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

List of Issues online

May 2008 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
West Word ten years ago
Crofting Roundup & Fishing Focus
Local Genealogy & History

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

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

The lily pond between Mallaig and Morar reflects the flames on the hills beyond.
Photo courtesy of Jimmy MacDonald.

The annual muirburn has kept the Fire Service occupied as out of control fires have raged throughout the area. In one day alone the firefighting teams had three call outs, to Lochailort, Kinloid and Bracara.

Thursday 1st May saw the Grand Opening of the revamped Co-operative Store in Mallaig.
The store has extended into the shop unit next door and the extra room has been utilised well to provide a spacious, well stocked shop, complete with bi-lingual signs!

Whoa! Where did April go? Lots of goings on this month; big ships, little boats; yachts and RIBs and folk appearing round the corner when we least expect them…suddenly the place seems really busy, although there are still barely 20 of us here. Lots of lambs springing up all over, and calves racing about to add to the chaos! Nice to have some decent weather, too, which we're keeping quiet about…, making life that bit easier for folks out and about on the farm.
Last month the rat monitoring came to an end and the last of the traps were taken in. No rats, which is good, but the Canna mouse is most definitely back which is also good. Those wee beasties must have had a great time what with all that free food about - quite a lot of monitoring blocks were nibbled away overnight. I'm surprised they're not sick of chocolate by now. And Easter just past, too!
Talking of Easter, bunnies of the furry variety are very much in evidence right now, and continue to pose quite a problem - they've a big appetite for good pasture and their numbers seem to be on the increase despite any attempts to trap them. Numerous significant archaeological sites have been undermined and destroyed by the little blighters. However I believe that rabbit is making a comeback on the menus of some respected establishments on the mainland. Please do give us a call for all your requirements at very reasonable prices. Free range a speciality.
At school, we're wondering whether we missed the opportunity to plant our willow sculpture, but our resident gardening expert assures us that it's not too late (Thanks to Ed for the cuttings!). There was much enterprising activity down on the pier when we welcomed the passengers and crew from one of our regular cruise boats; the key ring and mug stall did a roaring trade, and the wee souls managed to hang on to most of the stock before it got blown away.
A big thanks to John Booth for coming over to give us an insight into the workings of the renewables scheme on Eigg…lots of information and some interesting ideas to keep us going! We'll be trying to press forward as best we can with our own plans, which (thankfully!) appear to be somewhat less complex in comparison.
Lots of goings on up at the Manor…it's starting to look busy for the season and the gardens' sympathetic restoration programme continues, despite the bull's best efforts to disrupt proceedings. (Reminder…Visitors are strongly urged to keep their pets under control at all times!) Word gets around fast, and a glossy publication was dispatched from down South to capture the adventure and romance of the idyll that is life on the Coast. (Hope I haven't given too much away there…) The photographer found his blue skies, and he soon discovered that the wind machine wasn't really necessary to recreate the 'Hair by Cal Mac' look.
Yet another rare species was sighted on the island this month…contractors arrived to finish the job at Caslum. Unfortunately there was a minor s etback as the heavens opened on their arrival, thus putting paid to any thoughts of roughcasting for the day. However, the return of some favourable weather saw the work continuing at last.
And finally, we bid a fond farewell to Ghostie, who was sadly spirited away last month by a sea eagle. Bad luck for the duck…but what a way to go.
Geoff Soe-Paing

This month we welcomed Bryan Grieg and his family to the island. Bryan will be looking after the school for the summer term and like all Small Isles schools (however small the roll) he becomes a head teacher, and there lies a problem. Head teachers get two days off per week to deal with the ever increasing piles of paper which education departments consider just as important as imparting knowledge to their charges, and days off mean supply and supply is hard to find and extremely expensive as well as breaking up continuity in the classroom. Surely there is a better system and to their credit - Highland Council are exploring the options.
On the farm lambing is almost over and the island has turned green. We would have been in trouble had we not gritted our teeth and bought 5 tons of very expensive fertiliser. Cattle and sheep prices are rising at last and in a world where the prospects of food shortages are openly discussed the outlook is much more rosy. However, there is some bad news for island farmers and crofters. Ewen Bowman who for the last 40 years has hauled our livestock to market has called it a day. Thank you Ewen for all these years of good service and low prices. We will certainly notice David Bowman's absence this Autumn.
All through March and early April Toby Fitchner-Irvine and myself have been planting trees - 1300 of them in middle wood which was first planted by my father in 1924. With the ever-increasing price of fuel, firewood will be a valuable resource in years to come though I am unlikely to benefit from this year's effort.
In the horse world on Muck there is mixed news. On the one hand Charlie of Muck was judged champion at the Perth stallion show. On the other when first foal mare, Lexi, rejected her offspring at 3 days there was a major effort both to hand milk Lexi and get the foal to drink. Powdered mares milk is hard to obtain locally and we are very grateful to Bob McWalter, Chris Evans and his team for all their efforts in getting it to Mallaig in time for the first steamer.
Lawrence MacEwen

April seemed to go by in a blur, and the arrival of the cuckoo, singing its heart out as I write, is a reminder that we are rushing headlong into the summer months.
Many congratulations to Fliss and Sandy who finally tied the knot during an intimate and emotional ceremony in the castle drawing room. Followed by a cracking BBQ and Ceilidh on what turned out to be a perfect sunny day. It was a very happy event and we wish them all the best for the future.
Best wishes to our poorly school teacher, Stuart who is recovering from a recent operation. It was nice to see him out and about a few days ago. Chin up and get well soon Stuart.
The community development plans have taken another step forward with the appointment of Ian Leaver as community development officer to the Rum trust. He lives and has worked as development officer on Eigg and so brings just the experience the community needs. He continues to live on Eigg and will work from home part of the time with regular trips to Rum, working from his office in the castle. He's a very friendly and approachable chap and we look forward to getting to know him!
Stroma Frew

There's been lots happening in April. Must be something to do with the end of winter and beautiful spring weather. The MV Sileas has started cruising the loch again and soon the steam train will be back.
Congratulations to Sharon Coffey and Colin 'Candles' Morley who were married on 26th April by Father Roddy Johnstone in the church at Glenfinnan. A reception followed in Glenfinnan House Hotel. Dodgy Ground provided the music and had Sharon and Colin's family and friends dancing all night.
DJ was at a Free Church wedding recently where he was most impressed by the minister. The minister was most insistent that "man must cleave to woman and ONLY woman." He would have cheered only it's not really the done thing in the Free Church. He also had the woman promise to "obey". DJ silently cheered again. The women wept and shook their fists in anger. Silently, for it is not seemly to make a noise in church.
The Glenfinnan Angling Club had their first fishing competition of the season. Kevin MacAuley won. I am afraid I don't know what he kind of fish he caught or how heavy it was and as I write this there is no time to find out! (last minute as usual). I can tell you that he, reportedly, left the bar with a black bag containing the fish, the trophy and a bottle of whisky all rubbing along together.
Iain MacFarlane was being filmed in his natural habitat for a new TV series called Master & Apprentice. He is the master! The filming culminated in a session in the hotel with Iain and his friends. Ingrid was also filmed up in Plockton for the same series. She is a master too!
I am a bit late with this but on the 8th of March Glenfinnan Gun Club had a shoot. The weather was poor with heavy showers and blustery and there was a disappointing turn-out of 19 guns. Thanks to DJ for the results as follows:
First competition won by Alan Currie.
Second competition 'Tennent shield', won by James Henderson
Local Trophy 'Donnie Strang Memorial Quaich' won by Alan Currie
High Gun for the day 'Glenfinnan Gun Cup' won by James Henderson
Double rise "Dewar Cup" won by George Nairn (Fersit)Local Double rise "D Stoddart Cup" won by Alan Currie
The art class is well-attended but there is room for more. If you are interested in oil painting come along. Contact Gail Wendorf at The Steading, Glenfinnan.
There is a new parent and child group in the village. There are so many children here but nowhere to gather so we decided just to take turns and host the group in our own homes on Thursday mornings. It started with three mums and three babies and two toddlers. Recently there were 7 mums and 12 babies and toddlers. And sometimes there are dads too. The wee ones enjoy it and so do the mums and dads.
Eileen O'Rua

Well, this is the last time I shall sign myself off here as Ann Martin - although I shall keep that name for some things. Richard and I get married in a Humanist ceremony on the 10th May, in our garden if fine, in the house if not. I've put in a little piece about Humanism to explain to those who don't know what it is, because a number of people have looked askance at us as if we were in some secret dodgy sect!
Hall lights - we have the money from the Hydro Board! They kindly coughed up nearly £2300 for the lights replacement, and all we have to do now is wait for the electrician to find time to do them! Let's hear it for the Hydro Board!!
I mentioned in the last issue that we were still hoping to find one of the passes locals needed in the last war to get in and out of the area, for display in the Land, Sea & Islands Centre - and the lovely Betty McDonald, ex-Kinloid and now Inverness, has responded by sending me a photocopy of the one held by her late sister. Betty says her sister treasured the original. It includes a 'Certificate of Residence in a Protected Area'. Thank you very much Betty - I haven't had chance to write to you yet but I will!
The plans for the SOE memorial are coming along. The site has been selected and Dr Millar will be looking at it later this month to see if it what he has in mind. There is Czech funding for the memorial, a charity has been set up; the site will be leased for 99 years and the memorial passed into the care of the Community Council which will receive a small amount of maintenance money annually. A website is being established. The sculpture will have official War Grave status becauseit commemorates many who fell in the conflict of WWII.
Ann Martin

Humanist Ceremonies
Scotland is one of only six countries in the world where Humanist wedding ceremonies are legal - the others are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and certain states of the US). Humanist weddings have the same status as religious and civil weddings as long as they are conducted by a Humanist Society of Scotland Celebrant, who has been authorised by the Registrar General of Scotland.
Each Humanist wedding ceremony is unique, dignified and deeply personal. Humanism look on marriage as an equal partnership and a serious commitment that involves mutual love, support and respect - as do Registrar and religious weddings - and a humanist ceremony is a time when couples can declare all they feel for each other in a way that feels right for them, in a location of their choosing.
The number of humanist weddings in Scotland is set to soar this year. The weddings can be conducted anywhere deemed to be 'safe and dignified' and the venue does not need a wedding licence. Most couples who choose a humanist ceremony do so because they want a non-religious ceremony but one that is more personal and thoughtful than a civil one, where you are married in the eyes of the state.
Humanist ceremonies can also be for funerals and child naming.
And what is Humanism? It has a long definition but basically it believes that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others. It is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world's greatest thinkers and gave rise to science itself.

The Road to the Isles Agricultural Show will be held this year on Saturday 14th June at Camusdarach by kind permission of Andrew and Angela Simpson, so please make a note of the date in your diaries.
The committee are hoping that there will be the usual strong support by exhibitors in all sections of the Show. The cattle and sheep classes are always well supported and we are hoping for plenty of support for the new classes we introduced last year for 'undressed' cow/heifer and calf. There is a splendid trophy for this section so please enter as many animals as you can. There is also a new trophy for the best Blackface lamb.
The Highland Cattle are always a very attractive section of the stock lines and there will again be classes for Highland Ponies 'in hand'.
The Industrial section has the usual wide variety of classes in Floral Decoration, Knitting and Handicrafts (including crochet, embroidery and decorated glass) and Baking and Produce (mouth-watering goodies like chocolate cake, jams and sweets are all on the menu.).
Schedules for all the classes are available at local Post Offices, Spar shops and other outlets in the area, and also from Elizabeth Fleming on 01687 450 655 or from Angela Simpson on 01687 450 221.
The main events in the Ring this year will be a Sheep Dog Demonstration and Dogs' Agility exhibition. These should be very interesting and entertaining and should not be missed!
Other events will include a parade of the Highland Cattle with some information about this ancient breed and we are hoping to have a farrier giving a demonstration of shoeing a horse.
The Forestry Commission have kindly agreed to give some demonstrations of their work.
Many of the regular exhibitors will also be in attendance, including the Plant Nurseries, and don't forget the Dog Show!
If any local organisations or groups would like to have a stand at the Show then please contact Angela on 01687 450 221. The Show is an ideal way of reaching out to the local community to get your views or interests across, so do contact us.
There are lots of jobs to be done in the week before the Show to get everything ready, so if you have time or energy to spare then do come along and give a hand.
All this should add up to a good day out for all, so do come along on the 14th June. We are sure you will enjoy yourselves.

West Word - ten years ago
'Knoydart Residents Step Up Bid To Buy Estate' ran the headline of the main story on the West Word front page of May 1998! Knoydart Community Association Chairman Bernie Evemy and Knoydart Foundation Chairman Charlie King were both quoted in the article, both expressing disappointment at the attitude of the Bank of Scotland which had, it appeared, sanctioned the sale of of Knoydart to business people whom they fear do not have the standing or capital needed to upgrade much needed facilities in Knoydart.
The other story on page 1 told of Cal-Mac's attempts to solve the Mallaig/Armadale ferry problem by introducing the Loch Dunvegan onto the service - a stop gap measure prior to the full service being re-instated in June or July.
Morar's Allan MacDonald was pictured in training for the up-coming Scottish Six Days Trials event, and the event itself was previewed on page 23 by Angus Macintyre - a keen biker himself and a contributor to West Word even in his pre-Ranger days! Eilidh Kirk, Frances Carr and Jodie Robertson from Eigg were pictured on page 2 and they filled page 24 with the Sense of Adventure - a school exchange between the Hebrides and the Caribbean - Eigg and Mustique!
Community Council leader Alistair Gillies, backed by local DJ Keith Eddie, hit out at local youths who had damaged the new bench seats and flower tubs just days after they were put in place. 'There are more environmental improvements planned,' said Mr Gillies, 'but it gets most frustrating when things are destroyed.'
MP David Stewart's Westminster Diary centred on transport, with road, rail and air issues all being mentioned and the need for rural community services to be protected and improved. As well as the usual Encounter Group page of news, Age Concern's Jo Cowan called for comments and suggestions on Local Transport Services to help mould the future, whilst Sonia Cameron, John Barnes and Dan McGrory all combined for the 'On the Rails' column. One of the items discussed in their column was the ill fated turntable scheme.
Alongside the railway news was a report on a meeting held in Morar Hotel at which Isabel Campbell gave a stirring presentation of plans for the proposed Rural Complex at Aonach Mhor. The building of the Fort William Hydrotherapy Pool moved a step closer thanks to Mallaig's Michelle MacDonald (19) who raised £700 for the pool via a sponsored shaven hair cut!
The Lifeboat Log and the Mallaig Auxiliary Coastguard update along with weather, tide and planning applications filled up page 4, while on the adjacent page Hugh Allen, Secretary of the Mallaig & South West Fishermen's Association, reported on a Marine Environmental Education Conference which had been held in Edinburgh.
Page 8 had a musical theme as it revealed the programme of local events to be performed under the banner of the Highland Festival, detailed the Loch Shiel Spring Festival and told of a newly formed band of local musicians called Dàimh (which means kinship)!
Page 19 contained two tributes - one from Eigg, the other from Muck - in memory of that great character Tex Geddes, Soay, who had passed away in April at the age of 78.
Poems on Spring from Primaries 1 & 2 of Mallaig Primary School were given pride of place on page 15, whilst Mallaig High School pupils touched on the need for accommodation for island pupils attending the school and wishing good luck to all who were sitting their SCE exams.
Mallaig Marine World announced a photograph competition sponsored by the local Fishermen's Association with proceeds going to the Mallaig Fishermen's Mission, and Police Sergeant Colin Souter (along with his wife and family) decalred that he 'was glad to be here in Mallaig' and promised to get to know the community and make regular contributions to West Word.
Most of the questionnaires sent round the houses of Mallaig and Morar had been returned with an overwhelming response from Morar residents to join with Mallaig and form the Mallaig &Morar Community Association with a view to the provision of a new Community Centre for the area. Arisaig Hall was also in the news awaiting the outcome of grant applications and Anne Trussell and Camille Dressler kept West Word readers abreast of the news in Knoydart and the Isle of Eigg.
The life cycle of the woodworm was the subject of Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner and the Environmental page had a new name - Wild About the West - and a new contributor, biologist Dr Jon Watt, Lochailort.
There wasn't much Club or sport news this month and my Personal Angle column revealed that local paramedic Dennis Eddie had won a prize in a Nevis Radio Competition - a pair of Active Formula Tights!!!
…and that was the local news as seen by West Word contributors for May 1998.

On Saturday 19th April, Mallaig Oral History Project held it's official launch at the Mallaig Heritage Centre. Over 40 people came along to find out what it was all about - and to look through some of the many photographs held in the Heritage Centre. There was considerable interest in what the project was hoping to achieve and how people could get involved. Films were shown - and much reminiscence too place!
Already the actual work of the project has begun with Keith Eddie, George Lawrie and Project Manager Jill de Fresnes doing some filming with Lindy Henderson, who kindly agreed to come along to the area in Mallaig round by the fish curing yards - which was previously known as The Point. Lindy talked of the happy times she remember there, having arrived with her family - and the work in the yards, and life in the 'huts'. George described the scene from his own childhood memories - how busy the area was - from early in the morning with people moving about with carts, boats arriving with fish, trains leaving with processed fish. Lindy could remember back to the 1930s and George spoke more of later years - the 40s. It was a great experience, to be able to film the area with Lindy and George - and made all the more interesting when they were able to point out areas, and buildings which were part of their memories of that time.
Bridget Willoughby, Project Field Worker, has also been busy - attending an Oral History training course in Elgin, and we hope to be able to train up other volunteers to undertake interviews in the area. We also went into the High School, to encourage some of the younger people to get involved in the project. There are three areas in which we can involve people - with the technological aspects of the film and video side of the project; as interviewers who could undertake interviews with members of their family - and also the possibility of interviewing younger people to find out what life in Mallaig is like for them now, today. While the main aspect of the project is looking at the history and the growth of Mallaig as a major fishing port, we are aware that in 100 years time, it would be good to have a record of what life is like in the village and the surrounding area now.
The project hopes to undertake at least 50 interviews, to produce a DVD and a book, and to archive material which we hope to collect - the interviews themselves, photographs and any films already in existence - which will all be kept in the Heritage Centre. We also have some exciting ideas for a 'Mallaig Fishing Weekend' - possibly in September - and will bring you more news of that next month.
Anybody can get involved - and we would welcome people to join the project - as volunteers, or as committee members. It does not require a great deal of time, and people can get as involved as they want to. Contact Jill or Bridget through the email address mallaigoralhistoryproject@hotmail.co.uk or phone the Heritage Centre on 01687 462085 or Jill directly on 01687 450769.

FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association

Fishing has been fairy good over the last few weeks with good prices for nephrops welcomed by the fishermen. Scallops however, have reduced in price over the last week leading to concern from the sector. The good prices have3 however been offset by the price of fuel.

Rising fuel costs have become a major concern for our Members. The price rises have recently been on an almost daily basis. Fishermen are now saying that the time is close where it will be unviable to fish and they will have to tie-up. Particularly hard hit are the crew, who are directly affected by high fuel costs as, the higher the expenses, the less wages they get at the end of a trip.

Fishermen rely on their earnings through the spring and summer to get them through the winter months. Fishermen and people in ancillary trades are no longer just concerned, they are beginning to panic because they see their job as unviable. In the last two years, fuel has gone from around 25% of the cost of running a boat to around 55% of costs, which is just not sustainable. They can't sell the boats and they can't tie them up because then they don't earn anything at all, but they are looking for a bit of leadership from Government.

We need immediate Government action and cannot wait for the proposed meeting with Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead, on May 12. This crisis is upon us and needs a meeting now, not in two weeks' time. We began pressing the fuel issue four months ago and we were promised then that there would be an investigation into the help given to fishermen in France and Spain, but nothing has been forthcoming from the Marine Directorate. The fishing industry is approaching meltdown. The West Coast pays more for fuel to start with and then there is a further premium to get the produce to processors or foreign markets. We need action now, because people are being put into an impossible situation. We have a meeting with Mike Russell (Environment Minister) planned as well as a visit from Des Browne, Secretary of State, coming up, where the fuel issue will be the main item on the Agenda.

Motion by Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Western Isles :
S3M-1705? Alasdair Allan: Fuel Costs-That the Parliament notes that the price of diesel is now over £1.30 in the Western Isles and across Scotland's island and remote communities, making it probably the most expensive diesel in the western world; further notes that fuel costs now represent an ever increasing burden in the Western and Northern Isles, not least for businesses and fishermen, some of whom report 80% increases in diesel costs in the last two years; notes that the main company delivering fuel to the islands deposits fuel at differing costs at different ports on the West Coast despite the fact that the same vessel is used; notes the irony of an oil-producing nation putting its motorists, businesses, fishermen and rural businesses in this impossible position, and finally notes the various measures that exist in parts of France, which makes cuts in fuel duty in the remotest areas.

Crab & Lobster Group
A Crab and Lobster Strategy Group got under way last month in a move welcomed by industry and our members. It is anticipated that the Group will achieve more cohesive management and marketing for the sector.

Scallop Groups
There is going to be both a UK and a Scottish Scallop Group set up within the next month! A report on the groups will appear in the next Newsletter. An analogy would be that there isn't a bus for ages and then two come along at once. It is quipped that the main objective of the Groups would be to talk the scallops into submission rather than fish for them. There are certainly candidates for the scallop blathers job who will be attending but unfortunately they all work for the Marine Directorate!

New Stores
As I write, the final dustdown of our new stores is complete with official handover later today (2nd May). The stores are the culmination of much effort by many people to bring the project to fruition. There is already excellent demand for the stores and of course our fishermen will now be able to keep all their gear under lock and key once again.

Special thanks must go to ex Councillor Charlie King for his efforts in achieving the almost impossible by managing to extract partial funding for the project from Highland Council.


It was nice to see the Elinda backing Mallaig some 60 years after her first appearance at the port. The ex-ringnetter began its working life in Mallaig and was built by Nobles of Fraserburgh in 1947 for the brothers Charlie and Jock Duncan. She was named the Primrose and for the next ten years or so she fished for herring in the Minch.
The Primrose was re-engined in 1958 but one particularly wild winter night she ran aground in Northbay, Harris. The new engine was removed from the stricken vessel and sold, but the Primrose was deemed to be too badly damaged to save.
Some months later local fisherman Jimmy Henderson, along with the expertise of Charlie Henderson of the Mallaig Boatyard, set out and managed to patch up the Primrose and get her to Mallaig for subsequent repair.
Once ready for sea, Jimmy Henderson's 'new' boat was re-named the Elinda after his two daughters Elma and Linda. The Elinda again fished the Minch, ring netting for herring and creel fishing for lobsters, but following Jimmy's death in February 1966 and the subsequent arrival of the new family boat Silver Crest, the Elinda was sold to Port Seaton.
It is not known exactly when it was converted into a motorised yacht but she's sure looking good for a pensioner!

A Backward Glance by Gordon MacLennan
This being Easter and with it the lack of Tourists, my mind wanders back to the time when there was waste ground between the Hydro Shop and the Top Shop. I bought the ground and was fortunate enough in having Gordon Brown - the best builder in the West - build the Jacobite Restaurant, and in the second year of opening, apart from morning coffees and afternoon teas, we were serving during the peak month of August over 500 full meals daily, all served on starched table covers. Plastic not allowed. George Duncan has a life long experience of the sea and I am indebted to him for the many sea stories, knowing that he fished from St Kilda to the far South. It was known for him to jump onto a Drifter at the age of 12! As he is the last surviving member of the Mallaig Lifeboat crew he was able to remind me about the night on 17th January 1951: during a dreadful storm they had a call out to go to Gunna Sound where the ship Tapti was on the rocks. Battling against mountainous seas it took them 6 hours to reach the casualty, with the Barra boat arriving later. In these days it was the Mallaig and the Barra Lifeboats which covered this huge area. The late Brucie Watt, who knew every inch of the coastline was Coxswain, and he was soon aware it would be risky to go alongside Tapti as she could keel over at any time; but eventually Brucie went in and rescued 64 men - all this in a raging storm. But they had to steam to Oban where the Customs people operated. During the discharge, the Customs had difficulty in persuading one of the men to come ashore - they were all dark skinned men - now Dod Christie had many trades and he was a member of the Lifeboat crew, he was well known as a chimney sweep, so perhaps the Customs people could have been excused! After this brave and daring rescue in horrendous conditions you must be wondering about the very well deserved medals issued; but no-one was invited to the Palace - none of them played a Guitar.
Every village including Mallaig attach a name according to their job. 'Jimmy the Post', 'Ross the Policeman', 'Joe the Butcher'. Mr Ross was a considerate Policeman who avoided trouble at all costs, he didn't own a car, he didn't have a Driving Licence, so when there was an emergency he always asked my Father for the use of the car. So it was one day he had a 'phone call from Tougal informing him that a man's head had been washed up on the sands. So we set off, with one Provisional Licence between us,to deal with this grim finding. He asked me if I was squeamish but I assured him I was not. He kept telling me that this poor man must have been caught in a propeller, but it was strange that there was no sign of the person who had reported this. We didn't have far to search as when we got close to this HEAD it turned out to be a TURNIP. So back to base and in true Z Car fashion, refuelled ready for the next car chase in the clapped out old Wolseley Hornet, where the only flashing blue light would be coming from the plugs shorting under the bonnet!
As every second person has a mobile 'phone I often wonder what they have to speak about. In the 'Good Old Days' it was rather different, indeed people of my age group still refer to the Rockcliffe as 'THE EXCHANGE' which was occupied by Mr & Mrs Hannah, who came to Mallaig from Port Patrick. Vera was the Boss of the Hello Girls so when you lifted the 'phone you would hear 'Number Please' and they always gave great service, unlike Fort William. So if you wanted a number which wasn't local you asked for 'Trunks please' and then Fort William would answer. Instead of a string of numbers you gave the town name, e.g. AIRTH 252 and then you waited again. On one occasion I remember waiting for ever more and I was getting into a froth so when the girl eventually answered I asked for the Supervisor - so more waiting and then I heard the voice 'Supervisor', so I rampaged non stop. There was a silence and then the voice said 'O shut up Gordon, you're just in a bad mood'. I certainly didn't know who he was. Mr Hannah must have had a first name but no-one knew what it was. He had a strict routine in that at exactly 3 o'clock he walked to the top of Fank Brae, not a step further, same distance Summer and Winter - it never varied. One day in mid Summer Mrs Hannah phoned me and said that Mr Hannah had not returned from his walk and she was worried, so I set off to look, thinking he had fallen and broken his leg, but there was no sign of him. I had reached Glasnacardoch and looked there and at the first beach I found a pile of clothes, beautifully folded with his cap and walking stick on top. Looking out to the water I saw his body so I stripped off but thankfully I didn't have to swim very far and managed to drag his body ashore. No-one to be seen anywhere so I went up to my Doctor, the wonderful Dr John Forbes Rattray and I said to him 'We've got a body', which at first he didn't believe. When we were back at the beach, in his usual clever way he persuaded me to go and tell Mrs Hannah, but when I approached the house she was at the gate shouting, 'You don't have to tell me'.
