Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
May 2007 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
OUR NEW COUNCILLORS ARE...
Allan Henderson, Bill Clark and Edward Hunter. A turnout of nearly 61% of the electors (just under 4000) voted in the new style election and chose these candidates out of a field of 10.
Although Mairi MacLean from Morar was not elected, the results show she came a very close fourth at all stages, In the other Lochaber Ward, the councillors elected are Dr. Michael Foxley, Donald Cameron, Brendan Gormley and Brian Murphy.
Lochaber Councillors who sought re-election and succeeded are Bill Clark, Michael Foxley and Brian Murphy. Those who were not re-elected are Drew MacFarlane Slack, Neil Clark and Thomas MacLennan.
Fergus Ewing was returned as MSP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, and the regional list MSPs are Peter Peacock (Scottish Labour Party), Mary Scanlon (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party), Rhoda Grant (Scottish Labour Party), Rob Gibson (SNP), Jamie McGrigor (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party), David Stewart (Scottish Labour Party) and David Thompson (SNP).
Footnote: last month we incorrectly stated that Jim Tolmie was the only Area Manager in Lochaber to keep his post in the new Ross-shire, Skye and Lochaber region; Dafydd Jones of Planning also retained his post
THE ROYAL BANK CELEBRATES 75 YEARS IN MALLAIG
Royal Bank, Mallaig, mid 1950s.
It's the building on the left.
NAPIER REPORT ONLINE
The 19th century Napier Report, one of Scotland's most important records of Highland life and times, has now entered the electronic age in a project undertaken by Jane Henderson, Mallaig Learning Centre manager, who took on the task of putting the report online as a contribution towards Highland Year of Culture 2007.
For the first time, researchers and historians, and anyone interested in the political, and social climate of the time, can use the internet to access the Napier Commission's report into the lives of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands in the late 1880s.
The report's four volumes and appendices went live on www.highland-elibrary.com at the end of April and the site has already so much attention the webhost server is having to be upgraded..
The Napier report is often described as Scotland's Domesday Book, the 1086 record of life in England. Lord Francis Napier was appointed by William Gladstone's government to head The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands. It was a response to demonstrations against excessively high rents, lack of security of tenure on land that had been in families for generations, and the forced evictions of crofters.
The commissioners' travelled around the region and set up courts to gather first-hand evidence from crofters, landlords and others who were familiar with the plight of the indigenous population. The final report was published in 1884 and led to the 1886 Crofters' Holding Act.
Jane's interest in the subject was born when she did her degree in the culture of the Highlands and Islands with UHI, the network of colleges and research centres throughout the region. Mallaig Learning Centre is part of Lochaber College UHI, one of the UHI academic partners.
With the help of Mark MacLean, IT support officer at Mallaig, and Fraser Grigor, chair of the Mallaig Learning Centre steering group, Jane set to work last year. She had a budget of £5,000 including a HYOC grant and a contribution from the Crofters Commission.
She is now applying for lottery funding to run a "Romance and Reality" travelling exhibition, based at Lochaber College UHI, to tell the story of the Napier Commission and the life and times of the era.
"This was a time when people were dying of starvation and there was forced emigration. Landowners were buying vast tracts of the Highlands and turning them into shooting estates, living a romantic version of Highland life," Jane explained.
"The Napier Report is one of the nation's most important historical records and it is important that it should be accessible online. It has been a time-consuming project, but hugely rewarding. The online report will be a great learning tool for anyone interested in the history of the period.
"And this could just be a beginning. We hope to add to the site in the future with other important historical documents." Dr Iain Morrison, UHI head of lifelong learning, said: "This project is another exciting development at Mallaig Learning Centre, driven by people who are passionate about the community and region to which they belong. The 113 learning centres across the Highlands and Islands are all about creating innovative ways to increase opportunities for learning and this resource will prove invaluable for those with an interest in a significant part of our collective history."
Yesterday saw a grand turn out of celebrities walking up the red carpet and packing to capacity Inverie Village Hall for the World Premiere of "MUNCHATREEAFOREST".
This film has been created by the young children of Knoydart and splendid effort by Filmmaker/Producer Sam Firth. The film shows an innovative slant on major forestry activity, which has been the dominant activity in Knoydart during the last two months, the first phase of a 20 year plan to re-structure the woodland/forest with native trees and vegetation.
The film and one of the making of it showing 'out-takes' gave all of us fortunate to attend great entertainment, humour and information.
The CD is well worth a viewing! I cannot include all the credits in this brief piece but would like to mention the fantastic buffet organised by Gwen and helpers, especially the amanita muscaria of the forest (edible only on this occasion).
ISLE OF MUCK
Of the 350 or so families who applied for places on Canna only three actually reached Muck. So far we have signed up the Barndons (Dave and Libby) who seem ideally qualified - they have lived on Barnsey Island off the Lleyn Peninsula for 6 years. Last year they only received three mail boats in three months (no Calmac in Wales!). Because of the healthy state of the school we were able to consider a couple without children.
Broadband is definitely not back despite the impression I may have given in the March West Word. The authorities seem to have given up on it so this may be a job for Fergus Ewiing to sort out if he gets elected, which I am sure he will.
Another strand of technology is going better. We now have a superb website (www.isleofmuck.com). Almost everything you need to know about the island and plenty of the pictures too.
Lastly two dates for your diary in June. The Isle of Muck Open day on 17 June, including a guided tour of the island (tel: 01687 462362). The Feel Good Weekend, 22-25 June. Lots of alternative therapies and even one or two in the mainstream (tel: 01687 462814 or 462045).
On the farm, lambing is nearly over and the new team (with a little help from the old) have done well. For years it was hard to get the death rate below 10%, but it certainly was this year helped by some superb weather.
Easy care sheep? Definitely the Cheviots. Only two helped to lamb so far out of 120. The Jacob X again. A lot of gimmers lambing to the Suffolk tup, so we were expecting a spot of bother. For the first time Lleyn x gimmers lambing to the Lleyn. They are being pushed as the ultimate easy care sheep, but they were not completely trouble free. Shearing is not that far way and amazingly if Dave Barnden reaches the island in time we will have five shearers on the island; really 4.5 as I am only a ---half nowadays!
ISLE OF EIGG
Weather wise, another very mixed month, with the end of April feeling distinctly Mediterranean. Visitor numbers seem to be better than usual, and ice-cream sales have gone through the roof. Sales of the first draught beer on the island have proved really popular at the Old Pier Tearoom, and a lot of thirsts have been quenched. A lone Corncrake has arrived in Cleadale, its unknown if he appreciates the lengths we've all gone too to provide him with suitable accommodation. Let's hope he attracts a suitable mate before long. Talking of seasonal displays by the local wildlife, John Chester has started his weekly walks; a sure sign summer is here.
Easter was a bit dreich, but brightened up no end by some excellent music at the Easter celidh from Ban Jovi from Galloway. The band also played a session in the Old Pier Tearoom on Sunday night, which went down a storm, with Maggie celebrating her birthday in great style. We were delighted to see so many faces from afar, including Bernie O'Donnell with her girls, Natalie Vardey, Trevor Leat up with the band looking a bit Keith Richards, and not forgetting all the Glasgow crew without whom a celidh is just not the same. It was a shame that Catriona Helliwell couldn't make it as she was on a work placement but congratulations on her birthday at the end of last month.
The schoolhouse and nursery are finished, and well within time. The teacher's accommodation is really beautiful, a credit to all who worked on her, and the nursery is a great space for the wee ones. Already full of colour and creativity, we hope many future generations will benefit from it.
Eddie and Lucy Scott's house is finally complete and they have moved in - it really is a fantastic piece of architecture, and a bit posh! Good for them for pulling it off so well under difficult circumstances.
If you are planning on coming over to help us celebrate our tenth anniversary on the 15th and 16th of June, tickets will be on sale at the Booth ( www.thebooth.co.uk ) soon. At the moment the line up is as follows: Friday 15th June, The Wee Hoose Celidh Band, Daimh and Ruby and the Emeralds. Saturday 16th June, Ja Ma Tha, Massacre Cave, Word on the Peat, Shooglenifty and DJ Dolphin Boy. See our website www.isleofeigg.org/events for updates.
The Sheerwater always re-appears at about the same time as the first swallows and this year is no exception. Hearing Ronnie's cheery quips is always a tonic, at least when it's only April. (Ask me again in September.) He was good enough to chauffer a large crowd of us over to Inverie at the end of the month, and he still found time to take some paparazzi type shots of certain ladies from his vantage point on the foredeck. We had a beautiful day with lunch at the Old Forge, and some great music. Everyone was really well behaved, and no-one had to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the boat for a change.
Happy birthdays to Bean, Sheena and Aidan (and anyone else I've forgotten)
Wildlife on Eigg
So far, so good. A spring with real spring-like weather is a bit of a novelty these days & the islands wildlife seems to be appreciating it. Primroses & other early season flowers are appearing in good numbers though unfortunately Bracken is also responding to the good weather & popping up all over the place.
Not a lot happening offshore with only Porpoises regularly seen but excellent numbers of Common Seals have been present around the 'Perches' with a count of 53 on the 24th. On the island itself Field Voles have been noticeably numerous this spring & Pipistrelle bats have been much in evidence with a roost of 100+ at the Old Mill.
Migrant birds have been turning up in good numbers with some first dates including Common Sandpiper (23rd), Cuckoo (23rd), Swallow (12th), Whinchat (26th), Sedge Warbler (27th), Blackcap (16th) & Willow Warbler (12th). An elusive Corncrake has been present in the croftland since the 14th & other notable records have included 4 Canada Geese on 17th, Whimbrel on 24th, an exceptionally early Swift on the 25th, Grasshopper & Wood Warblers on the 27th, Rook on 14th & 2 Yellowhammers on the 13th.
ISLE OF CANNA
Some nice weather around this month…in between the showers! The longer days are well appreciated. It's quiet round here again this month, with a lot of folk on mainland calls. The tearoom is getting busier, though, with trade from the Wednesday ferry, the usual day-trippers and occasional visits from the odd yachtsperson. Ah, yachting…the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill, while going nowhere very slowly and at great expense…very odd indeed.
Our other regular visitors arrived early this year…at least one basking shark was spotted in the harbour at the beginning of last month. Wildlife seems to be plentiful at this time of year…birds have returned, otters observed, celandine and primrose in abundance. And some of those crisp, clear and still days we seemed to miss out on through the past few months. There's no doubt, spring is here…which makes the going a little bit easier on the farm and with a handful of cows still to calf, the lambing is well underway.
Grass at the school had its first cut, and a general tidy up about the garden. Inside and out, things were looking good for the arrival of the Newsround team…including the staff who, perfumed and preened, eagerly awaited the programme makers. Who had neglected to inform anyone that they thought that the weather was too bad and they'd decided to go off and film something completely different instead. Still, the place looked and smelt great…
Disaster was narrowly averted the other week as the passengers of a luxury cruise ship disembarked at the pier to find that supplies of our usual luxurious toilet tissue had all but disappeared. On hearing the emergency call, one of our ever-attendant pier staff was on call to lend a helping hand and supplies were located; thus normal service was resumed in the nick of time.
Contractors have arrived recently to begin work on Tighard, and appear to be putting in the hours getting the house ready in preparation for our latest new arrivals (welcome John and Sheila!) judging by the amount of rubble and clouds of dust. There'll be more activity over the next few months, as work begins on other houses. We hope to have firm news on the choice of another family for the island quite soon. It's all change on Muck also, so we hear…we wish everyone well and hope to pay a visit soon on the weekend boat.
And we await the return of Angus from his trip to the mainland, where he became a landowner. At least Jinglebells will be pleased.
Corries have been back digging up the waterfront again-have they made the smell go away? They've also finished some landscaping - they've put down some slabs with holes in, 'grasscrete' or some such name. The idea is the grass grows through the holes and it all looks very natural.
And the yachts are back in the water and all is looking summery. What weather!
Seven years after the Hall's renovation, Pod the contractor is coming back to do some 'finishing off'! Don't quite know when though… This will include insulation under the benches at the side of the hall, fixing some problems, and repainting the main hall and the exterior of the roadside fire door, all looking very shabby now. The Hall was very busy in April with two big parties and a wedding dance - I still get a buzz seeing it used this way! I was sorry to miss the last ever appearance of the Brownies, which I hear was excellent.
Maureen McColl is taking on the role of Community Council Secretary, and she is only the fifth one in 32 years. First was Wilson Ross, for 9 years from 1975 - 1984; then Jasmine MacMillan, for 6 years from 1984 - 1990; myself, 11 years from 1990 - 2001; and most recently Ranald Coyne, 6 years, 2001 until the present time.
There have only been four different Chairs. Martin Bowman, 1975 - 1986; Bill Henderson, 1986 - 1994; Alan Broadhurst, 1994 - 1997; Elizabeth Fleming, 1997 - 1999; Bill Henderson again, 1999 to the present time.
Good luck to Alan and Audrey Brownridge (Burnside Cottage) with their new Bike Hire venture.
Glenfinnan has been a hive of activity with all the building work going on. There are two houses being built in Torr an Eas, the new recording studio is almost completed and plots are being prepared for houses. In May the Glenfinnan Brewery is having an official opening. The ale is selling well in the bar and is really smooth and creamy. The brewers have been busy brewing a blonde beer. Wow, that's a lot of alliteration!
We had a Scottish quiz with a distinctly local flavour on Friday 27th as part of the Glenfinnan 07 programme of events. Quizmaster Cat Hunter did a superb job. Highlights were the music round, with live music by Dougie Hunter and Colm O'Rua, and the tartan round, with samples pinned to boards. The tartan round was most challenging and my team's tactic of guessing MacDonald for 3 of the tartans didn't pay off! Five teams took part and it was good fun. A raffle raised funds for the Art Club to purchase materials.
The road to the train station has been resurfaced at long last. Well done John Barnes…your perseverance paid off! At least we no longer risk breaking our ankles or wrecking tyres on the pot holes.
Blazin' Fiddles had two successful concerts in Glenuig at the end of March to record a live album. Glenfinnan contingents were there on both nights so our claps and laughter should make it to the final edit.
Happy Birthday to Sìne Gibson who was 6 in April and celebrated with a Prince and Princess party.
Belated Happy Birthday to Gail Wendorf who celebrated her 50th in March!
In May we can look forward to lots of events happening in the village:
Loch Shiel Spring Festival
Gaelic for gamekeepers, poachers and hillwalkers on Friday 11th May. For info or to book contact me on 722 247
Cearcall Comhraidh on Sunday 20th May 2 - 4 pm Princes House Hotel
Glenfinnan's Big Paint on Sunday 27th May from 11am to 4pm in a marquee at Glenfinnan House Hotel.
We need as many people as possible to come along and help us recreate the painting of the raising of the standard square by square. We will provide materials. All you need to bring is enthusiasm, a packed lunch and wear old clothes! No experience necessary. Even if you haven't painted since childhood come along and join in. Gail Wendorf will be on hand to offer help and guidance. It would help if you could let me know if you plan to come along to give us an idea of numbers. Children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Many of our familiar summer visitors started to appear this month, although some were slightly later than normal. The first Sand Martins back at the Rhubana colony appeared on the 3rd, although the main arrival there was not until mid-month. Approx. 20 were seen feeding near the Land, Sea & Islands Centre, Arisaig, on the 16th and a couple were seen inspecting nest-holes at Fank Brae, Mallaig, on the 19th. Also on the 19th, the first Swallows reported were 5 seen flying over Arisaig Marina. The first Wheatear reported was a male seen near the Porter's Lodge, Rhue, on the 4th. A male Blackcap was seen at Rhubana on the 15th, and the first Willow Warblers were seen from the 20th. The first report of a Grasshopper Warbler was od one 'reeling' at Rhubana on the 30th.
The first White Wagtails were 3 seen at Traigh on the 15th, with birds seen there most days until the month end. A very early Cuckoo was reported flying over the sea between Rum and Soay on the 12th. The first report of one calling came from Arisaig during the last week of the month.
Common Sandpipers were back on Loch Morar on the 16th. Two Greenshanks were seen at Druimindarroch on the 19th and 2 others seen the same day near Millburn, Rhue. On the 22nd, 43 Black Tailed Godwits were reported from Traigh. Golden Plovers were seen at Traigh and Back of Keppoch on various dates in April, with approx. 30 at Back of Keppoch on the 17th. Small numbers of Summer plumaged Dunlin were seen at Traigh from mid-month, with at least 16 there on the 24th. At Back of Keppoch, Lapwing were on eggs by the last week of the month. Whimbrels were first seen on the 29th, with a flock of 8 at Millburn, Rhue, and another group of 4 at Traigh the same day. Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers were still on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig, with at least 22 Turnstones and 12 Purple Sandpipers thereon the 24th.
The first Great Skua was seen on the 12th between Skye and Mallaig, with a flock of about 25 Manx Shearwaters seen there the same day.
Iceland Gulls were still around Mallaig early in the month, and an adult and Immature were again seen on the Morar Estuary on the 26th.
Small groups of Redwings were seen at various locations in Morar and Arisaig during the first half of the month, most probably Icelandic birds returning North.
Goldfinches and Siskins were reported from various gardens in Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig, and a Lesser Redpoll visited a garden feeder at Rhubana for several days from the 15th. A Hen Pheasant was seen in a garden at Kinigarry on the 18th and one was seen flying South across the Morar river on the 21st, presumably the same bird which has been frequenting gardens in the Morar village most of the Winter.
I was given an Arctic Tern which had been found injured near Bracorina, Loch Morar, on the 22nd. After a few phone calls, the bird was taken into care the next day. On examining the bird, the carer was quite hopeful that the injury to the bird's wing would heal. Latest update on the 30th was that the bird was feeding itself and the wound was healing nicely, with the hope that it would be released within the next week.
A Summer visitor to these parts, the Arctic Tern, is a long distance migrant, spending the Winter in the Southern hemisphere off the coast of South Africa down to the edge of the Antarctic pack ice.
West Word - ten years ago
In a scene reminiscent of a sci-fi movie, the picture adorning the cover page of the May 1997 edition of West Word showed Mallaig Fire Service personnel in their protective suits and breathing apparatus, as they investigated a drum that had been found on the shores of Loch nan Uamh by two local women looking for carougeen (a special seaweed). The local Coastguard team and the Lifeboat Crew as well as the Fore Service were all involved in the recovery of a barrel which was taken away for contents analysis.
A report on an open meeting in Inverie Hall also made front page news. It detailed 'clear the air discussions' between members of the public and members of the Knoydart Foundation, as they resolved to work together in any future buy-out attempt! The third item on the cover page of Vol 3 Issue 7 of West Word announced that come the 12th May, Nevis Radio would be available throughout the Mallaig/Morar/Arisaig area.
Just like May 2007, May 1997 was also election month, and as a precursor to this Sir Russell Johnston's retrial as an MP was marked by a presentation of a bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water by Harbour Secretary Robert MacMillan to the outgoing MP. Sir Russell, who was retiring after 33 years as an MP, was also featured in the Sunday Post's 'Honest Truth' page. One of the questions he was asked was 'The Mallaig - Fort William road - will it ever be finished?' 'Of course it will,' he replied, 'I will se it in my lifetime, although being a Liberal requires one to be optimistic!'
Extracts from a manuscript by John Frederick Bowman of Camusdarach, telling of his epic journey from London to Arisaig to vote in the elction of January 1910 adorned page 19, and Hugh Allen's Fishing News on page 5 commented that the Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association, as a non-political organisation, is not in a position to demonstrate any specific allegiance but that it was important to keep the candidates well-briefed on the main issues.
Morar's Alastair and Mairi MacLeod received a nice surprise with a painting valuation obtained via the Antiques Road Show which visited Fort William, while the generosity of the Mackintosh Foundation was again highlighted by the presentation of two sets of bagpipes for the Mallaig Chanter group.
The Lifeboat Log toldo f four call outs during April 1997, one of which resulted in the loss of the fishing boat, Wick registered Sapphire, but the crew were safely on board the Jastlo C.
Barry Austin continued his Sense of Adventure bike travels through Africa. Tanzania, Malawi, Lilangwe and Cape Maclear are just some of the evocative names mentioned, along with the dreaded 'bilharzia' - a charming parasitic worm!
Special Trains for the month of May and the Mallaig Turntable Project were two of the main components in the On the Rails column, while page 7 had this rather unusual headline: 'Would You Like To Play The Fiddle, The Guitar And Riverdance At The Same Time?' No, it wasn't advertising a contortionist convention but the burgeoning Feis movement in Lochaber. Britain's only theatre ship, the Fitzcarraldo, was coming to Fort William while Tam White and Jim Hunter would be touring with the Celtic Blues Roadshow during the second Highland Festival. Other attractions in the offing in the area included the third Road to the Isles Agricultural Show and the 20th Mallaig Mission Gala Weekend.
Pupils from Mallaig Primary School provided a page of Brain Teasers which got us all scratching our heads, and on the Letters page an amusing letter from Patrick Duffy (ex-Bracara) tells us all about his parents' (Joe and Cathy) trip to the B & Q Superstore and the chaos they unwittingly caused, which had us all smiling.
A poem by Margaret J Thomson (Morar) on the centenary of the Morar Viaduct was followed by another entitled 'A Lady Golfer's Dream' by Peryl MacLennan. Keeping a sporting theme, articles on the Loch Morar Angling Club, The Canoe Club, Mallaig Primary School Football and the Swimming Pool appeared, while the World Oceans Day Photographic Competition was brought to readers' attention via Ross Campbell of Mallaig's Marine World. Ross also told us of the Comet, Hale Bop, and Martin Curry, Reseve Manager on the Island of Rum, provided the Environmental/Wildlife column.
After 3 and a half years in Mallaig, John Troughton, his wife and family headed of to a new vocation at the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest in London, but he penned his own 'obituary' as the Fishermen's Mission Assistant at Mallaig and thanked everyone for their help and assistance throughout his time in Mallaig.
Quote of the Month was: 'Where Are You Arthur?' - a question asked by the Coastguard when he was posted missing on Barra! So, a couple of 10 year old snippets to finish and reflect on…Kenneth MacKenzie found the yoga class very relaxing. Sleep inducing even…Alan Cargill back on the wine after recent abstinence…
However, I don't have the answers for you - you'll just have to ask them yourself.
Memories of Eigg by Betty MacDonald
Sixty years ago (about 17th March, 1947) I went to Eigg to teach in the school which had been closed since Christmas because the teacher, Fred Morrison, was on sick leave.
I was at home in Arisaig waiting for a Secondary School job to turn up so I wrote to the Director of Education to say I would consider going anywhere. Back came a telegram asking me to go to Eigg on the Saturday. About two days' notice! I had to hire the hotel car to take me to Mallaig in time for Loch Mor sailing.
What do I remember?
Arriving at Eigg and hearing a boarding passenger calling to the Captain to blow a blast on his hooter, which he did. The man's companion told me it was to inform the islanders that the new teacher was young - one blast for a young one and two for an old one!
Landing at Eigg and not knowing where I was going to stay. The schoolmaster had been staying at Laig Farm with the MacIsaac family but there was a new baby there and they had problems with frozen pipes after the 'Big Freeze', but all would be ready in a fortnight. I was taken by Dugald in his lorry to the shop/post office where I was warmly welcomed by the two ladies who ran it. People came and went but no-one knew where I could stay. The Parish Priest (Father Alex MacKellaig) came on his motorbike and offered accommodation at the Chapel House. Off he went to inform his housekeeper, Dolly, brought her back and we walked to St Donnan's. My case had been taken care of.
Monday morning made my way to school. Cannot remember who escorted me. Sixteen pupils from Primary 2 to Primary 7, four from the same family. The older ones were helpful. The room was warm and always very clean. There was a small range which was lit every morning, on which I could boil a kettle for anyone who wanted a hot drink at lunchtime, provided they brought their own tea or cocia and milk!
Surprise visit one day from the School Inspector. He had hired a boat from Glenuig, thus bypassing 'Bush Telegraph'! he seemed pleased with what was being done. I had been reading 'Kidnapped' to them and he questioned them about this.
The teacher was also Librarian. There were two shelves of books but while the school was closed rats had eaten the spines of some of them. They liked the glue! Poison was put down and two corpses were found - rats of course! - and disposed of. Another task was the collection of ration books before new ones were issued.
At the end of a pleasant fortnight at the Chapel House I moved to Laig Farm with the MacIsaac family: father, mother, 6 children and Janet Orr, who came to help her sister, Mrs MacIsaac, cope with everything and who had already introduced me to many of the local people.
The population of Eigg at this time was one hundred as I learned from collecting the Ration Books.
As the school had been closed for such a long time we did not have Easter holidays but we may have had Good Friday off. I wore out a pair of shoes walking between Laig and the school. One little boy, Frank Kirk, sometimes walked along the road with me on the way home. Once, we met a herd of Highland cattle but he assured me they were alright and wouldn't touch me.
There were two weddings while I was there. The first took place a few weeks after I arrived. I was told in advance that the reception would be held in the school on Thursday evening and as it would continue into Friday morning the classroom would not be ready by school time. It was the custom, therefore, to open the school on Saturday morning and mark a double attendance. This was done but not many pupils turned up! It was 'Boat Day' and the older children were required to help with the shopping. I do not remember what we ate. Beer and whisky were imported from Mallaig and there was also rhubarb wine! The ladies who were doing the catering had the use of the schoolhouse kitchen. Music was supplied by John MacIsaac, piping, and Duncan MacKay and Duncan Ferguson on fiddles. It finished about 4 o'clock on Friday morning and we made our way to Laig with Tilly Lanterns and torches!
Some time in May I heard from the Education Department that Mr Morrison was returning and my services would no longer be required. In the meantime, however, another wedding was being planned and it was one I was not going to miss!
This was the wedding of Duncan Ferguson and Dolly, both of whom I got to know very well when I stayed at the Chapel House. Instead of making for the mainland when the permanent teacher returned I stayed on in Laig as a paying guest until the wedding. It took place at St. Donnan's Catholic Church. After the service the wedding party boarded Dugald's lorry and the rest of us walked to the school. It was a longer walk than theone after the first wedding which was from the Church of Scotland to the school. The procedure was the same and although I don't remember anything about the food and drink it was certainly a very happy occasion. One feature of an Eigg wedding celebration was 'The Eigg War Dance'. This was performed by the men who formed themselves into a group like a rugby scrum and moved round in a circle chanting in Gaelic. Fred Morrison, who had not seen it before, thought he should get the doctor to certify them but realised he was amongst them! Celebrations went on until sunrise.
Slept most of Friday and prepared for my departure. On Saturday, accompanied by Janet, I set off by pony and trap which a local man had for hire. The pony was brown and white and very lively - like a circus pony. It was quite an experience rattling along the road to thepier clinging to the side of the trap.
Back I went to the mainland and eventually to work in Secondary schools.
Crofting ROUNDUP by Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member
The May sale.
Every year on the nearest first Friday in May crofters from the Village and Bunnacaimbe/ Back of Keppoch would drive their cattle down to the sale pens, just a few hundred yards along the road to Keppoch Farm. Originally the sale pens were along at the Smiddy but the Crofters wrote to the Landlord and asked for a new bit of ground and were given the stance at the entrance to Keppoch, a familiar memory to many people. It was a great day out and the crofters' children were allowed to take a day off school to help drive the beasts along the road. The sale started at 11am and the first beasts on the road would be from Portnaluchag, then joined by Portnadoran and the rest of the Bunnacaimbe crofts. The children had to run ahead to stand in all the driveways and stop the herd going into them. When they reached Back of Keppoch and Achnaskia more beasts joined them and so on at every croft until they reached the village. There were no fences on the Moss past the Cnoc na Faire and as many children as they could muster would have to act as a barrier until they reached fences again after the pit. It was great excitement for the village children when the whole noisy herd trotted past the school at break time and they would all wave and cheer. The cattle would be big as they were last summer's calves kept over the winter and there would be a great number of them. At one time there were as many as 200 squeezed into the pens and the pen sides would be breaking under the strain. All the people from the village would come out to see who was getting the best prices, it was a great social event, and women would bring their babies out in prams, at times the throng round the ring would be five deep. Everyone wanted to know who was going to get top price and it was usually The Late Eddie Lee or The Late Willie Pringle. The village beasts were always in great condition with having more shelter and the grass getting a better start away from the wind and Eddie's would stand out with backs on them like tables. After the sale the cattle were loaded up and everyone would retire to the Crofters Rest for soup and sandwiches to celebrate. If they had a good day there might even be a dram or two. At the last May sale in 1982 there were only 28 beasts, it then moved to Corpach, but as a social occasion it is greatly missed.
Eddie Lee at the May Sale with crofters and dealers around the ringside.
Remains of the pens
A dry May with the kind of weather we are having at the moment would have been perfect conditions for cutting and drying peat. Crofters at Bunnacaimbe had their own peat banks, some nearer home but the main bank was to the east of the new road and a peat track was built from behind Druimdhu capable of taking a pony and cart. Angy [Druimdhu] remembers the peat up there being especially black and oily and of good quality. Everyone had their allotted peat section and there was an area set aside for the Back of Keppoch crofters who had no peat of their own over there. It was hard work but everyone helped including the children. The peat track. can still be clearly seen but would no longer be accessible as a portion of it has been enclosed with fencing. Both Peat Cutting and Sale days were social affairs where men, women and children could share a comment interest. In the past Crofting was the fabric that wove people together , and it still is now, just on a lesser scale.
FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary of the M&NWFA
Election fever is upon us and by the time you read this, a new government will have been decided for the fledgling Scottish Parliament. Let us hope that honesty, maturity of debate and joined up thinking feature strongly in the new administration as they were qualities sadly lacking in the outgoing one!
With the appearance of better weather conditions, the vessels have been tending to venture to grounds further offshore. The fishing had been relatively good until the last week of the month when the seasonal disappearance of prawns begun. Whitefish landings into Mallaig have continued to be scarce although skippers are reporting fairly good marks of herring, codling and herring.
Inshore Fishery Groups
The Scottish Executive's Strategic Framework for Inshore Fisheries is establishing 12 IFGs around the coast. The Framework delegates significant responsibility to commercial fishermen and other relevant stakeholders and IFGs are tasked with the creation of fisheries management plans for their respective areas. Plans must accord with the Strategy's overarching objectives: biological, environmental, economic, social and improved governance.
The Mull and Small Isles Inshore Fishery Group hopes to hold its first meeting towards the end of May. The IFG system should give more localised control of fisheries management and the process has been in gestation for some considerable time whilst all the fine tuning has been sorted out. Our particular group is presently called Mull and the Small Isles and covers from South Skye to Mull. Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association will however be involved in just about all the 12 IFG's which will cover the whole of Scotland! The Outer Hebrides Group is the first Group in Scotland which is closest to achieving full status and I have been heavily involved in the "shadow" meetings of this Group.
The first "shadow" meeting of the North West Inshore Fisheries Group (NWIFG) was held in Achnasheen on Thursday 8th March. Membership of the IFG is open to all Trade Association's with members fishing in the area.
Ullapool and Assynt Fishermen's Association (UAFA)
Highlands & Islands Fishermen's Association (HIFA)
Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association (MNWFA)
Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA)
Anglo Scottish Fishermen's Association (ASFA)
Western Isles Fishermen's Association (WIFA)
Scottish Executive (SEERAD)
A number of issues concerning the formation of the Group, including representation, management, constitution and local priorities were debated. The general consensus from the Group was that the initiative was very welcome. The Group will work closely with other IFGs, especially the newly formed Outer Hebrides IFG (OHIFG) and the Mull and Small Isles Group, which is due to meet in the next month or so.
Coastal and Marine National Park
Having started to go through the responses and Scottish Executive Responses Consultation document, it now appears that the Scottish Executive has indeed been involved in spinning the responses to make it appear that a Marine Park was enjoying more favour than it actually did.
I have counted some responses that have been included more than once and it has now become clear that if you visited the roadshow and handed in a questionnaire, this has been taken as a positive response. Thus, the joint response from the three main West Coast Fishermen's Associations, who between them represent circa 1200 fishermen, was given the same weighting as a response from Aunt Maud from say High Wycombe, who was "assisted" in filling in her questionnaire by Scottish Executive staff. A full analysis of the analysis is still being compiled and will hopefully be ready for publication soon.
A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
MacDonalds of Camus a' Ruighe.
In the April issue of West Word re. the MacDonald family of Camus a' Ruighe, I mistakenly wrote Colin Russell instead of Colin Smith. I also posed the question, Where did Janet MacMaster go to? Janet, née MacDonald, wife of Allan MacMaster, gave birth to their son Archibald on 12th January 1849. She, herself, died six days later on 18th January and is recorded as Janet MacDonald in the death register. Archibald died eleven days after his mother on 29th January. Janet's brother, Lachlan, died aged 17 years on 7th March 1851. I did not find any trace of John, Isabella or Margaret.
MacAskills of Eigg and North Carolina.
Hector MacAskill left Eigg in 1820 and sailed to North Carolina. A descendant of his, Marshall W. MacLeod. Director of Pensacola Junior College, Florida, has been in touch. He and family are coming over in May and hope to go to Eigg. He was looking for any information on Hector and any Eigg connections. The information I have is somewhat scant. On a chart by Tearlach MacFarlane, on descendants of Lachlan MacQuarrie, we find John MacAskill, b. 1720, in Minginish in Skye. Later on, he was a tenant in Eigg. He had a son, Kenneth, b. 1754. Kenneth's daughter, Margaret MacAskill, m. Neil MacQuarrie. They were my ggg grandparents. The other source is Camille Dressler's book, "Eigg. The story of an Island", to which I have referred Marshall MacLeod. In Camille's book we find the island minister, Mhaighster Calum MacAskill who arrived in Eigg in 1757. He was married twice, first to a Skye woman with whom he had two children; a daughter who married John MacLean, tacksman of Muck and a son named Donald. He married a second time to Mairi, the daughter of Hugh MacLean X1V of Coll and they had seven surviving children of whom three boys were Ewan, Donald and Allan MacAskill. Donald became a doctor and served the Small Isles for a good number of years before being drowned when the Dubh Gleannan capsized in Galmisdale Bay in 1817. How Hector of 1820, in North Carolina, fits into the jigsaw, we don't know.
Recently, Christopher MacIsaac and his wife, Kelly, stayed two nights with us in Arisaig. Chris was looking for connections to the Canna MacIsaacs who emigrated to Cape Breton in 1812. Unfortunately we could not connect Chris to the MacIsaacs of Canna or Eigg. The MacIsaacs of Smirisary had no history of Canna relatives and anyway, they have been on the same piece of ground in Smirisary since before the '45 Rebellion as have the MacLeans of Glenuig. Chris was also looking for MacLellans of Morar, his grandmother having been a MacLellan. Red John MacLellan went to Cape Breton around 1820. He was married in Scotland to ? MacDonald and had two children, Farquhar and Donald. His second marriage in Scotland was to Nancy (Anne) Gillies b. ca. 1790, one of six sisters who all went to Canada. Red John's patronymic was Iain mac Domhnaill 'ic Iain 'ic Domhnaill 'ic Niall. We brought out a family history which Allan Gillis, Ottawa, Canada, had sent to us some time ago and we were able to find Chris MacIsaac's family in Allan's research but we haven't established whether they were of the Coiteachan or the Brinicory MacLellans. Chris was delighted but, fairly bemused to find his Canadian genealogy in Arisaig.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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