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

List of Issues online

May 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Eigg, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago
Letters - Birdwatch
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.

A hot and sunny day was the perfect setting for the formal opening ceremony of the last stretch of the upgraded A830, when a plaque was unveiled by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson in front of a happy crowd on Wednesday 15th April.
The day marked the final end of a 45 year campaign to upgrade the Mallaig to Loch nan Uamh road, and the culmination of decades of hard work by many of those present. Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig campaigners joined Councillors to celebrate the success of a project which had been the subject of Russell Johnston's maiden speech in the House of Commons in 1964. In 1965 the first of the 14 projects which made up the total stretch was begun. Morrison Construction have been involved in three of them.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson reveals the plaque
Photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson

Sir Russell died last year, but had the knowledge that the final stretch was at last underway, and some of the local residents who worked so hard to make it happen have also passed away - but there was a good presence from the 'old campaigners': Charlie King, Councillor Michael Foxley, Robert MacMillan, Andy Race, Alastair Gillies, Alastair MacLeod, Bill Henderson and Sam MacNaughton were all there.

Calum MacBeth and Katie Macnaughton start off the ceremony - photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson
Two young pipers from Mallaig, Katie Macnaughton and Calum MacBeth, led the dignitaries down the road to the layby near Larachmore Gardens where the plaque was ready to be unveiled, and Arisaig Primary School delighted the crowd with their own version of 'You take the High Road and I'll take the Low Road'.

The last 7.5km stretch from Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh had been the most challenging of any road project, traversing as it does a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In spite of the challenges, Morrison Construction were congratulated for keeping to the timetable and for managing for two years to keep the traffic flowing safely. There have been no major accidents during this time.
After the song by Arisaig Primary pupils, Jim Steel, Operations Manager for Morrisons, opened the proceedings by giving a short history of the road from the early 19th century when Thomas Telford was asked to build the first engineered road from Fort William to Arisaig. The road contained some 'first': it was the first time private contractors had been employed to work to a prepared plan, in a move which set down the contracting procedures of today, and the first road to be built using money from the public purse. In 1812 the total cost of the road was £8711 - but then the workmen were paid 7p a day!
Singled out for thanks were Ian MacKay, Project Manager, Bob Spence of Highland Council, Arthur Fowler, and David Mustard, Project Director for Transport Scotland.
Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said it as a great day for the community and a great day for the prospect of bringing in visitors to the area and improving the local economy - a day that should go down in history for this part of Scotland. He congratulated all involved and unveiled the plaque.
Rev. Richard Begg read a passage from Isaiah Chapter 40 which includes the words: 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.' Fr Andrew Barrett led a prayer.
Councillor Michael Foxley said: 'It's an absolute joy to be speaking as part of the team who worked to put this project in place.' Looking at the school children, he remarked that these children's parents would have been in primary school when the campaign began in 1965. He reminded us of the roadblock at the Morar Hotel in 1992 and of the trip in Jackie Milligan's lorry by the then Transport Minister Malcolm Chisholm along the single track, and told of a tourist's remark: 'Lorries shouldn't be on this road, it's a tourist route'.
The Arisaig By-pass was the first road to be developed with the involvement of the local community. A public meeting in the Astley Hall was attended by 190 people and the route voted for out of a choice of three.
Cllr Foxley paid tribute to the Chairs of the three Community Councils and remembered the efforts of the late Pat Ritchie and Roy Stewart.
Framed aerial photographs of sections of the road were presented to the Transport Minister, Cllr Foxley and Bob Spence, and gifts were also presented to the young pipers and Rev Begg and Fr Barrett. The pupils of Arisaig Primary received a Wii 'for rainy days'.
Bob Spence, Highland Council, had retired the week before the ceremony, having held off his retirement until the road was finished. His involvement has lasted for over twenty years. After the ceremony, invited guests returned to the Astley Hall where a buffet lunch awaited them. Each guest received a small gift from Morrison's - a memory stick engraved with the company name.
So ends a long, hard fought struggle to link our area to the rest of Britain by a decent, two-lane road as befits the 21st century. The efficient ro-ro ferry in Mallaig and the recently upgraded road from Armadale to Broadford complete the modern links which should improve the local economy.

Arisaig Primary School Pupil's song (to the tune of 'Loch Lomond'
I'll take the new road
And you'll take old road
And I'll be in Arisaig before you
For me and my new car
Will never meet pot holes
On the bonnie bonnie road to Lochailort.

I'll take the new road
And you'll take the old road
I'll be in Fort William before you
I'll do my shopping, in almost half the time
Driving on the bonnie road past Loch Linnhe

Let's make the workers a well earned cup of tea
And maybe a cake or a biscuit
They've done the hard work
to make this what it is.
On the bonnie bonnie road to Fort William.

First verse is repeated.