Eventually she decided to emigrate and go and live with her son in Australia. She asked me to take her to the train on the Monday morning at 7am, so we reached the Station but not the train. This was the same performance until Wednesday when I kept the carriage door shut. She wrote to me from Australia but died soon afterwards.
One day I was in the garden with my friend, the late Jim Hood, and he had just switched off his mobile - his daughter had just called from the middle of the Rain Forest in darkest Africa - and I thought of the old Exchange, as Paul Daniel's would say, 'Now that's magic!' jim said Lorraine's voice was as clear as a bell. The Good Old Days???
A time for reflection when I met an old friend last month who, like myself, lives alone, and when she asked me what I missed most, being in the same situation, I rhymed off the usual things, but I missed the music, as Bunts had the rare gift of going to the Cinema, writing down the music in her notebook and playing the piano when she was at home, adding her own left hand. Giving an example of her sense of humour - she 'phoned to the shop one day and told me she had managed to get an appointment at the Dentist in Fort William, so when I arrived home at lunchtime there was a note: 'Gordon your lunch is in the oven; PS The oven is in the kitchen.' I knew where my friend was coming from when she told me that a lot of her memories were unpleasant because when I opened the Daily Mail dated the 23rd ulto, I was shocked to see a photograph of Loch an nan Achlaise in Glencoe. Had I not come across this photo I wouldn't now be boring you with an account of what happens when you hit the dreaded Black Ice. It was mid Winter as my wife and I were driving back from Glasgow via Stirling. It was the midnight hour as we climbed the Black Mount, there was a slight drizzle so Black Ice was never in my mind. I was driving a fast, small, souped-up Renault R8 rear-engined, so not a lot of grip up front. Suddenly we were in the air and were soon to discover we were in water. I couldn't get my door opened as it was buckled and we were upside down, so I managed to scramble over Bunts, got out, but couldn't understand why there was a board above my head till I realised we were under the ice. I got back to the car but only managed to get Bunts half out when I had to get up for air, however at the second attempt I managed to get her head above the ice, and then pulled her out onto the ice, although there was no response from her. But after pumping some of the water put of her, she spoke two words: 'I'm alright.' I had caught her leg on the sharp end of the door and she was cut - but living. Given the intense cold, the shock, being drenched, and in such a remote place, especially at that time of night, I don't think wither of us would have survived had it not been that the late Jim Smith, the local Ranger, was passing in his Land Rover - I had managed to reach the road to get help. He carried Bunts to the Land Rover and drove us to Hospital, where Bunts had her leg stitched, and the Nurses spent the night trying to get the water out of our lungs. Despite being dazed, I was aware of a very strong perfume in my nostrils, and then I remembered that in the still night on top of the ice, this perfume had been so powerful. Eventually it dawned on me - Bunts had been to the Hairdressers in Buchanan Street earlier that night. When the morning came, we wondered how to get home and were so relieved when our genuine friend Chief Inspector Bob MacLeod came and drove us to Mallaig. We were only in for five minutes when the Doctor arrived - obviously pre-arranged by Bob - and despite arguing for some time, we were persuaded to accept a jag, and so we were out for 10 hours.
The first letter to open was from Angus MacDonald, Bridge of Orchy Hotel: 'Dear Gordon, Stop making holes in our ice.' Such sympathy!!!!!


A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
MacKinnons of Rhue, 19th Century Steamer Agents

In the the 19th century, there were four or five MacKinnon families in Rhue, Polinden and Moss of Keppoch, Arisaig. However, the family which interests me at this time, are the descendants of Angus MacKinnon, born in 1765 on the Island of Coll. A weaver to trade, he left Coll and lived in Morvern where he met and married Mary Livingstone. According to MacKinnon family tradition, Mary was a sister of the missionary and explorer, David Livingstone. Angus and Mary had at least 3 children, Donald b. 1816, John, b.1820 and Flora b.1820, remembering always that the 1841 census rounded ages either up or, down to the nearest 5 years. In that census, the family is living in Rhue and Donald is working as a porter on the pier. In 1851, Donald MacKinnon was the head of the house and had married Mary MacVarish of Moidart. The late Pat MacCarthy said of his g. grandmother that, she was a sister of Dòmhnall Dubh Làidir, (black, strong Donald) of Mingary whose name was linked with some of the very large stone crosses in Eilean Fhianan, in Loch Shiel. Donald MacKinnon's father, Angus, was MacBrayne's agent for the steamers calling at Rhue, Arisaig.
In 1851, Donald and Mary MacKinnon have three children. Alexander, b.1843, Angus b. 1846 and Mary, b. 1849. There is one child not listed, Isabella, b. 1845. Angus MacKinnon, Donald's father, has passed away but, his mother, Mary Livingstone, was still living, aged seventy years. Her birthplace was Morvern.
Pat McCarthy left a short account of his Rhue connections, in the Arisaig WRI book and in it, he mentions a smallpox epidemic, ca 1860, when Donald and Mary had to row from Rhue to Arisaig cemetery and open a grave to bury their son. On their return home, they discovered that their daughter had also succumbed. Donald and Mary then had to repeat their sad journey to the cemetery, to bury their daughter. Alexander b. 1843 and Isabella b. 1845, are most probably, the children who died as they are not recorded in the 1861 census. A new child, John, b. 1844, is listed. In the future, John was to become known as, "Iain a' Phortair". In 1891, Donald, then aged 79, and Mary aged 76, are still in Rhue. With them is, John, married to Flora MacDougall. John and Flora were married in St. Mary's, Arisaig on 10th June 1885 and went on to have 9 children (See footnote on Flora MacDougall.) Their 9 children were, Mary b. 1886, Annabella, b. 1888, Angus, b.1890, Marjory, Jessie, Donald, Catherine, b. ca. 1900, Alexandrina (Theresa) b. ca.1902 and Alexander.
Mary, became a nursing sister in Bristol Royal Infirmary which was a military hospital in WW1. In 1918, just before the end of hostilities, Mary was serving on the hospital ship, Glenart Castle ferrying wounded soldiers home from Europe. The ship was torpedoed and sank in the Bristol Channel with very few survivors. Mary was presumed drowned. She is commemorated on the Arisaig War Memorial as, Sister Mary MacKinnon, Terr. (Territorial) Forces, N(naval), one woman amongst 40 men, the war dead of Arisaig in WWs 1 & 2.
Annabella was unmarried and died in Johnstone, in 1968, aged 79 years.
Angus, a sailor for most of his life, was married in Liverpool and had 3 children Michael, Kathleen and John Alexander. Angus was hailed as a hero when he jumped from his ship into the Clyde to rescue someone who had fallen in. He managed to pull the drowning person to safety. After the event Angus was heard to remark, "There's a very strong current in the Clyde!" Marjory was married and had 3 children, Gordon, Robert and Donald. NFI.
Jessie married Patrick McCarthy who was severely gassed in WW1 and eventually died in Erskine Hospital. They had nine children, of whom, the eldest, Pat, came to live in Arisaig and was a postman until he retired. The other children of Jessie and Patrick were, John, Mary, Donald, Flora, Andrew, Marjorie, Sarah and Alexander. Donald was unmarried and died of leukemia aged 31, in 1923.
Catherine (Kate) married Angus MacDonald (Aoghnas Bàn, an Drobhair) from Ardnish and they had 2 children, Morag Patricia and Donald Alexander. Morag Ardnafuaran, as she is known in Arisaig, gave me much help in compiling this genealogy. Her mother, Kate, died on 18th April, 2000, in her one hundred and first year.
Alexandrina, better known to all who knew the family, as Theresa, Rhue, was married to Ronald Campbell, Back of Keppoch. They had no children. Theresa died in June 1979 aged about 77 years.
Alexander, youngest of the family of John and Flora MacKinnon, joined the London police and married May Sear. Their 3 children were, Donald Alexander, (Don MacKinnon) Agnes Flora, d. 1968, and Reginald. Reginald, is married with children. NFI.
Alexander was waiting, on his motor bike, at traffic lights in London when an Army munitions lorry ran over him and killed him. The lorry didn't stop and the culprit was never caught. Alexander and May's eldest son, Don MacKinnon, married Mary Jane MacDonald, daughter of Johnny Duncan MacDonald, Arisaig and his Skye born wife, Flora MacLure. Don and Mary Jane's children are, Alex., Iain, Donald, Angus, Flora and Andrew, all of whom live in the London area, where they were brought up. Agnes Flora (Pam) who died in 1968, married Donald MacDonald, Arisaig, known locally as "Big Donnie the Land", son of William MacDonald, Arisaig and Elizabeth MacKay, Bracara. Pam and Donnie had 2 children, Fiona, a trained singer, now singing with Scottish Opera, and Elizabeth. At the time of writing, Donnie is still living in London and being cared for by his daughters.

Footnotes: Flora MacDougall was the daughter of Alexander MacDougall and Catherine MacDonell, Bruinacory, North Morar. Flora's brother Donald, was the father of Thomas MacDougall and Jimmy "The Post" MacDougall, ancestors of the Mallaig MacDougalls. There was a large family of these MacDougalls but all, apart from Jimmy and Thomas, died young. Another brother of Flora's, Duncan, was the forefather of the Bracara MacDougalls. Duncan was married to Mary Ann MacDonell, a sister of Domhnall Hamish, (Sheumas) MacDonell and their children were, Alistair, Neil, Flora, Annabel and Mary. A sister of Flora MacDougall Rhue, Mary, was married to Charles MacLellan, Rosebank, Morar. Charles died within a year of marriage an there were no children. Mary was affectionately known in Morar as "Bean Thearlaich".
Donald MacKinnon's sister, Flora, b. 1820, married Duncan Moffat from Fort Augustus in 1862. They lived and died in Rhue but, had no children.
Donald and Mary's daughter, Mary, b. 1849, married Ewen MacLean of Rhue in 1872 and had at least, one child, Ann MacLean, b. at Cross in 1875. I have not researched the MacLeans but older members of Morar and district will remember Ronald MacLean who was of that family and who lived at Curtaig, Cross and died ca. 1960.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook

List of Issues online

The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Reports from the coastal ranger, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel/Fax: 01687 462 720
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)


Copyright © 2002-2008 West Word
Page last updated: June 2008

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland