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

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May 2001 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Agricultural Show
A830 road improvement
Naming of the Corran ferry
'Home and Away' Exhibition
Monthly news from Canna & Muck
An early letter from Knoydart

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Arisaig's Road to the Isles Agricultural Show is another victim of the Foot & Mouth epidemic as the committee have taken the hard decision to cancel this year's plans for June 9th.

Bill Henderson said 'In common with other agricultural shows throughout the country we regret to announce that the show has had to be cancelled. We can only hope that this terrible Foot & Mouth disease can be completely eradicated by the summer of this year. We look forward to 2002 being disease-free and hope for some enthusiasm from the proposed Road to the Isles Show set for 8th June 2002.' (Click for external link to F&M info)

Angela Simpson adds: 'Theoretically all would have been well as all animals and events reside in Lochaber, but we need to be vigilant right to the end.

'Anybody who has made items to enter the Handicrafts Section can keep them to show in 2002 as we shall use the same schedule of classes as we would have done this year. The one year restriction will be waived for 2002.'

There is some good news however - there will be a Garden Show instead, held at Camusdarach on Saturday 9th. June, from 11 am to 3 pm.

Angela says: 'Nurseries from all over the area are coming and bringing a selection of interesting plants to fill that problem corner. Lunches will be served as well and any groups or organisations who would like to bring a table, for fund raising or passing out information as they do at the Show, are welcome to contact me on 01687 450221.'


The contract for the Arisaig to Kinsadel 10 km (6 miles) stretch of the A830 has at last been signed and Barr Ltd. have been announced as the firm who will do the job. Work is expected to start in August 2001 and be completed in 2003 - after campaigning which started in the 1930s.

The announcement of the winner of the tender had been held back because of the Foot and Mouth restrictions, and an end of April deadline had been set for the award of the contract. Past this date and the whole process would have had to be gone through again, costing the taxpayers more money. But a move by Arisaig Community Council and Councillor King, who had gathered the opinions of crofters and landowners ensured that the deadline was met.

Cllr. King said: 'This shows that despite the current foot and mouth crisis we can get the work done.' Every possible precaution will be taken to ensure vehicles used by Ayrshire based Barr Ltd. will be 'clean'.

While there is much jubilation however, it must not be forgotten that this new stretch will by-pass Arisaig, and many in the village, while aware of the need for a new road, are apprehensive as to the effect this will have on their important tourist-based economy. The current state of the last 4 mile stretch of single track only adds to this problem, and demands will continue to have this section improved.


Last month Mrs. Christine King went down to Hull with husband Councillor Charles, to perform the naming ceremony of the new £3 million roll-on roll-off ferry, the Corran, destined for the Corran Narrows across Loch Linnhe between Nether Lochaber and Ardgour. Although the ferry has been dogged by design faults since it arrived, and has yet to be introduced in to service, the ceremony in Hull went smoothly .


Christine King (centre) performs the ceremony
backed by husband Cllr. King (second left) and Cllr. Michael Foxley (third left).

'Home and Away' Exhibition
23 July - 17 August 2001

Arisaig's 'Land, Sea and Islands Centre' will be the host of a touring exhibition, presented by Museum of Scotland International and Highland Homecomings, a project recently housed at the Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie. The exhibition will visit Helmsdale, Harris, Rothesay and Gairloch between April and October as well as Arisaig in July to August.

'Home and Away' looks at emigration from the Highlands and Islands, and 'homecoming' journeys made by people of Scottish descent dispersed throughout the world.

There are a number of display panels, with one being reserved for the host site to display their own relevant information. During the last week there will hopefully be a number of talks and activities, and the exhibition includes 'hands on' exhibits such as a kist emigrants would have taken with them on board ship.


CCG is back but only just. They have decided to concentrate resources on Rum and finish Muck later in the summer, and all the indications point to a much leaner operation than last year.

The search for a new family continues with the remaining candidates visiting the island in turn. An experience which does not seem to have eliminated any of them. Decision time is approaching for us. It does appear that the world of computers does offer employment opportunities on the island, replacing those disappearing in the primary industry.

On the farm, lambing is nearly over. Like last year the sun shone for most of the three weeks and when the sun shines there is no finer job than lambing.

This year having daughter Mary to help made all the difference. Apart form the Blackface there were lots of twins and triplets and apart from a handful of ewes, plenty of milk. Over the last 20 years we have changed from South Country to North Country Cheviots and what a difference it makes. Today (provided they are having Cheviot lambs) almost every ewe lambs herself. And what does the future hold for those lambs? Without exports they will be worth very little.

April has also seen the completion of a major building job on the farm - the re-roofing of three of the barns - which has been going on over the last three years. Last and largest was the 40' x 75' barn at the Square, originally erected by Bains of Coatbridge in 1906 under the supervision of Andrew Glendinning, factor on Eigg and Muck. It must have heralded a revolution in the storage of hay and corn until then stocked outside. For us working more than 20 feet up re-roofing presented a safety problem and erecting scaffolding took us as long as the work itself. The roof being curved had cost implications too with the pre-painted steel sheets having to be curved with more overlaps than if they had been straight. Anyway, it's all over now and the farm looks very smart.

Credits: Structural steel from Corus, Glasgow
Sheeting from European Profiles, South Wales. John Douglas, Galloway
Steel erection by John Morris, L. MacEwen
Sheeting by Barnaby Jackson, Sandy Mathers

Lawrence MacEwen


Nearly missed another deadline! I was away last month so plenty to catch up on. Just before the Easter holidays we had a casualty flown away by Coastguard Helicopter. Mairead had broken her arm in two places and had to have her arm pinned. This put a stop to the school play about Space as it was to take place that same week, but not to worry, the girls put on their performance for us the week after the Easter break. Kathryn raised £38 for Comic relief by wearing her pants outside her trousers.

The National Trust have now opened the island back up again but with some restrictions in place, basically no-one is allowed in areas where the sheep are lambing and cattle are grazing, also to use the disinfected foot baths and mat which are located at the pier.

The weather has been great so far for the lambing. Lots of new born ones running around. The calving has finished.

St. Edward's Chapel is due to be officially opened in June so hope to have a report on that.

With regards to our St. Columba's church. Thank you to everyone who helped to sell the tickets for us. We raised well over £400 and there were 13 prizes which were all donated by islanders, except one which was donated by the Hydro shop.

The man is coming out to put the stained glass windows into the church end of April, then the linoleum will be next and all the chairs have been ordered by Fr Michael, due to arrive third week in May approximately. So won't be long until it's open again for use.

Well, I think that is all to report for now, but look forward to having a busy season.

Wendy MacKinnon

From the Mallaig Heritage Centre
An early letter from Knoydart
Article written by Denis Rixson

The Delvine manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland include papers concerning the Glengarry family. Sheet 78 is described as being from Invergordon. A closer reading suggests it is actually from Inverguseran in Knoydart. It is undated but seems to belong to the second half of the eighteenth century.

It is written, in English, by Ranald Macdonald, who was presumably a tenant in Inverguseran. It is not certain who the letter is directed to but Ranald was evidently making an effort to please. I have quoted it in full because the spelling and grammar make it delightful to read in an age when the computer will correct everything for you and then give you a crisp print-out. This is not about laughing at the literary shortcomings of a Gaelic-speaking Highlander. Spelling and grammar were, by our standards, universally woeful during the eighteenth century - not least because no 'standard' was imposed by an educational system. Despite this, it is perfectly obvious what Ranald is trying to say and no doubt the letter's recipient - (his lawyer?) - was suitably gratified. We can also assume that Ranald was a person of some means since his parents had managed to secure him an education in what was, at the time, a foreign language.

From a passenger list which survives in the Canadian Archives we know of a John McDonell, tenant in Inverguseran, Knoydart, who emigrated to Quebec from Arisaig on August 16, 1790. He sailed on board the British Queen and was accompanied by two other persons over 12 years old and a child between 2 and 4. This cost him £5 18s 1d - a very considerable sum at the time. The family were accompanied by two servants who each cost £3 17s 0d. Perhaps John was a relation of Ranald Macdonell.

The letter is published with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland.
National Library of Scotland MS 1313 (Delvine MSS) f. 78

Honoured Sir
tho I hade not the honour to be acqant with you I maind your predusesers were our best frinds hopping youll prove the same to me and I was resoled to see you sumer Last and hade not the forton to go as yet but sertenly the Lose is myn but now ether my son or my self is to go about jun I hop youl be pleased to acqant me of your being in hialth with my humble service to you and all your famely

all from your Most hmble servant

Ranald McDonell of Invergisaren

A literal transcription runs:

Honoured Sir

Though I had not the honour to be acquaint with you I mind(?) your predecessors were our best friends hoping you'll prove the same to me and I was resolved to see you summer last and had not the fortune to go as yet but certainly the loss is mine but now either my son or my self is to go about June I hope you'll be pleased to acquaint me of your being in health with my humble service to you and all your family

all from your Most humble servant

Ranald McDonell of Inverguseran.

A Little Genealogy
by Allan MacDonald

Researching genealogy is off-putting to a lot of people, fearful they may find a skeleton in the cupboard, but there are a few interesting surprises there also.

Reported in the Press & Journal in the first week in April was a story of a presentation of a bottle of Talisker Whisky to each household on Eigg, and a similar amount donated to fund-raising activities for the island's future prosperity. The Award was from the bequest of the founders of Talisker Distillery, Ewen and Allan MacAskill, grandsons of the Rev. Malcolm MacAskill, Established Church minister appointed to Eigg in 1757.

In tandem with this report came an enquiry from Nova Scotia, via a conversation I had with a person in Harris, who was asking for information on Rev. MacAskill and any known descendants.

Rev. Malcolm MacAskill of Dunan in Skye came to Eigg and married (secondly) Mairi Nighean Eoghain, daughter of Hugh MacLean XIV of Coll and among the nine or ten children was Doctor Donald MacAskill, whose daughter Margaret, sister of Ewen and Allan, married Lt. Neil MacQuarrie in Eigg.

Neil was renowned for the quality (and quantity) of whisky which he produced on an illicit still in a cave in Cleadale, where, no doubt, Ewen and Allan learned plenty before taking off to Skye.

Chirsty MacQuarrie, daughter of Neil and Margaret, married Hector MacKinnon from Canna, and their daughter Mary MacKinnon married John MacDonald of Tigh na Mara in Arisaig, whose son Alexander married Marjory MacLellan from Seaview in Morar, whose son John married Mary MacLeod from Harlash in Skye, whose son Allan writes this piece.

This may sound a long way back, but last October, Mahri Eilidh Cheng, née MacDonald, whose ancestor John of Guidal left Arisaig in 1801, had been in contact with my wife Elizabeth for some time and had come to Scotland for a visit. We took her to Guidal on a rather wet and blustery day before she continued her journey to the Uists. At the time, she said she's send a copy of her lineage and to my astonishment there were 56 generations, going back to the year 177 AD. Ask to see a copy in Upstairs Downstairs (in Mallaig).

Funny old thing, genealogy, fascinating, interesting, exasperating, delighting and certainly illuminating. Try it some time, it can be good fun, bad for your WEALTH, and if you turn anything up tell me and West Word.

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