14th April 1912 - 7th February 2009
The death of Major General Anton Petrák in February at the age of 96 saddened many local residents who had met this indomitable, courageous man on his visits to the area.
Born in Vienna in 1912, and moving to Czechoslovakia in 1919, he joined the regular army and was commissioned as Lieutenant in 1935. When Poland fell to Germany in 1939, Anton made his way from Czechoslovakia via a tortuous route to France, where he joined the Free Czechoslovak forces. When France fell, he made his way to the UK, arriving in 1940.
In 1942 Anton volunteered for the Special Operations Executive, and was among the first group of Czechoslovakians to be trained at Traigh House. He was then selected as an instructor, the only Czech to be so in Arisaig. Just before his arrival at Traigh, Reinhard Heidrich, 'The Butcher of Prague', was assassinated by Czechs Kubis and Gabcik, who had been trained at Traigh. The Nazis massacred the villagers of Lidice in retaliation for this deed.
So instead of returning home, in 1943 he joined the Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade training in England for the Allied invasion of Normandy. The Brigade played a key role on the Dunkirk invasion and he was awarded an MC for destroying the German garrison there, and for an operation behind enemy lines in which he destroyed a small supply convoy and gained valuable intelligence about the enemy's disposition.
Captain Petrak ended the war in Czechoslovakia in 1945. By now a Major, he was appointed Chief of Staff of a tank brigade.
When the communists took power in 1948, in Anton's own words: 'The communist regime…dishonoured us for our war-time co-operation with the British. It branded me as a 'criminal element' for my so-called 'capitalist services'.' He was imprisoned in 1949 on the charge of 'negligent handling of state secrets' and on release in 1951, he was only allowed to work as a manual labourer. He was arrested again in 1957 and was sentenced to five years and loss of his rights as a citizen. He was released in 1960 on a 10 year amnesty, but again only allowed work as a manual labourer. In 1968 he was partly re-habilitated and allowed to do administrative work, but only under supervision - he worked as a technical translator, English/German/Slovak. He retired in 1971.
He was awarded an MBE in 1996 for his work with Slovak Western Front Veterans, many of whom lived in extreme poverty having suffered under the Communist regime. At the D-Day celebrations in France in 2004, Petrák received the Chevalier de Légion d'honneur from President Chirac.
On 9th June 2002 he made the first of several trips to Arisaig, along with two fellow SOE instructors, Denis Nicholson and Ernest Van Maurik, where he unveiled a plaque at Traigh House in memory of the Czechoslovaks, SOE trainees and trainers.
His last visit to Britain was on the occasion of WWII's 60th anniversary commemoration when he again visited Arisaig.
He died on 7th February and was buried with full military honours in Bratislava. He leaves a widow, Rudolfina, whom he married in 1945, a daughter and two granddaughters.

The Road to the Isles Agricultural Show will be held this year on Saturday 13th. 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, and this year, for the first time, all the classes in livestock and handicrafts will be open to exhibitors from the Isle of Skye.
The Industrial section has the usual wide variety of classes in Floral Art, 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 event in the Ring this year will be a Falconry Display by Skye Falconry, who will also provide a static display of birds of prey for spectators to view. There will also be a Sheep Dog demonstration, a Dogs' Agility show by Lochaber and District Canine Society, and Dogs' Flyball is a sight not to be missed!
There will also be the usual parade of Highland Cattle which is always worth seeing. Demonstrations of Wood Turning and Chain Saw Carving will take place in the afternoon, along with sheep shearing by hand and machine. 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 13th. June. We are sure you will enjoy yourselves.

As you might expect, the Knoydart's 10 Music Festival took over the lives of a large percentage of the peninsula this month. A great success, helped by beautiful weather, the festival saw people travelling from all over Britain, as well as a healthy contingent from local parts. Music was well received, the massive marquee never too full, security guys were friendly, toilets were sparkling, not a sign of mud - not your usual festival! What marked the event out most, however, was the sheer level of community involvement. The whole thing was organised and run by Knoydart residents (who all bought tickets), which meant that everything from the wooden floor (soon to be Ross and Eilidh's roof), to the firesites, signage, baggage transfer and rubbish collection was locally managed. It was heartwarming to see a community come together like this for something they really believed in, with support from Mallaig as well - thanks Greg and Pimmy, and to the Coastguard lads for the prawns. And, of course thank you if you made it over here, and for contributing towards a great atmosphere. There are whispers we may be doing something similar in 2011 - whew! Keep an eye on www.knoydart10.com, where you'll also be able to see photographs and videos of the week.
Interviews were held on 27th April for our new Powerdown Officer post. This is a really exciting opportunity for someone to manage a whole range of green projects on Knoydart, ranging from looking at electricity for the 19 off-grid households, to creating a community allotment scheme. Plenty of interest from local residents in the post, and as we go to press I can announce that Gwen Barrell is the lucky candidate. Congratulations to her, and good luck in what will be a challenging yet rewarding post.
Electricity isn't straight-forward here, even in the Inverie area where we have a hydro-electric powered grid. This week Jim Brown and his crew have been attempting to fix the trash box below the reservoir dam, which has sprouted two rather spectacular geysers (see picture, hopefully). They are looking to bypass the whole trashbox system. Unfortunately, this requires a helicopter for some lifting work, which was postponed yesterday (Mon 27th) due to low cloud levels. Hopefully they will be able to get the work done tomorrow.
Apart from the festival, other K10 events this month included the Ranger service Knoydart Spring Watch program - Jim's eagle walk didn't attract any customers, but he took the opportunity to go off and spy some eagles himself (having said that, both of us have been kept busy with regular guided walks, as well as now giving a regular talk to the passengers of the Hebridean Princess). Coming up: James Hawkins, an artist who has created some striking depictions of Knoydart, will be holding an exhibition in London at the SW1 gallery on 6th May - if you are interested in going along, contact the Knoydart Foundation office and we may be able to slip you an invite. The rest of May has been kept fairly quiet from a celebrating point of view, partly because we all need a wee bit of a rest, and partly because May is always very busy. Visitors are starting to cotton on to the fact that the midges aren't here yet...
Tommy McManmon

This month I return to the subject of Cal-Mac and the Loch Nevis. Long term readers of West Word will know that I am not an admirer of the ferry operator and its management. This month I want to cover the subject of advertising on the Loch Nevis,or the lack of it.. On Mull and Islay and doubtless the other islands served by Cal -Mac every business has space to advertise on the ferry serving that island. On Loch Nevis it is different. Apart from a couple of maps there is nothing in the passenger saloons to tell visitors about any of the islands where she calls. Surely places to stay and eat are more useful than ads for the Clyde Marine Training College. Surely a little of the £1,000,000 annual subsidy which Loch Nevis must be getting from the Scottish Government could be spent on a board where events on the islands could be announced. Time for action!
May will be a busy month on Muck, Margaret Greenwood our new singing instructor enrolled one third of the island at the first session of her choir school and there is to be individual tuition as well, Stella Nova had better watch out! There will be courses on basket making and smoking food early in the month and Colin and Sharon's anniversary ceilidh on the 9th in the barn at Gallanach. Award winning film producer Sam Firth has arrived from Knoydart to shoot her latest creation starring the pupils of Muck school. Sounds intriguing, The action is supposed to take place under water!
On the farm lambing is almost over and the mainly fine weather made it an enjoyable fortnight for Colin and Ruth, We fed the ewes more ewe nuts than last year and many of them got silage. Twins are well up on last year although I don't yet have the final figures yet. Colin reluctantly bought several tons of very expensive fertilizer so there was enough grass in the lambing fields .Now the island is turning green all over apart from where Barnaby and Toby have ploughed and rotovated for oats, turnips or game crop. Talking of game, cock pheasants are everywhere patrolling their territory and very easy on the eye as are the four Canada geese which are temporary? residents.
On Saturday 30th May the ashes of Anne Nimmo Smith will be buried at Port Mor and a memorial to her memory unveiled. If you would like to be there you will be very welcome. Remember to book on the Sheerwater.
The annual Open Day will be on Sunday 7th June. Join us for a tour of the farm, view some remarkable new buildings in wood and plastic, visit Ros Garrett's gallery of painting's or weave a rug in the new 'Green Shed'. And as usual there will be the best of lunches in the Craft Shop.
Lawrence MacEwen

As we say in these parts…In like a shower and ne'er cast an April flower ... or something like that.
We've had a few good weeks of sunshine recently - the grass is coming on nicely…great for the livestock but not so good for those who hate cutting the stuff. Like me. The Suffolk Punch has been gifted to Canna House in the hope that someone will allow it the respect it deserves - or at least service it now and again - and we look forward to our summer croquet matches on a stripy lawn! Good to see a few more yachts and boats in, and a lot more visitors…though it's unfortunate that the tearoom will be closed this year. It would be a missed opportunity not to offer some form of refreshment for weary/thirsty/hungry travellers ... We're investigating possibilities as I write.
Our first cruise boat of the season arrived (suddenly) the other week; the Island Rangers took good care of them and quite a few left with Canna Primary School merchandise. The mobile craft shop did a roaring trade also, I believe. Plans are afoot to extend the tours to offer half or full day excursions, with the option of a 4x4 Tour ... then again, when I look at the state of my Landrover, perhaps not...
Only a few cows left to calf, and the lambing is going nicely, helped along by the good weather. The young Ms. Mackinnon stepped in for the first time this year, and oversaw the delivery of her first lambs ... well done! Not so many twins this year, apparently the ones on Sanday are proving more than enough, thank you…
The annual Easter Egg Roll took place earlier in the month. It looked like another victory for last year's winner, but an analysis of the video footage revealed an overhand movement which was subsequently deemed a throw, thereby rendering the attempt null and void. Nice try, Mr. Clare...
Other school events this month - a visit from those wonderful Folk in a Boat…the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust…our travelling school photographers Jochen and Christian…and thanks to our visiting music teacher, for our singing lessons…
Talking of singing, we had a visit from the Rev. who provided a memorable Easter service for a small but enthusiastic congregation…and also made a valiant attempt at painting the rocket Church gate, in between heavy showers. I'm sure we'll manage to get it finished for the next visit. There's also been a big improvement to the church grounds courtesy of the NTS work party. I had hoped to return to my own vegetable plots nicely prepared and ready for planting, but alas, time obviously did not permit.
And here on Canna we're playing our part in proving our eco-credentials and reducing our carbon footprint, by adopting an innovative approach…we're switching out the lights. Overnight the generators will be silenced and once again a peaceful calm will descend…albeit a temporary measure. Just imagine a greener, more sustainable existence ... Brr! Pass the woolly jumper; it's getting chilly in here!
Geoff Soe-Paing

A busy month on Eigg this April, with all the preparations for the Giant's footstep family festival hotting up, alongside calving and lambing. Much more grass in the fields than last year, report the island farmers, who were grateful for the nice warm days we had this month, always a help at this busy time of the farming year.
Swallows are back, and cuckoos have arrived, cheery harbingers of spring. But spring time which ought to be breeding time for seabirds as well, does not announce a change for the better for kittiwakes, guillemots and terns, which have failed to breed here for a few years now because of the scarcity of sandeels.
The big social event this month was Maggie's 60th ,which she celebrated at home on the day and at the hall a few days later when all the friends that Tasha had been in touch with arrived…including representatives of Blom family all the way from Amsterdam! (a friendship that goes back to the very first years of Maggie and Wes on Eigg in 1978). All 12 singers of Damsel Jam were there ( interestingly they arrived as another singing group " Natural Voices " left after a very successful week's workshop at the Glebe Barn that included the islanders for an evening. We are looking forward to their return next year!). Damsel Jam's contribution to the evening included a beautiful song about friendship that made Maggie quite emotional! Following their mum (Natalie) on the stage, the Cormack Bros did a hilarious spoof of the "flight of the Concords" routine, accompanied by Brendan who also played for Donna's new "Maggie" pipe tune composed for the occasion. All that what missing was "Maggie's table", the tune composed by Trevor Leat before he started on his new career as willow sculptor in Galloway, and now played by many …. The energetic dancing led by Eilidh Shaw, Sarah MacFadyen, Tam the banjo and Ross Martin - our all time favourite ceilidh band - was momentarily interrupted by the unofficial visit of Her Majesty the Queen, resplendent in her dark blue ball gown and matching beads and clutch bag. The only odd thing was the swathe of grey beard that appeared at her neck as she walked the red carpet to present Maggie with her gold present. Suitably impressed, Maggie was going to curtsy, but HRH pre-empted her move by gracefully collapsing herself - tricky, those high heels - and led Maggie to dissolve in further laughter… A great time was had by all! (See centre pages for the Royal photo!) But island life has its sorrows as well as its joys, and we were all very saddened to hear the sad news that Bill Saddler who had been taken away to hospital for tests was not going to make it back. Bill who had moved to Eigg with his wife Andrea a few years ago, had settled very well and was very much appreciated by all for his quiet, understated humour. His funeral in Nottingham was attended by Colin, Alec and Stewart and our thoughts are very much with Andrea, who can now count on everyone's support in what will be a difficult time for her. In the midst of sadness, babies' births are always life affirming events and soon there will another little islander arriving back to Eigg, "Maisie", the daughter of proud parents Berni MacCoy and Dean Wiggin, born on 20 April! Congratulations to both of you!
Camille Dressler.

A great concert by Duncan Chisholm and Ivan Drever, attended by nearly 80 people, kicked off the two-night musical extravaganza to celebrate the final end of the A830 upgrade project, the second night being the very successful Family Ceilidh, band Ross, Eilidh and Tam, in aid of Swimming Pool funds.
The day of the opening ceremony itself was quite a celebration, and every invited guest received a gift - a memory stick engraved with Morrison's name!
Quite a few people thought a start had been made on the Hall car park when a huge digger appeared and started clearing the ground, a few days before the road opening. Morrison's had decided - without telling anyone - that it was going to be used to park the Minister's car among others on the big day. The result has showed that there may not be as much work needed on the car park as we thought. The sale of the site is going through at the moment - the Hall Trust is buying it for £1!
Good luck to Wendy Thomas, who set off from Inverie on the 2nd May to walk to Cape Wrath - for fun folks! Husband Geoff is in the support campervan. See you both next month!
The village has lost a redoubtable lady with the passing of Mrs Rollison last month at the age of 88.
I'm banging on about the Community Trust again but we can't emphasise enough that to become a member does NOT mean you have to attend any meetings, or be involved with any committees, or do anything at all other than show your support for your community by joining up. We need you to be able to vote in the election for the seven Directors of the proposed development company, so that it has at its helm the people you wish to see there. It will be a postal vote so even that won't entail you in too much hassle. I know a lot of you intend to join and have the forms sitting at home on the mantelpiece or sideboard - please fill them in and either put them in the box in the Post Office or post to Alison Stewart - see the ACT article for more details. So far we have 61 members but we want to make it over a hundred before we have the election - which will have to be soon as there are things we need to get on with.
Ann Lamont

The new Mallaig Community Council was officially formed on Wednesday 15th April by Returning Officer/Ward Manager Dot Ferguson at a meeting in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre. As well as confirming the membership of the Community Council, the opportunity was taken to elect the office bearers, and they are as follows: Chairman: John MacMillan; Vice- Chair: Martin Sullivan; Treasurer: Andrew Carr. The office bearers and other members, Jacqueline MacDonald, Sandra McLean, John Young, Moe Mathieson, Dennis Eddie and Alexander MacKenzie, along with Council Secretary Janette McMinn, held the inaugural meeting on Monday 4th May.

A small celebration was held recently to mark the retirement from Morar Community Council of Alastair MacLeod and Donnie MacDonald. There was a presentation of gifts on behalf of the community of Morar to thank them for more than 30 years service each: many of those years with Alastair as Chairman and Donnie as Vice-chairman.

It's time for you to ACT!
Let us start off with a plea for you to get in your membership forms if you haven't already done so! You DON'T have to attend any meetings, you DON'T have to join any committees - your membership gives you the opportunity to be involved with the democratic election of seven directors for the new Community Company, which will be by postal vote; and also to vote on any important matters that may come up in the future. There is no closing date to join, but we want to hold the election as soon as possible so please get those forms in!
The last meeting on 23rd April concentrated mainly on the wording for the different types of memberships for the Memorandum & Articles of the new Company. To be able legally to have the Right to Buy we have to conform closely with rules laid down by the Land Reform Act, which dictates that members must be on the electoral roll for Arisaig and have their main home here. However we want to include as many of our community as we can so we have investigated and included Associate Membership for our holiday home owners and other non permanent residents who are supportive of ACT's aims, and also Junior Membership for 12 - 17 year olds. We particularly want to encourage the young people of the community as it's their future here that we're trying to shape. Neither the Associate Members nor the Junior Members are allowed to vote on ACT matters or in the election of Directors: not our decision but to conform with the directives from the Land Reform Unit.
61 members have applied so far, but well over 200 forms went out - please show your support for ACT and your concern for the future of your community by becoming democratically involved and either put your form into the special box in the Post Office or send it to our Membership Secretary, Alison Stewart, Salainn House, Arisaig PH39 4NU, or give to any member of the Steering Group.
At the meeting we also discussed the provision of allotments and there are now five people/families interested in this project. Discussions are ongoing about a couple of possible sites. Funding would be obtained to purchase tools and/or seeds in bulk to be shared. Still time to let us know if you're interested - but you have to be an ACT member! - and if you have a bit of land to spare that could be utilised by others, please let us know.
We have the opportunity to work together with the crofting community. A crofting sub-committee could be formed which would produce an Environmental Management Plan of the land identifying potential areas of use that would benefit local people. Possible projects may be a 'peat track', picnic areas and peat cutting. There is potential to make better use of the land, especially common grazing. The Management Plan would help to protect these rights of the crofters and provide other opportunities as well.

Dolphins were in the bay in Mallaig and headed towards Morar.
Thanks to Moe for the photos;
and Moe thanks Ronnie MacDonald for taking him out in his boat.
photo photo

A Lochaber councillor, a Fort Augustus amateur genealogist, and a Fort William second-hand bookseller have taken a 'Year of Homecoming' initiative in their local areas.
Cllr Donald Cameron, Mrs Maureen Ferguson and Ian Abernethy are seeking to ensure that, when the anticipated influx of overseas visitors materialises, they'll have definite points of localised contact to help them research their roots.
The trio have joined forces to put the two Forts on the family history map in time for the expected arrival of Canadians and Americans, Mew Zealanders and Australians seeking information on their forebears and their old homesteads.
Says Cllr Cameron:
"It's probable that our anticipated visitors will already have a fair amount of background knowledge thanks to family papers, photographs - and the internet.
"But we have an important role to play in supplying the ambassadors - and ambassadresses - to direct them to the townships and glens from whence their ancestors came, and to provide them with related local history, both anecdotal and factual.
"There is a need to point people to sources of information, such as our archive centre, libraries, service points, tourist information offices, and museums, and to keen Highland historians and resourceful amateur genealogists.
"And some local 'craic', a dash of humour, aye, and perhaps a pinch of salt, are required, to allow the Homecoming tourists to experience some of our famed Highland helpfulness and hospitality."
To this end, a list of willing Lochaber contacts who have a wide-ranging knowledge of local and family history has been collated at the Ben Nevis Book Corner, Fort William's second-hand bookshop in Monzie Square, run by Ian Abernethy, one of the town's amateur historians. Ian advises:
"A total of 25 individual names have been listed, along with 16 societies and groups, all capable of providing plenty of well researched genealogical background and geographical points of contact - and all for free.
"Those with connections in West Word's circulation areas are:
Allan & Elzabeth MacDonald (Arisaig & The Small Isles/Knoydart) on 01687-450604; Tearlach MacFarlane (Glenfinnan) on 01397-722242; Deirdre Roberts (Morar/Mallaig) on 01687-462539; Arisaig Land, Sea & Islands Centre, per Ann Martin on 07973-252923, and Mallaig Heritage Centre, per Malcolm Poole on 01687-462085".
Maureen Ferguson has an interesting twist to add to the overall exercise. Maureen says:
"Many of the people who will come here this year are likely to bring with them birth certificates and census returns - and copies of their family trees.
"So it is particularly interesting that, on a reciprocal basis, they'll bring with them information on their forebears which will help US find out how people fared after they left our local area.
"And that will assist us in building up a bigger picture of what has been happening in USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in relation to Fort Augustus and Fort William." Out of his local authority discretionary budget, Councillor Cameron has had 2,000 "Homecoming" leaflets produced in conjunction with Fort William company, Printsmith. Find them locally at the Land, Sea & Islands Centre and Mallaig Heritage Centre.

West Word - ten years ago - May 1999

This month we thank subscriber Andreas Trottman for sending us this photograph of himself, reading West Word in the famous vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva in the French part of Switzerland, where he lives. Andreas is particularly interested in sightings of Morag the Loch Morar Monster..
Where do you read yours? Send us your photo, home or abroad!


Dear West Word
Mallaig Wind Turbine Proposal
Status Quo is never an option; otherwise we would still be in the age of horse and cart. There is nobody loves Mallaig and the surrounding area more than myself and family, but we are visitors to the village, thankfully we understand the difficulties of supporting small communities like Morar and Mallaig and their facilities.
It was therefore a breath of fresh air to see Jacqueline McDonell and the MMCCA having the vision to try and build a sustainable solution to the power demands of the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre, and they should be commended for all their efforts.
Regarding those people from Australia, Canada and the USA who took time to view their points within the West Word regarding the proposed Wind Generator at Mallaig, I would say, please consider the options and the consequences on the people who live in Morar and Mallaig.
The above referenced letters, suggest these people are of the opinion that the proposed Wind Generator is going to stand eighty metres high and blight the landscape for as far as the eye can see, not mention making local peoples life a misery with noise and sun blocking.
Talking from experience nothing could be further from the truth; the street lighting will cause more a nuisance factor with light pollution and the passing traffic on the main road more noise.
The type of Wind Generator being proposed is designed for use in a built up community, with low noise and low impact on the environment.
The fact that a full environment statement is not required provides all the answers.
With regards to the residents in Victoria Place flats, and their concerns over noise and outlook obstruction, it maybe worthwhile considering the Jacobite resting in front of the flats covering the windows of the houses with steam and coal pollutants, not to mention the noise level before returning to Fort William.
From Australia, Canada and the USA, it's easy to say, "Do not build the Wind Generator, as it will spoil Mallaig" but they are not considering the power demands on the Community Centre.
Therefore the local people should rethink and get behind Jacqueline McDonell and the MMCC and save their community centre from closure and becoming another blot on the landscape, which will happen if a solution is not found.
David A Philp


As a yachtswoman I was horrified to learn that Mallaig was planning on erecting a nuclear power station in the middle of the village. This was not the sort of thing I would like to anchor or moor up against despite the obvious warmth. However when I learnt it was wind turbines and not a nuclear power station I relaxed immediately. This at least I could enjoy, use as a navigational aid without danger to my health. Congratulations Mallaig on your farsightedness.
Amanda Darling, Stornoway


Dear West Word
People are always going to argue against the new and the different. If we were to go back a number of years the objections have been about street lights, red telephone boxes (so intrusive) - oh, and let's not forget the railway, which produced many acrimonious exchanges (frightened the cows, challenged the canals, would give passengers brain damage) and landowners who would lose land to it objected to the noise, the bad characters it would bring to their area, the effect on hunting, damage the draining of fields… Your objectors would no doubt have made a great fuss about the railway line going in front of their houses 108 years ago.
We have to look at renewable energy alternatives if this planet is to survive. And obviously the Mallaig Community Centre needs to look at them if it is to survive. If this means a handful of residents are incommoded so be it. It is only a small turbine - here in Fort William we're threatened with four 80 metre turbines!
Aren't they lucky to have such a view in the first place! Such a small percentage of folk have a view - it's usually the houses opposite, if they're lucky.
A M, Fort William

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Plenty of Summer visitors back this month, starting with 2 Sand Martins back at the Rhubana colony on the 2nd. By mid-month, there were good numbers there and also at the nest sites at Fank Brae, Mallaig. The first Swallows reported were seen in Arisaig on the 12th. The first report of the Cuckoo was an early one in Mallaig on Easter Sunday (12th). The next reports were from Arisaig and Morar, both on the 19th.
Willow Warblers were first heard at Mallaig Vaig on the 10th. There must have been a large influx, because two or three days later there was hardly a stand of birch trees that didn't have a singing Willow Warbler. Grasshopper Warblers were first heard 'reeling' at Rhubana View on the 20th, and the first Common Whitethroat was seen at Highland, Arisaig, on the 28th.
The first Redstart reported was one near the Mains Farm, Arisaig, on the 17th Common Sandpipers were back on Loch Morar by the 19th. Other waders passing through to breed further north included a Bar-Tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, 5 Golden Plover, 12 Dunlin and 5 Turnstones, all now in splendid Summer plumage, seen at Traigh on the 26th.
Manx Sheerwater were noted from the Skye ferry on the 11th, and groups of Puffin and Razorbill were seen between Arisaig and Eigg from mid-month. Great Skuas were seen in the Sound of Sleat about the same time, with some seen close inshore at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall at the end of the month.
Still some Winter visitors lingering with 2 Iceland Gulls in Mallaig until the 17th at least. An adult Glaucous Gull was reported from Mallaig in the 4th. A single Whooper Swan was seen flying North over Traigh on the 8th and several Goldeneye were on Loch Morar until the month end.
A Peregrine Falcon was seen at Traigh on the 14th and a male Hen Harrier was seen on two occasions by the A830 near Back of Keppoch. Barn Owls were still present in Mallaig, and Tawny Owls were reported from Morar and Arisaig.

Road to the Isles Sailing Association
The SportScotland National Sailing Centre on Great Cumbrae Island was the venue for the RYA Safety Boat Handling course that saw 6 adult volunteers from the club heading out on to the Clyde in perfect conditions - i.e. wind strength varying from Force 6 to Force 8, from the North. It is fair to say that all participants demonstrated their existing boat handling skills and developed more in these adverse conditions. There is little point in practising rescue skills in flat calm conditions, so it was good to have instructors on hand in these circumstances. All 6 participants left with their certificates.
This training was part funded by SPORTSMATCH, Wild Adventure of Glenfinnan, Arisaig Marine and the Arisaig Fund. The funding was awarded to help develop and encourage adult participation in the sport. Another 6 adults took part in the dinghy sailing course over the next 4 days, which saw the weather change to glorious spring sunshine and pleasant breezes, giving us a much needed taste of the better weather to come. During the course, the adults sailed a variety of craft, double-handers, catamarans and the picos.
There were 11 junior members down for the sailing too and they took part with great enthusiasm and energy. All the juniors achieved level 2 RYA certificates, justly deserved because their boat handling skills improved tremendously during the time. The final afternoon saw all juniors and adults racing picos round a tight course which really tested the skills. Liam Dyer beat us all - well done Liam! It was a great end to the week and even the sun shone and the temperature rose.

New Season
The new season starts on 2nd May at Arisaig Marine. Saturdays will again be family days with the barbeque going for lunch (bring your own food). Now that we have fully fledged safety boat handlers, we are looking for other adults to come out in the rib as helpers and learners. It's a great way to spend a Saturday and it also keeps you close to the action to see just how skilled these dinghy sailors are. It's a great opportunity for parents or other adults who are keen to get on the water.
Pam and Emma have organised an event through Active Schools on Loch Morar for absolute beginners which takes place on 2/3 May. This should bring us some new members who will have had some training before heading out on Saturdays.
New for this season and as part of the SPORTSMATCH funding, there will be adult only sessions on Thursday nights, 6-8 pm. These will be for members and will follow after school sessions for juniors, between 3.30 and 5.30 on Thursdays.
To encourage adults who want to try sailing, there will adult taster sessions on Tuesday evenings in the Wayfarer which is a dinghy that has seats!
For further information call Graham/Emma on 01397 722447 or Sue Barrett (for Tuesday evenings) 01687 460002.

Visit to Mallaig by the last sailing herring drifter
An action packed day is in store for us when the Reaper visits the port of Mallaig on Monday 18th May 2009, with a programme put together by the organisers and local venues and projects. The Reaper, flagship of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, is the last surviving authentic sailing herring drifter, a type known as a Fifie. Launched in 1902, she is now the sole example of a once prolific type of vessel.
She will arrive in Mallaig at 5pm on Sunday 17th May and at 7.30pm there will be an opportunity for retired fishermen to visit the boat and have a cup of tea and reminisce about the fishing days.
Monday 18th May is the Open Day when anyone is welcome to go aboard the boat to see round this living museum. From 9.30am until 12.15pm, school groups will be shown around the boat by the crew.
Meanwhile old films will be shown in the fish market and there will be a chance to learn net mending and knotwork. Alex the gutting wifie along with retired fishermen will be telling stories of the days of the herring.
An exhibition in Mallaig Heritage Centre will feature early fishing history, with photographs of sailing fishing vessels. There will also be an exhibition relating to the work of the Oral History Project, and interviews will be held on board the boat (see opposite page). There will be an Open Day in Mallaig College too.
A Resource booklet has been produced by the organizers, limited numbers of which will be available. It contains articles on old fishing methods, history of the fishing industry, classification of fish, the fishing lassies, superstitions, herring seasons, types of boats, boats between the wars and changing methods. There are also competitions, with small prizes which will be awarded on the day, and puzzles: an acrostic poetry competition, a Reaper quiz, two colouring pictures, a wordsearch, a code to crack and knots to try.
Built by J & G Forbes of Sandhaven, Reaper is of carvel construction of larch planking on larch and oak frames. She fished originally out of Fraserburgh until 1908, and thereafter out of Lerwick in Shetland. She still holds the record catch of herring for Shetland, some 223 cran - almost a quarter of a million fish. Originally built as a sailing lugger, she had an engine installed between the wars, and during the Second World War was requisitioned by the Admiralty and served for a time as a barrage balloon vessel in the south of England. With only that break, she fished continuously from 1902 until 1966, when she was converted to a cargo vessel and for the next ten years served the Zetland County Council as a "flit-boat", running general cargoes between the islands. In 1975 she was purchased by the Scottish Fisheries Museum, and over the next five years was painstakingly restored to her original 1902 rig.
Reaper is now equipped as a floating museum of the now-defunct herring industry, and, crewed by the all-volunteer members of the Scottish Fisheries Museum Boats Club, visits ports around Scotland and Northern England on cultural tours. In this role she has visited no less than 38 separate venues as far apart as Lerwick, Scarborough and Glasgow, and in the last four years alone has been visited by 76,520 persons from 92 separate countries in addition to the UK. Admission to Reaper is free, and she is maintained almost entirely by voluntary donations by members of the public and the labours of the Museum Boats Club.

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
The Kinsadel, (Ceann an Saideal) MacEachens in Relation to Rev. Ewen MacEachen, 1769 - 1849

The members of the present-day family hailing from Kinsadel, South Morar, are MacDonalds - the children of Allan (Ruadh) MacDonald and Isabella MacEachen. They are, Ewen. Alex. Iain, Donald, Patrick dec. (drowned in Morar River aged 11 years) Willie, Catriona, Mairead and Allan Gerard. The two sisters still live on, and work, the land of their g. grandfather, Angus MacEachen.
Concerning this MacEachens family, I have had letters from Judith MacDonald Guy Mulder, Canada, and David Gillies, also Canada, asking for information on their ancestors who left Arisaig in 1801. In the case of Judith, her ancestor was (Councillor) Donald MacDonald or, MacEachen and for David, it was Hugh Gillies. son of Donnachaidh Ban Gillies who came From Moidart with his wife Mary MacDonald - parents of Hugh and Catriona and grandparents of the future Rev. Ewen MacEachen. Both are enquiring if there are any relatives remaining in Arisaig. They have a common bond in their kinship to Rev. Ewen MacEachen (1769-1849), native of Arisaig, a noted and scholarly if, apparently, irascible, priest who produced several translations from Latin into Gaelic and, a Gaelic to English faclair (dictionary) which has since been reprinted five times.
What has this got to do with the Kinsadel family? The sloinntearachd of the family leading back from (1) Ewen MacDonald of today, b. 1939, is firstly, to his mother, (2) Isabella MacEachen, b. 1905 , only child of Hugh MacEachen and Margaret MacDonald of Mallaig. Margaret was aunt to Hugh MacDonald, engine driver dec., Katie (Post) MacDonald, dec. and their sister Mrs Cissy MacKinnon, late school teacher in Arisaig. (3) b. Hugh, b.1859, son of Angus (4) b. 1813, son of Donald, (5) b. 1789, son of Donald, (6) b. ca. 1769, son of Hugh, (7) b. ca. 1749. There is a tradition in these MacEachen descendants of today that, Hugh, (3) when asked how he was related to Rev. Ewen MacEachen, replied, "He was my grandfather's brother's son." This quotation has been attributed to Hugh, (3) b. 1859 but, was more likely recalled by Donald (5) when talking about his grandfather, Hugh MacEachen b. ca. 1749. (7). More explanation later. There is also, a very strong oral tradition amongst the family, that they are connected to the Glenaladale branch of Clanranald but, they haven't been able to confirm this belief as, 300 years have passed and the tracing of ancestors is difficult when there are few written records for the family to consult. In this case they may well be right, if they are connected to Angus MacEachen of Druim an Daraich who married Catherine MacDonald of Borrodale/Glenaladale.
Judith Mulder, Canada, will certainly be related to the Kinsadel family, albeit as a sixth cousin. Judith will also be a sixth cousin of David Gillies but, David will not be related to the MacDonalds.
Around the mid-eighteenth century Alexander MacEachen was married to Catriona Gillies and they lived in Arisaig, most likely around Moss of Ceapaich which would have then, encompassed the area now known as Kinloid. They had a son, Ewen (the future Rev.Ewen) b.1769. d. 1849, whose father, Alexander, would, therefore, be about the same age as Hugh MacEachen. (7) It seems most unlikely that Donald (5) b.1789, would be Alexander MacEachen's brother. Catriona Gillies died and no other children are recorded from this union. Alexander remarried, to Catherine MacLellan and they had three, if not, four, children. (1) John, (2) Donald (later known in Canada, as "Counsellor), (3) Hector and possibly, (4) Mary. "The History of Inverness County" Nova Scotia, suggests that Duncan Gillies, ( Little Duncan, son of Hugh and grandson of Donnachaidh Ban Gillies) was married to (4) ? Mary MacEachen who came to Nova Scotia with her three brothers, Donald , Hector and John, who settled in Port Hood and Antigonish.
Alexander MacEachen and his second wife, Catherine MacLellan, with their family, left the Highlands when Ewen was eleven years of age. Ewen was then sent to school near Huntly. It's possible that he received his early education at the seminary in Bourblach, Morar. At any rate, the brothers had a superior education, as demonstrated by Hector, the youngest son, who arrived in Nova Scotia with his leather-bound text books. He became an interpreter for French clergy and traders who visited Port Hood. He spoke four languages fluently - Gaelic, French, Latin, and English Such an education was costly and only available to people of means. The puzzle is, who was this MacEachen family with the wherewithal to educate their family thus? We will examine that in a moment.
Who was Catriona Gillies? She was the daughter of Donnachaidh (Duncan) Bàn Gillies, b. ca. 1700, who came into the area from Moidart with his wife, Mary MacDonald. Their daughter, Catriona, became mother to Rev. Ewen MacEachen.. Donnachaidh Bàn had a brother, Rev. Angus Gillies who was chaplain to Glengarry's Regiment in the '45. He also, had a son, Rev. Angus Gillies, b.1735, who was parish priest in the Braes of Lochaber for forty years. He died in 1813 and is buried in Cille Choirille Graveyard, Roybridge. Another son, Hugh Gillies, b. ca. 1745 in Morar, married Mary Gillies, daughter of Martin Gillies of Mallaig. Hugh and Mary Gillies, with their family of six or, seven children, emigrated in 1801 with the MacEachen/MacDonald brothers, Donald, John and Hector. Hugh and his son, Angus, applied for land grants in 1805. Angus would have had to be twenty one years old before his application could be considered. One of the other sons of Hugh Gillies was, Duncan, known as "Little Duncan" and he, possibly, married Mary MacEachen who came to Nova Scotia with her brothers. It is worth noting at this point, that these MacEachens changed their name to "MacDonald" either before, or, after arriving in Canada, as did many relatives in the Old Country. Quoted in Vol. 111 of "The Clan Donald" by Revs. A&A MacDonald (article 250) "the gentlemen of the sept assumed the name "MacDonald" towards the end of the eighteenth century".
Our correspondent, David Gillies, outlines his descent as, gggg. grandson of Hugh Gillies. The question arises again. Who was this MacEachen family who could afford to educate its family to the standard described? Let's examine the possibilities. Were they descendants of Angus MacEachan of Druim an Daraich who was surgeon to Glengarry in the '45, brother of Charles V1 of Druim an Daraich. Charles was deposed because of his activities in the '45,and his brother, Alexander succeeded to the tack. Angus MacEachen married Catherine, b.ca.1725, daughter of Angus MacDonald of Borrodale (ca.1680-1774) and his wife, Catherine Graham or, MacGregor, Corriearklet, near Loch Katrine. Angus MacEachen was a surgeon in South Uist, in 1749, in attendance to Clanranald. Dr. Angus got the tack of Druim an Daraich, from Clanranald, about 1755/56. Were Alexander and his brother, Hugh the children of Dr. Angus MacEachen? This is merely conjecture on my part. Perhaps this could be resolved if anyone can discover what family Dr Angus MacEachen and Catherine MacDonald," Borrodale" had, and, are Hugh and Alexander, possibly born in Uist, children of that family. If so, it may confirm the Kinsadel/Glenaladale connection.
The Kinsadel family, further, maintains that it is connected to Alexander MacEachen/MacDonald, (an Dotair Ruadh) and his brother, Rev. John MacDonald, who died at Kinloid in 1834. Both were nephews of Dr. Angus and both were sons of Alexander MacEachen, V1, he who received the tack of Druim an Daraich in default of his brother, Charles, veteran of the '45. All are of the same family of MacEachens which we have been detailing!
Can anyone out there help with this tantalising genealogical puzzle from Arisaig, Alba.

Long term readers of West Word will recall that over the last few years we have included a number of articles about Charlie Lyons. It was through West Word's pages that we discovered Charlie had been a World War One hero, and that the exact place of his burial in Morar's cemetery, was unknown. Mallaig Community Council raised a plaque in his honour.
We also tried to find a photograph of Charlie, and it was only a few months ago that Robert MacMillan realised he had had one all the time, amongst his football memorabilia.
Then a lady told the Mallaig Heritage Centre that Canon MacNeill, whose life had been saved on the battlefield by Charlie Lyons, had wished to be buried beside him - and since the location of the Canon's grave is known, therefore we now knew where Charlie lay. This story was copied by a number of national papers.
But now confusion reigns again with this letter from Allan MacDonald of Arisaig:
Charlie Lyons and Canon Mac Neill. Location of Graves in Cille Chumein, Morar
Unfortunately the situation of the above is still not settled. My eldest brother, Neil MacDonald, like myself, a native of Morar, and now in Eochdar, Benbecula, as looking through back numbers of West Word and noticed the article on the location of Charlie Lyons' grave. As has been mentioned before, the wish of Canon MacNeill, late of Morar, was to be buried beside Charlie Lyons who saved him in the battlefields of W.W. 1. Therefore the suggestion was made that, to discover the grave of one would lead to the location of the grave of the other. However, this is probably incorrect. To illustrate brother Neillie's rationale, Cille Chumein cemetery in Morar is arranged in three distinct sections, necessitated by the progression of time and space. Charlie Lyons was buried in 1941 and Canon MacNeill was buried in 1952.
The third and bottom portion of the cemetery was opened in 1951 and this is where Canon MacNeill is buried, adjacent to the grave of Mrs Mary MacLeod of Eriskay, late schoolmistress of Morar during the time of Canon MacNeill's incumbency. Situated in the top corner of that portion, nearest to Seaview, these memorial headstones are still to be seen . It seems that, probably , Canon Mac Neill's wishes were not carried out in the strictest sense, and that these two WW1 comrades were to lie together forever, in the eternal peace of their shared resting place, in an Cille Chumein, Morar.
Do any of the older residents of Mallaig remember Mary Lyons, Charlie's wife? She died in the 1960s probably, and is buried beside her husband. She lived in Marine Place in Mallaig and was caretaker of Mallaig Railway Dormitory, which was a dormitory for itinerant railway workers at that time
Now, can anyone tell me, where are the grave registers pertaining to that cemetery? At one point, my father, John MacDonald, was sexton of that graveyard and he kept two ledgers, one for burial plot numbers and, one for fees. These ledgers were taken away by Inverness County Council when they took over responsibility for the cemetery. Lair numbers were recorded during my father's time.
May I suggest that copies of these registers ought to be held in the Mallaig Heritage Centre?
Allan MacDonald

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 © 2002-2009 West Word
Page last updated: May 2009

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland