book 'Are We Nearly There Yet' by author Bruce Keith. A treat is in store for her as she delves into the 168 page hardback book diligently researched by the author on the history of milestones - still used, to this day, for reference by road, rail and canal users. Congratulations Melanie - enjoy the book. I have!!
All details for purchasing a copy were contained in the February column - but if that is not to hand and you want them contact me on (01687) 462189 and I will assist you.
Same goes for the details of the DVD 'The Jacobite 2019 - 2022'. Line side and drone footage with full locomotive sound. I am able to supply you with that if required.
Furthermore the breathtaking spring issue of the Friends of the West Highland Lines magazine is now available to be posted out to you, through me. Details of content and charges involved when, and if, you telephone me to arrange this.

Slow down for a while at Glenfinnan station
That is the hope for two Glenfinnan based families who are taking on projects at the railway station. Duncan and Manja Gibson, formerly of Glenfinnan House Hotel, have taken over operations at the dining car in a new venture that will include outside catering. They will be open for business from Tuesday 21st March between 8:30am and 5pm, with some early evening openings being planned to follow on. The menu will feature dishes including as much local produce as possible, including smoked produce, home baking and preserves, and Glenfinnan Estate venison. Further details from the DMG Catering Glenfinnan page on Facebook and Instagram.
Just yards away and the other new faces are Mark and Ally Entwistle who have taken over the running of the Glenfinnan Sleeping Car, which provides hostel style accommodation in a four compartment 1950s LNER heritage sleeping carriage on the railway siding, next to the dining car. It can accommodate up to 10 guests. Mark, who has ended more than five years as senior reporter on the Lochaber Times, already operates the nearby 'Back Track Bothies Eco Cabins' in Glenfinnan with Ally.
Glenfinnan Station Museum also advertise for a seasonal museum receptionist in February's issue of West Word. All of these changes will assist John Barnes and his wife Hege who have dedicated themselves, for over 30 years now, to making the 'Glenfinnan Station Experience' a very welcome place to visit.
For any further details contact Amy, John or Hege at glenfinnanstationmuseum@gmail.com or by phone on (01397) 722295. There is also a woodland steam railway project due to open - more information on that as I get it, later this year. Finally on the subject, there is an active 'Friends of Glenfinnan Station' group. They will have just had their AGM when West Word comes out, but call up or ask about it when passing through, and have a look at the progress of the 'Glenfinnan Wee Railway'. It also has track fitted now - and professional railway builder Tony Martin has fitted a turn table!

2023 Jacobite West Coast Railway news
I can hardly believe that we are only three weeks away from The Jacobite pulling in to Mallaig station again on the commencement of its morning service between Fort William and Mallaig!
The dates for this season - with all trains running seven days a week - are:
Morning service from Monday 3rd April to Friday 27th October
Afternoon service from Monday 1st May to Friday 29th September.
Mallaig (even in the gales, rain, and snow this year, black ice etc) is awash with plumbers, decorators, painters, sign writers, electricians, carpet fitters, industrial cleaners, skips etc. mattresses, beds, kitchen equipment, extractor fans, flooring etc are being refurbished. New staff are arriving - often the only way to keep staff these days is by offering accommodation. Last-minute planting, clearing, flower beds et cetera would not survive even if you could hack through the ice and snow! My Portakabin is crammed with shrubs from last autumn's clearance. The primroses, polyanthus, tête-à-tête miniature daffodils are out - but that's it for now! The seagulls are returning to the railway station to build nests (again and again). Ollie at the station shovels de-icer grit/salt on top of everything that does not move!! And we all convince ourselves that we will be ready for the invasion!! The morning Jacobite will have an extra first-class carriage this year, at the loss of one standard carriage. Change comes!!

March: Diesel West Highland Pullman Railtour to visit Mallaig!
The very popular West Highland Pullman train will visit Mallaig on the morning of Sunday 19th March (Mothering Sunday). It is due to depart Fort William at 9am, so should be into Mallaig before 11am. It is due to be back in Fort William for 3pm. So, weather conditions and strikes permitting, Mallaig will be visited for at least two hours. RMT have currently suspended all strike action having been offered a new pay deal so fingers crossed. The promoter is Midland Pullman and the motive power is Locomotive Services Ltd. The superbly turned out train, and staff, will arrive into Fort William, from Finsbury Park and Grantham pickups, on the evening of 18th March, visit Mallaig on the 19th, and depart from Fort William on the 20th. Fingers and toes crossed that it is allowed to travel.
Midland Pullman details can be viewed online or by telephoning 0800 038 5360.

Highland Explorer coach heads from Glasgow to Mallaig
Adding onto my news last month of the Highland Explorer active travel coach: ScotRail says it is still finalising its processes for reservations on the carriages from 1st April onwards, and will share details as soon as possible. 'Aye right' as we say.

To Glasgow and back
Having been invited to attend, and take an active part in, a very productive one day 'Rail in Scotland' event this week, I accepted, and as I only have time in this column for a few more words I can confirm that I had a private discussion with Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland's Railway, which comprises ScotRail and track owner Network Rail Scotland. He engaged with me wholeheartedly as to my project to return full catering trolley service on the West Highland line from Glasgow AND on our branch line. Four hours later I was spoken to again by him. He had engaged with his CEO, and the result was that catering will be returning soon on the lines!!
See you on the train,
Sonia Cameron

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