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March 2024 Issue

Contents of the online version:

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

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Knoydart Farm CIC receive funding boost from The Royal Countryside Fund
Knoydart Farm CIC is celebrating after being awarded £24,869 of funding from The Royal Countryside Fund to support its work to sustainably produce food within the Knoydart community. Based in Inverie, the organisation will use the funding to buy crucial infrastructure such as a polytunnel, irrigation, compost and agricultural machinery which will help kickstart the project.


The Knoydart Farm CIC has been working to support the community since 2022 and was founded to combat the increasing price of food (made more expensive as Knoydart is only accessible by boat) and the decreasing sustainability of food arriving in Knoydart. The organisation is now currently focusing on establishing key infrastructure and hopes to begin to supply the community with healthy food whilst also providing sustainable and skilled employment within the coming year.
Benjamin Nunn (Director), says: "We're delighted that The Royal Countryside Fund has recognised the work of our organisation. The support of The Royal Countryside Fund means we will be able to get going with a project we are all very excited about and determined happens. We have already spent a considerable portion of the grant on a BCS tractor which will arrive next week and I can't wait to get rotavating!"

Marty Bear takes a trip to Mallaig!
Mallaig welcomed the first touring train of the year on 10th March. The excursion was operated by the Branch Line Society, raising funds for Martin House Hospice and Great Ormond Street Hospital. The first 'passenger' to step off was Martin House mascot Marty Bear, who crossed the platform to say hello to the staff on the departing ScotRail train, conductor Suzie Sangan and driver Anne Cameron!

Photo by David Bird

It's been a quick month again, although I seem to find myself saying that rather a lot lately so maybe it's just me!
The Farm and Jacqui's tree nursery both now have new large polytunnels, and the first BBQ of the year was held in order to celebrate the completion of the farm one. Jacqui's Tree Nursery is doing well . . . 18,000 Acorns were transported from the old nursery site in the market garden to her new polytunnel and some little seedlings of Rowan and bird cherry have started sprouting already in their new home. Jacqui received funding from The Pebble Trust and Awards for All, which has made all this possible.
At the end of the month the fourth timber harvesting phase began, and multiple machines and equipment arrived off the Spanish John before trundling off into the woods to begin. There is going to be 3,000 tonnes of timber harvested, some of which (around 1,800t) will be exported down to Cumbria by boat to a large sawmill there. 1,000 odd tones will remain here, to be utilised locally. The Forest Trust will actually celebrate 25 years of Knoydart forestry this month too!
The Pub has been keeping us fed and entertained all through the last months, what with the fantastic breakfasts provided by Yasmine and Kira, a sell out Sunday roast, regular pub quizzes hosted by various locals, an all day Monday music sesh featuring Mallaig and Arisaig musicians alongside our own('cause who doesn't just love a wee Monday sesh) and a hilarious Still Game themed evening. The costumes were brilliant . . . check out the Facebook page for yourself!
The Tearoom has just reopened after its winter break too.
Cheers for now,
Heather Robb

Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well it's been a fairly uneventful month with all the action happening behind the scenes before we go live so to speak, with Mothers Day and Easter approaching at an alarming rate. But the weather seems to have settled down and it's looking more like spring is arriving ??
We're having a challenging time with our power supply to the north half of the Island, and the joys of being self reliant is we get to dig holes and attempt to find the fault; and in the meantime there are generators powering the affected houses in a throwback to yesteryear when lights were on twice a day and you couldn't have more than one major appliance on at a time. Well done and good luck to Colin, Barnaby and the many shovels.
The Isle of Muck Bunkhouse has had a bit of a social media blitz at the moment with new insta and Facebook pages and an updated logo, and like other accommodation here it is filling fast with a few dates still available, so it looks like we're in for a busy busy season . . . not long until the boats start to appear.
The school marked World Book Day with a brunch and dress up as a favourite character from print. Heather was the Incredible Mr Fox and her little brother Hunter was Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, both very colourful.
The only other thing on my mind is the starting of the summer CalMac timetable, and I hope we can have a seamless and uneventful period. I still have a headscratch over Saturday's double sail and don't understand why they can't do reverse route sailing so visitors can island hop if they wanted.
Well that's it folks for this month and will speak next.
Bruce Boyd

February has been a mixture of sunshine and showers here on Canna. We've had some really superb days where the sun actually felt warm but then five minutes later there is driving hail with the hailstones battering every building, creating a massive din and making the island look like a popped beanbag. Ho hum, it is February after all!
Although January seemed to last 150 years, February has sped past us at a light speed and here on Canna, thoughts turn to the approaching season. The tables have returned to the outside of Cafe Canna, we've also had some visitors - a group came over for the stopover day one Sunday. I spoke to them outside the shop and they came from Glasgow having taken advantage of their over 60's discounted rail travel to Mallaig. They saw the ferry was going to Canna that day, so they thought why not? Suffice to say, they thought Canna was great! Daffodils are starting to appear across the island too, their bright yellow blooms offering a sense of Springtime approaching.
The farm is now gearing up towards calving and then lambing will follow soon afterwards. There has been a bit of fencing going on and the daily routine of feeding in the mornings is in full swing.
The Visitor Hub building is moving on apace. We now have foundations, walls, and the first parts of the wooden structure are now in place. Looking at it from across the bay, we can start to get a semblance of what it will look like in the landscape.
The Canna House Project is making good progress too. They are starting to look towards the Summer when the collections and conservation teams will be on Canna rationalising the collection and getting it ready to put back into the house.
WT Architects have paid Canna another visit and done a community workshop to start finalising aspects of the design of the Coroghan Barn and bunkhouse before we move on to the next stage of the process. Consolidation works have been carried out on Coroghan Barn to keep it safe from the elements until we can get started on the project in earnest.
Our annual Canna 10K Trail Run is taking place on Saturday 25th May. If you are keen to join us for the trail run, BBQ and evening ceilidh, please go to the Isle of Canna website and sign up for registration. www.theisleofcanna.com There are still a few spaces left!
It is starting to feel like there is a lot happening on Canna with various projects getting underway despite the winter months and it is immensely satisfying to see this all happening. It means, of course, that the island feels busier. We are looking forward to welcoming all our visitors over the coming months and sharing all the things that are happening on Canna with them.
Margaret Willington

Taproom Opening
After three years of building, brewing and braving the cold, the Isle of Eigg Brewery had its opening night at the tap room. Packed and cosy with a warm stove, cold beers, kombucha and tacos, the tap room opening was the perfect opportunity to see the work that goes on in the brewery, meet some of the students currently visiting from Flensburg, and hide from the February rain. We look forward to another evening in the tap room. A huge thank you to Stu, Ben, Gabe and Katrin, and to everyone who has helped make the Isle of Eigg Brewery a success; from donors, to builders and brewers. Sláinte!

Valentines Disco
On Saturday 17th, Dougal very kindly organised a disco-themed Valentines party for us in the hall. It was an excellent night with ABBA and plenty of 70s wigs!

Flensburg Students Presentation
On Tuesday 20th February, the group of students visiting from Flensburg University treated us to a meal and an informative presentation from their research into the Eigg Electric System. The presentation, titled Transition Pathways for Decarbonisation and Self Sufficiency on The Isle of Eigg offered a variety of options for the future of Eigg Electric, exploring alternative sources of power - such as tidal - and offering a detailed look at possibilities for updating and expanding the current system. It is always great to have new insights and assessments of the needs here and ideas for the future from those at the cutting edge of renewable research and technology.

Eigg Forestry Felling
This month there has been a hive of activity in the Isle of Eigg Forestry with Ian Shaw and team over on the island with a Harvester and Forwarder clearing 1000 tonnes of trees as part of phase two of timber felling within our main Sitka Spruce Plantation that was planted in the 1980's. This should provide us with another 3-4 years worth of woodfuel for heating. A huge thank you to the forestry team, Ian Shaw and Lescheck, and all those who work so hard in the background to make projects such as these possible!

Eigg Tree Nursery
It has been an exciting month for the Eigg Tree Nursery preparing to send the largest order we have ever had going off-island. A total of 2200 trees are headed for Barra and Uist for the Woodland Trust. A huge salute to Tasha for all the work she does in the tree nursery, and for getting literally thousands of trees safely packed up and sent off to their new homes.
The Eigg Tree Nursery has also been working towards the second phase of restocking compartments of the forestry plantation harvested in 2019. A team of four islanders will begin replacing the Sitka Spruce with 8,750 mixed native and productive species including Birch, Oak, Hazel, Scots Pine, Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Sycamore in March. The school children will also be involved at the end of the month planting Hazel trees that they have sown and grown in the tree nursery over the last year.

Climbing Workshop With REFUGYM
Celia, from Selkie explorers, headed to Greece this month to work with REFUGYM, a charity offering sports activities to refugees living in a camp just outside Athens. Along with two others - including GB paralympic climber Jo Newton - Celia coached a full-day women's climbing workshop in the mountains that surround the camp. The women and girls were from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, and Eritrea, and all 23 of them were new to climbing. The workshop offered a chance to learn new skills, in a peaceful and safe environment - the mountains an escape from the harshness of the camp.

This month we celebrated Eric, Labhaoise, and Babette's birthday.
Eilidh MacGilp
Nan Fee

Road to the Isles Facilities Group NEWS
The Road to the Isles Facilities Group was fortunate to be awarded £26,500 of Community Regeneration Funding from the Highland Council's Community Regeneration Fund for a programme of winter improvements at the end of last year. Since then we have been working through some of the projects to enhance our own facilities but also on other projects that were suggested by the community. Probably the most obvious improvements are the tarring of the centre strip in the car park at Tougal, and the clearance of weeds and overgrown trees and plants around East Bay. We've been inundated with positive comments about the works to East Bay, so we have to say a huge 'thank you' to Kenny Merrilees for leading the project, and to Cailean MacLeod, Iain MacPherson and Caiden Fairlie for working with Kenny in all weathers to clear the area. It's amazing just how much pavement was hidden beneath the growth in some areas!


We've also had repairs done to the handrails up to the 'cross' at Morar; steps built on the path down to Silver Sands from the Tougal car park; repaired two interpretation plinths for signs which were originally installed by Lochaber Geopark; and funded repairs to the EV charging point in Arisaig. At our own facilities, as well as the tarring at Tougal, we have had an access made from the pavement to the Mallaig public toilets; had the wall at the front of the building roughcast and made improvements to the lighting and signage. At Traigh, the Men's Shed have stained and painted the toilets to preserve them for the future. We've used local contractors as much as we possibly could, and we're grateful to all of them for working within the tight timescales imposed by the grant funding.
There are some other works that we hoped to do that have been thwarted a bit by the weather, but where this has happened, we have bought the materials, and will get the works done as soon as the weather allows. We'll update on these next month!
When we have works to do, we try our hardest to award jobs to local tradesmen, but we don't always know who is able to do what works. We'd really like to set up a list of local tradesmen, so if you would be interested in completing work for us in the future, then please let us know.
E-mail us at roadtotheislesfacilitiesgroup@gmail.com with the range of works that you would be interested in doing for us (e.g. plumbing, building, general maintenance etc.) and we'll automatically let you know when we have a job to be done that fits your skills, in order that you have the opportunity to bid for it.

North West Lochaber Handicraft Show ASTLEY HALL, ARISAIG
Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th June 2024

The Schedule is out! You can pick one up in outlets all over the area - they include the list of competitions, the rules and the entry form. The competitions are also listed on the Astley Hall website - www.astleyhall.org.uk - and the North West Lochaber Facebook page.
You can bring entries to the Show between 9 and 10.45am on Saturday 15th June, but we'd love it if you could get the entry form to us by 31st May. All forms received by then will go into a draw to win a free raffle ticket and one free lunch on either the Saturday or the Sunday.
As part of the run up to the Show we are holding Craft Workshops for adults and children in the Astley Hall on Wednesday April 10th. We hope to have some instruction on knitting, crochet, jewellery making etc and you can drop in between 10am and 4pm. Bring a pot luck lunch to share. See the poster for more details. We're hoping you'll think this a fun thing to do during the Easter holidays, either on your own, with friends or with your family. Tea and coffee provided. Keep an eye on Facebook nearer the time to find out just what workshops we'll be holding.
We'll be holding a big raffle to be drawn at the Show, and would appreciate the donation of any prizes.
We've tracked down all the trophies but one, and we have two new ones. Does anyone know the whereabouts of the Old Library Cup for Baking and Produce?
Please contact any of us if you have any questions or want to know more.
Ann Martin - ann.martin6@btopenworld.com 01687 450263
Caroline Jackson - Jackson.caroline1@outlook.com 07922 246547
Alison Horsley - adjhorsley@gmail.com 07545 299853

Personal Angle

'Whatever your situation, make the most you can of each and every day. Be nice to people and laugh as much as possible.' - the late great Dodie Weir.

It was nice seeing the photo of the Mallaig Ladies XI nicely decked out in their Duncan Muir & Son sponsored strips in last month's West Word. Good luck to coach Jamie Young and all the players for future success.
It's not the first time that Mallaig has boasted of a Ladies Football Team of course, and West Word readers will recall that a photo of a Second World War Ladies XI was featured alongside Kenneth Macpherson's writings on the local football scene a few months back.
However it set me thinking of another event when the ladies of the village were involved in the local football scene and I remembered this occasion which helped mark the opening of the new playing field back in 1976. As a curtain raiser to the main event (The Stars FC v Inverness Caledonian FC) the local ladies got all 'dolled up' in fancy dress to take part in a fun game v Mallaig Saints FC - a young aspiring football team under the management of Ally and Donnie Muck, or to give them their full and proper title, Alistair and Donnie MacKinnon, who made the short hop from the Isle of Muck to settle in Mallaig.


Here are the participants - see who you can spot. I know all the names, with one exception - the girl sitting down on the extreme left of the front row. If you know who this is, please let me know!

My search for a photo of the Mallaig Fish and Chip Van goes on but Kenneth Macpherson obtained permission from John McPherson Photography for me to use this archive photo c. 1978 of the Mallaig Fresh Fish Van at Arisaig. I think this is the van belonging to Donnie (ByGosh) MacLellan, but I am old enough to remember that the Mallaig Fish Van was initiated by the late Ian MacMillan and then carried on for some time after his death by his son Johnny.

John MacPherson Mallaig Fish Van Mobile Shop - photo from John Macpherson

The third Friday in March was an extremely important 'diary date' for all connected to the fishing industry in Mallaig (and beyond). It was the traditional date for the 'Fishermen's Do' - the Annual General Meeting and the annual Dinner Dance of the Mallaig and North West Fishermen's Association.
It was the biggest night of the year, both attendance wise and income wise for the Caledonian Hotel, Inverness, with over 400 people sitting down for a four course meal followed by the dance in the vast dining room/ballroom. I remember my wife and I purchasing gifts and wrapping them up as prizes for the 'spot waltz'.
The large ballroom was ultimately reduced in size as the hotel modernised via the construction of a swimming pool, sauna and gymnasium, and this meant that the Dinner & Dance was an upstairs and downstairs event and a bit of the 'magic atmosphere' was lost.
Association members, friends, wives and girlfriends from all over the west coast, the islands and the Black Isle all attended the 'Do' and labelled it 'The Best Night of the Year'!
Meetings started at 10am on the day and after lunch the Annual General Meeting, open to all members of the Association, would take place. Payout of travel expenses would then ensue followed by a Reception where invited guests were welcomed prior to the Dinner Dance.
Here is a flashback photo dating back to 1982 and shows the presentation to Mr William John Manson MBE on his retiral after 34 years as Chairman of the Association. The presentation of an engraved rose bowl and wallet was made to William John by two stalwarts of the Association, Alastair MacRae, Kyleakin (Misty Isle BRD 354) and George Jack, Avoch (Integrity INS151).

(Left to right) Alastair MacRae, George Jack, William John Manson, Colin Thom (Association Secretary), Robert MacMillan (Association Treasurer).

A community project is under way in Knoydart to improve cycling facilities for visitors and residents. The Knoydart Foundation is leading the project to refurbish a former generator shed close to the pier and The Old Forge pub, and recently secured £12,765 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) towards the total project costs of £27,500.
The new facility will enable a collaboration between the Foundation and Knoydart E-Bikes to enhance cycling options for both visitors and residents. It will also relocate the ranger service from the Foundation's office to a more convenient base. The works include full fabric upgrading of the building, including external décor, the creation of office and display space for the Knoydart community rangers and E-Bike employees, and a workshop and cycle storage area. There are already five adult and three children's mountain bikes available for hire from the Foundation, all recently renewed with funding from Cycling Scotland, plus older bikes gifted to the community. The refurbished building will also act as a base for up to 15 Knoydart E-bikes.
Knoydart Foundation Ranger Finlay Greig said: "By increasing our presence in the village centre we will be able to better inform the thousands of visitors who come to Knoydart every year; whether it be highlighting the services of a local business, recommending a nearby walk or promoting our awesome array of private and public tours. Making affordable active travel options easily available to locals and visitors alike is an important goal of the Knoydart Foundation Ranger Service and funding from HIE and Cycling Scotland has allowed us to repurpose a building which previously housed a generator into a transport hub that promotes carbon-free travel. We can't wait to welcome visitors and support locals from our new cycle and information station."

Traigh Golf Club - Angus Macintyre to retire
Angus Macintyre is retiring as assistant greenkeeper at Traigh Golf Course at the end of the year when he will be 80. He has been a familiar face around the links for over 40 years, originally as a stalwart member of the Club where he was Secretary at one point. After he retired as a Countryside Ranger ten years ago, he started working for the Course. He began by manning the clubhouse, meeting and greeting visitors, before rapidly finding himself spending more time helping the head greenkeeper Gavin Johnstone. Within three years he was entirely focused on looking after the greens and fairways that delight so many players.


He leaves with the course in as good condition as many of us can remember it, and this is in no small part due to his enormous efforts. Visitors have been hugely complimentary over the last year which has been very gratifying to everyone involved. The course has a great reputation for its remarkable views and challenging layout. It receives visitors from all over the world as result, so it is very important to maintain it in the best possible condition.
Angus explains that he derived huge pleasure from playing the course for many years, and says, 'I wanted to put something back into something I had really enjoyed.' He adds that when he started playing in the late 1970s (he had been a fine schoolboy rugby player, representing Scotland Under 18s as a defensive full back, and also spent much of his time with his beloved trials motor bikes, competing in the 1984 Scottish Six Day Trial), the golf course then was very different to the smart track we enjoy today. 'Really it was part of Traigh Dairy Farm with livestock roaming free, and the greens fenced off. It was remarkable how many good players the Club had - my handicap was a stuffy 17 or so and I could often ambush the better players by playing to it! But the course was totally transformed when Jack Shaw Stewart retired up here, and Johnnie Salvesen redesigned it so brilliantly to incorporate the two back fields. Of course it has always had the fabulous views, but it is now a very testing and tricky layout. You have to think your way round it, and you only have to look at the scores in the Traigh Open to see how difficult even the best players find it.'
According to Gavin, 'Angus's support and company has been invaluable and I will miss him greatly'. David Shaw Stewart, one of the owners of the course, says, 'We have been extraordinarily lucky to have had Angus helping on the course. Not only is he wonderfully enthusiastic and hard working, but it has been a great bonus that he is a highly skilled mechanic which has been invaluable in maintaining the machinery. And he loves and understands golf so he knows exactly what we are trying to achieve and takes great pride in the course.'
Traigh Golf Course will be looking to recruit a successor to Angus as a part-time greenkeeper. The role is essentially seasonal with variable hours, but in the summer will require at least three days a week, sometimes more. The principal task is mowing greens and fairways, which is not especially technical or unduly physically demanding, but requires close attention to detail and high standards in the work done. An interest in golf would be helpful but not essential - certainly it is not a requirement to be able to play. The post would suit someone who is strongly motivated and enjoys working outdoors within the existing golf course team. If you would like to find out more about the position, please contact Eilidh Henderson at Traigh Golf Course Arisaig PH39 4NT.

Mallaig Lifeboat Log
No callouts this month!

On 4th March, the Mallaig Men's Shed delivered a new bench which they had made for Mallaig RNLI and which is located outside the Mallaig RNLI Lifeboat shop in Harbour Road; a great way to celebrate the RNLI's 200th anniversary.

Pictured are John McLean and Michael Currie from Mallaig Men's Shed, who made and painted the bench.

Mallaig RNLI Fundraisers would like to thank Juliet and Niall Blackie for hosting our fundraising Coffee Morning on Saturday 2nd March, the weekend of the 200th Anniversary of the RNLI. We would also like to thank everyone who came along on the day and supported us and to all who baked all the lovely cakes.


The lifeboat, while on exercise, came by for a sail past to show support as well. After expenses we made £527 for the RNLI. A fantastic amount.


News from Mallaig Harbour
It's been another mixed month of weather, with not much activity for the fishing boats, although this week is looking more promising, and as I am writing this we have quite a few ice orders in for boats hoping to head out to sea. We're also expecting the first of the landings from visiting Irish boats in the next couple of weeks, which will boost the landings figures!
Our meeting room was used to host a meeting chaired by the Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (RIFG) on Thursday 15th February. Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups aim 'to improve the sustainable management of inshore fisheries and to give commercial inshore fishers a voice in wider marine management developments.' A new structure for RIFGs was established in January 2023, and Marine Scotland is now consulting on their impact, remit and organisation, as well as options for the future. The survey is open until 30th April 2024, and should take around 15 minutes to complete. If you have an interest in the inshore fishing industry, then please take some time to complete it. You can access it from this link https://t.co/YMdYd46jMH.
We've had a draft of the Economic Impact Assessment, which has provided some good information, and we're grateful to those who gave their time to input to the study. As a Board, we have decided to commission some case studies to sit alongside the main document, and these will be ready by the end of March. Headline figures from the report are that Mallaig Harbour contributes to 200FTE jobs in the local area, generating a turnover of £30.94 million for the businesses and organisations using the Harbour, and a total GVA of £12.03 million locally. We know that these figures don't necessarily mean much in isolation, and this is where the case studies will help to present a better and easier to understand picture of the impact associated with the Harbour.
The 200FTEs noted in the Economic Impact Assessment included 27 employed by MOWI at the Harvest Station, and some of you will have heard locally that this number is under review. MOWI is currently reviewing its overall salmon harvesting procedures, which will affect staff requirements in the Harvest Station in Mallaig, and the company is going through a consultation process with those staff who will be affected. This process is ongoing so the details of what this will mean for the Harvest Station, and for operations through the Harbour more generally are not yet known. We have issued the tender documentation for the Overnight ferry berth this month, with the aim of having everything in place to start construction in the Autumn. CMAL have published a question and answer document relating to the replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles, and this is available on their website, https://www.cmassets.co.uk/project/mallaig-lochboisdale/.
Transport Scotland have also published their Islands Connectivity Plan Strategic Approach, which sets out a long term vision for how ferry services, supported by other transport links, will be delivered and improved in the future. As part of this, a consultation is open on the Vessels and Ports Plan. This consultation is open until 3rd May, and is available on Transport Scotland's website, www.transport.gov.scot, and search for 'Islands Connectivity Plan'. The Vessels and Ports Plan makes very little reference to Mallaig, and the works needed to ensure the Harbour infrastructure is fit for new vessels as these are built. It does make reference to 'Additional developments', which include the Small Vessel Replacement Programme Phase 2, which is where any replacement vessels for Mallaig-Armadale would come in, and to the Small Isles vessel replacement project and associated works, but doesn't specify what these might be. It goes on to give a bit more detail on the Small Isles replacement, which it is hoped would be in place before 2030/31. This seems like a long time away, but consultation will have to start soon to achieve this. CalMac's difficulties continue, with increased works identified for the MV Coruisk, MV Caledonian Isles and MV Isle of Mull during their annual overhaul periods. This, combined with the 'Route Prioritisation Framework' published in 2023, means that it's possible that the MV Coruisk may have to be deployed elsewhere in the network rather that on the Mallaig-Armadale route for the start of the summer season. Nothing has been confirmed as yet, although CalMac hope to publish amended timetables on 5th March.
In more positive news, I was invited to attend the launch of 'Mallaig Clean' up at Mallaig Primary School on Monday 26th February. The Eco-Group children and their teachers and some parents have worked really hard to establish 'Mallaig Clean', to help make Mallaig 'a clean and green town that everyone can enjoy and be proud of'. I'm sure you will be able to read more about their efforts elsewhere in West Word. I was also invited to go back and talk to the children about Marine Litter in particular at their Friday assembly. The children had loads of good questions for me about marine litter, and were able to share lots of information about the damage it does to our environment. We're hoping to be able to work with the Scottish Islands Federation to remove some more marine litter from the Small Isles and Skye this year and recycle it into something useful so hopefully we can continue to work with the school and 'Mallaig Clean' into the future. It was really great to see how enthusiastic and knowledgeable the children were. They can't clean all of Mallaig on their own though, so there is a section of the website for anyone who wants to volunteer to help!
Our new Deputy Harbour Master came and spent an afternoon with us on 16th February, and he hopes to start officially on Tuesday 26th March. He's currently based in Glasgow, and has previously lectured at the Nautical College as well as serving at sea. There's a lot to learn so he will be working alongside Pimmy for the first few months to understand how everything operates. We'll introduce him more fully next month!
Jacqueline McDonell 01687 462154

On and Off the Rails

Hello, it's me again!
Let's start this column with a question. Are any of you travelling to Glasgow in the next few weeks by any chance? If so here is a chance to win a return ticket to anywhere in Scotland with ScotRail.
While you are in Glasgow, pop along to Glasgow Central Station concourse and seek out the 'Smart Kiosk' recently installed there. It has been designed to inform and give customers moving across Scotland clear information for travelling and planning journeys in advance, or on any day, and to purchase tickets.
If you wish to you can plan a journey, choose a seat preference, as well as purchasing tickets. Customers will benefit from cheaper advanced fares, where available, and these can be issued as paper tickets featuring QR codes.
The Smart Kiosk ticket machine can be used by two customers at once, allowing the main screen to be used to provide ticket vending and information, while a companion screen to the side of the unit enables the loading of tickets onto Smartcards. Claire Dickie, ScotRail Commercial Director, said, 'ScotRail is pleased to be able to trial the new Smart Kiosk, offering more advanced ticket options and information for our customers. Any feedback received can help ScotRail develop an even better journey experience across the network.'
Travellers using the Smart Kiosk also being offered the chance to win a return ticket to anywhere in Scotland with ScotRail, after providing feedback on the experience, which could help improve the future of ticket retailing.
I wonder if it will lead to better (or any) catering facilities on our West Highland line? Even a cupboard to store bottles of water and snacks for diabetics if a train is held up during a journey would be a start.
The press release states that the Smart Kiosk is 'currently' sited at Glasgow central station. I amuse myself by hoping that like Doctor Who's TARDIS it might pop up in Mallaig - and will it allow me to voice an opinion on keeping ticket offices open and staffed? I hope so.

If not heading towards Glasgow, then consider this when travelling to Inverness.
The next train arriving at the indoor Victorian Market in Inverness will be a modernised version of an old favourite. Do you remember the sight and sound of an overhead model railway - 0 gauge, double track - that ran many years ago in the food hall? I loved it.
Well, blow me down, a new computer operated railway has been designed with the aim of being operational within the next couple of months. Planned to not only be fully working, but streamed live on the internet for interested model train enthusiasts to view.
Robert McCubbin, the Victorian Market's construction manager, says - and he's right - that it will be a hugely anticipated addition to the food hall. Longer term, the prospect of an 'overhead branch line' being built into other parts of the market is also being considered. The 80-metre track with its three bridges, travelling overhead in the food hall, will truly be captivating. It is hoped that models of famous trains such as the Flying Scotsman will operate, and that perhaps a model steam train could make timely daily appearances, in an Invernessian version of Edinburgh's one o'clock gun.
The growing footfall in the refurbished market is now averaging 65,000 a week - well above the target of up to 35,000, and Cameron Macfarlane, the market manager, says he has set up a post box outside his office to take suggestions for the train project. He said, 'People in Inverness grew up with the train. Every generation will remember it. It's very exciting. There will be massive interest in it.'
I will follow up on the progress of the running of it and report in the next West Word. What a great idea to revive it.
Mallaig Barrel Train, on the other hand, has sadly well and truly run out of steam at platform one and two this winter. Constructed and installed 20 years ago from whisky casks, the 'double headed' locomotive and six planters had been recovering from being lifted on a forklift truck into a compound when the platform was 'top dressed' about five years ago. Regretfully the ravages of salt-laden gales had eaten into the wheels which splayed, allowing the metal bands to disperse the many plants to the ground. It has now been (understandably) taken away by maintenance staff, and two forlorn wagons remain.
Over the years thousands of children, dogs, rucksacks, groups of visitors have been photographed around it, and as Station Adopter I am particularly upset by its loss, but - I can truly say that the weight of all the herbs, salads, compost and flowers broke its longevity! I am now in contact with ScotRail HQ at Atrium Court, Glasgow about it, but I fear it will not be replaced. Instead in its place I will see if I can get more half barrel whisky casks like I use further up the platform - but with budgets and health and safety these days it will probably take a wee while to replace - and there is the prospect (hope) of platform lengthening in the offing as well - so we will see! Big Sigh at this point!
The same barrel trains are still in situ at Morar and Arisaig, protected by not having been moved and being (of course) further away from the Atlantic ravages that Mallaig endures. It was even a home to nesting seagulls on many a year. Ach well, at least that won't happen now, and the Hostas and Lupins are slowly pushing their delicate shoots above ground in the other barrels, and there is the side garden to attend to.

Branch Line Society visit Mallaig
As reported in the February column, we were treated today, Sunday 10th March - Mothering Sunday - to the gentle throb of an approaching Class 37 diesel: 37403, Isle of Mull. The locomotive, which was hauling an 'all first class seating' set of coaches, came in to Mallaig at 10am. Alan MacKenzie, beautifully attired and with his bagpipe tuned to perfection, popped out of the waiting room to pipe the requested 'Flower of Scotland' and Mallaig welcomed in the first touring train of 2024.

Photo by David Bird

The passengers on the departing ScotRail Class 156 Super Sprinter were delighted to witness the spectacle of the incoming train, as were the Driver and Conductor, Suzie Sangan and Anne Cameron. What they didn't bargain for was that a plush fabric brown bear (6ft on its hind legs) would be the first 'person' to cross the platform and pose for smashing photos with them before they departed! The bear, who is the mascot of Martin House Hospice, had been in costume for all three days of the Branch Line Society's fundraising trip. The profits from the tour were to be donated to the Hospice and Great Ormond Street Hospital. There was also an on board charity raffle with a wide range of fantastic prizes each day. The bear continued to have fun in the local Co-op and other establishments, before returning to the platform and dancing alongside the piper!
Every one of the 220 guests on board were toe-tapping before the locomotive shunted around the coaches. Hugs were freely given, locals were mixed with the guests on the platform, I met door stewards, staff and guards who had previously visited Mallaig working on the Royal Scotsman plus new crew who vowed to return with family members for a holiday by rail later this year. Local GB Railfreight and Network Rail staff were in attendance. Everyone was so enthusiastic to be back in Mallaig, even though there was a bitterly cold east wind howling up the platform.
The Branch Line Society members were delighted with the 'Mallaig welcome' and have vowed to return. All too soon it was time for them to depart, and Alan, David Bird and I scurried off to get warm! No harm was done - a good time was enjoyed by all! Sometimes the smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention!

A reminder of last month's news of railway line closure between Crianlarich and Mallaig from close of service at midnight on Friday 15th March until resumption of service on Monday 25th March. I covered it fully in the February West Word.
Alternative Bustitution coach travel will be operating in both directions as near as possible to the train timetables - but with no access to Corrour or Rannoch, and of course luggage and bike storage will be limited. Please ask at Mallaig Railway Station booking office if you have any queries, and do turn up at the station ahead of time!
Some services will operate one coach to go straight into Fort William, whilst a smaller bus will divert through Morar and Arisaig picking up at the roadside nearest to the railway station.

Lots more to tell you but it will have to wait until next issue!! Or Stop Press!
See you on the train, or (if the bitterly cold weather changes) planting at Mallaig platform.
Sonia Cameron

Birdwatch February 2024 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly wet and windy start to the month, with some heavy rainfall and high water levels to contend with. It was cooler and a bit drier during the second half.
Little change bird wise, with the regular wintering birds in the usual haunts. With the lengthening daylight there has been a noticeable increase in bird song throughout the month. Blackbirds, Robin, Mistle and Song Thrushes were some of the first to be heard. Great spotted Woodpeckers could be heard 'drumming' around Loch nan Eala, Arisaig and also near Rhubana, Morar.
The first returning Skylarks were noted around Invercaimbe early in the month and a few Pied Wagtails have started to appear.
After disappearing when Loch nan Eala was frozen over, Whooper Swans returned, but were quite elusive at times, feeding in the reed beds. Two Moorhens were seen there at the end of the month. The lone Barnacle Goose was still to be seen around Back of Keppoch and Traigh throughout the month, usually with the Canada and Greylag Geese.
On Loch nan Ceall at least 11 Slavonian Grebes, six Common Scoters, 20 plus Red-breasted Mergansers and a single Shelduck were seen on the 24th.
Wintering Greenshank, Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwits were seen on the Morar Estuary. An increase in the number of Curlews seen may have been birds in passage to their breeding grounds. Still numerous reports of Woodcock from throughout the area.
Barn Owls were seen around Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig on a regular basis.
A Kingfisher was seen again on Loch Morar, this time at the west end near Rhubana View.
A Siskin that had been ringed in a Morar garden on the 20th June 2022 was retrapped on the 24th February 2024 at Bagillt, Flintshire, Wales.


Dear readers,
In the March 2024 printed issue of West Word, the first of a series of extracts from the fieldwork diaries of Calum I. Maclean appears, when he first came to the district in the summer of 1954 as a field collector for the newly established School of Scottish Studies, based at the University of Edinburgh.
His mission was simple: to gather in oral traditions from locals such as songs, stories, anecdotes and instrumental music. Such material was already disappearing fast and if it were not for his efforts and those of his contemporaries was in danger of passing completely into oblivion.
Historical stories about the Jacobites, legends about fairies and other supernatural creatures, local heroes such as Raghnall mac Ailein Òig (Ronald MacDonald) were all recorded by him. So, too, he picked up interesting material about piping traditions, second sight, prophetic dreams, snippets of information about Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair (Alexander MacDonald), the preeminent Jacobite and propagandist poet, and so on. Seemingly nothing escaped his curiosity, and Maclean managed to meet and collect from many kenspeckled folk who freely gave freely of their knowledge. As may be seen from the first entry of his fieldwork diary, Maclean knew next to nobody so he had no choice but to diligently network to find out sources of potential informants which, much to his credit, would pay dividends. Those of whom he met (split between Arisaig and Morar) were among the following:
Arisaig: Anne Gillies; a retired schoolteacher, Allan MacDonald, a retired policeman; Donald and Charles MacDonald, sons of the famous piper George MacDonald; Donald MacDonald (Bunacaimb), Angus MacDonald (the Drover); Simon. P. MacDonald, a local headmaster; John MacDonald (Drumgorm); John 'Johnny' MacKinnon, a piper; Lachlan Gillies, a local stalwart; Lachlan Stewart, Arisaig estate manager (originally from, Tote, Skye); Flora MacKinnon from Rhu; Joan MacDonald, and her brother John MacDonald; Marion MacDonald (originally from Barra); William MacDonald (Back of Keppoch); Donald MacEachen (Back of Keppoch); Allan MacVarish (Back of Keppoch); Flora MacDonald; and Marjory MacDonald, a Highland dancer.
Morar: Ronald McLean (Cross) Hugh Cameron; John Brennan, an Irishman; Donald MacDonald (Portnanluchag); a railway lengthman; Donald McDonell (Bracara), a fiddler; Dr John Rattray, the local doctor; Ronald MacLellan, a piper and singer; Bella Muir née MacLellan (Mallaig), and her brothers Donald John MacLellan, a fiddler, and Alistair MacLellan; John MacMillan (Millburn), a fiddler; Marjory Gillies (Mallaig); Archibald MacLellan (Mallaig); Fr. John Gillies; John MacQueen, a retired estate coachman; Patrick MacCarthy, a postman; and John Lynn, a teacher in Mallaig; Calum MacKellaig; Donald MacKellaig (Glasnacardoch); and Dr Norman O. Rodger.
The reason for this rather long list is to ask whether you might recognise or know about any of the above mentioned, as I am currently researching and editing Calum Maclean's diaries (1951-54) for publication. If you do, and if you would be willing to share any biographical information or indeed have photographs of any of these fine contributors, then I'd be most grateful and for which acknowledgement will be duly given. Looking forward in anticipation to any contributions.
Many thanks indeed,
Andrew Wiseman
Please email the Editor on editor@westword.org.uk if you would like to contact Andrew.


Iain Rogie Gillies in New Zealand was chuffed with the story Coinneach Mor wrote about him
and his fellow Mallaig football mate Tony Moynahan! Rogie is pictured here with wife Flora.
Thanks to daughter Elaine, who sent in the photo!

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