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

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May 2003 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Canna, Knoydart, Muck, Eigg, Rum
Kinloch Castle
Road to the Isles Show

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
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road signs

All along the new stretch of the A830, the signs have gone up ~ in green, in white, in brown, in English, in Gaelic… Pictured left, the new entrance to Arisaig has raised complaints from residents of the excessive ‘urbanisation’ of their pretty village. The road is due to open in the middle of May.

Our local community Radio Station has extended its broadcasting hours and we can now hear it all day every week day. Nevis Radio’s longer improved cover comes after the official opening of their new premises on the Ben Nevis Estate in Fort William.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh performed the ceremonial unveiling of a plaque and was presented with an engraved glass bowl by 12 year old Amy Cameron, daughter of the Station's Manager. Sir Cameron helped to fund the transmitter which for six years has served residents in Mallaig and area, the Small Isles and his home in Knoydart, where he says the station is constantly on at his new house to the enjoyment of both himself and the builders. Nevis Radio can be heard locally on 102.3FM

Morar Beach is one of twelve in the Highlands to be listed in the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Beach Guide 2003, published today (2nd. May). Only four were listed last year, all in the East.
Last year ‘Morar Beach’ - that one actually Lon Lath Bay in Arisaig, opposite the Golf Course - achieved a pass in SEPA’s Clean Beach awards.
It is uncertain which beach was inspected by the Marine Conservation Society and it is a question how they are selected for inspection.

Soay House and 1,621 acres of croft land on the Isle of Soay, about half the island which lies off the Isle of Skye, has been put on the market for £280,000. Soay was once owned by Gavin Maxwell who established Isle of Soay Shark Fisheries on the island during the 1940s which is depicted in his book Harpoon at a Venture.

Hello from a rather busy Canna. Everything seems to be happening at once. It’s a long time since my last update on the Island, things just seem to have kept me so busy. As was reported in last month’s West Word I have been busy getting Canna’s first licensed Tea Room organised. I hope to be open from the 1st May all being well, so if you’re passing by or in the area please call in and have a look, try the baking, the meals, or simply relax with a cool beer or glass of wine.
Other news - on the Farming side the calving is finished with few problems but plenty of great looking calves. Lambing started around the 18th April so Gerry and Murdo are busy with this. I think everything seems to be going well. The weather certainly is helping, although we could do with some rain now as there may be problems with water shortages soon. The planting of potatoes has been done this week, potatoes planted were Red Roasters and Golden Wonders.
Highland Stoneways have been out repairing the sea wall and doing drainage work on the Island. They arrived on the new Spanish John and are due to go off again with them on Friday (25th).
We had a delivery of fuel on Good Friday and also a smart brand new Deutz Agro Plus 100 tractor for the farm. The toy model that came with it is a lot easier to manoeuvre.
29th April onwards sees the start of the new fendering being put at the Pier in Canna, hopefully delays will only be for about ten days. This work is being carried out by Shearwater Marine.
No update on St Edwards yet, still waiting for the return of workmen to this, so much good days lost?
All being well will manage to write again next month to let you know how things are progressing.
Wendy MacKinnon

April in Knoydart has continued in a similar fashion to March, with building work continuing and workers arriving and leaving (no plate-spinning this summer after all!).
Tam the Banjo and Amy provided the entertainment for a hugely popular ceilidh in the village hall, with reports that there was still dancing around slumbering bodies at 6am. Good on you, Tam, for keeping your Guinness intake at the optimum level for producing some foot-stomping tunes. Dancing styles spotted include Line Dancing, Disco, Scottish Country, and even a spot of ballet.
Major topics of conversation include the new pier, and the environmental and visual impact it is likely have; building plots, and how much they should be sold for; and potatoes (again). Bernie and Kenny are henceforth banned from discussing Maris Pipers in the pub.
The hot weather has encouraged the first swimming of the year (other than an ill-advised dip on the New Year’s Day), as well as an unfortunate profusion of ticks. I spotted a ked yesterday – a primeval-looking beastie which latches on to its unwilling victim. And speaking of wildlife, a ferret appeared in the Marriott’s back garden. Extremely tame, Freddy was cornered and handed over for safekeeping to Nick Tokely, who’s grown so attached to the animal that it would be no surprise to see him turn up at the pub with it on a lead.
At the time of writing, the peninsula is bracing itself for an invasion of 20 lads on a stag weekend. They requested a stripper, so we reckon it’s time for Alaister to dust down his pink bra and strut his stuff…see next month’s gripping instalment to find out how the evening went!
Tommy McManmon

This month I can exclusively reveal the result of trials carried out with Lochnevis on a slipway not far from here. The results showed that when Lochnevis was correctly positioned, the clearance between the propellers and the slipway could be measured in inches. This has serious implications for Muck, where she will often have to dock with a considerable swell running. However all is not lost ~ there are a number of actions CalMac could take to alleviate the problem. One could be to lengthen the ramp, another to remove ballast and lighten the ship. If she only docked at low water the props would clear the slipway. Probably the best solution would be to remove the slipways completely and install link spans but it’s a bit late now!
After last month’s revelation that the Scottish Office purse was empty more money has been found to complete the slipway project. After all, there never seems to be any shortage of extra millions for that scandalous nonsense at Holyrood.
On the social front, April 4th saw the christening of Archie Hugh Traquair Fichtner-Irvine (son of Mary and Toby) at Port Mor House. Rev Alan Lamb carried out the ceremony and more than 30 guests formed, almost the whole island, for a very enjoyable afternoon and an evening of dancing.
This was followed on the 10th by Rosie Souter’s 60th birthday.
This coincided with the annual visit of Jack Singh armed with his suitcases. Jack soon demonstrated his culinary skill for he soon cooked for Rosie and her guests a delicious curry.
On the farm the finest Spring in my lifetime made lambing ab enjoyable time. There have been plenty of dry springs over these 60 years but never a Spring which combined both lack of rain and warmth. This warmth was one of the reasons for the incredible amount of grass in the lambing fields. The other was fertilizer. Possibly in a more normal year a lot of this is leached away.
Lawrence MacEwen

ALL SUMMER: Join me while I show you a little of the island. Every Wednesday at 1.30 approx. Transport by tractor and trailer. No booking. Cost £1.


With April temperatures reaching Mediterranean heights, Eigg truly lived up to its reputation as "Jewel of the Hebridean crown." Spring flowers and bird song were a delight to the eyes and ears. (Swallows and pipistrelles are very early this year, and tree blossoms have been exceptional, with a particularly good show of witch elm).
Night after night, as I sat enjoying a midge free evening martini on my newly extended patio with blackbirds, robins, songthrushes and wrens giving it laldy on top of every tree, listening to them brought it home to me how close to its natural environment Gaelic culture had been: so many work songs have been composed in imitation of bird songs, expressing the same spontaneous joy brought by sun and spring. I can think of good many songs that used to be sang on Eigg, notably "S'Trusaigh mi na Coilleagan" with its lively "I dal a du vil," chorus or the "dance to your own shadow" Port-a Beul " (both collected from the great Eigg singer Morag NicLeod ). And Alaisdair MacMhaighstir Alaisdair’s seasonal poems, in their lovely Haiku shortness, always spring to mind every time I see the newborn lambs and calves frolicking in the fields as lambing progresses nicely with the fine weather.
It is certainly good to see the Highland poetic tradition being upheld today by local poets like Aidan MacEoin , who gave a taster of his forthcoming Highland Festival tour at the Eigg Easter Ceilidh, where Freddy’s Angels - a line up fronted by Scottish fiddle champion Kathryn Nicholl, with Peter Thoumier, Fred Thomson and Julian, a brilliant melodeon player from Newcastle who regularly plays with the Katherine Teckell band - got everybody on their feet and kept them dancing until dawn. (Watch out for them, they will be coming back as tutors for Feis Eige on the 3d weekend in July). On Easter Sunday, the Easter BBQ and Football game following the annual Beach tidy which took place this year at the Bathing hut beach, was equally enjoyed by all.
Eigg had a special mention on Blue Peter this Easter as "the biggest Eigg of them all", featuring interviews of island kids by star presenter Connie - who even managed a few words of Gaelic and a bit of a tune under the expert tuition of Donna the Piper. Donna has now started her dance and whistle tuition programme open to all residents of the Small isles, so if you want to learn the Highland Fling or Highland Laddie, give her ring on 462440!
Sadly, one elderly Eigg resident was no longer with us to enjoy the Spring celebrations. One who always used to enjoy the natural beauty of Eigg, Anne Campbell, who was a bit of poet herself, and a lovely watercolourist and calligrapher, passed away peacefully in Fort-William. She had carefully selected the hymns and tunes to be sung and played at her funeral, and it was on a perfect day that her three daughters joined by the island community buried her at Kildonnan, their hearts solaced by the ancient pipe tune "Lochaber no more" which she had requested. With her goes a little more of the history of Eigg, but the beautifully illustrated "roll call of honour" for Eigg's war dead, which her friend Angus MacKinnon had asked her to do, will be there in St Donnan's church for all to remember her by.
Camille Dressler.

I mentioned last year that the main board of SNH had agreed to release land in the village and Kinloch Glen and as a result we were having a comprehensive development plan drawn up. Well, the current state of affairs is that our team of planners, led by Mandy Ketchin from Muck, as well as a representative from the Highland Council, Maggie Bochel, came to Rum last week-end to carry out a ‘Planning For Real’ exercise with the community. This has consolidated a lot of the work that Doreen Jones (our Project Officer from 2000) put together and has given us a basis for a framework which we will be able to work from. The weekend, facilitated by Alan Tuffs, was very successful and all those who participated felt it had been a constructive exercise. Clearly, though, in order for any development to happen, land needs to be made available; to this end, as Rum is publicly owned, SNH are currently liasing with the Scottish Executive to have the procedures drawn up for the sale and lease of land in place by the time the development plan is complete. This should be by the beginning of July.
The Rum Community Shop has been trading for just over a year now and has been remarkably successful. It is still run on a voluntary basis by ourselves and could provide inspiration for any other communities wishing to start a similar project.
On a social note there will be a ceilidh on Rum every weekend this May, for more details ring the shop on 01687 462199. Also the Gallery has expanded to include more local arts and crafts and there is usually a teashop every day in the village hall where you can get your lunch, all lovely homemade stuff. Plenty of reasons to visit Rum.
We just heard today that Briggs Marine from Burntisland will be arriving next week to begin the completion of the pier. Quite frankly, it’s a miracle.
Fliss Hough

Kinloch Castle Friends Association Work Party March 2003
Gillian Gibson, Denise Cook, and Douglas King met at the Cal-Mac Ferry Terminal at Mallaig on the morning of Thursday, 27 March, prior to boarding the ferry Lochnevis. We had a pleasant sail, and were greeted by Adrian, Kay and Mick Blunt on arrival at Rum.
After settling in, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. In my case, I had been on the go since 3:30 a.m., having travelled up from South Queensferry that morning, and did not feel like tackling anything too strenuous. Denise went for a walk over to Kilmory, and Gillian had a walk round Kinloch, I started off on the Kinloch Trail, but continued up the north side of Kinloch Glen to join the Kilmory road just past its junction with the Harris road, returning to Kinloch by road.
On Friday, we tidied up the borders, and pruned the bushes round the front and sides of Kinloch castle. When we finished that, we started edging the lawn at the front where it borders the drive, and weeded the driveway adjoining it. This proved to be a bigger and tougher job than we expected. Work continued on the Saturday. Later that day, Ewan and Roseanne Macdonald, Catherine Duckworth, and Ruth Mansley arrived, and soon after, set to work. The job was finished by late afternoon. It appeared to be appreciated by the locals, and I received several complimentary comments from them about the positive effect that it had on the appearance of the front of the castle.
On the Sunday we had a day of rest. Ewan and I went walking to separate destinations in the Rum hills, while the others stayed in the Kinloch area.
On Monday morning, we did some more tidying up in, and around the castle. Apart from myself, the remainder of the party left on the lunch time ferry. In the afternoon, I trimmed the box hedges round the lead angel statue, and tidied them up generally. The lead angel was formerly the centrepiece of a fountain, which at one time stood in the centre of the lawn in front of the castle. About 3 years ago, it was rescued by the Friends Association, restored, and relocated to a prominent position to the south of the Rockery Burn
We were lucky to have good weather for our visit, with only a couple of light showers. Monday night however was very stormy with high winds and heavy rain. There was doubt about the Tuesday ferry running because of high seas and strong winds. At that time, I began to wish that I had left with the remainder of the party on the Monday. In the end, it did turn up, but it was a rather rough crossing.
Our next work party takes place on 25 to 28 July, 2003 inclusive.
Now for some general news. Jeffrey Pleunes formerly chef at Kinloch Castle has now left Rum. He is employed as Chef at the Cnoc-Na-Faire Hotel at Arisaig. Jean and Derek Hutchison and family are leaving the island in early May, returning to West Lothian. This will result in a dangerously low number of children in the island school. Because they ran one of two bed and breakfast establishments on Rum, this will reduce the B & B capacity on the island to 1 establishment, run by Kathy Sayer. Liz the teacher on Rum left on the same ferry as me. She was going to a course in Inverness on “Teaching French to Primary Schoolchildren”.
The plans for the new shop are currently with Historic Scotland, who are considering them in relation to their close vicinity to the listed structures. It is hoped that once running, it will make a viable business for someone to take over, and that the community will need less involvement in its running. Adrian and Aileen Kay arrived on the island in Mid March, and took up residence in the castle flat. Adrian is Visitor Services Manager, and both have responsibility for running the castle operation. They have certainly landed in at the deep end. Settling into a place like that is bad enough, but they had to get the castle operation fully running right away. They had not when I was there had time to appoint staff. For the entire time that I was there, a party of 20 geology students from Camborne (Cornwall) College of Mining were there eating in the Bistro. A self-catering party of 7 walkers from York, and our party along with sundry others were staying in the hostel. On the Monday when our party left, a party of 16 students from Oatridge Agricultural College (West Lothian), arrived. They were also eating in the Bistro. The hostel accommodation was fully occupied that night. It seems to have been a very busy start of season, popular with educational parties.
Douglas King, Honorary Secretary, Kinloch Castle Friends Association

Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum will be among 30 buildings in with a chance of being restored to their former glory through a new BBC television series.
The BBC and Endemol UK have joined forces with Britain’s heritage bodies for a major new series which will see viewers across the country voting to save the building they prize the most.
‘Restoration’ will take us to all corners of the UK to reveal the architectural treasures we could lose forever. Viewers will then be able to have their say on which building they think should be restored.
The ten one-hour programmes, presented by Griff Rhys Jones, will each be devoted to a geographical area of the UK and will touch on the many fascinating and varied buildings at risk within it. Each style will be featured ~ from cottages to castles, railway stations to chapels ~ all dating from the earliest times right up to the 20th century.
Drawing on the expertise of heritage bodies, each episode will focus on two or more properties in the region ~ bringing them to life, unearthing their social and architectural inheritance and inviting viewers to imagine the romance of their past.
‘Restoration’ will draw on the memories and knowledge of local residents, owners and conservation groups who love and value these buildings and those who are fighting to preserve them for future generations.
At the end of each programme viewers will be invited to vote for which of the buildings they would most like to see restored. Each ‘winning’ building will go through to a final shortlist of ten.
The series will climax with a magnificent live event where a UK-wide interactive poll will decide which building is most worthy of restoration.
The programme will focus public attention on the whole issue of buildings at risk in an engaging and compelling way and will give everyone a chance to take action against the grave risks facing our architectural heritage.
‘Restoration’ is currently in production and is due to be on our screens next summer.

Road to the Isles Agricultural Show
We are all looking forward to this year’s ROAD to the ISLES AGRICULTURAL SHOW which takes place at CAMUSDARACH on SATURDAY 14 JUNE.
The Show committee are hoping to attract lots of entries in both the livestock and handcrafts and baking classes. Apart from the usual sheep and cattle sections they are hoping to have more Highland Cattle entries that should bring a bit of colour and character to the stock lines!
The Handicrafts and Baking section also provide a wide scope for anyone with a bit of flair so if you fancy serving a clootie dumpling while wearing an ‘Ascot’ hat, or using oddments of wool to make some flapjacks then now’s your chance!
Schedules for all the classes are available in local Post Offices, Spar Stores, the Harbour Shop, Mallaig and can be requested from the Secretary on 01687 450655.
Would any of the local charities/organisations/groups like to have a stand or table this year? We had a great display last year and jt is a really good way of reaching local people to get your views or interests across. Contact Angela Simpson on 450221 for more information.
We are also expecting plant nurseries to attend so come prepared, to stock up your garden. Again contact Angela if you want to order a specific plant from one of the suppliers.
Events in and around the ring should be many and varied. The Police and Fire Brigade are hoping to provide some kind of display and we are also looking forward to seeing a demonstration, by Alan Thomson of Tullochville Farm Heavy Horse Centre, of horses working with old farming machinery which should jog a few memories! Also not to be missed is the GRAND TERRIER RACE which provides great entertainment -it’s not so much the winning as the taking part - so get these terriers in training now!
There are lots of jobs to be done during the week before the Show to get everything ready, so if you have some time to spare please come along and lend a hand. It’s all good fun and many hands make light work.
Lastly, please come along on the day and enjoy all the thrills and spills of a good day out in a beautiful location.

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